Monday, October 31, 2005

they say "why are you dressed like it is halloween?"

Here's the initial thought that ran through my head on Saturday night, while two butterflies fluttered close by: "They're killing Independent George... worlds are colliding!!" The bro-seph met maisnon, Anna, and Vinod that evening. Though there were a few mentions of mutinies and even the word brimful, it all turned out just fine.

I think I finally have to own up to the fact that my eyes roll strenuously at the thought of Halloween. This is a nearly blasphemous confession if you live in San Francisco. But, I said it, b*tches. Look. I have bills to pay, I have journal articles to read, I have mindless surfing to do on the internet. I have neither the inclination nor the time to plan out and shop for a Halloween costume. Dude, I turned 30 specifically so that I would no longer feel any pressure to participate in such stuff. Seriously.

This year, I'm feeling particularly grinch-y about the whole occasion because it seems to have lasted forever. Friday, everyone at the company was dressed in costumes. Would it surprise you to learn that I chose to work from home on Friday because of this? Have you been reading this blog at all?? Sorry, but if I'm going to spend three hours eating candy and shooting the breeze with people, I will do that at home, or in a bar with my friends, not my coworkers. Then Saturday, every bar, club and library in the city was sponsoring Halloween parties, so again with all the costumes. Sunday, people in my neighborhood were legitimately (thanks for shattering the last shard of sanity I had left, oodles) celebrating Dia de los Muertos, which, in my opinion, sounds fantastically cooler than Halloween or even All Hallow's Eve, so there. And now today, finally, we start seeing signs of actual children wearing costumes. The poor things have probably been feeling mighty left out until now.

All I have to say is this: if all the nonsense keeps me from getting to class on time, everyone is going to have something to truly fear tonight. Boo, b*tches, boo!

Friday, October 28, 2005

sometimes I panic- what if nobody finds out who I am?

Have I told you how much I lurve A N N A? So much that I'm actually posting twice in one day. She decreed it so:
She hated hiding things. The idea that they did not get her, really know her, could make her despair. But they had ideas too, ideas of her. This revelation would not compute.

But ultimately, she was lazy. Occasionally, instead of coming up with an intricate excuse, she wanted to blurt out, “I have a blog.”

dance with me, my old friend

Last night, at Le Colonial, I arrived a few minutes before JG and her dude. Did I retreat to the waiting area, a perfectly nice parlor with pretty trees and heat lamps? Of course not. I barreled upstairs to the bar. When I got up there, I immediately thought of maisnon, and of how much I would have loved this scene just five years ago. A swing band was playing old standards, and a handful of couples were showing off lindy circles and rock steps and west coast footwork. Me, I was delighted to find Charbay at the bar. Then, like the wallflower that I really am inside, I stood at the side of the wall, observing.

I enjoy watching people dance together. The sloppy ones, the happy ones, the snappy ones, all of them. Last night, there were two guys who were clearly ringers. One was young, the other a fossil. There's something I have noticed about young guys who can dance well: they tend to know it. A young guy who's a well-versed swing dancer will move his partner around the floor expertly, gliding effortlessly. But he looks a bit removed, seems ever so slightly detached. There was an air of "whatever, man, I'm so on top of this beat" going on in the young dude last night. His eyes connected with his partner from time to time, he smiled politely, but then he would glance away, lost in his own mind.

The old man who dances well is a different character altogether, and I'll admit to being partial to fossils in this particular instance. I noticed it more clearly last night. The skills between these two dancers is just about the same. But the old man is no longer interested in showmanship, no longer about patting himself on the back. Oh, the old man does not hold back the moves. Some of his fancy footwork made me think of Fred Astaire. But what made him so swoonworthy was his face. The man was overjoyed. He was happy to be there, dancing, soaking up the music, but he was also thrilled to be dancing with a woman. His eyes were never on his feet, never on the scene, always on his partner. And the woman, who was obviously not unfamiliar with having attention, was loving it. This old man could have led her into the dining hall or the kitchen, and she would have followed him, so connected was she to him. He did this with woman after woman, and each time, the woman looked like she had just been awarded a diamond-crusted tiara.

We women, we love a good dose of undivided attention.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

walked across that burning bridge

How do people manage to stay in touch with friends over long courses of time? Someone please explain this to me. I barely manage to keep in touch with my current friends. It really seems as though I am missing some key socialization gene that keeps me attached to people. They just fall away. It is not because I do not care about them. It is not because I do not think highly of them. It is not because I do not miss them when they are gone. It is just the effect of time and place. Or maybe it is the incongruence of reconciling who you once were with you are now.

