Wednesday, April 30, 2008


How pathetic is it, that while sitting in lab and doing experiments, I am reading this and thinking "Aw man, that sounds awesome!" Of course, I also really like the "DNA Explorer" kit from Discovery Channel store. I can no longer find it, but it was awesome (and had the centrifuge that the author says is sadly absent from most chemistry kits) and... man. If I had a relatively young cousin, I would want to get them nerdy toys. And I mean really nerdy toys.

Also, if I ever have a basement or a garage, I need to have a mini-lab there. Perhaps for recreational chemistry as I become more of a biologist. (The term "recreational chemistry" makes me smile).

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Space Bus!

I have an honors thesis due tomorrow, so obviously I am writing fiction. Hah. As promised, the space bus story. This is a draft, and I have a second part semi-envisioned, but I like vague endings at the moment, so I'm thinking of leaving it roughly as is. I thought of trying to make this reminiscent of Ayn's drabbles; but there's a bit too much here to be a true drabble (100 words) and I am rather... prolix (?) in my writing. Or at least verbose.

So, exactly 300 words, because I wanted it to be very short, and I am arbitrary:


Honk! Jeremy’s eyes snapped open. What was a car doing out here? He was the only one who ever came here; that was its only temptation. He turned and saw, even more surprisingly, a bus, shimmering with fine dust. How had he not heard the approach of a bus?

Honk! The driver was waving at him. Jeremy stood up and approached. The door was already open; the bus inside comfortable and almost full. “Where are you going?” Jeremy asked.

“Wonderful places,” the driver said.

Jeremy looked behind him at the cesspool of a lake and the poor excuse for a boathouse. His Toyota sat in the driveway, kneeling with a flat tire. He shrugged, stepped aboard. Almost anything would be better than here.

The doors snapped shut behind him. “How much?” he asked the driver.

“I don’t want your money,” the driver answered, and the bus lurched forward, catapulting Jeremy down the aisle. He quickly made his way to an open seat next to a young woman. He smiled at her, but she didn’t look up.

The bus creaked forward, over dirt roads, making its way through the forest and finally out into a pristine clearing. A lake sparkled, clear blue in the setting sun. There was a little cottage right on the water with floor-to-ceiling windows, and a dock with a canoe and a row-boat and fishing poles already set out next to a pair of blue Adirondack chairs. Jeremy was in awe – wonderful, indeed, he thought. He stood to get out, but the woman beside him grabbed his arm with a surprisingly firm grip. The driver hacked a bit and climbed out of the bus. Before Jeremy could follow him, someone else was in the driver’s seat, the door was closed, and the bus drove away.

Monday, April 28, 2008

I'm going to Galapagos!

In September. Just before moving to Palo Alto! I am super excited. It will be an adventure in biodiversity and evolution!

And perhaps sea kayaking, too.

I will try my best to take lots of pictures of funny animals, none of which include me!

Or maybe I'll be all old-school field biologist and write detailed descriptions and include sketches. I would do that if I could sketch.

Also, I am about 25% done writing the "Imagination Train to the Space Bus" story. (That thing really needs a better title, especially since it does not feature a train.) My problem: It's turning out almost... serious, and not very funny! (Gasp, Elizabeth writing something that is neither academic nor meaningless fluff? What is the world coming to?) My goal: It will be the next post, sometime this week.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I can has Gymnastics?


Maybe not.

But last night I was doing front handsprings and (almost) front + back walkovers, and front flips on the trampoline. And one-armed handstands. And probably a few to many pull-ups because I have silks today. But I almost have my left split back, which is absolutely mind-boggling.
I have found that my diving hurdle is still way, way more comfortable on trampoline than the gymnastics hurdle or the multiple-bouncing approach. And so after three front-flips in a row that were very diver-esque, one of the new kids (Joe, I think his name is, first year + very good gymnast, on the diving team coincidentally) says, "You should really dive."

I tell him that I would if it didn't give me migraines and possibly fainting spells.

He says "You should really dive anyway."

I laugh and say that he might think differently after a month straight of migraine headaches.

Then we trade diving injury stories. He doesn't have many, but there are a few stories the team has accrued; one girl repeatedly smacking her chest so hard she coughs blood, another guy putting his knee through his face on a reverse 1 1/2, etcetera. He says that he's smacked so many times on one-meter he's sure he can't get hurt on that board anymore, I tell him the whole concussion story: namely, thinking that about three-meter, and diving until I couldn't walk in a straight line because of it, and his eyes sort of bug out.

