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Survived working a booth at Folsom Street Fair, pictures to follow. After work I met with an acquaintance who remarked Folsom always seems to be scheduled for the hottest day of the year. Next year, I'm taking an afternoon shift, and doing the goggly-eyed "vanilla tourist" thing in the cool morning.

I've been sitting on thoughts about several "rich people don't understand they're rich" posts that have recently crossed my radar. The rant about upper-class (mis)-perception of poverty (surely this "friend" must be a straw (wo)man, to be so out of touch) can be deleted, since other people already hit the highlights. (Speaking as someone living in a Point Five situation: dude. Get roommates.) Economist Brad De Long responded to a similar recent kerfluffle (lawyer married to M.D. complains he can't get by on $280,000 should Obama let Bush's tax cuts lapse), saying, in part:

[Mr. Xxxxxxxxx] doesn't look down at the 99% of American households who have less income than he does. [He] looks up. And when he looks up today he sees as wide a gap yawning above him as the gap between Dives and Lazarus. Mr. Xxxxxxxxx doesn't look down.

Instead, Mr. Xxxx Xxxxxxxxx looks up. Of the 100 people richer than he is, fully ten have more than four times his income. And he knows of one person with 20 times his income. He knows who the really rich are, and they have ten times his income: They have not $450,000 a year. They have $4.5 million a year. And, to him, they are in a different world.

While context like this explains some actions, it doesn't excuse that mind-boggling lack of perspective. My own context for poverty is college: I often felt I was in the grip of a liquid cash-flow problem, but adhered to conventional middle-class opinion that I was setting aside earning potential now for more money later. One of the only times I remember feeling poor was the day my debit card was rejected at the grocery store. Even then, I firmly believed that was a limited-time deal. Real poverty, in my mind, is when public transit is a significant line item in your budget, for a period of months or years. It's moments like these that I feel a rally to restore sanity cannot come soon enough.

The Colbert/Stewart "March to Keep Fear Alive" / "Rally to Restore Sanity" October 30th event is the first time I've regretted moving. Is this homesickness? I spent some time on constructing a pretty Thursday-to-Sunday fantasy of relocation contrition, but decided transcontinental travel is too expensive (and irritating) for this one. Perhaps I will organize a sister rally in Golden Gate Park. And by "rally" I mean "picnic, brown-bag, with booze". And maybe a group sing-along for "This Land is Your Land".
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First, I survived volunteering for Oakland Pride. The biggest incident I dealt with all day was Roommate Number Three's long distance text message, "what do you do for multiple wasp stings?" Many sighs of relief all around.

Second, I got to drinking and then I got to thinking: at what point does a blogger need to watch her (or his) words? When do you become a public figure, or a public persona? At what point do you have sufficient following that people will call you out for not checking your facts, or for constructing a spurious or misleading entry? No particular trigger for this, just the powerful combination of bad booze and blog-surfing.

Third, the immunology textbook needs to decide if it's describing immunologically active molecules by location, lineage, or activity first, instead of doing all three at once, badly. If immunologists lock themselves in a conference room until they standardize their nomenclature, that would be nice too. A rant, masquerading as an example. )

The fifth edition of Alberts' Molecular Biology of the Cell, which is so awesome it needs to update only about twice a decade, throws a polite temper tantrum in the preface, then standardizes protein and nucleic acid capitalization for the purposes of the textbook. If only standardizing immunology were so simple.
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"Blah blah blah biochemistry (or whatever is at hand)."

"Now a historical example! [Researcher] was investigating [topic highly relevant to lecture] during [historical context]. S/he had a question: [why am I seeing this / what is this thing I am seeing]?"

"They hypothesized [blah, possibly with illustrative diagram / chalkboard doodle]."

"To test this, [famous experiment]."

"When the researcher did the experiment, they saw [results, with pictures / diagrams / charts / animations / chalkboard doodle]. This was [in line with their hypothesis, or surprising]! It turned out that [biochemistry]."