This is all on my mind because I am meeting the only person I have kept in touch with from my hometown tonight. She and I used to live five blocks apart. We went to the same elementary school, junior high, high school. I can still remember, vividly, painfully, the first Thanksgiving after we had all gone off to college. A bunch of us all gathered at JG's house. She was somehow in touch with everyone. We sat around exchanging stories. Did this happen to you too? Do you think classes are hard? Is living in a city hard? Is he cute? All these stupid questions that naive freshmen cannot ask their fellow classmates, but can ask their former high school friends, for some reason.

Maybe most people come home on break from college and immediately meet up with all their friends. That was rarely a possibility for me. My mom's two brothers and two sisters all lived in my hometown. My grandparents lived in my hometown. My eight cousins, all under 10 years old at the time, all lived there. When I came home, even before I had put my bags in my bedroom, some little twerp would be waiting.

Not that I am complaining. In college, you spend day in and out around other people your age. There is something about coming home to an excited hug around your knees, something about having your cheek pinched by an aunt, or even about getting yelled at by your chauvinistic but lovable grandfather about gaining weight that lets you exhale, makes you feel like you are part of something permanent. I would love to wring my hands, cry woe is me that my parents bullied me into not seeing my friends from high school, but the fact is, I have always been of my own mind. Had I really preferred to hang out with friends from high school, I would have.

Also, there is a pesky detail I left out: I loathed high school.

JG and I actually lost touch over the years too. There was a span of time during which I knew no one from high school. She and I wound up reconnecting in Manhattan six years ago, through a coincidental mutual acquaintance. It was one of those bizarre, surreal, small world connections. Now she is visiting, and I wonder how I will seem through her eyes. I wish I could see her vision of me as a kid, and whether it is so vastly different as I think it is.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

singing a thing fit for a king

it's evolution, baby

Last night, I had to admit that I believe in miracles. I came home to find this box sitting outside my apartment door. This means someone in my building actually had the grace to leave the box outside my door. This may mean nothing to most people, but it astounds me. The packaging left little to the imagination as far as what was inside, and still, no one absconded with it.

Anyhow, now that I have received this far too generous gift, anyone want to take bets on how long it takes me to actually open this thing and get it functional? Before you hazard a guess, keep in mind that my iPod nano still has the plastic wrapping that chides "Don't steal music" on it. Maybe this embarassing admission will actually cause you all to coerce me into getting my act together. Rrrriiight.

Dennis Overbye got me again. This time, he has nearly convinced me to go see the new opera Dr. Atomic. An opera about the days leading up to the atomic bomb, and the fallout thereafter- well, it doesn't quite pop to mind as the best subject matter for operas. In fairness, I am not a frequenter of operas. But this one certainly seems promising. Quoting John Donne while waxing philosophical about science is a fast track to my heart.

And I do find the story of the atomic bomb wholly fascinating and dramatic. Overbye sums it up well in his closing:

The first part of the atomic story ended with the worst fears of the scientists confirmed - more than 100,000 dead in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The idea that half a century later there would be some 50,000 nuclear warheads on the Earth was beyond their worst dreams; the fact that none of them has yet been exploded in anger since that summer, beyond their wildest hopes.
I wish I could get into the head of just one of those physicists, to see what sort of effect such an amazing and horrifying discovery had on their perspective on life.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

there is a safe place that I used to know

Though I have never been bowled over by Norah Jones' vocal stylings, and I have lost interest in what Wyclef Jean is up to musically since The Carnival, it turns out they can string together a pretty song between them. It is as though Jones' usual bland, vanilla gets a much-needed infusion of soul, and Jean adjusts to a level of mellow that's actually just right for his Caribbean roots-leanings. Or I could have made that all up. Jean & Jones paired up to quickly put this song together for Katrina Hurricane Relief fundraising efforts. For some stupid reason, it's only available through MSN Music. But personally, I think it's worth it and certainly for a good cause.

I overwhelmed myself yesterday, and I have to admit that I rather liked it. Like when you stare at a painting too long, and all of a sudden you start seeing things that were never intended to be there. Or like a bad acid trip. So I'm told, of course. I am a good girl, V! Reading about latent viruses brought this latest brain melt on.

Let's set aside your garden variety flu, which tend to infect you, wreak havoc on your body for a short period of time, and then continue along their merry way. There is a whole subset of viruses that infect people, first acutely, during which you have clinical symptoms. Then, these viruses take a deeper dive, and plunge into a kind of dormant state in your body, called latency. They're just hanging out in your cells, not doing much, along for the ride. Some viruses do this forever; others, under the right conditions, re-activate and start messing with you again.

A good example of this is Varicella Zoster Virus. The first time this virus gets you, it's Chicken Pox. You have the itchy scratchies, and maybe a fever, but it's bearable. That's the acute stage of VZV infection. The thing is, when you've gotten over Chicken Pox, your body hasn't cleared the virus. It's still sitting around in your nerve cells, biding its time. In about 20% of people who have had Chicken Pox, the virus reactivates later in life, and causes Shingles. And Shingles= painful. Not good.

