Monday, December 31, 2007

What Art is For

I am finding it hard to find a place in my life and an explanation for all things art and science. Because for every single concept or organization that purports to fuse them into oneness, I still maintain that they are so damn different that sometimes my head spins and strains and hurts to reconcile the two, while my heart reaches out for both beyond reason.

Recently, I was at a funeral and someone I used to know asked me what I did and I told them. She was working as a party planner and she said {wow it makes my job seem so shallow} and I said to her {dont feel that way, because ultimately all anybody wants to do is go to a party} and it awakened the feeling in me that so many seemingly frivolous things are just there, not to cure illness or put food in mouths, but to make life a little nicer and that is in itself a very important function.

So, In honor of the new year and my new outlook, I am posting something that I heard on the radio the other day. It is a list that the artist Mary Frank put together in her journal about what art is for:

to comfort the dead and to awaken the living.

to feel the power of color and shape and to fill an unspoken hunger for community

to give courage use the heart to risk and never be afraid of tenderness or the absurd.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Lightness and the Sweetness

I am re-posting an old post of mine that I keep thinking about and that is relevant again:

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.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Grass Is No Greener

So tonight it was solved, and its over for now. I was telling my brother all the reasons why I am miserable in my current position and we discussed how I always want to do something other than what I am doing, no matter what I am doing. He said that its a problem of imagination that I have. What? I thought?

He said that it is easier to imagine yourself 180º from where you are than say, 3º from where you are. In other words it is hard to make your current situation into what you want it to be than it is to imagine a total overhaul being exactly what you need.

done and done. I am off to do some homework.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

I Can Never Go Back Home Again

I have been putting off blogging actually, because I have so much to say that it is almost a burden. This is a post about what I have learned this semester, my first official semester as a graduate student. Because even though I have kicked and screamed and faked apathy towards my classes and fought vainly the old ennui, now that I look back I am certainly transformed and, for better or worse, I can never go back home again:

In the field I am in, there is no way to know the truth of what exactly happened in the past and how evolution got us to this point, in our molecules or our bones, its all conjecture really, but you have to love the basic craft of aspiring towards the idea of “truth.” You have to love the process and not get bogged down by what you cant know. This is a very difficult thing.

The process of science and all the sensibilities that it requires, efficiency, logic, details, big picture comparison, is a highly pervasive set of skills. Is there a way to keep all of these things inside the lab and not start to clean the bathroom or paint your nails in a scientific way? Again, very difficult.

Also, is there a way to look at something and be content with its mystery again and not want to know what exactly makes it tick? because sometimes the clock itself it just a thing of beauty without having to know the unpoetic particulars of how the gears meet each other. This has been very, very difficult for me, I have learned.

Scientifically deconstructing a painting, for example, has been a very depressing thought for me. I need to learn how to separate my life from this. I need to learn to enjoy getting flour all over me at home, but not enjoy getting luria bertani broth all over me in the lab, if that this possible. For example, I know that music is math, but isn't that just the driest and saddest summation of it?

When you embark on your wildest dream, you may have no more dreams left, so you better make it work.

This is why people have regular jobs that deal with ‘lighter’ topics. I have always strived for a career that would really be in perfect agreement with my values, but it is just a terribly risky thing to be so entrenched in something that you really believe in.

And I am afraid I will never recover.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

a tip for a tab

Anyone know if the little tab of fabric that sticks out of the top of a beret has a name? just wondering.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Men Say They Know Many Things

How I am feeling lately, described perfectly by Henry David Thoreau-

{Men say they know many things;
But lo! they have taken wings, —
The arts and sciences,
And a thousand appliances;
The wind that blows
Is all that any body knows.}

Friday, November 30, 2007

Monkey in the Middle

I have been thinking about academia and science lately and have realized that research projects cannot be too detached from meaning, or they will not be funded or cared about, but on the other hand they cannot be too functional, too close to turning into a cure or a solution, or they will be seen as crass.

Academic research in science paralyzes you somewhere neatly between irrelevance and practicality—one cannot dare get too close to either one.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Cleverest

Sometimes I feel like I am from another planet when it comes to successful social interaction. I just arrived on earth about 5 years ago and am feeling around in the dark, just trying to make sense of the complex, changeable abyss that is socializing with humans.

The other day it occurred to me that when you are talking to someone who presents a new idea for something, it is always the best practice to open up the possibilities further {thats great and you could also add a plastic tray that catches the runoff...} than to shut them down by saying {thats not going to work because...}.

This may seem simple, but I think that when people hear a silly sounding new idea they have a tendency to want to quash it, rather than run with it. Maybe its some kind of evolutionary competition-survivial of the cleverest-but its just really unbecoming.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Poem With No Words

I was on the bus the other day,
riding up 5th Avenue.
It was day but it was dark.

I saw yellow leaves falling from the trees
at a curious rate.
The wind was blowing
and they were wet.

They fell slowly to the ground
and since the bus goes so slow
it seemed like the world
was slowing down.

The falling leaves were beautiful
they looked like poetry
but I knew I wouldnt have the

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Lost in Space

We went to visit what had been an artists old studio. Nothing had been touched since his death in 1945. It was filled with paints that dried in mid-movement, neatly stacked and well considered cigar boxes and amazing all encompasing space-very high ceilings and wide undivided rooms-it is no wonder that cathedrals were built so high so as to be closer to the gods, there is certainly something divine about large spaces- and there was much, much light that lit the textures of quietness as it fell through the one large and perfect window from the wooded, bucolic outdoors.

Among other many things we discussed as we left I said to Joe that “empty space is not necessarily wasted space” and I wished that we had the luxury of living that way. Maybe some day.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Quote of the Day

I found this quote and LOVED it deeply:

{Perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once, beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something that needs our love.} -Rainer Maria Rilke

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

These Boots are Made for Talking

I wasnt feeling up to much last week, so naturally I thought that I needed a new pair of boots.

I went to the store and they had a shoe that actually fit me, never you mind that it had a 3+ inch heel and was cinnamon colored leather that goes with nothing I have. So I bought them, in haste, in illogical desperation and in hope that they would be what I needed to turn this life around into a perfect and neat story of success, stylishness, happiness and brilliance.

I put them on at home and showed Joe and he told me what I already knew but had pushed deep into my psyche. They were just too big on the calf and Joe said that I looked like Santa. I stood there looking foolish and feeling defeated. I cant buy ANYthing nice, there is always some kind of glitch or run or I get it home and they forgot to take the alarm tag off. I wanted to stomp around like a 3 year old but the neighbors would probably call the police, these puppies were large and powerful and stomping around would sound more like a Clydesdale.

I removed them and put them back in their large black box.

I returned the boots to the store later in the week and felt a weight lifted off of me. I wore my old boots yesterday and realized that they just need to be polished actually and then they will be just as perfect for me as they day I bought them. These boots I was happy and certain about, it was instant love, it was a love that lasted. Still, years later, they are pretty perfect style-wise for me, the heel is low and they make me worlds feel fancier than when I wear sneakers. So now I just have to find the polish, I know I have it here somewhere.

Monday, November 12, 2007

No Country for Old Men

I saw a movie called No Country for Old Men last night, it was a Coen Brothers film so I was sort of expecting to be swept off of my feet like I was with The Big Lebowski. I wasnt.

The movie was very well shot and all of the characters were very “textured” as Joe aptly referred to them as. But it was relentlessly grim and ended with no closure. I can appreciate it as a film that was very well executed, but I dont enjoy violence and blood, its something I try to avoid in life and in art too.

As I was watching it I was thinking this: Life is just people hanging around living while other people die and dying while others are still going on living. How immensely bleak is that?

Now I want to rent A Spongebob film, or something very very light. Any suggestions?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Averse to Adversity

I will spare you the excuses about not blogging. I have just been busy, you understand.

I was speaking to my brother yesterday about my percieved graduate school troubles and he reminded me that everyone faces adversity of some kind and that you just cant let it stop you from what you want to do. Clearly put.

So I found some of these quotes to keep us all trucking along, whatever kind of a day you are having, who wouldnt benefit from a few of these gems:

“Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.”-Proverb

“There is no education like adversity”-Benjamin Disraeli

“If you watch how nature deals with adversity, continually renewing itself, you can't help but learn."-Bernie Siegel

“Adversity precedes growth.”-Rosemarie Rossetti

“Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents, which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant.”-Horace

and this one, about fear, which I have posted before:

"I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life-and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do."
-Georgia O'Keeffe

Friday, November 2, 2007

An Anthropologist’s Tendencies

So the week is over. The lack of posting is due to the fact that I have been running around, taking in bits of information, reading, complaining, walking, talking, not talking and drinking coffee all over town. Its wonderfully awful but not awfully wonderful.

I will end the week on this note. Because Anthropology is a social science, statements about groups come out of it, for example-this population descended from this group of people at this time, people with this gene are more prone to this disease, primates in this region tend to eat this fruit. This is different than medicine for instance, where statements about individuals are paramount.

I realized that I have problems with groups, but not individuals. When I think about group generalizations of any kind I can usually deconstruct it to the point where I say “well it depends on the individual”.

