Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Hey, guess what?

I'm employed next semester as well. So exciting.

What's even more exciting is that neither of these classes meets at 8am. College students are not awake at 8am, and truth be told, neither am I. But since I have to be up in front of the class anyway, I prefer not to be talking to a... box of hammers, shall we say.

I'm tempted to hold a mirror in front of their faces, just to see if they're still breathing. Anyone have a spare stethoscope?

I let them out about ten minutes early almost every time we meet, simply because they never say anything - no questions, no comments, no nothing. If I didn't call on them specifically by name every once in a while, I would have no idea what their voices sound like.

Make-a me craaazy.


Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Not a psychic, sorry

We call them turn signals. Need a tutorial?

Friday, September 23, 2005


After doing the place meme the other day, I remembered that I've been meaning to do "a unique things about Pittsburgh" blog entry for a while now. Hopefully I can clarify some of the confusion. (Not likely... heh.)


The "Pittsburgh left" – If you are the first driver making a left turn at an intersection which has no turning arrow, the oncoming traffic will wait for you to go through before they do. Only the first car, mind you. Second driver has to wait until the end. But it's standard operating procedure in my hometown. It wasn't until I went away to college that I discovered that not everyone thinks it's normal.


Steak salad – an Eat'N'Park staple – kind of like a chef's salad, but with thin sliced steak, French fries, and melted cheese.

"O" fries are from the Original, a greasy corner joint in Oakland (the hospital and college district) that serves huge orders of french fries... the best you've ever had. They also serve other kinds of food, but I've only ever seen people get the fries.

Primanti Brothers is another Pittsburgh classic. Of course, don't be fooled by the spelling. It's pronounced "Permanni Bruhers" or simply, "Permanni's". At Primanti's the sandwiches are served with cole slaw and French fries... between the bread, not on the side.

Most people have at least one Polish and/or German grandparent, so kolbasi (kolbassa) and sauerkraut are common and tasty. So are the pierogies. Yum.

Hoagies... subs... grinders... all the same thing.

Jumbo = bologna

And yes, we always had chipped ham in the fridge when I was growing up. Is this really not a common food item? It's just very, very thinly sliced ham.

Arn = Iron , as in the ever-present Iron City beer. To my knowledge, I have never consumed one.

And food shoppin... also known as grocery shopping, is done at Jine Iggle, also known as Giant Eagle – the local chain of food stores.


Jay can't stand it because he says it makes people sound so stupid. But I like to think of it more like a secret code that only the members can understand and recreate.

Here we see:

'N'at – short for "and that" or "and that sort of thing" This can be added to almost any statement. Try it.

Yins – a truly horrid expression which is a contraction of the equally bad "you... ones?". Alternate pronunciation is "yunz" and can be heard in such phrases as "Yins guyz goen dahntahn t'night?

Turbl Tahl – the true pronunciation of "Terrible Towel".

Gumband – a rubber band, or a hairband as used for a ponytail.

Slippy – slippery

Crick – creek

Red up – to "Ready up" or to clean up.

Jaggerbush – umm... it's a jaggerbush. A bush with prickers on it. Thorns. Whathaveyou.

Jaggoff – a jerk – someone who is jacking off instead of doing what they should.

Ahia – Ohio

You guyses – your. Example: Can I borrow you guyses truck?

still mill – steel mill

Zillionopal – Zelienople, PA

'Sliberty, E-sliberty, or Wesliberty. – East Liberty and West Liberty, neighborhoods of Pittsburgh. Pronunciation depends on how lazy the speaker really is.

'Hilinpark' – Highland Park

The Point – the land at the confluence where the Allegheny and Monongahela join to become the Ohio.

You think I'm joking?

There are millions more. The general accent is just super lazy speech – no dipthongs, no hard consonants in the middle of words, the less one has to open one's mouth or move one's lips, the better. (color --> keller. Sewer --> sore. House --> haas.)

And we Pittsburgh natives take an odd pride in our linguistic quirks. There's many websites dedicated (or not so dedicated) to the exploration of the phenomenon.

Maybe I'll set my first non-fantasy novel there... certainly wouldn't lack for "keller".

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


The ones in bold are true, if not for me, then for people in my family. The other ones are just plain scary.

You Know You're From Pittsburgh When...

"Hey Yuz Guyz" is your traditional greeting.

