Em oi! #426: Genetics

Necessary background to this: OB functions at my medical practice happen in Monona, about 25 minutes from here. There’s also a clinic with a lab in Middleton, which is maybe 5-10 minutes away.

So. This feels a bit like whistling in the dark, to be honest.

Tay-Sachs is a degenerative nerve disease, invariably terminal, that is inherited in a recessive pattern on chromosome 15. It’s much more common in a couple of ethnic groups–it was first spotted amongst the Ashkenazic Jews (i.e., Jews with an Eastern European heritage), but I believe it’s also somewhat common among French Canadians and Cajuns. Originally, there was a hypothesis–I think it was called the Jewish Fur Trader Hypothesis–that had all these groups being connected somehow, but in fact it turns out there are different genes that are more prevalent in each group, all of which produce the same symptoms.[1]

Anyway, a test for Tay-Sachs was first developed in 1971 (one of the first such tests available), and since then because of the push for genetic testing, rates have dropped precipitously, even among the ultra-orthodox.[2] There are actually places in the country you can get tested for free (like Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philly), and they used to run drives to get people screened at the Hillel Foundation on campus, if I’m recalling correctly. So it was always kind of in my mind that I would have to get tested if I married someone of Ashkenazic heritage, and I assumed that most people who could be affected would know that. But perhaps not. I was later told, after the encounters chronicled here, that most people don’t walk in to their first appointment and request to be tested for certain conditions–even though the nurse actually asked me specifically if there was anything I wanted to be tested for. This encounter also led me to determine a law, which I formulate as “The more time you spend around medical personnel, the more likely you are to realize that they have as high a rate of idiots as any other profession.” That same nurse pictured in the first panel also advised me not to lift more than 25 lbs. I didn’t ask her what pregnant people who already have a toddler do (other questions not asked: For what lift? Do you mean with one arm, like a dumbbell curl, or like don’t deadlift over 25 lbs? Do you realize how weird and Victorian that sounds?).

Anyway, come back Monday, we’ll do politics.

Let’s file this under RG580 G45 L86 2017, for Gynecology and obstetrics–Obstetrics–Pregnancy–Obstetrical emergencies. Diseases and conditions in pregnancy–Other diseases and conditions in pregnancy, A-Z–Genetic disorders.


[1] Which, by the way, is kind of interesting in itself–that there isn’t a one to one correspondence between genetic issues and diseases, because in most (all?) cases, the disease was observed first, based on the symptoms, and then a genetic test was developed for it later. We’re only just beginning to use this knowledge to our advantage in treating some conditions, like cancer. Somewhat relevant PhD Comics comic. This is also why the whistling in the dark comment–when you get your results back, they say something like, “We can say with 92% certainty that you’re not a carrier,” because there’s a tick box on the form where you note your background and they look for those genes, so in theory you could still be carrying a gene they didn’t test for.

[2] The ultra-orthodox tend to be anti-selective abortion, which is weird for various reasons of Jewish doctrine that I won’t get into, as it relies on my somewhat untutored understanding of Talmudic doctrine. Also I should note that rates of out-marriage increased significantly in the twentieth century (probably not among the ultra-orthodox), which would lead to lower rates of Tay-Sachs as well.

Em oi! #423: Introducing the Kwisatz Haderach

So a thing happened. Some time ago, actually, though I wasn’t quite ready to discuss it publicly before now (case in point: I drew this comic thirteen weeks ago, and I didn’t expect I was going to publish it here, so I didn’t give it a number). I’m currently twenty-five weeks pregnant, as of today. Or maybe as of yesterday. I actually lost count recently and had to do some math to figure out where I was again. As far as I can tell, I’ve basically been pregnant forever and, with fifteen weeks to go, I will continue to be pregnant forever. People keep saying, “August will be here before you know it!” That is not true. Now that I have entered this world of measuring out my life with coffee spoons, I can say with certainty that August is an impossible amount of time away.

It’s actually not that bad, pregnancy. Or rather, I’m somewhat aware that a lot of my discomfort is the result of my own stupid choices. For example, my muscles all hurt; a reasonable person might choose to run less or lift less weight at the gym, but I have not made that choice. I have heartburn, and a reasonable person might choose to not eat curry a minimum of three times per week, but that is a future I am not prepared to face.

A few notes on the comic:

  1. The “gaze” being discussed is not really a Foucauldian thing–it’s closer to Lacan’s conception of gaze or Laura Mulvey’s concept of male gaze. Though Foucault did talk about the medical gaze, his bigger point about bodies was about the shift from people who look like x can do x to “we can create someone to do x” (so instead of looking for a strong young man with good posture etc. to be a soldier, find a young man and train him to be strong and have good posture and do the soldiering). But in many ways Foucault has become the philosopher-muse of the strip, so I decided to put him in.
  2. This might actually be the first comic that both Bryan and Foucault show up in the same panel together. So we have conclusively proven in the Em Oi! universe that Foucault is not Bryan in disguise. Just in case anyone was wondering?

Up until now, Em oi! has served as both an occasional journal comic as well as a somewhat joke-based comic. I’m afraid, for those who are uninterested in pregnancy, that there will be a number of comics on that topic forthcoming. But fear not, I’ll get back to making fun of philosophers eventually.

We’ll file this one under RG551 L86 2017, for Gynecology and obstetrics–Obstetrics–Pregnancy–General works.



This comic panel is the result of me 1) drawing a seven-panel comic about a race, 2) inking the first four, and then 3) deciding they were lame and this was the only salvageable one. I’ve actually done a bunch of comics lately, then discarded them because not funny. Maybe because the looming election is taking up such a large place in my thoughts. We’ll see how soon I can get my act together.