Also, as a coincidence- but maybe not, I have total social anxiety with groups but not with individuals. I was thinking I need to conduct a study where I am talking to one person and someone else joins the group and then another person and then another and how many people present does it take to shut me up because of my anxiety? I would say about 4, but it depends on the particular people, sometimes one person who I am especially intimidated by can shut me up and shut me down if we are the only two people in the hallway.

As I progress in this science game I realize that most things are grey and just someone's opinion and there are no facts only tendencies. Its kind of upsetting, I feel like I jumped up to grab the trapeeze bar and I didnt catch it because it does not exist and in its place is a cloud of cotton candy that makes me cough and does not hold me up and I am falling to the ground as a result of it.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Computer Boys

I am taking a computer course. In the classroom there are rows and rows of computers. We each sit behind a computer and beside us there is someone else sitting behind a computer. We have in-class projects that we have to figure out and there is a certain communal mood to the course. People are always leaning over and asking their neighbor if they got theirs to work correctly. Talking and typing are done with equal bursts of fierceness.

But, I have noticed another trend in this course. I wont drag this out-the conclusion is that most sexism is this large swash of subtle grey oppression and not the overt “you are stupid because you are a girl” that we could all sink our claws into.

I was working on my project and I tried one thing and it did not work. This man next to me leaned over and looked at my screen. I must also say that I dont know this person at all. Next thing I knew he was grabbing my keyboard and typing away and then I was pathetically and meekly leaning back and thanking him for helping me.

BUT I didnt ask for help in the first place and had I had 3 more seconds to focus on what I was doing, I know I would have solved my problem without his intervention. Sadly, I thought about this after class for a few hours and came to the absolute conclusion that this keyboard grabbing and immediate assistance just would not have happened if I were a man and I would never ever do that to someone else.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Ignorance is the Answer

I was at a friend’s family event the other day. I sat across from a very eccentric cousin who is/was a physicist. He began talking very abruptly and loudly about things that no one wanted to hear about, religion, science, politics, genetics, etc. He was going around the table and putting people on the spot. Everyone around just wanted to enjoy the warm food and familiar faces; it was the lunch after a funeral.

I knew the inevitable was coming, that he was going to ask me what I did. And he did. Then he immediately began spouting off loudly and excitedly about what I do. When I told him that I went to art school first, he reminded me that it was one of Einstein’s assertions that it is of the utmost importance to bring imagination to science. This was very nice to hear again, I had not bargained for this conversation when I envisioned the day.

But it led me to a place. It led me to think about discovery again. I know that this is science at its most ideal form and there is so much that I have to do in the trenches before I ever get to this point. But, if we don’t think about these things, then what keeps us going really?

I thought about how every discovery started with someone asking a question that no one knew the answer to. I had a flash that there is a humble similarity between that activity and the questions we must ask along the way when we are learning. I know this link may seem trite, but I just have such a hard time asking questions and admitting ignorance, but I realized that this is the very same place we go to when walking to the door of discovery. Admitting you don’t know is actually one of the most productive things you can do, either for your own edification or perhaps for the rest of the worlds too.

And I love this quote:

{No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars or sailed an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.}—Helen Keller (1880 - 1968)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Love before Aptitude

I am trying to investigate the relationship between being interested in something, enough to pursue it, and being good at it.

It is kind of like the same principle as liking a dress because you know this particular style will look good on you.

Are we ever so fiercely interested in something we are terrible at? Does being good at something make you like it more? Does liking something make you good at it?

True, you dont always know whether or not you are good at something unless you try it, but lets say you have tried it and you are terrible at it. Will you still love it for bigger reasons than yourself?

I say that these two things are inextricably tied to one another. But what of the poor fool who does something they are terrible at relative to other people in the field but still holds on to some idealisic love?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

There is No Outside of this Box

I think there is too much emphasis in our society on thinking outside of the box. I know what you are thinking, I have finally stepped out of my artistic clothing into the dry world of science forever. You would be wrong.

I am not shunning creativity, its just the opposite actually. But, I think that sometimes you have to think within some kind of known framework and then figure out ways to be creative within that.

This is truly the hard part I believe. You have to know the boundaries of the box and then figure out how to stretch in ways that reach new parts of the box.

Oftentimes, if you want to solve an existing problem, there is a box that you have to consider, lets just be real.

But maybe thinking something is outside of the box is really the fallacy, maybe there is no outside of the box.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Putting the Tree in Its Forest

I cringe slightly when people say that they are a good judge of character, as if character is one universal ideal that we judge all persons against. Some people are better at judging than others, thats for sure, but the character they speak of can only be the criteria that they specifically are concerned with. Someone only has “good character” relative to what someone else thinks. Its like saying I am a good judge of height, from where I stand he looks tall. You get the idea.

I realized that I am a bad judge of something else concerning individuals, actually many things, but I will only focus on one here. I am terrible at figuring out what larger framework someone’s views represent.

As in, I can asses your views and what I think of them in our small conversation over tea, but I am not also realizing that the views that you speak of represent a certain political leaning, philosophy or world-view. In a way this may lead to less stereotyping, because I dont know with what stereotype to associate someone with. This phenomenon is especially apparent when I am dealing with older, seasoned people who have some rich history of knowledge and are aware where they themselves fall in the order of things. Its probably exacerbated by my lack of knowledge of the history of thought in general. I should probably learn more about each forest so when I meet a tree I know where it belongs.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

less is more...more or less

Sometimes simple ideas, solutions, drawings or sentences are brilliant and you are kicking yourself for not thinking of them, but sometimes very simple ideas seem unfinished and childlike and well...simple.

You know when someone explains something complicated in a simple way and you understand it clearly? and the reason that they can explain it that way is because they understand the complexity of the concept and are then able to reduce it to its important parts and themes. Sometimes people are able to make effective analogies that sum ideas up in an instant. These are smart people usually.

But then there is the horror of oversimplification, where the concept suffers, in some kind of integral way, from being reduced too much and the main point is missed or obscured.

It is so interesting to me to think about simplification as something to strive for in essence, but not too much or what you are doing will seem too reductionist and foolish.

As you stand in the class with a bright shiny apple on the desk, “this is what I invented”, you say, and everyone else has some kind of small machine whirring or chirping in the background. Your apple sits like a stupid stone, until someone is brave enough to take a bite or a sniff and appreciate the subtlety and innovation of your minimal masterpiece.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Its a Potato World

How do you maintain the same enthusiasm that you had for something before you knew all about it? When something captivated you in its original mystery, when the edges of it shimmered with gold but then you pulled it out of the ground and realized that the rest of it is made out of potato and not the gold that you imagined.

How do you operate day to day among all of the pitiful pettiness, meaninglessness, obstacles and egos and remember what it is that you came for? You can never be the you that didnt know all the details again, who loved it with swelling ignorance and irrationally. Now it is real and what are you left with?

What inspires you to raise that potato up to the sky and to see a world in it?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

I Just Do

You know when something is going well, like at work or perhaps school, and then you find yourself liking all aspects of that something?

So, its not that you like all aspects first and then things go well, its the other way around I think. Some little reason like someone made you laugh or a project worked out well or you had a good day and the next thing you know you are singing the praises of your little company and talking about how much you like to write with a certain pen or how you actually enjoy your commute in the morning, because it gives you time to think.

And I love when you cant really reason out why something is working out, or why you like someone for that matter. I love when you just do.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Steps to the River

I am sifting in the dark, the sun is wrapping around the trees and I am hitting my head against the side door to the sky. “Its a great opportunity”, she said and I knew that she was right, but a great opportunity is only a great opportunity if you think it is great. do I? I dont know. I would if you told me about it 3 years ago, but to be in it is smothering me. I always feel stifled from a situation, its one and onlyness, its one sided people who turn to the side and blow away in the breeze of otherness. Nothing has happened, nothing is wrong, but I am not enjoying myself like I should be.

I miss when things were simple and there was not a road ahead of me that leads right into the mouth of the roaring river. I cannot even hear the river from here yet, but just knowing that its white capped angriness swells in the distance makes taking one step forward on a sunny effortless day wreak with sorrow and poison. I cannot possibly do this, get to the river and find a way to emerge without getting very wet or hurt. I cannot possibly do this. I know I will be scratched and maybe even swept away. Do I save myself, or is getting there and getting drenched part of the fun?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Why Chromosome

At the end of one of my classes our professor left us off with a question to ask ourselves. “Why do you want to be an Anthropologist?” and after judging this question at face value as maybe something that one should have asked themselves before they were sitting in a PhD class. I grew to like this question over time and as I thought about it more and I realized that it was the perfect thing for me to think about.

So today when I was supposed to be doing work, I was instead writing this little bit to myself to work out my ideas of why, exactly it is that I want to be an anthropologist, and more specifically study genetics. So here it is, maybe I am too much like a 4 year old that incessantly asks why, but I just cannot help it and when the answer is not satisfactory, unrest ensues:

It is tempting to begin parsing the vastness of the human genome into disease causing segments. Disease is a neatly packaged and obvious problem that, as biological anthropologists, and humans, it is compelling to attempt to want to explain. We do this so we can help, or at least create the illusion for ourselves, and others of contributing to a greater good, and not just a greater understanding. It makes us feel good because down the road and many years of research and development later, it might just make someone else feel good too.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Out of Bounds

One of the overarching concepts that I keep seeing is that anthropologists are constantly trying to define the boundaries of their theories. Its interesting I suppose, but quite difficult once you realize that there are hardly any boundaries that are actually written in stone, and the debate goes on.

