Friday, December 29, 2006

Apply Yourself

I give you the first paragraph of my admissions essay, what has been stealing my writing energy away from my dear petri dish for the past few weeks. Also, what is really nice is that this is how I really feel, its not just fluff.

The PCR* worked. The band is the size that we expected and it is clear and bright. I have learned that even if you are weary from unexplainable failure, or bored by repetition, it is critical to maintain an optimistic mindset when setting up a PCR. Always expect it to work. Of course, there may be times when certain factors heighten your expectations, for example: this specific collection of variables has worked before, or it has worked in a very closely related species, or these primers are excellent matches to the known sequence. But even in the absence of such favorable conditions, you must operate on the energizing assumption that your reaction will succeed and that it may ultimately contribute to something far vaster than the small .2-milliliter tubes before you. Connecting the minute actions of setting up a PCR with the larger research goal is what keeps me pipetting again and again and again. Each time with the patience and precision (and hope) needed for it to work and to leave my hands and it take its place as part of the collective advancement of understanding in biological anthropology.

*PCR stands for Polymerase Chain Reaction, something we set up in the lab a few times a day, aimed at gathering genetic sequence information.

More Bangs for No Buck

Its that time of year again. The time that I decide that I need a hair cut but dont have the patience or money to have it done professionally.

So I cut it myself. It never looks particularly good or particularly bad, usually no one notices, and it doesnt really improve the original situation much. But at the very least my impatient fingers are put to work.

The other day I watched the movie The Devil Wears Prada and since I am not used to seeing images of pop culture popping up on screen, I was instantly inspired by Anne Hathaway’s style to cut bangs. Also someone told me I looked like her the other day, so that didnt hurt either.

They are the kind of 60s style straight bangs that almost hide your eyes. They look pretty bad actually and I already have a bobby pin in them holding them back. But they didnt cost a dime, or a buck.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Silly String Theory

This evening I walked along 14th street with my ipod on playing songs of quiet desperation that echoed my mood almost perfectly. Strangers were bumping into me all around with their shopping bags and post Christmas return to insensitivity. It was cold, I had a hat on and my hair was blowing all over the place.

I walked by a bunch of punk runt kids leaning on some scafolding. I looked back at them after I heard something hit me. They were all looking at me and laughing, they sprayed pink puffy cold silly string all over the back of my hair.

I laugh/cried the whole way to my destination as I fished it out of my hair hoping no one was looking at me. Then Joe called and told me that the destination had changed and I had to walk another 8 blocks in another direction. I was hungry and tired and when I got to where I was going, no one needed my help like I thought that they would.

Another reason to never leave the apartment.

My Own Everything

Last night I returned to my apartment.

I was away in a land overflowing with an embarrasing amount of sweets and filet mignon and big opulent pink houses with overstuffed chairs and egos. This land was far far away from my life here in my small salty apartment with walls damaged by the incompetent electrician and drafty old windows and creaky wooden floors with spaces between them where dust collects, with no toaster or tv or this or that.

Last night I lit a candle and put it in the middle of my uncluttered living room floor and I shut the lights off. I breathed a sigh of relief to be home in my apartment where people care about what I do for a living and what I think about things. Where there are no older brothers to tell me my feet look big and where I am not forever metaphorically at the kids table. Where I can blog in confidence that my thoughts are valid just because they are my thoughts.

I am whole again now that I am home and alone. I am an adult here and the pots need cleaning and I have to make my own everything.

Thank you for the lovely gifts family, but I hope you never find me here.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Good Egg

Yesterday Joe turned 30 years old. So I thought it was the perfect day to try to poach some eggs.

So I did.

I read the recipe on how to poach an egg and I asked around and was surprisingly encouraged not to try it, that it was indeed an insurmountable task and that it simply would not work. But it has been done, I thought, many many many times. Why would it not work for me? A scientist in training, whose strength is patience and a gentle approach.

I would not let an egg make a fool out of me.

I boiled a flat pan of water and then cracked a very fresh brown egg into a separate bowl (that I usually use for cereal). Then put the cereal bowl down into the boiling water and let the egg slip into the pan, without much fanfare or agitation, although I was quite stressed at this point, guests were coming in a matter of minutes and this was my first time doing it.

Almost immediately after the egg touched the water, its transformation started. And in moments I knew that I was no longer a cook, or a scientist, but a magician. The egg white turned opaque and it swayed in the water like a diaphanous ghost, or a beautiful gossamer jellyfish, defying the laws of what we usually know to be real. Feeling confident in my new powers, I put in several eggs and they all danced in unison, bubbling and waving in celebration of the Birthday of Joe. We watched in amazement.

Then we took them all out and placed them on the smoked salmon covered toasted english muffins that sat and waited for their eggy miracle. I poured a little dill hollandaise sauce over all of them. The entire time I was on edge of sanity. But the eggs knew better.

The guests arrived in moments and cleaned their plates faster than the eggs took to poach. It was a celebration of all things that began as an egg, be it fertilized and born human 30 years ago, or layed from a chicken and poached with poise and hope.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I Am on the Countertop of the World

Joe built a countertop. It is made out of a thick piece of rock hard maple and he sanded and laquered it until it became silk. It is in the kitchen. He also installed three small lights under the cabinets that shine down reverently on his masterpiece of the moment.

Now some of you may already know that he put this in over a year ago, but what is significant about mentioning it now is that I am still in love with its presence and am reminded each day that it has changed my life. The efficiency and beauty of this object did not fade with its newness.

Every time I turn on those little pin lights in the kitchen and they illuminate the sweet orange wall behind and the countertop I feel like, even though this place is small and I am paying too much and people are screaming outside about who knows what, everything is going to be okay.

Sometimes we turn the lights on and just stand next to it and talk, like we are out at a bar, but we are not.

It feels like I became an adult when that counter was installed. It can hold groceries filled with potential meals or it can display a beautiful tray of shrimp, lemons and cocktail sauce for a party. It can hold flowers or glasses or the coffeemaker but whatever it holds, it pays homage to and makes it inviting and warm.

An Avalanche of Advice

Advice. So little of it is really usable. Why do people even bother?

Everyone just waits around for advice that fits in with what they were already thinking anyway, and then they take that.

If only the voices inside of our head were louder sometimes, then we would not have to ask any one else their opinion.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Sentence in the Soil

Editing your own writing is hard. When I am writing I often become attached to sentences, even if there are too many commas or too few periods.

And I have learned that good writing comes from wanting to say something, not just from wanting to write anything.

But I find that one often knows when things are not quite right yet in writing, that more adjustments have to be made, even if it is a difficult truth to face.

It is easy to think that the soil of words is tilled perfectly and you are ready to plant your seed which will grow roots in this very spot. But sometimes you have to go and get a sturdy shovel and be honest with yourself and plunge it into the ground and turn the soil over a few more times until you see the nutrient rich sentences rise to the top.

And sometimes it will turn up. The sentence to end all sentences. The one that can only exist after several failed attempts have gone, the one that splits your heart into two with its razorlike clarity and then melts the two halves with the warm hearth of humility.

The kind of sentence that when someone else reads it they will think to themselves, “Wow, that is really great I wish I had written that.” And you will know that they could not have and not only because they didnt, but because you did.

Friday, December 15, 2006

My New Morning

I am up early this morning. This is rare and getting rarer as the winter progresses. I almost never regret waking up early, but I pretty much never do it.

There are many nice things about the very early morning that seem new to me today:

The cozy reassuring smell of the heat rising, the blue light outside that grows brighter in the most gradual progression that there ever was, silence, time to drink one more cup of coffee, anticipation, time to consider your clothing for more than 5 minutes, birds harmonzing, having my alarm go off after I am already awake so it does not annoy me and I patronizingly silence it and I forget about all the times that it saved me and I think, you foolish thing you, I dont need you today.

There is extra time for thinking, and blogging, and sitting and staring out the window and waiting for the day.

And I sit here with a handmade crocheted blanket wrapped around me and I think to myself, I should really do this more often, but I know I wont.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Reflection in a Glass Ornament

This is the first year in a long time that I dont have an office Christmas party to attend and I am finding myself missing this slightly awkward ritual and it just got me thinking about Christmas time in general.

“I really can’t stay”, winking white lights, sweaters with cozy collars, “Baby its cold outside”, telling the story of an ornament before you hang it, making exceptions, making the trip, they are going to love it, “well maybe just a half a drink more”, A Charlie Brown Christmas, helping in the kitchen, it was really good to see you.

The smell of evergreen embraces me as I walk down the sidewalk where they sell the cut trees in the city, we know they are dead now but somehow they still hold a little piece of some impossible hope. A hope that is unique in each one of us. A hope that burns out come January and is forgotten entirely by bleak February. Sometimes I think that Christmas in the city is unbearable, people shopping shopping shopping, dropping money all over the place for things that no one really needs.

But it is the mood that people get in to that is really so fantastic. For Christmas this year I want to take a little piece of Christmas spirit, the lightness and sweetness, and capture it in a paper coffee cup and sit it beside my bed and sip it slowly throughout the dry and leafless winter.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Hole in One

My former boss was speaking at a lecture last week, and because of his advanced age and gigantic unruly ego, he made some comments that were, shall we say, not the most sympathetic to women. Although, I must say that even in his social faux pas-ing, he managed to be well spoken and only graze the issue and simply hint at the other completely sexist things that he was actually thinking. So, no one could truly crucify him, also (and I am able to say this because I am the bigger person) what he said did contain a few hard to digest grains of truth.

