Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Brake

As I am currently on vacation from school and this blog is called "Jack to School" it is hard to find anything relevant to write. But I will say this: I love being on vacation. And I did learn something new yesterday, even away from school, if you can believe it. Yesterday, on Christmas, I learned a skill that I have always been ashamed of not having: driving stick shift. Yes, yesterday I got behind the wheel of the b.f.'s manual transmission car and with his instruction, drove. I may have stalled the car about 57 times, but eventually I got the hang of it and after many many jerks and jumps, finally was able to start smoothly. I'm definitely not ready for the road yet, but it was thrilling. Driving stick has always been one of those skills I thought I should possess. And now, I do. Sort of. At least around a parking lot with no other cars in my path. Merry Christmas to me.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sloth and Gluttony

Done and done with my second quarter of school. That last week there was kind of intense. Not intense like stressful, just intense like, holy shit I have a lot to do this week. But, it ended on Thursday with a presentation, a Biostats exam and a U.S. Health Care exam.

The presentation went well. Three of us out of six presented our social marketing campaign about safe sex in retirement communities. It got some laughs, which really was my main goal, so I was happy. And it made me feel like I was succeeding in my goal of combining creativity with public health. Check out a few posters I made for the fake promotion of our campaign. (Keep in mind I am no graphic artist and apologies to my readers who have already seen these in class):


As for the Biostats final. It was fucking hard. And not only I found it hard. Even people who get stats found it to be ridiculously difficult. Why make it so hard? Why? When I handed it in, I almost said to the professor, "That was mean." But, then I felt bad and held back. But it was mean. Why should I feel bad? Here's an example of how insanely hard it was. About five of the 20 questions were based on analyzing a study that involved the categories: 1) HIV and no other chronic disease, 2) No HIV, but other Chronic Disease, and 3) Otherwise. How the fuck am I supposed to keep those straight and figure out the right statistical answer? I'm not. And hence, I didn't! But you know what? It's over. Me and Biostats are so dunzo. It was not an amicable breakup. Biostats was a total asshole in the end. Even if Biostats comes crawling back, I'm never getting back together with Biostats. Ever. Trust me. So, don't even try, Biostats. I've moved on.

After Biostats, I had a whole hour to study for my last final (making it my final final). Luckily, I took U.S. Health Care pass/fail, so my hour of studying turned out to be sufficient. (I passed. What's up!? Who's a failure? Not me!). It's the only grade that's in so far.

Since then, I've been drinking beer, eating, shopping, running errands, taking care of business (I made a dentist appointment, for one. A small miracle), watching The Wire, watching movies, watching the Eagles (currently), making lentil soup (currently), going to the gym, and sitting on my couch, playing with my new Ipod Touch. It has been a lovely couple of days. Simply lovely. This sloth and gluttony will continue through Tuesday. Then I pick up my super awesome distraction from the airport and we continue the vacation lifestyle through the new year. Aside from the weather, it's one of the most wonderful times of the year. One of them. I also really like summer, fall, and spring.

Oh, here's something exciting I learned recently. The book, Rejected: Tales of the Failed, Dumped and Canceled, (available in bookstores Jan. 27), in which I have an essay, also contains an essay Jon Stewart wrote. Suh-weet! I was pretty psyched when I discovered that. More on that when it becomes available. (Remember above when I said I wasn't a failure because I passed U.S. Health Care? Well, I lied. My essay is about a particular failure, or at least being rejected. Hooray for rejection!).

Speaking of failure, back to the Eagles.

Happy Winter!

Happy Hannukah!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

In the Thick of It

It's Tuesday evening:
2 papers and 1 problem set down.
1 presentation canceled (nice).
1 presentation left to prepare for.
1 biostats final, 1 persuasive communication final, 1 behavioral theory final, and 1 U.S. health care final left to go.
1 little annoying paragraph thingy I need to write to replace the canceled presentation.
many beverages to consume when this is all over on Thursday afternoon.

Not to mention, I had my last biostats class ever today. EVER. It ended with a biostats themed christmas song*. Many people sang. I did not. I got out as quickly as possible. Adios, biostats class. I will not miss you.

* At the beginning of biostats all the way back in August, we were encouraged to submit biostats-themed poetry, artwork and songs. Some people, very few, actually had the time and the interest (and apparently nothing better to do) to do it. Throughout the two terms, our professor has played and exhibited the various submissions during class. There were two songs today. One was a Christmas song, something like "Deck the Halls with Z Statistics". I don't remember. Somehow the professor actually got a fair number of us boys and girls singing as we all left the lecture hall. Like something out of a bizarre, wholesome Christmas musical, where we all were supposed to have learned a very important lesson about the meaning of Christmas. Or at least the meaning of Biostats. What those lessons are-- this Jew has no clue.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Lists

In the next four days I have:
4 finals
2 papers due
2 presentations
1 biostats problem set due (which according to the professor, "oh, this one is short. it shouldn't take too long," and which according to the actual assignment is really fucking confusing and yes, will take too long)
5 hours of work at my job
1 super awesome distraction sadly far away in Mexico
1 gazillion lame distractions at my finger tips
1 really big need to exercise more

After four days I have:
1 month off (!), in which I have:
0 papers
0 presentations
0 finals
1 super awesome distraction back from Mexico
1 dentist that I need to find and see and have tell me I don't have any cavities even though I haven't been to a dentist in three years
1 doctor that I need to find and see and hopefully tell me why I'm so tired all the time
1 eye doctor that I need to find and see and get a new contacts prescription from so I can literally see
1 trip to Philly
1 trip to NYC
1 trip TBD
1 trip to LA (?)
1 tailor that needs to be found to finally shorten the pants I bought weeks ago
several presents to buy
several movies to watch to make up for the fact that for the first time since the last time I was in school I've seen only a handful of potential oscar nominees
1 presidential inauguration to attend

For the rest of eternity, I have:
0 biostats problem sets
0 biostats midterms
0 biostats finals
0 biostats class
0 biostats frustration/anger/stress/wonder about why in god's name am I taking biostats
1 major sense of relief about the above

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

On Homework

I'm actually quite proud of myself. When I started school I told myself that I wasn't going to worry about grades and that I was going to attempt to lead a normal life even with homework. Surely with my lack of postings lately it may seem like I've been spending all my time on homework. And for a moment I was. Then, a few days ago, I realized something-- that I physically and mentally can't spend all my time on homework. Maybe it's because I'm old and can't focus as well, or maybe it's because I care, but not enough to stress, but when I was an undergrad, I was able to lock myself in the library for 12 hours straight and work. Now, not so much. Last night I got home from school, did a few hours of work, then went out for a beer. And I'm a happier person for it. This term I have way too much going on. I don't really have free time during the day, making it nearly impossible to get any work done before 5 pm. But, I also can't work from 5 to 12 am like I used to. I need to keep that in mind when planning for next term. More time during the day for homework --> more time at night for relaxing and leading a "normal" (read: me when I was working) life. Oh, also, sleep. That's a key component. Lately I haven't been sleeping well. But, last night, I remembered "Wait, there's help! Simply Sleep!" And this morning I am wide awake. Hooray for sleep! Hooray for me!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Forgive and forget, please!

Sorry everyone for my complete lack of posting the past, er, few days. Please forgive. Friends in town, shit going down, finals abound. Today, I very nearly fell asleep in class. Bad news, indeed. But, fortunately the class following it was canceled. Can we get our money back for that? The class that was canceled is ridiculously disorganized and of course has the most work along with it. Boo.

What's new in Baltimore, you wonder? Well, the Washington Monument was lit last week in a special "Monumental Lighting." All the local Baltimore news stations were in my 'hood, covering it, as was a local celebrity-- some former Baltimore Ravens player. And I thought celeb sightings only happened in New York or LA! Someone quick, call Gawker Stalker.

The whole thing was actually pretty cool. The fireworks were fun, and even better was watching how in awe grown men and women still are of fireworks, myself included. I've also never seen fireworks set off in the middle of a city, very close to buildings and trees. I was sure something was going to catch on fire. Nothing did. But, since it is Baltimore, there was plenty of talk about how it sounded like gunshots and how easy it would be to murder someone at the event.

Check out the pictures I took:

This is one before the lighting (I must admit, I thought the monument looked better pre-xmas lights, than post):


Fireworks on the monument (fire hazard? Maybe):


And fireworks very close to buildings and trees (Fire hazard? Definitely):


Well, people, finals are next week, then I'm free for a month. Suh-weet. Then time to start looking for an internship/job for when I graduate. Working part-time for a non-profit, I am reminded that I would prefer not to work for a non-profit in the long-term. Does that make me a bad public health student? Quite possibly.

As for the person who commented about how she is looking at grad schools-- why don't you send me your email address and I can tell you more about it.

Later, all. I promise.

Monday, December 1, 2008

And I'm back

As a wise man once said about me and my blog today, "If you have time to write 'I don't have time to write' then you have time to write." So true, wise man. So true.

So here I am writing, even though really, I have no time to write. You might think since I had midterms last week, I'd be free and clear for awhile. But you'd be wrong. With this quarter system, I have finals and final papers due in two weeks. But, then, then... I'm on vacation for a month. Yay for school!

