Monthly Archives: January 2009

Amazon Grace

Posted on

To the unknown benefactor who left the Wonder Woman bumpersticker in my inbox at work: thank you.

I was an abnormal child, am by many measures an abnormal adult, but at least when I was a kid I watched television and movies like every other patriotic American. My peculiar aversion to teevee and films didn’t assert itself till I was twenty.

We didn’t have cable when I was growing up. In theory we had the basic suite of television channels, but in reality our television set could only pick up three or four stations. The mountain we lived on did a mighty fine job of interfering with reception.

Rustic, I know. We churned our own butter and trudged to the outhouse in the snow, too*.

*Not really.

During the summers I would escape the poverty of the four-channel lifestyle by staying with both sides of my extended family—Mom’s in Wisconsin, Dad’s in Indiana. I was supposed to be spending quality time with cousins, uncles, aunts, and grandparents. I’m sure this happened. I have memories of this happening, and I am relatively confidant that I am not fabricating those memories.

What is certain is that I spent time watching cable television. Whether I learned the value of family and community is open to debate. That I spent hours watching soap operas in Wisconsin, and reruns in Indiana, is incontestable.

In front of the big television in the living room of Grandma and Grandpa Zellers I encountered Wonder Woman. I am not going to say that I had a crush on Lynda Carter, because it is not necessary for me to say so. It is a given. Every human being—male, female, straight, gay, young, old—every human being who ever watched Lynda Carter developed an immediate, irrevocable crush on her.

I was in love with Wonder Woman, of course, but it was more than that: I wanted to be Wonder Woman. I diligently practiced the technique of spinning around three times in quick succession. I never succeeded in making the complete transformation, but I made partial progress, to judge by the disoriented, woozy effect I invariably felt in my head.

I will neither confirm nor deny suggestions that I still, to this day, practice the three-spin transformation. I will acknowledge that I own a Wonder Woman sweatshirt and Wonder Woman undies, and I would like to express my profound disappointment that no one, I mean NO ONE, has ever purchased the Wonder Woman camisole set for me.

The bumpersticker is a nice start, though, and the timing is perfect. I think I need to spruce up my bumperstickers on Charlotte, my Corolla.

For one thing, my Stalin bumpersticker has completely faded (“The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.”) For another, some of my sentiments were appropriate during the Bush administration, but are now irrelevant, or getting there. (“It is horrifying that we have to fight our government to save our environment” – Ansel Adams.)

Some of my bumperstickers are timeless. “Men who change diapers change the world” will never lose its power. It is not a coincidence that this sticker is in the most prominent spot on my bumper. Soon, though, I’ll swap out some of the stickers for bons mots that better reflect my current, Obama-influenced sentiments.

In other news, my pal Neil Gaiman has won a Newbery. He may be my favorite living writer. John Irving is another candidate, but John Irving doesn’t have a delicious English accent, now does he. Nor is John Irving dreamy to behold. These are important considerations when evaluating the quality of an author.

I feel justified in ranking Neil (I’m totally on a first-name basis with him) as one of my close buddies. I have, after all, met the man, in person. I shook his hand. Neil and I even had a conversation, which lasted nearly two minutes, about an article I’d written about him. Plus Neil is friends with my friend Ian. I rest my case. Nevermind that I haven’t seen Ian in years.

So my best bud Neil just won a Newbery for The Graveyard Book, which I read last night. (I would have read it months ago, but I was embroiled with writing my own book. Sadly, my text will probably not win a Newbery, because it is not written for children. Otherwise I’m sure it would have a shot.) I liked it very much, though I still think his best work is the Sandman series.

In yet other news, I have decided to make a career switch. Being a librarian has been fun, but I’ve realized that my real calling is to work as a sexologist. This epiphany came to me Sunday morning, as I read an article in the New York Times Magazine, What Do Women Want?

(I hope that link works forever, but if not, you can find the original in the 22 January 2009 issue.)

I do not normally read magazine articles. I want my news to be short and succinct. I do not do things halfway. Either I want to read, digest, and process my news in three or four minutes, or I want to immerse myself in a book for a day or three. Thus it was with great trepidation I embarked upon the eight-page piece in the NYT Magazine, but the topic compelled me through the whole thing.

The topic is women and sexual desire. It’s one of my personal research interests. Very personal. My wish to understand my own body’s sexual workings propels me to read widely on sex and sexuality.

