Tuesday, June 26, 2007

point of view

I have a very odd problem. It's not too often that my brain gets "stuck" and is incapable of thinking in a particular way. I enjoy word and number and logic puzzles, and I like to think that doing these helps keep my neurons flexible so they can get me through whatever problems happen to come up in life. (I think that this concept originated from my days in college, when I would convince myself that playing Minesweeper counted for a little bit of "study" time because it was such great mental exercise...)

But my brain is now officially stuck.

The conundrum: I cannot figure out how to write in a combination of first and third person.

This might require a bit of explaining, because how can anyone write from two different perspectives simultaneously? That is illogical! (And is probably why my brain is giving out on me). But here's what I want to do, and this takes me back to my age-old aspiration of being a novelist - write a story that has parts told by a woman in first person ("I went to the store, I bought groceries...") but also seamlessly shifts to third person where the original story-teller is STILL telling the story, but it's not longer her story ("At the store I saw my friends Bill and Craig. They went home and played video games. While they were playing they had an interesting conversation and it went like this...").

I have been pondering a) how to do this and b) why this seems to complicated, and I realized that part of the reason it's so tough for me to conceptualize is that I have been writing nearly exclusively in first person for the past five or more years. Most of the writing I do for school and work is, essentially, in first person ("We proposed to do this..." "I conducted the following experiment..."). Even the stuff I write that's not so technical is in first person - my journal is all "Today I did this; I feel like this; I wonder about this." I very rarely write anything from any other perspective! Perhaps I should practice!!

Well, anyhow, my lovely readers, have you any advice? Do you know any good books that are written in the style I'm striving for? I specifically need to figure out how I can switch from first- to third-person without having a segue in between (not like the example above; e.g. I need to say "I went to the store. The end. Next chapter: Bill and Craig were sitting playing Grand Theft Auto when all of a sudden..." without it sounding all weird).

Ah...this is what I love about writing...it's not all that simple!

By the way...is it possible to write in second person?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

confirmation that i am in fact a woman

...Hm, on second thought, perhaps that isn't the best of titles for a blog post. But I'm keeping it.

Hello, everyone! Yes, I exist still. It's amazing - I thought for sure that when I went to sleep at 6a.m. on Saturday morning after being in and out of the lab since 8a.m. on Friday that I would never wake up. But I did, in fact, wake up...at 2:30p.m. It was quite a surprise to look at the clock and see that the day was mostly over. I had just enough time to cram in a "breakfast" of coffee and a banana and "lunch" of chocolate chip cookie dough before it was time to meet a friend for dinner at 5! The moral of the story is that I have been crazy busy with work.

It's good - I have proven to myself that I can in fact singlehandedly take care of an experiment that normally I would be required to employ the assistance of at least 3 other people. This is very difficult to schedule, in case you couldn't figure that out for yourself. It is much easier to schedule an experiment into my life when it is just ME who needs to be involved with it. And truthfully it doesn't take that much longer to do with just me than it does with everyone else, although I have to sacrifice a couple replicates of tissue samples, which means less statistical power. But oh well. It's much less of a headache.

Now, that has nothing to do with my post's title! Let me get to the point here...

I got my hair trimmed last Saturday, and the stylist thought it would be great to straighten it. She tried to convince me that despite what everyone seems to think, it doesn't really take that much time to style one's own hair from naturally curly to unnaturally straight using a brush and a hair dryer. She did it in about 12 minutes. And, as she said, everyone should have 12 minutes to give up in a day - it would be rather a bad thing if one didn't. What she doesn't realize, though, is that even if I had all the time in the world to straighten my hair, I do not a) want to and b) own a hair dryer. At any rate, here is a picture of me with the straight and trimmed hair.Ah - and speaking of haircuts, someone else recently got one because she looked a bit crazified herself.It was indeed driving her to eat phone books, it appears. However, cutting Joelle's hair isn't a one-time event. It's a multi-day process because she dislikes it so distinctly and because there is so much hair. So I thought I might terrorize her by making a sort of mohawk and taking pictures to then display on the world wide web.Finally we got it all off. Isn't she a looooong bunny??I love it when she lays all stretched out like that.

Okay, so I got my hair cut. And then I threw on jeans and a fleece and old tennis shoes and ran some errands and went to an intense counseling session and then went to the vicinity of my church. I wanted to attend the Saturday night service because I was slated to meet a friend on Sunday and wanted to keep that open in case I had to hit the road before church time to reach the 3-hour-away destination. I didn't realize that there are extra funky people hanging around the church area on Saturday evenings.