There are quite a number of viruses like this out there- Epstein-Barr, HSV, etc. And we all tend to get them as children. So, it just started me thinking that most people have a whole slew of viruses hanging around inside of them on any given day. And it's just a matter of time, just a matter of a confluence of the right factors, before one of these viruses decides it's time to kick it up a notch again. This happens more as you get older, since your immune system starts to suffer. I was thinking last night, wouldn't it be nice if there were some sort of reset button? It would be great if there were some sort of preventative therapy you could take, that would just wipe out any latent viruses that are sticking around in your system.

I am a huge fan of a clean slate, in nearly all things. But I know the complexities of life make clean slates an impossibility. There are things we carry with us from which we will never be free.

Monday, October 24, 2005

I live like a hermit in my own head

Well, it turns out listening to DCFC can be hazardous to your health. Sort of. The NYT has its faults of late, obviously, but it saved you from reading a bunch of nonsensical whining. Two things in the NYT brought me some hope today.

The first is something I do not bother to write about much, because I cannot even believe it is still a matter of debate- unintelligent design. In the last few months, however, the science and academic communities are starting to actually grow a spine about the situation. In addition to a few editorial journal articles I have come across issuing a call to arms, Cornell University's interim President, Hunter Rawlings III, came out swinging on Friday against ID. Sure, he is only an interim appointee, and was kind of setting himself on fire in a final blaze of glory, but at least someone from the university set is finally coming out and calling a spade a spade. Every time someone calls this issue a matter of tolerance, my brain implodes. And that is problematic, because I am running low on brain cells, people. I need all my neurons to study those pesky viruses.

The second story is more near and dear, and unexpected. The NYT reviewed a recently published book on Lincoln that focuses on his depression. What's interesting is that the author of this book has had his struggles with depression himself. There are people who have real chemical imbalances and need medication to live their lives. Believe me, I'm not going to start accusing people of being glib or anything. But here's something Lincoln wrote in 1841 that really resonated with me:
"I am now the most miserable man living. . . . I must die or be better"
Again, don't get me wrong- there is no need to mail order a straightjacket for me. But there's something to be said for hitting rock bottom, and coming to the decision yourself that you have to pull yourself up from the mire. There are problems with Shenk's analysis of Lincoln. I don't think it's fair to attribute all of Lincoln's greatness to his battle with depression.

But the idea that you might be miserable, that you might fall into a deep low, and that you might someday be able to fix your thoughts on something you find meaningful, that you might use it as your compass, that it might ultimately steady you- well, that's cause for optimism and swoons.

I had a bad weekend, and I can't even explain why. I brought it completely, wholly on myself. But yesterday, I gave myself a much-needed kick in the pants. And by night fall, when the fog was descending on the city, I was back from the ether. That has to count for something.

P.S. To the reader who found me through googling "antisocial misanthrope", I think we are meant to be.

Friday, October 21, 2005

just a series of blurs like I never occurred

Making a return showing this week, thanks in no small part to listening to the new DCFC album and a call for blue:
The contentment came spilling forth in her voice, impossible to conceal. He heard the message, and the sky darkened from cornflower to midnight. The moon seemed sallow. There was conservation of matter to consider, only so much happiness to split between them. On her side of the seesaw, she teetered high. He had no choice.
I know DCFC are too emo and whiney for a good many people, but sometimes, a good, moody wallow is in order. If nothing else, the San Francisco weather demands it.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

little secrets, tremors, turn to quakes

My favorite kind of stories are these. Over 25 years ago, scientists were fiddling with the genetics of fruit fly development. There were two organisms scientists toyed with most in those days: fruit flies and worms. Also known as Drosophila Melanogaster and C. Elegans, respectively (like you cared). Both were chosen because they are easy to work with- they are easy to manipulate and they reproduce quickly. Researchers could mess and mutate the genes of fruit flies, and within a few days, they would discover they had found a way to get the fly to grow an extra set of wings, or a leg where its antenna should be, etc. etc. In the course of messing around in this manner, they found this mutation:You can't see it so well from this picture (which was taken in 1980, before we had all the nifty camera technology that still doesn't help me take a worthwhile picture), but this fly wound up a spikey ball with no wings. So, they called the gene that had been mutated Hedgehog. And back then, most people rolled their eyes, and shrugged, thinking nice work, fruit fly dudes, but I really wonder if we should be funding you crazy scientists for this random work that has no applicable value. A classic issue that comes with working in basic research.