Today I have to give a presentation in class, I am the first one to present and I have no idea what to expect from this class. I do know that me speaking in class is pushing my own boundaries of comfort and my question to you is:

Is it important to do things that are beyond your comfort zone at the time, is that how we grow? or do we have to set more rigid boundaries for ourselves, of that which we will not do, in order to function properly?

Unfortunately, I would guess it depends on the situation and one cannot apply one blanket theory to this statement.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Me, Marx and Engels

So graduate school started this Monday and I am already immersed in reading pages and pages of works that I have never, ever heard of, that are rife with complexities that I probably should know something about, but I dont.

I volunteered to do a presentation first in a class I know almost nothing about. This happens next Tuesday and I have to speak about Culture and Society, these two concepts are intimidatingly broad and intentionally ambiguous in my opinion. My strategy was to get this assignment over with, but I feel like I just jumped off a cliff and am going to splatter all over the ground at some point next week.

Here is an excerpt from something that I am reading, maybe you can give me some insight:

“The materialist conception of history starts from the proposition that the production of the means to support human life and, next to production, the exchange of things produced, is the basis of all social structure; that in every society that has appeared in history, the manner in which wealth is distributed and society divided into classes or orders is dependent upon what is produced, how it is produced, and how the products are exchanged. From this point of view, the final causes of all social changes and political revolutions are to be sought, not in men's brains, not in men's better insights into eternal truth and justice, but in changes in the modes of production and exchange.”-Marx and Engels.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Time Waits for No One

Today is my first day of school. As I waited for an elevator that never came the other day I thought all about the concept of time and of making the most efficient use of it, even in the face of uncertainties like the subway or elevator. How do we integrate these elements into our daily lives and how many risks do we take?

When you wait forever for the elevator, do you just get impatient and take the stairs? or do you think that you have waited so long at this point that taking the stairs would probably end up taking longer than if, for instance, the elevator arrived in a few seconds, as it might.

It takes 30 minutes to get from point A to point B by subway, but I feel like I should build in 1 hour to my traveling time, always, just in case something happens. Then I will be early most of the time and just make it safely in time if something delayed the train for a bit.

I have a theory that I take the local train if it arrives first and I stay on it the whole ride even if the express also stops at my desired stop. I only switch to the express if I physically see it across the platform and can make the switch safely and without much fanfare. I hate to wait for the express when at least I could be travelling forward toward my destination on the local.

I think I tend towards the conservative end when it comes to travel in New York. After-all I am the girl who takes the bus to work each morning, even if its slower, because I want a seat and to stare out the window and think about things, without having to transfer, or be stuffed into a subway car-that might be faster, but not necessarily.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A Laboratory Ending

Today is my last day as a laboratory technician. I am going to be a Graduate Student next week and whether or not that is a step up or a step down, depends on who you talk to. I know that in my case it is a step up, but I cannot help but be treacherously sad at the passing of my simple, quiet life as a lab tech. This post is an homage to all things lab techie.

Walking in in the morning when no one is there, the quiet relationship that you have with the small colorless tubes before you, that can grow into something greater. Watching small amounts of liquids of varying viscosities mix and enjoying it thoroughly. The endless cups of coffee that are drank, while standing around talking about science, or other random things. Being comfortable somewhere, like at home, where you have a favorite pen and a collection of assorted small plastic odds and ends in your bench drawer. When something really unexpected works, when something you have been working on forever finally works, when you figure out the problem, when you figure out a better way, when things stay organized, when people heartily enjoy learning something, when eyes light up, when the orchids flower, when people are hard working, when people are getting it, when progress is made.

I feel like I am leaving here having grown tremendously from the graphic designer I once was. My brain works in different ways now, doors are opened, things have been learned, I feel more capable than I even knew I was. Its been a wonderful opportunity for me. I get sad and sappy when things end as you can see, but what I mean to say is, I will miss it.

Where are you from?

Is it possible for one to understand where everyone is coming from? Even if you dont actually know where someone is from? Is it possible to collectively understand why people have certain beliefs, tastes, habits, lifestyles etc?

How could we cultivate this kind of tolerance?

How could we truly accept each individual as a teeming agglomeration of experiences and influences and see them for that?

I was thinking about taste specifically in this case, because I like to think about what small factors make someone like something, like a color or a painting. Maybe it reminds them of something, maybe it helps them think about nothingness.

Along the same lines, if I could just really, really keep this thought in mind it would be wonderful:

"Whenever you feel like criticizing any one...just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had."- F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 1

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Future Perfect

My blog-worthy thought yesterday was that wouldnt it be interesting to be the type of person who never, ever thinks about the future. Because, in a way it makes sense, the future is an illusion and it can only be accessed through the present.

For instance, I am stressing about school which is starting next week. But there is no reason to. I just have to make a commitment to do things well when they come along in the present and leave the future to unravel.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Good vs Chump

After having a few conversations and a few thoughts lately, I have come to the conclusion that one of the hardest things in life is to be a good person, find good people to surround yourself with and not to be taken advantage of. You cant just go around being good all over town, especially in this town, but then you cant get so hardened that you arent good to anyone else.

Sorry for the cum-ba-ya-ness of this post, but its just one of those things that occured to me as a challenge, if not THE challenge in life.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Question and Answer

On the brink of starting classes I have been thinking a lot about knowing and not knowing. I had this thought the other day that the person who asks a question that they dont know the answer to, but are humble and curious, really has a type of advantage over the wise person who already knows.

When you already know something there is a calmness that accompanies it, a sureness, an end, but the little flurry of adventure in the not-knowing, but wanting to, is a fleeting enjoyment that should be recognized, because it only emerges when its meeting its final moments.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Blank Blog

So you may be wondering what is going on with Petri Dish these days and why there are no new posts lately. Well, the truth is that I am still adjusting to post-marriage, post-honeymoon life and seem to be excessively tired all the time, leaving little time for blogging. But I hope to be back in action next week.

In the mean time, the ideas are piling up.

Friday, August 10, 2007


A great friend of mine gave me a framed poem called Desiderata (It is Latin for “Things to be Desired.”) that I have always admired, it hangs in her home. There are many wonderful lines to this poem including Be Yourself, Take Kindly the Counsel of Others, Strive to Be Happy. But there is one small simple line that really speaks loudly to me lately, as soon as I read it I knew this was exactly what I needed.

The line reads “Beyond a Wholesome Discipline, Be Gentle With Yourself.” In case you have not noticed through the reading of this blog, I have a tendency to be viscously hard on myself and I always associated this with what makes greatness, pushing yourself to new limits, never being satisfied, etc.

But instead of taking myself so darn seriously and being my biggest critic, it is time for me to be gentle with myself. It feels good to even type it out.

Happy Friday.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Delicious Diversions

We are back and I am just going to jump right into some blogging. (The trip was great in case you were wondering, the flight was long, the sun was strong and we relaxed wholeheartedly.)

You know when you are supposed to be doing something, like work perhaps, but then you sneak onto some website where you are looking for shoes or furniture or something? Although, this is not conducive to being a top Graduate Student, or a top anything for that matter, I am admitting that I do do this and that yes, I relish it.

I was thinking the other day about small somewhat benign things we do like this that are so alluring. I remember that some of the funniest jokes of my life have happened when I was in church, not supposed to be laughing. I dont mean this as some kind of organized rebellion against anything, or the pull of temptation seeping into anything serious. But I am imagining that with the tug of something else on your plate, it makes the detour taste so good and without the Excell spreadsheet you are ignoring, or the pages you are not reading, the notes you are not writing, these little things would not be so enjoyable.

Sunday, August 5, 2007


We have been in Kauai, Hawaii for 2 weeks. Will return Tuesday August 7th at noon.

Then back to blogging and working and being a New Yorker, but this time much more relaxed and tan.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Tell Me Your Story

Well the wedding is over and everything was pretty much perfect. Its actually hard for me to fully accept that everything went so well. I am yearning for more trouble that I can sink my teeth into and analyze to a pulp.

I do understand why it is to important to carefully consider who you are inviting to your wedding. Our wedding was very intimate. The room was cozy, with candles lit all over and a small dance floor. I had the chance to speak to everyone and I knew who everyone was. There were no awkward exchanges with random cousins who I didnt know. I feel a certain closeness now with the people who were there. They saw Joe and I get married, which is very special to me obviously.

I had this goal of talking everyone as an individual at our wedding and saying something specific to each person. I didnt want to repeat the same generic thing to everyone. I wanted to ask about their dogs and babies and house plants. I wanted them to tell me about their jobs and summer vacations and how they were getting home. They came all this way for me and I wanted to hear about them. The wedding is over when it is happening, there is no longer any need to talk about the wedding at that point.

I met Joes Grandmother for the first time, which was so nice. She is very sweet.

At one point after the wedding we were sitting with Joes Grandmother and she was telling stories of her children and their children. I was tired but I looked up and her wrinkled smiling face and thought to myself, here is this woman who I dont know, who lives in Washington state who has had a long life with many experiences. All I could think of was that everyone’s story is important, even people we don’t know or who aren’t related to us by our new marriage.