I started my job today. The woman I'm working for is in Dakar (where else would she be?) so, I'm doing work that I wouldn't otherwise be doing. But it's actually a good thing. Until my new boss gets back, I'm doing research on malaria, rather than working on multimedia projects about the program. You see, I know next to nothing about malaria, just as I know next to nothing about most diseases that I'm learning how to prevent through awareness, promotion, education, blah blah blah. The school of public health teaches how to create programs and campaigns around various diseases, but doesn't actually teach us about diseases. So, malaria is my disease du jour thanks to my new job and I'm happy to have it aboard. Welcome, malaria, to my knowledge base.

There were several things I've been meaning to write about when I had no time to write, but now I can't remember them. Oh yes, one thing I've discovered is that I'm pretty certain I want to continue to do something creative when I'm done with school. I have to remember that. It's not easy when JHSPH is so focused on research and community health programs and evaluation, because honestly, that's not what I want to do when I graduate. I still miss certain things about TV, like working with creative people, like entertaining people, like making money, like not worrying about grants or grant proposals or evaluation research. I know they all come hand in hand... but that is what I've been thinking about lately.

The other thing I realized today at my three hours back in an office is that sitting at a desk in an office is not as easy I remember it. In fact, it's hard. I know it takes getting used to and once one is comfortable at a new office, it's easier. But today was kind of shocking being back at work. I kind of see why people never leave school... because starting work kind of sucks. But thanks to my former freelance lifestyle, how many times have I started new jobs? Many. Too many to count. So I won't count. I'll just remember that the first few days and hard and then it gets easier. And then the paycheck comes.

Excuse the abrupt ending, but I'm out of time for now.

Just a little bit longer

I know, I know. You're all holding your collective breath for a new post. Well, hold it just a bit longer. I promise later today I will fill you in on the goings on in Baltimore and beyond. I'm starting my job today, otherwise, I'd have time to write this morning. But, just think, later today, I will have so much fodder to write about. In the meantime, check out the amazing place where I'm now working. (Specifically, doing multimedia stuff for the Gates Malaria program).

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Seriously?

Let's face it. It's Thanksgiving weekend. I'm in Philly with the fam. Am I really going to write anything substantial on my blog anytime soon? Doubtful. Happy T to the Giving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Gone Fishing...

I wish. Actually I'm in the midst of midterms. I will be back later today after my dreaded biostats midterm. I miss you, six readers!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Worst Blogger Ever

I know all six of you have been holding your breath waiting for the latest update in the life and times of Jacktoschool. So, I apologize for the delay. But I am writing right now to tell you that I will write more later. Please forgive me, six readers. But I'm finding that this school thing has been taking up a lot of quality blogging time.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Not all charming in Charm City

I just woke up from a nap to find a text from a friend that said "what are you doing tonight? do you want to go out? Maybe in Canton to avoid the serial rapist?" Waking up from a very deep sleep nap to seeing that on my cell phone was a bit confusing. I called her back and said that yes, we should meet up at some point tonight... oh, and what was that about the rapist?

Yeah, so apparently there have been six rapes in the past month in my neighborhood of Mt. Vernon.... on my street... four blocks from where I live. When I first thought about moving to Baltimore, I started watching The Wire and talking about how funny it was that I was moving to Baltimore, where just like on The Wire (!) all this crime went down. I felt so bad-ass. Now, I'm genuinely scared. Until now, I have gone about my business feeling confident that all the crime took place over there... in Wire territory. But apparently not. It takes place over there and a few blocks from my apartment. (And in the locked parking garage across the street where I park and where in the past few weeks two cars have been broken into, necessitating two security guards there at night. Awesome.)

The rapist has been breaking into women's apartments through fire escapes in the middle of the night. I happen to live in an incredibly safe building with a 24 hour doorman, but still. The rapist hasn't been caught, the Baltimore Police and the media have only now come out with the news. It's all quite unsettling.

Read all about it here and here.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Oh, right. This is supposed to be about school.

I am once again up before 7 am. What is going on? Actually I know exactly what is going on. I went to bed embarrassingly early last night. That's what I get for trying to read the driest of dry public health theory after dinner. I realize I haven't written about actual school in a while, aside from the ever-fascinating biostats bitching. But there's actually a lot more to school to biostats. Who knew? Not you.

First of all, I have three classes with group projects this term and in each group project I'm working on a different health behavior campaign. Among the three, the one I'm most excited about is a social marketing campaign we're working on to prevent STIs in retirement communities and assisted living homes. It's a huge problem! Especially with Viagra and with so few men for so many women. Condoms, grandpa! I wanted to focus it in Boca Raton, but we're doing the pilot project in Baltimore. I can't wait for the preliminary research where we to talk to old people about safe sex. It probably won't be as funny as it is in my head, but still. I'm excited. The other two projects are on more widespread and well-known problems, drinking and driving and exercise, but each with their own unique twist. Stay tuned.

Yesterday, in one of my theory classes, we discussed media theory, particularly having to do with television. All I kept thinking about was how ridiculous it was that here we were, discussing esoteric theories about television and its impacts, while people actually creating TV (i.e. me three months ago) never even give this stuff any thought and would most likely be rolling their (my) eyes about how in depth and seriously it's taken in academic settings. Alas, I was torn. On the one hand, I was rolling my eyes. While on the other hand, I was thinking that maybe this is important to study. I mean, sure, TV has an impact on society. But, how much of a problem is it really? And will it ever really be changed? I'm here to work with TV, not fight against it. It's important to understand, but at the same time, the idea of studying and understanding TV is almost laughable to me. I guess the part I find funny is that there are highly trained brilliant academics studying the mindless shit that people like me write, in between updating their blogs, playing online Scrabble and stuffing their faces with free food. And I left that world, why, again?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

This Post Needs a Better Title

I woke up early today (before 7 am. what?) so I could study for my midterm that's today and start the 8 million things that are due by midnight tonight. But I just spent half an hour on facebook and several minutes reading about an interview of Sarah Palin. Really? She's still in the news? My only guess about her still being newsworthy is that the country still wants to marvel for a bit longer at her stupidity. Otherwise, back to Alaska already.

Speaking of Alaska, it's freaking cold here. I miss LA. Seeing my friend from LA perform the other night made me miss my friends there even more. But I will be there soon enough and until then I'm here enjoying my life in Baltimore with only one and half more months and an ass-load of work to go until my month-long vacation. And I seriously need it. This whole staying up late to do work thing is so not for me these days. Maybe I really am too old for this?

Back to Facebook (nice flow, huh? my blog could use an editor). My brother decided to run with my suggestion about how the Obamas should get a Muffin (er, a Maltese) as the First Pet... So, he grabbed the picture of me and Muffin off my blog and started a Facebook group to campaign for Muffin in '08. Won't you join? (And by the way, lesson learned about putting pictures of myself up. Thanks, Bill).

Now Jack to work.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Mutt or Muffin?

It's 72 degrees, sunny, there's a movie shooting in my neighborhood, I'm going to see a comedian friend perform tonight, and I went to an organic restaurant the other night with locally grown food. I know what you're thinking, "What? Jacktoschool, you moved back to LA?" Nope. I'm in Baltimore. (And yes, I just referred myself as Jacktoschool. It's kind of weird, but I kind of like it.) Plus, full disclosure: I'm seeing the friend perform in D.C, not Baltimore. Close enough. And I have no idea what movie is shooting. But who would have thought? All this in Baltimore.

Not to dwell on this perfect Baltimore weather... and I know it's totally wrong and un-p.c., but, um, I'm kind of pro-global warming. Excuse me, climate change. Melting icecaps, shmelting shmicecaps. At least right now, I'm pro. Like today. When it's 72 degrees outside in November. Luckily my blog is only read by 5 people, so no threat of angry environmentalists writing letters. Whew.

Onto Obama, since I'm so not over this incredible new reality we're living in. I kind of love that the biggest news that came out of his first press conference was what kind of puppy he'll get his daughters. (Also, every time I hear the sound bite, "A mutt like me" I want to pinch his adorable cheeks. And by the way, when the last time I wanted to pinch a president's cheeks? Maybe this should be the last time. And maybe I should have kept that sentiment to myself. Creepy, Jacktoschool. Creepy). Anyway, everyone has their own opinion on what kind of dog the Obamas should get. A pitbull named "Lipstick" is the obvious option, but I have my own opinion: a Muffin. Duh.

Have you seen a cuter face? Oh, and the dog is nice, too. That's me at a frisbee tournament my junior year of college, with my Wesleyan-requisite short haircut growing out, and my adorable Maltese, Muffin, may she rest and pee all over doggie heaven. Granted, Muffin was no way in hell a shelter dog, as Obama would like, nor was she a mutt, but rather a purebred. A very white, almost Aryan, purebred. (Her brothers and sisters were show dogs, but she had a flaw on her nose, so no show for the Muffdog. But seriously, a flaw on her nose. Even that's adorable.). Okay, Muffin was nothing like the Obamas. But, hey the Obamas are all about diversity, right? I got Muffin when I was 10, the same age as Malia, and I was deliriously happy with her. Not to mention, Malteses are hypoallergenic. Plus, Muffin-- and thus all Malteses-- it's my blog and I can generalize if I want to-- was quite liberal in her views and loved everyone equally. She licked all people regardless of race, religion, age, political views, or color. (Some would say she was a slut in that manner, but I prefer to think of her as open-minded). Also, having her reproductive rights taken away from her at a very young age, she was adamantly pro-choice. Anyway, she's been dead for about four years. And it's getting to be a little weird how much I'm personifying my dead dog on a public blog. So, I'll stop. But seriously, Obamas, get a Maltese and name it Muffin. Do it for your country.