As it turns out, all of this work in fruit fly and worm development wound up being immensely important. It turns out fruit flies and worms are not that different from you and me, especially in terms of how we decide what we want to be when we grow up. As embryos, our cells figure out what they want to be by listening carefully to what is going on around them, reacting to small changes. It turns out what keeps a normal fruit fly from looking like a hedgehog also helps human embryos figure out how they should be growing. The researcher that found this structurally similar gene in humans wanted to piggyback on the original name, and also was something of a videogame buff, so guess what he came up with?
You can't say these dudes didn't have a sense of humor. At this point, people became a little more interested. Hmmm, cool, we've got this same development pattern as flies, but... so what? Well, have I got a story for you. It turns out that Sonic Hedgehog is activated in embryonic cells that are figuring out what they want to be. Then they get shut down for the most part, because we're all grown up- our fate has been decided to a large extent. But, there's still a small part of us that's constantly renewing, certain things in our body have to be recycled. In those instances, Sonic Hedgehog is still doing its thing, telling cells these are not the droids you're looking for and sending them to become what Sonic Hedgehog wants them to be.

Here's the thing. If Sonic Hedgehog goes haywire and doesn't behave as it's supposed to, it goes to the dark side of the force. It programs cells improperly, and the next thing you know, the dreaded big C looms on the horizon. In fact, researchers have found that almost all basal cell carcinomas, a type of skin cancer, have defects in Sonic Hedgehog signaling. Dig that.

In an even crazier, parallel development, some sheep farmers found that ewes eating corn lilies were giving birth to mutant lambs with only one eye! Be glad I didn't dig up a picture of that. Some scientists got on the case, and discovered that there's actually a substance in corn lilies called cyclopamine. And guess what cyclopamine inhibits? The Sonic Hedgehog pathway. Now, even though that was bad news for those poor lambs, cyclopamine turns out to be very good news in fighting cancer. It basically tells Sonic Hedgehog to STFU, so that adult cells remain behaved.

I could never do the work of those fruit fly researchers, because I am short-sighted and impatient. But I am a big advocate of funding those mad scientists doing their seemingly fringe research. Sometimes, you have to take it on faith that a small discovery that might seem irrelevant will eventually serve to sharpen the big picture in important, unforeseeable ways.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

breaking the laws that the signmakers made

Though I really want to write about an elegant example of basic research that yielded applicable value, I am putting it off until tomorrow, because today I am mastering the fine art of procrastination. Also, I am distracted today, and that topic deserves some slight amount of focus that I can't manage to muster just now. More evidence of that can be found at partyben's site, where you can check out a Tegan & Sera mashup that I cannot get out of my head. I have been walking with a ghost for something like 24 hours straight now. Please don't insist.

Today, a coworker was complaining about how hard it is to turn a year older. I have to be honest here- I banish thoughts like these from my head. Birthdays feel arbitrary, but I suppose they are useful for marking time. And time can easily feel like it is slipping away if you do not pay attention. So, I engage in healthy competition. With myself. Every year, I push a little harder, to do a little more. Last time, it resulted in an adventure I never really imagined myself capable of. Topping that is going to be difficult, but I have to try. Suggestions are always welcome. Right now, I've only been able to come up with quitting my job. That doesn't fly for two reasons:
    1- too easy.
    2- too inevitable
Here's a good example of how I can seem a walking contradiction. Last Friday, super swanktastic, over-the-top dining for no reason whatsoever. Today, when I actually have good cause, slumming it up tacqueria style. All I can say is, don't underestimate the joy that accompanies hanging out with a gay bf and consuming a good enchilada.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

and I have no compass and I have no map

Stephen Colbert and Stone Philips in a gravitas-off = enough reason to stay up late on a Monday night. Even if I am paying for it dearly today.

Occasionally, my professors make statements that seem ridiculously obvious, and yet, somehow, manage to throw me into a pondering tailspin. Yesterday's gem was: "You have to know what you're looking for in order to look for it." See. I know. DUH, right?

But it's a fundamental challenge in an early stage of basic research. In the beginning, you are just looking around, without a clue what it is you're really looking for. Think of the Human Genome project- scientists wanted the map of the human genome, and initially argued it would unlock the answers to everything that ails us. I know I'm exaggerating here, but so did they, so let's call it even, shall we? Ultimately, the project did yield a map, which resulted in more questions. But they were better, more informed questions. Slowly, we're figuring out what it is we're looking for. That improves the chances of finding it considerably.

You can develop a test to confirm whether or not someone has a virus, but first you have to know quite a lot about that virus. Only by studying the virus at the molecular level in detail can someone design a test to specifically identify that virus' presence in a person. The same is true with a multitude of other diseases.

It seems so simple, to remember to know what you're looking for before you look for it. But I can't think of too many times in life that I have actually followed such a credo. I am more likely to get in my car and drive until something catches my fancy than I am to map out a route to a destination. Some of this ties into what the ultimate goal may be. If it's the searching that is the goal, the place where you stop may be irrelevant. If it's the destination that matters, though, you better know where you wanted to end up.

Of course, I don't know, not exactly. But this time, I have an idea of what the destination looks like. It's blurred around the edges, it hides behind a veil of fog, but I can make out the shape of it. I know when I'm heading away from it and when I'm heading towards it. And that's just about the level of certainty I need at the moment.

