Wednesday, November 30, 2005

you don't wanna mess with me

You know a day is not going the way you'd like when you spend twenty minutes of your precious time arguing with your brother about whether 2Pac or Fabolous was responsible for a hiphop song that starts, I can't deny it. We were both right, as it happened, but were thinking of different songs. 2Pac's was the original, but it's not the one I hear more frequently. That's when the bro-seph got all superior on my a$$, and started in with the "Well, I listen to hip-hop radio stations a lot more than you." Yeah, well, I guess my ears were just lying to me when I listened to the song on iTunes, attributed to one Fabolous, and recognized it as the one I was referencing.

If there is one thing that someone can do to send me from zero to a hundred in the blink of an eye, it's to be condescending. Granted, I am an idiot, and sometimes it is highly warranted to be skeptical of what I say. I do not mind being challenged, and I do not take offense to arguments. But there is this thing that, in my experience, only men have pulled on me, that just grates. on. my. last. nerve. And that is this dismissive air of "whatever, you're wrong."

Now, when it comes to hip-hop songs and artists, I am less likely to get bent out of shape about it, given that my base knowledge of such things is limited. But last week, I got into an argument with a guy who works in technology about the manner in which human viruses evolve. This guy has not taken a biology class since high school, and has not managed to get through the first chapter of Guns, Germs, and Steel, but had no problem with simply saying "that's wrong" to everything I said. Knowing full well that I am studying subjects that should give me some basic knowledge on this particular topic, he could have given me the benefit of the doubt at a minimum, one would think. When someone behaves like that, it is hard not to dismiss them as having a pretty blatant chauvinist streak. Or an abnormally high opinion of himself.

On a lighter note, so that this post is not dripping with angry, there is finally a sign of evidence confirming that being a non-artist puts you at a disadvantage in the dating pool. The funniest line in the article, in my reading, was this:
They surveyed a hundred or so artists and poets, and claim that traits similar to those of schizophrenics explain these people's success with members of the opposite sex.
Granted, this finding is fraught with all kinds of confounders, so the conclusions are shaky. But, it does give weight to my theory that it's a thin line between being appealing and being insane. Which might explain why I do not mind being single.

One other piece of random funny- yesterday, I was walking by a wine store in Noe Valley. Their front overhanging sign changes frequently. Last night it read:
One side: "Is our wine any good?"
Other side: "You bet SHIRAZ"
Yuppy punn-ery. I did not know whether to be amused or roll my eyes. I went for the former.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

I'm glad to go, I cannot tell a lie

Vengeance is mine! J.J. Abrams really doesn't seem to understand viewers. He's an odd sort- because he can forge a series that engages and involves people. But then, inevitably, he takes a creative dump all over it. As much as it's my guilty pleasure to keep watching, I am just bracing myself for the inevitable suckitude that is around the corner on Lost. With Abrams behind the helm, it's just a matter of time.

In other news, it's a celebration, b*tches! His take on Whine-ye is pretty funny.

A potentially more substantive post tomorrow- I've really set the bar pretty low today.

Monday, November 28, 2005

it was infinitely late at night

Since I've been on blog hiatus for the Thanksgiving break, I seem to be hitting a wall about getting a post together today. Since this is going to be random and tangential to the extreme, I figured I would lay it out in just that manner.
  • On Wednesday night, I completely made an a$$ out of you and me, because I thought the only thing on television would be Thanksgiving-themed tripe, and re-runs. Instead, I was treated to an all-new, almost perfect Lost. I fell in love with Mr. Eko. I continued to hate Jack & Kate. Shannon, still dead. Naveen Andrews got a chance to actually flex his acting muscles. And Ana-Lucia nearly showed signs of having more than two dimensions. Squee to that, b*tches!

  • Though I was armed with grannysmiths to take on Thanksgiving, my GBF vetoed my involvement. Instead, I went over to his place at 10 in the morning and basically participated in interpretative recipe art. He wanted to fry something in the oven at 350 degrees. I gingerly informed him that it's hard to accomplish frying in an oven, especially an oven set to 350 degrees. Then I went home. That was the full extent of my participation in the preparations. When I went back to his place later that evening, a full feast awaited.

  • When you sit around a table eating and drinking for six hours, conversation takes twists and turns. At one point, two guests argued about whether or not Nicole Kidman is pretty. The bro-seph and I exchanged annoyed glances. Why do people argue about things that are a matter of subjectivity? Did one really expect the other to throw up her hands and concede, "You're right, she actually is pretty. I hadn't thought of it like that."

  • There's a mediocre Indian restaurant that I pass often when I walk in my neighborhood. I have a habit of casting pitying glances at the customers (none of whom have been South Asian thus far) who are looking out the window as I walk by. Keep in mind that, in all honesty, I don't know jack about good Indian food. I'm no expert, and I can't really handle spicy food. Is it wrong that I take great pleasure in the perturbed looks on their faces as I pass by?

  • After the obligation of Thanksgiving cooking and baking was removed, I was left wanting. Suddenly, I had to make something. My organic chemistry roots reemerged, and demanded some kind of finished product. Late one evening, I took a walk to the local market. I came back with this:

    I know what you're thinking- she's either reverted to a six-year old, or accelerated the aging process by turning sixty. However, when all was said and done, at two o'clock in the morning, I wound up with these:

    There are crushed Whoppers in these suckers. You either like the taste of this sort of thing or you don't. I almost gave a batch to my pseudo-bro PG, because he despises malt-flavored chocolate... although he doesn't seem to mind malt liquor at all.