Addendum: Because the owner of the dead Mr. Wuv is too lazy to have her own blog, I was told to give a blog shout-out to Mr. Wuv: Hello, Wuv. You are sorely missed. I hope you and Muffin and getting along up there. (Yes, these are grown women obsessed with their dead dogs).

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

America Chooses the Carrot Cake!

Amazing. We chose the carrot cake. President Barack Obama. I kind of don't know what to say. I've never not been cynical about this country and about American politics, so it's an entirely new feeling. (Okay, there was one time I wasn't cynical about this country-- after 9/11 in New York when there was a sense of true unity in the city). But, this is the first time ever I'm inspired by an American president. It's hard not to sound cliche, but holy shit, this is an incredible day. (That rhymed! I'm even inspired to write poetry today.)

I watched most of the results last night with a few friends, including my friend and former roommate Jane. Eight years ago, Jane and I watched the election results together in our apartment in Brooklyn. What a difference. Eight years ago, we went to sleep not knowing who the president would be, and then a week later were angered by the results. Eight years later, that anger is finally gone.

I've never been moved to tears by American politics before. Yesterday, I waited in line (at what I just discovered is my gorgeous public library) in Baltimore for an hour behind an elderly black man with a walker. Tears came to my eyes. Then, when Barack Obama won Virginia, where I canvassed for him a few months ago, and Pennsylvania, where I'm from, it was over. I found myself actually crying tears of joy. When he spoke about the grassroots nature of his campaign, of actually being able to make a change, I thought about what I'm doing in public health school... and how most of what I'm learning (fucking biostats aside) is about the upward battle to fight against powerful companies with tons of resources in order to make a change for the better in people's lives. Inspiring public health changes is far from easy, I'm learning. But after last night, watching Obama give his speech, I know that it's possible.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Trick or Treat or Biostats Can Kiss My Ass

Biostats is ruining everything. I am so over it. One term was enough. It takes up too much of my precious time that I'd rather use studying for other classes. There is no need for me to be spending time typing code into some statistics computer program that I will never use again. Especially because I don't even understand what I'm typing. And regression? Linear, multiple and otherwise. Isn't going back to school at age 30 enough regressing for one person? I am a regression model. But, seriously, folks. I'm not kidding around. I know you think I'm joking. You think, "That Jackie. She loves biostatistics. Why does she try to trick us on her blog and make us think she hates it? She's such a kidder." What do I have to do to convince you? Why won't you believe me?! I don't like biostats. (Yes, I am fully aware that bitching about biostats makes for a thrilling blog. You don't have to tell me twice!)

One class I absolutely love this term is my Persuasive Communications Theory class. If you're ever at Hopkins and you have the chance to take it, I highly recommend it. Or, just read the fascinating and pretty quick book, Influence, one of the required books for the course. (I just typed in "Influence" into Amazon to get the link for you all and make your lives easier. It turns out Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen have a book by the same name, which is not required for my class. It isn't even recommended! What? I need to talk to the professor about that.)

All right. I have nothing more to say today. I just need to finish this asinine problem set so I can get to the good stuff and start saving lives millions at a time.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Phillies!!!!!

Holy crap! The Phillies won the World Series!!!! What does this have to do with public health? Absolutely nothing!!!! Go Phillies!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Whinings

If there are any school administrators reading this, particularly from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, here's a piece of advice: Give students a break after their finals. I'm tired. I'm not into school this quarter. I was all gung-ho last quarter, but I'm feeling burnt out already. This quarter is going to be hard. Maybe harder than last. For some reason I decided to take 5 full-credit courses this quarter. Why? To get my learn on, as the kids say. (And my money's worth as the Jews say. What?! I'm Jewish. I'm allowed to make those comments.) Unfortunately, I have to take more Biostats. Maybe that's the problem. Biostats takes away from my ability to spend time on classes I'm actually interested in. I am not looking forward to Biostats this quarter, especially since I heard "everybody bombed" the final from last quarter. Although, there will be a curve, I've learned. Hooray for curves!

I'm ready to get a job. I miss working. I never thought I'd say that, but having to do homework while watching the World Series is not as fun as not doing homework while watching the World Series. (Full disclosure: I didn't do homework last game. Instead I gorged myself on cheese steaks, wings, and beer with friends at MaGerks, a Philly bar in Baltimore. Yum. But not tonight. Not tonight).

Here's another thing that's making this quarter difficult: It's cold. The main problem with the cold (other than having to break out my sweaters, which I haven't worn in years and of which
I want more and newer) is that the cold makes walking to the market quite unpleasant. And thus, I'm hungry. When I lived in New York, which was colder, getting food was not as difficult because I was walking everywhere anyway and would inevitably pass many places to buy organic milk, overpriced juice and free-trade coffee. Plus, if I was feeling lazy or really really cold, I had a plethora of food delivery options. Here in Baltimore, at least in this neighborhood, the only delivery options are Indian, Indian/Nepali, and pizza. The Indian is good, but there's only so much Indian food a non-Indian girl can eat, at least this non-Indian girl. Alas, my refrigerator is empty. My favorite grocery store is many blocks away uphill; I could drive, but then parking would be a bitch. And the Baltimore Farmers' Market, of which I am so fond, is a whole five days away. Help! I'm stuck in a luxury apartment building with nothing to eat! All I can do is waste away while complaining about it on my blog. Woe is me!

At least the Phils are on tonight (although I will be celebrating with my communication theory books, rather than my friends. But boy, can those books drink). And speaking of the Phils, I can't believe Mike Schmidt reads my blog! Who would have thought? Here's a little anecdote about me and Mike Schmidt. He is one of the few people whose birthdays I remember (September 27, and no I didn't google that, but you can to check my facts). The reason I know this is that it's the same day as my former best friend's from kindergarten, who I haven't seen since I was 10. In kindergarten, I was jealous that she had the same birthday as Mike Schmidt, while I shared a birthday with stupid Michael Jackson. And so, every September 27, I think, "Happy Birthday, Sarah R. and Mike Schmidt." And that's my Mike Schmidt story.

The end.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I am David Sedaris!

Okay, so my attempt from last post to get comments and find out who is actually reading this blog was barely successful (although it's not too late to vote on the polls below and/or comment!) But I would like to thank one of the two commenters, Elana, for bringing up a very good point. (As for the the other commenter, Anonymous, I don't know for sure who you are, but I have a pretty good guess). Anyway, back to Elana. She asks a very important question-- if I have seen the David Sedaris "Shouts & Murmurs" essay from the New Yorker a week ago. The answer is yes. I have seen it.

To fill you in, dear readers, about a month ago, I wrote this about undecided voters:

I have no idea how anyone can be undecided between two complete opposites.... it's like not being able to decide between a delicious slice of carrot cake and a plate of shit. How can anyone be stuck weighing the pros and cons of the two? They're opposites.

Then, last week, in the New Yorker, David Sedaris wrote this about undecided voters:

To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?”

(Admittedly, Mr. Sedaris made his point a lot more creatively than I did, but...)

Do I think David Sedaris stole my awesome idea? No way. I'd be lucky if he read this blog (and honored if he stole from it). But do I think it's fucking awesome that I had the same idea as David Sedaris (and that mine was er, "published" before his)? Yes. Yes I do.

Now time for my book deal! I mean, it's only fair. Right? Hello? Anyone? Hello?

[cue the crickets]

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Your Turn

I've been in Baltimore for about two and half months. It still feels newish, but not shockingly new anymore. At the same time, it feels like I've been here forever. So, at least today, I'm running low on things to write. I also haven't been at school in three days, haven't been in Baltimore in two days, and have been focused more on the Phillies than on anything else lately. (Phillies! What?!? This could be amazing. First championship in Philadelphia in all four sports since I was five. It's been a long winless 25 years, I tell ya).

So, since I have nothing to write today and I'm currently distracted by the game, I have an idea for something new. Why don't YOU tell me something about yourself and/or what you think, if anything, of this blog. Seriously. Why the hell are you reading this? (I mean, I totally appreciate that you're reading this. Otherwise, I wouldn't bother.) Do you enjoy it? Is is an interesting distraction from your job? Or just a mere distraction? I know there are a handful of people reading this, but I'm curious about them/you. If you're feeling shy, I'll post some polls on the right hand side. You can just answer that. Feed my curiosity, won't you? Won't you?!? Don't make me beg.

Go Phils!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Random Ramblings

I saw another Arabber today! This time walking down the street next to the Hopkins hospital. I tried to get a picture with my camera phone, (this pony was fancy... had blinders with sequins and everything!). My camera phone always takes its sweet time when I need a picture fast and surreptitiously, so by the time I got it working, the Arabber noticed me and said "No pictures. No flash." Being a white girl with a dorky backpack in East Baltimore, I didn't feel like stopping to explain that I wouldn't use the flash, that I just need this picture for my blog, so I kept on walking. Damn. Next time. That is of course if I'm not so desensitized to ponies on the street carrying fruit the next time I see one that I don't think to take a picture.