Monday, October 17, 2005

the bright lights, the people, and the moon and all

Call me a vampire or a werewolf, but I have a thing for the moon. I have been known to interrupt conversation to excitedly point out a particularly beautiful moonlit night. Usually, this is met by a glance that says Yes, the moon, it's up there every night, dumbass. But I never tire of it. The moon is one of those things that come and go forever, and I am a sucker for that phenomenon. Both changeful and constant at the same time.

There were other lights that caught my eye on Saturday, however. On my way to dinner at Maverick's, every cafe, every art gallery, hell, even most of the furniture stores in my neighbhorhood were brimful with hipsters. The Litcrawl was upon me, and I felt simultaneously raw about not being able to attend and genuinely tickled that such an occasion occurred in this city. There were over 150 authors reading on Saturday, most of them along this very street I was walking. The fact that so many people were in attendance just reminded me of the great literary enthusiasm of this city. I went to the very first Litquake- it was held in an auditorium in the public library, where authors read 15 minute-excerpts of their latest work. To see how far it has evolved in three short years gives me the warm fuzzies. It is so easy to be cynical about people's intentions, and roll my eyes at hair-brained schemes, but this city is not afraid to ignore all that buzz and build on something they find valuable. For all my razzing the hipsters, there are a considerable subset that genuinely believe they can make something happen. I find that immensely impressive.

You know you have had a good night when you get clocked in the eye, and can still call the evening enjoyable. Serving as maisnon's wing-girl comes with hazard pay, you know. We went to Levende Lounge, which, for those of you who care, used to be Butterfly. I really do not care about anything about this lounge, except that they need to keep whoever it is that is the mastermind behind their bartending skills. They know how to make a good cocktail there.

That said, let me assure you that I was completely sober when I got b*tchslapped. As maisnon characterized it, I was soon scheduled to become a pumpkin, and we wanted to say a quick hello to Vinod. As we made our way through the crowd, a wildly gesticulating woman smacked me in the eye with the back of her hand. Hard. Like stop in your track to check if your eyeball is still in the socket hard. Nice. Even though the woman did not apologize, her male friend apologized profusely. Once I had collected myself and realized that my eyesight was intact, I dispatched him with a whatever, yo, it's all good.

One other thing that dawned on me on Saturday evening: I need to go shopping. Either that, or I need to stick to hanging out in seedy dives where sweatshirts and jeans are de rigueur attire. I am guessing, however, on the extremely generous side, that there is a 0.5% chance that I actually will go shopping before 2006.

I leave you with one of the two Sandburg moon poems I most love. The other one is well known, but this one gets me every time:
I sang to you and the moon
But only the moon remembers.
I sang
O reckless free-hearted
free-throated rhythms,
Even the moon remembers them
And is kind to me.
Swoontastic, bitches. If you know the other poem, I officially lurve you.

Friday, October 14, 2005

a hundred million castaways looking for a home

If I have to read on a Thursday night, most of the time, I will do so at home. My neighborhood is usually crawling with carousing hipsters on Thursday evenings, and I worry that I might feel cheated, walking to a cafe to read. But yesterday, I was feeling a bit invincible, in case you did not notice. Well, that and my apartment has reached a state of such clutter that it actually distracts me from being able to read peacefully.

So, journal articles in hand, I marched over to Ritual. This is clearly a streak of insanity revealing itself, because I do not, for one thing, under any circumstances, drink coffee. Also, Ritual is the nuevo hipster of all hipster cafes in my neighborhood. The last time I was in there studying during the day, I saw Om Malik working with a friend, both of them typing away furiously on their laptops (I was too intimidated to say "Hi, remember me? I'm the one who has the blog about nothing!"). Techtards have no place there, but I sidled up to the counter anyway. The pleasant hipster behind the counter gave me an enormous cup of white tea with roses, and I carried it over to the main seating area.

I was surprised to find that Ritual was packed on a Thursday night. More than that, I timidly looked up from my journals at one point, and realized that nearly everyone was sitting alone, typing away on their iBooks. I am glad I did not bring my non-Apple laptop to the festivities. I might have been lynched. Or at least ridiculed. So there we were, all of us, alone together on a Thursday night. Did I mention that I love my city?

Today, there is a hint of stress, because I have been designated the sponsor of a blow-out dinner. The stress relates solely to the necessity of looking presentable at these sorts of establishments. I haven't looked presentable since 2001, people. Start placing bets on how soon before we'll be asked to leave the super chic restaurant.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

I was out on the radio starting to change

Have you ever found yourself genuinely surprised at your own reaction to something? This week has been one, big surprise for me. First, I was surprised that I was stressed out about my first exam in a millenium or so. Next, I was surprised at the endorphin rush that gripped me following completion of my second exam. Then, I was surprised that I dealt with a recent development maturely, when normally, I would be running around searching for an industrial-sized bottle of vodka to sink myself into a hole of melancholy. Last night, when I expected to completely sloth-out while watching tv, I found myself unpredictably dissatisfied. I thought that after two exams and the threat of drama, I would be mentally taxed. Instead, the only thing that quelled my hyperactivity last night was reading a journal article.

