Monday, March 31, 2008

Beyond the limits of boring - the denouement

(Swoosh) (Score!) Ahhh...the boring, it has been achieved in superfluity. I said things like "by framing his discussion in terms of the locus of control" and stuff. It was an explosion of boringness. It was fun, actually; I cited a totally kick-ass article by Kierstead that essentially said all previous scholarship ignored reality in favor of a narrative of progress more or less informed by a Marxist view of ... oh, jesus, there I go again. Clearly I don't have the paper completely out of my system yet.

Hey! I sang Saturday! Whoo hoo! Fun! And I spent a good long while procrastinating my paper (really, I'm sure you can understand why) by playing guitar, until my fingertips felt like they might bleed. They still sort of hurt. This is a necessary thing, though; the callouses come later.

Also I made soup and baked goods.

Also I have been knitting. Oh, it's just too much; stop, weasel, stop, we can't take it, this is just too much excitement.

My lectures start back up again tonight; off to do the reading. Hi, all, and how was your weekend? and how are you?

Friday, March 28, 2008

What happens beyond the limits of boring

Beyond boring. WAY beyond boring. At least that's how it probably looks.

I'm in the middle (shhh - yes, my procrastination skillz are truly of the mad variety) of reading the research I've pulled for a Japanese history paper. So I am reading about medieval Japanese peasant taxation. Decline of various structures of administration and collection, political implications for what kinds of tax were assessed and by whom, various grievances and methods of addressing them... and to think, I was missing all this. No more! I <3 nengu! Nengu, nengu, nengu! Yeah!

Yes, I chose this topic. Yes, it seemed like a really good idea at the time. Yes, this is what it looks like when you go so far beyond the limit of boring that it collides with crazy.

Excuse me, I think I fell off the edge of sanity (thud) (waves) Hi!

As a distraction, please watch this crazy anime video. It's pretty good:

Monday, March 24, 2008

A poem

Every now and then, I'm reminded of why I get the London Review of Books - there are columns by Ben Elton and Alan Bennett's stuff from time to time, and really good analytical writing by really incisive minds, and all sorts of fun. So here's a poem by C.P. Cavafy, translated by Evangelos Sachperoglou:


When you set out on the journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road be long,
full of adventures, full of knowledge.
The Laestrygonians and the Cyclopes,
the raging Poseidon do not fear:
you'll never find the likes of these on your way,
if lofty be your thoughts, if rare emotion
touches your spirit and your body.
The Laestrygonians and the Cyclopes,
the fierce Poseidon you'll not encounter,
unless you carry them along within your soul,
unless your soul raises them before you.

Pray that the road be long;
that there be many a summer morning,
when with what delight, what joy,
you'll enter into harbours yet unseen;
that you may stop at Phoenician emporia
and acquire all the fine wares,
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensuous perfumes of every kind,
as many sensuous perfumes as you can;
that you may visit many an Egyptian city,
to learn and learn again from lettered men.

Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your final destination.
But do not rush the voyage in the least.
Better it last for many years;
and once you're old, cast anchor on the isle,
rich with all you've gained along the way,
expecting not that Ithaca will give you wealth.

Ithaca gave you the wondrous voyage:
without her you'd never have set out.
But she has nothing to give you any more.

If then you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
As wise as you've become, with such experience, by now
you will have come to know what Ithacas really mean.

--C.P. Cavafy, 1863-1933
translated from Greek

There's another one quoted in full called "Waiting for the Barbarians," which is wonderful, too.

Hey, I'm reading something? Poetry?? What the hell is going on? It's Harvard's spring break, so No Lectures or even Lab this week. The sun is shining, and it feels like spring might stay a while this time. Breathing in, breathing out, and noticing things other than the three inches immediately under my nose, which happens now and then.

My lab partner is kinda cute.

Anna Nalick song on my ipod, not new really, just having the time to listen to things lately: "Driving away from the wreck of the day and I'm thinking 'bout calling on Jesus/'Cause love doesn't hurt, so I know I'm not falling in love, I'm just falling to pieces" - I love that rhyme! - well, here she is:

Happy springtime, Easter, equinox, and all good stuff, y'all.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Happy Pi Day!