When I first saw him lecture, I was taken with his ease and articulate confidence. I sat there with Joe beside me and a notebook in my lap and stars overflowing in my naive eyes. He seemed down to earth and yet very very smart and funny and most of all, a true artist. He would give it all up for his craft, spend nights working until it was just right, he poured thoughtfulness and spirit into all of his images and waxed philosophical often and much. I was impressed, although to his credit, Joe was not.

I went to work for him and realized that he was not only not the aging hippie with a heart and pencil of gold that I thought he was, but a serious businessman and a card carrying asshole. It upset me, it still upsets me when I think about it, but I learned several valuable lessons from that man. You dont have to be nice to be respected and above all else, graphic design is a business and not a dreamy rainbow-connection of a creative endeavour.

The other night, I was hanging out with a friend of mine. I was talking to her about how I am afraid that in science there will be assholes there too and how will I handle it blah blah blah. She cut my quivering statement in half with a comment as sharp and visceral as a rapier slashing at dawn. “You can learn a lot from an asshole.”

After it had been said, I paused to let the purity of the words take hold. And even though it felt like it was something that was as true as the rain, I had never thought about it quite that way before.

So here’s to all the assholes I’ve learned from and to all the future assholes who will keep me balanced uncomfortably on my toes with their brilliant bombast.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Admit One

My graduate school admissions essay is off to an overly formal and vague start, which is ironic since my favorite type of writing is so informal and descriptive. The only way for me to loosen up my mind and phalanges is to write it out on the blog. There is something about this warm and welcoming blogger interface that just brings forth a flood of emotions and honesty. So this is the unpolished and bleeding heart version of the truth, of which I will only take parts for the real essay.

The book had a brown cloth binding and gold letters printed on to its spine, it stood with all of the other Time Life books in the series on the bottom shelf behind the bookshelf glass and behind a chair in our living room. As a 12 year old, I remember kneeling down and opening the book titled “The Dawn of Man” and flipping to the page with the picture of the artists reconstruction of an Australopithice and just gawking at it, open mouthed in the sneaky silence of my parents old drafty wooden floor. I repeated this guilty pleasure many many times and after formally learning about the details have still not fully gotten over my awe of human evolution.

I organized digs in my parents backyard, recruiting reluctant and clueless friends to find fossils with me in the disintegrating clay of our run down tennis court. We found rocks that I painstakingly assembled into a creature, that did not really exist unfortunately.

In art class in highschool, we had to come up with a design to paint in bold flat acrylic paints-so I painted the double helix of DNA, so elegant and amazing and an already figured out structure, thank you Watson and Crick. In another class I did a pastel drawing of a monkey leaping straight at you from the page with a glistening realistic stare in his eye.

Then I went to art school. It was a natural decision for me because I am interested in looking at things very closely and drawing or painting them or just thinking about them and gaining understanding. It is this relish of quiet and patient observation that made me a good artist and designer and will also make me a good scientist.

My two final projects at Pratt Institute were exhibit designs intended for A Museum of Natural History, one a 23-station interactive show on the human genome and the other a redesigned hall of human evolution. Both projects were my choice, because I have always been interested in genetics and evolution, the projects did not spark my interest, my interest sparked the projects.

I worked as a graphic designer for five years. But one year after art school ended, I could not lie to myself any more and stifle my interest and respect for biological anthropology in place of nitpicking about fonts and colors. In Fall of 2002 I began taking Anthropology classes at Hunter College. And from that point on until February 2006, when I officially left my design job, my life was a odd dovetailed fusion of design and science. I would rush back and forth from the studio to the lab or from the studio to class desperately trying to hold together my design past and and my scientific future in present harmony.

I talked incessantly to my design interns about what was going on in the genetics lab and about the last common ancestor between humans and chimps and made diagrams to aid their understanding, even though this was not what they had signed up for. I told all of my design friends what I was studying and felt a hollow sorrow that I wasnt happy with the design world that we had all yearned for together with never-ending idealistic hope.

The specifics of the lab slowly but steadily began to steal my attention away from grids and fonts and text that I wouldnt read. Until one day my boss in the lab emailed me and asked me what my protocol was for a certain lab procedure. So I sat in the design studio with the entire history of graphic design at my feet and I wrote the most detailed and loving protocol out in an email to him. It was then that I knew where I wanted to be and I knew it was over for me in design.

I left my design job and went to work in the lab full time. I was so so very sad at the loss of my design friends and ever sadder and more scared at the idea that I was not only leaving the studio at 207 East 302nd street, but I was leaving design altogether for an extremely difficult and uncertain world that I could smell, taste, and see on the horizon, but that I could not yet really touch.

Biological Anthropology attracts me because it helps me understand the complex past of our species and in understanding the past it will shape our future. Ironically, it reminds me that I am just a sliver of a sliver of the life in our world, but I still think that that is all I need to be to make a contribution that is larger and longer than my own short and insignificant time on this great earth. But I suppose that is a part of what makes us human, being irrational and gradiose, you probably wouldnt catch a monkey doing that.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Intelligent Design

The time has come for me to write my Graduate School admissions essay. I have been talking about it, jotting some ideas down and thinking about it incessantly.

Good words have yet to be written though.

I have been trying to figure out the perfect amount of information about my graphic design past to include in the essay to the Biological Anthropologists of my future (hopefully).

I like when essays have an overarching theme and they are not just laundry lists of accomplishments with a flourish on the beginning and end. But for graduate school, are themes appropriate? I was thinking of a large and complex analogy of my life and goals to some statistical analyses that I have learned about, that'll show em!

Although, I was tactlessly warned that I dont want to come off as a “flaky artist” in my essay. But another friend thinks that my design background can be used as a unique quality and a strength, and so did the girl sitting next to me at jury duty. A few people have told me not to bring up anything that will hurt me, which is probably a graceful way of telling me to omit my design life.

I am sure that this essay is not the time to be shamelessly honest, but I think I might have to be, so my pursuit and achievement, or rejection, is something I can call my own and is the closest thing to truth that I know now.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Wisdom on a String

After work yesterday I went to my favorite coffee shop to unwind, but this time I was not having coffee, I was having tea. As I have grown older and more frenzied and dehydrated from my coffee consumption, I have welcomed tea into my life as a soothing savior.

“A small Earl Grey please”, she handed it to me and before I took my favorite wicker seat, I decided to put milk in it. As I was milking and stirring I forgot what it was that I was just thinking about. The only thing left in my brain was the emotional residue from the lost memory. The only thing left was that I was excited for something in the near future, and yes I was happy for the onset of my tea drinking, but that was not it. I was happy to be sitting down after work in a quiet familiar place, but that was still not it.

Then I remembered. On the tea bag tags that are given out at this particular shop, there is always a quote. The brand of tea is Celestial Seasonings and they have painstakingly picked some wonderful quotes to put on the back of each tag, to encourage reflection, or maybe conversation. I love that idea.

I was anxiously awaiting the sage message on the tea bag last night. As I fussed with the milk and picked the cup up again to move to my seat, I made sure not to glimpse at the tag. Because I know myself and even a glimpse could give it away, if it was one I had seen before I would recognize the length and spacing at first blush.

I took my seat. I tried to drag out this little ceremony of enjoyment as long as I could. Then finally I looked. “Choose well. Your Choice is brief, yet endless.”-Goethe. So I plucked the tag off the string and placed it in my pocket, hoping that some of its wisdom would seep into me as I drank the tea.

On the brink of making so many decisions in my life, marriage, grad school, etc. it was a good quote to read, and the tea was damn good too.

Monday, December 4, 2006

This Rotten Apple Never Tasted So Sweet

New York is really really getting me down lately, but I still cant imagine leaving, maybe I am too rigid and elitist in my ways or maybe I am just stupid.

Three weeks ago my apartment was trashed by an electrician who was doing work, he left my refrigerator off by mistake, broke a vase, dusted all of my earthly belongings with plaster and paint chips and then he left. The following week a car was on fire on my block, which reminded me that pointless vandalisim is still indeed burning and last week my wallet and phone were stolen reminding me that nothing is sacred and that strangers just dont care about me. And as all of this is going on, the days are getting shorter and darker and the deep cold winter looms in the distance.

But the other night we were out getting sushi and a man at the bar, who we have seen around the neighborhood but have never spoken to, bought us two drinks. An old hispanic couple got onto the bus the other day, the man yelling something and waving his hands, the woman walked to the back of the bus and pulled out her purse that she had forgotten under the seat. The whole bus smiled warmly as she desended the stairs in impossible triumph. I ran into a dear old friend on Park Avenue the other morning on my way to work. We discovered a perfect new wine bar the other night. A man played a joyus version of When the Saints Go Marching in on a trombone in the subway yesterday. Do these things happen in other places?

And today I went to my old place of work to ask my former boss for a reccomendation. I dont know of any place where the people are so dependent on the pulse, grit and grandeur of New York. I always feel a little sad when I see them, nothing ever changes and they are sometimes insufferable and stubborn, but they are all disciples of New York and they are smart, charming and interesting. If they stepped foot outside of the city they would fade into oblivion, they are being kept alive on the fumes of our dear city. They are all part of the endless B-list of guests at a New York party, sitting just beside the famous person and offering them a roll and a joke. They are the people that The New Yorker is written for, they have money, education, strong political leanings, good taste and take secret pleasure in name dropping and getting their shoes shined.

So here it is, reasons to leave, reasons to stay. And I am filling out applications for grad school in other cities, and although I really should be dedicated enough to my cause to go anywhere to pursue it, I really dont want to leave.