  • Making the cookies did not quell the need to make. I am not a big pumpkin pie fan, but I feel it is important to make use of pumpkins at some point between the months of October and November. Since I had shirked this duty this year, I tended to it, and the result were these things:

    The pumpkin spice cakes needed to be tested. So I brought one over to the bro-seph last night. He is my chosen, official taste tester. He does not eat everything. He is, in fact, very picky. He is also my sibling, and, as such, can deliver gloves-off critiques of my end products. Yesterday's assessment: the icing could have gone either way. If you like cinnamon, the icing is a winner. If not, the icing probably should been more plain. It passed the basic test, however, so I marched another cake over to JP's to thank him for the Thanksgiving extravaganza.

  • Incidentally, iPod minis are very handy when you are baking, especially at the midnight hour. Well, as long as you don't mind dancing a little in your kitchen while waiting to pull a cookie tray out of the oven.

  • It occurred to me this past weekend that there are certain friends you keep in your rotation simply because they are a 24-hour drama freakshow. They do not make good close friends, but wow, as a scientist, I enjoy having them in my life. I sit and gather data, while said freakshow spews out one diatribe of crazy after the next. If all goes well, I plan to write a dissertation on this someday, and it shall be titled: Anatomy of a Freakshow.

  • Last night, I fell into a funk, realizing this temporary vacation from reality was just that- temporary.

Hope you all had a pleasant Thanksgiving. I know it is the season for bah humbug for some of you, but if you remove yourself from the consumerism craze, something about December and the holidays is actually quite lovely.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

no one knows the gypsy's name

I might just have to pay more attention to football this season, now that it is a done deal that T.O. will not be playing anywhere for the rest of the season. Well played, Andy Reid!

Instead, I'm wasting time reading about evolution. If there is one thing of any value that has come out of the mind-numbing intelligent design arguments out there, it's that I have stopped to appreciate the beauty and multitude of evolution. The latest article in the NYT points to a shift in thinking. Previously, islands were thought to be where the buck stops in evolutionary patterns. Isolated on an island, species were thought to just stall out.

Instead, it turns out that evidence now points to islands being evolutionary engines in a sense. Islands may actually be a big machine of biodiversity, from which birds and other species migrate to continue evolving. This is cool to me for two reasons. First- it reinforces the central premise of science, which is that one must always be open to adjusting theories and concepts to account for new data.

Second- I like the notion that isolation and turning inward could actually be energizing, could actually be a catalyst for progress. The concept that one needs to be separated from the external, that this shielding could lead to an outburst of creativity... well, I suppose it's no surprise that someone who blogs could find this attractive.

It is tempting to sequester myself for the next four days to put this idea to the test. However, it is actually not that tempting, because my GBF is throwing a Thanksgiving soiree at his place tomorrow. I am going by in the morning to help him with preparations, retiring to my apartment to bake something, and then returning to his place for the feast. This might seem hectic, until I divulge that we only live six blocks apart. So, there goes any pity you might have felt. Plus, hello, GBF's are the best cooks ever.

This is the least amount of cooking I have ever had to do for Thanksgiving. When I go home for Thanksgiving, I am usually on kitchen duty for three days straight. My mom is a master cook when it comes to Indian food (and inexplicably some Italian fare, and baklava), but she is completely disinterested in a typical Thanksgiving menu. I enjoy all the cooking and baking, but it is a bit tiring, and occasionally, I feel I might be missing out on some of the fun of sitting around gabbing with my teeniac cousins.

Right now, a part of me feels I am majorly missing out by not being home with my family, bundled in thick sweaters, the smell of baking apples and cinnamon pervading the house. But I am split down the middle this year. Another part of me feels profound relief at being able to just be, without obligations and expectations and explanations. So, to net out even, I will just be thankful for two things: that much of my family is well and happy in the Northeast, and that I am here and happy.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

if I could believe that stuff, I'd say that woman has a halo

I'm just not that into this blog right now. I know, I know, neither are you. But here we both find ourselves. I guess we should make the best of it.

I spent a lot of free time reading up on hepadnaviruses today. That sentence was so wrong. But let it never be said that I have held back the inner geek here.

Also, today, I was reading more closely two articles about HPV that were recently published in the NEJM. The Human Papilloma Virus is one of those nasty sexually transmitted infections that stick around, mostly unbeknownst to the body, for quite some time. Recently, you might have read the news that a vaccine has been developed against HPV that is thought to be 100% effective. This is particularly notable because HPV has one of the tightest correlations to cancer of all viruses out there. Specifically, it accounts for nearly 90% of all cases of cervical cancer in women. Let me repeat- 90%.

There are two sides to this story. On the one side is the vaccine. It's highly effective, but it only works if you have not already been infected with the virus. In many cases, viral infection occurs early in life (through sexual transmission), and the resulting cancer does not emerge until much later. So, in order to truly make this vaccine effective, it would be ideal to immunize adolescents before they are sexually active. This has caused a controversy, predictably. Immunization advocates and health professionals are proposing mandatory vaccinations for children somewhere between the age of 10 to 12. There is a contingent of opponents, who worry that vaccinating at this age gives children yet another free ticket to have premarital sex at a young age. Basically, if you've heard these arguments about condoms and birth control, you can pretty well substitute the HPV vaccine in there. This is pretty disturbing to me, for a couple of reasons:
  • Would parents really rather their daughters potentially developed cervical cancer? I mean, yes, these parents believe their daughters are not going to be sexually active until they are married. But, are they willing to bet their daughters' health (or lives) on it?
  • How does getting a shot in the arm or thigh lead to a kid thinking hey, you know what I can do now? Go get busy! I truly do not see how that logic works.
  • Let's say you have a perfect angel of a daughter who has every intention of waiting until she gets married. This is, of course, the worse possible scenario, but what if this daughter gets sexually assaulted? In addition to the terrible trauma of being assaulted, now she might also be at risk of being infected with HPV and developing cervical cancer.

