Thursday, September 27, 2007

Back again

My goodness, it’s been eventful around here. Let’s work backwards, shall we?

Biology lab assignments were posted tonight – I am assigned to Monday night labs, so (fingers crossed) I will actually be able to show up at Javaroom for a while next week. Woot!

Bio’s actually fun. We’ve (the 200+ people in the class, I mean) got some study groups going, and the bunch of folks I’ve stumbled into to work with are really neat, so that’s a very good thing. First study group gathering was this past weekend; about half the group is also in orgo (organic chemistry), no other neuro geeks, sigh, sigh, I will manage somehow. We’ve happened on a good mix of strengths, I think.

And I’m on for a couple of other classes, too, mostly filling requirements and having an interesting time. I’ve figured out that I need to always sign up for courses with Official Harvard Instructor whenever possible, ‘cause there’s a requirement for a whole bunch of those. The trick is to try and get stuff that falls into more than one category—one of the courses I’m doing hits a ton all at once.

I’m getting the tattoo done! Really! Friday, I hope; if not, then Sunday (but I’d have to cut short time at study group, so that’s why trying to get it done earlier). Pics when done.

Went to my first meeting last night of the town government board I’m now on. Surprise, I’m a numbers person, so surprise, guess who gets to keep track of numbers? Oui, c’est moi. I like this stuff. Really. I’ll spare you the breathless excitement of the long term bond repayment schedule, unless you ask very, very nicely.

Friday (21st – backwards, still) – memorial/celebration of the life of a wonderful man who lived across the street from me, and who died on Sept. 15th. My newly widowed neighbor is apparently not eating, so I’ve bugged her about it (soup is good). “He was convinced that a young woman should not go out into the world innocent of differential equations.” Quite right, too. Huzzah, Sam! And huzzah to wonderful wife and children and grandchildren.

Biggish deal (for me) from mid-last week – I asked a guy out to dinner, and he said okay, so we went on out and had an extremely geeky time (I wouldn’t have asked if he had not been deeply geeky about stuff I also geek on—this wasn’t random) Many hours of conversation about computer models of neural function and biological neural function, which was amazingly fun. Imagine! I could talk about modeling of Hebbian learning with someone Actually Interested In Such A Thing. It was also strange and confusing and, well, all that stuff I’ve been hearing single people complain about for years? – um, yeah, I get it now, it’s strange and confusing. (He’s on the other side of the country for the foreseeable future, my dears, no you will not be hearing further installments of this particular story) (well, probably not, anyway)

Sunday night, all of the residents chez Weasel went to see Amanda Palmer and Sxip’s Hour of Charm at ART. It was Wonderful! And Amazing! And Great! Aerialist, and circus guy with metal hoop, and rockin’ accordion music and soundscape stuff and—wow! We all had a blast. There was an encore, a soul song (with detailed instructions) entitled “What About Blow Jobs,” but other than that, which youngest child found rather confusing, it wasn’t even terribly embarassing to this mom from the burbs. I was a good mom, too: the girls are huge Dresden Dolls fans and so yes, we stayed afterwards so they could get Amanda’s autograph. Which the diva most graciously gave. Yay for art and artists and mischief. Also fun.

Saturday – my sister came up and stayed overnight, and that was a good thing. The day itself was something I inched up to and kind of braced for, and yes, it turned out I did need to. It sucked, but it was okay, too.

Thank you for the virtual (and actual!) hugs, everybody.
I still don’t sleep much.
I don’t cry every day.
I’m having a glass of wine.

How are you?

Saturday, September 15, 2007


Around 12:30 am on Sept. 15, 2006, my husband was pronounced dead, of acute myocardial infarction.

And so my life began to be suddenly very different.

I have come to think that this is like rock climbing: there is a safety line, and people who've climbed this path before, and a whole lot of other ones on the ground hanging onto the line in case I slip. And the climb itself is made up of tiny movements, decisions I make. Sometimes I hammer a bit of steel into sheer rock, and pull myself up using the strength I have; sometimes I only get anywhere with help, when my strength is gone and I can no longer see where I'm going or even if I'm heading in the right direction.

Pretty much anyone who would be reading this has had a hand in helping me climb the rock, whether they know it or not. I wish I had words for how much it has meant to have a safety net, but I still don't (it pisses me off a bit less, now). Thank you, more that I can say.

First day of new classes (writing, biology) is Monday. I'm becoming interested in some computer modeling of neural functions. It occured to me today (while I was at the cemetary, oddly)(see, still can't spell it) that I do not know if Hebbian learning can take place in non-glutaminergic neurons, because if that process depends on NMDA receptors, absent glutamate would mean absent the process, too.

Have a good weekend, and thank you.