But I will say this to the city that never sleeps, maybe you should try and get some rest.

Trapped in Time

I was thinking the other day again how people love to categorize others in order to begin to understand them better.

It helps people to have a place for you in their head, next to the others who are similar to you. You are my actor friend, right next to my painter friend but who both sit below my banker friend in this lovely organized head of mine.

But then I thought of how people not only love to categorize across contemporary space, but through time also. No one can evolve after you have already labeled them. That label has the capacity to pin them to the floor and capture them in time.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Forced Perspective

As my feet hit the pavement tonight and I scooted home in the darkness, I realized that even though it felt like I had lost everything today, I hadn't.

It was unseasonably warm, I had three dollars in my pocket, I had a home to go back to and keys to get inside, a friend had graciously bought me two drinks and I was healthy and safe, just a little dehydrated.

The future stood before me as untainted and regal as it always had and New York spun along unchanged. The cello music in the subway lifted me and carried me for a few steps and I wasnt hungry or lonely or in pain.

My phone wasnt there to ring and my wallet was with another tonight. I am sad for my loss and for the people who stole it because I am sure that their life is not as steady and full as mine.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Coincidence Sandwich

On Thanksgiving my Dad was telling us about a play that my parents saw, and that he thought was terrible. They went because my Dad’s sister, my Aunt, was friends with a cast member. As my Dad was explaining details of the set, Joe got a far-away look in his eye. The exact element in the set that my Dad was trashing, was the part that Joe had helped build. Joe works with the director of the play, who is also a carpenter. Joe smoothed it over with some hearty chuckling and we resumed eating.

Two days later I was in New Hampshire visiting Joe’s family. We were going to brunch and I ran into a woman who I used to work with at the lab. I must say that I was very surprised to run into her there and have still not fully recovered from the coincidence of seeing her. I went over to say hello to her and she introduced me to the table of people who she was with.

After some blah blahing, she mentioned that the people who she was with were cast members in a play in New York. Joe was standing beside me at this point. She explained a few things about the play and it was the same play that Joe had helped build the set for, the play that my Aunt knew a cast member in and the same play that my parents went to and that my Dad did not care for.

I was amazed, everyone was connected. It was not really the kind of coincidence that warms your heart though. The kind that you slowly shake your head at while smiling steadily and repeating the word WOW, it was more like the plot of a bad movie, or a bad play I guess.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Eternal Flame

At 5 in the morning on Thanksgiving day I heard the horn of a car blowing outside my window. It was a constant sound as if someone’s head had fallen on the steering wheel. Hoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooonk.

I am getting really sick of this neighborhood I thought, as I lay there and imagined the chaos outside the window. But even my most embellished dreamy thoughts could not have conjured up the image that I was faced with when I looked outside.

There was a car on fire on my block. It was engulfed in high and aggressive flames. The blaze grew and danced wildly like seven angry tigers reaching for the moon. And even though I was safe on the fourth floor of my building, I was scared.

Billows of dark opaque smoke rose from the fire lit by the oblivious orange street light. I watched as the fireman came, they walked right up to it with the hose, and I was afraid it was going to reach the point where it exploded, but it didnt.

And I could not sleep the rest of the night with the insane new image still smoldering in my head. And even tonight, three days later, I am having trouble forgetting it.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Fumbling Towards Thanksgiving

It all started yesterday when I spilled coffee all over my hand while speed walking to the bus. I always do this and I don't understand how others don't. The coffee then runs down my hand to my wrist and the plastic top of the coffee is a mess. I shudder with anger at my ungracefulness. I have had a frustrating two days.

I dont like any of my clothes, they are all dorky or frumpy and I cant figure out why I purchased them in the first place. My nose has been itching slightly, not a full blown cold or allergies that you can really sink your tissue into, just a persistent tickle like a little man shuffling around in your nostrils.

I cant find anything I need in my purse, it is a dark and cluttered abyss. I keep missing phone calls and when I call others they are not there. My shoes are not comfortable and my hair is uncooperative. And the time has come to wear the poofy coat, so I feel like a kid swallowed in awkward puff, my movements are compromised and I feel large and bulky.

I need a vacation, and here it is. Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Color Vision

I saw a friend the other day who has always loved the color combination of pink and red. When we were young, I foolishly and violently hissed at her and told her that pink and red clashed, and was solely meant for the sugary tackiness of Valentines Day.

And like many other things in her wardrobe and her philosophy, she was ahead of her time.

The other day I realized that absolutely any color combination can be successful in design, clothing, painting or decorating of any kind. A balance of two colors can be achieved by adding the right amount of each one, in the right texture, value or composition.

And while liking certain colors or certain combinations is purely personal preference, I cant help but think that there is a direct correlation between how many color combinations you are willing to accept as successful and how open you are to other unique, unfamiliar or odd combinations in the rest of your life.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Coffee and Deserted

There is this completely charming elderly couple that gets on the same bus that I do almost every morning. They get on right in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The woman is always impeccably dressed in a skirt/suit ensemble, her makeup is somewhat heavy and her hair is pouffed out in an immovable orb. The man has small squinty eyes and longish grey hair ala-Einstein, he wears a tweed coat and shuffles along behind his wife. They both smile often, but sometimes she is slightly cold, he is certainly the warm one. They seem too old to be going to work but I imagine that they volunteer at a charity to keep themselves busy and their money to good use. They are the royal couple of the M4 limited at 9:08.

She always boards the bus before him. On Monday she got onto the bus and the same bus driver as usual greeted her with a hearty good morning. The old woman remarked “you are early this morning!” and then as the woman walked to her seat the bus driver joked loudly “do you want me to stop for coffee, since we have some extra time?” The old man then sat down in his seat with a thump next to his wife and waved his hands and said “coffee is on me for everyone!” The whole front of the bus heard this and I smiled at a New York that was perhaps even too corny and sweet for a movie, but I liked it.

The following morning, the bus driver was different but the couple was there again. The old woman got on the bus and the driver abruptly closed the doors behind her and began moving. Where is he I wondered? I looked out onto the sidewalk and there he was-tweed coat, small eyes, grey hair blowing his hands up in surrendering pose. The old woman looked back at him on the sidewalk and then took her seat and starting reading The Times. The bus drove off and left him.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Waiters, Artists, Actresses, Lawyers and Losers

I dodged a judicial bullet yesterday. The jury I was called for was a Special Grand Jury and the term of service as a juror would last 6 months. I was not picked.

A small part of me was thinking that it might be interesting to get on the jury and then meet a whole group of random, potentially interesting people. And then we would all reluctantly meet each day, sigh loudly and often, shift in our seats, furrow our brows and complain and shake our heads the whole time but end up bonding, like a mishmash of The Breakfast Club, 12 Angry Men and Gilligan’s Island.

The first boy I sat next to starting talking to me about graduate school because I was reading a book about it. He was applying to art school for grad school and makes jewelry from old plastic medicine bottles and works as a waiter on the lower east side. He and his teeth were perfectly white, but only his teeth were straight.

Then I sat next to a girl who asked me what my book was about when she noticed a cartoon in it and she mentioned her dad was a cartoonist. Then her name was called and I realized that she was Jules Feiffer’s daughter, who is a well known cartoonist. And she is an actress and was in that sweet movie called The Squid and the Whale. So we talked a bit and then I was called in to speak to the judge.

I told the judge, who looked a little like a poor man’s George Clooney, that I was the only full time employee in a small research facility and that I absolutely needed to be there. Then he asked me what kind of research it was and I said, “primate genetics” and one of the lawyers present let out a small guffaw and a smile. He was laughing at me I believe, but because he was uncomfortable with my profession and also of his own primate status I am sure.

Then I left and walked all the way to the subway and as I was swiping my card I heard someone say my name and then I turned around and there was this doofy guy explaining that we were in the jury duty waiting room together and so I said to him, “I am glad I was not chosen, that case looked like a real loser.” Thinking the whole time that the case was not the only thing that looked like a real loser.

And I walked off knowing that one day of jury duty satiated my random-people quota for a while.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

One Big Old Night

I was speaking to an old friend yesterday and we were trying to remember a particular night in the past a little over 10 years ago. It was the night of the Fordham Prep High School senior prom. The gears of our minds were grinding, our eyes were squinted and in a far off place and we threw out some stories that were hopelessly funny but completely off the mark.

I tried to remember what we were wearing in hopes that the still snap-shots that we poured over for hours in plastic flowered photo albums would come alive and yell to us, with obnoxious teenage confidence, the story of what had happened.

And so the stories of nights rushed in.

Pink sequins and drooping corsages, and he really meant well even though he picked out feathery amateurish carnations for me. Sweating beer bottles and endless exuberant dancing to Billy Joel. Every time we heard the song it was like we found water in the desert. Snippets of conversations like confetti falling steadily around us. Someone stepped on my foot. In the bathroom fixing hair and makeup, asking how you look even though the person responding never takes their eyes off of themselves. Misunderstandings, loosing purses, forced dramatic conversations. Watching his every move. Sweating, grabbing, laughing. Trying to hold it together. Cash in bunches in your wallet like a 10 year old at the candy store. Lights are too bright, I cant believe you said that! I will have a glass of water. Its so late its early again.

And we realized that about 5 years of our lives had blended seamlessly into One Big Night, there was virtually no distinction, it was one hazy, buzzing, foolish, funny bundle.

And we laughed.

Thursday, November 9, 2006

The Longest Day

Have you ever had one of those days when you come home at night and you feel older than you were in the morning? You feel like you dont even know the person you were this morning because it was so long ago. If your day were a painting, there would have to be hazy blue atmosphere painted in to show the distance from the morning mountains to the clear night sitting before you.