But that's just one side of the story. Here in the developed world, we have the luxury of choosing whether or not we would like to prevent developing cervical cancer. Even though getting HPV vaccines to Americans is important to eradicating the virus, we have good screening procedures in place for catching HPV and cervical cancer in the US. Okay, maybe not all women would characterize the screening procedures as good per se, but they are reliable.

In the developing world, there is a bigger problem. Forget the vaccine- for one thing, it is likely to be cost-prohibitive in the short term to implement in developing countries. In these countries, they have trouble even diagnosing women with cervical cancer until it is too far progressed to treat. But, the two articles in the NEJM point towards some hope in developing countries. Strategies have been developed to figure out how to screen for cervical cancer amongst a population of women not likely to be able to come into the clinic more than one or two times. Not only that, but an analysis has been done that proves that these one- or two-time screens are, in the long term, more cost-effective. They tend to catch the cancer early, there are very few false positives with the new screening technologies, and more lives are saved as a result. This translates to a 25-36% decrease in risk of developing cancer. That is highly impressive. The same can not be said of the handling of women's health issues in our great land of freedom.

Monday, November 21, 2005

the ringmaster smiled and shook my hand

Let's get the shout-outs out of the way first. Please, by all means, stop wasting time on this paltry post, and congratulate maisnon (ESQ, b*tches). Wait, before you go, also take note that you ought to go wish Saheli a very happy birthday.

Yesterday, the bro-seph's SO/girlfriend/hanging out person (what's with the hang ups around terminology, peeps? Is it so bad to call a woman your girlfriend? Does that imply a shiny bauble from Cartier must soon follow? Seriously, I don't understand.) and I went to see the latest Cirque du Soleil. It should be noted that this is not really my thing. What's hilarious is that I have managed to see Cirque du Soleil twice in my life, both times quite without having any real choice in the matter. When it's your first outing with your bro-seph's hanging out person, however, you stifle the inner b*tch, put on a happy face, and make the best of it.

All of that said, my mind wanders whenever I have gone to see such a show. Everyone in the show is completely insane, with their abilities to stick their legs behind their ears, or to dance along a tightrope, or to hurtle themselves off a see-saw without betraying a hint of fear. It's undeniable that many of them nurtured such skills since they were wee little ones. How did they fall into such a life? And what sort of life must it be? It occupied my mind every time a solo performer came out to contort himself or herself, or dance, or juggle eleventy billions frisbee-like objects in the air. What compelled them to do it? Did they have a natural predilection towards it? Did they come from a long line of overachieving acrobats who would have disowned them if they had gone off to work a nine to five gig? Did they consider their lives normal, traveling from town to town, performing these wild antics to crowds of the masses? Did they look out from the stage and contemplate, looking at me, how I came to be one of their audience? I doubt it, but I was quite content to think on such things.

In other complete randomness, I know this is old news, but I just want to say that, if this guy is considered the sexiest man alive, I just might have to take switching teams under serious advisement. Is trailer chic the new big thing? Wash your hair, McConaughey! And then, drop down on your knees and beg John Sayles to cast you in another one of his films. Your cameo in Lone Star was probably the best role of your career.

Friday, November 18, 2005

let's go down to normal town

Maitri might have been right. I am definitely suffering from a little sleep deprivation. Some of this is, unfortunately, unavoidable, when you’re working a daily grind while taking exams that break your brain. The last two days in a row, I’ve totally been in fire drill mode in the morning in order to get to work at the right time. Even though my work does not motivate me, I have realized it’s actually been counterproductive to blow it off. When I do that, there is this feedback loop that follows, involving massive waves of guilt and shame. I would rather get what I need to get done, take some small amount of pride in that, and keep feeling satisfaction.

I was thinking of a line from About A Boy this morning. I never went for Hugh Grant when he was playing a foppish, aw shucks bloke, but, wow, does he make a good cad. Anyway, there’s this line, as he’s walking through a store and hears the muzak, that goes: November the sodding 19th... Six weeks before bloody Christmas and they were already playing that song.. Even though the 19th is tomorrow, technically, this quote flashed into my head this morning because I discovered that there is a radio station here in the Bay Area that has been playing non-stop holiday music since the beginning of the month. And can you guess what song came blasting onto my airwaves this morning? Feliz Navidad, b*tches!

This song was so absurd that I snapped out of my frazzled senses, and burst out laughing. Never underestimate the power of absurdity. It changed my life. I was quite somber when I was young, but I can remember the very night that absurdity finally revealed itself to me.

I do not consider Boston my city- it isn’t a place I consider home, or that I feel I must one day return to. But I wasn’t anyone until I moved to Boston. I was amorphous. I was a sponge drinking in my surroundings. I was a child who was convinced she was an adult. And holy h*ll was I melancholy. I look like a cheerleader now compared to how morose I was before I went to Boston. Living there shaped me. Sometimes, it’s hard for me to think of that city without associating it with a hundred beautiful and miserable things I discovered there.

But, among the highs and the lows, there was absurdity. I had just spent a semester brooding, licking my wounds, in a cocoon of Pearl Jam’s Black among other unhappy songs. Then, one evening, the cocoon just would not hold me any longer. The sadness simply would not contain me anymore. I could not remember why I was in such an inconsolable state.

