Saturday, April 30, 2005

Random Bits of Me

Former Jobs:

Nacho Stand: Prepared nachos and worked register
Pizzaria: Prepared pizzas and drove delivery truck
Athletic Office: Sent out recruitement info and hung out at copier
Telemarketer: Tried to convince people to give money to the college
Deli: Sliced meat, made food, washed dishes
Waitress: Usual duties and sometimes tended bar
Kirby: Sold vacuum cleaners door-to-door (never again)
Department Store: Worked in shoes and jewelry
Gas Station: worked register, mopped floors, and sold lottery tickets
Biotech Company: Cut up human tissue (want to know where your organs actually go when you die?) and made it into cells for research
Research Assistant: Cloned DNA for random projects (schizophrenia research) and worked on vaccines for AIDS and HPV (genital warts)

Celebrities that I may look like based on friends' and family's comments:

Alicia Silverstone
Maria Shriver
Natalie Wood
Jennifer Garner

I must have a transformer face since none of these people look alike. I'm not complaining though--I would love to really look like any one of them, but, unfortunately, I don't.

Current Artists in My Playlist:

Johnny Cash
Maroon 5
Pink Floyd
Cold Play
Modest Mouse
The Cure
Avril Lavigne
Gwen Stefani
Rosemary Clooney

Friday, April 29, 2005

Intellectual Censorship

This post on Critical Mass made my head spin. What is the purpose of a college education if we prohibit intellectual discourse and free speech? Since when do we dismiss the reasoning abilities of students and faculty and dictate what they can and can not process fairly? What historical account is not biased, distorted, or subject to debate? Is that not what we do in college courses, weed through facts and falsehoods?

Toads Are Not Spontaneously Combusting

So, I guess the toads weren't exactly spontaneously combusting. Bummer. Is it wrong to smile (after getting over the sheer horror of having one's liver pecked out) when imagining the crime scene?

Two Men Enter, One Man Leaves

As she nears the road's end, she perceives something ahead, blocking her way. She slows to let the dust screen settle, to see the faint shadow before her a little better. She squints her eyes, overwhelmed by the afternoon heat and exhausted from countless-restless nights, and tries to make out the lines in the horizon. Then, it hits her. It strikes her with such force that, for a brief moment, everything goes black. Sometimes when a period of your life is drawing near the end, it folds in on itself, forming a neat little package. The end is quiet, the transition bumpy but smooth at the same time. This is not going to be be one of those moments.

A figure appears before her--she is not sure if the form is real or a ghost of her mind's creation.

The figure stares at her for what seems like an eternity. It whispers as it speaks, yet the sound of its voice is deafening. "Two men enter, one man leaves."

She furrows her brow. Although deep in her heart she knew it would come to this, she now finds herself unable to believe the truth in those words. Her voice falters as if the words have latched onto her throat, afraid to let go. She thinks, "I don't understand why it has to come to this."

The figure sighs impatiently, as if it hears her thoughts. "Two men enter, one man leaves," it repeats with a silent roar.

Welcome to Thunderdome.

--Leaving here is not going to be easy. I've felt the tension building for some time now. Although I knew it would come to this, I think some part of me wanted to believe that things would end calmly. In theory, my mentor is excited for me to leave. I'm his first student, I will have generated three publications for him, and he needs me to go on and do well. So, on the surface, he's excited to have me leave in a timely fashion. He has not yet realized, however, that every benefit has a cost. When he figures this out, I know that he will want the best of both worlds, but that won't be possible.

He is taking students for the fall, thinking that I will train them, supervise them, and continue doing the ordering and day-to-day lab duties. He refuses to see that I will not be at the bench. Hell, I probably won't physically be in the lab that often. I have a thesis to write, tons of data to crunch, and manuscripts to get out. It is more efficient to do these things when removed from the chaotic lab environment. Even now, he prods for results and finished text while at the same time poking me to invest my time in tasks unrelated to my thesis.

He is stubborn and has a habit of seeing what he wants to see, and he wants to see himself glorified and being served. He does not like to be told no (especially by a "girl"), and he can't separate being a mentor from being a boss. This is going to get ugly. I have the benefit of having a second, tenured mentor who understands this process, but she is not around enough to see what's going on. She usually involves herself after things have gotten out of control. Believe me, they get quite out of control.

I have to do what's best for me and for my future. I can not get sucked into random lab duties because my main priority at this point is publishing, finishing my thesis, and getting a job. That is what is best from a training perspective, and I'm here to be trained. That is what he should want for me. He's is going to struggle with this, he's going to resist, and he's going to stomp and pout (sadly, I'm speaking literally). I just have to remind myself that I'm not his mother, not his daughter, and not his employee.

Thank God I have a great committee.

Financial Hardship??

Answering Machine:

Beep....Hi hon, this is your mother (does she think I don't recognize her voice?). Brother2 told me that you want to come to my retirement dinner. see, you would have to buy tickets, and I think that's silly, not to mention you would have to take off work. I really don't want to cause financial hardship (financial hardship??) for you kids so...well, call me. Love you....beep.

Husband: She does know that we have jobs, right?

Me: Sigh...She's going to make this difficult.

Husband: Doesn't dinner in your town cost, what, 6 bucks?

Me: Sigh...Sigh...Where did "financial hardship" come from? Who says that? Sigh

I'll Show You How Threatening I Am

I never watch George Bush. Yesterday, however, I did stop to watch him. I stopped flipping because I saw GW on T.V. and the caption on Comcast's info bar read "I'll Show You How Threatening I Am". How could I not stop? How could I not giggle?

Apparently, "I'll Show You How Threatening I Am" was last night's Survivor title--apparently, I had stopped on CBS and not realized that the info bars were not referring to GW's babble-goop.

Still, it's funny.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Leukemia, Infection, and Day Care

From Nature this week: A strong link was observed between childhood infections (toddler age) and leukemia. We've known for a while now that infections lead to leukemia in animals, but this is the first convincing, large-scale study to demonstrate such a correlation in humans. The data indicate early exposure to infections (within the first year of life) may help build up the immune system and protect children from developing leukemia, whereas infections in toddlers may be a trigger for leukemia.

London reporter, Roxanne Khamsi wrote the article quoted below:

"But the United Kingdom Childhood Cancer Study, which compiled information from studies of more than 10,000 children, including 1,737 with leukaemia, concludes that infection is a far more important factor. The group says their work agrees with previous studies that have shown no connection between power lines and leukaemia".

For working moms who have to defend themselves for using daycare and who struggle with the germs that come with daycare:

"Exposure to pathogens in the first year of life may help to train a child's immune system to somehow prevent this, says Greaves. He points out that the incidence of childhood leukaemia in East Germany before reunification was a third less than its Western counterpart. This may be in part because every three-month-old infant in East Germany was sent to playgroups, he says, exposing them to a healthy dose of disease."