Among the ideas posited within the article:

  • Women’s physiological responses don’t necessarily correlate with their emotional responses
  • Women are sexually aroused by the thought of being desired
  • There are differences in the ways that women and men become sexually aroused

Um. This is… news?

It took professional, dedicated scientists, exploring uncharted territory in the realm of sexual research, to uncover these insights?

They could have saved a lot of time and money if they’d just talked to me first. Be that as it may, I now appreciate that I—with no formal training—am already fully qualified to be a sexologist. I shall embark on my new career posthaste. I already know what I am going to wear as my uniform: a Wonder Woman camisole set.

Advertisements

Warren Piece

Posted on

Back in early December, when I scheduled the library’s computer class offerings for January and February, it never occurred to me to plan around Inauguration Day. So yesterday, Monday, I look at my personal calendar and realize that I managed to schedule myself to teach a class on Tuesday morning. Way to go, Jessica.

This morning’s computer class, then, lasted only eighty minutes, not ninety. Those who feel shortchanged are entitled to a full refund, which I shall pay out of my own pocket. This is a noble sacrifice on my part, but I think I can swing it, seeing as the classes are free.

Class concluded promptly at 11:50, at which point I, and most of my students, walked over to the library’s community room, where the inauguration was being televised on a big screen. I got there just as Rick Warren was starting the Lord’s Prayer.

A word, now, about Rick Warren.

I am a sexual minority. This is probably apparent from the name of this website, but I’ll spell it out for the dimmer members of my reading audience: I am not a straight girl. I am, strictly speaking, a bisexual. I am capable of emotional, romantic, physical, and sexual attraction to males as well as females. To compound this heresy, I am a liberal, a Democrat, and a feminist. I have a college degree in Women’s Studies.

It naturally follows that I practice satanism, despise men, and kill children (but not before I recruit them into becoming homosexuals).

Oh shit, I didn’t mean to type that. Whoops! I must learn to be more careful about divulging my wicked ways. Pretend you didn’t read that. Let’s start again:

It naturally follows that I care passionately about same-sex rights. I believe that consenting adults should be allowed to marry (or not marry) whomever they choose, without interference from the government. I believe the government should neither encourage nor prevent people from marrying

Shrewd readers may realize that this is actually a very conservative philosophy. In theory, if not in practice, conservatives prefer to keep the government out of people’s private lives. But let’s keep this conclusion to ourselves, shall we? I don’t want to undermine my own argument of being a pansy-ass leftwing nutjob.

With most of the Big Important Societal issues, I can understand both sides. I may not like the other side, but I can almost always comprehend why someone disagrees with me. Be it immigration, the economy, healthcare, global warming, globalism, welfare, Israel, what have you—I can see how someone could reach completely different conclusions.

The only issue that baffles me is same-sex marriage. I have never heard an argument against it that makes any sense.

“Oh, but my religious teaching prohibit it!”

Ah, yes. There’s that. And while it saddens me that certain interpretations of certain religions prohibit same-sex marriage, it’s really none of my business. Other people are free to adhere to whatever dogmas they like. Let’s have a nice round of applause for the First Amendment, yes?

So fine. Prohibit same-sex marriage in your house of worship. No skin off my back. But be a pal and keep your private religious beliefs out of my public sphere, all right?

Back to Rick Warren: I actually didn’t mind that he delivered the inaugural prayer. I appreciate that he devotes a lot of his attention to issues such as AIDS and the environment. I don’t appreciate that he interprets the bible in a different way than I do, concerning gays, but that’s his prerogative.

I will fight any piece of legislation or public policy that discriminates against gays. Such laws are unconstitutional and inhumane. But I will not fight individuals who believe differently than I do. See the difference? I’ll engage in civil conversation with those individuals, and gladly, but I won’t fight them. And I’ll leave the clergy alone if they leave me alone.

Moving on: After Rick Warren did his bit, Aretha Franklin came on. That’s when I started crying. Good thing the room was dark.

I continued to sniffle through the John Williams arrangement of Simple Gifts, and I even choked up when Biden was sworn in. (You’ll recall that he was the guy who faced Sarah Palin in the Vice Presidential debate.)

When Obama took the oath, I started to bawl. I more or less sobbed my way through the entire inaugural speech.

It was a profoundly emotional experience for me. (The bit about how I cried through the ceremony probably clued you in to that.) What made it so very meaningful was Obama’s race. Even a few years ago I doubted I’d ever see a black man as president. Racism has always perverted this nation’s course, and continues to do so, but today I saw a biracial man take the oath of office.

