Friday, November 26, 2010

Fridays with Fran

You've all read Tuesdays with Morrie. Actually, maybe you haven't. I haven't read it, because I have Fridays with Fran (and the occasional other day of the week). Who is Fran? Ah, Fran. Fran is the 82-year-old professor emerita for whom I work. My official title is "clutter clearer." I clear her clutter, and there's a lot of clutter. She's a bit of a hoarder. Not TLC's "Hoarders Gone Wild" level, but she's got a lot of clutter. Here are a couple of fun tidbits about stuff I've done since working for Fran.
  • Once, she brought me a casserole dish full of pennies. I thought she was going to have me roll them. That's normal, right? I was all ready to roll, and then she told me that I was to sort them by year. By year.
  • She has 500 baseball cards that I had to organize in an Excel spreadsheet. Like the pennies, none of them are worth much.
  • Occasionally I have "Fran Homework." This is stuff I do on my own time that involves using a computer. I've searched for private citizens' phone numbers, non-existent chair cushions, organizations that existed in the seventies (but not anymore), and retyped up old documents. Speaking of which...
  • There was a poem once that I had to type. It was a poem from Fran's days at sleepaway camp in the forties. "And campers die like flies in the night..." What the heck, Snooks? (P.S. Snooks is not a BumpIt consumer from New Jersey, Snooks was Fran's tween nickname.)
  • When almost winter happens, Fran turns the heat up. Today, it was about eighty degrees in her apartment. While I was dying in my normal November clothes, she was wearing shorts and a tee-shirt.
  • I sometimes have to organize Fran's financial affairs. I write out her checks, but she has no check registry, so there's no real way to keep track of the dozens of donations she makes to various political campaigns. However, she insists that we keep the receipts from the grape juice she bought at CVS in 2008. Go figure. Sometimes I throw away old receipts when she's not looking (Shh!).
  • Fran is an International Business Ethicist. She's going to write a book about Ethics and other things that start with the Letter "E" that are important for business to happen. She has lots of papers that she puts in piles for the research for this book. The pile is over a foot tall. If I were eighty-two and wanting to write a book, I'd get on that. She hasn't.
  • She's friends with Eliza Dushku's mom. This is why I need to keep this relationship going. I need to meet Eliza Dushku to get myself into Joss Whedon's posse.
  • She's going to buy a new apartment, which is why we're in full warp speed with clearing out the old one. I've seen the floor plan for this apartment. It has a spacious common room so that she can put in a piano...or a ping-pong table. She hasn't decided yet. I'm hoping for piano, otherwise she's going to make me play ping-pong with her.
  • Even though Fran is over three times my age, she's got more technological swag that I do. She has an iPhone...or had...she lost it. She has four laptops which she takes to the Geek Squad every other week. She has two mp3 players, and I had to explain to her what an mp3 was. She does still have analog radios and cassette tapes. She was really sad when I had to throw out her Les Miserables soundtrack, so I promised her I'd burn her a CD. She was pretty happy about that.

I probably have more Fran stories that I could write down, and I'll write them if they come up or anything else fantastic happens. As crazy as Fran is, I really like working for her. She's a sweet old bird. I'm not worried about her stumbling across this blog post and finding me out. She may have a lost iPhone and four Motorola phone chargers, but she's not licensed for the blogisphere.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


You know all those holiday movies where every imaginable catastrophe and then some happens to the main character(s) and you think the entire holiday is ruined, but then at the very end something wonderful happens and we learn a great message about family and togetherness and perseverance and all that other sentimental garbage? Well, the last part is probably not going to happen, so I'm just going to write a Thanksgiving-related post now. This day is awful.