I'm watching the Phillies get spanked by the Rays right now and just saw a Mercedes-Benz commercial where a Benz pulled up to the El Rey, a concert venue a block from my old apartment in LA. Then, right after that, I saw a commercial for a movie that has my old boss from LA in it. Now that it's getting cold here on the East Coast, I'm missing LA and realizing that it completely spoiled me and made me an absolute wimp when it comes to the cold. In theory, the autumn is nice, but it's just making me dread the winter weather that's soon to come.

I must admit, I also started missing working in comedy and television recently (see two posts ago), but then I had a nice little email chat with a friend who I used to work with in TV. (Friend, if you're reading this, hope you don't mind I'm using you as an example). Anyway, that friend is currently out of work and has to move out of his apartment in New York because his rent just went up and he can't afford it anymore. It sucks. And I'm sure I'd be in the same place if I were still working freelance in TV. In this economy, I'm glad to be in school and hopefully will come out of it with job stability, which has been the plan all along. Eye on the prize. Eye on the prize.

Second term started today. I'm taking a class on the US health care system. So, hopefully I'll be able to answer the question "What's your take on the health care system?" with something other than "Uh, it's bad." I also started thinking and talking about job possibilities. Good things on the horizon. More on that when things are finalized. Now back to my lame-ass losing Phillies who will make me very sad if they lose this series. The last time they won a World Series I was two. It'd be nice to have an actual memory of the Phillies winning a World Series. Don't you think? I do.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Update alert!

Loyal readers!!! I have learned something very exciting today. Brace yourselves. Remember when I wrote about seeing a man riding a horse, pulling a cart, selling fruit, down the street in my neighborhood in Baltimore? (Don't remember? Read it here.) Well, I was informed that those men are distinctive to Baltimore and even have a term (albeit a highly offensive one) by which they are referred: Arabs. Pronounced "Ay-rabs." Don't believe me? Check it out. Fascinating! My friend and native Marylander, Mike Kelly, informed me of this today, having remembered seeing these men and their horsies in his youth. (They're actually more like ponies.) What a strange, strange place I live in. Upon doing more research, I came across this article. Apparently, "Arabbers" have been in the news fairly recently (okay, a year ago). Not very good news (the pony stables are being condemned), but fascinating, nonetheless.

While I'm updating my readers, I should mention that from my To Do list, I have successfully caught up on "Project Runway," found a doctor, made an appointment, got prescriptions and even dropped off said prescriptions at a pharmacy. All this even before my finals are over. Yes, I am highly productive. I also managed to figure out what a p-value is, although it doesn't even matter. The final exam today was ridiculously hard. It's like they were trying to weed out the mere brilliant (moi) from the absolute geniuses. I witnessed two people cry about the exam. Literally cry. With tears and everything. It was pretty damn hard, but alas, it's over. One more to go and I can continue on with my To Do list. Next up: finish season four of the Wire. Then I start second term on Thursday. I really appreciate the break between terms, Hopkins. All 12 hours of it. (...three of which will be spent watching the Phillies in the World Series-- something I have not witnessed since I was 14. Go Phils!).

Time for the final stretch...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

What if...

When I worked at Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn, the best job ever, (aka Camp Tough Crowd), my co-workers and I would spend a disproportionate amount of time joking to actually working. (someone remind me to take this down when I start looking for jobs again.) One such time at Camp Tough Crowd, a few of us came up with the brilliant idea to create an "angry game show." It would basically consist of the host asking questions in the manner of, for example, "What the hell is the fucking capital of Estonia?" and "Who was the first goddamn African American to win an Academy Award?" Basically the format would include a lot of swearing. Anyway, we thought it was a brilliant, hilarious idea and we were about to have a hit show on our hands, until we told Ken Ober, a producer on TC and former host of MTV's "Remote Control," about it, who responded with something like "Uh, yeah, morons. Great idea. Except you might remember a little show in the 80's with the same premise called 'Remote Control.'" After which he called out, "Hey, Colin [former sidekick on 'Remote Control'], this bunch of idiots came up with the 'brilliant' idea for an angry game show." Colin: "What? Remote Control? You guys are idiots." Idiots? Maybe. Highly amused for the afternoon? Definitely.

Why am I telling this story? Because I was sitting in Biostats the other day, getting frustrated over some problem, and thinking about how badly I wanted to raise my hand and ask a question angry-game-show-style. "Excuse, me, but how the fuck did you get 0.87 as the goddamn standard error?!?" Or, "Uh, yeah, I'm confused... Why the hell do we fucking reject the motherfucking null here?!?" I was so tempted to ask a question in that manner, but then I remembered that a) there are 400 people in my class and I might embarrass myself, b) I don't want to fail based on my choice of words, and c) maybe there is some standard of decorum that I should be following(?). Anyway, the scenario made me laugh to myself and reminded me of working for a comedy show. Then, my mind wandered to "Hmm... I kind of miss working in comedy. That was probably the most fun I'll ever have at a job. Plus, I was concerned with biostats zero times when I worked in comedy." And then I completely forgot what I was confused about in Biostats. Ahh, ignorance was bliss. Now ignorance is driving me crazy as I have a fucking Biostats final in two days.

I'll take "For the love of all that's fucking holy, why in god's motherfucking name am I taking this class?" for $200 dollars, please.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Jackie Darko

Having been in public health now for two months, I have noticed something different about how I view the world. When I worked in comedy I used to walk around and make fun of strangers in my head if there was anything blatantly make-fun-able (I'm a wordsmith, I know) about them. It was a fun way to go about my day. Now, instead of making fun of strangers, I make educated guesses about the probability of when they're going to die. So not as much fun as making fun of people!

For example, I saw a fat woman the other day eating McDonald's and I thought to myself, "barring no freak tragedy, statistics would lead me to believe that that woman is going to die before me. Probably in the near future. I wonder if she knows she's going to die soon. Hmm... Someday soon her excessive weight and poor diet will kill her-- she probably has hypertension and diabetes already-- and I will be still be wandering around this earth for a bit longer when she is dead." Yes, these are the thoughts that now go through my mind. The other day I saw an old woman in a wheelchair with a breathing tube and I thought "I give her two more years at the most. In two years she will most likely be dead. I wonder if she's aware. I probably shouldn't tell her. Yeah, I'll just let her live out her days in blissful ignorance." I walked into a bar (ouch) the other night and there about 20 or so people standing outside smoking. First thought, "Statistically speaking, 10 of you will die of smoking-related causes. Suckas. Will it be you? 50/50. See you inside!"

Talk about morbid. Gee, thanks, public health school. I liked it much better when I would make fun of that fat woman stuffing her fat face with Mickey Dee's rather than predict the timing of her death. I guess a good public health worker would think "Oh dear. How can I set up a program to help this woman change her behavior and start eating healthy and increase her chances of living longer and healthier?" But I don't think that because I've learned that behavior change is hard, that it's probably too late for that woman. Maybe not for her kids, but probably for her. She's most likely not going to change, especially with McDonald's on every corner, and thus, she's going to die soon." (This wasn't supposed to turn into a rant about McDonald's, I swear). The point is, public health school has changed my perspective for the darker. I mean, it's always been dark, just not this dark.

I suppose the knowledge that people are wildly unhealthy is what drove me to go to public health school in the first place. (Well, that and the need to stop writing cheesy lines for reality hosts). I just didn't think I'd be thinking about in this way, this much. Hopefully all this darkness will drive me to do something about it. I mean, that is the point of the entire field of public health, right? We shall see. I've still got 3 quarters (and 3 finals and a paper) left. In the meantime, I'll stay away from the kitchen knives. Toodles!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

To Do

With midterms two weeks ago and finals next week, I have let pretty much everything else in my life fall to the wayside. Here is a list of things that I hope/need to do after my finals are over next week:

Find a dentist that takes my dental insurance.
Make a dentist appointment.
Find a doctor that takes my insurance.
Make a doctor appointment for the sole purpose of getting new prescriptions written, since I switched insurance since moving to Baltimore.
Find a hairdresser in Baltimore who won't fuck up my hair.
Get my hair cut.
Buy a lampshade to replace the one that the movers broke three months ago.
Find a car mechanic that won't screw me and that is in walking distance to my apartment.
Get my car tuned up.
Hang the mirror that's been sitting, still unpacked, on my floor since I moved in three months ago.
Buy tissues.
Finish watching season four of The Wire.
Catch up on Project Runway.
Drive to the closest Trader Joe's in Towson and stock up on salsa, pizza dough and Barbara's Shredded cereal.
Figure out where I want to live after school and what I want to do with my life.
Find a dry cleaner in my neighborhood.
Figure out a Halloween costume that has nothing to do with Sarah Palin.
Catch up on sleep and wine.

Here is a list of things I need to do before my finals are over:
Study for my finals.
Figure out what the hell a p-value is.

Shit. That's a lot. Or, I could just catch up on sleep and wine now and call it a day.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Worlds Collide

As a student at the Hopkins School of Public Health, I have almost no reason to set foot on the main campus where the undergrad and all the non-medical-related grad programs are housed. But the other day was Yom Kippur and the Jew thing was happening on the main campus, so I went. As I was walking through the campus, I passed by a bulletin board full of various announcements including a poster for a "Campus Comedy Tour!" On closer inspection I realized that an old friend from my days in the New York comedy scene was performing that night-- the very funny and charming Julian McCullough. (I've been trying to avoid using names in this blog, but only 4 people read this and nothing wrong with a little publicity). "Holy shit! I know him!" Leaving the campus that night, there was another poster taped to the ground.... before I realized it, I had stepped on Julian's face. "Holy shit! I just stepped on Julian's face!" I didn't see him perform... as I had, yes, biostats homework to do. But, I did meet up with Julian last night for a few drinks and to apologize for stepping on his face.