I have never been prouder to be an American.

I’ve got a lot more to say about Obama himself, and about my hopes and fears for the nation and the world, but I am worn out. Witnessing live-action history does that. More from me in a few days, after I zip off a few professional articles.

Woman gives birth to furry monstrosity

Posted on

Upon returning home from work this afternoon, I picked up the phone for my weekly call to Mom. Now if you think I am a horrible daughter because I only call my mother once a week, I invite you to read through the dialogue of a typical conversation:

Me: How’re the cats?
Mom: Fine, fine. How’re your cats?
Me: Fine. How’s dad?
Mom: Eh, same as always. Anything new by you?
Me: No. You?
Mom: No. Well, looks like it’s time for bed.

For variety, we sometimes change the order of the questions; I have, for instance, been known to inquire about my father prior to asking after the cats. To really spice things up, we will sometimes expand on these topics (turns out Mom and Dad have installed a litter box on top of their fridge) and, when we’re feeling especially chatty, we’ll dip into current events, or workplace activities, or Mom’s alter guild duties. “So what’re you reading?” is always a good standby, and I admit I had fun this past autumn, when Mom would indulge me as I practiced my impersonation of the governor of Alaska. I’m no Tina Fey, but I can do a darn fine Sarah Palin. Though I’m not sure I’m proud of that.

But the point here is that Zellers women lead very dull lives. (You already know this if you read my blog with any regularity.) Tonight, however, I had an unexpected announcement.

“You’re never going to believe this, Ma.”

“What? You… baked something?”

“Be reasonable, mother. That’s ridiculous.”

“Okay, I give. What? What’d you do?”

“I had a date–”

“–a DATE?”

“–a date, yes, with a–”

“–with a … human?–”

“Yes, Mom. With a human, who is–”

“With a human male? Living, breathing?”

“Yes, Mom. Living and breathing.”

“You’re right, I don’t believe it.”

“Mom,” I said, exasperated. “It’s not entirely unthinkable that I should go on a date. I haven’t told you the unbelievable part yet.”

“There’s MORE?”

“Yes. He’s a…

…a Republican.”

At this point Mom burst into a sustained fit of laughter. Very sustained. We’re talking twenty full seconds of glee.

“Oh my God,” she finally managed. “Well. A Republican. Well. I suppose there’s a chance he doesn’t eat babies or put his recyclables in the trash.”

“I’m not sure one way or the other,” I admitted. “I don’t want to make any assumptions.”

Other responses have been nearly as good. A sampling:

  • “Eww!” (followed in short order by a scrunched-up face)
  • “Welcome to our side!” (from a Republican)
  • “You’re finally growing up!” (also from a Republican)
  • “Oh no!” … [pause]… “Maybe you can still be friends?”
  • “Did you throw up on him?”
  • “You realize he might be the antichrist.” (Mom again.)
  • “I didn’t realize Scalia was in Wilhelmsplatz.” (This from a colleague who knows of my embarrassing crush on the Supreme Court justice.)
  • “I’m never speaking to you again.”

Now, Constant Reader, you know my policy against discussing personal matters on this blog. Books I’m reading, books I’m writing, strange incidents at the library, my bra size, my kitties, my yoga practice—all that is fair game. My interactions with other people, not so much; even when I hang out with the gals from work, I tend not to mention it, so as to respect their privacy. (Also, I like to maintain my reputation of being lonely and unlovable. I get more sympathy that way.)

Whether I go on dates, and with whom—with all due respect, that’s none of your business. You won’t catch me talking about it again. I only made a mild exception this one time because the responses were so funny, and because, well, it was pretty darn newsworthy in the Jessica scheme of things.

Pop quiz!

Jessica _________ (pick one)

A. Went on safari with Elvis
B. Gave birth to a wolf-boy
C. Went on a date with a Republican

Quick! You only have thirty seconds to choose an answer! In the meantime little Romulus here is gonna help me mount my new rhino head on the wall.

Return of the prodigal

Posted on

Some time ago I made a deal with Google. I purchased a Google account—including an iGoogle page, a Google Reader, and myriad other useful tools—all for the low low price of my soul. Wasn’t using it anyway. It was just collecting dust in the corner, and closet space is at a premium in my apartment. Can’t say as I miss it.

It is possible that being soulless has the added benefit of immortality. Dunno yet. I’m not going to comb through the legalese to see if there’s an extended-lifetime warranty, but check back with me in 100 years for an update. Go on, now; just add it to you Google calendar for January of 2109.