You know the time and location of every Wing Night in a 10 mile radius.

You know the location of the following towns, know someone from them and have spent time there: Monongahela, Altoona, Bethlehem, Ligonier, Harmony, and Wilmerding. (I've actually been everywhere but Wilmerding...)

You've memorized lines from the movie "Flashdance".

If you're a guy, your biggest fear is seeing your best friend drive into the "fruit loop". You're second biggest fear is seeing him drive out with Kordel Stewart.

If you're a girl, you're biggest fear is getting hit on by a hairy-chested man, heavily weighted in gold chains, who refers to his friends as "junior" at Chauncey's.

Your latest cultural experience: On your way to partying at Slippery Rock University, having to stop your car to let the Amish buggy cross the street.

As your out-of-town friends brag about their latest trips to Europe, you think to yourself, "Polish Hill will suffice."

You eat out at least once a week at a mafia-owned Italian pizza parlor. (Yum yum)

Your father has worked for the same company for over 20 years. (Over 50 years.)

You don't see what all the hype is about Disney World when Kennywood is just around the corner. (Now, Epcot Center... that's a different story.)

You're having a hard time on where to take your date out for dinner and a night on the town: - "meat on a stick" in the south side and the guzzling IC Light at Jack's... Or splitting an order of "O fries" and guzzling IC Light at Peter's Pub.

" N at' " is eloquently added to the end of every sentence.

You've taken deliberate field trips to the Andy Warhol museum.

You water ski on the Youghiogheny River Lake.

You feel the only good bands out there are Donny Iris, Joe Grushecky, The Blue Oyster Cult, and of course.... Rusted Root.

You're more worried about Jerome Bettis's health than your own. (true for members of my dad's side.)

You own more than one original Terrible Towel. (Doesn't everyone?)

You don't understand what all the hype is about for Rolling Rock beer. You've been drinking it for years, although Penn Pilsner is better.

You consider a great vacation a trip to Conneaut Lake or Lake Erie. For something a little more exotic, a trip to the Jersey shore.

You're 35 years old, have never been outside of Allegheny County, and don't see the need to leave. (Not me, but members of the extended fam.)

You only own four spices: salt, pepper, Heinz ketchup, and the bottle of Trappey's Red Devil you swiped from Primanti's.

For the life of you, you can't understand why your all your out-of-town friends don't get the "fries and cole slaw" thing... (Well, I know why they don't get it, but they are WRONG.)

You have 101 favorite recipes for kolbasi and sauerkraut.

Words like: hoagie; chipped ham; pop; and gumband actually mean something to you.

You can use the phrase "Firehall Wedding" and not even bat an eye.

You walk carefully when it is "slippy" outside.

You often go down to the "crick".

You have to "red up", before company comes over.

You've ever gotten hurt by falling into a "jaggerbush".

You know that Ahia is a river, a boulevard, and a state.

You've ever "warshed" or "wershed" the laundry.

You know you can't drive too fast on back roads,cause-udda-deer.

You've drank an "Arn" .

You've told someone to "quit jaggin around".

You know that Clinton, Monaca, and Beaver, are actually names of towns.

You've called someone a 'jaggoff'.

You hear "you guyses", or "yins" and don't think twice.

You hate Cleveland, although you've never been there.

You drink "pop", eat "hoagies", pierogies, and gyros(jy-rows).

You know what a still mill is.

You can find Zillionopal on a map.

You go 'food shoppin' at 'Jine Iggle'.

You believe that "Ize" is the abbreviaton for "I was.

You know someone from 'Sliberty, E-sliberty, or Wesliberty. (Actually, genius, Sliberty and E-Sliberty are the same thing.)

You know the Pittsburgh Zoo is in 'Hilinpark' and have been there for school field trips.

You know what is meant by "The Point".

Chipped ham was always in your refrigerator when you were growing up.

You actually get these jokes and pass them on to other friends from Pittsburgh.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Snip Snip

I just couldn't take it anymore. I've been overdue for a haircut since... May, or maybe April. Gah. My hair had gotten down past my shoulders again. And my hair, past my shoulders, becomes a limp, straggly mess of split ends.

I did think about growing it out and doing the chop and donate route for one of the companies that makes wigs for kids who lose their hair due to illness. But I think you need to cut off at least 11 inches for them to accept it. And I just... couldn't wait that long.