"Therefore, we know [biochemistry] because [keywords relating to historical example]. The take-home message is: [one or two sentences]."

Questions may be - even should be - solicited after any hard return, as well as any other time the teacher sees eyes glazing over.

The take-home is key: what is the core concept? Knowing what the teacher considers essential tells the student what is a colorful but noncritical aside, and what is a key detail necessary for their knowledge base (and passing the test).

The structure is also important: deliver different material in the same way, so students can home in on what you're looking for (context, hypothesis, experiment and results, conclusions, take-home).

This message brought to you by this week's ABO typing example, which managed to do all this except a succinct take-home. (I think it was something about haptens and epitopes, but I'm still confused on the biochemistry.)
ase: School day icon (Academic Happiness)
Since I have progressed right through three comfort novels to a rant about footwear, fetishism, and design (core concept: since I love and respect my body and have zero erotic fantasies suitable for a BDSM dungeon, I will never wear 6" stiletto knee-high boots with buckles up the sides) to deleting most of said rant and going to a networking / talk event instead, I am now better. I am not looking forward to hustling for cash flow through on-the-side tutoring and whatever reasonable services I can churn out. (She cooks! She bakes! ...actually, a bake sale might work. I'm good at baking!)

I had the good sense to get a car and drive to the networking event, instead of messing with bus-train-walking shenanigans, which meant I got an awesome networking event and I got me-on-the-highway time too. The greater Bay area offers magnificent driving: even route 101 has the hills and San Francisco Bay opening at your feet, and driving back into the city at night is a unique and hilly joy. A perfect distraction for that horrible creeping feeling you've made a terrible mistake: your life is on the East Coast, your friends and your work and your home is there, and you know what? I realized, between the Third Street and Octavia Street exits, that I do not want to go home. I want to make a new home here.

I moved to San Francisco to make a fresh start: moving does not solve all problems, but in my case it replaced one set of stresses with a different (mostly preferable) set, and it's a daily reminder that if I don't like something, I can change it. I'm trying to be more mindful of other people (this is a really long term project), and more positive about my own life. Some things are in the past, and I can't change them. What I can change is how I look at those events, and what lessons I'm taking from them. Interviews are really great for that, because it's a chance to grab "I quit my job and moved nearly 3,000 miles on a whim" and spin that into, "I took a chance to expand my horizons." Would I have ever run or walked a 12k in DC?

This message brought to you by my opportunity to hear about other women's choices, Life in Technicolor, Magnificent, and I'm Not Dead.
ase: Computer and internet icon (Digital chained wretch)
Signs I am not going to drown in my own phlegm and die: I am filled with irritation by minor impediments, and shaving all the hair off my head doesn't sound like the worst idea ever. (R. thinks the raspy phlegm voice is hilarious. I am pleased I can entertain people between bouts of self-doubt and tea.)

I'm doing some copy and style editing for an acquaintance taking a web 2.0 course. I started compiling a list of blogs I consider high quality, and noticed a trend. Other than a heavy geek slant, what do Making Light, Bad Astronomy, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Whatever have in common? I see

  • significant moderator presence

  • blogger/mod regulars have been through at least one flamewar

  • "personal" content (kids, spouses, opinions)

  • entries tend to be long.

And that's when I realized: I hate 90% of social networking sites. I am not tight with the Twitter and Tumblr model, and I don't care enough to get up to speed in the near future.