I used to love Thanksgiving. It was in my duo of favorite holidays along with Halloween. I hate Christmas, and any holiday that falls on a Sunday (i.e. Easter) was never my friend. But Thanksgiving was great. It was never riddled with rampant commercialism (leave that to the day after)--it was all about the food--and I love the food. Thanksgiving is the day for any non-professional gourmet to pull out all the stops and deliver a feast full of carbo-deliciousness. Along with Thanksgiving comes Thanksgiving break, traditionally a time when all the people with money or closeby relatives who care about them leave their student apartments and leave me to a long weekend of solitary, all-by-myself alone-time. Finally, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is always on NBC, hosted by Matt Lauer, Al Roker, and whichever female co-anchor they've got at the time. Giant balloons, lip-synched pop songs, Broadway performances, and commercials for Ocean Spray and the Touch, the Feel, of Cotton. It's been a tradition of mine to watch this parade while eating breakfast since I was about ten years old. So where did it all go wrong?

Let's start with the alone time. For the first time, since leaving for college, my apartment is filled with more people than who normally live here. This leaves me stuck in my bedroom most of the day and I can't even really leave to go to the bathroom because, call me shy, but I can't pee when I can hear my roommates' in-laws talking in the next room. Anyhow, an extended family has commandeered my holiday. At least I don't have to leave the house to be the outsider at someone else's family dinner, and plus, guess who won't be too busy having "family time" to do all of the cleanup?

That brings me to my next point. The cornucopia of guests has altered the sleeping arrangements, causing some people to sleep in the TV room until well past parade time. This is the first Macy's Parade I've missed in 15 years--and of course, I miss the one in which an old high-school acquaintance is performing as Cinderella on a Disney float and the Broadway cast of Elf (Yes, Elf is a musical now) is doing a number. Of course, the room is vacant by noon, but who wants to watch the stupid Eukanuba dog show? Maybe a bunch of people who treat their dogs like the children they'll never have because nobody wants to marry anyone who mouth-kisses their dogs, but not I.

Finally, there is the food. I made cranberry sauce from scratch, and a pretty awesome stuffing (apple-sausage, parsnips, apples, and fresh sage--take that!), so those parts are okay--except the stuffing burned a little because it had to go on the bottom rack of the oven. But guy who was supposed to bring the yams decided that the yams are not going to come. What is Thanksgiving without yams? It's almost as bad as a Thanksgiving without the Macy's Parade...oh wait. And it'll be a miracle if the Turkey doesn't kill us all before 7pm. I didn't even know people still followed the 200-degree guideline (which is nonsense, unless you like turkey jerky). However, the amount of bird to heat to 165-degrees exceeds the amount of time Newton has allowed us to perform such an act in a 200-degree oven. I point these things out and people look at me like I'm some silly amateur who couldn't possibly know how to prepare a turkey. (Yes, young single people know how to cook poultry, too!)

Anyway, it's nigh on time to eat, so if a Thanksgiving miracle happens and all of a sudden makes this the best day ever, I'll let you know. But don't hold your breath.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The "Bones" Effect

I love most things about being a forensic anthropologist, but there are a couple of things that I definitely do not love. The first is having to do recovery work when it's really cold or wet or hot or humid or mosquito-laden. The second thing is having to explain forensic anthropology.

Whenever I meet new people, the question of what I'm doing with my life always comes up. I say "I'm studying forensic anthropology," and then whomever I'm talking with will get this little look on their face, like they're trying to figure it out on their own, and then they ask, " how do those two words fit together?"

So I say, "forensic anthropology is the analysis of human skeletal remains in a legal context."

And then they say, "so like Egyptian mummies and Neanderthals and stuff?"

And I say, "No...more modern, like in the last fifty years."

And then they say, "oh, so like 'CSI'?"

And then I say, "actually, more like 'Bones'."

And then they say, "I've never actually seen 'Bones'."

And then I say, "Don't. It's awful. The science is all fake." And at that point I'm trying to think of anyway I can get away from this conversation. So I ask, "what do you do?" because even pretending to listen to people's stories about the insurance business is more fun than trying to explain forensic anthropology to people who won't ever understand it.

This all came full blast last night, when I went to a ward "consoli-dating" activity, which is a mix of a progressive dinner and speed dating. It was decent, except I had to go through this forensic anthropology defining process five different times with nobody I was remotely interested in dating. At least it was a free meal. I'm just very surprised that people still don't understand what forensic anthropology is. You hear about "The CSI Effect," which is normal people thinking they know tons about forensic science because they've watched "CSI." Apparently nobody watches "Bones," but that's understandable. That show's awful.