I should note that my church is located in what many would call a "bad" part of town. It's really not, but it is on the cusp and is often populated with people who would most likely fall into the poverty category. Not that this really bothers me, but I am aware that there are certainly some shady dealings going on at some times, and it's good to keep aware of one's surroundings.

I had reached the church area early and decided to walk a block to the gas station to get some food since I was absolutely starving. As I walked along this fine gentleman (I say sarcastically) called out, "Where you going with that fine self?" (And, I should note - this was the best - this other dude leaning against the wall of the building I was passing muttered, "None of your business!" Thanks, man!) I totally ignored him and kept walking. But then I thought...wait a second...I'm wearing JEANS a FLEECE and GRUBBY TENNIS SHOES. Hello??! I do NOT look fine! But, apparently I did, because when I (regrettably) walked back the same way, he reminded me several more times that I looked good. Maybe it was the haircut?

Okay, so that was last week. And it didn't irk me too much other than the fact that even if I try really hard to be modest and don't try at all to even look nice, men can still take a totally innocent woman and situation and make it be inappropriate. (I should note that women can also do this; the point isn't that men are evil, because they're not. They're just men.)

This week walking to church, however, was when I really realized that I'm a woman.

I like to think that I don't come off as being very vulnerable. I'm tall and I usually try to walk like I know where I'm going. And I am pretty sure it looks like I could run really fast if I had to (and I am pretty sure I actually could, too). I try to convince myself that I am, in fact, quite confident and capable and safe and able to defend myself or deal with bad people that might happen upon my path. And then something like today happens.

I'm on my way to church, going across the street, and this guy is jaywalking across the other street perpendicular to me. Our paths intersect and he says something semi-normal-to-this-area like, "Hi, Miss Lady," which usually means absolutely nothing. I replied with a friendly and courteous, "Hi!" To which he then went on, reaching into his pocket, "I've got something I know you'll love."

Er. I doubted that. I don't know what that something was, but I said, "I'm fine, I don't need anything, thanks," and kept walking.

Right, so that wasn't so bad. But...

But why in the world did I suddenly feel like I wanted to go hide somewhere and cry? Why did I feel so flustered? This person did not attack me or in any way threaten to injure me. We were in broad daylight and there's always about 5 cops doing traffic and stuff around the church, which was about 100 yards away. Why did I feel so...scared?

I'm a woman. Underneath this whole, "I've got it all together, don't mess with me, I can take care of myself, I'm very brave" facade, I know I'm this close to getting plucked from the sidewalk by some strong male and assaulted. I know I'm the target for lewd and inappropriate comments and there's nothing I can do to stop it. I know that I want someone to protect me and I hate having to walk through dark or scary places by myself.

So, in a sense, it's good for things like this to happen to me. They remind me of how I really feel deep down, how I try to cover it up and pretend I'm someone I'm not. It's unfortunate that this pretending is what is both celebrated and accepted in the world today. It's unfortunate that there is such a women-centered battle going on without very many people being acutely aware of it. And it's unfortunate that more men don't realize that women (at least this one!) want to be fought for, defended, and in the end treated with the utter dignity and sheer love for which they were created.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

not all work

Okay, so in case you're bored or overworked, please see here. Matty T from Relient K pointed it out on the band's blog a while back (May 11). Sure to please.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

busy is good

I don't think I say this very often, but: I'm busy, and it's good!

Usually when I am busy (or at least when I say I am busy - I suppose many would argue that I'm busy very often, and I have to be insanely busy before I actually think that I am) it's very NOT good. It's usually stressful, crazy, and none of the things that must be done get done nearly as well as they could/should.

But not now.