In fairness, I think I can blame the meh reaction to watching television on J.J. Abrams. This guy has never met a promising show that he can't ruin. There were many signs reading "Welcome to the suck", among them:
  • Oh look, I can speak English! Oh wait, no I can't, it was all just a dream.
  • "At least we all have jobs again" = welcome to Gilligan's Island.
  • Hi, my name is Naveen Andrews, but you can just call me the resident handy man. Any signs of my character having real personality in Season 1 were just written to get me to sign an extended contract.
  • Punching Sawyer in the face once, yes please. Punching Sawyer in the face as being the standard way to court his interest, no thanks. Also, I think his arm should be chopped off due to gangrene by the next episode.
It doesn't look good, peeps. Maybe I'm just sensitive because this makes up 85% of the television I watch these days.

I woke up without an alarm this morning. Nothing makes sense, and the absurdity is delicious. I should be stressed out, I should be paralyzed by the amount of things I have to get done. I should be freaking out about a gentle breeze from the past. But I'm not doing any of those things. Maybe it's that phenomenon of gradual changes that go unnoticed having a cumulative effect. You tend not to notice that you have learned how to handle an issue until it presents itself again. Maybe it's that I really have picked a path worth walking. I read too much into most everything, and in this case, I have created an entire novel out of nothing. Still, I feel a little invincible at the moment. I expected to be in the dumps, and instead I find myself energized. Normally, this would feel penultimate, like the inevitable downward spiral was just waiting to follow. But today, all I have are surprises, and the strangely comforting thought that I have no idea who I have become.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

all seven and we'll watch them fall

San Francisco is so perfect at times. This morning, I drove through a haze of love to get to work. Cool mist, images appearing in and dissolving out of sight. It matched so succinctly how I felt that I could not help but smile to myself. Really, I am coming out of the fog that was the last two days of crazed cramming and exam taking. And last night, just when I was ready to rub the clouds out of my eyes, an injection of the past into the present caused another wave of confusion to wash over my brain.

But the fog starts to burn off as the sunlight starts to assert itself, as all good San Franciscans know. And I am warmed by all the well wishers.

I do not usually undertake these, but then again, I have never been tagged to do this, and Andrea tagged me, so I had to give it a stab, and let me say, I think this might be the last one of the sort for me, because this requires effort, and I am one lazy b-:
    7 things I plan to do before I die:
  • go to Spain
  • learn to speak Spanish fluently
  • admit I'll never be a rock star and sell my electric guitar & amp
  • find a new line of work
  • make amends with all the XYs I've flipped out on in my lifetime
  • collect all my photographs and put them into an album
  • tell the bro-seph I lurve him.

    7 things I can do:
  • organic chemistry
  • slam into walls, shatter into pieces, collect the debris, put myself back together, brush myself off, and slam into another wall
  • get a sunburn (an unfortunate discovery in the last few years)
  • commit intensely to something I want for a finite time
  • knit passably
  • sign the alphabet
  • read and write Gujarati at a second-grade reading level (hey, look, there's not much I can do especially well, I'm grasping for straws here)

    7 things I cannot do:
  • drive standard shift (so embarassing)
  • friends with benefits (the effect of age)
  • live without chocolate
  • eat mussels, oysters, assorted shellfish, eggplants, coconut
  • maintain a good poker face
  • keep my apartment clean
  • headstands, handstands, yoga in general

    7 things that attract me to another person:
  • a unhealthy love of virusesscience
  • an ability to be self-deprecating while not being insecure
  • tough exoskeleton, soft underbelly
  • a streak of mischief
  • a streak of protectiveness
  • a forgiving nature, especially in regards to insane behavior
  • pheromones

Sheesh. Well, I don't know about you, but thanks, I'm full.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

I can hear machinery

On my way to work this morning, I passed a movie production crew, just starting to set up. Unfortunately, there was no getting jiggy with it. Actually, scratch the unfortunately part.

I really have nothing else to say. Yes, amazing, but true. The fact is, all my brain cells are currently focused on recovering from the exam I took yesterday, and energizing for the exam I have in a few, short hours. So, rather than bother anyone with incoherent, half-baked ramblings, I will go back to cramming another one-quarter of a textbook into my skull.