Here are all the races I’ve done since August, in brief:

  1. Madison Mini Marathon (13.1 mi). Normally I wouldn’t do this race, but a coworker asked if I wanted to run it with him. He did it in 1:30ish. I did 2:07:22. First race back after being off for more than a month for a poorly diagnosed IT band-related injury. 93/256 in my age group.
  2. Safe Harbor Labor Day Dash (10k). Did it on impulse when I woke up in time to bike to the starting line. Took the first three miles to really warm up. 55:24. 26/56.
  3. North Face Half Marathon (13.1 mi). Hilly course, wasn’t feeling it. 2:18:19. 14/15.
  4. Indian Lake Trail Race (12k). Supremely hilly course, and I ran it better than I’d ever done it before. 1:07:49. 17/32.
  5. Fall 15k. Ran far, far harder than I expected I would. 1:19:14. 3rd in age group, 4th woman overall.
  6. McCarthy Park Trail Race (18k). Spent a lot of the race trying to figure out how far 18 kilometers actually was (spoiler: about 11 miles). It was cold and rainy. 1:39:46, which although a good deal faster than the 18k I ran in June (Blue Mounds, 1:55:24), was only good enough for 9/14 in my age group, or slightly more hideously, 28 of 35 overall. Oh well.

With the exception of my exciting finish at the Fall 15k, I haven’t been placing well (and annoyingly, the Fall 15k only did prizes for the top person in each AG rather than top 3). But my times have been good and my races have felt fairly strong.

I wanted to race five different distances this year. So far, I have raced one 5k, one 5 mile, two 10k, one 12k, one 15k, two 18k, one 20k, and four 13.1 mile races. This coming weekend, I am pacing a friend through about 18 miles of her 100 miler, and then the following weekend I’m doing a 28-ish mile trail race as the finale to my season. After that I may take it easy for a while.

Andre is totally over listening to the builders knock out drywall downstairs.
Andre is totally over listening to the builders knock out drywall downstairs.

Returning My Books

Today I woke up and I knew it was the day: I was going to return my library books. This is important if you want to graduate, because if you don’t return stuff they hold up your diploma.

At first, I thought I was going to put them in my backpack and bike down to campus to return them. But when I stacked them up:

I hope I got them all.
I hope I got them all.

Scratch that idea. Oh well. I put them in a box, drove to the library after aikido class, parked illegally, and hustled them over to the book drop.

Such books. So box.
Such books. So box.

Then I silently bid them farewell.

Returning my library books means a lot of things. It means that I will be able to receive my diploma. Hopefully. If I got them all. It also means my academic career is basically over. Notice that I am not adding “for the time being,” as I have in conversation to myriad people. I have finished my MA and I am probably done.

I have mixed feelings about this.

It will be unsurprising to those who know me to hear me say that when I was in high school I wanted to get a PhD. There were probably a lot of reasons for this–I’m very ambitious but not especially interested in high power career paths; I knew that PhDs were associated with smart people and I’m smart; I went to a high school where that kind of academic achievement was relatively rare among alumni, so it would have proved how different I was (let’s face it–how superior) to my fellow students.[1]

Time wore on of course. I did an undergraduate degree and felt still interested in doing grad school, but first I went to Viet Nam for a year, came back, got a job, met a guy and fell in love, then left my job and moved in with him. At some point in there I did actually start grad school, but it wasn’t a PhD program–rather, it was an MLS[2], a professional degree designed to help me reinvent myself in a bad economy. Through a somewhat circuitous series of events, I wound up enrolled in another department, doing a second MA in Southeast Asian studies.

During this time period, I began to understand more clearly what was involved in a PhD. Unlike a BA, which you can basically get these days if you are capable of basic literacy-type tasks, a PhD requires an immense amount of reading and preparation, qualifying exams, and then basically writing a book. And the book has to be original work. It can’t be a collection of book reports or whatever. This isn’t a task where you can get someone to tell you if you have found the right answer. You are creating new knowledge; that is what people with PhDs do. In short, it’s a very stressful process.

In fact, I did some original research over the course of my MA, and that was hard.

The stress isn’t the only consideration, though when you are married it is certainly something you get to thinking about. I don’t even really need to prove how terrible the job market is for people with PhDs in the humanities–if you are curious, just go and look at any article the Chronicle of Higher Education has published in the last five years. In fact, if you have a desire to do things like: stay married, have kids, have spare time, be a novelist rather than a literary critic, have a stable income with health insurance, not be on food stamps, not have to move every few years, then you might find life as a professor quite trying.[3]

Ultimately, a combination of the above and other factors influenced me to decide that I wasn’t going to apply for a PhD. So there goes that.

It’s a weird moment. On the one hand, I know that missing out on four years of earnings and 401k contributions is not great financially, even though I didn’t take on any debt to pay for my schooling.[4] I know also that there would be no job waiting for me when I finished, and that it conflicts with some of my other life goals. And, one might argue (when talking to someone like me), given the way writers use any stupid excuse to avoid writing, consider that graduate school is really one big excuse for why I don’t have time to sit down and write another chapter of my novel.

In other words, if I want to write a novel, I should stop fucking around and do it. Now is the time.

On the flip side, though, giving up on a dream is never easy, is it? And let’s face it, PhD-holders are actually creating new knowledge through their research, which is really exciting. Getting to think about the topics they work on (in my case, philosophy and post-colonial literature and that sort of thing) is a lot of fun. Who wants to sit in an office and do technical writing when they can be thinking about philosophy?

