Sunday, April 19, 2009

Inspired, interestingly enough, by the word "Crepuscular" (the world might be worth a whole story, but I don't have a main character, an antagonist, or a plot (yet?). On the other hand, it might be too similar to something I've already written.)
The clouds had been designed to reverse global warming. At first, everyone rejoiced as the temperature dropped, children running out in the rain after an oppressive summer day. The inventors of the miraculous technology were made Nobel Laureates – for peace, no less. I saw the old newspaper headlines: “The Climate Change Dragon Slain”; “Man Triumphs Over Nature.”

But the clouds kept growing.

Grandmother says there used to be hot, sunburnt summer days, when you had to shield yourself from the bright light, and golden sunsets as the sun gradually crept beneath the horizon. But now, everything is gray, and cold.
Started (and finished) Pride and Prejudice and Zombies this weekend; I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys Pride and Prejudice, Zombies, or both. The first line is undoubtedly my favorite:
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.
I think it's most people's favorite as well, because that is a truly wonderful first line.

Round one of the Genetics v. Biochemistry Olympiad was Friday (challenge: Trivial Pursuit). I am proud to report that even though the Biochemists had a ringer in the form of one Journalism student (notably not a Biochemist!) the Geneticists were victorious! It was as close as could be -- we won on the tie-breaker, by a single question. And some of the questions (in particular the one about Timbuktu) I should have known and didn't. Next year, we will be even better!

Round two (next Friday) is Rock Band; I have hopes, but not particularly high ones, since I have only ever played Rock Band with the Biochemists (and I am one of the worse players at said game). On the other hand, since there is no clear competitive mode, perhaps any victory or defeat will be debatable.

In other news, I have not yet killed the plants I planted (hooray!) and Rose Season has begun, this time in earnest -- in that twice a week (at least) I have to go out and cut roses from the bushes outside my apartment. I have a vase sitting full on the table and I am sure that by Wednesday I will have another vase's worth of roses and nowhere to put them (my apartment is rather small). I guess I shall bring some into lab, and give them to friends. I gave most of the ones I cut Saturday to my neighbors (their response to my cutting the roses: "Well at least someone cares about the landscaping!"), and then when I left the apartment today there were even more blooms than I had cut (in my defense, I cut almost a dozen and a half) looking about ready to be cut. Wow. On the upside: roses! On the downside: so many roses!

Also, I set up my first fly crosses this week! It was truly exciting. Hopefully they are very fecund, as insects tend to be. Have I mentioned that I feel like a real geneticist now that I'm doing fly genetics? Because I do. It's like... everything I was doing before was fake genetics; half molecular biology and half genetics. On the downside, there is not so much computer/statistical work to do in my current rotation, and it was one of the things that I have liked the best about my first two quarters. I'm not sure exactly how I could do computer stuff in my current rotation, but perhaps I'll find a way. And at least I have a class that demands programming every week. (Hooray for image processing!)

At silks class, someone came in to practice for a show; she was doing an aerial loop bungee act on roller skates. As in, she was on roller skates, climbing and securing herself in various impromptu harnesses from a loop of strapping attached to a movable point with bungees. Someone else was pulling the movable point up and down to make her bounce. She would move outwards in increasingly large circles, and spin and twist. It looked like just about the most fun thing ever, and I was almost certain that if I tried it I would break my ankle. Perhaps even without the roller skates. But it might have been worth it. Wow.

On a more personal front, I did a wheel down from the very top of the fabrics and got out of it, and moved into another trick. It doesn't sound like much when I say it that way, but I was very proud of myself. Also, I learned/relearned a move called the "elevator", with a tee-shirt this time, so I didn't get more rope burns on my armpits. It was much more enjoyable without the burning pain!

Genetics has a summer softball team, and practices start on Tuesday. I need to get a glove!

The seder went off without a hitch. Lots of delicious food, and enough people that they ate almost all of it. Which was happy because everyone was goofy and happy and well fed, but sad because I did not have much by way of leftovers for the rest of the week. Also, they are still talking about the matzo ball soup. (Which I thought could have been much better; I used a funky recipe for matzo balls with lots of parsley in it, and the leaves did nothing for the texture. Next year, back to the cayenne-spiked matzo balls. Also, more liquid for the brisket, which was well-flavored and not tough but not so tender it fell apart on my fork. They ate all but one slice, which amounted to more than half a pound of meat for everyone eating it, so it couldn't have been too bad). I didn't pull off my crazy afikomen idea, either, and given the size of my apartment and the number of people searching (very small, and 11, respectively) it would be the only way to make the search last any significant length of time at all. I did fool them, however, on where I had put it -- it was not in the first place which anyone looked.

July 20th is the 40th anniversary of man walking on the moon, as well as being Biff and Alex's birthday; they are going to have a Moon Party -- first, moonbounce in the form of a room full of trampolines (my favorite is the "all trampoline walls"), and second, in the form of a two-room party in which one is decorated to look like the moon, and the other to look like Mission Control. Upon entering Mission Control, you would have to put on a white, collared, short sleeved, buttoned shirt, with a thin black tie. Possibly also be handed a slide-rule. I'm getting plastic fishbowls and decorating them ala astronaut helmets for the two birthday boys, as my present to them. I also put in a vote for the moon room having "Ground Control to Major Tom" and maybe a few other space-themed songs on a short loop. It will be awesome.