This hypothesis was supported by a different study by
Gilham D., et al. (2005) that came out this week. The Gilham study demonstrated:

"From a survey of more than 9,000 UK children, it concludes that infants who attend group day care twice a week in the first few months of life are half as likely to develop childhood leukaemia"

I thought you moms or soon-to-be moms may want to know.

The Short Bus

We got behind the short bus today on the way into work. The short bus is one of those emotional triggers, the memories and feelings came flooding back...If you don't know what the short bus is, you won't understand. Today is going to be rough, it's in the air.

Psychology of Aesthetics

I'm very interested in the psychology of aesthetics. For instance, I think it's interesting that I am psychologically pleased by:

blue, green, cream, white, grey, reds with blue or purple tones, soft yellow (but only if is accenting the aforementioned colors)
numbers comprised of 2, 6, and/or 8
words with the "sh" sound in the last syllable: capricious, loquacious
soft edges and circles
shiny things
textured cloth

Conversley, I get irrated by:
primary colors, combinations of brown, yellow, red, or orange, orange alone, bright pink
numbers with 1, 3, 4, or 7 (I'm a bit apathetic about 5, 9, and 0)
random words like: subpoenia, plug, moist, cataract
crumpled or wrinkled things
flat cloth like cotton sheets

The lists go on and on. Aesthetics are what make me pick up a book (by the cover, I know), buy music, stop on a person's website, etc...It's so very fascinating, and I'm such a marketing sucker.

I wish I knew someone who specialized in this area so I could get some good resources from them. There is so much crap out there on the subject, and it's difficult to wade through the literature.

I found this site, but it was so aesthetically unpleasing that I couldn't possibly trust it. Grey and red together--are you serious? Gag.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Oscar Sends you His Love

He is sending all of you his love today--camera phones rock! Posted by Hello

Spontaneous Combustion

I've been telling you all for years, now. Our biggest fear is not terrorists, it is spontaneous combustion and related ways of exploding. If it can happen to the almighty frog, it can happen to us.

Jane Kloepper, of the Hamburg-based Institute for Hygiene and the Environment:
"It's absolutely strange," she said. "We have a really unique story here in Hamburg. This phenomenon really doesn't seem to have appeared anywhere before."
Sorry, to burst your bubble (oh, the fun of the pun), but it has happened before...

William's Syndrome & Small Ramble

I've just learned about William's Syndrome.

Resources for parents, friends, and family:

William's Syndrome Foundation
William's Syndrome Association

It's interesting because the social and loquacious nature of these individuals, along with the reported musical and language gifts attributed to people with William's syndrome, have led some to speculate that: children with Williams syndrome were an inspiration for folktales and legends, as the 'wee, magical people' were often musicians and storytellers.

I haven't been able to find the original source for this theory, but it appears frequently in the WS literature.

It's sad how neurological disorders have shaped our history and culture, yet, in this modern world, we have no room for differences. If we can't "fix" it, we cast it aside instead of creating a world of inclusion. Joan of Arc and Albert Einstein would probably have ended up on the streets or, worse, in a subpar-group home had they been born in the modern world. We pat ourselves on the back for eliminating some of the barbaric practices of psychiatry and neurological medicine, yet I often wonder if we've truly moved that far forward.

Example: A local coffee shop's new manager told Brother1 that he couldn't be a patron anymore because he made people "uncomfortable". Brother1 has been stable for many years; he doesn't talk to himself or hear voices. His attire is sometimes a little off the wall, and sometimes he forgets to brush his hair, but he has no "offensive" behaviors. Small towns suck--everyone knows your business, and I guess the manager knew Brother1's "history". What the manager didn't realize is that the coffee shop is Brother1's only outlet. He has buddies who come in and bum cigarrettes off of him in exchange for pleasant conversation and local gossip. He has waitresses that pay him a little attention, making him feel human. We have to be careful because he is so giving that he tips 150% sometimes, but no harm no foul. Brother1 used to be an artist, a wonderful and talented artist. Evil-crazy bug took that away from him so all he has left is time, endless-empty hours to fill. All he wants is a fucking coffee.

Moral of the story: Sister(me) of Brother1 likes to make a scene. Sister doesn't care if you lose your fucking job. Sister lives in the big city and uses scary legal terms and is sick of ignorance. Brother1 continues to have coffee anytime he wants and manager must sit there and smile.

Wow, how did I get here from where I started? Sorry, just wanted to offer WS resources.

Growing Up

Have I mentioned how much I hate talking to people about post doctoral positions? Have I described how painful it is to present myself as a put together, focused individual? Well, I hate it.

Presenting my data is one thing--I love power point, and I love turning science into visual art. I'm pretty sure that people come to my talks to see what my presentation looks like rather than to grasp what I've actually done. Also, I'm used to teaching zombie undergrads so I actually have a good time "entertaining" interested people with my data. I love head nodders.

It's the chitchat that gets me every time. I sweat, I panic, and I say the stupidest things. I hate this. I hate that I've finally proven myself here, I've earned the right to be respected, and now I have to start all over. What if I can't convince people that I am who I say I am on paper? It's 7am, and I think I need a drink. I wish I was kidding.

On the other side of the Yin-Yang coin, however, I think that I want to study the role of epigenetic factors in neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disorders. I've really been struggling to figure out my research goals; thus, it's nice to now have a little clarity. I've done the genetics thing for too long now (I remember when my husband hung my first-cloned-gene sequence on the fridge--so dorky). I'm doing some work with chromatin /histone modifications right now, so it wouldn't be too far of a stretch. It's a nice feeling knowing what you'd like to do next; it's an unsettling feeling, however, not knowing if you can find a lab fitting your interests. We'll see...

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Give Up Your Seat or Be Verbally Massacred

Dear "Pathetic Pink Prada", "Obnoxious Cellphone Man-Whore", and "Little Miss Overworked Poser with Attitude":

When "Crippled with Arthritis" gets on the standing-room-only bus, cane in hand, you are required to give up your seat. This is brainstem behavior people, it's reflexive, as in "no thinking required". Don't sit there and stare at the floor as if your eyes (and legs) are broken. Even worse, don't stare"Crippled with Arthritis" straight in the eye, as she grasps the pole for dear life, showing that you're not ashamed. Your egocentric-trash-heap of a soul may believe you deserve that seat, but in the real world, you aren't worth my turds let alone a bus seat. They have even posted signs for brainstem-comprimised robots like yourselves detailing what to do when a disabled person gets on the bus. That poor woman had to crawl all the way back to my seat in the last row so that she could sit down. Even if you pride yourself on being inconsiderate-bottom feeders, you could at least do the rational thing and hand over your seat, the seat you don't deserve. Has the world come to this? You're so lucky that you got off before I worked my way to the front. Had I made it in time, you would have understood what an embarrassment you are to society, what a waste of space and time you turned out to be. You got off easy this time.