What I've got on my plate for work...
  • Writing a report for my thesis committee - meeting is on July 2!!!! And I am intending to do my very best to convince them that I am nearly done and only have to do a couple more experiments before I'm allowed to graduate. No small feat.
  • Trying to figure out why my ELISpot assay works one day and then doesn't the next, because I NEED it to consistently work June 21-28 when I take up residence in the laboratory to isolate millions and billions of cells and test them in this assay
  • Writing a self-evaluation of the past year for the annual review we students undergo by the faculty, due June 29
  • Attempting to learn 2 software packages that will (in theory) make the analysis of my data a ton easier than it is now and will allow me to make pretty pictures to include in the thesis committee report
  • Writing (yeah...lots of writing going on here...!) a journal article about several years' worth of my work, which requires making more pretty pictures from data that is buried in one of my 5 lab notebooks and/or in some mysterious folder on one of three computers I've used over the period of time during which the data were collected. Lesson learned: organization is very helpful, and I need to be more organized.
  • Trying to make it so the "important!" marked emails in my inbox don't get pushed so far down in the list by new, un-dealt-with email that they don't show up in the top 20 anymore. Perhaps making a few folders and organizing my email would help here...but maybe not.
  • Preparing nasty questions to ask to second-year PhD students who are asking me to be part of their mock comprehensive oral examination. This requires that I first read (and hopefully understand) their 10-20 page proposals.
  • Plotting out the next several experiments I want to do, which fills my calender up through December 6 and involves making sure there's enough space and time to coordinate these experiments with everyone else's space and time WHILE ALSO avoiding holidays in the schedule-making process.

And then on my plate in other parts of life...
  • Trying very desperately to keep up with the constant barrage of emails from friends and teammates and fellow knitters and rabbit-owners. I welcome emails, but I hope people don't think I'm mad at them when it takes me a month to write back, especially when their message says something like, "Hey, wanna have ice cream on Thursday?"...
  • Organizing my social calendar. Not that this is exceedingly complex, but I do tend to make being social not a priority when I have lots to do at work, so I'm trying very hard to leave spaces in the schedule for "Hang out with someone!" Which also means I need to do silly stuff like write down in my planner, "CALL so-and-so to fill that hang-out spot, otherwise you'll forget so-and-so exists!"
  • Treating Joelle for her sneezing. Again. Of course. Oh, and did I mention that she bit me on the thigh the other day? She was mad that I was trimming her hair.
  • Feeding Sheamus one food pellet at a time. He is eating now! But I can't just put food on the water surface and expect him to find it. Ohhhh no. No, he requires that I put one piece of food down at a time...then he can hopefully see it (he seems to be lacking some eyesight quality since his near-death experience) and choose to eat it. And then I can offer another piece. Two at a time is too much. ...My animals are special...
  • Taking care of a friend's fish. Why my friend thinks that I, the owner of I'm-about-to-die-oh-wait-no-I'm-not-just-leave-me-here-for-5-months Sheamus, would be a good candidate for fish-sitting is beyond me. Fortunately the fish, Houdini, is really fat and is probably not going to suffer a whole lot if he decides to not eat for the rest of the month that I'll be watching him.
  • Knitting! Yes, folks, I am indeed knitting even though pictures never appear on this blog anymore. More out of necessity now than for fun - I've got a baby shower gift on the needles, and the shower is July 7. AAAK! Not sure if I'll be making that deadline, but it'll be close.
  • More deadline knitting: Sockapalooza 4. I haven't started yet... And considering my extremely slow knitting pace, it's going to take me many late-night knitting runs to be done by the August 2 deadline... But at least now I've finally ordered yarn and narrowed my pattern choices down to two.
  • The everyday things of life, like getting the oil changed, seeing the eye doctor, finding time to go buy cereal and milk...

That is what I've been up to and/or am still working on. Why or why am I not feeling like busy is bad? Because...everything is falling into place very nicely. I can't explain it, it's just...life is peaceful now. I wake up refreshed in the mornings, I have enough time to read the Bible and do a little journaling every day, I eat meals. Maybe I've finally learned how to balance? Maybe everything is going to blow up in my face in the next couple weeks...? I guess we'll see, but for now I'm choosing to stay in this "happy place."

Saturday, June 09, 2007


I was pondering today...

You know that poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson, the one that goes

I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

It's from "In Memoriam."

I don't recall which movie it's from (perhaps "Good Will Hunting"??), but somewhere I heard someone on the silver screen tell someone else those last two lines, rather flippantly, and the listener sneered and you could tell he didn't agree with that at all. It is painful to love, after all. And it is very painful to lose love.

I wonder...what is the consensus on this? What do you think? Is it really better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

it's not so bad

After I stepped off the bus on Wednesday and got into my car at the park-and-ride, I turned on the radio to my current favorite, NPR. It's my connection to the "real world" of news and such. And I heard all about court cases surrounding Guantanamo Bay...and people running of this, that or the other public office...and how public leaders are being untrustworthy...and how the war in Iraq is causing much consternation...