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Another day, another test

I took a CLEP exam today in Spanish. Y parece que puedo recordar el espanol bastante bien. Ole. (And it seems that I can remember Spanish pretty well)(Ole)

I may seem like a test junkie at this point - hey, I have a free afternoon! why don't I go take some sort of standardized test? what fun! I'm not really (yes I am!) (no I'm not!) (Si! Me encantan los examenes!) (No! No me encantan!).

Excuse me for a moment. (self, stop it.) (stop what?) (you know what.) (nuh-uh.) (ya-huh--wait. *dangles malabrigo*)(ooo! pretty! *swoon, thud*)


I do want to get as many boxes checked off as quickly as possible on required preparation, and there's a foreign language thing to satisfy, so--voila, 12 credits in Spanish, in only and hour and a half. Cut-off score for maximum credit was 63 (out of 80); I got a 76. So I got a few wrong, dang it. As usual, I thought I got a lot more wrong than I (apparently) did.

There was a long-ish listening section, which was just plain weird. I'd hear the Spanish for something like "I am in such pain, what do you advise?", and then hear options (in Spanish) like "Yes, the meat is on special today," or "It is eight o'clock." Very disorienting! Part of my head would try to make sense of it anyway and I'd have to stop myself, and just wait for some other answer to come up. Similar absurdity, which is not directly from the test but captures substantially the bizarre flavor of it: Prompt: "Hey, you won the tournament! Congratulations!" Answers: a) "bummer!" b) "I ate chicken." c) "hurray!" d) "I'm the new lawyer." It was a bit like listening to a conversation between Spanish-speaking people with brain damage.

Aha! Yes! I managed to work in some neuroscience! Go, me!

Well, that, and Spanish is not utterly useless in neuroscience, as I could possibly do some sort of project that would involve translating Cajal. After getting a bit more competent first. Ahem.

Translation is more difficult for me than just understanding things. Ideally, I start listening without mentally translating into English. So to then try and bump back into English--that's difficult, and feels counterproductive. No me gusta. (Ni yo tampoco.) (*waves malabrigo again*) (*swoon, thud*)

Best stop there, before she comes to again. Later, all.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

A Night at the Opera, and other stuff

I've just been getting out and about all over the place, this week. Last night was the opening of ART's season, with a fascinating thing called "Don Juan Giovanni." It's a combination of the Mozart opera and one of the (many!) plays, and it's staged with opera singers doing the, er, singing, and actors doing the...acting. On stage at the same time. And talking to each other. In fact, Don Juan's sidekick Sganarelle and Don Giovanni's pal Leporello end up marrying each other, which is quite sweet (after the two men are wed, they say in unison, "want to watch tv?/yeah, all right.").

The singing is magnificent, soaring, breathtaking, beautiful. Not a weak spot in the bunch. And Stephen Epp as Sganarelle pretty much steals the show, for me. You will think me odd, but the guy who both vomits and urinates on stage is the most sympathetic character of the evening. Favorite line: "Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil? Bullshit! I'm terrified!" I tend to over-intellectualize when I go to the theatre, and last night was no exception, but it's still a really interesting show. No sexual violence, which was a relief. I got the sense that the artistic vision behind it was as lost as Juan, as far as having any genuine feelings about the substance of the play--sort of detached, and not genuinely passionate or fearful (except Sganarelle) or anything. So it's an evening where you think about the puzzle of Don Juan rather than experience any sort of catharsis. Don Juan says, "well, give God the finger, and see what happens," and he's not angry, or even particularly curious. It's strange.

Also this week, my local Board of Selectmen voted to appoint me to the Community Preservation Committee (yes, it does sound kind of silly, but the name is in the law). So I'm back in local government, folks, this time in an oversight capacity over some specific funds legislatively defined for use with affordable housing, conservation, or historic preservation. It should be fun, not a massive workload, and with any luck, no one will be calling for my head.

But where oh where is the neuroscience? Ah! It is here, for the moment: a very small boy now out of the woods. I'm still floored by the whole story. Terrified by how deep in the brain the surgery had to be, and absolutely in awe of the neurosurgeon, the little boy, and his mom and dad. So many things could have gone so badly wrong, and it looks like none of them did. Sometimes, when the universe dances, it is a thing of beauty.

Otherwise, I'm okay. I have little talks with myself now and then. Here's one:
How are you doing?
Intermittently lousy. Mostly I just get on with things. The cognitive impairment thing seems to be ebbing.
It certainly does!
:) thanks.
So...this is you, impaired?
Apparently not. I can’t tell, though, until after I’ve done something really weird and then notice it.
Are you being weird?
I have no idea. I built a glutamate model today to try and see what the decarboxylase does.
All right, so you’re being weird.

Until next time, all.