Eventually, you have to weigh your options and make a decision about the kind of life you want to lead. What’s important to you? Stability, financial security, an exciting career, a family, having time for outside pursuits, ambition, a less stressful life, a happy marriage? Regardless of what you wrote in your “What I Want to Be When I Grow Up” paper at age 17, there isn’t a wrong answer here. Priorities can change. In fact, they should change–anyone who has the same priorities at 31 that she had at 17 is probably stupid.

I still miss my books though. I miss the excitement of learning a new language. I miss the thrill of putting little pieces of theory together and coming up with something neat. I don’t miss: the stress, the stress eating, the stress picking-fights-with-my-loved-ones, the stress crying-because-a-professor-was-mean, the sense of life-or-death about what I was doing,[5] the way academia provoked my workaholism to new extremes, the not having time for what few friends I managed to hang onto, not having time for entertainment outside of classes…

I won’t go on because I think I have made my point. I’m certainly not spending my time crying into my oatmeal about this, but neither am I resolved enough about it to bring this blog post to a happy conclusion of some kind. I am enjoying my extra time to do things like aikido, writing, home improvement projects, and triathlon training. I am also reading a lot of philosophy[6] and other books on my own, things I would never have had time for if I weren’t graduating, and I’m starting to think about teaching myself a new language. But I still miss being in classes, working in the library, researching new topics, even (to some extent) writing papers.

Being in academia sucks. Not being in academia also sucks.

The end.


[1] If you have been to high school and not harbored this feeling, well, I commend you but I think you’re lying to yourself.

[2] Technically my alma mater awards an MA (in library and information studies) rather than an MLS (which itself stands for Masters in Library Science and please don’t ask me why this is different). I only refer to the MLS here to make it clear I did two different masters degrees.

[3] Obviously the job prospects are contingent on the field. I know some PhDs who found tenure-track professorships after graduating and some who didn’t.

[4] In fact, I think I paid almost nothing in tuition for the last four years, but I worked my ass off at 2-3 jobs at a time to do so.

[5] I suppose this is true for several fields, but it seems especially bad in academia because students don’t get sick days. If you are sick, you still go to class because…you have to go to class. As an undergrad, I missed class the time I had the puking flu so bad I couldn’t stand up and walk farther than from my room to the bathroom. (As a grad I didn’t get sick.) But no one should be forced into an atmosphere where that kind of behavior is the norm. If you’re sick, you should be able to stay home.

[6] Because let’s not pretend that leaving school should ever be the end of learning. Especially at the MA level, I have the skills to continue doing advanced research on my own, although I can probably not ever publish because no one really cares what I have to say.

Em oi! #393: Domestic Dog Comics

The Great Sock Battle

Cul de sac problems

A few scenes that didn’t work exactly right on their own, so I thought I’d put them together. I have one more dog comic to do and then I’ll get back to drawing comics about philosophy and suchlike. And yes, Maya does actually stick her entire face into the snow and seem to be sniffing it. What is she smelling? I ask myself this constantly. What can she smell under there? 

We’ll file these under SF427.45 L86 2014, for Animal Culture–Pets–Dogs–Exercise and amusements.

Anyway, it’s the new year, and I have to admit that if another website I’ve had passing interactions with sends me a year-end summary, I’ll…delete it and be quite cross. (I mean, it’s an email, what can you do?) But to provide a few exciting(?) facts for you, my dear readers:

  1. This was the most popular comic of the last year.
  2. I ran 2,163.86 miles, biked 396.6 miles, and swam 291,425 yards (165.5 miles) last year. I missed my goal of 2,500 by just a bit, probably because of the whole plantar fasciitis thing.
  3. I ran nine different distances of race last year. The top times were: 24:40 (5k), 54:41 (5 mi), 50:25 (10k), 1:56:41 (20k), 2:00:07 (13.1 mi), 3:21:41 (20 mi), 4:08:43 (26.2 mi), 5:09:44 (50k). I placed in the top ten in five races, or in the top five in four!

That’s all my interesting things at the moment. Currently I have one race for the spring I’m actually signed up for (The Ice Age 50 mi/50k/half marathon [I’m doing the half marathon]), and two other races I’m pretty sure I’m going to do (the new duathlon and the Mad City 50k). My big goals are to hit 1:45:xx (or even 1:40!) for the half marathon and go sub-5 hours at the MC50k. And don’t get injured. Right.

The rest of my life is spent alternately searching for jobs and convincing myself that getting a job makes me an exploited tool of capitalism. So I guess actually I’m searching for jobs and alternately I’m reading and fomenting rebellion. Fun times. It has been cold here, but it turns out that I can run on the dreadmill and read at the same time, so I’ve been enjoying myself.

Race Report: Dances with Dirt

Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love(?) the Pain

So, begin at the beginning. Back in April I did a race called the Trailbreaker Marathon. While I was there I met this woman named Shannon who is a super-dedicated runner who loves to race. We hit it off, and she suggested we get the band back together for a trail race up in Merrimac, WI (about 55 minutes from here) called Dances with Dirt. After some discussion, we decided to do the marathon, and I thought no more about it for a while.

During May and June it rained most of the time, so I did only a few short trail run. This was probably, in retrospect, an error. But I’ve done a lot of trail races as a tourist–someone who runs trails infrequently.

Packet Pickup. Photo by Shannon.
Packet Pickup. Photo by Shannon.