There are people out there with stories dear to their hearts and I realized that I want to hear them.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Rods and Cones

I just walked up to my apartment from about 20 blocks away. I was going to take public transport but I decided that since it was beautiful out, I had nothing left to do and I need to relax, that I would walk. I had my ipod on and decided to treat myself to some tasti delight.

And I realized that when you walk down the street eating ice cream, in all of its drippy, lighthearted, sweetness, people look at you.

I dont think its my paranoia acting up because I think that for the most part, them looking at you is a positive thing. I think they are admiring the fun you are having and possibly getting inspired to do the same.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Most Things

On the Subway the other day I was looking around and wondering what people did, for a living and otherwise. I often do this and assign things to people that I think that they look like they might do. I guess its stereotyping, but I keep quiet about it, so its never too malicious and I try to think out of the box.

The train stopped short and people went sloshing around for a few seconds and as I was engulfed by this wave of perceived and hidden diversity around me, I had a thought. I think that most people can do most things, its just a question of wanting to, or not.

This feeling soothed me, because it made me think that what I want is in my grasp and not as insurmountable as it seems.

And I love this quote: “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.”-Henry Ford

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

17 days

I am getting married in 17 days. So, blog posting will be very erratic until then.

Nothing for today.

Thank you for your continued patience and support.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Growth Quote

I found this quote the other day that I liked very much:

“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow
sometimes in one dimension, and not in another;
unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are
mature in one realm, childish in another. The past,
present, and future mingle and pull us backward,
forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of
layers, cells, constellations.”-Anais Nin

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

La Vie en Gris

I had this thought today that was a complete one, one that I looked at from all angles that I was capabale of and could not find any discernable cracks in the logic. But it made me terribly sad to have realized what I have. It made me feel like there was nothing left to think about for me. That it was all finallly summed up.

The thought went something like this: Anything that we think is an absolute, is not. Things are so ambigious and changeable and life is one long continuium of greyness without any real black or white at the extremes.

I am drowning in a pool of greyness right now. I am overthinking things. Please offer me a black or white solution.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

System Breakdown

Its your first day of the semester, you have a nice crisp notebook, sharp pencils, some binder contraption, a mind heavy with both a deep sick fear and a bright optimistic anticipation for learning new things. And you are absolutely blindly convincing yourself that THIS year will be different.

This is the year that you will write neatly and establish a system of keeping your papers and thoughts organized in such a way that will allow you to retrieve whatever piece of information that you need in an impressive 5 seconds.

My question is this. When does an organizational system ever really last? It always seems to break down at some point. When you are tired and then busy and then lazy and then someone else changes it and then it spills and scatters like several shiny colorful marbles and as you watch them swiftly roll away beyond your grasp, you are disappointed, but not surprised.

The you that expected so much sits down quietly discouraged and foolish and the you that is now-is ranting and shuffling papers and waving hands in the face of the structure of discipline that it once actually attempted to embrace.

Only to start the next semester, or project, or living space, or file cabinet, or excell document with the same clean sheet and open heart and so on and so on.

The Pages of You

You know how when you are at work you conduct yourself differently than you do at home, and different still than when you are at a restaurant or at a museum or a baseball game or when you meet someone new.

I know that modification of behavior for the purpose of acting appropriately for the environment is very necessary. You cant go around taking your socks off in a museum, and putting your feet up. But this multiplicity of self, is getting very exhausting for me lately. There are a few people who I can think of who have versions of themselves for work and play that are very nearly the same person, but I can never manage to do this with any success.

What if everyone you knew from all different parts of your life wrote one page about you and then all the pages were bound together in a book. Would the pages read the same thing one after another, or would the descriptions shift and undulate into a wildly diverse tome of You through the eyes of others?

When I think of it this way, like a book, it makes me want to wear different hats all over town-because that would make the most interesting book. Because who wants pages and pages of the same darn thing? No one would read it.

THIS JUST IN: I just found a quote that seems a perfect ending to this post:

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”-Anais Nin

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Lace becomes Words

I have this habit of going into a clothing store and seeing some beautiful flashy print or bright colored item and admiring it immediately. Sometimes I buy these items. Sometimes I have the guts to wear them. Sometimes I dont.

When I get them home their loudness pulses in my closet-and I ask myself “can I really do this?”

So, it seems fitting that I have sort of done this with my wedding dress. I am getting nervous about wearing it, so I am going to write an ode to my dress, to make me feel better and to convince myself of its perfectness:

Its delicate and light
like a petal in the breeze,
a feather in the wind,
or love in the air
Yet it makes a bold statement
as if it were pink
or the darkest chocolate
and brightest sun.
It nods to days gone by,
but vibrates with modernity.
Its demure, yet sassy.
Its ego is distorted and diminutive,
but large and obnoxious.
It wants to hide,
but it cant
Sweet as sugar but may be,
hard for some to swallow
You will hate it,
and love it
Its a wallflower with wit
A cool drink with a twist
An adorable rebellion
A baby bunny with
dynamite in its mouth
Its a perfect tea rose with a thorn
Its a kiss followed by a
smack in the face,
followed by another kiss.

Now I feel better.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

From The Hand of Another

Do you ever feel like you just cant seem to create something as beautiful as you want to? I find that things that other people do are always more beautiful than the things I do myself, from typographic treatments to eye-shadow applications. And it is not just me being hard on myself.

I think this is the case because the placement, color choice or texture that you are able to create is limited my the perimeter of your sensibilities. Nothing can be unexpected or have that flash of spontaneity when you have done it yourself and looked at it so many times. Something fresh can only come from the hand of someone else.

There is probably a way to infuse more unexpectedness into ones own work and to create something that surprises you with its brand of beauty. But I have not found it yet.

Ascertainment bias

I really liked learning about ascertainment bias in scientific research. It is when false results are produced because you may be looking too hard for only what you are looking for.

For example, you notice there are so many people in the world who have Birthdays in October. But really, its only because your Birthday is in October, so you are hyper-aware of those birth dates only.

I think that when people give advice they fall under the spell of ascertainment bias too. Maybe a neurologist thinks your problem lies in a pinched nerve, but a dentist insists its an abscess. I have been given some advice lately that I know was only given to me because the speaker has the same issue, and thinks that I do too.

So, if you have experienced something before are you more likely to think the whole world has what you have? or will you be detached and aware enough to admit when something new and mysterious is actually happening, that may lie beyond your scope of familiarity?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Who Cares?

My new goal is not to over think things. It is my nature, but it is killing me slowly. My new way of dealing with getting worked up about something is to stop and breathe and to ask myself “who really cares” and I dont mean it in a bad way, just in a “relax” kind of way.

Soap and Minds

I hate blanket statements that are not well thought out, suffocating us all together in a fluffy comforter of made of ignorance. But I love when I think of something that I can honestly consider a blanket statement that is really accurate, it makes me feel a cohesiveness to humanity.

I thought of something like this yesterday, now it may be that I only think this is true of everyone because I am in competitive NY where everyone wants the last word. But I will be damned if I cant apply this to every person I know, including myself. Also, I am not judging. I dont consider this a bad thing, it is just a thing:

Everyone always wants to be the one in conversation who can say they know someone who did it differently. Whatever the topic may be, from flyfishing to hoola-hooping to tax returns. The purpose of this tactic is so they can open up the conversation to new perspectives and possibilities. I relish the times when their is some judgmental talk going on and then one is able to bring in an alternative way of thinking or doing something that has the ability to cut the criticism off at the knees. “Oh, thats true actually.”, “I hadnt thought that that could be the case.”, “that never occurred to me.” I keep thinking that it is the intangible equivalent of those old commercials for the dish soap Dawn; when they drip a drop of soap into a greasy pan and the greasy water swiftly moves to the edges and creates a wide clean space of non-greasy water. Ahhhhh.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Living Up To It

Lets say a friend tells you that another friend of theirs is so funny and that you would like them. When you meet your friends friend for the first time, are you more likely to be extra skeptical of their funniness in search of why your friend thinks they are great, or are you more likely to be swayed by your friends suggestion of their greatness and gloss over some clunker jokes or weird statements and just laugh and love it?

Does suggesting that someone is great bring on more scrutiny or more acceptance of greatness? Probably both I would guess.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Song of Yourself

I came across this service that creates a “style statement” for you. So what they do is talk to you and ask you questions and then come up with a two-letter description of your style. This is meant to guide you in all of your life–designwise and otherwise. It helps you make choices that are more streamlined to your tastes.

Some examples are “Simple Bohemian”, “Enduring Bold”, “Natural Simplicity” etc.

Firstly, I would like to congratulate them on successfully starting a company that charges $500 for two simple words. That is truly amazing, whether you agree with what they are doing or not.

Secondly, I would like to dissect this, as per my usual:

It would seem to me that having yourself defined in such a way, by someone else, would limit you. Also is it not an implied requirement of life to define your own style for yourself? After all, it changes over time. Maybe a “Simple Bohemian” evolves into a “Rustic Sophisticate” over time? And this discomfort in not being sure of who you are, in relation to this paint color you are about to put on the wall, isnt that also manditory life experience?

A part of me loves this idea though; I really do, because I yearn for a definition of myself, but dont we all? Also, I love words like the ones used in these descriptions, they are mostly all adjectives I suppose. I love the blustery, bright, effectiveness of adjectives. Also, I relish distilling something down to two simple words; it is truly brilliant when it’s brilliant.