The Google calendar, naturally, is part of the package. I [heart] my Google calendar for the simple reason that I cannot lose it. Back in the dark ages, when I recorded my obligations on the corpses of slaughtered trees, my life would fall apart whenever I lost my calendar. There is absolutely no way possible that I can lose my electronic calendar, unless Google goes under, and if that happens, we’ll all have bigger problems to worry about, probably to the tune of “nuclear holocaust” or “alien invasion.”

This week my Google calendar looks strangely empty, thanks to my having removed “Work on manuscript OR ELSE” from every available space. Other items have started to fill the schedule, though. A sampling:

  • Saramago read-alike due Feb. 1
  • Graphic novel article revisions due soon
  • Fantasy chapter narrative due ages ago
  • Go crawling back to yoga
  • Get a haircut, for the love of God
  • Threaten existence of universe

Having finished the evisions-ray yesterday afternoon, and then worked a full day at the library, I went home and… did nothing. Sat at the computer for a bit, then sat on the couch for a bit. Things this evening are nominally improved, but my brain is still fried. Very primitive sentences (“Here’s what’s written on my calendar!”) are pretty much all I’m good for. I mean I am not even up for reading sentences. Even the book on zombie philosophy and the book on Stalin are unappealing to me right now, to say nothing of the Magical Realists I’ll need to brush up on before attempting my Saramago piece. (Nothing against Magical Realism, but light reading it is not. “Fluffy” and “Garcia Marquez” don’t normally reside in the same sentence.)

I am pleased to report, however, that the other items on the calendar are receiving more attention. Tomorrow I shall see Hairdresser Jeff. On Saturday I shall imperil the fabric of reality. And as for crawling back to yoga—well, actually, I already did that part this evening.

Having done no yoga whatsoever for five months, I was a bit nervous.

Q. Would half-pigeon pose still be doable?
A. Yes.

Q. How about half-pigeon with the twisty bits, where you reach around for your ankle and so forth?
A. Yes.

Q. How about backbends?
A. Yes.

Q. How many?
A. Five.

Q. In a row?
A. In a row. Quick-succession, like.

Q. You mean the fully inverted kind?
A. Yes.

Q. Did you drop back or lift from the floor to get into them?
A. Lifted from the floor.

Q. Wait a second, were you ever able to drop into a backbend?
A. Well, no. But lifting from the floor isn’t exactly easy, you know.

Q. Um… how about turtle? Can you still do turtle after nearly half a year of no stretching?
A. Seems I can.

Q. Are you going to regret this tomorrow?
A. Almost certainly.

Hairdresser Jeff may, in fact, be giving a haircut to a human-shaped bundle of agony. Nothing hurts right now, but after my muscles have had a good night’s sleep to realize the injustice I have done them, they may well turn into a puddle of quivering goo—a puddle of quivering, painful goo. In faint hopes of preventing the pain, I shall now add another event to this evening’s exciting* activities, a very hot bath. Check back with me next week.**

* “Exciting” when compared to last night’s activities, at any rate
** Provided I don’t succeed in destroying the fabric of reality

Book rundown, 2008

Posted on

What is a storyteller to do? Considering that time is limited—she must get to work before too long—she must choose between two compelling stories. There’s only time enough for one.

The first possibility relates to the events of Monday evening. It involves a wildly improbable scenario with unlikely main characters, replete with dramatic tension and thought-provoking plot elements. Profuse literary allusions, multiple plot twists, social and political intrigues, and a cliff-hanger ending contribute to this fast-paced, provocative narrative.

Or I could slog through the list of the books I read last year.

I’m torn, I’m really torn, but my keen instinct for storytelling leads me to intuit that readers would rather have the drudgery of the books from 2008. Am I right? Am I right?

So, to follow-up from the smash-hit Book rundown, 2007, and its predecessor, 67 Hours, I present Book rundown, 2008.

It does not take a mathematical genius like Hypatia of Alexandria (whose biography is annotated in the book I just finished writing) to see that the number of books I read in 2008—eighty-three in all—is less than in previous years, but this is mitigated, slightly, by that fact that I myself wrote a book.

Wrote, as in past tense. The revisions are done, as of twelve minutes ago. Let us never speak of it again.

Total books read, cover-to-cover:

  • 83, including 11 re-reads. Sadly, I had been avoiding re-reads, for the horribly geeky reason that I couldn’t figure out a good way to account for this in my spreadsheet of books read. (Other people keep lists. I keep a spreadsheet.) The pleasures of re-reading were again opened to me, now that I have a work-around.
  • 69 were fiction. 14 were nonfiction.