FYI, I've put my grandmother's famous Lithuanian curse on you. Karma sucks for people like you, and I can't wait.

Brother2 Beware

I woke up sweating, stuck to the sheets as if they were those cheap-plastic chairs that used to suck onto our thighs in high school. One thought plagued my mind "I must call brother 2--it's been 5 days, 5 whole days!"

I must warn him to turn off his cell phone. They know he has class tonight, but they will still call "just to leave a message". Why do they call to leave a message when they know he can't answer? Why don't they call him on the other 6 days of the week when he can answer?

They'll call his voice mail and then, like sharks circling for the kill, they'll dial my number. She will dial my home phone, and he will dial my husband's cell phone. They will dial at the same time, hoping the smoke will confuse their prey. They'll sound understanding when they say, "We understand that you are very busy, and we're so proud of you and what you are accomplishing. God, when did we see you last...January, was it? Oh, we understand, although it would be nice to see you...."

On and on and on, until they realize that I've put the phone down (deaf dad=loud talking). "Oh, are we bothering you? Are you busy? We're soooo sorry--we'll let you go". An hour later I will finally be set free.

Have you ever seen the National Geographic show about the killer whales? Have you seen the part where they choose a baby seal, once they have finished feasting on its friends, and throw it around in the air for a while, like a little furry ball? Sure they put it back on the beach when they're done, alive and unharmed (physically), but would you want to go on living after that? Seals can't afford therapy.

You see, my mom is retiring, and her retirement party is quickly approaching. For some completely asinine reason, however, they've scheduled it for a weeknight. At first, my mother was hinting that she'd like us to come, but now she's against it because she thinks the whole thing is "stupid". My mom never uses words as lame as "stupid". Something is up.

I've told her that I will try to take that day off and drive back. It's a long drive, but I can handle it. Brother2 can also take that day off. She keeps telling us that it would be ridiculous for us to take off work and drive up there in the middle of the week for her "stupid" party. She's even telling the hosts not to send us invitations since Brother2 and I are very busy people.

Now I have to track down the hosts and have them send the info, and she's throwing a fit. She does not want us to come.

Brother2 is a boy who has never had a serious relationship, so I had to explain it in woman language: When she says "No, it's fine. Please don't trouble yourselves" it means "Your asses had better be there or you'll never live it down."

I want to be there, and it was never a question as to whether or not I'd take the day off. She's busted her butt for 36-years in the often turbulent, public school system. She is a celebrity in our hometown. We actually have to dine out in the next town over because it got so hard to have dinner with all her former students and her students' parents coming up to us to cry, hug, and thank her. It's weird seeing your parents through other people's eyes. Brother2 and I wanted it to be a surprise that we were coming, but somehow that backfired on us.

I'm not answering that phone.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Real women have dirty houses

I don't trust people who claim to have clean houses, unless they have a maid. No working woman has a clean house--that's why we all dread the pop-in (or the, "honey, I forgot to mention that so-and-so was coming by"). If you do have a clean house, you can't be my friend because I'm insecure.

Here's my Martha Stuart Mask for pretending I keep a clean house:

Always keep Clorox wipes in the bathroom and kitchen. Clean only what is visible. You can use them on the floor too.

Always keep a large, empty tub in whatever room your guest will not be in. Before your guest arrives, run around the house and throw all your crap in it. If you don't have a dishwasher, keep another tub to throw dishes in (fill with some dishwater, don't be gross) for when you have the surprise guest on your doorstep. Put tubs back in the "hidden room" until guest leaves.

Candles, candles, candles--they make things seem cleaner. Stick with candles that smell like food (vanilla, buttercream, etc.). These are the best at masking the mess.

Try to have people over after dark--the house looks cleaner at night.

Since I've never actually managed to get the laundry cleaned and put away, make sure you keep all of your clean and dirty piles in the hidden room (or closet if you're short on space). Make sure the door to your hidden room is hard to open so that no one accidently goes in there.

It's O.K. to throw everything into trash bags and sort it out later. You can even hide the trash bags in the outside-trash bin. Just remember to go back out and get them when your guests leave.

Always get your guests drunk. They will be happy, and they won't remember as much.

I hope this helps.

Ridiculous Fluffy Toys

From Reuters via

"In Turin it will be illegal to turn one's dog into a ridiculous fluffy toy," the city's La Stampa daily reported.

Of all the laws that need passing, pet dye is the one you deemed important?

Personality Tests

I was asked once to take the Kiersey Temperament Sorter by the director of our program. She feels that it is a great way for faculty and students to understand each other better and that it helps break down communication barriers. Since I know that these sorts of tests don't take into account the unpredictable nature of being raised in a, shall we say, less than normal environment, I wasn't thrilled about finding out my four-letter breakdown. I did it, however, because I do what I'm told (great job, mom and dad;)).

What really frustrated me was that the program director didn't believe the results. "No, you can't possibly be an INTJ--you are definitely and E". How on earth can you break down communication barriers if you refuse to believe the results?? If I was an extrovert, I would have more than eight-phone numbers in my cell phone: mom & dad, brother 1, brother 2, husband, mother-in-law, father-in-law, sister-in-law, friend 1.

Regardless, I thought this was funny:

"Masterminds will adopt ideas only if they are useful, which is to say if they work efficiently toward accomplishing the Mastermind's well-defined goals. Natural leaders, Masterminds are not at all eager to take command of projects or groups, preferring to stay in the background until others demonstrate their inability to lead...Masterminds are natural brainstormers, always open to new concepts and, in fact, aggressively seeking them. They are also alert to the consequences of applying new ideas or positions. Theories which cannot be made to work are quickly discarded by the Masterminds. On the other hand, Masterminds can be quite ruthless in implementing effective ideas, seldom counting personal cost in terms of time and energy."

I took the stupid thing again. Who knows, maybe I was in a funk when I took it the first time.
Apparently, now I'm an INFJ--note that I'm still an "I". I liked this better:

Counselors have strong empathic abilities and can become aware of another's emotions or intentions -- good or evil -- even before that person is conscious of them. This "mind-reading" can take the form of feeling the hidden distress or illnesses of others to an extent which is difficult for other types to comprehend. Even Counselors can seldom tell how they came to penetrate others' feelings so keenly. Furthermore, the Counselor is most likely of all the types to demonstrate an ability to understand psychic phenomena and to have visions of human events, past, present, or future. What is known as ESP may well be exceptional intuitive ability-in both its forms, projection and introjection. Such supernormal intuition is found frequently in the Counselor, and can extend to people, things, and often events, taking the form of visions, episodes of foreknowledge, premonitions, auditory and visual images of things to come, as well as uncanny communications with certain individuals at a distance.