Much else has happened, but those are the principle things.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Good deeds, roses, and lemonade

I gardened today! Went to the store to get drought-resistant plants (they remembered me! Asked me how I was settling into the area. I was shocked, and quite pleased. I guess they don't get many customers on bikes, and that would make me memorable? Also I went in just about three weeks in a row to get books + research + supplies and finally plants.) Pulled up all the weeds I had let grow over the winter (eek!), applied pesticides to and turned over the proper soil (in preparation for tomatoes, basil, and possibly another herb) and planted flowers (iris and geranium) in the two clay pots. If the iris and geranium are bigger in three weeks or so, I'll plant tomatoes + herbs. The weeds were these low-lying, mostly water (hence grows faster?) plants that smelled vaguely of honeysuckle and had big lily-pad like leaves. They covered everything. It was really quite impressive. My goal for next winter: Do not let them take over my garden. My goal for the next three weeks: water the plants twice weekly. I haven't taken up the strawberries, and I should pinch off the flowers until June if I want them to produce more fruit, but they look pretty pitiful and so I'm not sure what to do. I really can't have strawberries next to tomatoes (tomatoes harbor a fungus that kills strawberries), but I think my strawberries are dying of said fungus anyway, so... yeah. I have to think. I have a big raised bed, which I'd like to turn into a kitchen garden, but I know I need to start small, or I'll just do nothing at all.

I was on such a roll from pulling out weeds that when I finished cleaning the back, and packing them up, and watering my plants, I checked on the roses on the common walk. The land lord does all of nothing to take care of them (it seems), so there were (already?!) all these rose hips. I cut off as many as I could reach without drawing blood; hopefully more roses will bloom. And I took one mostly-gone rose, and a bud, for myself, because they are pretty. But seriously, this rose bush was more like a rose tree than a bush. It was kind of absurd getting the blooms from them, because I had to pull them down from the roof. Maybe it'll be a project for this winter to actually prune it (they say, for places without true winters, to prune in December and January, and for people with true winters to prune in early spring -- it's late for either case; drat! Also, I do not know if I have a true winter or not -- that sounds like something to ask the people in the gardening store). I would feel a little bit strange about doing it, and would probably want to talk to the landlord first, but... seriously; you can't hardly see the blooms because they are above the roof. Sheesh. I consider what I did a good deed for my neighbors, because now we can share many more roses. Hopefully. I wonder if the landlord waters the roses. I wonder if my hose stretches far enough. My hunch: not, on both counts. They only take about an inch of water a week, so maybe I could go back and forth with the watering can. Hmm. (Since it will likely not even drizzle again until September at the earliest, this bears thinking about.)

Anyway, now I have washed all the dirt from my knees and hands, put the rose + bud in water in a wine bottle, and am drinking lemonade. (I made two glasses. I will drink both.) There is something very satisfying about a day spent outside, planting and tending things. It is more concrete than the typically intellectual problems which I face on a day-to-day basis. Plus, I don't have to do in on a daily basis, which makes it much more fun, by definition.

This week: preparing for the seder! I will likely be cooking eight pounds of meat. The reality of that just hit me. Huh.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

A productive morning

I missed the post on Boingboing last week entitled "Marx Was Right", which I find mostly amusing because it's the same oversimplified worldview that I told my P.I. in the fall (to which she responded "You sound just like my husband"). But Marx's theory seems more and more relevant as time goes on, or rather does not seem less relevant as time goes on, at least to me. Of course, whether it leads to a worker's paradise or a paternalist authoritarian state is harder to tell. Also, unsurprisingly, the boingboing comments are 2/3 inane drivel (along the lines of either "Marx was a fascist!" or "Marx was righter than Adam Smith!"), 1/4 trolling, 1/12 moderators chastising the commenters, and 1/12 actually insightful. Actually, maybe a little bit more inane drivel there, and a little bit less insightful. But you get the picture.

One of the actually potentially insightful comments brought up socialism in Scandanavia, and why it seems to work so well there. Which in turn led to this wikipedia entry, which sort of confirms my view that in societies in which individualism is prized, Socialism has a harder time getting a foothold and it would be neary impossible to work on a large scale, whereas in societies in which the collective is prized over the individual, Socialism is almost workable: Of course, that's an oversimplification too, and basically comes down to the idea that "Well, if everyone believes in Socialism, it'll work", and the drawbacks on an economic system based on collective belief (fantasy?) can be shown pretty clearly by the current economic collapse.

In any case, a few more wikipedia articles later, I happened upon the trailer for 2081, a movie based on the short story "Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut, which I am now very excited for: It looks very cool, although trailers usually do.

... now if I could just get my apartment cleaned like I meant to do to begin with. (oops).