Aside from it being great to see him and see him doing so well, on a selfish note, it was insanely refreshing to be reminded of my former self as a comedian. Not to mention, totally weird having someone from my former comedy life in my current public health Baltimore life. It also made me realize that my comedy muscle has been atrophying in public health school, but hanging out with a comic brought some of it back to life. And there's nothing as rewarding as being able to make a comedian laugh. I also haven't been made to laugh that much since I've been in Baltimore.

Another very cool thing about the whole encounter is that the campus comedy tour he's on is being sponsored by Trojan Condoms. Hello! Public health and comedy! Talking to Julian got me thinking about all the comedy-meets-public-health-meets-p.r. things I can do when I get out of school, which was very inspiring and reassuring. I can't help but think something was going on in the universe that Yom Kippur day that made me see the sign with my friend's face that in turn gave me a renewed excitement about comedy and public health and reminded me why I'm doing what I'm doing here in Baltimore. (Julian, bet you didn't know you made such an impact).

As comedians are notorious for being able to drink (as opposed to public health students), I did wake up more "tired" than usual this morning, and to the sound of screaming outside. At first I thought is was the usual Baltimore morning city sounds. But, once my brain started functioning again, I realized that it was cheering, not screaming, and that the Baltimore Marathon was running past my apartment building. I love watching marathons even more than running them, so I dragged myself out of bed to watch and cheer the runners on. Another inspiring event in less than 24 hours. What? And even though after my third and last marathon, I said I'd never run another, I think I may sign up for one more next year.

The scotch is still making my brain fuzzy, so I can't think of anything witty or insightful to end this post with, so I'll end with some pictures of the marathon going by my building.... (coming soon). Cheers to a fun and inspiring past twelve hours.


Now you know where I live, stalkers!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Third World

Today, walking home from the market in the City of Baltimore, I saw a man selling fruit from the back of a cart being pulled by a horse on which the man was riding.

A man. A horse. A cart. Baltimore.

I wish I had my camera.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Let's Curb Our Superlatives, Shall We?

I've been meaning to put this picture up for a long time. So, finally, here it is. The first time I saw one of these benches, I thought it was a joke. But, these benches are all over the City of Baltimore. I still haven't decided if I think whomever came up with the idea has a great sense of humor or is just completely oblivious to the rest of America. I'm not saying Baltimore is the worst city in America, but it is by no stretch of the imagination the greatest. I would indeed like to meet someone who truly believes what this bench states. I'm sure those people are out there, (but my guess is they've never been to New York or LA or Chicago or Philly or San Francisco or D.C. or San Diego or, or, or...) The greatest irony about these benches is that pretty much every one I've seen is in some way falling apart or has a homeless person sleeping on it. Oh, Baltimore, if these benches were put up for irony sake, maybe you are the greatest city in America. Because any city with a sense of humor is my kinda town.

While I'm on a Baltimore kick, I thought I'd share some pictures from my explorations. There actually are a lot of cool things in this city. One of my all-favorite museums ever is here (and serves as the turn-around point for my latest running route along the water). If you've never been to the American Visionary Arts Museum, I highly suggest it. It houses art by self-taught artists, many of whom were institutionalized psychiatric patients. You'd be amazed what severe OCD can produce. Not to mention is has a killer museum store. Shopping!

Another one of my favorite Baltimore things is the Baltimore Farmers Market, which is gianormous and five minute walk from my apartment, under highway 83. Yes, it's under a highway. It's awesome. It's open every Sunday and I've made it a habit to go every week. Kind of like church. Except without the god or the praying. Okay, it's nothing like church. (And what does a Jew know about church anyway?) But, I do see lots of people I know every week, so that's something. Plus, in addition to all the produce stands, there's prepared food, including the greatest falafel I've ever had. Better than Afula falafel in Israel, so take that, Israeli falafel. Maybe next week I'll take a picture of the falafel, but for now, here are a few scenes from the Baltimore Farmers Market, taken not so recently.

See. Under a highway:


A Cajun stand that makes these incredible breakfast sandwiches. And a guy's back. I'm an awesome photographer, I know:


Tomatoes. (This picture is from a few weeks ago, clearly, as it's not really tomato season anymore.)
In case you can't see, the sign there says, "You may see some scars on our tomatoes-- They are from hail. Just a surface blemish!!"

(What! The tomatoes are literate!)

I recall those tomatoes being damn good. Could that tomato sign be a metaphor for Baltimore? Forgive its surface blemishes. It's still great. Maybe. At least that's what its poor, dilapidated, but optimistic benches would have you believe.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Simple Math: Palin - L = Pain

Welcome to what has become my weekly blog (but will be more frequent, I promise). It was a busy week, though, with a friend in town and Rosh Hashana, which included a trip to Philly and a trip to D.C., and a debate-watching party at my place last night. But now I'm back.

First, the debate. So much has been said about Palin's idiocy, so I won't bother with more Palin-bashing, although it is fun. But watching the debate last night, I couldn't help but think that our political system and this country is turning into a big joke. Yeah, she's an idiot, but she also might actually be the first woman in the White House because there are even more idiots in this country who actually believe that she belongs there. There are people who want someone "just like us" running the country (if and when McCain keels over while in office, of course). Why? Elitism is not a bad thing! Check out this fake meeting between Obama and the West Wing's Jed Bartlett, written by Aaron Sorkin. He sums up this point much better than me. Palin deserves to be in office as much as I do, and I don't deserve to be there at all. It's insulting that she may be the first woman in office. And as a woman, it is certainly not something I can be proud of.

Enough of that. This blog is supposed to be about public health.... (although I could talk about McCain's idea for a $5000 health insurance subsidy that will only benefit the wealthy, not the middle class who will have to use a large chunk of their income to pay for the rest of what the subsidy won't cover... but I won't get into it.). I will continue on with politics though. Yesterday, I heard Congressman John Sarbanes speak at school and holy shit, I was impressed. Sarbanes, being at the school for public health, spoke about the importance of public health, but in a way that at least seemed like he wasn't pandering to his audience. He's actually been working on public health initiatives, including No Child Left Inside, a program to get kids outside (the average kid spends 4 minutes outside playing, and something like 4 hours in front of the TV, video game, or online). What I like about this initiative is that not only will it get fat kids moving and benefit their health, but it'll also get kids in touch with the environment.... which will in turn lead to an increased awareness and some feeling of obligation to help protect it (Another fact he threw out was something like kids can recognize 40+ brand logos and 3 types of flora or fauna. Sad.) Anyway, Sarbanes was smart and very thoughtful in answering questions. You could tell he knew what he was talking about (a nice contrast to the potential future V.P). His next stop after Hopkins was D.C. to vote on the bailout plan once again. Neat! Politics in action!

This weekend is all about studying for me. I told myself I wasn't going to worry about grades, and I'm not worrying, but I'm finding that I actually care about them. Also because I may have rocked my Epi exam, but not Biostats. (Annoyingly, I got the math questions right but messed up on the names of concepts, which were worth the same as the tough math questions. Grr. It's like they put those concept questions in just for the English majors. Oh wait.) So, it's Biostats weekend for me! I haven't posted any pictures in awhile, so maybe I'll get outside and finally take some of Baltimore in Autumn, which is actually quite nice. Who knew? (Not Sarah Palin, because she doesn't know anything. Oh, I'm hilarious!).

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Un-fucking-believable

Excuse my un-fucking-lady-like language, but I'm still in shock over my recent personal experience with the health system at Hopkins. As mentioned, I've been sick. (I'm all better, now, thank you. Just hacking up some remaining phlegm. Mmmm). So, on Friday, after my last two midterms, I decided to go to the student health clinic to make sure I didn't have a bacterial infection, and if I did, to get some drugs. After walking to the outskirts of the Hopkins Medical campus, way far away from the hospital and School of Public Health, I found the clinic tucked away in a weird strip-mall like setting. I went in and told the woman at the front desk that I was sick. I was feverish, coughing, soar throat, etc. She asked if I had an appointment. "Nope. Just a walk-in." After not being able to find my insurance information in the computer, and making several phone calls to make sure I actually was on the Hopkins plan, she told me that there was no one there who could see me, that they were about to go on lunch, but I could make an appointment for Tuesday to see my assigned primary care doctor. "Let me get this straight: I'm sick, I'm in a clinic, I'm the only patient here, and there's no one who can see me, and I'm at Johns Hopkins, the '#1 hospital in the U.S?'" "Right. You can make an appointment for Tuesday or go to the Emergency Room." After further statements of disbelief, I left and hoofed it back to the School of Public Health, getting angrier and angrier with each sweat-, fever-, and cough-inducing step. Up the street, they were teaching me about the problems with access to health care, how it's a waste of resources to go to the E.R. when it's not an emergency, but how so many people do because they can't get to regular doctors... and the student health clinic at Johns Hopkins Medical Institute is sending me to E.R? Are you kidding me?!!!