I'd rather have ESP than be a sociopath...I think.

Can you let me know which one you are, and then tell me what you do for a living and if you are considered "sane"? I want to figure out which one I'd rather be, and then act like that type. Post-hoc modifications are the best way to really throw them off.

By the way, if you've never watched Saved, you should. You will understand me a little bit more if you watch that movie.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Social Functions

I had the must-attend-at-husband's-request social function this weekend. I was proud of myself because I only got into one political argument. A drunk-young man thought he was being witty by yelling out that he was glad the "German-guy is pope because the Brazilian guy would have spent all of his time trying to open the borders". My husband looked at me pleadingly, but he knew there was no way in hell that my mouth wasn't already open. What is very scary is that the guy probably works on the Hill since most of the people there were the "intelligent and educated" types. I suggested that he watch the movie "A Day Without a Mexican" and then go out and buy a map so that he wouldn't sound so incredibly ridiculous next time. I also patiently explained twice to another man that I was getting my doctorate in neuroscience, not studying nursing. People hear what they want to, I guess.

On a less serious note, I spent a lot of time thinking, "wow, I'm the only woman here not wearing 3-inch strappy heals (it was freezing outside)". It was good, however, that I was wearing boring shoes because had I been dressed like everyone else, I would have been staring at my feet thinking, "wow, I'm the only woman here whose toes don't look like candy". Pedicures are not in the budget right now.

Needless to say, my toenails are now cotton-candy pink, albeit I'm not sure how much polish I managed to get on the actual nail. Maybe if I'd actually managed to sit through an episode of "Sex and the City" just once without getting bored and flipping, I would feel a little less awkward out on the town. I doubt it though. I do try so very hard.

Thank You

I just want to thank you for stopping at my site. I got so used to not having a social network that I forgot how good it can feel to think that people are listening to me and, maybe, smiling a little at what I say.

ps. I was feeling so grateful that I forgot to truly thank psycho kitty for the support. Thank you.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Missing Fingers, Email versus Pot, and Hibernation

My God, where did the finger come from then? Count, people, count...

Finally, evidence that email is evil. Run Bush, run...if it is worse than the Satan-inspired pot, you had better start your "War on Email" before America falls apart. Email must obviously be...what's the new buzzword...oh, "UnAmerican".

This is extremely interesting. Many labs, including mine, have been interested in the neuroprotective effects of decreasing body temperature--I'm glad it's finally going mainstream. It's seems medieval in practice, but I've been interested in the effects of temporary hibernation on treating major-depressive episodes for a while now. Hmmm....grant proposal being born for a later time, perhaps?

Friday, April 22, 2005

I love novelty crap

Sigh...I really want this and this and, maybe, this. Of course there's also this.

Oscar would love this.

Oscar the Mighty-Warrior Prince

If you're feeling blue today, I'll share my "pick-me-up" with you. Oscar hates the rain and really can't stand the wind in his bat-like ears. Posted by Hello

Women in the Media

I like this article, "Where are the Women" by Emily Udell. My favorite part:

The Nation’s Katha Pollitt responded: “Nurture, my eye. … I have seen men advance professionally on levels of aggression, self-promotion and hostility that would have a woman carted off to the loony bin.”

NCLB one last time

As I read through the internet-based responses to the NEA's lawsuit, I feel guilty about stating my opinion on the matter without supporting my beliefs with tangible facts. I feel that I need to say one more thing.

I believe that most people in favor of NCLB are in support of the theoretical intention behind the act, and I agree that, conceptually, the act appears to move education forward. The fact is, however, that those who created NCLB did not seek out the appropriate guidance from child- development specialists and veteran educators--once again, the Bush administration relied on uninformed-government officials and education administrators, people who have spent minimal time in the trenches with our children. I come from a family of teachers, we have over 100-years of teaching experience under our belts and numerous teaching awards to prove our worth. Sadly, we have observed education fall apart before our very eyes under NCLB. I don't have the space in this blog to detail the issues, but check out this essay; I believe she hits every point I would like to make on the topic, probably with more clarity than I would be able to muster today. Also, bloggle my mind has devoted a nice section (scroll down a bit) on this topic with some good links to articles here and here discussing NCLB's shortcomings and actual impact to date. Moreover, go talk to educators for yourself. They will tell you that, for the younger-grade levels, the NCLB's educational goals are often developmentally inappropriate and the requirement of exhaustive-standardized testing takes away from the learning experiences in the classroom. Young teachers are becoming burnt out before they even get their feet wet, and veteran teachers, like my mother with 36-years under her belt alone, are leaving because they can't handle having their hands tied and watching students not learn under this program. Meeting standardized requirements does not enable your child to develop learning strategies, does not challenge your child's intellectual capacities. NCLB neglects divergent thinking skills, artistic development, and alternative-learning-style development. Moreover, the NCLB puts schools in a precarious situation, making tough demands that require significant funds without detailing where the finances will come from. These are not the opinions of lazy teachers or incompetent educators. These are the beliefs of people who are successful parents, teachers, and educational specialists all in one.

Who do you believe? If you're the kind of person who is unwilling or not capable of looking past buzzwords, warm-fuzzies, and good intentions, I understand that you may continue to disagree with anti-NCLB folks. I dare you, however, to call us lazy or uninformed--where are your facts and what is your expertise?

I'm not the parent

Sometimes parents, especially when exhausted and on the verge of a breakdown, learn to lean on their children a little too much. While this can be quite helpful for the parent, it can turn the child into a freakish human being, one who befriends all sorts of needy and selfish people since all that child knows is taking care of people, not being taken care of. Please be careful when leaning on your children.

My mom called me last night and left an urgent, "emergency" message on the machine (I screen my phone calls, of course). I returned her call on the verge of tears, believing that my father actually managed to accidently blow himself up, or, worse and probably more likely, that something had happened to my brother. Foolish me.

My mother was upset because some psychiatrist had given crappy and crippling advice to the mother of a boy my mom tutors. This boy has battled several diseases in his short life, leukemia being the current warzone. He's been angry, like any child would be, and his concerned mother took him to get help from an "expert". This expert told her that she was turning her son into a wimp, she should send him back to school full time, and she should stop enabling him to be a baby and make him "suck it up". The boy is receiving chemo, by the way, and he is only eight. My mom, having dealt with many parent-abusing, quack psychiatrists was furious, and she wanted me to do something about it.

I have no idea why she thinks that I can do something about it. I also don't know why she has always assumed that I have nothing shitty going on in my life so it must be OK to call me in the middle of the night to demand my help. She's my mom, however, and I love her.