Books published in 2008:

Something like eleven, I think. I don’t keep track of pub dates.

Total books skimmed, perused, and considered for purposes of inclusion in the book I wrote:

several thousand

Most-read authors:
Bill Willingham (11 titles), Brian Azzarello (11 titles), and Jim Butcher (10 titles). This is what happens when you get hooked on a series.

Levels:

  • 77 Adult
  • 6 Young Adult
  • 0 Children’s. I feel terrible about this. I’ll totally make up for it in 2009, I promise.

Nonfiction genres:

  • 1 grammar book
  • 6 humor
  • 1 sex manual—as always, a waste of my time. Will I never learn?
  • 1 history of fashion
  • 1 career guide
  • 2 memoirs
  • 2 personal finance
  • 1 photo-essay
  • 1 social science
  • 1 survival guide (The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook)

Fiction genres:

  • 2 literary canon
  • 11 Crime
  • 33 Fantasy
  • 9 Historical
  • 5 Horror
  • 13 Mysteries
  • 2 Literary Fiction
  • 8 romance (Wasn’t my fault. They were genre crossovers.)
  • 5 Science Fiction
  • 5 Suspense/Thriller

Miscellaneous:

  • 26 graphic novels
  • 1 play (see “Annual Russian classic,” below)
  • Annual Russian classic: The Cherry Orchard, by Chekov
  • Books with werewolves, vampires, zombies, and assorted undead: lots


Best and Worst:

 

  • Best NF: Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, by Mary Roach
  • Worst NF: (tie): Smooth Operators, this really lame humor history of men’s fashion by Richard Jarman, and The Elusive Orgasm: A Woman’s Guide to Why She Can’t and How She Can Orgasm, this completely unhelpful book by Vivienne Cass
  • Best Adult Fiction: Watership Down, by Richard Adams (I’m so happy to be re-reading books again!)
  • Worst Adult Fiction: Master of the Delta, by Thomas H. Cook. What, was I supposed to be scared when I read this?
  • Best YA Fiction: The Twilight series, by Stephenie Meyer
  • Worst YA Fiction: The Twilight series, by Stephenie Meyer
  • Best Graphic Novel: (tie): Bill Willingham’s Fables and Brian Azzarello’s 100 Bullets
  • Worst Graphic Novel: Fullmetal Alchemist 1, by Hiromu Arakawa

2008 in review, 1984-style

Posted on

January 1st, the deadline for my book revisions, has come and—as of thirty-one minutes ago—passed. The revisions are not finished.

Earlier this week, I had determined that I would send in everything at midnight, whether or not I was actually done. This seemed fine and dandy until late this evening, when I realized that I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it. The manuscript isn’t… you know… done.

In my next life, I intend to be a ne’er-do-well with absolutely no inclination toward perfectionism. I’m thinking I could be a chinchilla, maybe, something small and furry and useless. If it is imperative that I come back as a human again, then I’d like to be a bland suburban housewife, with no identity, no politics, no education, no worries.

If any bland suburban housewives are reading this, you are surely insulted, for which I deeply apologize. Return with all due haste to watching the Lifetime channel, and you’ll forget this ever happened.

So the revised plan is to finish the manuscript this weekend. Now back in November I explained that my plan was to finish over Thanksgiving, and back in December I promised that I would finish over Christmas, and earlier this week I swore I would finish on New Year’s Day. It does not take a bland suburban housewife to detect a trend here. But this time I really think it might happen.

Regardless, I have decided that we shall never again speak of the book, because I am very, very tired of it. In fact, I think it would be best if we pretend that it never happened. I shall pull an Orwell and strike all mention of it from the record.

Of course, just because I have (probably) nearly finished the m_ _ _ _ _ _ _ pt, I am not off the hook. I could be working on an article that was due last month (couldn’t write it then, obviously, because of the m_ _ _ _ _ _ _ pt), or I could be working on the one that was due this month. Or I could be working on the chapter that was due sometime this past fall.

Or I could be plugging away at the m_ _ _ _ _ _ _ pt, but that’s silly, seeing as it does not exist. Not that it has ever existed.

