Triticum Turgidum

Lying Dormant and Waiting to Bloom Since 2005

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Location: The Prairie, Illinois, United States

I am a beauty-loving ambidextrous higher-order primate who learned transcendental meditation at 7, statistical analysis at 23, tap dancing at 30, and piano at 35. I tolerate gluten, lactose, and differences of opinion, but not abuse. Or beets.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

New from K-Tel...

Wing Nut

Okay, I must be the last person on earth to have heard of Wing. If you haven't yet experienced her musical stylings, I beg of you to visit her website and listen to a few samples. Her version of Elvis Presley's "In the Ghetto" is a good place to start.

Warning: her website says "I have worked hard and I hope you have all found I am improving." Enough said.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Happy Memorial Day! Today's shade: Revlon Pink Velvet

What's good for the goose...

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Fialka Odorata, a.k.a. Sweet Violet--though our own Fialka's odorata isn't always sweet. :-\

Happy Name Day, Violet!

Today's my daughter's name day. In the Czech Republic, every day of the year is associated with a name. Citizens get to celebrate name days along with birthdays; it's customary to give someone a small gift on his or her name day.

Today's name is the Czech equivalent of Violet: Viola, Violka, Fialka, etc. If you know anyone named Violet or some variant thereof, give her a treat today and honor her by wearing your favorite violet perfume.

May 25 2006 also happens to be Fialka's first birthday, if you hold to the idea that life begins at conception. I myself do, though I still believe (more strongly than ever, in fact) in women's right to safe elective termination, a.k.a. abortion.

But enough about that. Off to spritz on some Caron Aimez-Moi.

Happy Violet Day!

Aimez-Moi contains notes of bergamot, anise, mint, cardamom, violet, magnolia, jasmine, rose, orris, heliotrope, tolu, and vanilla.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

play The Cure, man!

Li'l Goth Chick

About a month ago I went on a round of antibiotics to treat a rotten case of mastitis. Did you know you can get mastitis just by sleeping too long on one side? It compresses the breast and the ducts get clogged. That's what happened to me, dammit. The antibiotics passed through the breast milk right into my kid's mouth, where they promptly killed off all the good bacteria that were keeping her digestive system in check. Result: she developed thrush. Two bottles of Nystatin did nothing, so I finally caved and picked up a bottle of an old-fashioned antifungal, gentian violet. Apparently people have been using this stuff for generations to cure oral thrush, although the fact that it's an "old fashioned" remedy doesn't reassure me; people used to take baths in mercury to cure syphilis. Gah.

Anyway, gentian violet is essentially violet dye, the color of mimeograph ink. It stains everything it touches. Everything. So I picked up some cheap black towels at WalMart and wore black today. Fi is wearing black too. The typical course of application is once daily for three days. Here's the clincher: mom has to apply it to herself too. You guess where.

I look like I'm wearing purple pasties.

Fi has been on a "nursing strike" since she developed a post-vaccine fever a little over a week ago -- she arches her back and cries whenever I bring her anywhere near my chest, which makes me feel a little like a leper, minus the illness and total social seclusion -- so I have to give her all my breast milk by pumping. Result: lavender milk.

This had better work, that's all I can say. In the meantime, I'm trying to find the humor in the situation by taking photos of my little goth. I need to approach the situation like my friend Hilary, whose son has to wear a helmet to keep his skull from flattening. Instead of downplaying the whole thing out of embarrassment, Hilary sent around pics of Nicholas wearing his helmet, which is decorated with kicky graphics. The pics are hilarious and boost Nicholas' lovability by a factor of 10.

So, now that I've posted a pic of Fi in her silky finery (below), I'm following it up with a pic of her stained with gentian violet. If she ever needs headgear, though, I think I'll have to ask her permission before posting photos.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Here comes the bride...

Little Confection

My mom sent this silk bubble thingy after she took a trip to Neiman Marcus in Dallas, where she had once modeled back when department stores had their own models. I don't even want to know what it cost. I assure you it's the only thing from Needless Markup my daughter will own while she's still growing, if only because those NM bastards won't take Visa or Mastercard.