Look at that list again. Many of those blogs include short posts, but also include multiparagraph entries. Twitter, facebook, mini news updates: why should I click through ten pages to get ten sentences? Stuff that hasn't even the promise of the Mighty Modly Banhammer, should commenters get hot-blooded? The house internet likes work slowdowns and dropped packets too often for 100% smooth internet, so excessive clickthrough is inefficient and makes me grouchy. (This is a known problem, relating to either the ISP or the lines. Anyway!) Long format is my natural milieu. I am unhappy at two paragraphs or less, unless there's a witty punchline. If I understand correctly, web 2.0 includes about user-added content and social networking as major tenants, but what I actually see is mostly recycled content, or comments without context, or links to third party sources. Forget that noise. If I've gone to the effort of finding and reading your blog, I want to read something relevant to my life: the personal experiences of friends (LJ/DW), what's going on locally (SF Chronicle) and elsewhere (Washington Post, Nature and Science news blurbs), op-ed on what's going on in the world (all of the above and others) and random meta that may improve my life. Lousy content-to-junk ratio may not be intrinsic to Twitter and Facebook, but it's pretty endemic when I try to wade in. If web 2.0 looks like twits and FB updates, I'm going to be getting curmudgeonly sooner than I think. It's a bummer for this copy-editing gig, because they're trying to do a minimum-effort school project, and I'm going to give them feedback demanding actual paragraphs, but it's soothing for me to discover there's a shiny toy I really don't regret leaving on the shelf. (For now.)

Okay, one unmitigated good thing, because today should close on a high note: I didn't thoroughly check the Asian Art Museum's reciprocal admission benefits when I bought a discounted "me + 1" membership. Please note that several San Francisco institutes of fine arts are listed, most of which I have not yet explored. Go me!
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I have figured out why my photoshop output's dropped since college: I've had no exams that needed study procrastination. Someone please tell me if I got over-enthusiastic and illegible with the text.

I have cruel things to say about the USA. )

...and back to the lecture review I am obviously displacing some hostility from.
ase: School day icon (Academic Happiness)
The central dogma - DNA is transcribed into RNA is translated into protein, this is the flow of information in a cell and that is what will be on the test - is a convenient lie told in high school and freshman biology to simplify the complex:

It's diagram time! )

In biochem 3 the prof drew the central dogma on the board and proceeded to break it. I don't have the full diagram any more, but I think there was more stuff on it. I'm not going through my entire notebook reconstructing it, but I'm kind of tempted, because it was pretty cool.

I'm way behind my f-list, and may not catch up tonight, or before this weekend, but know that's it's in a good cause: I have vacuumed my room and retyped my class notes. Trip pictures and summary to follow sometime this weekend, maybe? I hear there's a thing on the mall I may want to attend. The very short version: I had a great time, did museum time and outside time, got slightly sunburned twice, saw my sister, and accidentally drove up Russian Hill in the dark. I had an adventure! Now I'm locked into adventures with genetics until the end of the semester.
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Spring indications:
lawn mowers buzzing long greens,
light heating branches.

What on Earth moved me to buy three Heinlein novels and one short story collection Friday? I have serious and persistent problems with his fiction, because Uncle Bob does not know best, and yet, I still pick up these skinny time-faded paperbacks. I blame Heinlein's ability to actually tell a story and write witty prose, which means I still remember most of the stories from The Green Hills of Earth. That's a testament to skill, since I tend to lose short stories out of memory faster than I misplace my keys. (Fortunately, the keys keep turning up.) Heinlein is one of the greats of his SF cadre for a reason. Even if picking which Heinlein to read next is much like picking one's way through a minefield. (Citizen of the Galaxy: greatness. The Puppetmasters: erk.)

If one were going to pick the formative authors for a generation of SF fans, I'd point to Heinlein, Clarke, and Asimov. I am not asserting they were consistently the best writers, but you can invoke the Foundation or "I'm sorry, Dave", or "the one with the lunar revolution and Mike" and people know what you're talking about. It's the background against which everyone reacted (and )is still reacting).

Who are the top authors of my generation, and the next?

I think Bujold, Pratchett and maybe Gaiman are the Big Three authors who everyone in my fannish age cohort has read; I could be wrong, because I am wildly biased about Bujold, and Gaiman really depends on whether you count Sandman or just his novels. The up and coming cohort might include some combination of Scalzi, Doctorow, Gaiman (version YA), Novik, and/or Stross. That totally ignores non-genre novels widely read by fans (Laurie R. King's mystery novels come to mind), and media fannishness, comics (see Sandman), and fan fiction, some (but far from all) of which has surprisingly cool speculative fiction content. And once you open the floor that much, you have to question what pool of readers you're talking about, anyway, and that changes the game (and Big Name Author list) significantly.