Nothing groundbreaking even happened today, I didnt graduate or have a birthday or experience some such poignant moment. It was just a day like any other, rode the bus stared out the window onto the pond at the top of the park, sun fell on the last moments of perfectly colored fall foliage as it stood poised precariously at the end of its reign on the trees.

I met up with a friend and we talked about our progress and we have talked a lot about our lives, but tonight I got a sudden sense like we might really be going somewhere. Even though we sat in a diner, like any diner around the city, harsh lighting cast on our not-so-great food, sturdy dishware, encylopedic menus, nothing special really. But the waiter never rushed us with the check, so there was time for relaxation and sincere reflection.

And even though I am not hyped up on too much caffeine or woozy and idealistic from too much wine, I can say with certainty tonight that I am excited for the days ahead.

Patience Rules

I learned a lesson yesterday. Never get angry with anyone until you have all the facts, and even then—patience is probably the best option if you want to accomplish anything.

I had requested information from a venue we are interested in having our wedding and they never sent it. So I requested it again, they never sent it. Again I asked for it, never sent. I was beginning to get really angry and wondering how they could be so flaky. Didnt they want our business?

Then yesterday I had absolutely HAD it, so I wrote an email that was on the cusp of angry, just ever so slightly assertive. And they called me, they had tried to send it to me 4 times already and I guess it was going to my junk mail folder, which I dont check, and then I deleted it. I felt like a bit of a fool, so I apologized and thanked them.

So, two lessons were learned actually, the one stated above, and the other: check your junk mail folder peroidically there might be more than junk in there.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Work on Paper

Yesterday I was asked to send my resume to someone who will be writing a recommendation for me for graduate school. I was calm at the thought of this because at the ripe old age of 28, I have a well thought out resume that is up to date and has been spell checked 14 times. I have spent countless hours making sure the Goudy old Style font is just right and that the word spacing allows for my internships to be included on the bottom, without anything looking cramped. I am really growing up.

Until slowly, like a foul smell blowing in, I reached the conclusion that the resume that I have polished and honed for 6 years, no longer applies to my current aspiring scientist situation. I don't think that resumes define people, but I felt a jolt when I realized that its finally time to reinvent myself, on paper.

It is strange to think that I woke up so many mornings and got myself to work and tried to look presentable for meetings, and tried to fix the computers as best I could and made sure all the lines of text locked to the guides. And now, aside from a general idea of compentence, none of it matters. Although I suppose leaving any job is leaving behind the feeling that the details of it matter.

My old resume is a time capsule and I can roll it up with and place it in a box with a bunch of other musty and dusty trinkets. I know that those design years helped me get where I am today and helped shape me as a person, but it just feels scary and sad now that it is over, really over.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Unfinished Things

The other day I was in the museum and I noticed an unfinished painting and it intrigued me. I love to see process, even if the progress of the piece is now frozen in time.

I thought about unfinished things and why I like them and then I realized it is because we are all unfinished paintings, some of us at different stages than others,

Friday, November 3, 2006

Inside the Machine

When you first take a job, you are interested in how things work and what tasks you are responsible for. This is only the first superficial level of understanding how a system like an office or a studio or a lab are run.

It is so important and illuminating when you figure out how things REALLY run. As in: how the unspoken hierarchy of people is arranged and how it influences facts and progress. I have always found this a difficult thing to figure out, but some people are geniuses at it and it can make up for miles of deficiencies in hand and brain.

Last night I was reminded of someone who is extremely cunning and deceptive but, to my astonishment, manages to engender respect and adoration from everyone she encounters. She worked at my last place of work and, needless to say, I hated her. But it did me no good, she had a one way ticket to the tower of power and I was just, well, a loser in comparison.

This woman was evil, green slime leaked out of her pores, practically. But she was a magician, things happened before my eyes that could not be explained by logic or science. I hated her and her ways with such vengeance, but I admired her too. She had the only skill that matters in the end, people skills.

Again, I am reminded of how people skills trump even the most refined quiet skill. I am hit with this realization time and time again but I don’t always know what it means to have people skills. It does not mean you are honest, it means you talk a lot but you don't have to have anything worthy to say, it means you smile a lot and kid around with the people above you and it means you are confident far beyond your means.

I like to find out how these internal political systems run, and about the people who exploit them, but it takes me a while and once I have figured it out, it is usually too late for me. I have already been branded, and it is all but over.

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

A Peony is a Poem

A friend wrote this line to me in an email on the topic of peonies and I thought it was a perfectly worded ode to the flower:

“I love peonies, they are too beautiful for their own good, they cant even hold themselves up- they are so soft I just want to pet them like an animal.”

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Favorable Reception

All dressed up, a bubbly drink in hand, the waiter whisks by with a tray of alluring hors douvres, you grab one and make some funny comment as you struggle for a moment with it and your napkin. You resume the fabulously interesting and witty conversation you were having. Candles are lit all over, casting a flattering light on just about everyone. Bouquets of people are scattered in the space, unexpected combinations that seem to be working. A song comes on and you decide to dance, grab one more piece of food for the road, convice a bashful friend to join you. Smiling faces whirling around, you dance for 4 songs straight. Cake is out, you sample the petite fours placed before you, each one sweet and individual, just, like, you. The event is nearly over, you meander towards the exit, decide not to flatten the ambient ebullience with the first goodbye so you hop out the door into the dark young night.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Reluctant Gift of the Magi

Hair salons always make me uncomfortable. Most people feel pampered and beautiful, but I just cant relax in the mirrored, hot air blowing chaos. I cant browse through magazines with my feet up and act like I deserve this treatment. The stylists are standing up spraying, poufing, teasing, brushing, rocking on their high heels, distracted by the buzz of a coworker—I never know what to say to them.

Even though I know I have important and worthy things going on in my life, it all seems to evaporate when I am faced with a group of people milling about who I know place very very high value on looks and fashion and being stylish. I am low maintence but no one is charmed, they just feel sort of sorry for me I think. And I always seem to overhear a cluster of employees gossiping, sometimes they try to fill me on the info as if I wasnt the next victim.

I have nothing to offer them. I have no fancy bag or coat for them to compliment me on, I have no funky outfits or special knowledge of whats hot now. I have nothing they understand. All I have is a head of hair that desperately needs cutting and payment that I cant really afford to give.

Although, with all that said, I must also say I do feel much better after the haircut, like things are looking up, like change is in the air and like I am slightly invincible. Maybe these hairdressers are on to something.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Scold me Gently

When, if ever, is it okay to correct someone when they use a word incorrectly? Does it benefit a loved one or a coworker to know the truth, or does it embarrass them too much for it to be worth it?

People take word choice very seriously, and people judge others on the way they speak, period. But the type of person who corrects grammar and/or word usage is rarely the type to carry with it enough tenderness so as not to hurt the incorrect person too much. Not sure if the trait of being the type of person who corrects and the type of person who corrects in a condescending way can ever exist separately.

And you may ask yourself why that person is using a word incorrectly in the first place, because he or she is on a secret mission to speak in a way that is beyond their understanding in order to impress people out there.

So, if you are part of the grammatical elite, do you let these incorrect usages just burn up as they leave the atmosphere, or do you catch them on their way out? Should you drag the puppy by the collar over to the poop it left on the carpet and scold it gently? Are you the better person because you know the truth, certainly not, but chances are you might think so.

Fiction Fridays (Late Edition): Waiting

His hand was bruised and other things were too. He had tumbled down a long flight of concrete subway stairs with the exaggerated flailing of a stunt double, but he wasn't. He sat at the bottom of the staircase, a heap of man and suit. Feet were crowded around him as his old head lay on the cold, impossibly hard surface.

In his scrambled mind he thought maybe I should not have had that last manhattan, or maybe I just slipped. There was a flickering darkness out of one eye, and then the other. A moderate flame of awareness existed within him for a few minutes, and then it didnt.

She burned the first batch of perogies but she was keeping a close watch on the second. They were browned just right, so she took them out to drain on the paper towels. As she placed the last perfect perogie down, the phone rang.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Hope and War

Religion can give hope or ignite war. It is such a powerful set of ideas it should be respected for its strength if nothing else.

I love to think about how much a devout person of one religion believes in another religion, probably not very much. Then it becomes clear that it is just an ideology, that can be accepted or rejected. If it were truth, there would be only one.

Although, if religion helps people make sense of this life or understand death or just helps them wake up in the morning, then it is a wonderful thing. It is a marketing strategy for hope.

I am feeling like it is almost too personal to write about on the blog but I have been forced to think about it lately because of our upcoming wedding. War is on the horizon with my family and I can feel the rumble of troops marching towards us...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Art Without Art

The other night we went to see Paul Simon in concert. In between the jokes about our young age but old souls, we listened. We listened to familiar songs written before we were born that still rung true in our reflective and pining young ears.

Poems about struggle and heartache carried on the waves of sound. The tempo is best described as that moment immediately after you blow a candle out, the constant fluttering ribbons of smoke that seem like they will never stop emerging.

I thought about how music may be the most perfect art. Into it goes science, discipline, emotion, sound, touch. It travels from one body to another, or to many. And like a ghost it lives within us whispering messages to ourselves.

The other night, we missed the fuzzy hair and gentle accompanying voice of Art Garfunkle, but it was really a most complete art form anyway.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Joe on YouTube

Click on the title above for a clip of Joe in Venezuela getting a black eye or something. Love the way he jumps up from the mat.