But did you ever read your own horoscope and think that it was perfect for you, only to read the one below it for Sagittarius, which you are not, and think that that suits you too? I watched the website scroll through all the style statements and I wanted more than one of these for myself.

I will end by quoting something that I have quoted before but need to bring it up again in this particular context.

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.” -Walt Whitman (from Song of Myself)

click on title above for link to the “style statement” service and see for yourself.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

A Few Words from Jimmy

A friend quoted a song this weekend, that I had never heard but I thought was especially funny and may become my mantra:

“If The Phone Doesn’t Ring, It’s Me”

-Jimmy Buffett

Friday, June 8, 2007

Not Too Far Above

He called me at work and with his bounding enthusiasm that I cherish so dearly- he told me that someone was doing amazingly perfectly choreographed skywriting. I sat at my lab bench saying “that’s really cool.”

I miss Joe during the day and even though technically we don’t work that far away from each other, it feels like years.

He urged me to look outside my window to see. I knew that I wouldn’t see anything. But truly I have no concept of distance, especially when the sky is involved, it seems to skew and twirl distance into irrelevance.

Sure enough, I could see the writing too. I didn’t even care that it seemed to say “Bob is From Cincinnati” repeated two times, I was just so happy to know that even in our respective workplaces-that seem like different ends of the world-we could still see the same things in the sky not too far above.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Buying Love

One of the things that has been consuming me lately is my consumption of high priced goods and services. I cannot get over the materialism of it all and yet, I cannot get beyond it either. But something just occurred to me, some of the best wedding preparation moments have been shared between me and a salesperson and/or a product of some kind.

I know they were just trying to make a sale but it didn't matter, I basked in the fact that that they didn't know me, that I am just another bride and not their blasphemous daughter or friend that is letting them down or leaving them out. I felt safe because for the most part, if I wanted something, I could have it and no one was there to tell me that I was wrong or inappropriate. I wanted to hear the words “great” or “Its all set” when I made a decision about something. I wanted to hear their little opinion and then not follow it seconds later but have them smile with a graceful silken approval anyway. And I know it was empty and shallow but I liked it when the lady told me that I would be a beautiful bride.

And most of all I like it how my perfect new wedding shoes dont talk sass to me or make me uncomfortable or sad, they just sit there and act beautiful and charming waiting for the day.

When Mac Was Swimming

I just like these lyrics by The Innocence Mission for today, so I thought I would share:

When Mac was swimming I was running late,
walking around New Orleans looking for a birthday cake.
It was a great surprise to him so many people came.
Nobody knows, darling.
Nobody knows how they are loved.
Don't worry, my darling, the sun's coming up.

Let's get up early now, dive clear into the day.
Let's get out of the car with open arms,
not wait to be embraced.
The flowers that grew, the things that happened
since the day you came.
Nobody knows, darling. Nobody knows how they are loved.
Don't worry, my darling, the sun's coming up.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Your Invited to a Pity Party!

This wedding planning has made me feel wretched. I am disappointed in my materialism and perfectionism. I desperately need to put things in perspective and calm down. Everyone tells me that all brides go through stress and wanting things, but I thought I was different and am sad to learn that I am not.

I feel ripped in two. One side is pulling me towards all things beautiful: feathers gently waving, soft pink petals nodding in the breeze and glowing lights hung from trees-the other side is pulling me towards a sensible understanding and world-view of where this event really falls in the grand scheme of things: a few hours that most will forget, and that love will come without extra sparkles or pearls and it will envelop me with softness and honesty that will make wanting all other things seem foolish in comparison.

I feel dreadfully guilty for asking for help of any kind from even the most gracious friends and family. There is no sense of pleasure or of this being a fun time in my life. I am broke and pitiful. My stomach churns when I have to inconvenience someone for the sake of some wedding related task or event. I do not want anyone to be put-out, even if they insist profusely that its okay, I dont truly feel that it is.

I dont want money or time from anyone, both things are far too precious for me to ask for or take.

I feel irrational and hated. I feel hounded yet ignored. No kind words or actions satiate me, and harsh words send me into a quick rage.

I have yelled at Joe and cried often. He is still staunch in his sweetness, which reminds me why I am doing this. He is so forgiving and good natured that my superficial, self-centered wining seem all the more absurd.

I cant wait until its over.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Down on Impatience Street

Have you ever sat and waited for someone to pick you up and the person is really late? And maybe its raining or cold.

And each time a car comes down the street and it is not them, you get more annoyed.

Well, I was thinking the other day about how when a car that is not them comes down the street your ride is no more absent than they already are. The only reason why the car who is not them annoys you is because, before you see its incorrect license plate or unfamiliar bumper sticker, you think that it is your ride.

Your hope string is pulled and then let to snap back into your already angry face. You are sinking lower, but really the event of the wrong car coming down the road is a non event. You are no more abandoned, you are only a few seconds older, a few drops wetter and much less patient.

And maybe you should get your own car.

Express Yourself

Are humans the only species that engage in creative activity solely for the purpose of expression? Like creating a painting to hang on the wall, not like a beaver damn-which, while creative, has obvious function.

And if you could say that they are (which admittedly I am not sure of) do you think that humans only engage in this kind of activity because they are also the only species who set up so many rules to govern society that are, in comparison to the beaver, repressive in some way?

I am not saying that rules dont have function, but that the repression is actually the catalyst to expression, perhaps.

your thoughts?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Very Important People

I was excused from grand jury duty today. I finally figured out that the ideal situation is to volunteer when your name is called, risk getting picked, but then just get lucky and not get picked, which is what happened. I can not tell you how incredibly inconvenient a 4 week jury appointment would be for me at this point with wedding planning and such, but I guess everyone feels that way, actually I know they do.

The court room was stuffed with all types of people, impatient, put-out, shifting and sighing and reading newspapers, magazines, novels, occasionally peering over their half glasses with raised eyebrows and an attitude. The rules were explained and then we were asked if we had any questions, people had a lot of questions this time. Some woman raised her hand and when she was called on she said simply, “airline tickets” in an abbreviated I-dont-have-time-for-this-you-get-the-point New York fashion. The clerk responded, “No, we dont sell them here.” I liked that he said that. She wanted to know if she could get out of it because she had airline tickets during the time she had to serve.

Another man was blatantly talking on his cell phone while the clerk spoke. So the clerk turned to the man and asked him to turn the phone off, the man put his hand up saying "just wait". The clerk said he was going to confiscate the phone. The man got off and then said that it was a "sort of crisis" from the way he looked I am going to stereotype him and say that his client is not happy with the quality of printing of the poster he designed.

I am not saying that I wanted to be there this morning, but it is just funny when you see everyone in that situation all wriggling to get away, to get back to their very important lives. Everyone in Manhattan just thinks they are so important, but the court doesn't really care and I like that. But maybe I am just happy I got released into the bright sunny Monday to do what I need to do today.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Foot Wars

When I see them sitting there, I dont just see them sitting there, I flash to hours of mild discomfort and stress, trapped in their grasp with no other options. I am out on the street walking and walking. Trying to get somewhere but sufficiently distracted by the pinching, rubbing or strain that they are causing me. I try to ignore it, because they are cute and I dont want to have to give up on them. I see everyone else around me floating merrily along, looking far more stylish and well adjusted than I. How DO they DO it?

Pair after pair I always think I have found the holy grail, then a few solid hours slapping onto pavement and they show their true colors. Cheap ones just never cut it. No support, bad design. But I try them again and again reaching and scratching towards some kind of eternal shoe that will love me as much as I love it. I have yet to find it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Time cools, time clarifies

Time has really become one of my most favorite concepts, I suppose it is because of my interest in evolution-change over time. But I think its also because it only goes in one direction and then traps events in a fast cooling amber and stores them away in a dusty inaccesable drawer only in your mind. Also, I love when time is the secret ingredient in something as in: wine, cheese, roasted chicken, wounds healing, seasons changing, getting over it, progress etc.

The other day I started to think about how days are so over after they end, how they cant be changed after they are done. Then I started to get anxious thinking about this. The way you get anxious when thinking about how this plane you are on could crash any minute. So I concluded that I should probably just not think about this too much, because its just all too much. So I let this feeling of anxiety pass and I was thankful that it did.

“Time cools, time clarifies; no mood can be maintained quite unaltered through the course of hours.“
-Mark Twain

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Classy Ape

Dear Mom,

This one is for you:

We always want more. There is this quality that the middle class in the United States has, they are always itching for wealth, status and the illusion of a class beyond there own. I have known so many examples of this, it is hard to count. People acting like they are something they are not. Using fashion, vocabulary, flashy material goods or just sheer unsubstantiated snobbishness to delineate them from the slobs they secretly know they once were. I am not suggesting that everyone stay put in whatever rung of the hierarchy they are born in to, but I wish that people would just remember their roots more and stop focusing on the fierce reaching and just live.

Perhaps that is why I love Physical Anthropology so much, because it does not let you forget where your species came from, the humble unclothed, hairy beginnings. I wonder how Homo erectus felt about the rules of etiquette layed out by Emily Post?

