Wednesday, March 25, 2009

discovery health never fails

As I was reading the assigned pages in Mama Day for the afternoon class, I came across a passage that described the August butterflies in Willow Springs.

And I randomly thought about mermaid girl.

My mind shot back to the night before Spring Break when I was laying on Catherine's couch, with a glass of Riesling, watching the Discovery Health channel. Catherine was blow drying her hair and preparing to turn in early in anticipation of the 4 am wake-up that would awake her a mere five hours later.

I had just been flipping through the channel, perusing the variety of new shows just beginning on the hour. Then I was caught off guard: a show on a real-life mermaid girl. How could I tune away, and be stuck suffering through another bad reality show on VH1?

And so I was introduced to Shiloh, one of three survivors worldwide that live with sirenomelia--aka Mermaid syndrome . She was no different from a normal adolescent girl who absolutely loves butterflies. Well, except for the whole two-legs-together-and-no-genitalia-or-rectum.

Her story is interesting on so many levels, from the fact that she has undergone hundreds of surgeries to preserve her life to her parents' struggle to plan for her future and maintain the faith that Shiloh find a man that will love and appreciate her for the bubbly, happy-go-lucky girl that she is.

The hour-long documentary teaches viewers about sirenomelia as well as follows Shiloh and her parents through their hardships dealing with medicial complications, diet issues and learning new things (like swimming!).

I really recommend people watch the next airing(s), April 5 at 1 pm and 5 pm.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Elementary, my dear word-lover.

"We'll finagle it, Yof," I said.

"We'll bagel what," questioned Yofred.

I have used "finagle" in more than one conversation with my friend Yofred and he is always perplexed by it. I am not sure exactly where or when I added it to my vernacular, but it is there.

I tried to explain to Yofred the definition of "finagle" in the clearest way possible. I must have not done a good job; he still asks me what it means every time it slips out into a sentence.

After the third confusion-ridden, "finagle" instance, I made a mental note to at some point find out where this word came from.

This morning I was surfing online and I came across "The Word Detective." Could it be true! The perfect synthesis of my two obsessions: Nancy Drew and words? Maybe a place where I can find out more about "finagle!"

Linguist/columnist Evan Morris has been answering word questions since 1995 and conveniently has them archived on this handy website. There is no search option (downer) but there is an alphabetical list of previous columns. You can buy a paid subscription to get a bi-weekly e-mail, showcasing those weeks' columns.

"Finagle" had been addressed! Morris says:
But while the element of outright dishonesty is definitely sometimes part of “finagling,” I would suggest that the usual use of the word carries the implication of bending, perhaps twisting, but not breaking the rules. Crooked stockbrokers may “finagle” with schemes that pauperize their clients, but your average “finagler” is just looking for an angle, an insider’s discount on storm windows or use of the company truck after work. “Finagle” to me is about clever persuasion, not vulgar fraud.
So, yofred, does that make sense; he put it much better than my frazzled explanation.

I love Morris' site. He even reminds readers to "Semper Ubi Sub Ubi," which was featured in one of the Nancy Drew computer games! Coincidence ? Too weird.

Bookmark the site as a go-to reference for all your diction dilemmas, or maybe to find new words to play during bananagrams!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

spring (news)break 09

I have been trying to think of an engaging way to recount my spring break experience, highlighting the points that stick out to me (and probably majority of the trip's participants) in a way that it does not read like a laundry list of inside jokes.

I figure I'll just start rambling and an adequate blog entry will develop itself. Better yet, I'll structure it kind of like a news story (but not really); bear with me.