That night, there was much debauchery. On the way home, practically skipping along the cobblestone sidewalks, fuzzed and fading, I started singing, if you need me, let me know, and I'll be around. If you got no place to go, and you’re feeling down. Do you have any idea how hilarious this song is? Something about the lyrics was so incredibly pathetic that it launched me into a fit of giggles that I’m not sure I have recovered from to this day.

I find that whenever I am truly devastated, after an appropriate period of brooding, a solid splash of absurdity goes a long way to curing me of my ailments. In this case, it was Jose Feliciano. Whatever works.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

if I get home before daylight

Good things about Lost last night:

Bad things about Lost last night:
  • Pretty much everything else.

Completely random thought that popped into my head today- is there any song that Adam Duritz can't soak in melancholy? Even when he's singing about happy things, he sounds like he is about to burst into whine. The man completely took out any and all whimsy of Friend of the Devil in his cover. Like I said, completely random.

I think I have post-final associated listlessness right now. Luckily, I have to snap out of it in a hurry. The bro-seph's birthday is tomorrow, and quite a landmark one at that. I need to decide whether to buy a birthday cake, or make these chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting that I have baked for him on previous occasions. My brother is something of a peanut butter fiend. When we were children, he was absurd about it. First, it was peanut butter on apples. Then, it was peanut butter and fluff sandwiches (incidentally, the broseph and I are convinced this is some kind of Northeast-centric food combination- please confirm whether we are mistaken). Finally, he gave up on the trimmings, and took to slapping a mound of peanut butter in one of the bowls my mom would use for serving dal at dinner. Hey, I never said he was normal.

I'm also experiencing some sort of nature withdrawal issue, so I really want to go for a hike this weekend. One of my professors always asks these questions that start, "Anyone an avid hiker around here?" I never raise my hand, because calling myself avid about anything besides consuming chocolate and listening to random music seems like a massive stretch of the truth. But, then, he always follows up that question with an exaggerated one, like: "Anyone ever been outside of the city limits? Seen more than a dozen trees?"

I would shoot him a dirty look, except that would mean the end of my imagined love affair. I would yell back, "I haven't been outdoors because I've been studying for your exams, you evil bastard!" But that too would put an end to my infatuation. And I need that infatuation; my delusions keep me warm at times.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

I just keep losing my beat

Highly structured people disturb me, but I have to admit that I have certain routines, definite patterns. They may not be as rigorous as some of your more Type A OCD folks out there; they are more of a fingerprint. It may seem like a mess of scribbling at first blush, but there is signal among all that noise. One nice thing about getting longer in the tooth is that you start to learn to recognize these patterns. You can even compensate to counteract them, if you are so inclined. Some of the time, I am. Other times, not so much.

Thing is, I have a tendency to befriend my foibles, perhaps because calling them foibles is disingenuous right from the start. I truly do believe that most of our faults are reversible. The bottleneck comes when we decide we actually like that which we are trying to change. What's with the vague, voice of experience nonsense? Sorry, my head was filled with hot air for a moment, obviously. I have a friend from NJ that used to say "What do you, have a mouse in your pocket?" whenever I said "Well, we thought ---."

Where was I? Cut me some slack. If I do not write something down for a few days, I forget how. That is one of my patterns. Another is my need to consume, quite literally, a bag of chocolate when I am studying. If I was not so against cancer sticks, I would probably take up smoking, because this is clearly some kind of nervous fixation sort of thing.

Yet another habit of mine is to treat a certain type of music the way some people treat macaroni cheese and mashed potatoes. Yes, I believe there is such a thing as comfort music. I do not mean soothing music; I am not thinking of something that is going to sound like a babbling brook, or is some sort of easy listening that plays in the background when the dentist is trying to make light of taking a drill to a tooth. I am talking about music that feels familiar but doesn't have a negative or positive memory associated with it. I am neither nostalgic, nor filled with melancholy. These types of songs mostly can be filed under classic rock in my case. Here are a few:
  • Somebody to Love by Queen
  • It's a long way to the top by AC/DC
  • American Girl by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
  • Down on the Corner by Creedence Clearwater Revival
... among many others- you get the general picture. By the way, if you don't like Queen, I really don't understand you.

Another one of my patterns is that stress in my life tends to amplify what usually annoys me only slightly. Because I have recognized this pattern, and because this is a particularly distasteful foible, I devised a counterstrategy over time. I find a quiet corner, and pull myself into it, a makeshift cocoon where I can do little damage. So, that's where I am right now, if anyone's looking. I will not come out a butterfly, but at least I will minimize the drama until I am ready to walk amongst the real world again.

Monday, November 14, 2005

it happens more than I'd like to admit

Apparently, I am a little behind on my laundry, because I am wearing an oversized pair of cranky pants today. So, this is all I have, rather than subject the few readers of this with vitriol and whining of massive, invalid proportions.

Your Birthdate: trust me- I put in the real thing

You are resilient, and no doubt your resilience has already been tested.
Sure, I’ll buy this one for a dollar, especially the part about it being tested, considering I’m going to be tested for two days straight.

You've had some difficult experiences in your life, but you are wise from them.
The former is true, the latter is a matter of much debate.

Having had to grow up quickly, you tend to discount the advice of others.
Not true. Especially since I still act like a child, and refuse to engage in adult-like activities, like buying a house or cooing at small children. Also, I only ignore advice if it is a) spoken out of sympathy or b) spoken by an utter moron.

You tend to be a loner, having learned that the only person you can depend on is yourself.
Fine, there is no sense in denying this one, since I break out into hives if I have too many social engagements in one week.