Here's my "expert" advice. Due to a crappy health care system, limited time interaction between physician and patient, and the ever growing number of subpar psychiatrists (don't get your panties up in a bunch, there are a lot of you out there who are really good at what you do) you must be proactive with mental help services. If your insurance and/or finances allow, test-drive your psychiatrist. If you feel your doctor is being abusive, walk away (unless you feel that their methods are helping you).

If your child needs help, look into all of your options: counselors, peer groups, social outlets, special schooling, and psychiatrists. Find communities online that are sharing a similar situation to your own. Beware of using medication unless you feel in your gut that it is necessary--you and only you know your child well enough to make that decision. Make sure that any medication your child is prescribed has been tested in children. Many have not, and based on our lab's work and others, many of these untested medications may cause brain damage.

If you are told you are turning your child into a wimp, so what? You are not going to cripple your child. When your child becomes a teenager, all attempts at turning him or her into your baby forever will be washed away by their peers. This is an unavoidable reality; thus, you are not damaging your child when they are young by being too protective. If you have a child with disabilities, your overprotectiveness will often be the only protection your child has. Children are resilient, and their brains will continue to develop well into early adulthood. Freudian bullshit is exactly that, bullshit.

I hope that pep talk helped.

On another note, my mother is finally breaking free from my father and getting her own finances into a happy place. She has actually visited with her retirement planner and the bank, and she is finally setting up a trust for my brother so that I will have money to take care of him in the future. I'm proud of her for trying to become more independent. Of course, even though she makes me pull my hair out, I'm always proud of her. I just wish she'd understand what "emergency" means when she's talking to my answering machine.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

NEA takes a stand

I'm proud of the NEA for finally taking a stand against this whole "No Child Left Behind" fiasco. NCLB is killing our teachers, impeding our children's education, and draining funds from already exhausted supplies. God forbid you have a child with any type of disability or special needs because your child will, ironically, be left behind under this program. It's is scary how one administration can cause so much damge. It is even more frightening that the very people who should be advising us on education reform, our nation's teachers, are the last people given a voice.

My favorite quote of the day, from the Associated Press:

When the union first promised the lawsuit, then-Education Secretary Rod Paige accused the NEA of putting together a "coalition of the whining." He later referred to the NEA as a "terrorist organization" for the way it opposed the law, a comment for which he later apologized.

When I'm dictator of this country, the word "terrorist" will be banned.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


I'm frustrated that the metro bus decides to mysteriously not show up every time it rains. Sunny skies my ass, weather man.

I'm frustrated that I feel guilty for not calling my parents in the last week to listen to them tell me who died, who is dying, and why my mom is going to kill my father this time.

I'm frustrated that my dad calls gasoline "Vitamin G" and that he thinks this Vitamin G is the answer to my mosquito problem.

I'm frustrated that my data can not be analyzed using parametric statistics and that my mentor told me he has no idea what stats I should use. He still wants the draft by Friday since he's "sure I'll figure it out".

I'm frustrated that I haven't slept in 2 weeks. I'm frustrated that I keep having the same dream where I'm killed in a car accident or, even worse yet, by prehistoric fish (don't ask).

I'm frustrated that the evil-neighbor lady lets her dog shit in my azaleas, and she doesn't take the steaming bricks with her. I can see you out the window--in fact, I'm waving at you. You are looking right at me while I'm waving, and you still aren't going to pick up your dog's nasty, generic-dogfood turds. Just wait until I figure out which house you live in...

I'm frustrated that I was extremely depressed 5-minutes ago, but now I'm going so fast that I'm actually sweating. I wish it was one or the other so that I could get something done today.

I'm frustrated that the next pope probably won't die soon enough (sorry for sounding callous--I don't want anyone to actually die). At least they are sticking to their guns: no women, no science, no acknowledgement that sex is supposed to happen, no homosexuality, no church other than the Catholic church, and, most importantly, blame the media for the alleged child molestation issues. How appropriate he was forced to serve the Nazis. He learned a lot--good for him.

8-years in prison

Another reason why doctoral students should be offered better mental health services, especially anger management counseling. Using these instead of actual paint probably would have lightened the sentence a bit. I like the "my SUV beat up your hybrid" sticker--you can't get more locker stuffing-, underwear pulling-, or duct-tape across your ass- American bully than that. I have an SUV, but that's just because visiting my parents involves driving through snow, sleet, and rain down a mud-bog driveway that requires 4-wheel drive 365-days-a-year. In my defense, I take the bus to and from work every day to make up for my gas hog.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Keep Your Pecker Up

In honor of my language kick today and the 85-erection-focused-junk emails in my inbox, I would like to share with you a very useful phrase. I have a problem with cliches--I screw them up 99% of the time. I will say things like "I shot myself in the ass", "the shit hit the roof", etc. My sister-in-law made flash cards for me to study, detailing her favorite cliches. My favorite one is "keep your pecker up". It means "keep your chin up" since "pecker" referred to something completely different than today's usage. Still, it does the job--I can't help but keep my pecker up when I hear it.

Marla Ruzicka

Marla Ruzicka was only 28-years old--how someone could accomplish what she did in such a short life, I'll never understand. My thoughts and prayers go out to her family and the families of all the foreign aid workers in Iraq.


I took 12-years of Spanish classes, but I still speak Spanglish. In my defense, I still have trouble with the English language; thus, I obviously have some left-hemisphere brain damage caused by one of my many childhood adventures. I often wonder what I'm really saying when someone starts up a conversation in Spanish with me (this happens more than one would guess, and I'm not sure why). I bet my Spanglish is a lot like Engrish. No wonder people smile so much at me.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

All About Autism

I wanted to offer some resources for all of you in honor of Autism Awareness Month.

Cure Autism Now
Autism Society of America
National Institute of Mental Health
The National Autistic Society
Autism and PPD Support Network
National Alliance for Autism Research
Autism Info

If you have money burning a hole in your pocket, please look into making a charitable contribution. If you are bored and looking to make a difference, please look into how you can impact policies and funding.

If you love someone with autism or any disabling disorder, check out all of the famous people with disabilities.

Friday, April 15, 2005

We all share the same family

Many people worry that their family is out of control, that the "crazy" bug decided to land on their flower and taint it all up while leaving the surrounding flowers pure and free. Don't worry. That bastard landed on all of our flowers, tainting the whole-damn field, and, when I see him again, I'm putting his head on the chopping block. (Quite literally, most former-farm girls have chopping blocks in storage).

My family looks very normal. Some people have actually been afraid to tell me about their family's issues because they think mine is so normal--I couldn't possibly understand. Have I mentioned the hole in my parent's living room wall because a freaked-out family member decided to kill a headless phantom using a Dunkin' Donuts Coffee mug? In his defense, what he saw seemed perfectly real, and, if I were in his shoes, I would have done the same. Also, he was trying to protect the rest of us, which is really sweet, and I love him more for it.