This is also why I am interested in cultural Anthropology, because it excites me so much that here we have this book of rules of which you are scoffed at if you dont follow. But go to another place and your rules all but evaporate, replaced by a new set.

The rules of etiquette that we hold dear just dont hold up over time or across space. So either I go somewhere else to be liberated from them, or I stay put and just liberate myself from them because I know what their purpose is and I am aware of where my place is in the world and no fancy, overpriced dress is going to change that.


(your healthy, happy Homo sapien daughter)

Monday, May 14, 2007


“Oh, Abigail, have you met Ethan?” I have been in more situations lately where I have introduced two people to one another. In doing this I have realized a few things that I never knew before:

1) There is a strange power that you have when you introduce two people to one another. I cannot explain it beyond the fact it shows that you are listening to peoples names and interests and everyone appreciates that.

2) People would rather be introduced than introduce themselves I think. Being the one who introduces is an excellent way to become an integral participating member of the socializing group.

3) An extra bonus is to then say a few words about the person who you are introducing, “Ethan has been working in Kenya for several years now.”

4) It truly eases the group dynamic as swiftly and effectively as a good joke sweeps you off your feet and sends you laughing.

(Sorry for the posting delay last week...things have been busy.)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

No Post

Sorry no posting today. Please stay tuned until tomorrow though...

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

It Must Be Fun

As I sat at my computer for five years the lively laughter, intense yelling, crying, whooping and wailing that came from the playground next to our studio, faded. At first I noticed it strongly and listened to specific pleas and chants and conversations from the children. But then, I became desensitized to it, this feeling may have been just a portion of the head to toe numbness that deftly slid over me at my last job.

People would call on the phone, and to my amazement, they would sometimes mention that they could hear children in the background. I was so surprised that they could even hear it through the receiver, but even more astonished that I heard nothing anymore.

Occasionally, people would walk into our studio and remark about how much fun it must be to work at this place. At that moment, I always dusted off the aging and weakining pride that I took in my position and assured them that yes, it was kinda fun. Little did they know that their flip statement was all I had left to remind me of what was good about what I was doing anymore. I certainly didnt think it was fun or cool anymore, and anyone who knew me didnt think so either, because I convinced them so.

Sometimes, people walk into the lab and remark about the five orchids on the windowsil and what a peaceful space we have. At that moment again, I remember whats nice about my work space and how I am lucky.

Today I went to see a very talented milliner and I told her that it must be fun doing the work she does. She very candidly told me that it was, but that it was also difficult. I knew that it was probably hard, because who needs a milliner anymore, but I wanted her to think that I thought it was fun because I appreciated her craft.

I know it may not seem like much, but sometimes its so pleasant to have that fresh face walk into your world and marvel at the space and the hangings on the wall and at what you do. And hearing those words, “It must be fun” puts a glint in the most jaded eye and reminds you that there are children playing next door that you cant hear anymore and that what you do, sometimes is, or once was indeed, fun.

Monday, May 7, 2007

• WW •

• I have been trying to come up with a cohesive theme for our wedding, a few words, and colors and cute items that would embody us, but I am having a hard time. I am thinking this quote below might be the perfect reason for my difficulty.

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes. ” -Walt Whitman •

Friday, May 4, 2007

Teeth and Weirdness

My mind is a blank this morning. I had a long dentist appointment yesterday and I cant decide if I really like my dentist, or if he is crazy. Which is slightly upsetting I must say, since he is poking around in my mouth and drilling and whatnot.

We had a long conversation about bruxism, or grinding your teeth, and he asked if I knew if any other primates did it. I didnt know. His theory is that it is not stress related, but what is the reason we do it then? Is there some kind of evolutionary reason? I posited the idea that maybe there is something we like about teeth that look filed down. Dont people get their teeth filed for cosmetic reasons? He sort of flew off the handle that I would suggest that reason. Then I felt weird.

Then he started talking about hypnosis and I started getting a little worried.

Also, dont dentists know that you CANT HEAR them when they are talking and drilling in your mouth at the same time and more importantly, YOU CANT TALK when your mouth is open and you have that drool sucker thing hooked to your lip and hands and picks and drills in there. Why do they always ask you questions when you are in that position?

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

• Gladly Mistaken •

• Mistakes are the absolute best way to learn something. There just is no substitute. I often feel so humiliated when I do something wrong, that I never forget it and never do it again. When I was first learning in the lab I would make a mistake and I would want to tattoo the correct answer on my arm in repentance, but I realize now that it is really tattooed in my head.

“Take chances, make mistakes. That's how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.”
-Mary Tyler Moore •

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Little Old Moi?

Someone who has a high position in the place where I work asked me if I would be attending a work related event. I was caught off guard initially, because this person normally never acknowledges my existence. We have been walking passed each other in the hallway for about three years now, he is tall and seems to look straight over my head with a gentle crooked stare into the distance, where there is nothing to look at, and walks slowly with a wide loping gait. I often look at the floor when I pass him and cant wait for our cold-shouldered dance to end. He intimidates me.

When he spoke to me, I think I paused out of disbelief that this froggy old voice was asking a question in my direction.

I replied with an anemic, “um, yea maybe.” This person then clearly raised their eyebrows about my perceived indifference and walked off.

The thing is that I am still in the “Wow you are talking to little old me, you could not possibly really care if I will be at this event and I am flattered that you would ask, but I still know you dont care. Surely you cant mean little old moi?”

But what I never, ever think is that they might want me there and that my slightly puny reaction seems like a slight to them and to their event. But its really a slight towards my own importance. If I were fluffed up with the proper confidence, it would also in a way, convey respect.

Then it got me thinking that I am always putting myself down around people, but no one wants to hear you put yourself down. It is never that funny and it is pretty uncomfortable for all involved. It is such an integral part of my personality now, especially my humor, that its difficult to imagine really turning this ship around and smiling and saying “why yes, I am looking forward to it”, but I think its time to try.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Indifference of Opinion

Lets say you are talking to someone and they are saying something that you disagree with, like really disagree with. But you dont tell them. You just pretend to agree with them with some non-commital nods of your head and a few unintelligible mumbles. You dont want to face the challenge of presenting your disagreement in a diplomatic way. So you stuff it.

You look at it this way for a minute, “now I know that I dont agree with them on this topic, so I wont bring it up again, lucky me I have the power now.“

The question is are you doing them a disservice by holding back your opinion, which may have the ability, if presented with grace, to affect their opinion?

Depends on the person you are talking to I suppose, their personality and relationship to you. It also depends on you and your personality. I probably stuff more than the average, since I am actually very opinionated but rarely up to the task of really putting it out there. Opinions run through my veins instead of blood. We really must pick our battles carefully though.

We all hate to think that someone is doing this to us, not admitting what they really think and letting us blabber on in error or folly, but they might be.

No Paper Towel Roses

This weekend a friend was explaining how his arranged marriage was arranged. It was interesting to learn the steps involved, but even more interesting to observe his attitude about it.

He is seriously pragmatic and what he said made sense, even in the way that I think about relationships developing. Practical guidelines were set up: What he generally wanted the person to look like, what he wanted their family to be like and how much money and education he wanted them to have. It may be the case that in his culture, since he is a man, he was the one who had the luxury to make a list like this and not the other way around. But I cannot be totally sure, I dont know all the details and I imagine that it varies from situation to situation. For the most part, his list was comprised of all things that we think about when entering into a relationship, whether we admit it or not.

He has a beautiful wife and two adorable precocious children and they seem very happy to me. So, you could say that his marriage was a success. It is amazing to me that things work out fine even without a lengthy courtship period, without so much as a date or a flower exchanged or any discernable hint of romance as we know it.

I know that having arranged marriage as part of a culture also probably means that most people are accepting of its conditions and more understanding and familiar with the kinds of difficulties or necessities that accompany it. I surely dont know enough about this topic, or if my friend represents the majority of the population of his country or if arranged marriages are not as prevalent as they once were.

I would never be with Joe if my marriage was arranged by my parents though. It makes me ridiculously sad to think that his little sparkly eyes and big smile would not have had the opportunity to woo me as they did. My friend is lucky that it worked out for him and I am happy for that, but I also feel lucky that I had the choice and to have had a rose made for me out of paper towels once.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Conversation Piece

I had an interesting afternoon today. A coworker of mine started off a great conversation that lasted like a kite you cant believe is still flying, a yo-yo that just keeps coming up, or a hoola hoop that wont quit— into the late afternoon.

We were talking about Anthropology from all sorts of perspectives. It started out and we were talking about how we are not particularly interested in recent history, but once something is millions of years old-it captures our attention unconditionally. We joked about putting stickers on every day items that said “3 million years old” just so we would be more interested in them. I think I should put a sticker like that on my laundry, and then I will take an interest.

I wont bore you with all the details but some of the highlights were: that we are biased about Anthropology because we are human (which I thought was very funny) and it is much much easier to figure out what you dont want to do in life than it is to figure out what you do want to do.

We also touched on a very important point that was coincidentally mentioned in a comment made on my blog today on the post “The Little Picture” by SIL, an avid reader of PD. Your career is not the only way to make a difference in the world, you can do it person by person in small interactions. What she wrote was very well written and apt, so take a look. And keep talking, you never know what might come up.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A Student for One Year *

I have started the embarrassingly addictive habit of fiercely looking up people's profiles on myspace. I went to a college for one year and then I transferred. It was about a thousand years ago now. I looked up all of the people from that class who I would have graduated with had I stayed.