A Temple for A Temple

We went to the Metropolitan Museum today. We sniffed around the Egyptian wing for a bit, checking out amazingly detailed and cryptic hieroglyphics carved with mind boggling precision in an emaculate piece of black stone.

Then we noticed light streaming from around a corner onto the sectioned marble floor. As we walked hand in hand around the bend we faced the breathtaking diagonal wall of windows in the room that houses the Temple of Dendur. Wouldnt it be nice to have our wedding there we mused, but mainly we just sat on the flat and low stone and soaked in the light and the massive space.

What an amazing room they have built to honor the temple, certainly echoes the grandure of the temple itself. A job well done for modern man.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Pulling the Plug

I dont own a TV. This causes an astounding amount of prematurely aborted conversations.

Someone will say, “You know that commercial...?”, “Did you see that episode...?”, “No I havent seen it, sorry”. Then usually with surprise and emphasis “YOU have NEVER seen it?”, “I dont have a TV.”

Confusion and sadness usually follows, on rare occasions praise.

Sometimes when appropriate and feasible I just nod and let the person pass gradually into the technicolor land of enthusiastically rehashing television things. They want to go there anyway, so who am I to disappoint them with my ignorance.

Television shows are like friends who force themselves on you and even if you dont like them all that much and you know parts of them are lame, you make them part of your life anyway. They steadily suck time away from dishes, plants and books and other three-dimensional things that have the ability to love you back.

Quit is a Four Letter Word

Quitting something that you have committed to, before it is officially over, is generally looked down upon. But there are times that you have a crimson burn inside of you that swells up like a poisonous mushroom rapidly growing in your moist gut. It signals that something is wrong and that getting out as soon as possible is your only hope.

And even if that mushroom is wrong, you listen, because you have no choice but to trust yourself, you are all you have. Listening to yourself feels good, because no one can give advice, really.

And after you have quit, you can move on. You will never know what might have been if you had stayed, but you will have to let that uncertainty wither into a pile of ash-like remains that are slowly blown away with each breath that you take of your new life.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Today’s Word of the Day



1. calm, peaceful, or tranquil; unruffled

(also looks like I may have found tomorrow’s word of the day, isn’t “unruffled” great.)

The Illuminating Garden

Last night we went to see the Dale Chihuly exhibit at the Botanical Gardens. It was truly stupendous.

It is amazing how, as adults, we still all open our eyes wide and Ooooo when we look at shiny colorful things, just like babies do. Thank goodness for our primate color vision-what a rich world we have the opportunity to enjoy.

My friend and I were having a hard time discerning whether or not the swelling and swirling glass sculptures were lit from the inside, or the light that was directed toward them was just reflecting in such an intense and sparkling way that it looked like they had lights inside. Fiber optics I thought, perhaps. We leaned and strained and squinted to figure out the truth of the matter.

As we walked among the tremendous exaggerated, playful and stunning pieces framed in the evening darkness, we talked about our lives, as we always do, and what was bothering us and what was helping us. We were dwarfed by the art and I liked it because it seemed like our problems were dwarfed too.

Then it occurred to me that the the concept of being lit from the inside or the outside is a near perfect metaphor for people.

Do great and strong people possess some kind of internal energy that emanates to those around them, or are some just positioned and shaped in a way that they have the ability to reflect the light of others brightly and with dazzling and directed force, the world may never know...

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Glass of Wine is Half Full

We bought a bottle of wine last night at a new wine store that just opened up. I actually didnt go in the store because I was on the cell phone at the time and standing outside waiting for Joe. I peeked in and saw him deep in lively conversation with the man at the wine store, they were nodding and chuckling.

When we finally opened the wine that the man had suggested, we took one sip and...

Joe picked up the phone and called the man at the wine store. He started out in a stern tone, “Hi I just bought a bottle of wine from you, (then he softened up) it is terrific, thank you so much for suggesting it and I will recommend your store to everyone I know.” The man responded with effusive thank yous and all was well with the world.

I imagine that that man went home and told his wife or partner or dog or all of them about Joe’s call.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

We are Not Alone

Everything we do is because of someone else.

Whether we want to please someone or want to prove something to someone, or on a broader scale because you are inspired by someone or want to help people or influence them in a certain way with your ideas.

All of my conclusions lead to the same place, this world is full of people and I just cant ignore it no matter how hard I may want to sometimes.

Sunday, October 8, 2006

Secret Symbiosis

I love those situations where Person A thinks they are helping Person B, but Person B thinks it is the reverse. Are both being helped then? or are both helping because they think they are? is helping defined by the helper or the helpee, or both?


Person A: “I think just hearing about my problems really helped her because she was able to put things in better perspective and realize that she is not the only one.”

Person B: “I think just letting her talk out her problems was really helpful to her, even though at times I wasnt fully listening.”


Person A: “We invited him over for dinner so he could have a chance to get out of the house and see some people, its good for him.”

Person B: “I only went to the party so they wouldnt feel like no one cared about their party.”


and the list goes on...beautiful.

Home Zoo

Click on the title above, Home funny and ridiculous.

Friday, October 6, 2006


I have both the gift of curiosity and the curse of anxiety. Constantly blowing up balloons and then popping them before they have the chance to leave my hands and float buoyantly above.

And I am learning that you cant be curious AND scared, it just doesn't work, you will only get as far as your back yard

and that’s only if you make it outside.

Woman Against Silence

Eyes open
acknowledge it is warm and cozy in my bed.
realize there is probably no better place than the place I am in.
minutes pass in milliseconds, pillow never felt so amazingly soft.
I am weightless and snug.
get out of bed anyway.

Stumble like a drunken St Bernard to the bathroom.
the people downstairs probably hate my lead foot in the morning.
make coffee.
hardly time to drink it.
leave it sitting.
get dressed.
no one will notice how wrinkled my pants are, right?
or that my shoes are so old that they look like they were dredged
up from the bottom of a swamp.

Run down street.
why aren't these people going to work?
wait for bus.
see the same girl I always see waiting, she never looks me in the eye.
same bus driver I always have, very nice but tough white woman, waits for old people, says good morning to everyone and announces all the stops. One morning I overheard her telling someone that she came home one night and her husband had left her
and he took the kids.

Arrive at work.
no one is there.
no one is even in the hallway.
What is an Anthropology Department with no humans?
flick on lights in lab.
prop the door open.
check email.
no one wrote.
turn machines on, listen to their entrance hum.
take buffer out to defrost.
check email again.
make more coffee.
set up reaction.
go to same place for lunch, they MUST recognize me after all these years, yet we never exchange any familiarity, even though I always put something in the tip jar.

Go back to lab.
the silence is smothering me.
I hear keys jingling outside the door,
no one comes in.
shut off lights and machines.

walk to Madison to catch the bus home.
see some funny looking people who are overdressed and botoxed.
see myself in store window, my pants are pretty wrinkled, huh.
beep of the metro card.
stare out window.
put on iPod, prepare for uplifting tunes.
battery is dead but I keep the headphones on.
my head turns forward when the bus jolts.
something smells funny.
kids are talking too loud.
at home.
it is quiet but,
it is not a relief.

Localized Epiphany

I had an epiphany yesterday, and I owe it all to the local bus. If I had taken the limited I dont think I would have had enough time to really work things out in my head as I did on the slow boat to Australia that is the local.

I felt a calm wash over me and for a moment I was existing inside that old Country Time lemonade commercial that I loved so much. Riding some old bicycle, with a basket, down a winding path in the sunshine with the comforting voice over “take the long way home.”

The scenario for the the next few years worked itself out in my head perfectly as I stared through and beyond the opulent buildings on 5th avenue. Like a successful game of tetris the pieces fit together perfectly, some even unexpectedly well, flashing with success.

I am not foolish enough to think that I have it all figured out, but I feel a lot better about the next few years. I thanked the bus driver when I got off.

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Proud of You

About a year ago someone said to me, “Wow you have really matured.” At first I was flattered and in agreement, of course, but as the sun set on that day, I grew to be offended because the implication was that I was immature before. I am sensitive about this topic because, I was in fact immature, but also young in my defense.

I thought the other day about how telling someone you are proud of them can also seem like you are really surprised that they did so well, because you expected less.

So I have a hard time expressing thoughts like “wow you have come a long way” for fear that the person may be offended, as I was.

The other day I visited a friend who has done such great work and seems to have a lovely life of which I know that she would have dreamed of 6 years ago. But like all of us, it is hard to gather up all of the days that have passed into a cohesive quilt of achievement, so I dont think she really knows how much she has really achieved or how proud I am of her, because I didn’t want to offend her.

In the Beginning...

I went to a symposium about human evolution yesterday. It was primarily about when the genus Homo first arose, as in Homo sapiens, but before that like Homo habilis. The Leakeys were there and other old creaky respected people in the field. It was interesting to hear them speak and quite inspiring in a way.

But I was day dreaming about getting up and asking the question: How do you feel the definition of our genus and when, where and how it began influences our current life?

Monday, October 2, 2006

Collectively Good

The other day I was in a card store and I could not find a suitable card for the sentiment I felt. I had exhausted all the possibilities on the rack I was looking at. So I walked around and saw another rack of cards that looked perfect, inviting and fun in the distance. Ooooo Here is where I will find what I need, I thought.

But then when I get to the rack and start looking at the designs on the individual cards, I cant seem to find one that I like all that much. I realized that it is the collection of cards that I like, but one card cannot stand alone.

Knowing that I couldn't take the whole rack with me and give it to someone, I moved on with my new idea in my pocket, but nothing else.

