Monday, April 28, 2008

Words To Impress People At Parties

Ryan made up a new word yesterday, a new word so interesting and provocative and fun to say that I need to come up with more reasons to throw it around.  Sadly, though, I am afraid that it is a word that might shock those with weaker constitutions, namely people who don't handle children and their many bodily functions on a daily basis.  For us active moms and dads, this word might just fill a need you never knew you had.

Ready for it?  Here it is:

Peepee aftersmell

Yes, that's right, pee pee aftersmell.  I'm waiting for Webster's to come knocking on my door, asking for permission to use this one in the very next edition of the dictionary, because there is truly not another word in the english language just like it.

What is a pee pee aftersmell, you ask?  Let me explain its origin and possibly use it in a sentence.  I bought a new brand of cleaning spray, a version of Lysol 4-in-1 cleaner that is blue liquid in a clear bottle.  I had been sent to the store to buy Windex, but this was cheaper, and once we got it home we found out why.  The stuff absolutely cannot clean mirrors - every time I look through that hazy mess I take off my glasses and clean them, only to discover that the haze isn't going away.  Some people complain about looking through the net at a baseball game - this is like putting your makeup on while looking through gauze.  Streaky gauze, at that.

To make matters worse, the stuff stinks.  It might not stink on its own, but combined with whatever lethal bacteria live in my bathroom, the resulting scent is absolutely disgusting.  Ryan was commenting on this awful smell when he described it as being having a "pee pee aftersmell."

I think the idea he was going for was comparing it to an aftertaste, where it's not the flavor of the food when you eat it, it's the lingering taste in your mouth.  This is an aftersmell - not necessarily the scent that the cleaner is when it's sprayed, but the smell that lingers in the bathroom afterwards.  An aftersmell.  

Pee pee, of course, is a word that needs no introduction, especially to those of us for whom bodies and their functions need to be broken down to the lowest common denominator.  One of the things that no one tells you before you have kids is that you need a whole separate language in order to talk to your kids.  Yes, yes, I know that the politically correct thing to do is to teach your kids the proper words for body part, and I do, mostly.  But trust me, you back off of the whole truth and nothing but the truth the first time your three year old announces anything in public having to do with his penis.  I'm sure one day I'll make sure all of my kids know the word "urinate" and "toilet" and "bowel movement" but for now, let's just make this as gentle as possible, for the sake of the listening public.

So, to sum up, pee pee aftersmell would be anything that has a secondary smell that is vaguely reminiscent of pee.  I think it is the perfect word to describe the smell that hits you when you remove a baby's wet diaper - even after they've been cleaned up, sometimes they need a good soak in the tub to remove that pee pee aftersmell.  Those are really the only two specific usages I have come up with, the smell of baby bottoms post-diaper change and Lysol 4-in-1 cleaner.  

But a word that good can't go to waste, though, so I've decided on another usage:  it would make a fantastic band name!  Listen to it:

"Okay, opening for Limp Bizkit tonight, give it up for Pee Pee Aftersmell!"  

Oh yeah, I totally would go to a Pee Pee Aftersmell concert, any day of the week.  You couldn't help but have a rockin' time.

And here's my other brilliant idea:  it would make the best username on message boards and chat rooms and whatnot.  You could even go with initials, to make it a little more name-y:  P.P. Aftersmell.  Or make it French - Pepe Aftersmell.  

Go ahead, use our new word, make it your own!  I'd love to hear what other things have a pee pee aftersmell, or if now that you have a word for that smell, you all of a sudden start smelling things in a different light.  Most importantly, though, try to use this new word to others.  Spread it around, because the peepee aftersmell train is leaving the station, and you don't want to miss the next big word to hit town!  Excuse me, the phone is ringing, I think it must be Webster's!

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Moral Dilemma

I finished my college semester yesterday, and I wish I was happier about it.  On the one hand, it is so nice to have these two classes off my plate (and my mind) and yards and yards of free time ahead of me.  Additionally, I did very well in my online Oceanography class - the exams are graded on a curve, and at one point I had a 102% in the class.  I take too much pride in educational success, and this just stoked the flames.  On the other hand, though, my Microeconomics class was utterly disappointing and has left me with a moral dilemma.