I recognized only a handful of people really. I sifted through their best photos and read about their favorite movies and music. I followed links from one friend to another. I have never been so confused my humanity as I was at the time that I was at this school. I didnt like anyone but I didnt know why. I could not figure any one out and it made me amazingly sad.

But now as I look through their pages and pictures of themselves holding glasses of wine from their parents cellars and laughing, skiing, riding horses, living in exotic places, looking romantically tattered or tan, enriched with mind-opening experiences, I just have to wonder, had I been more able to go with the flow and learn from new types of people at the time, would I now be part of this community?

It seems to me that these people have an unbreakable network of friends from college and I envy that. I only keep in touch with a few choice college friends, but that’s it. We are hardly a group. Maybe its myspace making everyone seem more connected than they really are. Either way, I am feeling a hearty helping of out-of-the-loopness and what-could-have-beens today.

* I thought of another name for this post after I published it but I didnt want to disorient people by changing the name. So I will just tell you, I wanted to call it “theirspace.”

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Design Love

Last week I was out at dinner with someone who has recently taken up design after having worked in the lab. She told me about a project that she was working on, it sounded really interesting.

When I came home I wanted to make a list of reasons why I liked/like doing design. I didnt leave it because I hated it, but because I liked something else more. It will always be a part of me:

making lists of words to provoke inspiration on a topic.
getting fully immersed in a project, no longer knowing about the world outside.
ultra light fonts
one word in a great font sitting in the middle of a blank page-all quiet and lovely.
when all the text fits perfectly-or you make them think it does.
at its highest form-it can provoke action from people, to buy, to call, to get involved, to help.
making several versions of a logo or something-toiling away flipping and deleting, only to realize that your first try was the best.
when you impress yourself because of a happy accident.
getting the idea to end all ideas.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

• Thumbtacks • Words of Spring •

• It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want - oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so! ~Mark Twain •

• Why does this post say Thumbtacks on it? •

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Guide

I want some kind of a general guide to solving all problems logically. It would be used for matters of science mostly and would be an extension of the scientific method. But of course you could also use it when your car breaks down or for some other practical matters. It would have maybe bullet pointed items and it would encourage you to look at a problem from several ways before trying to solve it. It would prevent narrow thinking or scattered half-baked thought.

There is probably a book out there about this very topic, the philosophy of science or something, well I want it. Excuse me while I google this.

Happy Friday.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Art Imitates Art

It was made of rectangular aluminum beams welded together at the intersections. It created a very three-dimensional dynamic form in its series of rectangular interlocking shapes. It had no beginning and no end. It stood about two feet taller than me. It looked like a sculpture, but I wasnt sure that it was.

It was created for a photo shoot. It was meant to sit in the background of the photo and to mimic a sculpture. But was it really a sculpture then? and more importantly and most confoundingly, was it Art?

The intention of the creator was not that it be something, but only that it look like the kinds of things that are something.

I felt sorry for it in a way, it was the bastard child of art and design together and in the end I am sure no one really cared about it or stood around it talking about what feelings it evoked or what movements it was inspired by. They just moved it into place and then either tossed it out afterward, or maybe someone claimed it attempting to make this Pinocchio of a sculpture into something real.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

• Thumbtacks • First Installment •

I have decided to introduce a new category of blog post given my limited time and yours, but our mutual desire to get a quick dose of “the dish” each day.

The posts will fall under the heading of • Thumbtacks •, in reference to their worthiness to be tacked to a board and stand as a constant reminder of humor or inspiration. They will be mercifully short and will appear erratically throughout the week. So, like a pop quiz, you wont know when they are coming. But better than a pop quiz in that they will not cause stress or hurt your average, they will be just a tiny fast dose of thought.

This post is already getting too long for a Thumbtack but I want to write a little something more:

• I told Joe that when I walked out of the lecture rooms at the conference I was faced with a room thick with Anthropologists all talking and socializing in seemingly impenetrable groups. Because of my persistent social anxiety I described it as my biggest nightmare, but Joe so brilliantly reminded me that it was also my biggest dream. What, what would I do without him? •

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Take a Bite out of Crime

Before I went to lunch, I checked my pink flowered wallet to see how many measly bills I had in there. It was 3:30pm, I was temporarily hungry and therefore tired and am pretty permanently broke.

I found three 1 dollar bills and one 5. Not bad. But one of the 1 dollar bills looked funny to me. The ink on it was suspiciously light on one side in comparison to the others. I looked at the date, it was from 1988 and the others were much more recent. That must be the reason it looks strange I thought. My next thought was, I need pizza now.

Its $2.50 for a slice of Sicilian. I handed the man behind the counter my three bills. He looked at one of the bills and immediately knitted his sturdy dark brow. Then he looked up and me and with a wide missing teeth smile said, “its fake.”

I fished in my bag immediately for the 5 dollar bill to give to him instead. I was upset but I also thought it was slightly funny that I had only noticed a nebulous strangeness over this piece of paper and then the pizza man called it right away.

After a few seconds of him chuckling and flipping my counterfeit bill over a few times and me getting increasingly disturbed, he handed me my .50 cents change and insisted that it was okay. I hesitated and then took my undeserved quarters and my greasing paper bag and walked out.

So, I perpetuated a crime today and I must say, it tasted kind of good.

Friday, April 13, 2007

City of Dreams

Last night I was out at dinner, it was crowded, I looked around at all the people and this occurred to me:

People come from all over the world to live in New York and then when they get here they act and dress the way they think New Yorkers do. And then New York is formed by all of these people thinking it is a certain way, and then it becomes that. They collectively turn it into it what they think it is. It is nothing on its own. It is truly, ahhem, a state of mind.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Little Picture

“So, are you sure you want to be an Anthropologist?”, was asked of me today in half-jest. I didnt answer. Instead I completely unnaturally shifted the conversation to my lab work and pointed to the lab book and began talking while I looked at it admiringly. And I was not making eye contact with the person who asked me that question on purpose.

What I realized in that flash of a moment is that it is sometimes easier to have a little project to worry about—its mini triumphs, its minute falls and complexities and most of all its soothing monotony and detachment from the world—than it is to always think big.

One of the difficulties of my working life, and of my life, has been that I am always looking for the big picture in what I do, from being a restaurant hostess, to a graphic designer, to a laboratory technician. What does it all mean? How am I changing the world? How is the world changing me? The answers are hardly ever satisfactory.

As I pointed to the graph paper pages in the book and to my neat handwriting on them, the feeling flowered inside of me that, on a rainy April afternoon, its sometimes nice just to look at the little picture.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Of Pigeons and Paranoids

I am turning into a suspicous old lady who stays in her house all day and looks out the window and shakes her head at the people outside because they are talking too loud, driving too fast, or just generally not acting like she wants them to. Its a terrible terrible thing that has crept up on me like a pigeon with one deformed or injured foot (I actually saw this today and wanted to work it in some how.)

I think that I was wrong about someone. I didnt like them because I thought they were amazingly self-absorbed and scattered. But then the other day we had a perfectly normal nice conversation and they kept asking me questions about myself in fact and being particularly humble. But after it was over, I wondered if some of her nice remarks were the type of remarks to lead me down a dark alley of her thoughts, have me agree with her only to be beaten and mugged by several laughing professors wearing tweed face masks. I know that science is competitive, so I am watching my back and not letting anyone get too close but this is causing me to spin around in circles and I am getting dizzy.

I am getting way too paranoid lately. Its knocking on the door of abnormalcy and its pounding really hard.

Happy Birthday PD!

This blog turned one year old on Monday April 9th. I am seriously almost getting choked up when I think about it, like its my baby.

I am always amazed when a year has already passed, but I am convinced that in almost all humans our internal yearly clock is off and we always expect a year to be longer than it is.

I am thinking of one of the last scenes in The Royal Tenenbaums when Ben Stiller's stalwart character finally breaks down and tells his father, Royal, who he has a rocky relationship with "its been a tough year Dad."

What I wish for the future of this blog is that I continue to write and it continues to soothe me throughout Graduate school, but that people write more comments and that I stick to it each and every day of the week so no readers drop off like what has been happening lately. Its tough to do it every day, but I never regret it. I have been late to work because of blogging, or late to bed but my ideas always appreciate being given a chance.

Thank you for reading.

Monday, April 9, 2007

The Hole in Holiday

Yesterday was Easter. I spent it with Joes family. It feels good that things are changing for me. That I dont have to be stuck in my own parents house all day on Easter. And I have found that the sun will still rise the next day, even without my Moms roasted peppers in my stomach and a vague solemn depressed feeling cast over me that my own family hands out on holidays instead of bags filled with jellybeans.

And its so sunny today.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Stupid Things

When we do something stupid, it is sometimes that we have forgotten something: a friends birthday, to shut off the oven or to take the parking break off while driving.

But there is another genre of stupid things that I am more interested in. The kinds of things that are stupid because you were thinking too narrowly. There you were hitting the key of A in all different ways, standing on your head, hitting it with your pinky toe, throwing rocks at it, only to realize that you should have been hitting the key of B in order to evoke the sound that you wanted.