I actually love this little number and will probably frame it as a keepsake, but I'm struck by how much it looks like a wedding dress. Indeed, most special-occasion little girl dresses mimic wedding dresses. My first communion dress and the dresses worn by my peers were all little white knee-length confections, gloves optional, veil not optional.

The ideology behind the western female-in-white convention intrigues me. Is it supposed to signal purity? Virginity? Innocence? Surrender? Does a baby really need to prove she possesses these attributes?

I've read that white is the color of mourning in China. So here's the real question: is my baby dressed for an American wedding or a Chinese funeral?

Monday, May 08, 2006

I'm not really a beeyotch, I swear

Ain't Too Proud to Share

I have something to confess. I love America's Next Top Model.

It feels awkward and dirty to admit this, like confessing to a foot fetish or to diapering my baby with newspaper to save money.

What kind of person loves ANTM? What kind of body image researcher loves ANTM? I hang my head in shame during the opening credits, then eat up the rest of the episode with mustard and relish.

Gregory says he can't stand the show, but every Wednesday he's right there with me, hoping Jade will be booted from the competition. (There's a Jade in every cycle; she's the arrogant one you love to hate.) At the end of each episode the girls (yes, they're called girls) line up in front of the panel of judges to find out who will be axed. The last girl to be named is the loser. Each time a girl's name is called, she walks up to Tyra Banks, the show's host, to receive some words of wisdom. Tyra always ends with a very serious and hushed, "Congratulations, X, you're still in the running toward becoming America's Next. Top. Model." Greg and I roll our eyes and wrinkle our noses each time she says that but you don't see us changing the channel.

Why do I love ANTM? I don't really know. I can only guess that I'm drawn in by the immense talent of the set designers, photographers, makeup artists, and photo retouchers (though that last group is never given credit for their work--hmmm). I also have this fascination with female group dynamics, having never successfully mastered them myself. It's the same reason the only other reality show I ever got into was--more embarrassment here--Sorority Life. (First season only. Does that redeem me?) I also like laughing with Greg at Tyra Banks' friendly narcissism and the show's shameless, nonstop product placement. Oh, and then there's Miss J, runway coach and the ugliest queen I've ever set eyes on. It also cracks me up that they show the girls eating these big plates of food at mealtime. Puh-leeze. You know in reality they're living on cigarettes and diet Red Bull.

All in all, great family entertainment.

I just hope the show is cancelled in a few years. There's no way I want my daughter watching that garbage.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

One more for Mireille

Friday, May 05, 2006

All or Nothing

My friend Mireille at recently posted some compelling thoughts about Kaavya Viswanathan, the Harvard student who plagiarized passages of another author's books and got caught after her own book hit the shelves.

Click here to see examples of the plagiarized passages and how Viswanathan altered them to make them "her own." It's clear that, despite her claim that her "photographic memory" led her to unconsciously retain and use the plagiarized passages, she knew exactly what she was doing. Select words are replaced in each passage to deliberately mask the plagiarism.

So the question is not whether she fell into this hellhole of dishonor purely accidentally--as I said, she knew exactly what she was doing--the question is what would lead a bright young author to plagiarize in the first place. It's this question that Mireille raises in her post, and that I'd like to revisit here by sharing a similar story.