So while we were in Burlington running various errands over the weekend (including switching our cell phones to new Vermont-based numbers!) I stopped in at the local mall salon. I like those little mall salons for their anonymity and also because you can usually walk up without an appointment and get in within 15 or 20 minutes because they're busy enough to have several stylists.

So I got in, sat down, said, oh, "I'm not picky, just cut it to about here with a few layers up front." And as she started to cut, I thought: hmmm... that's a little shorter than I was thinking... But then I decided to just see what happened. My hair grows so fast, that even if I hated it, I wouldn't have to live with it very long.

My hair hasn't been this short since I was four years old and my mom took me to a real salon for the first time and they chopped my little wisps right back into a bowl cut. It's not a bowl cut now, of course. :shudder shudder:

Now, it's barely jaw length and my neck feels very exposed. But it's cute. I never would have requested it this short, but I really like it. I think I might have to go back to see that stylist next time - she did such an awesome job. That's why I don't like to give too much direction to the people cutting my hair: I'm not picky, and I've gotten some of my best haircuts by being vague, and some of the worst by being very specific. I like to leave the details to the experts.

And now that my hair looks this good, I need to get down to the gym so my ass can match. Heh.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Part 3

When I was starting to look at colleges, my mother said to me: "Don't take this the wrong way, but once you leave, don't come back."

Seeing the odd look on my face, she went on to elaborate. She explained something about getting away and living my own life and not getting tied to the chaos and patterns of home.

And perhaps now that seems kind of harsh, but at the time, our family was a... mess. My dad was an inapproachable, alcoholic, walking disaster. My brother was getting arrested on a regular basis, and couldn't seem to control his rage. (During this time, he kicked in the screen door to our house, and also punched several holes in the drywall around his and my bedrooms.) My mother was sleeping on the couch, and had been for a year or two by then. (Last year she returned to a twin bed in the room my parents again share.)

But then there were my sisters. I felt responsible for them and I was pretty much terrified about them living there without me to run interference. But I wanted to get myself out of there just as much. So my mom's advice didn't sound so odd. It sounded pretty good to me, in fact. Like permission.

So I left and I really haven't gone back. Oh sure, I visit. I even lived with them for four months after coming home from four months in France after college. But I always had an escape plan. But in many ways, I feel like an outsider when I am with the family. Not with all of them, and not all the time. But enough.

I don't know who I would be today if I hadn't managed that escape. I'm sure I wouldn't be as happy or confident as I am. I think I might have slipped back into the familiar and miserable roles of my teenage years - acting and reacting as the people around me expected me to.

I moved to the Grand Canyon in 1999 because it seemed like a safe place to think about who I was and what I wanted out of life. I thought I would be there for a year. But in the first year I fell into a relationship with another smart, self-loathing guy, and all my old passive-aggressive, martyresque behavior resurfaced. After we split up, I decided to take another year to figure out what I'd gone there to figure out in the first place.

So my second year at the Canyon was my Hermit Period. Lonely, but useful.

I'm set now - mostly broken away from the old habits and patterns I hated but couldn't seem to break when I lived at home. My escape was successful, and necessary for my continued sanity and survival. I know that. My mother knew that. But that doesn't mean that the choice or process of escape was easy, or that I don't sometimes regret being on the outside of family conflicts and situations.

I'm a better person than I was before - better at communicating, better at making my own decisions, better at staying objective when I need to be - so I know my choice was the right one for me.

And that's what I have to say about that.


Friday, September 16, 2005


Maybe this has something to do with my recent feelings of isolation and frustration...

Just checked my cell phone bill. And clearly, for the amount I am using it, I am paying WAY too much.

Usage since last month

Peak Minutes: 2
Off Peak Minutes: 1
Weekend Minutes: 21
IN Calling Peak: 4
IN Calling Off Peak: 0

Yes, I spoke on my phone for a monthly total of 28 minutes... But at least this allows me to laugh at the sales people who try to get me to upgrade to a more expensive plan. Hah.


Thursday, September 15, 2005

In Progress

To give myself another distraction... in the line of thinking that says "just keep too busy to think about it and it will work itself out"... I'm playing with the colorscheme around here.

I just couldn't stand the purple anymore.

So it's not done, but I need to get out of here. I'll play around with it more tomorrow.
Calmer Now

A little, anyway.