Sometimes someone comes in while you are doing your key-of-A shenanigans, and points out that you might try hitting B instead. You relax your contorted body and sigh, and you feel the stupidness all over. Other times its you who realizes your mistake, after some time away or after you have banged your head a few times on the key of A and it just hurts to much to continue in this manner.

It is both a great and sorrowful moment when you realize your ridiculous narrow thinking. A door in your mind opens, but sometimes it is difficult to believe that it was ever closed.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Cynicisms Awl

Do you know what an awl is? it is a pointed tool for marking surfaces or piercing small holes, but it is long and thin and sharp and persistent.

As a reaction to my own cynicism there is a side of me that is hopelessly idealistic and always reaching for something better, more noble or truthful or real. I see it most times ahead of me like a brass ring, but once I get closer and closer and put my hand out to reach for it, it pops like a soap bubble. Left in its place is nothing.

The same nothing that I knew before, the same nothing that I found the last time I reached up for a brass ring.

Lately, after the Physical Anthropology conference, I have just been feeling down about the research in my field-to-be. Most of it never amounts to anything I am sure and some of it is only important to Anthropologists and will never ever even tap on the shoulder of the common person. Then what is the point exactly?

I thought of how primate conservation is important because, if nothing else, you are helping to save a species. But why do we care about primates more than we care about lizards? Because we are primates, because learning about their genes and behavior can give us clues to ourselves, its about us again. Why do we care about finding fossils of ancient hominids? Because it is deeply exciting and satisfying to know where we came from.

My cynicism is so relentless that whatever I do, no matter how far I run, it will always come knocking at my door. In a dirty dark cloak pressuring me to question every movement I make and others make into oblivion, until it is all a meaningless pulp.

But, so far I have not learned anything from reaching and not grasping. I have not learned to expect the ring to disappear, or that the awl is strong and persistent and ubiquitous. I just keep trying, each time with the naiveté of a child and the ignorant enthusiasm of a fool. Thats all I can do, really.

Umbrella logic

I saw someone walking with an “I Love Lucy” umbrella and bright blue rain boots today, forget that it didnt match for now. I was reminded of how sometimes the only fun and uplifting thing on a rainy day is your rain gear.

It never once occurred to me to buy an item of clothing or an umbrella that would most likely be used pretty infrequently.

But today I realized the importance of playful and practical rain accouterments. It makes the already dreary day better.

I have a particular fondness for those umbrellas that are clear but tall and narrow and that create a little world that encases you as you walk. Also saw a Marimekko umbrella that almost lit the world on fire with its bright colors.

I must try it some time.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Its Ranunculus

I went to a florist the other day and we talked about my wedding. He made suggestion after suggestion, tempted me with talk of peonies and ranunculus and created a beautiful blossoming vision in my head. Pink frilly petals were multiplying all over the place and I liked it, but so were the numbers.

When I received the price quote I was pretty surprised but then after asking around I realized that this price was pretty reasonable for what he was giving us. So I sulked. And I still have yet to really resolve anything.

Two days ago Joe and I walked by a deli that sells flowers on the street. We stopped to check it out. I showed Joe what ranunculus was and we bought a bunch. They are now sitting in my living room all robust and yellow or red and making everything better. I remembered again that, as corny or cliched as it may sound, I am one of those people who really gets affected by the presence of flowers. It just makes my whole day better if they are sitting there.

So for our wedding I am starting to think that this large price is really worth it and I am getting weaker.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

The Anthropologists

Got into the beige car with his Aunt in the back seat, who did not speak a word of English, and I not a word of Spanish. His mother, who had astonishingly petite hands, was in the front and in the drivers seat this wonderfully nice professor who offered to give me a ride and who is just as shy as I am. We rode in uncomfortable silence for about 45 minutes until I decided I didn't want the silence to feel this way anymore, so I made it relaxing silence instead and I closed my eyes and rapidly began diving into strange dreams. Opened my eyes and we had arrived in Philadelphia for the Anthropology conference.

I was dropped off at the Bed and Breakfast that I was staying at. It was creaky and intensely Colonial and a little bit creepy. I walked up the rugged steps to my dark pink painted room got under the flowered quilt and I slept. Woke from my nap and made my way to the conference, two cobble stoned streets away. On my way to the first lecture I ran straight into the woman from the University that I decided not to go to. I didn't see her name tag, but I didn't have to, I recognized her from her pictures on the web. In a rare I-just-woke-up-from-a-nap hazy moment of bravery I introduced myself. We talked for a few steady moments and then we went into the lecture.

Lecture after lecture, slides of graphs and charts and pictures, little geeky jokes sprinkled here and there. I sat in the dim lighting of the conference room thankful that, aside from my name tag, I was almost anonymous, but also a little sad and scared that I was.

As the weekend progressed I learned less about peoples research and more about living breathing humans. The group of students that I will be studying with took me in. I ate with them and talked to them, they asked me all sorts of questions that I answered. Someone who was interested in Primate Behaviour but who has to take a required genetics course said to me, “If an Art person can do genetics then there is hope for me.” I froze in amazement, but didn't say a thing. Then someone else made a comment about how I must have gotten accepted because of my advisor, who is currently my boss. And so what if I did, every damn thing I have done at work has been on my own merit so why cant I use that when I apply to school. I curtly reminded them that I had also gotten into another school where no one knew me at all.

And I had to ask myself why I want to study Anthropology when there are so many humans out there who I dont like.

I learned the importance of being able to give a good lecture, I also learned that some people have strange and lame research questions but they go on working as if they were finding a cure for AIDS. I guess you have to find something that moves you even if it is something as obscure as primate milk composition.

But most of all, in the midst of all these important sounding lectures and chuckling old men standing in circles, I learned that Anthropology is most about the Anthropologists.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

American Ass

I am off to Philadelphia to the American Association of Physical Anthropologists conference. I am looking forward to it. It will be hours and hours of lectures about primates, genes, evolution and morphology (to name a few) and some obligatory schmoozing, which I am most concerned about.

I have this thing, where I never forget a face, can recognize people from the back of their head and if I have seen someone’s picture on the internet I know who they are immediately in person. This is sort of a vestigial trait from being a shy, observant person in school, knowing everyone but no one knowing you. So my goal is to put this trait to work and march up to people, acknowledge that I recognize them and know their name and then...wobble, wobble, quiver, quiver... introduce myself. People love it when you say their name and know who they are, even if they dont know you I have found. Also, since I am arriving late in the game of graceful socializing you wont be surprised to know that people like smiling too, another thing I might try here and there.

So I called my credit card company today to check if a certain charge had gone through. They went down a list of charges and dates and I stopped at one and asked the representative what that charge was for. He paused and a pall of awkwardness reached through the phone line. “I am not sure if I should be saying this Maam, but since you asked I will, that charge is for American Ass.” I laughed because I knew that it was for the AAPA conference in an unfortunately truncated form. He apologized and with his soft Southern lilt said, “I hope I didnt offend you Maam.”

So I begin my story of the conference with that and will continue it next week.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The In Crowd: Part II

As an addendum to the previous post I would like to add another sweeping generality about the work I will be doing in grad school (and beyond.) This may already be completely obvious to all of you and maybe it is because I missed something in 6th grade science class, but I just have to get it out of my system:

Many many research projects can be summed up by this: We are trying to see if there is a relationship between A and B.

Its. really. that. simple.

The In Crowd

I went to a lecture the other day and the person speaking was a student, she was talking about conservation genetics. About identifying species distinctions using genetics (e.g.-this is not one species of monkey, it is actually two according to the story these genes are telling) and then lobbying for that newly defined species to be protected.

It was a good talk, but I was thinking about it afterward and I started to think about how what I am going to be studying can be boiled down to a few themes to be better understood:

1) It is all about categories-species (extinct or living) or categories across space or through time. Whether you are using genes, morphology, behaviour or geography to define variation, its all about finding differences and deciding if they are large enough to warrant another category or subcategory.

2) Its also about where your science falls in the continuum of conservative groupings or not. Do you like to lump all of these individuals together on the basis of ________ characteristic? or do you tend to think that they are too different to be all together?

A little like the rest of life too. This theme is pervasive in all sorts of things: race, class, gender, language or even something as simple and everyday as social life.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

You’re Fired!

This week a coworker of mine was gone. I have worked with her for about 3 years. She unexpectedly ended her time working for us because of health reasons. I hope that she is okay.

We had planned a goofy going away party for her that was going to involve the six of us–2 spunky undergraduates from different worlds, 1 quiet-in-groups graduate student hopeful, 1 bubbly and talkative working graduate student, 1 scientist boss and 1 very pregnant laboratory technician–all sheepishly painting ceramics together. It was my idea, of course. Although one that I presented in jest and that was, to my surprise, accepted. I was looking forward to the scene though and was also hoping to make a card that read, “You’re Fired!” on the front and then on the inside something about going to paint ceramics.

So, no party, fine, I could do without the thick and shiny glaze of awkwardness over my Monday night anyway. But whats weird is no goodbye, no it-was-great-working-with-you hug or unexpected flushed face tear fighting, or nervously hiding the wrapping paper that I just bought at the store for the gift. I know I can write her a letter or an email or call but it just felt strange and truncated thats all.

Usually I see her Monday mornings and now I wont...ever again.