The teacher, first of all, is young.  He's finishing his doctorate program, so however long it takes to do all of college through to a doctorate without stopping for anything, that's how old he is.  He is so arrogant and such a know-it-all - in Brian Regan's terminology, he is a total Me-Monster.  I kind of wonder how he can think he knows so much when he hasn't done too much other than go to school?  

That would be irritating, but acceptable, if it were not for his biggest flaw:  he's lazy.  He never prepared a lesson plan, just read to us from out of the textbook.  He gave us homework to do, but also gave us the answers to it.  So the second time we turned homework in, every single person in the class (except for yours truly) got wise to his deal and just printed out his answers and wrote their name on top.  My homework was the only one handwritten on torn out notebook paper, because we had to do a bunch of graphs and charts that would be hard to do on a word document.  He didn't even check to make sure it was right, or even all there, because by the time I went to bed at night, he had already posted a grade for the assignment, and there's no way he could have actually graded anything. 

The thing that has me in a dilemma, though, is the three tests he's given.  They were taken online at home, and they were open book, open note, open whatever.  The first one was hard, but I had studied the chapters and knew where to find all of the answers, so I got a 98%.  The second test, though, covered the bulk of the semester, and was just about impossible.  I studied for days and spent almost every minute of the 2 hours allotted to take the test.  In the end, I got a 78%, and boy was I ticked off.  The questions were not what he had covered in class, and the only reason I did as well as I had was because I searched every answer out of the book.  

Can I just take this minute to say, I really don't like doing badly on tests, especially when I've actually prepared for it.  Really, really, really don't.  I paced around the kitchen for 10 minutes after getting a C, and had a very hard time winding down that night, I was so frustrated.  It'd be different if this was a hard class, or a hard topic, but it's not.

So last week, after our final class (where our sum total preparation for the final was "know the definitions from these three chapters") I was talking to another woman about the teacher.  I told her how I didn't think he was very good, and she said this was the third class of his she's taken, because he's so easy and once you know how he operates it's easy to get an A in his class.  She went on to tell me that he takes every single test question right out of the textbook's website practice quizzes, so all you have to do is take the practice quizzes, save the answers, and you've got the entire test.  She had done that on the second test, and gotten a 98%.  

I was floored.  Is this okay to do?  It seems so much like cheating, but can it really be cheating when the teacher sets it up that way?  It's not like I had gotten a copy of the test from someone who had taken it last year, or some other type of subterfuge.  The questions were available on the student website, a resource that we are supposed to be able to consult as part of the class!  Should we be faulted for using the best resource available to take the test?  It's not like the teacher cares - if he cared, he would have spent some time to make up his own questions, like every other teacher I've ever had in my life.  And if he wanted the tests to be right from the text, then assign us the chapters to read, so we could be prepared.

Most likely, he is doing for us what he wishes a teacher had done for him.  He would have loved for a class to be easy, so he could skate through it and be done.  Why make us do more work than the absolute minimum, right?  And if we are smart enough to figure out the most efficient way to pass the class, then he's done his job.  (Efficiency is an economics topic, see I did learn something!)

But to me, it still feels like cheating.  I wrote a scathing teacher evaluation, which I have never done before, and no doubt it will be the only one saying anything negative.  Then I started preparing for the final, and I just about lost it.  There was almost nothing from our lectures that even sounded vaguely familiar compared to the chapters in the book.  I knew that if I took the exam, I would fail.  So, I tossed my ethics out the window, went to the student website, got the questions for the chapters, and then took the test.  

Thirty of the 50 questions were on the student website.  The other 20 he actually made up himself from some articles he had covered in class.  If I hadn't looked up the questions, I would have gotten literally all 30 wrong.  They weren't even the slightest bit familiar.  I ended up with  98% on the test.

But I'm not happy.  While I think the teacher wouldn't care that I (and the rest of the class) did this, I care.  I feel like a hypocrite, taking the easy way out, when I should have read the chapters, studied on my own, and prepared for the test the way I thought it should be done.  But is that rational?  What makes a certain behavior wrong?  Is it wrong when the person in charge says it's wrong?  Or do you go by your gut to know the difference between right and wrong?  Either way has a lot of room for error - get an evil person in charge or an evil person making the choice, and their determination of right and wrong is going to be backwards.  (I'm not calling my teacher evil, obviously I'm just making a point.)  If you were to go by the rule of law, you'd have to say that the teacher specifically made the test open book, open note, online at home, so there's no way he could have a rule that we couldn't look up answers online.  Unless he called the honor code into it, which he didn't.  