I'm having another harsh burst of hating this place.

Perhaps that has something to do with the motherfucking humidity which makes me want to scream at the top of my lungs and never fucking stop.

Maybe it has to do with the fact that I am not liking this whole college environment thing. I feel like my task is futile, and everyone expects failure. Not necessarily from me, but from these students.

Maybe it has a little to do with both and more to do with neither.

Whatever it is, I am so freaking NOT HAPPY right now that I'm just not sure how to handle it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


I FINALLY get back to post something and Blogger explodes on me. And, of course, I don't have time to rewrite it. And of course, I was composing online again... just as I tell my students not to do.

I miss my Mac and my non-IE browser.


Thursday, September 08, 2005


As I read through the usual blogs, I see that most, if not all, have commented in some way on Hurricane Katrina.

I made my comment by donating to the Red Cross.

As I have never been to New Orleans, never experienced a hurricane of any size, never worked in a rescue organization, never tried to communicate with and transport large numbers of people, never lost everything I own, etc. I simply don't feel qualified to express an opinion on what is going on now. I've rarely expressed anything political here and I don't intend to change that.

My heart goes out to the survivors and rescuers working in the Gulf Coast now. Good luck. I'm hoping for the best.

EDIT: I found this link from Holly's site. It's a donation collection plan coordinated by a bookstore in Maryland and Nora Roberts. Looks like a good one.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Guilt and Family: Escape vs. Martyrdom, Part 2

So, as I've mentioned before, I'm not real big into the whole guilt concept. But with family, it's always a little more complex. Just a little, she says...

I truly feel that guilt doesn't accomplish anything on a personal level. Or that its destructive and unhealthiness far outweighs any positive results. What I think I'm trying to say, in a convoluted way, is that even if you do the right thing, doing for the wrong reasons isn't going to help you much as a human being. It might help the people you're helping, but it won't help you.

So you can sacrifice yourself on the altar of your familial guilt... Always bailing your son out of jail when the calls come in at 3am because you think that his mistakes must stem from something you did... Always helping your stepdaughter move from one nasty apartment to the next (yet again), because no one else will, and she's family... Always rushing home (or never leaving in the first place) to fix the latest crisis because you know you can handle it better or faster or whathaveyou than anyone else... Just to draw some examples from my own friends and family.

But who are you really helping here?

I think this kind of guilt-driven behavior is kind of nuts. Acting like the martyr who will give up your own live/schedule/etc because you feel like you owe someone something only seems to encourage bad behavior from the beneficiaries of your rescue. They learn that you will always bail them out, so you have to do it more often. You get resentful that they're taking advantage, so you start getting bitter and nasty. Next thing you know, people are wondering when you lost your personality and turned into a giant asshole-martyr.

All right, MAYBE I'm taking this argument to extremes. But I'm only describing behavior that I have witnessed myself. And even been guilty of myself, at times.

When you put yourself last, you have, strangely, even less of yourself to go around. And whether avoiding that trap means that you take an hour to read every evening, or that you go out with friends once a week, or that you get your hair done once a month, or that you go out and run every morning... whatever it is that you need to do so that you feel like YOU, do it. Because otherwise, you'll be miserable. And from experience, a miserable person cannot make other people happy. (Unless they're sadists, I suppose...)

So that leads me into the subject of escape...

(to be finished in Part 3)

Friday, September 02, 2005

Thoughts from the shallow end

I probably won't get the chance to finish my last post until after the weekend, so I thought I would fill in with some less deep material.

I decided to learn how to knit. So on Sunday I bought this book.

On Tuesday I bought some cheapo yarn and knitting needles from the local variety store. (No, I had never heard of variety stores before last month either...)

On Wednesday I finished my first scarf using only "knit" stitches. That night I taught myself how to "purl".

Thursday I spent a few hours mastering "increases" and "decreases". I still haven't learned to knit "in the round" because I don't have the right kind of needles yet, but I'm ready for some good yarn to really get to work.

Now if only I could learn to throw a frisbee. I mean, throw it where I WANT it to go. And not, you know, onto rooftops or into busy roads or up in tall trees. It's just pathetic.

Convocation was yesterday. Jay looks so pretty in his new dress... I mean... robe. Regalia. That stuff. Though I've never seen a hat made from a velvet pillow before... but still cute. Heh.