Your strength: Well developed stability and confidence
Laughably untrue. I keep a blog, for peet’s sake- how stable can I possibly be?

Your weakness: Suspicion of others
Maybe. Wait, why do you want to know?

Your power color: Eggplant
Yes, even though I’m allergic to them. I’m also allergic to the J-Crew-ification of all colors. What happened to PURPLE?!?

Your power symbol: Spade
I don’t know what this means, but I guess if I ever pull a Prince-like meltdown and decide to stop referring to myself with an already fake moniker, I will replace it with a spade?

Your power month: October
Well, I’m not sure that could be said about this October, but what the heck.

Friday, November 11, 2005

fading into beautiful light

I am woefully tardy in writing about this, but last Saturday, I was very generously extended an invitation to V & K's wedding reception. Wedding receptions, especially Indian ones, can some times be spectacles that are all style and little substance. In true V-style, there was a healthy dose of both style and substance at this wedding reception. And spicy Indian food that caused me to drink five glasses of water.

But, in all gravity, I felt a bit voyeuristic, because there were definitely people who knew V&K far better than me that were in attendance. Still, I think it is always a lucky thing to witness two people who are genuinely happy. I am pretty cynical, and I tend to think there are a lot of factors that can contribute to pulling people apart in life- there is entropy to consider, after all. But every factor in V&K's lives seems to have pulled them together. There is certainly not enough of that in this world.

This is the happy couple with one of their most honored guests. Unfortunately, because I was recovering from a cold, had much studying to do the next day, and am generally a lame old hag, I left the reception a bit early. As I drove home, there was a crescent moon cutting its slight sliver into the night sky. The sharpness of it caught my attention and distracted me from the bog-like odor that can often be smelled when crossing the Dumbarton Bridge. I like to think it was a sign of good things to come for V&K, and for everyone else too.

Of course, I am going to negate all the optimism and earnest happiness from last Saturday by spending this Saturday making fun of supersized turbans and cheesy dance numbers, courtesy of Paheli playing at The Castro, with a certain partner in crime. I'll still be happy, but I suspect I'll be chasing that happiness with a whole lot of sarcasm and eye rolling. Let me know if any of you plan to be there!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

full of grace

I caught one of my classmates sort of plagiarizing (which feels like saying a little bit pregnant) this week, and it sent me into a spiral of an ethical dilemma yesterday- I still have not come up with a course of action. That might be why I did not come up with a post. It might also have been due to the fact that I was gleeful in a schadenfraude way about all of the Governator's propositions flailing; I feel a little wrong about that, because I do not feel like I understand every proposition thoroughly. Of course, it might also have been that I am incredibly lazy.

Thoughts on last night's Lost:
  • Dude, don't try to tend to the wounded with a badge of "I'm a clinical psychologist." Wha?!? It would be better to just reply, "I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV."
  • Internal monologue at the beginning of the episode: Okay, someone's going to die, and Sawyer's looking a little worse for wear, what with taking a bullet, pulling it out himself, having a gaping wound that should have gone all gangrene by now, and getting punched in the face several times by Ana-Lucia. It better not be him. Dude, these a$$hats at ABC have already taken away one of my main sources of eye candy. They best not take away the Sawyer, or I'll be relegated to renting Jake Gyllenhall films instead of watching the idiot box.
  • That Walt sure is good at playing dripping wet, creepy kid.
  • Am I supposed to feel badly for Shannon based on her back story? Because, uh, not so much.
  • Wow, this show is pretty enjoyable without much of Jack & Kate.
  • Ah, I am the biggest sucker on earth for male bonding. I do not know why. If a bunch of women get all ya-ya sisterhood on television, I usually feel the gag reflex coming on, and the eye roll close behind. But, put a trio of guys together who begrudgingly become friends, and I'm all squee! about it.

Thoughts on last night's dinner with the ever effervescent D:
  • We walk into this new, french restaurant in my neighborhood, and the host asks if it's one of our birthdays today. Both of us reply it's not, although I throw in, "I don't mind celebrating mine though, if you want." They arbitrarily decide that it's D's birthday. Throughout dinner, there's mention of her birthday. The creme brulee comes out with a candle in it. The waitress shoots me a dirty look when we go dutch. As we're leaving, we get one last "Happy Birthday, again!" from the waitstaff.
  • They played one song three times while we were at dinner. Personally, I'm convinced this was just part of D's birthday celebration. I think they saw her singing along the first time, and just could not help but play encores for her.
  • YUM. Seriously.

The upcoming exam onslaught is causing me a background level of stress- I have not actually started studying, but I have started worrying. How very Aunty G of me.

Also, screw you Keane- the little Britpop jerks have lodged Everybody's changing into my head, and it will not. get. out.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

and I can't unravel riddles, problems, and puns

Some times, I wish things were as simple as cause and effect, but, then again, were it that simple, what fun would science, or life, really be? The crazy thing is, even if you eliminate the complexities of science itself, there are sociological & ethical issues that add another layer of wha? to a lot of things.

Consider rotavirus, a common cause of viral gastroenteritis in infants and children. Now, though this is a pretty icky virus that certainly wreaks havoc on a little one's intestinal tract, it only causes an average of 100 deaths per year in the US. It causes a lot more fatalities in developing countries.

You might be tempted to write that off to the spread of the virus being more common in developing countries. Not true, actually. It's been shown that sanitary conditions have no impact on rotavirus incidence. So, why does the virus cause so many more deaths in developing countries? In the US, we have Pedialyte, and good healthcare, so that it's highly unusual for a child to die of dehydration. In these developing countries, more often than not, it's the inability to effectively treat infected individuals that leads to mortality.