When I taught at the University of Michigan, there was a student in the Department of Communication who took an exam and, apparently, did not have much confidence in her performance. Her professor graded the exams and left them in a pile on a shelf with the coded answer sheet on top. The next morning, the professor came back and noticed that the student's scantron sheet was on top. Strange. The professor checked the student's answers: she'd aced the exam. Suspecting foul play, the professor notifed the chair of the department, who notified the Dean of Students. Turns out another professor in the Department of Chemistry had noted the exact same thing with an exam she'd administered to the same student. The Dean of Students got involved and exchanged several emails with the communication professor. Then the communication professor, a woman, got a call from the dean exonerating the student: "Oh, we figured it all out, it's a mistake, she's innocent." That day, the dean, also a woman, got a call from the professor making the same claim. Both calls were traced to the student's dorm room. Yes, she had actually impersonated both her professor and the dean. A little more detective work revealed that she'd posed as a teaching assistant in the comm and chem buildings and asked the custodial staff to let her into her professors' offices, where she filched her original scantrons and filled out new ones using the professors' coded answer sheets. (Lesson to professors: hide exams and answer sheets.)

Of course the whole thing resulted in expulsion. The chair of the comm department had the unpleasant task of talking to the student's father after the sentence had been handed down. One might have expected the father to be angry and defiant, but instead he was sad and guilty. He admitted to telling his daughter that nothing less than straight As was acceptable. (Her grade on the original comm exam? B.) He confessed that maybe he put too much pressure on her to be perfect, and that she was using her energy to create the impression of perfection by cheating instead of using that same energy to study for the sake of learning something. Now his daughter's academic reputation would be tarnished for life, much as Kaavya's professional reputation has been. Will she ever get another book deal? I wouldn't bet on it.

If you read Mireille's post, you'll see that she's very compassionate toward Kaavya. I think this compassion is warranted. American culture is so focused on appearance that we send our youth the message that they must impress the hell out of others by being The Best at Something, Anything, regardless of what it takes. One-trick ponies are lauded to the skies. "Well-rounded" has become a euphemism for "average."

I think this is a terrible shame. We've come to a point where the students who cheat most are not those in danger of failing (though they cheat too), but those who CANNOT have a minus after that A. I can't tell you how many students I've heard lament, "But you don't understand, I'm an A student!" after receiving a B on a test. Evaluations of their performance become their identities.

Like Mireille, I hope Kaavya finds an identity that represents who she truly is, even if it doesn't net her a $500,000 book deal. I hope all students who cheat or plagiarize find a way to express who they really are, not the person they think will impress people. I tell my own students that plagiarism is the saddest of all academic crimes. You only have so many opportunities in this life to use your voice to say something important and actually have people listen, and what do you do? Use someone else's words. Sad, sad, sad.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Hooray! I received my 200th perfume today!

As a Libra I believe in moderation and balance in all things--except perfume. Libras are sensualists, or so they say. We're prone to overindulgence in food, drink, and other purely sensory pleasures. We're also supposedly analytical, so it's no surprise that I keep an SPSS data file listing all of the perfumes I own now along with those I once owned. (Bottles, not samples.) The grand total is 360, the majority (200) of which I own now.

Number 200 is... (drum roll)... Sel de Vetiver by The Different Company.

According to my expert source Robin at nowsmellthis, Sel de Vetiver contains notes of grapefruit, cardamom, Bourbon geranium, lovage, Haitian vetiver, patchouli, iris, and ylang ylang. Grapefruit usually smells like sweat on me, but here it's so well blended that it lends an astringent brightness that balances the deep, almost smoky notes. The drydown has a leathery quality, though I don't know if leather is among the notes. The scent is supposed to evoke saltwater drying on sunbaked skin, which it does, though this isn't a "marine" scent at all. (Ewww, I just had a thought: the scent of leather IS baked skin. Gross.) There's an appealing pepperiness, perhaps from the geranium and cardamom, which, like the grapefruit, would normally turn me off, but it works here. Those who've tried Ormonde Jayne's sublime Ormonde might notice a kinship.

Like the rest of The Different Company's scents, the blend is beautifully balanced, the drydown smooth and refined. I love this line; all of the TDC scents smell... hmm... what's the right word? Civilized--like something the most unflappable, cool-voiced adult in the room would wear. (I'm not talking Mr. Spock unflappable; more like Katharine Hepburn unflappable.)

Sel de Vetiver joins TDC's gorgeous Bois d'Iris and Divine Bergamote as a new favorite.