They talk about the circus club, and ask why they never have any tumblers or acrobats. I say it's because the circus club is full of jugglers who aren't interested, and if any of them want to start tumbling with circus, well, they should. They say "But there was that girl who did aerial stuff!" I say she graduated, and I'm doing aerial stuff now for the fun of it, but not performing with the circus.

It was a night of interpretation -- hearing stories that I had lived recounted to me in a very different way.

Things like that yield... perspective. When Joe told me I should really dive, I laughed; it reminded me at once of the joy that sport gave me and the fact that it's not a part of my life anymore, that events conspired and I chose to go in a different direction. And when we bonded over diving stories, it reminded me that I can still have that part of my life, but in a different way than I used to.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

My important experiments are stubbornly working and my unimportant ones stubbornly not working, so I find myself with nothing to do in the middle of the afternoon. Hence, reading random news articles. I found this one, which struck a chord:

In Politics, the Gaffe Goes Viral

I did note, first of all, that the idea of a journalist writing a rather incendiary article about how journalists now are out of touch with important issues and seem to be fishing for controversy is, well, rather postmodern to be honest. In a wonderful sort of way, if you ask me.

But what I found more important about the article, and more striking, is the difference in the level of constant surveillance candidates have to put up with today versus even eight years ago. (The difference, this reporter claims, is the blogging revolution: I know I had a blog eight years ago, but that was when I was a whiny teenager and blogs were for whiny teenagers).

He brings up something that I had not heard of, and was frankly appalled to read. It's an interview with George W. Bush in 1999, and here's what he says about it:

"Recall Tucker Carlson’s profile of another candidate, George W. Bush, in Talk magazine in 1999. In it, Mr. Bush gave a profane, intemperate interview in which he said, “I’m not interested in process,” and mocked Karla Faye Tucker, a convicted murderer who sought mercy from him as governor of Texas before she was executed in 1998. “Please don’t kill me,” he whimpered in mimicking her."

Okay. Now, I'm trying, honestly I am, to put all my preconceived notions about our President aside. I'm honestly trying. But it's really, really, really hard for me to think of this act as anything other than sadistic. He's governor, she's a convicted murderer, strapped to the chair; she has no power and he has every power over her fate. I'm not saying he should have pardoned her; I don't know the specifics of the case. But his democratic rival for governor of Texas brought up an interesting point:

"George W. Bush knew that he was not going to reprieve Karla Faye Tucker. He could have told her that the day before," Mauro explained. "He could have told her a week before. But he waited until the six o'clock prime time news, knowing she was strapped to a gurney still having hope about her life, and he grandstanded on her."

And, notwithstanding that, he actually mocked her plea for life in front of a reporter. I don't care if someone is a murderer, I don't care if you have to kill them for the good of humanity or to serve as a lesson for those who are thinking of committing certain crimes, I don't care if they honestly deserve death. Fine, we can have a discussion about the death penalty, and I might disagree with your specific beliefs, and I might not vote for you if you run for office, but believing any of those things or letting someone be executed because of any of those things is a morally gray decision, one that neither makes you good nor bad. However, mocking anyone's plea for life, whether that person is an innocent child or a serial killer, shows a lack of human sympathy that I simply cannot fathom. When someone says "Please don't kill me," and you let them be killed, even if you've done the right thing, it shouldn't be something to laugh about, to joke about, or to mock. Because if you laugh at that, and mock it, you're mocking and laughing at the idea of mercy, and repentance, and compassion for your fellow man, and, well, in my heretic's eyes there isn't much more holy than compassion and repentance and mercy.

Er. Well. Back to the point. George W. Bush mocked a woman on death row's plea for mercy in an official interview, and it wasn't picked up by the national media. There was no backlash. It wasn't the sort of thing that everyone knew. It didn't stop him from being elected, or, well, appointed, President in 2000. I cannot believe that the majority of people, no matter how conservative they were, would look at such a display of sadistic humor in an elected official with tolerance. I certainly hope they wouldn't.