The Basics
Who: a group of 20 Syracuse University undergrads; Catherine--one of my best girlfriends, 1 former freshman whom I had peer advised, 1 girl who I never really met before but is a good friend's best friend, a trio of frat boys, 1 awkward freshman whom wants to kill cops for fun, 4 sophomore girls, 2 ESFers, Becky--whom is roommates with another of my best girlfriends--Calyn, 1 really tall guy, 1 guy who is Greek but also looks Cuban to me, 2 juniors with an insatiable desire to rage, and 1 girl with a lot of questions.
What: a week-long call to service in Palm Beach, Florida, working on the Jupiter Gardens Habitat for Humanity site
When: for spring break, driving 25 hours down at 5 am on Saturday (staying over in Columbia, S.C.) and coming back Saturday (staying halfway in Concord, N.C.)
Where: Florida; working on 27-house build from 8 am to 3 pm Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; beaching every afternoon at various beaches (Juno, Jupiter); staying in cabins at JD State Park
Why: I have always wanted to volunteer, especially for H4H and I thought my time would be better spent giving back than just binge drinking on a tropical cruise; plus it would be so fun and I'd meet great people!


Catherine made it a point early on in the trip that "clothing optional" would be a well-established catch phrase by the end of our week. It spread (and caught on) like wildfire, thanks to our hardcore creeping. We initially took baby steps, suggesting our boys disrobe in our car and cabin, but then we took it to the house, asking a waiter at a bar if we could get naked to which "clothing optional" was then announced over the loud speaker. Success was ours.

"Does Paige like boys?"

Much like Catherine, I too had my own mission to accomplish during our spring break trip; I wanted someone to at some point to secretly pull me aside and inappropriately ask my sexual orientation. Catherine and I are quite close, like most best friends, but sometimes our interactions reach a sexually-confusing level (stroking, grabbing). I wanted someone to be so baffled by our loving relationship vs my obvious sexual fetish with ginger men to approach me and ask which team did I exactly bat for; that way they could get some answers and stop wasting countless hours of sleep pondering the situation.

Quote: "You may not molest the animals."

We stayed in four cabins in a state park. They weren't your typical wooden cabins; these things were nice! Air conditioned, beds, kitchen, big shower. It reminded me of a small beach house you could rent cheap. I personally loved it, with bonfires in the evening and the space to throw discs and a football. Staying in the woods does run different risks than if we were staying at a church, like some of the other trips. There were animals right outside your door! And not just little ones. I saw a raccoon, but other people saw an armadillo and even A WILD BOAR! The park pamphlet warned not to molest the animals. I'll for sure be molesting an animal if it gets anywhere near me, or attacks someone.

Quote: ::silence::

: There wasn't much silence through out the trip, between Scott and the sweet sound of power tools in the morning, but I unfortunately lost my voice for majority of the trip (about four days). Josh Shaw saw my tweet that had detailed how my voice was completely lost and he said it was probably for the benefit of everyone. Hardy har har. But honestly, it was frustrating! Roland, the site manager, got a kick out of the fact I could not speak. I would occasionally try and muster out a sentence, but I would just end up sounding like a dying man. I finally got it back (kind of) on the ride home.

Quote: "LET'S GO"

: Oh Scott, I will never forget your rallying call. Never did I know "LET'S GO" could (1.) provide intense rejuvenation of the mind, body and soul and (2.) be applicable in so many situations. Scott was a true master of the phrase and used it well, amidst cheering for our Orange in the Big East tourney and joking around/getting ready to rage.

Quote: "What did she just call me?"

: So, I really only knew Catherine before the trip, and she was the only one who truly knew me. So once I started referring to people as "booface" or "hunnybunny," mass confusion spread amongst the other habitaters. I distinctly remember at the baseball game we went to on Monday night, I called to Paul a few stadium seats behind me, "Thanks booface." He looks to Dimitri and says, "Wait, what did she just call me?" I then explained and he learned to accept it as an appropriate reference (as well as love it). This situation happened probably 15 times over the course of the break. I can say with confidence, I think some kids are going to keep "booface" in their vocabulary forever.

Quote: "I am going to put you in a graveyard."