Delirious from anger and fever, I went to the student affairs office to find out if there was anywhere in between the clinic and the E.R. where I could go to see a doctor and get a prescription, if necessary. Then, I went on a similar feverish rant as above about the school's hypocrisy of teaching one thing, but doing the exact opposite. The coordinator of my department was there and took pity on me (or maybe it was fear). She called the clinic again, which told her the same thing: Tuesday or E.R. Then the coordinator walked me to the E.R. to find out how long the wait was going to be. I was reluctant to go, was ready to give up and go home, take some Tylenol PM and get under the covers, but she was insistent and ridiculously kind.

It turned out there was only one person in front of me at the E.R. ("Good thing you didn't get sick on a Friday night, otherwise, there'd be a much longer wait due to the imminent gunshot victims." Awesome.) Even with only one person in front on me, there was a three hour wait. It turned out there were many more people in front on me, just further down the bureaucratic line in other unseen waiting rooms. Finally, after three hours, I saw one of the nicest doctors I've ever encountered, especially in an emergency room. He examined me, he listened to me, he sat and explained to me everything that could be wrong, what I could do and what to expected, and when I told him I was a student at the School of Public Health, put things in an epidemiologic perspective. It made me realize why the hospital is ranked #1. But seriously, actually getting to that doctor was short of a nightmare and there was no reason for me to go to the E.R.

I'm on a mission to bring this to the attention of the higher-ups at the school of public health. Do they even realize their health clinic is sending people to the emergency room? The whole experience was completely absurd. I later found out there's a clinic that would have seen me at the main campus, a shuttle-ride away. But not at the medical campus? What?! This needs to be fixed. Stay tuned for my adventures in attempting to change the system.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Experiment

I've decided that the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health is a giant experiment and we are all guinea pigs. Why have I come to this conclusion? Because I'm sick and I'm pretty sure I got it from being at school. The school is a petri dish being studied by all the top researchers. I knew there was a reason they needed students here. As I've mentioned, I take a shuttle (school bus) to school every day. They pack the bus beyond capacity. Think: the 6 train at rush hour. But at least on the 6 train, there's ventilation. Otherwise, it'd be a major public health hazard. But, nope. Not on the shuttles to the School of Public Health. No ventilation. Just a lot of stressed students and doctors (who no doubt are carrying tons of diseases on them) coughing and breathing on each other. Yesterday, in my 8:30 am Epi class, all I could hear was the symphony of sneezing, sniffling and coughing (aching, fever, runny nose) going on around me. Hard to concentrate. I could almost feel the various bacteria and viruses landing on me. (Luckily, I've got my integument system! But the nasal passage... that's a whole other story. My anti-bodies can only handle so much). You would think with midterms this week, I'd be stressed and that stress was wearing on my immune system. But to honest, I'm not really that stressed. I just spend my days in a giant petri dish in a giant lab... in Baltimore. And therefore, I'm sick.

Speaking of not being stressed, I should probably study.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Mid Mid-term Week

For all two of you who read this blog, forgive my lack of posting recently. I have midterms this week. Today I had my first of three-- Biostats. And to be honest, it wasn't that bad. Who knows though? I may have made several careless mistakes. Next up are my Epi and Theory midterms. I really don't like Epi all that much, so I'm putting off studying for it and blogging instead. And seriously, learning about masses of sick people isn't all that appealing when I feel like I'm coming down with something myself.

While I was taking my Biostats midterm, something else was happening from my former life today, three thousand miles away. The final episode that I wrote for Clean House taped today. I'm sort of sorry I couldn't be there... mostly because the studio is at a house with a pool. Not that we're really supposed to go swimming in the middle of the work day, but it's still nice to be at work while poolside. Plus, there's free food. But no, I'm here in Baltimore, getting sick due to the damn seasons that everyone on the East Coast loves so much. And worrying about how I'm not at all worrying about my Epi midterm.

Okay. Back to the books. That's all for now, two loyal readers.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Twelve Hours of Biostats

Today I spent twelve (aka 12, XII, 6x2, 24/2, 2*3!) thinking about and doing biostats. Thursdays are supposedly my easy days. I have just one class on Thursdays: Biostats. And that's it. At my last biostats class on Tues, my professor announced that the problem set originally due today could be handed in tomorrow, Friday. I started it this past weekend with the intention of handing it in today, but as soon as she gave us another day, I couldn't not take it. But it was more than just this problem set that kept me and Mr. Gauss so tight all goddamn day long.

First, I had my one and only class, biostats, from 10:30am to 12 PM. (The professor went over by 10 minutes). Then, I went to the super sweet reading room to finish my biostats problem set. I spent about 2 hours thinking about one part of one problem before I figured it out. If I had wanted, I could have gone to the 2 biostats help sessions (there are 2/day! That's 10 times a week!). But, I decided to sit and struggle and ponder until I figured it out. Perhaps a waste of time. From noon to 5:30, I worked on the problem set. From 5:30 - 6:45 I went to the biostats review session for the midterm next week. How I have a midterm when I just started class practically yesterday, I don't know. (WOW. This is uninteresting). Then, I came home and finished my biostats problem set at 10:30 PM. Twelve hours! But, wait, I did watch "Project Runway" from 8 PM-9. So, really I only spent 11 hours on biostats today. Thank god. I thought for a second I might be a loser, or "out" to quote Ms. Klum. Whew. Close one.

Auf wiedersehen!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sushi for Dinner. Carrot Cake for Dessert.

All this talk of hurricanes has been making me hungry. Specifically for sushi. My all-time favorite sushi place is a tiny restaurant in LA called Sushi Ike. Pronounced EE-Kay. Now every time I see Hurricane Ike in print, I read it as "Hurricane Ee-kay" and think of Chef Ike and how much I miss his delicious creations. Since sushi has been on my mind lately, I suggested to my Saturday evening dinner companion that we get some. We went to what he claimed to be "one of the better sushi places in Baltimore" but unsurprisingly it left much to be desired compared to my beloved Sushi Ike. I've been missing LA a lot recently, especially the weather, maybe even more than the sushi. It's been 100 gazillion percent humidity here lately. The kind of humidity where as soon as you step outside, you start sweating. Or at least I start sweating.

This weekend I decided to be the politically active student I never was in college and go to Virgina to canvass for Obama. It was even hotter there. I got sunburned for Obama. I sweat for Obama. So if he doesn't win, I'll be pissed. Going door-to-door in a condo complex outside of Fairfax, I met some very nice people, a lot of whom are undecided. I have no idea how anyone can be undecided between two complete opposites. It's like saying "I can't decide who I like better: Donovan McNabb (good) or T.O. (evil)" (I'm currently watching the Eagles/Cowboys game. Multi-tasking!). Or it's like not being able to decide between a delicious slice of carrot cake and a plate of shit. How can anyone be stuck weighing the pros and cons of the two? They're opposites. I heard today that people who say they're undecided now will most likely vote for McCain, but are afraid to admit it for fear of coming across as a racist. Not that they actually are racists, but they're afraid they may be pegged as such. If that's the case, it's extremely disheartening, since I encountered so many undecideds in the swing state of Virginia. Hopefully my appearance at their doors made a bit of a difference in swaying them toward the carrot cake. Or the even more obvious choice of Donovan McNabb... Now back to my Eagles.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven Years Ago Today

As I have every year on September 11 since 2001, I woke up this morning thinking about the day, remembering the sound of the first crash from my Brooklyn apartment, and bracing myself before I turn on the TV to watch the memorial. This morning I turned on the Today Show to find no mention of 9/11 in the five minutes I had it on. Instead, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, the Today Show medical chief was being interviewed about vaccines, about how there's a measles outbreak due in large part to parents opting out of vaccinating their children. She even mentioned "the herd"-- a percent of the population that needs to be vaccinated in order to protect the rest-- a concept I learned about in epidemiology class just last week. What was going on? How did the decision come about among the NBC execs not to mention 9/11? I turned the TV off and then back on again a few minutes later to see if there was any coverage of the memorial. Nope. Just an interview with DeNiro (even he didn't mention of 9/11) and Pacino about some new movie they're in. But what did it mean for me that instead of 9/11, there was a public health segment on? Maybe it didn't mean anything, but it made me think about my own life and how far I've come since 9/11/01.

Seven years ago when I heard the first plane hit one of the towers, I was in the middle of writing an email to an agent I had met the week before at the MTV movie award after-party. This agent was helping and encouraging me to submit to SNL. I was 23 and gung-ho that I was going to be Tina Fey, even before Tina Fey was Tina Fey. I never finished writing that email. Instead I went outside to see what was going on. I heard sirens and smelled an odd, burning scent, but different than anything I had ever smelled before and have ever smelled since those first few weeks after the towers fell. It was the smell of burning flesh and a burning city. I saw smoke above and figured there was a fire somewhere, but it was oddly quiet on the streets of Brooklyn. It was a Tuesday and my roommates had already left for work while I was home doing my first of many freelance writing gigs. I turned on the TV and watched the news. I called my aunt to see if she was okay, since her apartment was across the street from WTC. She wasn't able to get in touch with my uncle, for what turned out to be the rest of the day. As I was on the phone, I heard from the news that a plane had hit the Pentagon. I told my aunt who reacted, "We're really under attack." It was a scary realization. And probably the closest I've come to feeling helpless and unsafe in this country. My roommates eventually came home after being stuck on trains unable to get past downtown and for the next 3 days, we sat and watched the news. It was unbelievable. The trains weren't running and so we stayed in Brooklyn, watching on the news what was happening across the river. Eventually, we walked down to the Brooklyn Promenade, which has a perfect view of downtown Manhattan. A memorial had formed, people milled around carrying candles, but mostly people sat and stared at the new skyline and the smoke and soot that still was wafting eastward into Brooklyn.