Friday the 12th of July. I headed up to Devil’s Head Resort. Shannon and I ate a large quantity of pasta and picked up our race packets. Another friend of hers (Ruth) had come up from the Milwaukee area to do the 50k, so we all had a very early night. I unfortunately passed on the opportunity to sing karaoke to a bar full of intoxicated golfers. Next time. . .

The next morning, alarms were going off at various times. I tried resolutely to ignore them all, and I think I caught a few minutes of sleep between whenever Ruth’s went off (4:ohmygod) and mine (the much more sensible 5:35). I got dressed and put in my contacts. Then I decided something was wrong with my left lens and took it out briefly. Then I thought everything was fine.

Because checkout was 11:00, we would have to run a 4:30 or better to be back to the room by then. Since the course included about 3700 feet of elevation gain, we decided to err on the side of things taking a long time and packed all our belongings to put in our cars before the race. Then we had to jog to the starting line. (Call it a warm up.)

Just before the gun, when the announcer was saying “Thirty seconds until we start,” I noticed that my left contact was twisted. I have a pretty bad astigmatism in my left eye and need to wear special contacts for it. They’re called “toric lenses.” Anyway, when you wear this type of lens, if the lens is not properly oriented on your eye, things can look blurry. The clear vision in your other eye can compensate somewhat, but you still have a weird feeling of seeing…not quite double, but not quite single either. I tried quickly to fix the lens, but I didn’t have time (or clean enough hands) to take it out and inspect it. In retrospect, I should have MADE the time.
Hindsight is pretty much the only thing I have 20/20 vision on.

At the gun we charged off. The first half mile of the course was nice—flat, occasionally paved, and the weather was gorgeous. Then we hit the first hill.

I’ve mentioned before (I think) that I’m not a huge single track person, and this is why: As soon as we hit the hill, we started walking. The person in front of me (a guy in a green shirt and VFFs) controlled when I started jogging and stopped again, and he was in turn controlled by the person in front of him. In this configuration you can never feel rested from the breaks or ready to stop running because you’re not in charge of when you run or don’t run.
The hilly section didn’t last forever, though, and we settled down into some very runnable terrain, with the exception of a very rocky portion. I’ll get back to this later. At the time, I joked to Shannon that it was like running tires on a military obstacle course. There were some hills, but nothing seemed severe in light of what we had just traversed (everyone hiked that initial hill because it was steep).

The climb up to South Bluff. Photo by Shannon.
The climb up to South Bluff. Photo by Shannon.

Just after mile 10, we began a climb up a section of roughly paved cement steps. There was a tall rock to our left and a drop to the right. Occasionally we could see Devil’s Lake peeking through the trees on the drop side. After about two leg-killing miles of this, we reached the South Bluff aid station—possibly the most magnificent aid station I’ve visited. From there, we had a view of the lake and the entire valley. Hawks (or vultures, I couldn’t tell) circled above us. I felt a wave of vertigo and edged away from the cliff.

About three quarters(?) of the way up. That'd Devil's Lake behind us. Photo by Shannon.
About three quarters(?) of the way up. That’s Devil’s Lake behind us. Photo by Shannon.

On the way down the other side, Shannon said that every step of the last twelve miles had been worth it, just to see that view. I think about 80% of the steps were probably worthwhile.

The next part of the run, miles 13-17, were a very runnable bit of downhill single track. It was all firm dirt (with an occasional but not problematic mudhole). I celebrated by falling down. Actually I fell down three times between mile thirteen and mile fourteen. On the first fall, I bloodied my shin. The second and third falls just stung my pride, or so I thought. I think partly the problem was not seeing super clearly as I tried to make up time by flying down these narrow trails, and part of the problem was that as I become increasingly tired, I probably lift my feet less and less.

The view from the top. Photo by Shannon. Or actually by someone she handed her camera to. But her camera.
The view from the top. Photo by Shannon. Or actually by someone she handed her camera to. But her camera.

Eventually we emerged from the single track onto a flat grass prairie area. I heard and then saw two sandhill cranes flying over. Then I realized we were going to have to go up the hill we’d just come down again. Only first we were going to have to run across the grassland to a turnaround (mile 16-ish) and back. Fun.

After the turnaround, Shannon started putting on the gas. I suddenly realized that my right hip—which had taken the brunt of the third fall—was hurting, and I couldn’t keep up with her. Eventually she said she was going to push the pace to see if she could get back to the hotel in time for a shower, and I let her go. It was not going to be a day for breaking speed records.

This would be the point where I realized that I don’t hate singletrack nearly as much as I hate two-way singletrack.

The hill really stood out over the grassy area; I could see it rising up on the horizon well before I reached it. Shannon was gone by this point, leaving me to hike back up the hill using a ten/ten pattern I made up: jog for ten steps (counting each step when your left foot hits, so really twenty step), then walk for ten steps (counted the same way). Eventually I got to what I thought was the top…only to find that it kept going. That hill was basically miles 17-20. I thought about Napoleon invading Russia. I thought about the Bataan Death March. I thought about how much it would suck to fall down again (I was running over big chunks of rock or shale at this point). I noticed that going down hills was becoming increasingly painful; something had gone wrong with my left knee. That was weird.

Then, a bit past the top, I fell down again.

I got up and cried a little. I was rude to some passers-by. And then. . .I kept going, shambling along at a steady run-walk. I think I was hitting about 12 min/mi, a bit faster on the flats. I had ten kilometers left to go. Any idiot, I told myself, can run a 10k.