: A rather morbid sentiment to communicate, but an actual threat to Dave's life, given by Johnathan (John, Johnny, John-o), nonetheless. Johnny brought life to our car. It might have been at a seemingly pain-strickened slow pace, but his historical references to wars and Chinese government as well as intense disdain for law enforcement officials made him a true gem. I am pretty sure he does not like me, or maybe he thinks I hate him, but Johnny, I don't. You might be a little interesting, but just know I'm just an impatient girl that appreciates a good torture technique like the best of them.

Background: I fully appreciated the entire group's love of games. Botticelli, Say Anything, Bananagrams: you name it, they wanted in. We also played the 46 things game where you choose a universal topic and everyone goes around suggesting an answer, and once 46 things have been named, you go by every couple and answers and players identify which answer trumps the other. On the way down we played "What will be the best thing we do on this trip?" [winning answer: 'blaze with dolphins'](?). On the way back, we played "What was your favorite thing about our trip?" Catherine, Scott, Dave, Hogie and Johnny made up Cabin 7, and we all agreed.

Quote: "I am going to have to pick 'cabin 7 love.'

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

American girl

There are a handful of "milestones" that our society suggests girls will experience during their teenage years: her first kiss, her first boyfriend, her first job, her first car.

It is through all of those events that she will ease into responsible, with her family and long-established friends there to pick her up when she makes mistakes

And she will better for it in the future, with all the lessons learn from her experiences. She will be forced to learn more about herself (and what boys to avoid), how to be more independent (and aware of the true value of money) and how she could gain parents trust (so her curfew could be a little later).

But, this time line of typical teenage lessons seems a little too good to be true.

And it is.

Some people surmise it is the result of puberty, while others believe it is because of American pop culture.

Either way, it is during a girl's teenage years, and sometimes even earlier, that she begins to question her body image.

And it is hard to blame her; magazines, television and movies all feed girls images of extremely thin models and women, labeling them as the norm and standard of beauty. A girl's perception of her body changes, focusing on areas that culture tells her defines her self and societal worth (i.e. flat stomach, busty chest).

It is the repetition of these images that begin to breakdown self-confidence. Size-2 becomes the norm, and the constant bombardment of actresses and models whom fit that mold acts as a constant reminder of how she is not that size and that she need to do something if she ever wants to be truly happy and successful, especially in love.

And for a lot of girls, size-2 is not even an option; their bodies anatomically will never fit into a pair of size-2 jeans, even if they were to starve themselves to death. Some girls find out the hard way.

It is a common misconception that skinny equals healthy. Many of the thin girls on the screen or on magazine spreads do not achieve that physique by healthy practices, but by fasting, purging and extreme diets.

That is not to say all lean girls starve themselves; some girls naturally have fast metabolisms. But the dangerous skinny ideal portrayed in entertainment (i.e. skeletal) is not attained by healthy eating habits.

I think distorted body image has just become another standard to a teenage girl's life. It is not to suggest a girl is weaker or has lower self-worth because she falls victim to it. I think body image issues are a side effect of living in our American society and being exposed to American pop culture.

Unfortunately, it takes a lot more time for girls to learn, break-away, from body image issues, if ever, compared to the lessons learned from a girl's first boy, car or job.

Maybe it just takes a little more mind over matter. And a little more help from intimate world around women.

Here's a little refresher of what real women, and men, look like:
click the picture to open the site
Of course, it's a german website.

Monday, March 2, 2009

predator percentage

"If there was no way you could ever be caught, there would be no punishment and no one would ever know, would you ever rape a woman?"

That was the last question at the end of a survey given by Malamuth and Check to college males in the early 1980s.

Forty percent said they would.

It does not end there.

The same pool of men underwent an additional test that measured their arousal during two hypothetical audio recordings-- one portraying a rape where a woman adamantly refuses the sex through out the entire act and one portraying the "rape myth," where a woman refuses sex initially and repeatedly but eventually climaxes.

The men that said they would never rape a woman under any circumstances recorded no arousal during both segments. However, the men that admitted that they might rape a woman given total immunity from all consequences reported no arousal during the rape sound byte but extreme arousal during the "rape myth."