There are other things that work by this same phenomenon, collectively beautiful or interesting, but when taken alone they lose something.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Today’s Word of the Day

Today’s word of the day is:


As in the Beatles song Glass Onion:

“Fixing a hole in the ocean
Trying to make a dovetail joint-yeah
Looking through a glass onion.”

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Fear is not the Answer

Today I talked with someone about going to Graduate school, which is not really anything new for me these days. I did most of the talking so I cant say that some kind of wisdom was given to me today.

I talked about how for years now I have considered Grad school the answer for me, but really it is just a very long and difficult question. But I listened to myself talk and I listened to myself line up a bunch of reasons why I cant do this and why I wont be successful.

And upon revisiting my Why-I-Cant-Do-This list, I realized that yes the points are clear and valid but since I know the person who wrote that list, I can safely say that the source of all of those well thought out reasons is a deep and limitless ocean of fear and I cannot see the bottom.

So I came upon a resolution tonight-Fear is not a good enough reason not to go to Graduate School. And fear is not a good enough reason to not do anything that you really want to for that matter.

The Perfect Question

I have been thinking lately about asking questions in class. And in my thinking about it way too much I have come to the conclusion that asking a question is an art. Which makes it all the more difficult for me to relax and just casually speak in class.

When asking the perfect question, we dont want to sound ignorant of the facts, but want to collect them into a bundle and wrap them in a cloth of the perfect level of understanding and inquiry. As if to say, I know what I am talking about I just want some clarification for the connections I am making in my head, which are new and exciting.

And connections are key. Connect your knowledge of one thing to something else that is known and then ask.

Maybe I will muster up the gusto for this soon.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Black Eye, Black Belt and a Smile

Joe returned from Venezuela with a black eye and his black belt and I dont think I have seen him so moved by an experience in my life. He was given his black belt unexpectedly (and presumably the black eye was unexpected too) in a ceremony with 150 people present. He did not know a word of Spanish going down, but managed to charm the Venezuelan people with his intercontinental charisma.

We stumbled upon a Venezuelan restaurant where we ate together tonight and caught up on the time that passed.

It was completely perfect and spontaneous... just like Joe.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Speech! Speech!

I went to a lovely wedding last night and the Bride’s father read a quote by Leo Tolstoy that I thought was very worth mentioning again:

“What counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how compatible you are, but how you deal with incompatibility”

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Clarity and Confusion

Interesting things I am learning about in class, which are confusing me and making me think:

1) A fossil hominin is found and dated to, let say 3 million years old, then one is found and dated to 6 million. The date alone is only a very minor part of how its relationship to other extinct species is inferred. The 3 million year old specimen can have features that are more ancestral than the 6 million year old one. Morphological features do not change uniformly over time or through lineages, and human evolution is far from linear. Interesting and confounding.

2) A novel feature in a fossil may enable it to be grouped with other fossils that share the same new feature, and differentiate it from an older more ancestral group that does not show this structure. But then, that same new feature is ancestral relative to an even more contemporary form. There is much discussion in Paleoanthrology about shared novel, or as they say “derived” features, being the crux of inferring species relationships of extinct hominins. And I just wanted to put it in words that, like most things, it is all relative.

3) After reading the material it is clear that scientists are splitting hairs to determine the best species category for these extinct ancestors. But I was thinking the other day that grouping living organisms into species is possible and obviously practical, but what of these extinct species relationships? Time is a factor that throws some current species concepts on its head and might it suffice to say that these were all human ancestors, one way or another, and to form one species distiction for all extinct hominins, like “Homo extinctus” and end it there. But I suppose that would be maximally uninteresting and would put a lot of hard working people out of work.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Dazzled by Mystery

There is a certain kind of respect and awe that can only exist when something or someone is unknown to us. The mind can craft and assign an enchanted forest of qualities to something that is not fully explored. It is both wonderful and terrible to find out what something or someone really is.

New Fossil Discovery!

Very exciting paleoanthropological discovery in Ethiopia!

click on title above for link.

Yesterday’s Word of the Day


As in: Marooned on an island.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

BUtterfield 8

My phone died last night and I had to use a pay phone. It smelled so bad that I didnt have to imagine the bacteria that was covering it because they practically came out and did a Busby Berkeley number to announce their presence.

I bent down to press the buttons and heard the off key whimper of the notes. The receiver was so large that I felt like I was at the foot of the stairs in “Its A Wonderful Life” making some kind of frantic 1940s phone call. I looked off into the orange streetlight as the other line rang, sparkling with static.

It rang and rang and I wondered how many people had used the phone I was on and what kinds of things were said into it, how many I love yous or I hate yous or meet me at the pier I have your money, its in a paper bag that says thank you for your partronage?

Pay phones are a dying species. Things that die out or fall out of favor in our lifetime sometimes make me a little sad. Like a negleted worn teddy bear that stares into your soul with its black bead eyes and urges you to remember all the good times you had together as you stuff it in a plastic bag to store in the attic. But maybe we wont miss pay phones in all their odoriferous glory, but there was something nice and nostalgic and urgent feeling in the call I made last night on it.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Miss Understanding

Had another class today, one of the very first things mentioned by our distinguished professor was that the evolution of ideas in the field of paleoanthropology is very important to take into consideration and learn, much like what I said 2 posts ago on the blog (see “Time Change.”) It was nice to hear that something I had thought was then being said by the professor, but it all leads to the same place...more things to read.

Also, I have realized that the rift between understanding something and really knowing something can be large and deep. When I go to these lectures the professors are so articulate that when they explain concepts it is like butter melting on an English Muffin. It goes down easily and makes you feel good and crunchy all over. So, I leave the class feeling okay, but then realize when someone asks me how it was that I can hardly repeat a word of it with any facility. So I understand the material, because of the great professors...but I dont know it at all. Absolutely must work on reducing this rift.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Poplar Science

The first entire genome of a tree was sequenced, the regal and Monet adored Poplar. The genetic information may aid in turning trees into better fuels, how exciting!

click on title above for article.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Time Change

When I looked over at the field of science from my high isolated turret of design, I saw certainty in the distance. I saw facts as hard as igneous rocks and astonishingly beautiful intricate truths lit by the earth’s one faithful moon.

As I approach the second meeting of my Paleoanthpology class and sift through the piles of papers assigned I am clouded by the realization that nothing is true or static. Our first class showed that the organization of species relationships to be a controversial and ever changing structure. Now I am reading about the Geologic time scale ( Jurassic, Triassic, Precambrian etc) and am learning that there is debate there too.

“Among all the variables behind human evolution, none is more crucial than time” is the first line of Chapter 2 of my book and what could not be more true is that time is not only the framework within which our species has evolved physiologically and culturally, but time is also the crucial ingredient that forces ideas to change.

I wonder where Paleoanthropology will be in 30 years?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Boiling and Evaporating

I have gotten extremely angry about a few things lately, like blood vessel popping frustration wanting to move mountains with my rage. But I held back my anger and didnt do a thing. I sat there so still that butterflies could have landed on me in peaceful respose while the hidden lava bolied inside of me.

What I havent figured out yet is one really strong for not unleashing anger, or really weak?

Monday, September 11, 2006

From Fossils to Fashion

I went to my first Paleoanthropology class yesterday. Before the class I was as nervous as a young gazelle wandering through a pack of hungry lions. Once I arrived I calmed down a bit, the professors seem friendly and enthusiastic but still quite intimidatingly knowledgeable.

One professor went to get a piece of chalk out of a narrow deep cup and remarked “you have to be a Daubentonia to get this chalk out”, and it took me a minute, but then I laughed. He was referring to the primate called an Aye-Aye who has one strange long thin finger for the purpose of extracting termites from a tree. So this is the kind of geek humor that goes down in these classes, it is kind of charming if you get it.

After class was over and Joe and I went to the Marc Jacobs fashion show for Fall Fashion week. Joe built the runway and set.
The set was beautiful and lit in a magical way. The music was Pachelbel's canon, which contributed to its surreal dreamscape feel. The clothes were interesting, the shoes looked uncomfortable, the models walked like robots. The show lasted about 25 minutes if that, very short especially considering the work that went into it. The people around were elitist and strange and I felt out of place in my Target sweater.

What a weird day I had and I rummaged around for commonality between the two events. The common ground is passion for what you see as purpose and humans are the focus in both. Also, both groups of people are so deeply immersed in their very narrow, specific world. But mainly the connection that I saw is that the right person’s opinion can grow into a crowd of hungry supporters, both in science and fashion. Its just one person’s idea of what is right or what is beautiful.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Cross to Wear

He wore the cross around his neck for 4 years in WWII. When he died, several years after the war, she wanted him to be buried with it. The funeral home did not allow anyone to be buried with jewelry on, so she took the gold cross that hung around her husband’s neck and she put in on. She wore it proudly and sorrowfully for over 40 years.

Gold and gleaming and on a delicate chain, it always hung outside her shirt. It reminded her of him. He was a milliner and an Italian. And according to my Great-Aunt he was as equally courageous as he was charismatic. She believed that his cross shielded her from harm, like his hand placed always over her heart.

My Great-Aunt broke her hip the other day and was rushed to the hospital and then subsequently shuffled from room to bleak and lonely room and stripped of her clothes. She speaks with a charming French accent but can be as virulent as a scorpion with her quick wit. She is 96. People like to write her off as “confused” because it is easier to cope with her difficult personality.

I went to see her the other day in the hospital and she is in pain physically, but not as much pain as she seems to be emotionally. Tears welled up in her already watery old gray eyes. The hospital staff lost her cross. It is nowhere.