Nov. 14th, 2008 12:01 am
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Today seems to be a day of general upset. Broken pipettes, rain, roommates in upset, mp3 player left at home, other people's broken other stuff, blinding rage with respect to coffee stains on my Ann Taylor Loft corduroys. Let's hope this is a 24-hour bug, and that tomorrow will be awesome TGIF all the day through.

Amy Ray at the 9:30 Club tomorrow. 6 PM doors give me hope that the main act will be on sometime before midnight. (What? I'm an old woman.) I think I will wear a pretty shirt tomorrow and take my earnest, entertaining wingman, Mr. Big Fat Book, to Ben's Chili Bowl or Busboys and Poets. Fortunately, Mr. BFB is a cheap date, and he's quoted that ass Emerson only once so far.

Speaking of dates. Some time ago someone remarked she was surprised I hadn't dated someone who'd shown some interest, because she thought he was my type. I, um, disagreed emphatically. After some thought, it's because I don't want to get involved with someone I feel is reflecting my anxieties back at me. And that's why I am too smart to date the people other people think I should be dating. I am pickier have higher standards than "breathing, talks geek, available." The threshold is "available, breathing, person I want to bare my soul to (or talk, ick, feelings with - look, can't we get back to Grossest Things I Have Seen on a Lab Bench now please? Please?)", and I learned the hard way that the third one is the killer show-stopper. So that's why my dating life is going to be A.) really boring or B.) really slow for the foreseeable future.
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I am too old to waste a Saturday surfing 40 or 50 years of Marvel comics history, but that's exactly what I did today. Escapism much?

For reasons that don't need exploring at this juncture, if you're fantasy-casting Marvel comics adaptations, who does Ewan McGregor play? I have just enough shame and attention to detail that I'm not going to insta-cast him for Captain America (why yes, this is an obvious ploy involving Robert Downey Jr), but I am giving it way too much thought. I mean, there's umpty-thousand other Avengers, hangers-on, X-Men & etc to choose from. Other than Nick Fury, who is - forgive me - motherf*cking cast; and besides, [ profile] norabomay pointed out that Aaron Eckhart actually looks the part.

I liked last weekend's three-day break from the lab so much that I put in for vacation time and am doing it again this weekend. So far I've been to a WSFA meeting, baked chocolate chip cookies, and admired TS Hannah's rain and wind, and declared it Navel-Gazing Emo Weekend Of Goal-Setting. What we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren't trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom. - Umberto Eco )
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I am 90% packed. This is as good as it gets. I need to find one more library book to return to the public library or risk making a tradition of leaving library systems with exactly one book overdue. I also popped my last university library book - The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkein, which would probably have been quite interesting if I'd ever made it past the first paragraph of the first letter - into the book drop at 10:40 tonight.

Something I think I haven't made particularly clear is the moments when I'm running around throwing trash bags into the can or driving onto campus or whatever, and I'll be struck by this moment when I think, "shouldn't I be asking, 'how can I leave this? I like this part!' moments?" and then I have a gigantic moment of "nah". Take driving onto campus: passing the green around the engineering and math buildings, going through the M, stopping at the stop sign where [ profile] wizardoffoo got hit, parking at Lot HH in front of my old work building long enough to run to the library and look down the mall - am I going to miss that? It's beautiful, but it's over. The entire area is like that. So what if I know all the stores, bus routes, walking shortcuts? Google maps will find a bunch of those for me in the new place. Time to live in much uglier and less historic districts, with fewer fountains or old trees and more catchment basins trying to moonlight as bucolic suburban ponds. I have no regrets, other than that library book. Surely this is joy.