Two drug companies (Merck & GSK) have been developing vaccines for rotavirus. Even though it causes few deaths in the US, we live in a culture of fear. So, why not have a vaccine for it? Here's what troubles me about this- both of these trials had to enroll greater than 50,000 patients in it. What this says to me is that these vaccines are going to be prohibitively expensive. Not to your average pre-schooler in the US, but definitely to your average kid in Southeast Asia. That means the vaccine will go to the people least in need of it, in a sense. I can't help wishing that we could somehow have used the money and research efforts that were spent in developing the vaccine to actually improve healthcare aid in the developing world. I know it does not work that way. It's not like these drug companies are going to go throw money at increasing availability of Pedialyte in impoverished areas of India. But I can't help wishing the money could have gone there.

On the other hand, some times our hypersensitivity to fear has an unexpected side benefit. For example, in the 1980s and 1990s, no one spent much money or manpower looking into what was going on with Marburg or Ebola virus, unless they were researching a role in some crappy Hollywood alarmist film. These are extremely nasty viruses, that causes hemorrhagic fevers, and have mortality rates that make all the avian flu overestimations look like chump change. However, they tend to sweep through at a rapid rate, clearing out a whole village, and then disappear from the clinical radar. They don't really have pandemic potential, and they tend to affect poor communities in Africa.

However, in the 2000s, with heightened concerns about biowarfare and bioterrorism, all of a sudden, the government became more interested in these deadly viruses. Thanks to all the hype, money is being spent on developing vaccines to Marburg and Ebola. Even though it may be that these vaccines also may not get in the hands of those who really need it, I am holding out hope. Maybe these vaccines, that were developed out of fear, will serve to eradicate this life-threatening virus all over the world. Perhaps that is too much to hope though.

In the usual, unrelated news, the TO saga continues. Personally, I'm guessing Parcells is going to pony up for him. Which is fine, since I've never much cared for the Cowboys. Of course, I can't talk too much smack since Peyton Manning's crew soundly trounced the Pats last night. That hurt.

Monday, November 07, 2005

I'm just waiting on a friend

As J would say, I'm done with all this noiz. By noiz, I mean, in this particular instance, whining. So, I'm not whining at this moment, but more, pondering a current dilemma of mine. Compare and contrast, peeps:

Friday night, I am walking to a Chinese restaurant in Stroller Valley with my iPod mini keeping me company. All is right with the world. I almost trip out of my slides at one point as I cross the streets, because my head is nodding to Ibrahim Ferrer. The guy across the street looks at me, and I just laugh at myself. It's best to just laugh when you have tripped. Believe me, no one is buying the look-down, hey, what just jumped up from the sidewalk and caused me to stumble? glance. I've tried it, it doesn't work. But anyway, I am content. It is a beautiful evening, and I am having dinner with friends I have not seen in nearly a month.

It's one of those San Francisco evenings. It's not foggy, but there's mist in the air, like a cool humidifier, sprinkling barely visible drops of water. My kind of evening. I get to the restaurant, and I am a little stuffed up. It happens some times when the weather is like this. My eyes are watering ever so slightly as I meet my friends at the table.

MG turns to me, and says, "Have you been crying?" She says this and she is unable to hide her excitement, near enjoyment at this prospect. She has never seen me cry. She does not know what could break me. I did not think it was something your friends yearn for, but apparently, she has been yearning for a breakdown.

Here's the thing- by the end of the dinner, I had the right response for the question. If I had known how fun dinner was going to be, I would have answered, "No, but I will be after two hours with you guys." Seriously. When did it become fun to spend a Friday night with a side of Woe Is Me on the menu? Especially when the only source of woe is your single status. One of these days, the dam is going to burst, and I am going to go all Shatner-on-SNL on these people and yell out, "Get a life!"

Contrast this to Sunday morning. I am usually awake on a Sunday morning at 8 a.m, but mobile? Yeah, not so much. But sure enough, it's closing on 8:30, and there is J, joining me on a little tour of San Francisco. Also known as a drive to Vinod's apartment, to pick up a surprise guest. A surprise guest who was none too pleased about being awake at this hour, but a surprise guest nonetheless. Fifteen minutes later, we are sitting with maisnon and Vinod, having breakfast in same said Stroller Valley.

I might shed a few tears at this breakfast. There is a lot of laughter, and my lacrimal glands some times go haywire when I'm laughing so hard that my sides hurt. It is ferociously early in the morning, reminding me of how my friends and I would drag ourselves to the dining hall after a late Saturday night, and talk over pancakes and omelets for three hours. And just like college, after brunch, I must dutifully trudge back home to study.

Something, beyond the pancakes and eggs, is satiating about it. It is the lack of drama, the lack of a gloomy cloud, even on an overcast morning, darkening my dish. Everything is light and airy and easy. On some level, I know that a sincere, deep friendship requires more density than that. But on another level, I think maybe I don't want a deep friendship just now, in that case.

Completely unrelated-- after leaving J et al, I got in my car and turned the radio on. I was then compelled to call the bro-seph immediately, and blare Don't Cha in his ear through my cell phone for three minutes. The last time we were out at a club together, he was praying for this song to get on rotation. Not that this negates the weirdness of our behavior towards each other. The day before, I had nearly driven him off the deep end by suggesting that, rather than getting a professional car wash, I could just wait for the rain to inevitably take care of the job. His head almost spontaneously combusted.