Researchers Malamuth and Check reasoned that some men enjoy a mixture of sex and violence, especially those whom are exposed to steady amounts of pornography as well as depictions of the rape myth. To them, the rape myth equates to what may appear to be rape-- rough, aggressive sex with an unwilling participant-- but is actually just a woman whom was too embarrased to admit her desire for sex and eventually "comes clean" via an orgasm.

But the rape myth is just that: a myth. Women do not say "no" to mask their true sexual desires. They are not playing hard to get or shy. No means no. Period.

The more men are exposed to the rape myth--probably while watching porn--the more likely they are to believe that it is true. Those men might be misled to believe that constant refusal of sex is a common game played by women whom actually want to get laid.

They are then more likely to make repeated sexual advances, ignorant to a woman's constant refusal, as well as be convinced that rape might actually be pleasurable to the woman in the end; he just has to push her to that point.

So, of the forty percent who confessed they would rape a woman if given the anonymous chance, those same men registered as being more turned-on by violent sex and under the impression that the rape myth is actually true (this is shown by the difference in arousal response of the rape vs myth rape recordings).

I do not want to make generalizations about men or scare women. It was one study, which also said that sixty percent of men would not rape a woman given any circumstance. It is alarming that any percentage of men--particularly such a high percentage--confessed they would rape a woman if given immunity.

I think only way to eliminate or compress these predator inclinations is to enlighten men that the rape myth is not true. As seen with the study, those potential-rapist men were not aroused by the rape recording; it was only when they believed that women enjoyed the rape at the very end that they were aroused.

All men need to believe that when a woman says no, she really means no, regardless of the situation, whether she led you on to believe there was going to be more action or whether she did want more but then decided against it.

It is a shame that girls sometimes feel obligated to do sexual things, pressured more so by social norms than men.

Regardless of where the pressure comes from, it is the girl's responsibitiy to speak up when she does not want to do something; men cannot read minds, but they can take "no" for an answer.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

at least I covered my mouth

My science professor reassured one of my classmates that the lecture was almost over, because he was caught yawning.

"I saw you too," he said, pointing out that I too had yawned.

I felt bad. It was not a boring lecture. My yawn was merely an involuntary domino effect from the other kid's yawn. It was also nearing 5 o'clock on a long day that had started at 8 that morning.

Yawns are so interesting. I thought it was always the body's way of correcting an oxygen deficiency. Apparently there are a lot of theories on why we yawn, and no correct answer.

According to, there are three main rationales:

1. The physiological theory: When we are in carbon-dioxide concentration environments, a yawn attempts to counter the excess of CO2 by drawing more oxygen into our lungs. If a group is sitting in the same room (same CO2 enivornment), then every member may need to correct the imbalance; this explains why yawning may appear to be contagious.

2. The evolution theory: Our primitive ancestors may have shown teeth or opened their mouths widely to a signal the time to switch activities. Modern day yawns communicate the same message--suggesting the end of a boring activity in exchange for the progression to something more fun.

3. The boredom theory: Yawning is just a tell-tale sign that you are tired and/or bored.

I think that it is probably a mix of theory one and three. I can see fatigue playing a big part, and mainly why I was yawning in class last Thursday. I do not know much about science or biology so I pretty much agree with the physiological explanation purely on the trust that professionals have some idea what they are talking about.

One thing that seems to be a universal truth about yawning is that it is involuntary. I do not know why it is considered rude to yawn; no one can help it.

Teach, it might not even be related to your lecture. I might have just had a late night, and/or long day. Do not take it personally.

Here are some fun facts about yawning:
  • The average yawn lasts about six seconds.
  • Your heart rate can rise as much as 30 percent during a yawn.
  • 55 percent of people will yawn within five minutes of seeing someone else yawn.
  • Blind people yawn more after hearing an audio tape of people yawning.
  • Reading about yawning will make you yawn.
  • Olympic athletes often yawn before competition

  • Did you yawn while you read this post?