This made me awfully sad. There is a blemish on the orb of sentimentality and old romanticism that embraces our blue earth.

Friday, September 8, 2006

Asymmetrical Spectacular

The other day I wore two different socks. It was out of necessity but not by accident. By the end of the day, I successfully convinced myself that it worked.

At my job we are required to wear closed toed shoes, so it always makes for some doofy looking outfits when I decide to wear a skirt, but then put on socks and my big blue and orange sneakers. (Those sneakers are so damn comfortable though, the comfort alone gives me confidence, who needs style.)

So the other day I had on a skirt, my sneakers and striped socks, they were different. The stripes were thick on the left one, but thin on the right.

I think someone noticed.

Fiction Friday Hiatus

Due to an increasingly busy schedule I am going to have to put Fiction Fridays on hold for a while, but please stay tuned, because they will be back! For now, they will be replaced with a normal post, just the facts.

It has been nice to write a story from a different person’s (or guinea pig’s) perspective each week, it helps me to understand people (and guinea pigs) and their curious ways, even if they are fictional.

Have a nice weekend.

Thursday, September 7, 2006

Daily Distinction

I think it is so interesting how we all look slightly different each day. Hair may be done differently, new clothes hopefully, face puffy because of last nights sushi, eyes one day older, new scratch on face because of the incident. Sleep transforms us each night.

I once saw this website where someone took a photograph of themselves each day for a year, it was a good idea.

This subtle daily variation adds a little unexpected spark to seeing the same people day in and day out, even ourselves.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Super Heros

Yesterday on the subway I sat across from two young men. They were friends and they were dorks. I observed them talking to one another, hopping from obscure movie reference to talk of computers and so on. They were both overweight with bad posture and wore loose out of style clothing and one had a bag with patches sewn on. One was more talkative and animated than the other, the other was more slouchy and cynical.

The funny thing was they kept arguing with each other about every single topic that was raised. I liked watching them, they were the type of angry awkward boys who sifted through the world hunting for authenticity in things, and sort of hated even their closest friends.

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

People Love

I love people who love people. And I dont just mean people who are social and have the ability to talk to others with ease, but people who truly and authentically appreciate the diversity of humans and delight in the simple differences of strangers.

I am lucky to have a few friends who have this amazing quality, and of course Joe does too. It nourishes me. These people see expressive character in everyone and have the gentle assumption that all people are good, yet motivated by a different god. These people are constantly dazzled by the medley of humanity and may flash a winsome smile when describing the details of another person.

There is no looking down on the man who lives out of his car or the fumbling waiter, but there is noticing his slight accent and wispy haired innocence or his whimsical bouncing gait.

I think these people lovers have it all figured out. Life never ceases to be interesting and all of the contempt that springs from misunderstanding differences of ideas or appearance is replaced with celebration.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Factual Friday: Simple Treasures

Yesterday I was able to look through some old things that an Anthropologist who worked in the building years ago had left behind. Most of the items clearly fell into the category of junk that the person didnt have the patience to parse. Tangled wires and power-strips, old notebooks, small containers of dried out pens, yellowing index cards with neat and wispy crusty handwriting on them.

But then there was a small, heavy box that contained about 60 glass slides from the early 1900’s. They were each packed individually and pristinely in an off white waxy paper sleeve, looking something like those After Eight mints. This person had done field work in the western united states and all of the craggy, rocky landscapes were shown before me in an incredible black and white range of eloquent romantic detail. The slides were beautiful and it was amazing to see such absorbing depth in two dimensions. They howled with a penetrating mystique, it was a shame to close the box back up and silence them again. Behind me stood a box full of folded anaconda and python skins, they were softer than I expected and displayed bold patterns in two alternating shades of a deep orangey brown. There was a spectacular and regal ostridge feather duster that was lovely to look at and probably worked well as a duster too, but I didnt try it.

Someone absolutely must miss these items. They wanted to speak. It’s nice to work in an old place, time makes things richer, even if someone thought it was junk years ago. Junk ripens.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Lychee Martinis and Me

Over a year ago I was with an old friend who makes every night as memorable as she can with clouds of boisterous conversation and a generous endless flow of alcohol. After a few sips of my first drink, a second comes flying down the bar with my name on it. “For me?” I question with false modesty, but then accept the poisonous gift under my wing to save for later. The night went on like this until I found myself 3 or so lychee martinis later and violently puking in my friends boyfriends shiny new car. I just cannot drink the way she can.

To this day I cannot even say the word lychee without a lump the size of, well a lychee, forming in my throat and a gag begins to creep up like a slowly overflowing toilet, disgusting and scary.

So it is fitting that last night I was out with a bunch of people and a martini glass was broken at the table we were at. I assume it happened as a result of some expressive hand flailing. It happened fast, glass went in a few directions and I felt something hit me in the nose. Then I saw the little flesh colored slightly obscene looking fruit lying there on the table, perfectly intact. The blood began to emerge from the slice that was taken out of my nose by the flying glass. I am fine, but it was awkward. I went home.

Those damn lychee martinis and I just dont mix.

Back to Blogging

I am back from a short blogging hiatus and have gained my balance again after Joe's parents finally met mine this weekend. I realized, sadly and happily, that it wasn't that big of a deal and I am sorry to report that nothing noteworthy happened, good or bad, but its done and I can move forward. On Donner! On Blitzen! On Blogging! On Witticisms!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Silent Things

Someone asked for extra cheese on their slice of pizza yesterday and the man behind the counter began liberally sprinkling the grated mozzarella onto the slice.

I realized that this action was totally quiet, it did not make one sound. I have been trying to think of other actions that are completely silent since yesterday, it is sort of difficult:

snow falling
birds gliding

and then I thought that even though we are unable to hear these things, maybe they make some kind of a sounds beyond are capability and maybe when the pizza was being sprinkled with extra cheese an elephant somewhere was awakened.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Mixin’ It Up

Picture a drop of concentrated blue dye dropping into two different shaped vessels of water. The vessels hold an equal volume of water. One container is flat and almost as shallow as a cookie sheet, the other is a tall and slender vase. After the drop descends into the clear inviting liquid in each container, it is mixed. It is mixed with a spoon, the same spoon for both.

Does the drop of blue mix better and quicker and more thoroughly in the slender container versus the flat and shallow one? There seems like there is more disruptive and efficient mixing possible in the thinner vessel because there is just more potential for fast turbulent turnover aided by gravity.

I thought of this today in the lab, on a much subtler scale than described above, when I used the very smallest tube we have to mix the reaction in. Mixing is key in PCR reactions so I am inclined to think about this type of thing.

It is probably a useful thought for cooking too I suppose if you were in the market for optimizing your cake batter.

The Lives of A Cell

Our most dear and cherished accessory, the cell phone, has attempted to increase quantity and convenience of communication, but has ultimately lowered the quality of it. Especially for me.

Firstly, the delay that infuses awkward choppy pauses in the conversation that actually have no meaning, but in a weak moment we are convinced that they might and may read into some emotional cues that are simply not there.

Probably the worst part of all is that conversations take place at the most inopportune times and as you balance your little portal to the world on your shoulder and pay for your coffee at the same time, you dont count the change as you repeat in blank half listening mode "Right, Riiiiiight".

Your coffee truck man and your friend on the line both suffer in tandem and don’t receive the proper honor of your full attention. In the city, buses, trucks and blaring fire engines seem to flock to me like ants in springtime to a cup of sugar when I am on the phone. Not to mention the annoyance of others on the phone around us, revealing their voice and inner thoughts that you never wanted to hear.

I long for the days of the heavy rotary phone receiver that spanned my entire face and embraced it with the clear and uninterrupted voice of a friend in a long and detailed conversation about nothing of which I was unwaveringly engrossed in. Also, I seem to have no time for such luxuries anymore.

But I am sure I am most bitter because my loved one never charges his cell phone and it burns me every time I call and am ushered unceremoniously to his breezy happy voicemail that I know he never checks. This is what happened this morning, hence this post.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Writing On The Wall

In the bathroom of a dingy yet charming coffee shop near Columbia University there is passionate, opinionated, witty and sometimes frivolous and asinine writing all over the walls, and even some on the ceiling.

I thought that by the time you reached college you were over this kind of graffiti thing, but it seems like it is part of the culture and certainly part of the delightfulness of this place. And if one were to get over the graffiti thing then I might have missed out on the gem that stood before me last night.

Neatly scrawled in blue ink and standing alone with no responses or additions read the comforting words that we all long to hear:

“Things are

going to

be okay.


and even though also written on the wall is “Who’s Bush?” I chose to take the aformentioned quote instantly to heart.


Today is the first day that I heard the sorrowful golden whisper of autumn in the air and even though I enjoy the fall in all of its warm apple pie and harvest colored glory, it made me sad.

The fall seems to ask us to be more serious about things, it is probably the association I have with school beginning again, but there is just something about the crisp mature breeze and crunching leaves that evokes a reflective feeling. Not only are we asked to consider what the fading summer has given us, but this seasonal transition requires some solid plans for the deep and limitless the future.

Science Speak: Follow Up

Be careful what you wish for. The professor wrote back to me about taking the course, said it would be okay and sent me the syllabus and a few weekly reading lists.

The class requires a presentation and my stomach is turning just thinking about it. Then also the reading lists include reading almost 20 papers per week!

Oh dear, how will I find the time for blogging?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Fiction Fridays: The Risk of Trust

“I just dont trust them and that's all there is to it dear!”

“Well then how on earth can you even think of trusting me?”