Friday, November 04, 2005

ain't gonna get it unless you give a little bit of sacrifice

W wrote me this week from another country, to inform me that DCFC are playing here on November 13th, and 14th, and throws this in:
You better be there! Even better, attend with one of the personal Dictaphone recorders, make a boot leg and send me a crappy sounding live concert so that we can feel like we're young and still in college.
Reading this was followed by a big, long, weary sigh. Yeah, I will not be attending either of said concerts. And even though I don't feel like I'm young or still in college, my reason for missing the concerts is not that they're sold out. Which they are. But I knew about them a while back, and already had a good temper tantrum over the fact that they line up perfectly with my next exam. This is why I have to conjure up love affairs with professors. It is the only way I can keep myself from bursting into tears about all the fun moments I will have to miss.

Let me throw in an Anthony Kiedis-esque, now that is a lie to that last sentence. I chose all of this, I brought it all on myself, and I want it, probably more than anything else I have ever wanted or will ever want again. Sure, I may get Whiny McGrumpypants about it from time to time, but nothing worth pursuing is easy, not now. The bro-seph was complaining the other day about there being no obvious options for him, and I gave him a dose of tough older sister love. I said, "Dude, the time for easy choices is long gone. That's fine when you're twenty-one, and you're a little punk who hasn't invested that much in anything to begin with. Anything worth wanting now is going to take some effort." Maybe that was a little harsh, but I really do believe that. There are two things that rankle me when it comes to a person's lot in life- when they act like a victim and when they say there are no choice. You are not an innocent bystander in your life, so you cannot, by definition, be a victim. There is always a choice; it just always comes with a price. So, what is it worth to you? That's the real question.

So, it's time to suck it up. Leave the party early, and let others say what they will. Nose to the grindstone, head to the stars. Stop trying to make everything fit perfectly into a puzzle that should only have my pieces in it.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

do you remember when we used to sing

When my cousin, the teeniac, S, was visiting here earlier this year, the bro-seph and I continually marvelled at her ability to sing along to every song. Her mastery of 50 Cent lyrics did not bowl us over, but she also knew the words to songs that were not quite of her generation. We were shocked to find her bopping her head along to stupid classics like Kung Fu Fightin' and the like.

But when I really gave it some thought, I am pretty sure it has to do with growing up in EBF. We grew up in a place where at least 80% of the radio stations were playing music from different eras- classic rock, oldies, disco. I associate all of this quite old music with my childhood, and think that is when the music fit the time, but it didn't. Even then, it was anachronistic.

Because, one day in junior high school, on a long bus ride to a mediocre ski area, the windows cold as ice, but the sun lighting us up with anticipation, I remember this kid T singing My Girl. I had a bit of a crush on him at the time. We had all heard the song on one of the ancient radio stations. Other kids were joining in with him, as he sang out:
When it's cold outside, I got the month of May

I remember looking at him dreamily, wistfully, and just as quickly, snapping right out of it. Dude, My Girl is not a song you sing to a scrawny Indian twirp who's bundled up in ski pants and a parka that comes down past her thighs.

Funny. T was one of the popular kids, and really, he was earning cool points by the minute for crooning a Motown song in one of the whitest places on earth. All the girls were sighing. This kid sitting across from me, N, was eyeing him with veiled disgust. N kind of despised T, because T was the type of kid that was always garnering accolades for basically being boring. Did T ever take a stand? No. Did he ever have an opinion on anything? Not without checking around the room first.

N, on the other hand, was the sort of kid who had something to say about everything. He was always getting in trouble for talking in class. He was forever angering some cool kid by finding some really biting quip to hurtle. If you stated anything to him as a matter of fact, he would question you until you wanted to choke him. My first year of junior high school, when I was possibly the most introverted person at school, and still wore my hair in two braids that fell past my knees, N once grabbed the braids as if they were reigns. I turned around and landed a right hook in his arm. That is how we became makeshift friends.

And yet, it is still a mystery of modern day science, what happened next on the bus that afternoon. T was still basking in the limelight, with the eyes of a gaggle of girls trained on him. And suddenly, N, as if he was ripping the mic from a rival MC, belted out the lyrics to Brown-Eyed Girl at the top of his lungs. Initially, I found this strictly amusing. N was channeling Van Morrison, while T had completely turned My Girl into a vanilla milkshake. N was screeching just like you would imagine Van the Man doing it.

Suddenly, I noticed that a good portion of the bus was looking at me instead of N. Only then did I recognize that he was singing directly at me. I could feel myself slinking down against the shoddy green bus seats. It was the first time I had heard a song that someone could have actually been singing to me. There was nothing in it that was about beauty or appearance, but for the presence of those dark eyes.

N and I never spoke about it afterwards. We went back to our routine: him throwing out wisecracks at me, me doling out tomboy beatdowns at him. Meanwhile, I continued to moon over that Jordan Catalano-vacuous-o T for the rest of the year. But those two songs, both recorded well before I was born, remind me of sunlight filtering into a yellow school bus, and the bad decisions that stupid little kids make. When I think back on it, and ponder who I would want to have a conversation with today, the choice is obvious. But choice did not even play into it when I was a kid. Maybe it never does.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

the melody always finds me

This is probably, ultimately a good thing- I have had music on the head for the past week or two, hardcore. I say it is good, because it certainly does a good job of keeping me from belaboring nonsense that I need not. It also keeps me from waxing nonsensical about convoluted scientific theories or from ranting about my latest pet peeves.