Take, on the other hand, Obama. He calls a certain group of people bitter in a small fund raising dinner that most people thought was off-the-record. While I admit it was a stupid political move, and that I would not like to be called bitter by a candidate for president, and while he certainly alienated that group of people, well, two things strike me as odd. First off is the thought that, well, Obama is right. Those people are bitter. But they have every reason to be bitter. Every year, their paychecks gets smaller and their mortgages get larger, their kids are being shot in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the elected leaders who say that they are looking out for them seem, at best, so out of touch that they fail to offer any help whatsoever to the worsening situation. That's a good reason (several good reasons, in fact) to be bitter. More importantly, however, is that this, off-the-record comment to explain that a certain group of people has been shafted by the current administration and is understandably bitter, and so finds Obama's message of hope and unity hard to swallow, has been picked up by the national media and turned into a controversy. Obama is now an elitist pig, completely out of touch with poor rural voters, and disdainful of them. Versus Bush's comment, in an official interview, which is laughingly, disgustingly, sadistic, had no such ripples.

On the one hand, I want a press that will pick up a comment like Bush's and hound him about it until everyone knows that the speaker has, apparently, psychopathic tendencies. On the other hand, I don't want a comment like Obama's to be turned into a needless controversy. Is my own bias showing here, in that I think Obama will be a great president and Bush was a horrible one? Yes. But I hope there's more than that to my gut reaction. After all, there's a significant difference between accurately labeling one group of people as bitter and mocking a dead woman's plea for mercy.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Wasting Time

Back on to one of my obsessions, which is J. Craig Venter causing the Apocalypse: (metaphorically speaking, of course).

A clever idea for a story.

There's a bit of mumbo-jumbo that I don't like (for example, needing to tack on a few arbitrary base pairs from "something that had lived" to give it the "spark" necessary makes me bristle just a bit), but the concept is wonderful in its morbid hilarity. Well, the concept of "Saint" Venter, that is.

Monday, April 07, 2008

There's a little voice in the back of my head that's been screaming for the past week or so, that none of this can possibly be real -- that I'll wake up soon enough and be in high school for another year or so. I was going through my e-mail messages and deleting a bunch (and sorting out the rest) and I have to e-mail some of the people I had interviews with to tell them about my decision, and I need to find someone to do a rotation with, but none of that really needs to be done very soon (except for the first part about e-mailing people) and it all just feels like a dream. Like none of this could possibly be real; because part of me still feels like the uncertain sixteen year old asking Bill if I could work in his lab over the summer. Let me rephrase that. A lot of me (most of me?) still feels like the insecure sixteen year old asking Bill if I could work in his lab over the summer. And this whole polite assertiveness thing is incredibly difficult to pull off, and just about necessary.

And then there's the half of me that's saying "This isn't growing up; you're going to school for another five or six years and after that you're going to mess around in lab for a career? You want to be a scientist? What are you, five? Grow up and find a cubicle!" and the half of me that's saying "Holy shit this is for real and grown up and what the hell am I doing?"

And I know that the reality will be halfway in between (at least I think the reality will be halfway in between) and when I start feeling like there is no solidity left in my world, I remind myself of the present, and my current work, and the cloning that might be done, and the experiments to do, and that gives me some sense of perspective. Yeah, it's scary to think of things a career at a time, but thinking of things an experiment at a time is doable. It's comforting. I can handle an experiment.

And I might be done with cloning, which would be, maybe, the most miraculous thing of all.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

I was going to write today. Or find a cool Shakespeare quote.

Instead, I filed taxes and other forms for a good 2.5 hours.

Not a good trade-off!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Sad but true; I didn't get NSF. We all know why that is, it's because I have a lame adviser who cannot get things in a little bit late, he must wait until they are very very late and/or not turn them in at all. Julie told me to find someone better for my PhD.

In other news, I finally went back to silks practice last Thursday, and it was absolutely wonderful. My arms are finally done being sore, I was laughing the whole time, and it generally made me super happy and pumped to be back. It felt so good to do something physical again, for a change. And although I was absolutely horrible at it, they were really supportive and friendly about it too. So those are all great things.

I was going to post and try to fool all of you into thinking that I was going to drop out of graduate school and join the circus. And then be all "April fools!" or something. But I decided that was lame and so I'm not going to.

Instead, I'll say that I'm going to Stanford! It's exciting to have made that decision. I'm really pumped about it. I need to figure out where I'm going to live, and where I want to do my first rotation, but... I feel on top of things. Which is awesome.