7 December, 2009

password is the same as my email signoff.

Thanks, Presbyterians!

28 September, 2009

Thanks, Presbyterians!

Originally uploaded by techne.

The NY ave Presbyterian church hosted a havurah group for Yom Kippur
services. This amused me all day.


Cubs win!

17 July, 2009

Cubs win!

Originally uploaded by techne.

The Cubs are in town. This year they are here for four whole games, which is a lot to attend (two is no problem, three is a bit much).  I haven’t done four in a while. OTOH, 3/4 of them are at night, which is not true for weekend four-game series in Wrigley. So I got that going for me.  Less heatstroke.

I don’t buy tix in advance in DC. I show up, decide how much to spend, and spend it. It feels so reckless to show up without tickets!  It’s not, of course, considering that the Nats are suck and DC does not give a rat’s ass about baseball and the only sellout ever was one of the nights when the Red Sox were in town. But to Cubs fans, who need to secure their tickets over the winter, it is bizarre.

Since DC thoughtfully acquired an NL baseball team before I relocated here, I can mark my DC time by Cubs series.  In 2006, I had gone to Chicago for Opening Weekend, and my friend and fellow Cub sufferer Jake came to DC for their series in July.  We went to all three, I think…two at least.  My strongest memory of those games is that the Cubs sucked. I took my favorite “agony of defeat” photo:

cub fandom

hee hee! God, I love that photo.  It actually made me feel better to look at it last fall when…well, you know. (and if you don’t, look back a few posts on the blog.)

I don’t remember 2007 too well, I didn’t make it to many games that year. It was the Nats’ last year in RFK, that I do recall.  On July 4, I went down for a last-minute ticket and happened to run into my friend the LA native and Dodgers fan. DC is like that–go out relatively often and be relatively social and you will see people you know everywhere.

2008 was memorable in many ways:

1) I made a “baseball friend” a week or so before the series. She was selling me shoes and happened to have a team bracelet on, which began a conversation, etc.  Our chats helped me psych myself up for the series.

2) After a game I ran into Len Kasper and Bob Brenly in the Metro. They didn’t want to wait for the bus, they said, because “the guys take forever in the showers.” (In case you are wondering, the team stays at the Mayflower Hotel.)  I thought of something intelligent to say to them about 10 minutes later.

3) What with ballpark food and tickets, I had budgeted myself a pile of cash for the weekend, and on Sunday found myself with a lot left over. Hmm…why save what you can spend? I bought myself nice seats right next to the visitors dugout.


4) Kerry Wood signed my hat.

So all in all, last year set a high bar for Cubs series awesomeness. My materialist goals for this year are:

–Have Carlos Zambrano sign my hat.

–Have Aramis Ramirez sign something. My hat? My Ramirez jersey? Not sure…

–Spring for awesome seats again at least once.

But it’s the intangibles that count, and in that department I am already on track. Tonight: I bought good seats in my favorite area and jumped to even better seats in said area.  I was surrounded by the best kind of fans: knowledgeable enough to respect the other team, chatty but not overbearing, and hilarious.  The Cubs won handily, D-Lee hit a nice home run right to our area of right field.  And on the way home, despite us leaving at different times and taking different trains, I ran into the same fans!  DC is like that.  We had a lovely chat about the Nats’ patheticness (too easy a target), the President’s skill in sports picks, and general Chicago baseball fandom–they had grown up as near Comiskey as I had near Wrigley. (They weren’t the hating kind of Sox fans, but there was something odd about them.  “I’m a Sox fan,” one said, “but I root for the Cubs when they’re in the playoffs.”  …huh?)

OK…better get to bed, I have a long evening of baseball tomorrow.

the five-second rule

29 June, 2009

From this NYT blog post

11. Food quickly picked up from the floor is safe to eat. Scientists have put the commonly-cited five-second rule to the test. They found that food that comes into contact with a tile or wood floor does pick up large amounts of bacteria. Food doesn’t pick up many germs when it hits carpet, but it does pick up carpet fuzz.

It cracks me up to read serious debunkings of this “rule.”  It’s a JOKE, people! It always has been!

A first

21 June, 2009

I finished the Sunday NYT crossword puzzle! On Sunday! I finished one once before, but it took a few days of revisits.

I am pretty psyched about this. Growing up, the Sunday puzzles (NYT and the Chicago papers) were a family affair. My mom and I would work on one until we got stuck, and then we’d swap. (We’d ask my stepdad for sports clues, but the answer we got depended on his mood–he is prone to making things up. Thanks for giving me the right answer today, though!)