Back at my apartment, after a few days of watching the news, seeing the same family-members over and over on the screen asking the public if they had seen their loved-ones, we decided we couldn't take anymore. So, we watched Sex and the City. Episode after episode. It was the perfect escape to be watching happy New Yorkers in a happy New York. It was candy and it was exactly what I needed. And it made me realize the power of entertainment and escapism. Critics of television claim that it desensitizes audiences from their real lives. What's wrong with that? Real life isn't always so fun.

As far as where I am and where I've come since 9/11/01, I'm here, in Baltimore, after living in both New York and LA twice in the last seven years. And I've come from being a naive 23 year old just starting out in the entertainment industry, thinking I could land a writing job at SNL without any comedy experience, to a slightly less naive 30 year old with actual experience but the desire for something bigger. Escapist entertainment with a message? Maybe. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

It's Okay to Laugh. Really.

I thought handing in my first biostat problem set today would be a relief (and another reminder that I really need to start AND finish them earlier in the future). But oh no, it is just the beginning. Today's class was nearly incomprehensible. Alas, reading about biostats is probably almost as boring as writing about it, so on to another topic...

I dropped my Entertainment Education class after I was once again shot down by professor. As I mentioned, the final project is to write 13 episodes of a TV or radio drama. (Each episode is supposed to be 15 minutes. What one does with a 15 minute TV episode, I have no idea). Anyway, I said that I wanted to write about health insurance, the uninsured and underinsured and make it a comedy. My professor told me that I had better be Shakespeare if I wanted to write a comedy about a serious issue. Shocked, I tried to explain that I wanted to attempt to make the complicated health insurance problem in this country more accessible through a comedy. "No. People don't take comedies seriously [duh] and therefore, comedies are not to be written about serious issues." ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Grrr... Um, I recall a movie that won the freaking Academy Award that was a comedy about the Holocaust and I don't remember Shakespeare writing the screenplay. I can go on and on with more examples of comedies about serious issues, but that would be preaching to the choir. The choir being everyone in the world EXCEPT for that professor. Also, after telling me and the class last week that we could not use cartoons or puppets, she read one of Aesop's Fables as a great example of a story with a message. Adios to that class. Done and done. It's a shame, because ideally it could have been a great class. I also feel justified since I am one of many who dropped the class. Not to mention, she taught the same lesson two classes in a row. I felt like I was at the Learning Annex, not Johns Hopkins.

I was mildly worried about losing those credits, but fortunately I'm picking up a few doing work/research for my advisor on what seems to be a very cool project. So, it all works out. I think... except that I told my advisor I knew Excel. I mean, I know of it. Like it exists. I've even used it once or twice to make databases, but I don't really know it know it. Guess I'll be figuring it out soon enough.

While I'm on the topic of figuring things out, I figured out that maybe it's not okay to blatantly point out obvious sexual connotations of a health brochure in a lecture class (although my classmates didn't seem to mind). My theory professor (ahh, theory... it reminds me of Wesleyan) put up this slide to show how changing the color and image of a brochure was more culturally appropriate for the audience the brochure was trying to reach-- Latina women. The message-- get breast exams:


Well, while everyone was talking about how cooking together is how Latina women commonly interact, spend time together, talk about important issues, blah blah, I was focussed on the obvious fact that these women are inspecting fruit. Fruit with nipples. I raised my hand and asked if I was the only one who noticed that there's a bowl full of breasts in the picture... that they were giving the fruit Los Mamogramas. My professor said something like, "Well... it it fruit." Um, sure, professor... "But it's also clearly breasts. With nipples." Anyway, people laughed, the professor said we were all getting punchy, the lecture ended and a friend told me I had a dirty mind.

Am I alone here? Have I been corrupted by working in television for too long? (And when did I get the balls to raise my hand in a lecture class and bring up the topic of breasts and nipples?) Does public health need to be so serious? I spent an hour in stats lab today (sorry, can't help it) doing a problem that had to do with the probability of Nepalese girls dying in various situations. Morbid, but also really funny! One of Colin Quinn's few aphorisms, which I always keep in mind was "nothing is sacred." With that in mind, I look at what's absurd, even within a serious topic. Is there something wrong with that? I didn't think so, but I'm learning in public health school, there may be. Time for change. Me and Obama. Here we come.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Biostats Blues

Time to take a break from my biostats homework and blog on this rainy Saturday in Baltimore. I think the Counting Crows put it best when they sang "It's raining in Baltimore." How do they come up with such gems??? (I'm not knocking the Counting Crows. I love them. I just listened to that song and it's quite good and fitting: "Three thousand five hundred miles away...", "I need a raincoat." It's so true! I do need a raincoat. I left mine in my friend's baby stroller.)

Waking up to the rain is among my top ten favorite things of all time. Especially on a weekend morning. But unfortunately, this morning wasn't quite perfect as I was out of coffee. So, instead of sitting with my hot cup of coffee in my nice dry apartment watching the rain fall, I had to venture out in the rain to avoid a caffeine headache. Not my ideal rainy morning. The closest coffee place was closed so I had to walk up the hill to the second closest one (well, third... I haven't returned to the communist cafe yet). By the time I got there, I was wet despite my trusty umbrella-ella-ella-ella. But even worse, I was sweating, so I opted for iced coffee. Meh. The first month in Baltimore we had great weather, so I forgot how oppressive humidity can be. If 100% humidity is being underwater (I'm assuming), then it's definitely 99% humidity today. Just barely breathable. I should get a scuba tank or something.

Why am I writing about the weather? Because I don't want to write about biostats. And weather and biostats are the two major things happening in my life today. Here's a little something that is becoming more solidified with each day of biostats: I really don't like it. I sat in on a lesson on how to use the computer program that we need for this class...the kind of program where you have to input commands by hand (I'm using keys I've never touched before, like this one: ~) ... it's bad... and as I was sitting there in the class, I was thinking "Why? Why am I here learning this computer program?" I have absolutely no interest in doing this particular thing after I graduate. I really don't. It isn't even interesting to me. In college, I forced myself through Organic Chemistry and Bio, etc. for a reason (a retrospectively pointless one)-- to become a doctor. It was even interesting, but also hell, which is why I became an English major. So I could read books. Something I enjoy. Now I'm in grad school by choice and I really don't see the benefits of learning this computer program to the extent that I am required to. (I also don't like having it on my computer. Is there anyone else out there who has Stata and Final Draft on their computer? If so, I'd like to meet them). Everyone says you can make a lot of money if you know how to do these programs. But, the chances of me taking a job where this is required are slim (remind me to remove this post when I end up applying for biostats jobs next year). I know having new skills is important, blah blah, and at least Hopkins is more hands-on and not entirely theoretical, but seriously, I'm over it.

Enough complaining. I like my other classes a lot (well, the Entertainment Education is a maybe so far), so I'll hang in there with biostats. And the other day my Epidemiology professor told us that we'll have a guest lecturer next week because he'll be in Geneva at a measles meeting. A measles meeting! Awesome! I do love some things about public health.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Shot Down

Yesterday I made it through my first Wednesday of classes. My class schedule for Wednesdays this quarter is hell. I start at 8:30 AM and go straight through until 6:30 PM with a half-hour break at 5 PM. It's tiring. But, fortunately it only happens once a week, will only happen seven more times, thanks to the eight-week quarter, and is followed by a blissfully easy Thursday with only one class at 10:30.

Why am I divulging my schedule? I have no idea. But now all my stalkers know where to find me. My point is, I had a bunch of first day of classes yesterday, one of which I was most excited about as it's pretty much a main reason why I'm at this school, and why I'm in grad school in the first place. Entertainment Education. I've got the entertainment part, now I'm here to see about the education part. The class could potentially be great. Our main assignment is to write a 13-episode treatment for a serial drama (or comedy) targeting a specific audience about a specific health issue (suggestions appreciated). Well, that's what I want to do for my career! Perfect. I can be creative and do what I want! The problem is, the professor has very clear ideas about what she wants and I'm afraid our ideas are going to clash. Why do I think that? Because they already have.

While describing the final project, about how we have to find the emotion of the story, the professor subtly slipped in that we couldn't use cartoons or puppets for our script. Fine. But I wanted to know why. So I raised my hand and asked. The response I got was something along the lines of "Because you cannot evoke the same emotion with cartoons or puppets as you can with real people." "I disagree," I responded, "and you can do a lot more with cartoons and puppets than you can with real people." "Maybe so, but they are intellectually and emotionally inferior to real people" (or something like that). "Okay. I still disagree." (dude, they're made by real people). "Fine, we can discuss this later at length if you want." Um, no thanks because I have 10 freaking hours of class today and you already pissed me off. But, hello! If cartoons can't evoke emotion, why did I cry at Wall-E?

The worst part was that this interaction came immediately after her diatribe about how children need to be free to learn, how our education system tells kids what they have to know and when and how to think and how we need to cultivate free thinkers. And then she shot down my opinion.

