Sunday, June 28, 2009


I used to like giving presentations. I thrived on that rush of adrenalin that comes with standing in front of 5, 10 or 300 people. I once made an unpracticed speech about weapons of mass destruction in front of about 300 people at a Model United Nations conference in the real-live meeting palace/conference center of the United Nations in The Hague.

Tomorrow I have to give a presentation to four people, in a tiny little dingy meeting room. I won't even have to stand up or dress up for this presentation.

When did my adrenaline become ineffective in overcoming presentation horrors?!

No windows

I like windows. I like big windows that let in lots of light. When I looked at houses I did not consider any houses with those small, eye-level windows so many houses from the 60's and 70's seem to have. Whoever thought it was a good idea to put in a 2-foot window 5 feet off the floor? I don't like living in a dungeon, but maybe that was the cool thing to have 30/40 years ago.

Lately I've noticed that there is one place I am glad does not have big, or for that matter, hardly any windows: the lab. The space is large, if I had to guess, the entire lab with office space is probably about 1500 sq. feet. But I'm a bad guess-timator, so let's just say the space is about the size of a small/medium 2-3-bedroom one-level house, just partitioned differently.

The lab doesn't have any real windows that you can open. It has this panel of glass about 18 inches high 6 and a half feet from the ground in this one area, maybe a total of 18 inches x 12 feet of glass. The only thing you can see is sky. Most days it's just clouds, every once in a while a ray of sunshine sneaks in, but this is pretty rare.

Without windows it's hard to tell the time of day without looking at a watch. So when I'm in the lab when most other people are getting ready for bed I can hardly tell that it's pitch-black outside, because I'm basking in the glow of fluorescent lighting.

Friday, June 26, 2009

I don't know

Today a very astute person pointed out to me that I say "I don't know" a lot.
I rarely don't know what to say. I can fudge my way through most topics of conversation and even if I truly don't know something I usually say something like "Interesting," or "OK" and/or tilt my head and nod.

So why would someone point out to me that I use the phrase "I don't know" a lot? A whole lot, apparently.

I know why. I say it when I don't want to answer a question or when I'm nervous. Mostly these are personal questions about emotions and opinions. I also say it when I know the answer will upset the other person. Then the "I don't knows" come flying out.

So today I made a resolution to stop saying "I don't know." Well, except for when I truly don't know the answer, and even then I might be better off with something less clueless, such as "Let me think about this question and I'll get back to you" or "I'm not entirely sure, but here's what I think..."

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Armadillos and proteins

Two random facts of the day:

  • the Dasypus genus of armadillos gives birth to four homozygous armadillo babies (that's identical quadruplets) every time they give birth.
  • titin is the largest known protein with almost 3,000 kDa, which is about 5x10^-18 grams, which is, really, really small, but huge in the protein world.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lavish indulgences

Today around 3pm I got this inexplicable urge to get a haircut. The last haircut I got was about 8 months ago and cost about $14 at Super.cuts. It wasn't much of a haircut, I just needed my hair shorter and it did the trick. The shortest hair on my head is at least a foot long and it's curly on the approximately 2 days a year I don't tie it up. It's quite hard to mess up a hair cut for me. Today, however, I decided I was going to go to a real hair cutting place, a non-generic, unique, one salon only no hair cutting chain.

So I pulled up my default for finding anything and everything (Google) and soon learned that there was a place only about 3 minutes out of the way on my way home from school, and it even had two positive reviews mentioning "unique decor" and "drinks and snacks". I was intrigued by the lure of food and drinks and I was looking for a non-generic hair cutting place. Also, I'm a little paranoid sometimes, and the name was a word play on "hair and paranois" and thus appealed to me. Off I went, even got a free parking spot right ouside the door, but when I walked in I knew this was about 5 notches too fancy for me. The place looked like out of a magazine! Granted, my experience with hair salons is next to nothing, but this place looked awesome. It was a mixture between a chateau, a stylish lake-side cabin and a Super.cuts on steroids. Lots of powerful, expensive steroids.

I was immediately greeted by a very stylish (without a doubt gay) man in his 50's, who asked if I had an appointment. Uhm. No. I've never gone to a hairdresser before that required an appointment. Of course I didn't say that, I just mumbled something about spur of the moment, busy schedule. He gave me a disappointed look and said that one of the ladies had an opening next Friday. He handed me a business card and as I was backing out the very stylish door in my not-so-stylish outfit, probably looking terrified and embarrassed at the same time, he said "I might have an opening at 6.30 tonight, give me a call".

I got in the car and drove home, convinced I was forever banned to the likes of Master and Super.cuts. But I was so intrigued by the decor that I called Michael (his name was on the gold on black background business card), and sure enough, he told me to come in at 6.30pm. Not wanting a repeat of my somewhat understyled appearance, I showered, changed, went to the bank (who knows, maybe hair stylists don't take credit cards, or maybe I would need to leave a cash tip), and off I went.