Monday, October 10, 2005

when I come back down

Between avian influenza, the earthquake in South Asia, and mudslides in Guatemala, the news feels like one big bastion of doom of late. Because I believe in science, I can't believe the end is near. But really, all these disasters really make me ponder why so much is happening of this sort. But... on to the self-absorption:

When molecules are pulsed with energy, they are thrown into an excited state and then there is relaxation that follows. In some ways, I am fortunate, because I always manage to get into the excited state well in advance of the moment of truth.

Saturday, after several hours of class, I walked out of class to a sun-drenched San Francisco day. One of my classmates was trying to recruit me for a job at his start-up. I was like, "classmate, please." The kid's a total punk. We were walking towards BART, and I gave him some tips on how to hire someone who would actually be foolish enough to take the job he was trying to shill off to me. I stopped short of BART, and he looked at me quizzically, then asked whether I was taking BART. "Not today," I said, feeling as if I were cutting classes.

Then, as I started to walk to the Ferry Building, I started to feel like I was cutting classes. As I was approaching the Embarcadero, my phone rang, and it was A. We had the following exchange:
Me: Do you know what I just finished doing?
A: Something to do with studying?
Me: Three hours of classes, dude.
A: Did you make out with your professor?
Me: Dude, our love is pure, and I will not have you sully it with that kind of talk.
Still, I was feeling anxious. I wasn't feeling guilty, necessarily, because I have enough sense to know that it's just not possible to study after you have spent three hours in a lecture. Your brain is goo, and nothing is going to be absorbed at that point. By the time I got to where SJM was waiting, I did not know what to make of what was going on in my head. It was equal parts impending doom at the thought of the tests that lie before me and inconsolable funk that I was not out enjoying such a day to its fullest.

In the end, I forced SJM to check out the Ferry Building, and its crazy, overpriced wares, like buffalo mozzarella cheese (upon inspection of this, SJM remarked, "Does the buffalo know about this?"). Then, maisnon picked us up. Originally, we planned to dine at the Ferry Building, but there were two problems:
  • The Ferry Building is filled with tres chic, overly pretentious nonsense.
  • The entire pier/waterfront was filled with droves of tourists.
As usual, maisnon to the rescue. She drove us back to my neighborhood, because it is the only area of the city where I can be trusted as far as directions and restaurant recommendations go. That said, of course, the first place we went to was closed and also somewhere that maisnon, Bay Area resident since September '05, had already been to! Luckily, where we wound up was fine. However, we completely ruined SJM's plans to check out the Fleet. Each time a plane roared dangerously, thunderously above us, SJM threw us guilt-trip-imbued looks. But as maisnon points out, we're immune to that sh*t, because we have Indian moms.

Upon returning home, I kind of crumpled into a million, tiny pieces. I had a crisis of faith and a panic attack all rolled into one. Some day, I will get this sort of stuff out of my system for good, because it is nothing but counterproductive. I was in that crazed, excited state, highly unstable and bouncing around so much that I was getting very little accomplished.

Nothing particularly even snapped me out of it, just the fact that I had to snap out of it. By Sunday afternoon, everything felt possible again, and nothing felt so awful and depressing. It's amazing what a good pizza and eleventy billion hours of studying can do for a person. Walking into an exam in the relaxed state is best.

Friday, October 07, 2005

back to that flat, fine line

He lived in a subtle, massive place, but would say he lived in San Francisco. He entered contests, but would claim little interest in winning. Every day, he sat in front of a computer, yet he would pause interminably when asked his occupation. In that pause, the weight of two realities pressed down upon him.

Yes, folks, I have become one of the lemmings. For now.

It is going to be a lovely weekend here. There are a million things happening, and I would love to do every one of them- Litquake, fleet week, nice weather conducive to hikes, a big sale at REI. Living in the bay area can be difficult at a time like this. I told someone once that I think SF is a good place for an over-motivated person; it takes the edge off. Similarly, it can be a dangerous place for a passive person; you could tread water for years. I, as usual, fall somewhere in between. So, a weekend like this, with so much to offer that I ultimately must refuse, makes me a bit blue.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

underneath the armor is another good girl

When I grow up, I want to be Ana-Lucia Cortez. I love me some Sawyer, but punching him in the face? Much more sex-ay and badass. And she gets to punch him again next week- squee!

I’m still fixated on viruses, especially since I apparently contracted one of the stomach varietal yesterday. Tricky viruses come in layers. They have envelopes that protect them, a capsid inside the envelope, like onion skins. These layers are designed to protect the precious part of a virion, the genomic material. Everything about the virus, its past and its plans for the future, can be found in the genomic material, the blueprint.

The reason viruses are so successful is that they are designed such that the envelope will protect the inside of the virus when it needs to be protected, and will breach when the virus needs to be let loose. A virus has to know when to keep up its guard, play the field, and when to get serious, unpack and settle down. An M&M melts in your mouth, not in your hand. A virus keeps itself separate from a cell until it senses the right cell for the job.

