Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Taking "precision" and adding "puncture"?
Doctors with bad handwriting should not, Sarah thought, be tolerated. Poor penmanship was a sign of a lack of precision – either in thought or in motion – which could be deadly when the hands exchanged ballpoint pen for forceps and scalpel. Or even syringe. Try arguing that to the madman with the needle.

“You won’t let me stitch you up because of my handwriting?” he asked, graying eyebrow twitching upwards condescendingly.

“No fine motor control. You’d make a mess.”

“Would you rather a scar?”

Sarah gritted her teeth and shook her head. Her penmanship, of course, was perfect. “I’ll do it.”

Monday, October 26, 2009

Lightning Bug Costume

Below: Pictures of how the lightning bug costume turned out! I believe there are more (or will be more shortly) on Facebook. In particular, pictures of me making my funny "Why are you taking a picture of me?" face. And other funny faces. Because... yeah.

First, one with the lights on, so you can see the antennae and the green sparkly petticoat:

And then one with the lights off so you can see the actual cool part; the glowing hem:

At the dance on Saturday, the lights were dimmer, so the hem showed up better, and people picked up on it a lot faster. On Friday, the lights were fairly bright, so people kept asking me why I had a battery pack on my hip. Also, on Saturday, there was a toddler dressed as a witch (most adorable witch ever) who was absolutely fascinated by the fact that my skirt lit up -- in part I think because the hem was at eye-level for her. So periodically I would go to move and she would be tugging at my skirt, staring. It was 1/2 adorable and 1/2 "Oh no, one of these times I'm going to step on her and her parents will be furious."

On a side note, I'm debating whether I should participate in Nanowrimo as usual or make a new costume in November instead. I don't think I can do both, simply for lack of time.

On another side note, my antibodies came in today so I started experiments! Woo!

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Today was a blur; or possibly three blurs; or possibly innumerable blurs -- so many blurs that they all start blurring together. Everything about the day felt detached from anything else, but not in that pointillist sort of way where each event stands out in stark contrast, nor in that infinite day sort of way where there are just too many things happening to take them all in. In a buzzing, absurdist-philosophy sort of way where I'm walking down the street but it feels more like I'm watching myself walk down the street (and if I had a gun in my hand and the sun shone a little brighter, I might just fire the gun, but it wouldn't really be me doing it, it would be the sun and the heat and the... I don't know what. On a side note, I never really appreciated Camus before I started feeling like this; Sartre seemed -- for lack of a better word -- more constructive. There's something about internality/externality and free will there that I won't get into because it would be unimaginative regurgitation of something I heard somewhere, probably).

Lately, I feel like if I stop moving, even for a second, I don't really recognize myself, or I don't like what I see. It's like; I started dancing because I was bored and I was looking (probably) for someone (which I know and I knew was not a reason to start dancing so I insisted that I was looking for something, namely, a hobby), but now the dancing has just taken over in a way. That doesn't make any sense. Maybe what I'm saying is just that when I stop dancing, the vague dull loneliness comes back and I wonder why I can't get any of my student friends to go dancing with me and why I don't really feel comfortable calling my dance partners 'friends'. And so I didn't write this weekend because I was dancing, which was certainly nice. But it left me feeling (always leaves me feeling?) sort of detached from myself, in a strange way.

On the other hand, I'm already dancing basically every Monday, Tuesday (if you count silks, which I do), and Friday (and quite a good number of Saturdays as well), with dances I've been meaning to check out on Wednesday and Thursday as well. So, it seems to me, it very well might be possible to never stop dancing. Except on Sundays. I don't know if that's a solution or not. Or even if I have a problem. Perhaps I am just very, very, tired.

And that's as close as I can come to an explanation for this drabble, which popped into my head almost fully formed.
Brooke stared at the mirror; dark brown eyes stared back.

She blinked. So did they.

She pulled a face. The mirror mimicked her grimace.

She touched the smooth glass surface.

She frowned, and turned away, not knowing what to make of it.

Gary was still in bed. He yawned blearily and grabbed her hand as she sat on the edge. “You’re up early,” he mumbled.

She smiled indulgently. “It’s almost noon.” And then, on a whim, “What color are my eyes?”

“Blue,” he answered. “Is this a test?”

“No,” she said, and kissed him, and resolved to sell the mirror.
Almost, because as initially written it wasn't unsettling; it just sounded like he didn't know what color her eyes were. Maybe it still does, I'm not sure -- I think some ambiguity in that direction is good. But it should be ambiguity, and not "Oh, well obviously..."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

An Attempt at a Return

I think my relative absence of late can be described in two words: qualifying exams. Namely, they were just over a week ago, and I passed. Hooray! Now, perhaps, I can actually start research. If I'm lucky.

(On that note, and somewhat predictably I'm still waiting for antibodies to come in. The exciting life of the biologist.)

And, since I'm now into the long phase of graduate school, the one that takes four or five years and ends (if you're lucky) with a thing or two you can publish, I'm trying to use this transition to get myself back into some habits that I enjoyed, back when I did them regularly. (Things like, say, "cooking" things other than ramen and canned soup, and getting more than four hours of sleep a night.)

Also, writing. 100 words a day, either fiction or science, although I predict that the science will be harder on account of needing to get through a lot of definitions. Hopefully, sticking to one conclusion of one experiment will help. As an inauguration (reinauguration?) I've done two: 100 words of fiction inspired by the word "aesthete" and the fact that it was defined not as someone who was sensitive to beauty, but someone who cultivated sensitivity to beauty:

To be done properly, the experiment needed a control. It was a fact: you couldn’t test a hypothesis without a control. And the best control was… well.

The student thought it clever to name him Damien. Of course, the student who named him reaped the rewards of Damien’s first three years, took a few fMRI scans and graduated. That student was long gone before Damien stitched a sentence together; already tenure-track at a remote institution when Damien hit his troubling teenaged years.

The police found him, transfixed by the gore. He turned to them, smiled, and said, “Isn’t it beautiful?”
And 100 words of science, summarizing one finding from this article in Nature last week (which fits a current paradigm of science today which is: When in doubt, sequence!).
Methylation is a chemical modification of cytosine bases. The prevailing dogma is that mammalian genomes are methylated at cytosines found in the dinucleotide CG; and only in a genomic context where CG is rare. DNA methylation in promoters of certain genes has been associated with repression, and this association has been generalized to a differentiation hypothesis: cell-specific methylation stabilizes cell-specific expression which yields morphology. However, we may have been looking in the wrong place. A recent paper found methylation in embryonic stem cells at non-CG cytosines, and these sites were the ones that most changed between ES and differentiated cells.
I'm thinking, perhaps, that a sentence limit or a larger word limit on the science might be good. I don't think that turned out very well.