Michael greeted me, told me to help myself to the food and snacks (I was too intrigued by the decor and the original, at least 10 foot high ceiling to even bother with the food), and within 5 minutes I was getting a scalp massage. This was no Super.cuts 30 seconds hair rinse with This was the real deal. I usually don't fuss with my hair, and I've mostly been using Burt's Bees and equally natural stuff on my hair. Michael washed/condition and who-knows-waht my hair about five times, and my scalp went from feeling warm and balmy to cool and minty and then as refreshed as it must have felt the day I was born, but I coulnd't have cared less if he was pouring radioactive shampoo on my head. I was in scalp-massage heaven. In retrospect I regret not asking him what shampoo he had used. And then buying it. For $60 without any regrets.

The rest of the hair cutting adventure was equally grand. The mirror I sat in front was gigantic, and I mean entire-wall, spotless and wow-I've-never-seen-myself-in-such-a-big-mirror-for-such-an-extended-amount-of-time large. Michael chatted away and told me about the hospice work he does (when he's not giving scalp massages or haircuts to slobby-looking people like me, I assume). He didn't look at me funny when I asked him not to blow dry my hair, but said "I can tell you don't blow dry your hair, it's so healthy and strong and free of damage, that's pretty rare with the stuff people usually do to their hair!" Wow. Usually I get something like "But it's the same price with or without blow drying."

By the time I was done and standing by the "check-out" (is that what you call it at a salon?) I didn't care it if cost $20 or $100. It cost $30 and I gave him a $5 tip, although I almost felt strange tipping him, because what I really wanted to do was thank him profusely and tell him I'd never go anywhere else to get my hair cut. ever. And that I would tell everyone I knew to make an appointment. Today.

And then I felt so utterly luxuriously refreshed and new and whole that I went and had some Sushi for dinner, all the while wishing I had asked what shampoo/conditioner/myster stuff he has used to wash my hair. I'll be sniffing my hair occassionally until I wash it again to soak up the smell. Or maybe I'll just go back for another haircut in a couple of months and make sure to ask for/buy some magic shampoo.

Divorce, Adultery and Mayhem

I'm a compulsive news-reader. Maybe it's an addiction. I just like to know what's going on in the world.

The last few days have been pretty sad news-reading days. There's been a much-more-than-fair share of violence and protests, on top of accidents. Add to that Steve Jobs' new liver and I'm sure that some bottom rung overnight new typists have been working hard.

What has bothered me most this week, however, have been two cases of highly publicized adultery. First, there was Jon & Kate Gosslin, who decided to "call it quits" after 10 years of marriage, because it's what's best for their children. Since when is it best for children to lead two separate lives, one with each parent? Divorce is not best for their children. It's what seems best for themselves right now. Getting out of a relationship that has hit a hard patch and renounce a covenant they entered into 10 years ago by walking onto a courthouse and arranging the paperwork? Nothing easier than that, apparently.

I hold a firm belief against divorce, except for cases of domestic violence and repeated adultery. But I'm not about to impose my belief system on someone else. However, I hope, no, wish fervently, that they have the sense to retreat into some much-needed privacy so their eight children (please, stop calling them kids, it sounds diminutive) can adjust to their new lives privately and NOT in front of a camera with the whole world watching.

The other instance of adultery was Mark Sanford, the governor of South Carolina. First he simply disappeared at the end of the legislative session, and his staff said he went to hike the Appalachian trail. I thought "good for him! I hope he gets some quiet time to himself". Then they redacted that statement, and not even his wife knew where he'd gone. Then he said he went to Argentina to visit Buenos Aires, which he said was a beautiful city. A few hours later he admitted to an affair with an Argentinian woman.

Did he really think he could disappear for a week, not telling his wife where he went, without causing some sort of stir? Apparently he admitted (privately, I can only assume) to the affair five months ago. Are we to believe that he simply continued his affair? The man had to fly to a different continent to see this woman. He didn't just bump into her again at the store after not seeing her for several months. No. A trip to Argentina is something very intentional (and planned. and pricey.).

So there. Two highly publicized cases of adultery. I'm glad the governor of SC admitted to his affair (at least he tells the truth, part of the time?), and I can only hope that the Gosslins somehow realize that they need to step out of the limelight, because, after all, they're only doing what's best for their children.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Happiness is...

...a set of Pyrex dishes with lids.

Work on the house is nearing completion, and tomorrow the kitchen cabinets will be put in. When I lived with my roommate I had very few kitchen utensils, and most of those were for baking. So tonight I set out to buy the things one needs in the kitchen, from plates to bowls, to a good knife, cutting board(s), pots and pans, down to the paper towels.

Those Pyrex dishes just about made my day, which was definitely on the crappy side for the most part.