Regardless, I've decided to tell you a story about another family member. An individual who has taken advantage of my kind, loving, selfless mother over and over again; thus, he deserves to be an example for us to laugh knowingly at. Also, he has no medical condition that would account for his actions other than maybe having Narcissistic Personality Disorder, so I feel he set himself up for this. I won't tell you how he's related--let's just say he's more closely related than I would like to admit. We'll refer to him as Billy Bob since he will someday most certainly be on Cops like another unnamed family member. I wish that was a joke.

Billy Bob drove through a neighbor's fence, entirely through it, and straight down the middle. Billy Bob claims he left a note; maybe the chickens ate it (again, I wish I was kidding). The neighbor called the police, hit and run of course. When the police arrived at Billy Bob's home a short time later, Billy Bob was quite trashed. Now, Billy Bob claims that he was sooooo upset about hitting the fence that he went home and started drinking to ease the pain. He swears that he left a note, although no note was found at the crime scene. The police couldn't figure out how Billy Bob finished off a case of beer in the time between the crime and their arrival. Billy Bob must have really been traumatized. This is not Billy Bob's first offense, and I won't get started into how he gave his child away for cash...oh my God, you have no idea. Did I mention that Billy Bob is in his 40's, not his 20's? Billy Bob couldn't explain how he managed to drive through a very visible fence. He was definitely not drinking and driving (please note sarcasm here). I'm sure my mom will bail Billy Bob out of this one--she's one of those people who just can't stop being nice.

My flower got hit hard. I'm sure yours did too. It's funny, but a lot of people find these stories hard to believe. I wish I was talented enough to make this stuff up. Feel free to share yours.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Graduate Student Strike

Apparently graduate students at Yale and Columbia have gone on strike.

I must admit that this statement, from's article (Associated press), filled me with rage.

"Our relationship with graduate students is educational and collaborative, not an employer-employee relationship," said Columbia spokeswoman Alissa Kaplan Michaels, echoing the stance of Yale, Brown University and the University of Pennsylvania.

A.) We pay taxes, even if we have non-service fellowships and awards.

B.) Many of us work 50-60 hours a week. We work on holidays, weekends, and at night. We graduated at the top of our undergraduate classes and have received 1-7 years post-graduate training. We are among the names appearing on the papers detailing medical miracles and drug treatments. We do this for $15,000-$20,000 a year (many of us don't even have the option of student housing--my crappy one bedroom apartment costs $1400/month, and that's low-end for this area).

C.) In addition to our research, many of us teach. I direct and teach an undergraduate course without compensation. There is no faculty advisor. The undergraduates pay for this three-credit course taught solely by graduate student volunteers. The University gets thousands of dollars each fall for this course and doesn't have to spend a dime. We even pay for our own xeroxing.

D.) My health care sucks. People complain all of the time about their health care--try having to go to a student clinic when you are 30 and married and suffering from early-onset arthritis. There is nothing more refreshing than having some resident (who is sometimes younger than you) tell you that you should have an STD test since they are programmed to treat sniffling, strep-infected, sex-addicted undergrads. Don't get me started on mental-health provisions.

E.) The amount of faculty and university investment can be great, but often it is minimal. You may see your mentor once a month if you're lucky. You are the last person the administration helps, and when the University screws up and forgets to pay you at the end of the month, it's your problem. Wait until next month, and pray your checks don't bounce.

What can I do about this? The answer is...ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Whatever, that's fine--I made the decision to do this knowing full well of the drawbacks. It's wrong, however, to say that this relationship is collaborative. It's wrong to act like we don't deserve some employee rights since we often serve as employees when it's beneficial to the University. I'm not saying unionization is the answer, but the University could get off it's ass and try to make things more equal. They could try to give us a forum for change when change is painfully necessary. Offer me housing, offer me health care, or offer me free tacos--I don't care, just do something.

For the Religious

Children, cover your ears:

I would just like to state, for the record, that any bible-toting person claiming to be a "Christian" (whatever the hell that's supposed to mean anymore) who thinks that mental illness a.) is the work of the devil, b.) is perfectly curable by exhaustive prayer and/or prayer chains, and/or c.) leads to violence and perverted intentions, will burn in whatever hell you've dreamed up in your sick fantasies. Don't call my house and threaten anyone in my family because you believe that your child is not mentally-ill and that your child has been coerced by my mentally-ill family member, through his evil pact with Satan, to call our house 50-times a day. If you continue making these threats and call my house again, all hell will rain down on you via my lawyers and the local police, and your life will be turned upside down. I know that it's historically been kosher for Christians to call upon God to strike down other religious people in some fucked-up, self-designed hierarchy, but I don't play by those rules, and I will see you in hell before I let you hurt my family. If I believed that you were literate, I would be soothed by the thought that you might read this, but your ignorance suggests that this will never happen. So, for the record, I am writing this as evidence of my intentions, since I have no way of contacting you. We will get a restraining order, we will sue you, and we may even send out a prayer chain asking God to strike you down to reverse the one you so kindly sent out, you crazy bastard. You made the rules, not me.

Cat hunting in Wisconsin? Reminds me of the fat, freckled-faced boys who used to run around the neighborhoods with their Red Ryder BB Guns. You'll shoot your eye out.

I'm rubber and you're glue, whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you. Are you kidding me, Tom DeLay?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Unitarian Jihad Name

Thanks to psycho kitty, I have discovered my Unitarian Jihad Name.

My Unitarian Jihad Name is: Sister Pepper Spray of Compassion.

Get yours.

If you knew me you would giggle. By the way, never let your pepper spray end up in your dryer.

Monday, April 11, 2005

I vote for robots

When I was younger, there was this huge "robots are going to take our jobs" fear. Maybe it still exists, but, since we can abuse foreign workers at a lower cost than maintaining robots, it's probably not happening. Regardless, I'm beginning to think that robots may have their place in society.

Example: I went to purchase leaf/lawn disposal bags (the brown paper ones) from Home Depot on Saturday. The bags were in bundles of 5 (each bag had "pack of five" stamped on it), and they were around $2.40 per bundle. I placed one pack on the counter and told the cashier that I had four total (there wasn't really enough room to put all 4 packs, and I figured she could scan one and hit the "times four" button).

She fingered through the bundle several times. She then scanned the code on one of the bags and hit the "times 40" button. My husband looked at the register and asked, reasonably, "Why are our bags $95?" The cashier, in a very angry voice, said that we told her we had 4 bags when we really had 40, and, at $2.40 per bag, our total was $95. We explained to her that the bags were priced per pack. We had four packs. We didn't have the energy to also argue that 4*5 was 20, not 40. She acted as though we were lying, as though we had bundled the bags together and stamped the red "package of 5" on ourselves. It was bad enough that we had to even have this conversation let alone defend ourselves. After resolving the situation, she was still angry with us...I don't understand.