Maybe I just need to make up a fake career for meeting new people. Or find people who already know what forensic anthropology is and aren't completely repelled by the fact that I deal with dead people all day.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


For those of you who don't enjoy the Marvel Comic universe, this is Bloodlust (aka Beatta Dubiel), a supervillianess who has taken out both Spiderman and Wolverine at one point in time. But that's not what I'm going to talk about.

So last night at Family Home Evening we played "Slaughterball," which is like dodgeball only with more rules and fewer balls. I was getting pretty good at the actual dodging (all due to my crazy ninja reflexes, but more on that later), and I even hit Mike Pickett with the ball, which was strangely satisfying (of course, two seconds after that happened it declared that that round was only a "practice round" because he couldn't stand the fact that he got nailed with a ball by little old me). The amazing part was what happened next: during the next round, I got hit by my roommate. Normally I only have nice things to say about my roommate, but after she hit me, I was overcome with this overwhelming urge to hit her really hard in the face! I didn't, of course, because I have self-control, especially when it comes to touching people. But I did give a loud, audible "Grrr!" Needless to say, people were pretty scared of me and my angry face after that.

It was strange, though. I usually don't get angry, and if I do, I don't go running at people like a Spartan. Maybe it was building up after weeks of school stress, lack of downtime, and an excruciatingly long FHE lesson full of people talking about their feelings. But I never knew that I was capable of such blood-curdling rage. Who knows? Maybe I could channel that into something creatively awesome. Or just start being a supervillian (it would fulfill my dreams to get a giant dry-erase board). It would be pretty funny.

Because don't forget, you can't spell "slaughter" without "laughter."

Friday, November 5, 2010

"Strategy" or "Why Superhero Movies are Unrealistic"

Let me start out by saying that if I ever married a man whose last name was "Luthor," I'd totally start going by "Lexi" again. Why do I bring this up? Because I was Googling supervillians and happened upon the biography of Alexander Joseph Luthor. Why was I Googling supervillians? Because I wanted to prove the point that if superhero movies were at all realistic, the supervillians would win way more often than they actually do. Why? Because they have a plan. They have formulae, equations, and enormous dry-erase boards with their step-by-step strategies to take over Metropolis, Gotham, or, heck, the whole world. Superheroes, on the other hand, are just like, "Oh darn, world's in danger again, better go save it..." and then they fly off or run really fast counterclockwise around the world without a second thought. What message is this teaching our children? "Hey kids, don't think things through, just fly off the handle, or better yet, just fly." My kids are going to have dry-erase boards.

This week marked the beginning of November, and with the beginning of November brought the beginning of a series of quasi-top-secret projects, assignments, experiments, and schemes. I have never wanted a giant dry-erase board more in my life, because when it comes to formulae of the effects of heat subtraction and tryptophan on the human psyche, sketch paper isn't cutting it. Normally, I don't like these types of social experiments, but somehow, the scheming supervillianess approach makes it quite fun. I realize this doesn't bode well for the people of Boston when my timid, mild-mannered scientist self somehow falls into a vat of radioactive chemical waste. So watch it.

In other news, there is no slowing down until Christmas, but I guess that's a consequence of being both wicked and weary! Today was my "day off," in which I didn't actually go to school, but included a trip to the bank and the grocery store, completion of all my laundry, starting a case report and summary for my Applied Forensic Anthropology class, freaking out about the future and the fact that I somehow have to get myself into a PhD program next year, a Boston College hockey game (haven't actually gone to that yet, but I'll report back), and preparations for one Lindsay Sorensen's twenty-fifth birthday party (updates on that to come as well). One awesome thing about this week was a trip to the Boston Temple to do work for both of my Grandmothers. The peace and calm that comes from being in the temple is a welcome change from the business of the world, and it was very special to do work for people whom I actually know.

I'll try to keep updates for the world on how my strategizing is going without alerting the world to my top-secret plans for world domination (what? I didn't say world're hearing things). And I'll try to also stay away from giant vats of radioactive chemical waste, but if that does happen somehow, I'm going to need a dry-erase board.