And I drove the short distance between the park-and-ride and my apartment and went from the least-educated, poorest, most crime-filled, just-on-the-fringe-of-the-city-proper neighborhood in the area to the NICEST one just by crossing one roadway...and I cringed as my car bumped along the road that had gotten torn up for resurfacing...and I was getting a bit downhearted about all the traffic that was being promised for the weekend due to some major construction and detours around the major highway of the area...

Then, to my surprise, I saw a demonstration of sorts going on at the corner. You know: a group of people holding signs, waving a flag, carrying on about their favorite issue, chanting perhaps, motioning to everyone who passes by, and of course during rush hour - although it didn't matter a whole lot because the street upon which they were standing is not a very high-traffic one and is actually quite quiet and peaceful.

But this group of sign-holders was unlike any I've seen before. And EVERYONE who drove by honked in support of their cause! How could it be that everyone could agree upon an issue?? Especially as they drove on this road that connects conservative and liberal neighborhoods? I was curious, but the most curious thing about this group was that they were all kids. Middle schoolers, I would wager.

What were they advocating???

The sign flashed at me as I drove by said, in red and blue writing on the white posterboard: "HONK FOR AMERICA."


Leave it to the young people to remind us all that despite bumps in the road - both figuratively and (especially in Pittsburgh) literally - ...we live in a really great nation. And it's worth celebrating.

I guess I have to admit...it's not so bad.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

memorial day 2007

This past weekend I wanted to get far, far away from the lab and from life. What better way to "escape" than to hike with a heavy bag 10 miles into the woods of the Appalachian foothills?

I set out on Friday afternoon to Columbus, where I stayed overnight with my brother in his "new" place (it's the first time I've been there, so it's new to me, although it's several months old to him). Saturday morning we drove to Shawnee State Forest and found the backpack trail after visiting with a park ranger who told us to watch out for rattlesnakes. We strapped on our backpacks, laden with food, bedding, shelter, clothing, and cooking equipment.

On Saturday we hiked about 10.4 miles, then we stayed overnight at one of the "campsites." It was next to a stream bed (not much water in it, so it wasn't quite a stream) from which we could hear some frogs croaking to each other. There was a latrine not too far away, but I was too scared to use it without the door open because there were some HUGE crickets that made big noises when they jumped out of the "toilet" and onto the wooden walls. S-C-A-R-Y...!

We set up camp and made hot food and then did some reading and resting and stretching in the tent. We also did a search for ticks on our legs and were astounded to actually find one loosely attached to my brother! He smushed it and threw it outside the tent. I slept well in my new super-duper Slumberjack sleeping bag, but I discovered that the birds all wake up really early...and they're very loud!When I finally emerged from the tent, I found that our tick friend (or one of his buddies) had revived from the smushing and had climbed onto the tent! I threw him in the latrine.

That second day we hiked a bit further but had more time to get there, since we started in the morning instead of the afternoon. The trail took us over some little streams and through heavily vegetated areas and up some fairly steep hills. Not the least of these was the hill just before our campsite destination - upon looking at a map after one of our routine breaks we decided it would take about 30 minutes to get to this site, but we told each other to tack on another half hour just so we'd be prepared for the worst...and it was a good thing, because it did indeed take the entire projected hour to get through the last leg of that hike because it was all uphill! It was very nice to finally get to the site where we could set up camp. I was really ready for a long rest!

Again we set up the tent and cooked food and did a tick check. We found another tick on my brother. Truly, it seemed like every time we stopped we found one on him; there had definitely been one when we had stopped for lunch. Probably it wasn't that he is more appealing to ticks but that he went first on all of the trails, so he probably just accumulated all of the ticks before I had a chance to encounter any of them.

On Memorial Day we hiked the remaining 4.3 or so miles back to where we had started. The final part of the trail dumped us out by the State Park's lake...and I really wished that we had packed swim suits so we could jump in to cool off. I didn't know that it was possible for anyone to sweat as much as I did over those three days. Every day when I took off my pack at the camp my shirt was drenched in sweat. When the shirt finally dried by midday the next day, it had lines of sweat caked on it! I guess this stresses the importance of keeping well-hydrated while backpacking! And also the importance of bringing at least one change of clothes...which I did not in fact do (I had to wear my pajamas one day on the trail because my regular shirt was so gross...).
that's my pj shirt
All in all it was an awesome weekend! I had become so far removed from work and "real life" that I was actually wanting to get back to it! That's what I call refreshment!
that's my gross shirt