$95 for paper bags--are you kidding me? How could that not have sent up a red flag? Why was she mad at us?????

I vote robots.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Can scientists believe in ghosts?

I have every reason to believe that my house is haunted, yet I feel, by virtue of my occupation, that I'm not allowed to believe my house is haunted. Let me explain.

I have four wine glasses sitting on my bookshelf. Because everything I own has a defined place in my house, each glass has an exact geographical location on the shelf. To my annoyance, I keep finding one particular glass outside of its designated spot. It is always moved to the same place, about 2 inches to the right and four inches forward of its original location. It is always moved just to the edge of the bookshelf--I've never found it moved to the point where it has fallen off the edge. The wanderings of my wine glass started happening about the same time my husband noticed, to his annoyance, that someone has been changing the station on our shower radio. There are only two of us living in this house, and I do not listen to the shower radio.

Using a level, I've verified that the bookshelf is not slanted. I've jumped up and down repeatedly trying to make the wine glasses move, but none of them ever do. The objects located near the glass never move. I have made multiple measurements, over the course of several days, of the distance between the glass and the bookshelf's edge, trying to see if the glass is somehow sliding a little each day until moving far enough for me to notice. It's all or nothing; the glass is either in its place, or, somehow while I'm away at work, it has moved to the bookshelf's edge. My cat can not fit on this shelf, even if he squeezed, and there would be no way for him to hit the glass without also moving the adjacent objects.

If it is my husband playing a cruel joke, then he would have to be driving home from work, in the middle of the day, to move the glass. I know that this isn't the case since he doesn't have two extra hours each day to play such a trick. The glasses were a gift from my father-in-law who claims that his new house is haunted. Perhaps the ghost followed them? I don't know how I'm expected to finish my thesis and manuscripts when I have to devote all this time to figuring out how the hell this glass is moving. I haven't even begun trying to figure out the radio station debacle.

If you are having a similar problem, there are people who will, for a fee, investigate for you. I've included one link below, but you'll find numerous Google hits for your region. Let me know if it works. Until then, I will continue my own experiments since I obviously have nothing better to do.
The Society for Paranormal Investigation

Friday, April 08, 2005

I'm Going To Hollywood

I made it--the week is finally over. It looks like you made it too, congrats!

Top 10-most-commonly-uttered phrases this week:

1.) I quit
2.) I'm going to stab myself in the eye
3.) I would rather stab myself in the eye than do (fill in the blank)
4.) I'm never coming back
5.) If the lab windows opened, I would have jumped out a long time ago
6.) You're fucking kidding me, right? Don't make me hurt you.
7.) I don't want to talk about it.
8.) I'm going crazy.
9.) I can't stand him, and I think he's an idiot--I wish he would be kidnapped and taken to a different country where he would be forced to sew women's garments (his name will be witheld for my own protection)
10.) That's it, I'm moving to Hollywood.

I learned a very important lesson about being dramatic. Be careful what you say, because rumors are started without much effort. I told a co-worker that I was quitting science and moving to Hollywood to become a soap-opera actress. I say this quite often. He took me very seriously (could have been a cultural/language miscommunication). Several days later, I was confronted by another co-worker who wanted to talk to me about "hanging in there". He was very concerned that I was giving up my future in science. He was very sad to hear that I was moving to California. He asked me how long I had been an actress.

I take it as a compliment to know that people actually believed that I could star on a soap opera. It makes me wonder, however, what people are saying in regard to my other 9- comments. By the way, I do not endorse kidnapping. If he disappears, it is not my fault.

My Father's Daughter

This week was hard. In the last two days, I have been at work 26 hours. I have had four coffees, two teas, two bottles of water, and two sandwiches. It's hard to be healthy when things get this busy. If I can just make it through tomorrow, I can start all over, and it will be alright.

When I was young, my dog Buck (for Buck Rogers, of course) fell through our barn floor and hung himself. Back then, this was not so uncommon since barns were old and worn, and, to keep predators away, they were often home to several dogs. Buck hung there, howling in pain from his broken neck. You grow up fast in the streets, but, sometimes, faster in the country. My father had to shoot Buck since the nearest vet was at least an hour away. There was little a vet could have done for Buck at this point anyway. I'll never forget my father's face. What he did was the right thing to do, yet, underneath the pain and sorrow, I could detect guilt. At the time I was too young to understand the complexity of what he had done--there was no way for me to comprehend why he felt guilty when he had done what was right.

I believe in what I do. It is right for so many reasons. Yet, no matter how right something is, life is never black and white. There is no way to stop the guilt when things are really a shade of gray. It is always there, lurking.

It's funny how much we can look like our parents. If you could see my face now, you would know that I was my father's daughter. You would never forget what you saw.

Some of you will understand. Some of you know what it is like. You are like me. You finish your job, go home, and act normal, as if you had spent all day making phone calls to clients. You ask your spouse about their day and tell them you don't want to talk about yours. You know that they'd rather not hear about it anyway. You worry that they will start to look at you differently. It's hard to talk about the normal things.

If you want to learn more, you can. It's OK if you are one of them. The only way to make people understand is to talk about things, to educate each other. I just want you to know that we have feelings, because sometimes you try to convince the world that we don't. It's easier to make your case when you turn people into things. I am not a thing.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

All this education, and I still don't understand

Instead of trashing people I know and, possibly, getting in trouble, I will complain about people that I do not know. No harm, no foul.

I moved away from Pennsylvania because it was a little too country for me. I originally moved to Maryland to be closer to "the city". Apparently, I had things all messed up. So, just so I'm clear, two people who love each other can't get married if they are the same sex, but they can get married if they share the same genes. I'm glad we have very clear moral and ethical boundries (please note sarcastic tone). It's fine to have an opinion, just be consistent.

The faculty around me are worried about their research because the Iraq War/Bush-related money crisis is significantly impacting scientific funding. I'm glad that the REALLY important research is being funded. Why cure diseases when you can have a close encounter with microbes from another world?

For all of you trying to understand love, quit now. This proves that it is beyond comprehension.

Save the Crabs...Then Eat 'Em: One of the oddest campaigns ever. If you can't eat crabs, is it then O.K. to treat your lawn with hazardous crap so that your grass is greener than your neighbor's? Do you know that when I work in my lab with the chemicals found in your lawn treatments, I'm required to wear protective clothing, masks, and goggles, and I have to work in a fume hood? Have fun watching your kids play in your pretty, cancer grass yard. There's an ad campaign for you.

It is about time that psychiatric patients gained some rights. Why wasn't this always the standard of care? Don't get me started on the deplorable conditions and messed-up-standards- of-care for people with psychiatric illnesses. You have no opinion on this matter until someone you love has spent time in a hosptial psych ward. You have no idea. By the way, if you're out there, don't overdose a patient with a drug that they shouldn't be taking, a drug that could have serious consequences, if that patient is related to a neuroscientist with specialized medical and pharmacological training.