I also made the mistake of mentioning that I was a TV writer when she asked if anyone had ever written a script or a 13 episode treatment ("Someday Maybe" and "Zelda"! I've the first seasons plotted out! Well, sort of. Anyone? Anyone?). After I said I was a TV writer, she said that in that case she and the rest of the class should grade and judge me harder. She said it as a joke, I think. Although I'm not so sure she meant it as one.

There are a bunch of other reasons why I'm skeptical about this class. For one, it seems disorganized. They ordered the wrong books at the book store and two of the three books we need to buy are-- surprise, surprise-- written by the professor. Okay, maybe she's the expert. But I'm not yet convinced. Nor am I impressed by the 800 different places she's lived and traveled to in Africa, by her ambassador husband, by the 50 children's books she's written, by the fact that she has a British accent and not her native Australian one because she was once upon a time a news broadcaster-- all of which she made sure to tell us about on the first day. Eh. I chose Hopkins because the professors seemed brilliant, but humble. Oh well. I just hope she likes AIDS jokes.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Thirty Nothing

Here I am, back to school once again, but promise to refrain from using that as the title of this entry. I'm starting this week of school with a new sense of excitement, owed completely to the events of this Labor Day weekend. I kicked off the weekend with my 30th birthday on Friday. It started off with 8:30 am epidemiology class in Baltimore with people I barely know and ended with dinner in Philly with my family (well, really with a weird aloe vera cocktail with my brother and others at a bar, but still). Being in a completely new city, school and field brought up even more "what the hell am I doing with my life" thoughts than most birthdays do for me. It didn't help that this one ended in a "0". Nor did it help that I heard this depressing new Aimee Mann song on the radio on my way home from dinner. (Okay, it's a year off, but still quite apropos). Oh, and seeing my high school boyfriend in the NY Times wedding section this weekend-- yeah, that didn't help either.

The next day I went to New York and hung out with some of my closest friends, most of whom I hadn't seen in a long time. Spending time with people who know me well and are for the most part in the same place in their lives as I am was exactly what I needed. It was totally comforting and reassuring that what I am doing, this change, is the right move. In fact, as it turns out, almost all of my friends are going through their own career changes these days. Some are thinking of switching completely, some just got laid off, some are starting to apply for more school and some are tweaking their current careers. And the friends who are still in entertainment all seem to have the same doubts I had when I was working in TV. Since I left LA, I haven't really been around friends who are dealing with the same career changes as me. Aside from-- and maybe even more important than-- the fact that I could relate to my friends on the career-change level, it was just so nice to be able to drink and relax and laugh and make fun of people with some of the most important people in my life. It made turning 30 nothing, which is exactly how it should be.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Back to School: Part 3 aka The Storm

I had my one and only class today. Biostats... and I may indeed be fucked. First of all, it was my only class for the day and I was already exhausted half an hour in. Second of all, it seems like it's going to be hard. There was a math review session offered today which I decided to attend after not being able to remember what the summation sign was for. I knew it was for summing things and I remember being fond of it in high school, but other than that, it meant nothing to me anymore. Now, after an hour of doing practice problems, I'm feeling more comfortable with my old friend the summation sign. But, seriously. Practice problems? Homework? School? Am I really doing this by choice? College was a given. I wanted to go, and really I had no choice in the matter. But grad school? I may in fact be having an existential grad school crisis (or maybe it's just my annual end of August general existential crisis). Ideally, I'm doing this to further my career. But will knowing Biostats further it? Quite possibly not. Thus, I don't have the same type of stressed feeling I had in college. I have more of a "what's the point?" feeling. Like I should care, but really I don't. I know what I'm learning is essentially a tool. But for what I want to do, can't I just hire someone who knows how to use the tool? Like a biostats plumber?

After class, I stopped by the activities fair, where I got tons of JHSPH swag, including a highlighter, a carabeener (sp?), and chip clip! I also stopped by a table that had a basket of chocolate and felt bad taking a piece without saying anything. So, I prefaced my candy grab with "Even though I'm not Latina, can I take a piece of chocolate?" I assumed they would say yes and send my on my way, but instead they responded with "Oh, you don't have to be Latino to join our group. You don't even have to speak Spanish. You just have to be interested in Latino things and what we do." Cut to ten minutes later, I'm still standing there, the chocolate melting in my pocket, listening to the Latino student group pitch, and trying to come up with a polite way to say "I am the farthest thing from Latina. I really have no interest in joining the Latino student group. I just wanted a piece of chocolate." I learned my lesson. The Muslim and Catholic tables had some nice looking candies, too, but I stayed away. (FYI-- there were no groups for Jews...Hello! ADL, where are you? They would have had some damn good food, I'm sure.)

Now I've got an hour to kill before the Meet and Greet, where I will continue to meet and greet my fellow classmates. I think there will be alcohol involved, which always helps with the meeting and greeting.

In the meantime, here's a little anecdote from yesterday, my day off. I decided to go shopping for back to school clothes (I love back to school clothes), so I headed off to The Avenue, a street in the neighborhood of Hampden. Baltimore has a good selection of quirky little boutiques. Not so many chain stores, which is nice, so I decided to explore. The Avenue is not a big street, so all the shop owners seem to know each other. While I was in one, a shop owner from another came in with her baby. The woman working in the store I was in offered to babysit for a while, and so the mother left. This woman now holding the baby struck me as the type who reads Bitch magazine, does downtown comedy in the badass Jewess, wannabe Sarah Silverman scene, and who will someday grow up to be a bona fide yenta. And she was obsessed with the baby, clearly, as she kept saying "Oh my god, I want to eat this baby. I fucking love this baby. Here, smell this baby." She brought the baby up to my nose and made me smell it. Yup, smells like a baby. "I just want to fucking eat this fucking baby." There were two guys in the store standing around, like myself, not knowing what to say. She kept going on and on "Oh my god, I want to eat this fucking baby. Don't you just want to eat it?" Yes, babies are cute, but dear god woman, chill the fuck out. "I love this baby. I just want to eat this fucking baby's tussie and vagina." Um, What? Did she really just say that? Should I call child services? Or at least this child's mother? What if I had been someone else other than me in the store, like someone with a slightly lower tolerance for that type of um, shock-humor, for lack of a better term? I'm not quite sure what to make of it, but for the record, this is not the first time I've been in a store in Baltimore where the conversation has quickly gone to wildly inappropriate in front of customers (me). Maybe I'm just becoming soft. Or, maybe that type of humor has its time and place, like in TV show offices, like not around children. Maybe it's just all about context, but I don't think so.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Calm Before the Storm

Two days of orientation down. Two days of classes this week to go. And today... I'm pretty sure I don't have any obligations, but I also have that feeling that I may be missing something. I looked through all the various pieces of paper I received yesterday to see if there was anything I needed to attend today and couldn't find a thing. I also don't recall any mention of "see you tomorrow" yesterday, so I'm going to assume that I have the day off today. (If you're in my department and happen to be reading this and laughing to yourself about how I'm missing something incredibly important, please let me know). But, for now, I'm going to enjoy the day off.

My first and only class tomorrow is Biostats! Wheee! And so the storm begins. We had the option of two biostats classes: Statistical Reasoning or Statistical Methods, the latter of which comes free with a lab session! Having taken my last math class 12 years ago and having never taken a statistics class ever, I decided to take Reasoning, the "less rigorous" class. I ran this by my advisor who then asked "how much are you paying to be here?" (um, too much to suffer?). She somehow convinced me that I actually should suffer, so I'm now taking Statistical Methods, the "more intense, math-heavy" class starting tomorrow. Fuck. If this hampers my blogging, you know who to blame. On the plus side, the term is only eight weeks. Like a restaurant that serves bad food, but small portions.

In case you're wondering (and even if you're not), I'm also taking Epidemiology (plus another lab!), Integrating Social and Behavioral Theory and my only elective, Entertainment Education, plus two one-hour a week classes that don't have any work. When I registered yesterday, a PhD student came by and looked at my courses "19 credits. Well, you won't have a life for the first term." Dude, they're pretty much all required. One extra class and I won't have a life? But, then I remembered, "Oh wait. I'm in Baltimore! I don't have a life to begin with!" See, it all works out.

I may not have a life anymore, but at least I used to have one, and that counts for something, right? I was reminded of said former life the other day when I was on the treadmill in my building's gym, flipping through the channels and landed on my old show. Even though it airs a gazillion times a week, I never actually see it. Anyway, there it was. A nice reminder that it's there if I want it. Sort of. Although, it's not really there anymore. I'd probably only be there for another month or so before I'd have to find another job. One of my former co-workers informed me that his next job is at Traffic Court on the Tru network. No disrespect to him, (if you're reading this, hope it's going well!), but hearing that made me appreciate where I am. If I were still in LA, I'd probably be lucky to get that job. But, I'm not there and thankfully I'm not angling for Traffic Court. It's a good feeling and a good reminder of why I wanted to leave TV in the first place, at least for a little bit, at least the reality part of it, at least the part where I'd be lucky to land Traffic Court.

Speaking of my old life, I may have made the mistake of telling my department that I used to be a comedy writer. Maybe I should have just said writer, as now I'm the "comedian" of the department. Oops. I've only been asked to tell a joke a few times so far (which I was able to worm my way out of, luckily), but now there's the pressure of being funny. Hopefully that'll wear off once people realize I'm not funny when I'm trying to learn statistics. But for now, it's a reason for people to want to talk to me, and to quote a much funnier person than me, "I've got that going for me, which is nice."