It's today! Today is 3/14! I suppose it'd be even more cool at 1:56, when it'd be 3.14156...but happy celebration of all things circular, mathematical, and all that.

In honor of this (no, not really; I am indeed flailing around for a logical transition here), I have registered for summer school classes. I'm going to take Brain & Behavior: Research Methods and Technologies, which I am just so excited about that it's obscene; and probably biochemistry, with the same guy who's teaching molecular this semester. The course description for biochem sort of sounds like it's the same thing as what we're doing now, but what the heck. And Brain & Behavior! oo! oo! it's got field trips to working labs and everything! Oh, it's so awesome! Behavioral effects of brain abnormalities! It feels like being a fish and at last getting back underwater for a deep breath of ... what I like best. Yay.

I was gonna try and take chem, or physics, or something, but those are mainly for med school folks and I'm *not* interested in medical school, I just want to do brain stuff all the time. And those are both 8 credits in 8 weeks and I'd need to petition for permission to do a credit overload if I were to take the brain course along with either one. Sigh. So I've registered for two things that are limited enrollment and deferred deciding or talking to my adviser about the stuff that's open enrollment, which seems like a sensible thing to do. The "deferring talking to adviser" part is because he hasn't replied to my emails, not because I'm avoiding it.

I'm all about the sensible. Yeah. That and beating my own score on Guitar Hero. It is an affliction.

Oh! I'm learning more music with C. from the coop - she's an amazing opera singer person, and we're learning some really silly Mozart rounds and a parody of Pachelbel's Canon. "Taco Bell Canon." Great fun. So we'll perform it with whoever else gets roped in, in a couple of weeks. It's interesting coming back to using the part of my head that reads music a little bit - not something I've done in a very long time, and it's a curious combination of visceral learning (where I "feel" the way it's supposed to go) and more intellectual learning.

So on to a leisurely review of biostatistics and beginning work on my Japanese history paper. And catching up with the reading for bio. I *will* get to brunch at Athan's in the morning, for sure; see whoever's there, there, and all y'all rest o' y'all, see ya when I see ya; and have a great weekend.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Three down, one to go


Well, first of all THANK YOU everybody - Tattoo Queen and Harpy and pansarknitting and Double Helix (yes, I keep thinking "yarn" when the molecular prof talks about twist of supercoiled DNA) and Lorena and Lucia and secrethandshake - the bulk of the horror is now behind me.

Molecular was pretty hairy. The course is offered for graduate credit and undergrad credit, and there's a few people in it who actually do DNA analysis for a living, so (ahem) a few of us are more well-prepared for random anything to do with DNA than others. The horrendous three-page question this evening began with a 180-base pair sequence, and we were given a short sequence that was a restriction enzyme recognition site. We had to state from the sample sequence given what a 23-base pair primer sequence would be, and do some fiddly things with it once we had it. (There were two more pages of stuff we had to do, too, which I won't go into) (and aren't you glad? aren't I just the most generous-hearted crazed weasel ever?) Okay - except the recognition sequence didn't match anyplace on the sample sequence.


The plus side was that I think I did pretty well with figuring things out from gel electrophoresis results. I also figured out what to do with some other data and made up convincing reasons for why what I said made sense. I could not remember loads of things, like exactly which things are unique to each of the three topoisomerases IA, IB, and II. Other than the two I's cleave single strands and the II cleaves double strands. And I might have written some more stuff that was correct, or not.


My study partners were totally freaked out at the end - poor lab partner dude, cute though he is and probably pulled off an A on the bio midterm yesterday (and I just might have, too - it went pretty well, unlike Japanese history, which was moderately disastrous owing to my inability to recall the name of almost any figure from Japanese history) - well, he thought he might have scored 25 points out of 200. Which would sort of screw up medical school applications big time. So he might drop the course.


So, onward to biostatistics, which on the whole is kind of fun. The exam is next week, and I still have to hear back from a TF to arrange an alternate time to take it as the scheduled time conflicts with the killer bio course that I do not dare miss.