So, you don't want us to video tape our children being born for fear we may catch you doing something wrong? Please explain your rationale so I don't think that it's merely you trying to cover your overworked ass.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Do ya wanna duck or a chicken?

You make me sick.

It's nearing 9:00am, and, as usual, I'm dreading the world's arrival. You see, in academia, arriving before 10:00am is a bit heretical. I, however, truly enjoy the morning hours of unadulterated work--those hours when no one comes in to chat or, worse, to demand my time for their purposes. Even though it means people get angry when you leave at 5:00pm when they have to stay until 6:00pm (you do the math and figure out what's wrong with that logic), I still like to be here by 7am regardless of my exhaustion from not sleeping.

Today is different though; I'm not enjoying it in the least. I don't want to rant and rave and frighten you away so I won't go into details, but please trust me when I tell you that today is not going to be a good one. Moreover, it appears that this entire week is going to be over-the-top. This will be a good week for you to buy stock in Kleenex, because I shall be using a lot of it (for both crying and my recently-developed-rat allergies).

So, you are probably asking yourself, "how does she stay sane and not throw herself from the 4th-floor balcony, as she threatens to do daily?" Well, the answer is complicated, but one could say it is because of my father. I'll give you an example:

Message left on my husband's cell phone by my father:
Hey, this is your know, your wife's father (because my husband has several father-in-laws?)...Listen, I was calling to ask you want chickens or ducks? I'll talk to you later....mmm, bye.

What I said to my husband when he told me:
Oh my God,, not again!
(background: my childhood pets included: 2-ducks, more than 30 chickens, a goat, at least 10 dogs, more than 50 cats, 3-turkeys, guineas, numerous frogs, countless goldfish, gerbils, hamsters...the list goes on and on)

My husband returns my father's call:
Hey, what did you mean about wanting ducks or chickens?
I was at the flea-market (my father's favorite past time) and they had ducks and chickens. You can have your choice, but I'd go with the ducks. You can make a pond for them in your yard, and they'll be easier to keep.

Have I mentioned that we live IN a major city? Have I mentioned the multiple-zoning laws that my father has already tried to break for us (ex. 8-foot-tall, inflatable PINK rabbit)

I don't think we want...are you serious? You're joking right?
My mother in the background:
So help me God, if you bought more animals, I'm going to pack my things and leave. I'm not kidding this time.
Oh hon, you stay out of this.
I told you the last time, no more animals!
Please tell me you didn't buy us ducks.
Don't worry, I bought lots of food so it won't cost you a thing.
Husband to me:
Is he kidding?
I don't know--it's so hard to tell.
Husband (trying to call my father's bluff):
Well, I guess you can drop them off next time you're visiting.
Ahhh, so you really do want the ducks.
My God, don't try to call his bluff. He'll take that to mean you want ducks! He always takes the joke too far!
O.K. then, we'll bring them next time we're down...mmm, bye.
Me: Shit, did he hang up? Why did you let him hang up?!

My father used to take his rifle outside the night before Easter to "hunt rabbits".
My father told me one morning that I wasn't allowed to go outside because he had found "crop circles" in our field.
My father told me that there were "alligators" in our creek.
My father put explosives in a "ground hog hole" and set them off (he had dug the hole himself--chill out PETA).

Needless to say, two weeks have gone by, and we still have no ducks. I think we are safe.

This is what keeps me figure it out.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Free Checking?

Checking behavior is a symptom of several diseases, including Alzheimer's and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. A watered-down version of this debilitating symptom can be found in "normal", everyday people. I am a checker.

The very attributes that make me a decent scientist, cook, and planner are also responsible for keeping me up at night. When your mind races even at rest and when you are programmed to constantly look for connections between seemingly unrelated concepts, you too may become a checker.

For instance, every night I ask my husband if he locked the doors, even if I actually witnessed him locking them. I then ask, after he says yes, if he is sure that he locked the doors. Then, I roll over and squint my eyes (I really need to check out Lasik eye surgery) to see if the alarm has been set, even if I had just set it myself moments before. I then lie in bed and go through my day. Did I remember to do this, did I turn off that, did I email so-and-so, did I lock the lab door.....

I may be a checker because, on more than one occasion, I have found the coffee pot in the refridgerator, the ice-cream in the pantry, and my toothbrush on my vanity. If you are smiling, you know where I'm coming from. At least 50-times-a-day I check my pockets to make sure I still have my keys. Did I mention that I have yet to turn 30? Did I mention that I successfully multitask multiple projects every day?

It's a chicken or the egg question. Am I a checker because of the high demand placed on my brain circuitry, or do I have an efficient mind because I'm a checker.

By the way, I'm not OCD. So next time you are worried because you think you, your child, your spouse, your crazy neighbor, or your evil grandmother are ADHD, Bipolar, or whatever, take a deep breath and calm down. There's a good chance you are instead witnessing the concept of inherent personality. Ask anyone who really has one of these diseases for their story, and you'll understand the difference. I'm saying this because, as much as we want to believe that seemingly odd or counter-intuitive behaviors are actual diseases, sometimes they're not. Sometimes it's easier for us to attribute behaviors to disease than to accept the truth about ourselves. Hitler was not schizophrenic -- he was a reflection of what power and greed and hate can do to a person given the right (or, actually, wrong) personality. Be careful who you vote for and who you befriend. Stick with the checkers.

Friday, April 01, 2005


As thousands gather to pray for the Pope, all I can think about is how I almost lost an animal today. I was moving cages, and I noticed that my head count came up short. Then, I noticed a gap in the cage lid. For a brief moment, I couldn't breathe. Where did it go? Will it be O.K.? Oh please God don't let it get hurt--don't let someone kill it or, worse, step on it. I began crawling around the floor, forgetting about the inevitable poop mines still scattered about, searching desperately for my little friend. Why didn't I go to law school instead????? Is that urine on my sleeve???? I tried to follow the trail, but it was hopeless. So, I prayed, and even though the powers-that-be are being bombarded with prayers for the pope, they stopped what they were doing and helped. I suddenly noticed movement under the cloth cage covers lying next to the cage. Slowly, I lifted them, swearing that I would give up my most evil sins if only... and there he was, safe and asleep.

Some would have you believe that researchers don't care about their animals, but that's an uninformed and incorrect opinion. I care about that one animal more than all of those people still standing outside the Vatican. That one animal may save some 6-year old from having to endure leukemia or autism or epilepsy. That one animal is my life's work, and it means something to me, and most likely, it will mean something to you someday.

Some would also have you believe that the death of a very ill, 84-year-old man is the most important thing in the world...