I was back at the first major aid station (major means they have food). It marked the 20.5 mile point. I grabbed half a boiled potato, dipped it in salt, and scarfed it down. I would have had more, but I didn’t want to overload my stomach and cause myself even more grief. I dumped a cup of water over my head too, because it was getting hot out.
The last few miles of the course were the same as the first few miles, except backward. So remember that really rocky section I mentioned earlier? At full health I could probably have done that at a goodly clip, but this time I was reduced to hiking. A few people passed me, not many, and I watched the clock tick toward five hours, then past. I was pretty sure I was going to be the last one finished. How embarrassing.

I rolled in the mud. Photo by Shannon.
I rolled in the mud. Photo by Shannon.

At one point, a guy came up behind me. He crashed along for a while, slowing down when I had to slow down on the downhill. He said, “Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.” Then he passed me. A few feet later he fell ass over teakettle.

He got up, laughed, and said it was the first time he’d fallen all day. Luckily he left before I could hit him.
At just about 26 miles, which is to say .2 miles from the end, I emerged from the woods onto a paved bike path. It looked flat, so I decided to make a concerted effort to hustle for the finish line and at least cross it looking strong. The bike path turned suddenly into a gravel road that went up a hill, and then halfway up it turned right into a thicket of bushes. I started into the bushes, pushing myself down the hill there, and suddenly I was airborne again.

I sort of rolled over in the dirt and cried. I was never doing any trail races ever again. I was never doing any marathons again. Obviously my ACL and my meniscus were probably torn or shattered. Nothing would ever be good again.
Then I realized that the 50 milers and 50k runners who were still behind me were going to find me lying in the dirt, and I had to go another hundred feet to finish. So I got up. I staggered, bloody and covered in mud, across the finish line in 5:18:42.4.

One woman, an older lady, looked at me as I shambled up and said, in the kindest possible voice, “Would you like some ice cold water?”

YES, I would. I asked about a first aid tent. But before I could hustle off, a woman with a clipboard asked my age group and told me I’d got fourth place.

I won a pint glass.

I won 4th place! First place was a bucket.
I won 4th place! First place was a bucket.

Fourth place! I’ve never placed at the marathon distance before. I felt perplexed, and somewhat better than I’d been feeling a few minutes before. I hazarded that if my knee survived, I would probably run again (a good thing, since I’m already signed up for The Baltimore Marathon).

The paramedics working the first aid tent sat me down on a cot. They carefully washed my legs off and diagnosed me with road rash. I got a big bandaid and some antibiotic ointment on the big gash on my shin and something called “chigger cream” on my other scrapes. The chigger cream had lidocaine in it, so soon I was able to hobble back to my car, free from the obnoxious grating in my knee. I still had enough water left to wash off my hands. Then, like Tricia McMillian, I finally fixed my contact lens.

I turned on the AC and played rock music at an unjustifiable volume all the way home. By the time I arrived, I’d recovered my humor. Also, Bryan was making brownies. He didn’t know they were post-marathon-for-Em brownies (he thought they were for some friends who were coming over). They were delicious.

A post-script on my knee: After our friends left and Bryan went to rehearsal, I looked up the symptoms of ACL tear (key words: knee instability, pain so bad you want to puke) and meniscus problems (key words: knee freezes or locks up) and realized I had neither of those problems. When Bryan came home, we determined that the problem was in fact my SI joint had got stuck. I probably jammed it when I fell the third time (a fall that left a lovely constellation of bruises on my right thigh). We unstuck it and my knee was back to normal the next day.

Finish: 5:18:42.4, 4th in my age group, 9th woman overall. 43rd overall in the race. What I didn’t realize—the fastest time was only 4:09. Compare to other recent, local marathons: Grandma’s was won in 2:11, Lakefront 2012 was 2:27, Green Bay was 2:18. This is the difference that 3,000+ feet of climb over rough terrain makes: about two hours.

My hair ALONE is worth a medal.
My hair ALONE is worth a medal.

Em oi! #376: นักแปล [nakplae, the translator]

I have the skills to...get bug spray for Andy and Sara's room. Possibly.

Another sketch from our trip to Thailand. This actually happened at a down-at-its-heels hotel in Chiang Mai. Eventually Andy and Sara got to move to a slightly better room…but they didn’t manage to get one with a double bed. At the time, I complained that we had landed in the Chiang Mai version of Pham Ngu Lao, a street in Ho Chi Minh City known for cheap/seedy backpacker hotels. I think, having looked at a lot of other hotel reviews, that most places in Chiang Mai are like that. It wasn’t a bad hotel, exactly…well, it was. But it was clearly a nice hotel about ten or fifteen years ago when it was built. And then nothing was updated again.

My nemesis
My nemesis

There was a fiendish device on the bedside table. You can see it in this photo to the right (and now you all know the name of the hotel, oops.). You push a button and the lights turn on or off. Somehow we managed to push the buttons so that around about five o’clock in the morning, the lights started to turn on and off by themselves. You can imagine, given how jet lagged I was, how well that went over. I thought the place was haunted. I guess this was state-of-the-art in like…1980.

I’m maybe a bit bitter because the room smelled like smoke. But later on that day, after our freaky awakening, B got sick and basically slept in the room for 12 hours. I figured at least the sheets were clean and the AC worked.

A few trial sketches of Andy.
A few trial sketches of Andy.

These are my preliminary sketches of Andy, done to prep for this comic and Em oi! #374. I guess he’s lost a fair amount of weight since he got back to Texas, so these are not entirely accurate.