And I should do my homework.

And I should also read the assigned reading. And probably start working on my history paper. And who knows what else.

But first - a story. Once there was a crazed weasel with a brilliant child who was applying to college. The colleges all took a Common Application, and oh the filling out of stuff and finding of other stuff and checking off of boxes - well, it took days and days. The weasel and her spawn were quite worn out, but managed to mail all the bits of paper to all the places where bits of paper go. One spring day, Monday, in fact, the crazed weasel was looking through the copies of the form she'd saved (because she is a *thorough* crazed weasel), and she noticed that she'd checked off a tiny little box, way down near the bottom of the form. The box said, "yes." The question attached to the box, she noticed, was "has the applicant been convicted of a felony, misdemeanor, or other crime?"

Well, goodness gracious, but didn't the fur fly. Phone calls, and much scurrying; weasels simply hate phone calls, so this was obviously quite a serious matter indeed. Many college admissions staffers laughed their heads off. The weasel had a moment of pride when one college said that this particular mistake was, for them, a first. The weasel sent out faxed, signed letters to all the colleges affirming that she had, indeed, put a tiny mark in this box by mistake, and that her brilliant, National Merit Scholarship Finalist child was not after all a convicted criminal. Not even a little bit. Not even for securities fraud.

So now the weasel and the younger, more agile (but not quite as wily) mammal wait and see what happens, and hope for the best, and trust to the capricious hand of an absent-minded fate. I seem to have discovered a corollary to Murphy's Law - let's call it Weasel's Law, shall we? oh, yes, let's! The new law: Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong, especially if it will be really, really funny.

Back to biostatistics, and two-sample confidence intervals. You may insert here a joke of your choice about confidence and intervals.

Good evening to all.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

An orgy of studying

No, not that kind of orgy.

The kind where you have a heart dissection Monday, and then study in the library until it closes at midnight, and then go to lecture on Tuesday, and study some more, and then go out for tequila! yay! with your friends! who you never see! I love my friends! yay! And then you study and study and study some more, and Friday night you study and take a practice test and study with some classmates until 4 in the morning and then you study and play Guitar Hero for a while and then... well, today I did some studying.

Biology midterm Monday at 7:35.

Japanese history midterm Monday at 5:30.

Molecular biology midterm Tueday at 7:35.

So that's where I've been, and where I'll likely be, Wednesday.

In the epicenter of a studying maelstrom that begins with Tokugawa samurai, continues on through the Bohr shift of the partial pressure of oxygen/hemoglobin saturation percentage for different blood pH levels, and finishes with god only knows how many pieces of the molecular action of topoisomerases IA, IB, and II.

Wish me luck. Sigh. (I remember having a life a few weeks ago, I wonder where it went...)

Sunday, March 02, 2008

In which some perfectly good Shakespeare proceeds to suck

Oh, my.

Soooo... I went to ART last night to see their Julius Caesar - this is the Shakespeare that's normally responsible for entire swaths of America hating Shakespeare for the rest of their lives. I think it's the default play because there's no sex in it.

The brief review: Over 3 hours, and it sucks ass.

On the plus side, there's a Harvard pub called The Queen's Head that's open 'til 2 am, and they have a very nice in-house beer (it's called 1636) (uh, yeah, after the founding of the college, I think).

I needed a beer. Actually, the very end of the evening, where the whole cast is onstage line dancing, was pretty awesome - good song, and since the actors spend almost the entire night not moving their bodies in any way shape or form which is one of the maddening sucky things about this production - well, watching them finally able to move was pretty nice. Not quite nice enough to wait 'til midnight for, is all I'm sayin'. Also there's a fantastic jazz trio that does some standards sprinkled throughout the play, and they were really fun; yup, bought a cd, it's already on the ipod.


How's your weekend going?

Oh - I keep meaning to ask this, but there's a question on the OKCupid! profile page I can't really answer without help from you guys: "what is the first thing people notice about you?" And I have no idea. The cloud of fourth-dimension flying monkeys hovering just behind my head, perhaps?