So, that's where I am right now.  I did the right thing in the eyes of the teacher and the other students, but I feel wrong about it.  Ryan, in attempting to talk me down from the ledge, reminded me about being in Malaysia.  The rule there is that you don't tip the waiters.  But for us, not tipping is something we just don't do - when you are at a restaurant, you tip, and that's the way it is.  For us.  But not for them.  In fact, the first several times we left a tip, we got funny looks and pointing and whispering by the waiters, until we finally asked someone who clued us in.  Then we stopped tipping and the status quo resumed.  I think I'm in the same situation now - I'm in a foreign country, where everyone is trying to get through this class with as little effort as possible, and I'm throwing a fit over not being worked hard enough.  When in Rome, do as the Romans, right?  In this case, when in Microeconomics, do as the Microeconomists, I guess.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

My Reality

Here's my dirty little secret:  I love reality shows.  And I'm going to announce that proudly, without a hint of the shame and embarrassment that I occasionally feel from enjoying something so worldly, so lowbrow, so unimportant as watching regular people do things that I may or may not ever be able to do myself.  It's almost as bad, although maybe not quite, as the stigma around liking McDonald's.  Sheesh, after Supersize Me came out I felt like I needed to put my quarter pounder with cheese in a Whole Foods Market bag so no one would know that I don't mind eating processed foods.  

There are a few things I like about reality shows.  It's nice to see a different reality than the one that I'm currently in.  Not that I don't like my life;  I do, mostly, but there's not nearly as much adventure and excitement as in your standard reality show.  When's the last time I was required to bungee jump off a bridge, for example, or rappel down the side of a building?  Never, that's when!  Not that I particularly want to do those things, but my point is that my life doesn't require a lot of adrenaline for me.

I love watching people using their talents in an extreme way.  I've watched American Idol, but my favorite talent reality show is So You Think You Can Dance, mostly because I've always wanted to be able to dance.  These are some gifted people, and I love watching them use their talents.  I'm not so crazy about them being scorned by judges for not doing well enough, but at least on SYTYCD they aren't quite as brutal as Simon can be.  

I think by far my favorite part of reality shows is the competition factor.  I love contests of skill and could probably get emotionally involved in a snail race if there was money for the winner.  There is something about seeing people's true colors come out when the pressure's on that is really telling about their personality.  Nowhere is that more apparent than on my favorite reality show, The Amazing Race.  These are the ultimate regular people - they don't need to have an iron will (and stomach) like the Fear Factor contestants, or ruthless ambition and a need to dominate like Survivorites.  Amazing Racers are just people who think it would be fun to do crazy challenges while they travel around the world.  The excitement on their faces when they find out where they are going next is the closest to kinship that I'll ever feel with a reality show contestant.

But it's the other behavior of those contestants that keeps me from being on that show.  When the chips are down, some of those people get ugly with a capital ug.  I've told Ryan that there's no way I'd subject my marriage to that kind of laboratory experiment - some couples end up completely falling apart and while I'd like to think that we'd be mature enough to handle the stresses of the game, I would never take the chance of putting our worst arguments on national television.  

Here is a list of reality shows that I've enjoyed:

The Biggest Loser
The Amazing Race
Project Runway
Iron Chef
Top Chef
The Next Food Network Star
The Next Iron Chef (can you tell, I really like cooking reality shows?)
So You Think You Can Dance
The Apprentice, in the early seasons

Most of these shows is pure fluff, nothing but entertainment, but every so often I learn something.  Like the other day I was at the gym and struggling to run longer than I have before.  I could hear Jillian (from the Biggest Loser) screaming at me to keep going, and while in person I would have hated being yelled at, being yelled at by a voice in my head was somehow motivating, and I ran for a whole mile.  (I know, that's nothing to get excited about, but I don't know that I've ever run a mile before.)  And the cooking shows motivate me to try new techniques in the kitchen, and learn how to chop onions faster. 

So, judge me if you will, America, for my love of reality shows.  But if you're going to judge me, make sure you call and place your vote for me, Emily, as The Next Big Reality Show Lover!