“You are different Gabrielle.”

This conversation was going in quick and intense circles of misunderstanding, so Gabrielle decided that she needed to just drop it. Anyway it was almost 11:30 and time for Mrs. Benvik to eat her lunch.

Gabrielle had worked as Mrs. Benvik’s home nurse for almost four and a half years now, they had been friends for about two. Really there wasnt much to complain about, she had a beautiful old townhouse that she lived in and although she worked astonishingly hard and there was no one there who acknowledged it, she liked the pleasant tranquility that rose tenderly around her each day as she watered the plants and made lunch.

Mrs Benvick could be as vicious as a petite growling chihuahua, but oftentimes she was perfectly quiet, poised and lovely to be around. She sat in her yellow and orange brocade chair with her hands folded, all gussied up in 30 year old garments that still fit and powdery smelling expired make-up. One got the notion that in her day she was stylish, consumed by the laws of what she considered proper ettiqute and thought of herself as both an exceptional hostess and judge of character.

Gabrielle had just turned 31 that year and had broken up with her boyfriend of 14 years. She was lonely but she had been for the last 5 years of their fizzling out relationship, so the feeling was familiar and felt only slightly more irreversible and acute than it was last year.

After some persistent nibbling of her lunch, Mrs. Benvick wanted to go to the bank. This was one of her favorite places to go. She loved to check up on her money and gracefully socialize with the employees there, and she relished being a customer who was treated well.

Gabrielle and Mrs. Benvick walked to the bank, it was just down the street and with her fragile birdlike hand being held by Gabrielle, Mrs Benvick was steady and strong. They paused at the corner and waited for the cars to go by. There was a sudden loud snap of noise and even Mrs Benvick with her compromised hearing jumped a bit when she heard it. Gabrielle’s hand let go of Mrs Benvick’s. Mrs Benvick turned to Gabrielle to comment about the noise and choked on the vision that was flowing out in front of her. Gabrielle lay in a pool of dark and gushing blood. Mrs Benvik moved her foot out of the way of the mess and began to fiercely beckon passers by for help.

to be continued next Friday...

Science Speak

The real reason why I was feeling sour today is because last night I wrote an email to a person who is a very respected scientist in the field of biological anthropology. In my email I wanted to express my enthusiasm for a particular course I am interested in taking, but hardly qualified. So I did, but I fear the words I used were too sincere and informal and not how scientists converse.

I have not gotten a response to my email yet so my inexperienced eagerness is suspended in mid air but time has stopped and I don't know if it will careen into the gorge when time resumes, or it will float like a dandelion seed. I will know when I hear back.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Dance of Working Hands

It is always nice when someone behind a counter at a deli or take out place is efficient. And it is not only nice because the line moves fast along and we can all promptly return to our important lives.

When someone’s hands move swiftly over coins or folding paper bags like they could do it in their sleep, it casts a spell over me. The graceful confidence in their hands is inspiring and it seems like they take pride in their work. I love watching well choreographed hands dance. It seems automatic but not insincere. They have worked a long time to get to this point and on their first wobbly day they probably longed for the breezy familiarity that they have now achieved.

I was in a deli the other day and my items were bagged and the change was whipped back at me in record time, and there was no one waiting behind me.

Monday, August 14, 2006

One Love

I admire when someone is irrationally passionate about and wholeheartedly absorbed in any one subject, whether it be kung fu movies, typefaces or gorilla conservation.

I have always wanted to be in a career that I feel this way about and I assume that most people do. Although, I know I probably represent the more idealistic end of the spectrum.

Today the idea was raised that it may not be a good thing to be unconditionally absorbed in your work. I always thought that being absorbed in your job, thinking about it on the train, researching on weekends and stubbornly pressing on against all obstacles was a good thing. Its what makes waking up early in the morning something to look forward to. I thought that having a bookshelf heavy with books about your one love was something to look up to. To be an expert in something is awesome, because most people aren’t. This is the way progress is made.

But maybe it is imbalanced and unhealthy? Maybe you miss out on too much when you focus too intently on one thing.

I thought it was magnificent to find the one thing that you feel you can make sense of the world through doing. I suppose that most people search their whole lives for their one love and never find a subject that really fires them up. Some people will never look and some people will probably not be passionate about anything ever. But right now it feels like it is something I want, so I am going to find it.

(When I read this post to Joe and asked him for a title suggestion, he spoke in his sleepy wisdom, “from Baboons to Baseball I am in it for the Long Haul” and while I decided not to use it as a title, I thought it was worth mentioning.)

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Resistance

Those soft ice cube trays seem like such a good idea, they come in various fun colors and cute shapes. But when you take the ice out of them there is not enough resistance in the rubber to make them spiritedly pop out. So I had to turn and twist and urge them out of the tray and I found myself missing the resistance of the uninspired old white plastic.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Fiction Fridays: If I Were a Guinea Pig

I know I am ugly. I shimmied by a shiny toaster at the ripe old age of 1 and was shocked by what I saw, the fun-house curve of the toaster didn’t help. Every day is a bad hair day, so much so that maybe it cant be considered bad anymore since there is no real balance of “good” on the horizon.

Sometimes I think of my cage as a throne, I am protected and honored when I am in it, people admire me when I am there. Other times I think of it as captivity, I suppose it is both.

I love my food as much as an individual can love the reassuring crunch of dry pellets. Sometimes the crunching drowns out the sounds around me that I cant bear to hear anymore, that is quite nice.

I don't have any aspirations. I have known no one like me in this world to comfort me with tales of other places and ways of living.

Occasionally I like the feel of the cool metal bars of the cage on my nose.

Thank you for this opportunity for me to tell you about my life, that’s all for now.

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Remember the Roommate

I was recently reminded of how difficult it is to share your home with a roommate.

At first you both jump head first to the comforting conclusion that everything really is working out well. You share the rent and the chores and have a joint love for avocados and sitar music, how very perfect.

For the first few weeks you enthusiastically share too much information with each other and glaze your every movement with understated politeness. As the clock ticks, a few dishes pile up and crust and you see less of each other, but both are fine with you. Separate lives are good, we each have our own thing going on and that is why it works, you tell yourself. You even like the feel of cool soapy water on your hands as you wash the dishes, but the milk of your optimism is turning.

You step into the shower one morning and your surroundings finally disgust you, it is raining outside, the dishes are piled up, you have heard the same CD 5 times in the last week and if you want to use my computer please just ask first. You walk by each other in the tiny hallway like strangers. You strain to keep your thoughts and doings a secret. Doors close. Eyes are not met. Their presence sears your flesh.

You complain to friends, it consumes you. Your anger has grown exponentially in recent weeks and you are a twitching mess of emptiness. There is nothing to do but go away for a while. You pack your bags and leave with little ado or information exchanged with your address partner.

When you arrive home things are slightly better, you share stories of your trip. And you are both relieved to talk again and laugh a little. Their face looks subtly different to you because you have not looked at it straight-on in about two weeks. But over time the cycle repeats.

And most times the web of resentment is not the fault of either party, it is just the intrinsic dynamic that a roommate brings. It is as unexceptional and inevitable as smelly socks.

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Jean Type

The type of jeans that someone wears can reveal volumes about them that all of their other clothes keep a secret. Your jeans describe the precise longitude and latitude of your fashion prowess.

Flared at the bottom or cuffed or heaven help you pegged? Dark or light or peace be with you acid washed? Low on the waist or high? Crisp or weathered? and endless forms intermediate.

When you see someone in jeans for the first time, it illuminates their relationship with relaxation and you say to yourself, “Oh, you are one of those”.

Jeans are the great equalizer. Lets abandon all other categories of people for a moment, race, culture or class and group the world by types of jeans instead. More peace and understanding? Perhaps. More fluid inter-category mobility and a general feeling of ease, that only jean wearing can evoke? Definitely.

So next time you don a pair of your favorite blues, think to yourself...where do I fit in in this great continuum of jean morphology? and am I happy with my place?

Saturday, August 5, 2006

The Shop

I feel lucky to be marrying someone who loves their job. Joe has worked at “the shop” building a certifiable stairway to paradise for over 5 years now. I have to keep reminding myself of this to quell my anger and sadness when he works. He works a lot and seems to be on call like a physician, but I know he enjoys mostly every minute of it. When I visit his work place I am reminded of the energy it holds and why Creative Engineering is like a drug addiction, not physically good for you, everyone is telling you to stop, but in his mind and devoted heart, it makes him glow with life.

When Joe talks about his work to others, his eyes shine as he churns out more exacting detail than even the most fastidious client would ever care to hear. People nod, but I know he has lost them in the 45 degree angle, and all thats left for them to focus on is his refulgent enthusiasm that they are desperately hoping is contagious.

In the shop testosterone fuels a smattering of suspicion and mistrust, but blaring classic rock, clouds of sawdust and a childlike anticipation of lunchtime unites them. A reluctant camaraderie embraces its members who are striving young men that enter through a revolving door from virtually all walks of life. Sometimes they are looking for the shop to save them, from themselves and from the uncertainty that life has dealt them.

It is 10000 square feet of colors, textures, woods, metals, glue, nails, whining power tools, sweat, calluses and foolish stubborn dedication to a cause they pretend to have little respect for in the end.

Decisions have to be made that disappear into the complete piece. How do we match this color, how do we achieve this texture or shape?

And while it is not always comforting to think of engineering getting too creative, as the name suggests, they do good solid proud work at the shop. Most of their work probably goes unnoticed, like most things. But it is in the process of construction where the true ingenuity lies.