So this is what I take away: a woman in long sleeves and the statue of the school mascot, nose rubbed shiny for luck, looking down the empty night-dark green. It's about time I burned rubber out of this town.
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Call me a bitter undergrad, but everyone's about to get the pedagogy lecture. (We know I've jumped the shark because I said "pedagogy" with a straight face.)

First: if you are writing on a blackboard, stop talking.

Second: if it's important, put it on the blackboard. Like this: "important term: means this." Corollary: no tangent should be longer than two minutes.

Third: if you are drawing a graph, label your graph, just like freshmen are forced to do in 100-level classes: title, axes, units. If you draw multiple lines on the graph, label the lines.

Fourth: if you put up an equation, put up what the pieces mean. Telling me that No/(Nt - No) = e^-[nF*(psi-psi0)/RT] is only useful if I know what psi0 represents, and also that No is Nopen, not Nzero.

Fifth: if you can't do any of these things, and it's a 400-level class, find your sub-discipline's equivalent of Albert's all-encompassing Molecular Biology of the Cell. Tell your students about it. If it costs more than $150, put it on reserve at the library. You should do this anyway, but if you're hitting your marks in lecture, a good fallback textbook is gravy, rather than essential.

Bonus: powerpoint is like salt. A little is a good thing, but a lot will kill you. Dump it at the door with the rest of the trash.

Bonus #2: I have never seen anyone go wrong with colored chalk, except by forgetting to bring it.

So perhaps I needed to let loose a bit. )

Good news: I wrote my rant! Bad news: I still don't understand voltage-gating in channels. Busted on the procrastination front.
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I am staring into the paper, and the paper is staring back into me.

Sadly, if I were trying to write about science fiction, or insane internet fangirls, this would be a thousand times easier. Possibly because I don't feel apathy toward the source material. Unlike my feelings toward Lucy and The Piano. I feel love, cynicism, mocking and wonder (or, Ase Misses the GRRM Boat and Contemplates TV Shows), but it's rare for me to have such a flat reaction.

Okay, I lie. I think The Piano is an okay movie, but the academic derivatives are liberal arts craziness. The authors need better thesauri and some clarification on the difference between useful communications of new information and writing because you want to make tenure. The male gaze is way overdiscussed, and needs to be countered by some serious mocking, and possibly some witticisms on women objectifying men by thinking they can change them. There's probably a really evil parody paper to be written on how men just want to possess the bodies of the women they objectify, but women want to possess and transform the men they objectify. With some side notes on transformation as destruction, and violation of interior space, and how this all makes women-created structures more evil and soul-destroying than the patriarchy. Consider, say, A Fire Upon the Deep and Doomsday Book (conveniently tied for the 1993 Hugo), and wait for reactions. (What I really want to do is something with The Handmaid's Tale, Cyteen and Native Tongue, but that's probably a skewed data set to analyze.)

Actually, that's not an entirely bad idea. How women and men write violence and the impacts of violence in fiction. Compare and contrast with real life PTSD data or something, and see what happens.

This is not getting my paper written. Stupid paper!
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Spring break isn't over until 1 minute before my first class. That's my story and I'll stick to it, even as I'm doing my women's studies homework and angsting over my postgraduadtion plans. Because hey, nothing says science love like ignoring the world to reread midlist novels and contemplate the nature of the universe. Doris Egan's Ivory books are not mindblowingly thoughtful, creative, inspirational high literature, but they're great comfort reading.

"I'm not even a novice! I'm not qualified to be a novice! I'm still at the beginning of the beginning!"
"Well, never mind that," he said. "I've been doing this for half a century, and I'm just at the beginning of the middle."

-The Gate of Ivory, Doris Egan

This was a source of unreasonable reassurement as I tried to do my Arabidopsis crosses, whose success I need to check on today. Hand cross-fertilization? So evil. If I ever wind up in charge of an Arabidopsis lab, I am so looking into insect pollinators. If it turns out it's bees or bust, or some poor person has a moth allergy, we'll keep Epi pens on hand for the allergic. If it's spiders, I'm hiring a hypnotist and getting rid of my arachnid dislike.