I think it best to avoid those activities at the moment, as my brain has fried. My present mental capacity could be used as one of those cautionary tales about the dangers of drugs, except that I haven’t used any drugs, but now that I’m thinking of it? Let’s add a drug addiction to the reincarnation fantasy. I shall be a bland suburban housewife, but I shall be a stoned bland suburban housewife, by God.

Also, I’ve been feeling guilty about not blogging. And since the laundromat isn’t open at one in the morning, God knows why not, and since my mental capacity is too weak to perceive the benefits of a good night’s sleep, here I am.

Perceptive readers and/or stalkers will recall that my New Year’s post has traditionally involved a detailed review of the books I’ve read in the past year, if “twice now” counts as traditional. Fear not; it’s coming, if I ever get my m_ _ _ _ _ _ _ pt that does not exist finished—though this year’s list will be shorter than last, as my free time this past year rather inexplicably vanished. I can’t for the life of me imagine where it all went.

I can, however, give you a Year in Review type list that will tide you over till I publish my list of books read. I recognize that you are simply salivating with desire for the exhaustively detailed discussion of the titles, but you will have to be patient.

Now then! Presenting…

The Really Lousy Things that Happened in 2008, a Year of Really Lousy Things

(It’s a bit recursive for a title, but it does make the point, you gotta admit)

1. My gynecologist turned out to be a creepy yucky dirty old man.
1.a. The state medical board didn’t give a shit.

2. I lost my iPod. This is an improvement over the lost things of 2007 (my wallet and my cell phone) in that my identity can’t be stolen, but I’m not exactly happy about it.

3. I broke my treasured travel mug. It had a pretty pattern, and it never leaked, and it held twenty ounces. This last bit is important, as—according to the best of my searching abilities—it was the only twenty-ounce ceramic mug in existence.

4. I got my heart broken by a guy who seemed pretty much ideal, at least until the bit where he dumped me.
4.a. He didn’t just dump me. He disinvited me to his home in Vancouver, AFTER—after, mind you, after—I purchased, at his urging, a $642 plane ticket to visit.
4.b. I can’t get my money back.

5. In related news, I slipped into a nasty depression.
5.a. I turned into a sullen, crabby, grouchy person. More so than normal, I mean.
5.b. I stopped interacting with other people except when absolutely necessary. More so than normal, I mean.
5.c. I stopped going to yoga

6. My life, my free will, and my sanity was devoured by the m_ _ _ _ _ _ _ pt.
6.a. Thanksgiving and Christmas were spent working.
6.b. Evenings and weekends? Same deal.
6.c. Not to mention 50-odd hours of vacation time.

7. Between the m_ _ _ _ _ _ _ pt and the Canadian prick, I have not had a vacation in… uhm… let’s see here, I think it was August of 2005 the last time I had a vacation. Yup.

8. Hairdresser Jeff raised the price of a haircut

9. Between new tires, rent, groceries, useless $642 plane tickets, insurance, gas, a $102 webcam (I want my money back for that, too), haircuts, and income lost to time spent writing the m_ _ _ _ _ _ _ pt, I spent the year being broke, though I guess it’s in kind of poor taste to say so, considering that I’m employed when lots of other people aren’t.

Hey, on the bright side, even if I do get laid off, I can’t lose my house because—see if you follow me here—I don’t own a house. I cannot be late or foreclosed on my mortgage payments because I do not have them.

On that comparatively cheerful note, I shall end my list. And I suppose I shall head to bed soon, but not without issuing a stern warning first.

Some of you good-natured folks might want to say something like “Well, things can only get better!” Don’t do it, for the love of everything holy, don’t even think about saying it. That is exactly the sort of thing that tempts the gods. I’d rather not be the star of a Greek tragedy if it can possibly be avoided. (My being American rather than Greek reassures me not at all.) If you feel you must comment, please say something like “I hate to say it, Jessica, but things are probably going to get a lot worse.”

Likewise, please don’t say anything like “Oh good, the m_ _ _ _ _ _ _ pt is almost finished!”

Also verboten, now and in the future:

“Now that it’s all done, aren’t you pleased with it?”

“I know it was a lot of work, but now you’re published!”

Acceptable:

“Christ, Jessica, that was dumb. You threw away two years of your life for what, a reference book? An annotated freaking bibliography? Pathetic.”

“If you absolutely insist on sacrificing yourself for two years, join the Peace Corps or something, why doncha?”

Best:

“What m_ _ _ _ _ _ _ pt? There is no m_ _ _ _ _ _ _ pt. Oh, and while I’m thinking of it—I hate to say it, but things are probably going to get a lot worse.”