No, instead, a piece I heard on NPR a while back leapt to mind today, discussing the intersection of movies and music, the makings of good movie soundtracks. The piece spent a lot of time talking about the demise of original scores, in favor of canned songs. I do not have any strong feelings about this. There are appropriate times for both- Il Postino would not have been so swoonworthy without its pretty, pretty score. On the other hand, Goodfellas would not have been as effective without using the extended fade out of Layla.

Anyway, I started thinking of those songs that will forever be associated with a movie for me, that just fit perfectly with what was being conveyed in the film at that moment. Oh, and I know you care, so much, so of course, I had to share:
  • The use of Don't Think Twice It's Alright by Bob Dylan in Dogfight kills me. every. time. I remain firm in my stance that this is a criminally overlooked film. But, add to that, this song, that I am already partial to on its own, placed at just the completely correct point in the plot, and I am a goner.
  • There's this incredibly bright song called Nulla in Mundo Pax Sincera in Shine, played during a massive shift in the movie. The music, in this case, basically lifts the film from the previous dark Armin Mueller-Stahl-gravitas vortex. Which is a good thing, because this movie spends a long time down in the dumps. The song is a breath of fresh air that lets us all know the film is not going to end as a tragedy.
  • Stuck in the Middle with You by Stealer's Wheel will forever be associated with a dude losing an ear thanks to Michael Madsen and Quentin Tarantino. Shudder.
  • Van Morrison's music is employed in millions of films, it seems. I think he's actually a little overexposed in films, especially of the chick-flick varietal. All of that said, Sweet Thing plays at the end of Moonlight Mile, and it very beautifully closes an imperfect, but pretty (hello, Jake Gyellenhall, people) film.
  • I'm a little embarassed to admit this, but I really, really get the warm fuzzies during the Tiny Dancer sing-a-long in Almost Famous. I know it is cheesy, but I cannot help it. Especially when Crudup finally breaks out of his funk and joins in.
  • There is only one version of the film Sabrina that I accept as valid. In that one, Audrey Hepburn quietly sings La Vie en Rose in French to Humphrey Bogart. It is so understated that I prefer it by a mile to Hepburn's Moon River warbling in Breakfast at Tiffany's.
  • The Pixies get a rare and much-deserved citation at the end of Fight Club. Where is my mind is, after all, such a post-apocalyptic song in so many ways. It almost makes me like Helena Bonham Carter. Almost.
  • Look, I find Quentin Tarantino one annoying pain in the neck. Watching him in an interview, or, for that matter, acting, is like listening to nails on chalkboard to my mind. But the man really knows how to make use of songs in film. That's why he gets a second mention. Malaguena Salerosa by Chingon is played at the end of Kill Bill: Vol. 2, and it's a culmination of a pitch perfect soundtrack. But I think this particular song is fantastic, because he uses it as the character credits roll, and it fits phenomenally. This is amazing to me since the credits span different parts of the films, which have the Martial Arts and Spaghetti Western themes. Yet, this lilting Spanish song works for every single shot. Damn you, Tarantino! I want to hate you, and you're making it difficult.
That's off the top of my head. I bet there are many more. I haven't even included the funny ones- like Dust in the Wind in Old School or that song playing in Office Space when the dudes beat the hell out of the fax machine. Join the fun, and open my eyes to the other gems.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

putting down my guard because I've been here before

Yesterday, when I got home, I was all about the Grumpy McB*tchypants. I was the Grinch who stole Halloween. And this is why I am one lucky b*tch. Every time I am on the verge of packing it all up and closing up shop, silencing the mindless blog-blab, something comes along and kicks me in the pants. In this case, it was a small package of excellent music.

But there was something in this package that really gave me pause. Aside from the obvious, visual aspect, does this blog always seem blue? I could not find fault with someone if they characterized my writing as such. I do whine a lot, oh, a lot. But, I am not actually sad that often. Even when I am wallowing in melancholy, it's not often that I am sad. I get nostalgic, I get swept away in moments or thoughts at times. Count on me to overanalyze the simplest of statements. Still, you could walk up to me on any given day, and it is likely that I would quote Old School before I would quote Morrissey.

Of course, after writing all that, I am about to dive into another somber thought that popped into my head yesterday during class. I was daydreaming in class about innate and adaptive immunity. Which, I guess, is better than daydreaming about Gael Garcia Bernal. Except not really.

Innate immunity is what you bring with you into a battle with viruses, bacterial infections. Or bad relationships, if you live in my head. Innate immunity is not a reaction that is specific to who you're fighting. It is who you are. It was with you all along. Some times, you did not know you had it in you until you are invaded. Innate immunity, surprisingly, even though it is not highly attenuated to a particular invader, is pretty adept at ridding you of most things. But with the pesky things, those relationships that hit you right where it hurts, the innate immune response will not do. It keeps things under control, keeps you from falling apart, but it is losing the war.

But that's where adaptive immunity comes in. This part of your immune system gets schooled. It started out naive, a blank canvas. When that first invasion happens, when you get slammed that first time, you recover thanks to your innate immune system. But behind the scenes, your adaptive immune system has been irrevocably altered in the process. You have realized this invader is no good for you, that it only brings you harm. Your adaptive immune system doesn't show it outwardly, but even when you're healthy, it's cursing under its breath never again, b*tches, never again. So much so that when that bad relationship virus comes along again, it launches an all-out offensive. It mounts a response faster and stronger than your innate system ever could have.

The thing about the adaptive immune system is that it doesn't last forever. Your body remembers earlier insults, but, just like our true memory, it forgets after a long time. So, we can conquer those previous bad influences swiftly, ferociously, as long as we can remember how bad they were for us. But should we forget, it's a big circle jerk. It is that thought that induces me to remember the things I would much rather erase from my memory.