Wednesday, March 15, 2006

I'll be back

I'm here...trying to read your blogs when prying eyes in the lab aren't looking, or when my neighbor leaves for work allowing me to sit on his porch and use his internet. Just kidding...or am I?

The current truth is that the problem with my Comcast internet is that my signal is too strong. They kept telling me that I was the idiot, that I was bumping the button or not plugging it in or overheating the modem. I knew I was not doing any of those things, but they did not know that. I'm sure they have to deal with their share of idiots.

Finally, they came. They come when you cry.

At first, it seemed like it was still my fault. My cable is spliced in a half dozen places, so the signal must just be weak. But, no. It turns out that even at the last splice, my signal is stronger than what most people have coming directly into their home.

Who would think that your internet won't work if your signal is too strong?

They are probably messing with me, but I'm too dumb to know it.

They were supposed to come out last week, but "something happened", and they weren't able to make it.

I just want my freakin' internet to work.

How can I work from home, if my home has no internet?

People are going to start thinking it's odd that I walk my dog holding my laptop.

I will see you all again soon.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Blond Lobsters

Check out this new find. It is described by this article as being "white and just shy of 6 inches long about the size of a salad plate." I wonder why they chose a salad plate as a size reference? Regardless, a blond, furry, blind lobster-like creature is still pretty cool.

Friday, March 03, 2006


I have a friend who got pregnant and had a child when she was 17. She was a good girl, trying to survive in an abusive and disturbing family. She didn't drink or do drugs or sleep around. The child's father was her first boyfriend and love. She thought he was her salvation.

As the story usually goes, she married him because he begged her to, and because she wanted to be a "real" family. In return for her love, he beat her and cheated on her and once tried to kill her. He is very lucky I didn't know her at the time.

He refused to support her when she wanted to go to college, and that meant that her dream of medical school was never going to happen either. He took her money and her confidence and made her sole provider and caretaker for their son.

She was, and still is, an amazing mother. I don't know if I've ever met a better mom.

She managed to put herself through college, slowly. She made the decision to not go to medical school because she wanted to be there for her son during his preteen/teenage years.

She spent a lot of time wondering, "what if". What if I had not gotten pregnant? What if my life had worked out the way I thought it would? She would never take it all back, because she couldn't stand the thought of not having her son by her side, but it's hard to not wonder.

This year marks the year she would have completed her residency had she never become pregnant.

This is also the year that she found out that she has a disease that has destroyed her ovaries. She can no longer have children. In fact, had she not had a child so early, she would most likely would never have had a child at all.

She no longer wonders, "what if".

Once her son is done with high school, she is going to try to go to medical school.

We must always remember that we are not in control of this life. I don't know who or what is, but everything has a time and place, even if we don't understand.

That's my Friday reflection.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

While We Are On Monkeys

While we are on the topic of monkey behavior (see post from earlier today), I thought you might find this banana guard relevant--or at least you might find it interesting. I should have thought of that.

Monkeys Know Their Place on the Social Ladder

I thought that you all might find this interesting.

It's from a short piece, a correspondance article in Current Biology, but it provides some interesting insight into non-human primate social behavior. I don't know if it demonstrates snobbery in macaque social cirlces, but it does open the doors for some lively discussion.

Here's an abstract view from the article:
Social status gates social attention in monkeys
Stephen V. Shepherd, Robert O. Deaner and Michael L. Platt (all out of Duke)

Humans rapidly shift attention in the direction other individuals are looking, following gaze in a manner suggestive of an obligatory social reflex. Monkeys' attention also follows gaze, and the similar magnitude and time-course of gaze-following in rhesus macaques and humans is indicative of shared neural mechanisms. Here we show that low-status male rhesus macaques reflexively follow the gaze of all familiar rhesus macaques, but high-status macaques selectively follow the gaze only of other high-status monkeys. These results suggest that gaze-following in monkeys involves reflexive and voluntary components, and that the strength of these mechanisms varies according to social status.

Environmental Influences

According to my mother's latest email, my father is miserably depressed because he thinks I don't love him anymore. He thinks I don't love him anymore because I never visit.

She left out that he is also trying to quit chewing, so he is going through some really bad withdrawal right now. Why would that have anything to do with his emotional state? Nor does she contemplate that his moping might be due to the fact that she only talks about people dying of cancer or war or old age.

She's a tricky one.

Regardless, her email made me think a lot about happiness...specifically, how childhood environmental conditioning affects adult happiness.

When I was a child, I spent 90% of my free time outside. I was Indiana Jane, and I explored every last inch of our 100-acre woods. I collected "specimens" in Maxwell House coffee cans, turning over every rock in hopes of finding the "big one". I once found a trout in our creek, which is really weird because our creek is only a few inches deep in most parts and doesn't really connect to any larger body of water. I once read somewhere that fish eggs can be transported in raindrops...or maybe I dreamed that. Regardless, it definitely fell under the classification of a "big one".

I picked berries in the summer and filled the house with fresh wild-flowers every day until the snow came. In the winter, I built forts and tried to ice-skate on puddles. Then, in the spring, I started it all over again. I planted crops and chased chickens. I learned that goats don't discriminate--they bite children as well as adults without regard to any concept of "innocence". I learned how to knock cans off of fences with BB guns and how to start fire with flint.

Accordingly, I learned to stay out of the water during the dog days of summer because it was stagnant and disease riddent. I also learned to avoid starting fires during droughts. Contrary to popular American belief, children aren't stupid and will not be idiots if you don't allow them to be idiots.

Now, years later, I sit under fluorescent lights in a city without stars--at least without the ones that hang in the sky. You never smell soil here, and the odor of grass is always combined with that of gasoline and smoke from the weed wackers and lawn mowers. City folk have an obsession with growing perfect grass only to cut it down to barely-there status. There are weeks where I may get a total of 5 hours of sunlight on my body, and my lungs barely remember what "clean" air feels like.

We study so many things in science, especially in the area of mood. We spend billions on drugs and therapy and guesswork. We spend a lot of time contemplating why "bad" things in childhood cause us to feel "bad" or act "bad" in adulthood, but we rarely talk about why "good" things in childhood--or even just things in general--may be required for us to feel "good" in adulthood. Would I be happier if I moved to Alaska and spent my days collecting soil samples?

I don't know.