Today we went to see Oz the Great and Powerful, Sam Raimi’s prequel to The Wizard of Oz. I found that in the years since I first saw the original, the details of the land of Oz have gotten tangled up in my head with other fantasy places, like Wonderland, Middle Earth, and Australia. There were some details that struck me as kind of bizarre–why would you have a field of poppies that can cause everlasting sleep right next to the Emerald City? Isn’t that a liability case waiting to happen? The witches were also interesting, although I was sad that they went with the old trope of “dark hair bad, blond-y good-y.” Glinda the good witch, played by Michelle Williams, reminded me of Galadriel (blond hair, long white gown, kind of ethereal expression). Then I remembered that amazing scene where Galadriel almost takes the ring, but doesn’t. Wow, she’s a really interesting character in that scene. Too bad Glinda was just blandly kind. Of course it is nice to have one character who is kind, but… Also I am not sure how I feel about the turning-green-as-externalization-of-internalized-self-loathing? And of course no one can out-evil Margaret Hamilton.

There was a lot about families in it though, and a kind of magical scene where Oz (played by James Franco) glues a little china doll’s legs back on. I maybe got a little verklempt.

Now that I think about it, maybe Glinda was a bit more manipulative in the first film, since she doesn’t tell Dorothy how to use the slippers to get home until the very end of the book…

Today I got up and ran 18 miles (well, 18.25). It was an interesting run. I was up in the night with indigestion (from 2:30-4 am) and only got out of bed around 8:30, an hour later than my alarm was set for. Actually, at 8:15, Bryan rolled over and said, “Why are you still here?” I took some drugs and set out, going easy, waiting to see if anything bad would happen…but nothing did. I got tired, since I did the whole run on only 190 calories (two gels, one 90 cal, one 100 cal) plus the glycogen stored from yesterday’s overeating (the thing that caused me so much trouble). Anyway, I mostly shuffled along at 10:30-10:40 minutes/mile, more than a minute slower than my planned race pace. Toward the end, I tried to pick things up and ran a 9:54, but then my stomach started to ache and said, “Don’t ever do that again,” so I finished slow. (I wasn’t going to call B to pick me up with two miles to go.) At least I finished.

This is wandering, probably because of my weird interrupted sleep. I’d better bring things to a stopping point.

This comic will be filed under P306.94 .L86 2013, for Philology. Linguistics—Language. Linguistic theory. Comparative grammar—Translating and interpreting—Translating services. In case you were curious, if you search for the heading “translation,” all you get is class numbers related to specific translations–translating the bible, translating Emile Zola into English, etc. The correct subject heading for translation as the subject of a work is “translating and interpreting.” I had to look it up.

Milwaukee Marathon

Hey guys, I ran a marathon! And I went sub-4 (in the most dramatic style, 3:59:59). This past Sunday, October 7th, I got to join about 3100 other runners in the 32nd annual Lakefront Marathon in Milwaukee. This was my third marathon (though my fifth race of 26.2 miles or more). But it almost didn’t happen. Take a look at this chart showing my running distances for the year.

As you can see, in June and July, my mileage fell dramatically as I pulled up lame with (what I was told was) a strained (“torn”) quad. By the time I was getting back on my feet (early August), I had only about ten weeks to train (including taper). My PT suggested that I should consider doing a half instead of a full; a suggestion I immediately discounted because: 1. He’s not a runner and doesn’t really understand what is required to train for a half versus a full (to be honest, I’m not sure he believed me when I told him how much I ran), and 2. I was already signed up for Lakefront.

Mid-August, I sat down and made up a training plan. Essentially, I run five days per week: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. I planned to run my normal mileage on Tuesday-Thursday (generally eight to eleven miles per day depending on whether B wants to run or not, including a speed workout on Thursday) and then to increase my Saturday long run, ultimately to a distance of eighteen miles, and do a shorter long run of ten to twelve miles on Sunday. This is essentially what I did (though I topped out at twenty instead of eighteen). I also ran a test half marathon at the end of August when I was in Salt Lake City, and I came in at 1:59:26. According to the McMillan Running predictor, this suggests a marathon time of 4:11:21. But do keep in mind I was running at altitude, which can slow you down by about fifteen seconds per mile (I got this figure from my brother; no idea if it’s true or not, but I’ll pretend because then it sounds impressive to have broken two hours).

Photo via Brightroom Photography.

Before my injury, I was attending weekly track workouts. Of course, that had to stop, and once I was back to running, I started to worry that the workouts had caused or aggravated my injury, so I decided to hold off on returning until after the race. Instead, I did speedwork on my own on Thursday mornings.

I have two main routines I do:

1. Lupton 800s. These are my version of Yasso 800s, a workout typically done on a track that involves an 800 at speed x, then a cool-down for time (so if you run the 800 in 3:30, you get 3:30 to recover). Doing 10×800 is often felt to be useful in predicting marathon times-for example, if your average speed for the set was 3:30 per 800, you could probably expect to run your marathon in 3:30:00. My variations are based around not having a track readily accessible near my home, so I run my 800s on a mile-long, flattish stretch of road near my house. My cool-down, instead of being time-based, is distance-based–the other half of the 800 to get back to the “starting line” at the beginning of the mile stretch. I started with a set of seven and worked up to ten, slowly dropping the time I was aiming for. In the end, I was averaging about 3:54.