I'm a semester and a half from graduating, and I'm just leaving the nice, neat, false models of the classroom for the messy, uncertain real world explanations. (Cue Fiddler on the Roof. "And why do our cells do this? I'll tell you: I don't know.") Part of it's my fault for not getting in more lab work, but some of it's the field. Someone on the Bujold list once quoted, "all models are wrong. Some are useful," and this is so true. I mean, look at electron resonance forms, or the usual genetics track. )

Conclusion: anyone who thinks science is about studying the tidiness of the world is so wrong. Biology seems to thrive on discovering new ways to clutter up its reductive principles. The "central dogma" of DNA->RNA->protein is undermined by retroviruses, transcription factors, self-catalyzing RNA - and these are examples I'm pulling from the top of my head. Saying all this makes me feel a little better, because if I can BS for multiple paragraphs I must be at least qualified to be a novice, but it's also a nice reminder that in bio, even the best minds may just be making it to the middle of the middle.
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[ profile] kate_nepveu read the first four Russell/Holmes novels recently and while discussing A Monstrous Regiment of Women says, "not only does it set up false choices for Russell, it then deliberately takes them away from her!" She also mentions Gaudy Night. ("[S]uffers badly from wanting to be Gaudy Night and failing miserably." Ouch.) The juxtaposition of those two comments made my brain leap universes and think about Ekaterin's choices, particularly that question about her aunt the Professora.

Spoilers for both the Vorkosigan and Russell/Holmes series, plus one big Gaudy Night spoiler. )

Nepveu also asks in her post, "I'm starting to wonder if this is a subgenre, books written in obvious tribute to Gaudy Night." It makes me wonder how much of Ekaterin Vorsoisson's and Mary Russell's character arcs were inspired by GN, and whether the resolutions I found so incomplete might be an inadvertent effect of the authors echoing GN's plot and some of its themes, but changing things around enough that the conclusion of the romance doesn't tie things up as neatly as Sayers did in GN. (If she really does resolve things that well in GN - I read it once, when I was 15 or 16, it was my first Sayers, and I know I missed things left, right and center. Currently, I can scarcely remember what happened in the story.)
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"Are you saying that no matter how screwed up I was, you'd still expect me to work wonders?" Appalling.

She considered this. "Yes," she smiled serenely. "In fact, since no one is perfect, it follows that all great deeds have been accomplished out of imperfection. Yet they were accomplished, somehow, all the same."

It wasn't just his father who had made Miles crazy, Mark decided.
-Mirror Dance, Lois McMaster Bujold

The latest dealing-with-upsetting-topics meme is the sexual violence meme, which touched down more than once on my friends list this week. Like the "bullying is bad" meme that went around some time ago, it's generating a lot of energetic discussion, both in favor of the meme (raising awareness and helping people overcome the stigma associated with rape) and against (trivializing the issue. And, of course, the trolls). What I find astonishing is the enormous amount of pain humans inflict on each other, and how we manage to put our lives back together. Some of the people I most respect have come through some really horrible experiences to get where they are today. You talk to these happy, busy people, and sometimes they'll say something about a neglectful parent, the Date from Hell, suicidal depression, and you wonder how they ever got past those things. No one I know has had a "perfect" life. And, on the whole, we still manage to live without being dominated by the really traumatic stuff that's happened to us. And however unthinkable your situation may be, it's very likely someone else has been there, and has moved on, so that you'd never think they'd been assaulted, or abused, or had a particularly vicious cancer, or been an alcoholic. Then they mention it and you're shocked, because it's such a non-issue most of the time.

People are fragile, like glass: a little pressure shatters them. People are resilient, like clay: find the pieces and they can be remade. I think that's what this type of meme is about. Letting people say, "I've been there, and there's a way past the moment." The trick is that you can be told there is a road, but you have to find and walk it yourself.


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