The fact is, we all have the potential to keep our shell in tact, or to melt. Anyone can melt under the right circumstances. It became clear to me today that it is not time to disrobe just now. Now is the time to keep the precious insides inside. Stay self-contained. There will be time, but that time is not now.

The weird thing is that it’s usually those times when it’s most necessary to stay tough that I am most tempted to become weak, to melt. An exaggerated internal battle, a self-destructive special. I'm a walking contradiction. But at least I’m fighting on the right side for a change.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

sometimes, all I need is the air that I breathe

Every once in a while, the symphony of existence starts to feel like it has reached this frenzied crecendo that sounds suspiciously more like cacophony. What I would not give to be dedicated to one cause right now, and one cause alone. My hermano and I were talking today, comparing our bumbling ways. Here's what we came up with: the bro-seph is fumbling for a light switch to illuminate his path, while I am just bounding forward in the dark, running into tables and walls along the way. His way seems more passive, but it's anyone's guess which of us will actually get to where we're trying to go.

It is important, at such moments, to take a deep breath, and, quite simply, give up. Do you know that, in the influenza epidemic of 1918, nearly a third of the world's population passed away? It has always been called Spanish influenza, because that's where it was first identified, but, in typical style, we blame the Euros for something we started, as the virus was later discovered to originate from an American military hospital. Normally, flu hits the very young and the very old, because their immune systems are usually more sensitive, and unable to mount a response to the virus. But the 1918 influenza was nasty, and its target was 15-35 year olds. It killed over 25 million people. I repeat, over 25 million people. That sort of epidemic boggles the mind.

Usually, I am the first to roll my eyes at alarmists. I cannot stand it when one major tragedy turns into an evening news running commentary soundbyte: Next up, tsunamis in South Asia, how it could happen on the 7-miles of New Hampshire coast next week.. It smacks of self-absorption, really. But in this particular case, I am willing to make an exception. If a flu pandemic really does manifest in our lifetime, with all our advances in science, medicine, and understanding of viruses, it is going to be nearly impossible to minimize in a timely fashion.

Yesterday in class during lecture, the instructor got a little red in the face and corrected himself when he said, "the cells decide," because, I suppose, it's anthropomorphic. Cells neither have feelings, nor do they weigh their options before deciding what to do. It's either a pre-programmed response or based on random chance. And I know that the instructor would frown at me for writing this, but so much feels like it's either pre-programmed or random chance. And so, I just think it's best, when it feels like the war against entropy cannot be won, to simply think back on Dylan, and know that all you can do is do what you must. I find some strange measure of contentment in that.

Monday, October 03, 2005

can't find my way home

happy happy joy joy

Only I could get lost getting from my neighborhood to the lower Fillmore. The debate is still on as to how someone can manage to get that turned around in their own city, but I did it. And therefore made maisnon & I tardy to our meetup with oodles and ads. Luckily, maisnon's sparkling new car served as a shiny object of mass distraction to gloss over this. After the appropriate cooing, we headed into Happy Shabu Shabu.

The place is quite new, as you can see by the cleanliness of the exterior (a rare sight in the lower Fillmore until recently). You can also see that maisnon's the only one of us that isn't camera-shy. The inside was equally spotless, although it was also devoid of other human beings. We remained unphased. We were not disappointed (although I personally found the techno beats a little bizarre at lunch time). Afterwards, maisnon made fun of oodles & me for our tendency to wear sunglasses at the slightest hint of natural light. She laughs now, and come to think of it, since she is living on the peninsula, I suppose she will continue to laugh for the foreseeable future.

It might have just been a two hour escapade. It may have seemed short to the folks like ads and maisnon who travelled a considerable distance for this get-together. But it was perfection for me. I have been raising the ire of friends lately because I haven't been able to play in all of their reindeer games. The problem is that the clock is against me. And meeting up with people out of guilt is not a pleasant way to socialize; once again, I master the knack for stating the obvious. What I am (very poorly) trying to get at is that it was nice to see everyone, because it was just what I needed to catalyze me into getting my work done. After HSS, I spent the rest of my afternoon in a fit of surprising productivity.

By the end of the weekend, I had completed all my reading for class. I'm convinced this was due to the collective coolness of the HSS meetup, and dinner Friday night with LS and Mr. LS. Those two operate on some different vibrational frequency, I am now convinced. Here I am, on a path that seems to proceed at a sluggish pace, and they are on some sort of femtosecond course. Engagement, marriage, moving to the suburbs, in the blink of an eye. The most impressive aspect of this is them: they are so serene, just all chill and peaceful-like. If I were in their shoes, I would be on medication right now. Everything in its right place, indeed.

Oh, last night, upon picking up the bro-seph, I told him about Happy Shabu Shabu. He wrinkled his nose and said, "That's like calling a place Happy Hamburger." That b*tch cannot bring me down this time- the place was cool.