2. Dual Pace Runs. I read about this in one of the endless newsletters Active.com sends me, and it turned out to be pretty fun. Warm up for a  mile at whatever pace you fancy (I usually do about a 10:50-11:30, because I’m running with the dog). Then alternate between your half marathon pace and your marathon pace, doing half a mile of each for eight miles. Then cool down for a mile. So since my half pace was about 8:50 and my MP about 9:10, I’d run half a mile at 8:50, then slow down and do half a mile at 9:10. I like this workout because the distance is short enough that it doesn’t feel overwhelming. This is also the longest workout I can do before leaving for work.

The Week Before

I posted midway through last week that I was feeling less crazy than I usually do during my taper. This proved true until about Thursday, when stress and other worries combined to turn me into a pacing, bread devouring fiend. Well, maybe it wasn’t that bad. Anyway, the real issue started on Friday, when I woke up with a scratchy throat. I thought perhaps I had just been shouting too much during play practice, but on Saturday the feeling persisted. In addition, on Saturday for some reason I was achy. I don’t think I overdid it on Friday–my exercise level was normal or even reduced for me. This was troubling.

By Sunday morning my throat didn’t just feel scratchy, but had worked its way to painful and swollen. As I hauled my body out of bed at 5:30, I offered it a deal: Get through to noon in one piece, and I’ll give you a long nap and some time off next week. I dressed in the silent house (we were staying at my in-laws) and grabbed a breakfast of two slices of toast with PB and bananas. Then I sat down and tried unsuccessfully to concentrate on my reading until it was time to go. Of course, we left a few minutes late, because that’s the kind of people we are, and then the highway between West Bend and Grafton was detoured and, and, and. B left me near the starting line with about 20 minutes to go (because of how drop off and pickup worked, we didn’t get any pre- or post-race photos, sadly). I immediately went into Grafton High School (i.e., the starting line) and started hunting for a bathroom with a line shorter than ten people. No luck, but I did manage to get through and get out to the actual starting line just as they started playing the Star Spangled Banner. It was an impressively bad rendition, and I spent most of it trying to get my watch to connect to the satellites.

And then we were off! I had originally planned to run at a relatively slow pace–maybe 9:30s–until mile five, then pick it up and go 9:00-9:10 to mile twenty, and finally drop the hammer and see if I could do some 8:50s in the last 10k. But on race day, I started out pretty fast, and wound up staying at about the same tempo overall for the whole race. I had also planned to take a gel every seven miles. I stuck to this plan, had no stomach pains, and felt great. It was nice to pass people at mile twenty instead of bonk and spend two or three miles walking tearfully and in pain. I did have to make two pit stops. At some point, my watch got out of sync with the mile markers on the course, so I hit 26.2 right at the 26 mile marker. At that point, my watch said I had about two minutes to get to the finish line under four hours, so I took off as fast as I could. Final time: 3:59:59, good enough for 41st in my age group. Very dramatic too. My sore throat had cleared up a little ways into the run, or the endorphins hit and I didn’t notice it anymore. I did nap for a couple of hours in the afternoon, and the cold hit me for real on Tuesday night. Now I’m feeling much better. What worked:

  • The speed work. If I’d done more intense sprints, I would have been faster, but for ten weeks I’m pretty satisfied.
  • Nutrition plan. Three (decaf) gels and water at every aid station.
  • The last-minute decision to adapt my pacing plan to how I was feeling.
  • My shoes (Brooks PureGrit) were great and supportive and my socks (Balega) did not give me blister problems. Hurrah.

What could have worked better:

  • Clothes. I dithered about this and eventually went with shorts and a long-sleeved shirt because of the cold. My legs were fine, but my hands were quite chilly at times, especially when we were hit by a headwind off the lake during the last three miles.
  • Pre-race eating. I managed to go into the race a bit heavier than my normal racing weight, and also I ate a huge meal the night before and had to make two pit-stops. Should have taken a loperamide, I guess.
  • Due to a misunderstanding, B met me at the art museum instead of at the finish line, so somehow wound up walking down four flights of stairs to get to where his car was. I would have preferred not to do that.
  • The taper was relatively successful, I’ll admit. I wish I’d toned it down toward the end of week two and taken Friday completely off as well.
Photo via Brightroom Photography.

That’s really about it. I’m quite satisfied with how it all went. The course was great, downhill (and with a tailwind most of the way), and the crowds were enthusiastic. I saw a couple of signs that said “Run, random stranger, run!” and one that said, “Go Emily!” While I was clearly not their Emily, they still held it up and cheered as I went past. Best of all, near mile 18, someone had set up a “Paul Ryan Finish Line.” The last time I ran a marathon, Obama was running for his first term and there were people in the crowd holding signs reading, “You can DO it.” (That marathon was in DC.) It was nice to see something along the same vein here, though with a more Wisconsin-appropriate twist.

Now that I’ve done a couple of 50ks, it’s easy to forget how big a deal running a marathon is for almost everyone. I’ll admit it, this was kind of a big deal for me too.

Em oi! #365: Our Class Trip to the Market

This all happened at a place called “Việt Hoa Market.” To judge from the characters on the sign (as is not uncommon for Asian shops in the US generally, the sign is written in both Chinese and Vietnamese/English), the name means “Beautiful Vietnamese Market.” The Việt used is 越, meaning of course the country of Việt Nam. The hoa used is 華, meaning đẹp tốt (beautiful). Of course, why the market is called this in the first place is a bit confusing, since my Ajaan (professor) thought that the owners are Chinese…

Interestingly, the dipthong “-oa” is not one used in Thai (the Thai dipthongs are, I think, -ua, –ua, and -ia). This means that when my Thai professors pronounce the store name, they say “Viet Hua.” I guess -ie is close enough to -ia that it makes sense to their ears, but -oa is not? Of course the ODDEST part of the whole experience (beyond watching, you know, the purchase of blood) was finding myself pronouncing the store name “Viet Hua” DESPITE THE FACT that I speak Vietnamese and KNOW how it should be pronounced!

By the way, if you are wondering how I came up with the Chinese characters/Vietnamese pronunciation (i.e., chữ nôm), you must check out Cao Dai Tu Dien. It has never been entirely clear to me why the Cao Dai are maintaining a dictionary like this, but when you know a little Vietnamese and a little Chinese and want to put the two together, it is invaluable.

I’ll file this comic under: GN450.2 L86 2012, for Anthropology—Ethnology. Social and cultural anthropology—Cultural traits, customs, and institutions—Economic organization. Economic anthropology—Distribution of goods and services—Commerce and trade—Markets.

If you were curious, the blood looked almost exactly like I have drawn it: rectangles of a dark brown-red color suspended in a water-like liquid (possibly water). I have no idea what it was treated with to make it do that.

Em oi! #362: ชีวิตประจำวัน (Daily life)

Translation by panel, with a few corrections and notes:

Panel 1/2: ฉันตื่นนอนที่๖โมงเช้า แต่ไม่ลุกจากเตียงก่อน6:05
I wake up at 6:00 in the morning, but I don’t get out of bed before 6:05.

Panel 3: ฉันไปห้องน้ำฒเพื่อ ล้างหน้า แปรงฟัง และแต่งตัว
(Original said: …แปรงฟัง ล้างหน้า…)
I go into the bathroom to wash my face, brush my teeth, and get dressed.

Panel 4:: ฉันต้องเดินเงียบๆ เพราะสามียังไม่ตื่นนอน
I must walk quietly because my husband is not yet awake.

Panel 5:: ฉันกับหมาไปเดินรอบๆบ้านและบริเวณใกล้ๆ (6:15)
The dog and I go for a walk around the house and the nearby neighborhood.

Arrow pointing at dog: ไมยะ

Panel 6: พอเดินเสร็จฉันทำกาแฟ บางที่ฉันทำอาหารเช้าด้วย
As soon as the walk is finished, I make coffee. Sometimes I also make breakfast.

Panel 7: 7:05 ฉันออกจากบ้านไปมหาวิทยาลัย ฉันชอบขี่รถจักกรยานมากกว่าขบขับรถ
7:05 I leave the house to go to the university. I like riding my bike much more than I like driving.

Panel 8: ประมาณ๔ชั่วโมง(ตั้งแต่ 8 โมงเช้าถึงเที่ยง) ฉันเรียนภาษาไทย
For about four hours (from 8:00am to noon) I study Thai.

(Those are my classmates. I won’t embarrass them by naming their names. They are nice people and very tolerant. Also they come to class looking very put-together, whereas I come to class looking like I have been dragged backwards through a bush. Biking is excellent for the posterior but not great for the exterior, if you catch my meaning. But even if I were driving, I probably wouldn’t look fantastic when I arrived. I guess I figure I am wearing trousers and a shirt that is clean (or was when I left the house). What more do you really want from me?)

Panel 9: เรียนเสร็จแล้วฉันก็ไปกินอาหารเที่ยงและทำงานที่ห้องสมุดเมโมเรียล
When class is finished, I eat lunch and go to work at Memorial Library.

In panel (top): ฉันไปหาที่OCLCเพื่อสืบค้นทะเบียนของหนังสือ
I look on OCLC to find records for books.

Arrow pointing to books: หนังสือเป็นภาษาฮิบรู
Books in Hebrew

On books: ספר של המת
Book of the dead

Panel 10: ฉันกลับบ้านราวๆบ่าย๓หรือ๔โมง แล้วฉันก็ไปวิ่งหรือไปยิมออกกำลังกายกับสามี
I get home around 3-4:00pm, then I go for a run or work out at the gym with my husband.

(This is kind of a lie because I haven’t been running in several days due to an SI joint problem. Instead, I have been swimming. Win? I have swum more than 10 miles since Friday. I keep trying to find a way to deal with this gracefully, but I’ve started to realize I usually deal with adversity by punching it in the face, so kind of a no-go. Still, someday maybe I will be a cool and calm individual who can cope with adversity without, you know, freaking out.


Panel 11: หลังจากกลับบ้านฉันอาบน้ำ ฉันและสามีทำอาหารหรือโทรศัพท์ไปสั่งอาหารร้านอาหาร Curry in the Box ขอให้พวกเขาเอาอาหารไทยมาส่งที่บ้าน (ราวๆ๔โมงเย็นหรือ๑ทุ่ม)
After we get home I shower. My husband and I cook food or call to order food from the restaurant Curry in the Box and ask that they deliver it to our house (around 6-7:00pm).

Panel 12: กินอาหารเย็นแล้วฉันก็ทำการบ้าน ฉันไปนอนราวๆ๔ทุ่ม
After eating dinner I do my homework. I go to bed around 10:00pm.

In panel: ความฝันของฉันเป็นภาษาไทย
My dreams are in Thai.

So there you have it. This was my midterm for 5th semester Thai. I believe we were supposed to be demonstrating our use of relational time words (like “and then,” “as soon as,” “after that,” and so on). I don’t know if I really demonstrated that, but I did do a drawing big enough to distract everyone from the problems with my Thai.

File this one under PS3612.U686Z46 2012 for American literature—Individual authors—2001-—L—Biography and Criticism—Autobiography, journals, memoirs. By date.

This took a long time to color. That is why I am late posting it. Next week: Less Thai.