Now to read the, you know, news.

good deed for the day

15 June, 2009

Downtown I was, pre-dentist, grabbing a quick sandwich at a quick-sandwich place, when something green caught my eye. A table over from me was a young woman with long blonde hair.  A law student summer intern if I’ve ever seen one.   Her skirt suit was new, a young fabric and retro cut yet conservative enough to work in even a stodgy law firm. Her 3-inch black patent leather shoes were also new, as were the blisters they had created on her heels. The green was a scrap of green paper she had put over one heel by (poor) way of cushion against the grippy pointiness that is the back of a new pair of patent leather shoes.

Now, about interns for my non-Beltway readers. We DC “residents” are supposed to despise and detest the interns that descend on us for the summer.  Not without reason, mind you: the archetypal jerkoff is the guy who wears his Congressional ID badge on the Metro…on weekends.  In such a situation I am supposed to mock her naivete re professional dress, and her gall for daring to come to Our Nation’s Capital to further her career and eat lunch near me.

But no. My heart went out to her.  I have been there, and if you have not been there, then you are a man. A poorly dressed man.  I’m pushing 33, and seeing this woman made me realize that I actually have learned a thing or two in the last decade.  This particular lesson is a hard and often expensive one: as you walk slowly around the store in your hot shoes the Sunday before your job starts, you are so psyched about how good you look and so stressed about how little time you have that you ignore the glaring signs that the shoes will rip your feet to shreds in three blocks.  The sub-lesson: keep band-aids on hand for emergencies, and they should be big enough such that the crappy shoes don’t scrape them off when you need them most.

Nu? I offered her two large band-aids from my mini-purse (a smaller bag of goodies that can fit in any of my main purses).  I thought she would cry.  Me, I got a warm glow, and, I hope, some karma.  Maybe I should start “Be Kind To An Intern Day.”

Hey, audience participation! Ladies and smart men, what’s in your emergency kit? Mine:

  • Aforementioned bandaids (~1.5x~2.5″)
  • Normaler-sized bandaids
  • Pencil, pen, laser-pointer USB pen
  • Pseudo-sudafed (sometimes Advil too)
  • Earplugs
  • Lady products (both kinds, and pantiliners)
  • Nail file/s, nail clippers, cuticle oil
  • Lip balm (slightly reddish so can double as lip color)
  • Lotion
  • Compact
  • Hair rubber band and little clips
  • Business cards (in holder so they don’t get grody)
  • Razor blade
  • Stamps
  • Reusable shopping bag
  • Moleskine slim notebook
  • The card from a bouquet of flowers my man sent me last Valentine’s Day when I was out of town
  • Copy of the Constitution (for which I have already been mocked, thank you)

Note this is the non-mother edition.  That is a whole other ballgame…


7 June, 2009

OK, take two.

So, how you doin’?  Anyone with me still in their RSS, please comment.  Me, I’ve been fine.

Fine! Ha!  Let’s see, my last real post, not counting Cubs angst…around a year ago…hmm, not as bad as I’d thought.

Too much has happened for a wordy catch-up post.  The bullet list of major recent changes:

  • got back with Reaganite, shacked up, moved to new neighborhood, downsized cats to one
  • left job/career/identity of 10 years for new job/career/identity
  • left old job’s 15″ MacBookPro for new iPhone, iMac
  • denouement of family suicide #2 (terminal cancer) included modest financial security
  • sister: bought a horse, moved to Montana, is now leaving Montana
  • parents: both moved to Kalamazoo (that may have happened before my hiatus)

It’s been a lot to deal with. Work is the biggest adjustment. I work for the government now. I’m no longer a Scientist. Work doesn’t have to rule my life–there is just not enough to it for that. But it’s surprisingly hard to change old habits.

While not everyone had to have a blog back in the day, in the last year twitter and facebook seem to have become de rigeur for everyone. I’m there (under this handle, of course). But neither are quite my form. For one, you can’t do them on the Metro with an iPhone. And it drives me NUTS that I can’t categorize incoming updates.  To have posts from good buddies buried amidst posts from people I haven’t spoken to in 15 years is frustrating.  Not to mention the twitter phenomenon of following businesses, blogs, celebrities, etc.  Is there a way to do this that I’ve missed? Can anyone advise?

So back to blogging. I think I will have a pattern of only lightly edited midi-posts, maybe an occasional longer one.  You can expect to see

  • more Metro observations/griping
  • evolving obsessions
  • more work-life balance observations/griping


cub fandom

5 October, 2008

More to come.

Listen, and understand.

What’s there to say, really?

…hmm, a lot, actually.  I’ll spare you the 2003 reminiscing and just ask my question.  Someone, please, answer me.

So in ’03, we choked in Game 6, big time. GAME 6…of a SEVEN GAME SERIES.  What stopped us from winning Game 7?  No, seriously. WHAT?  I still don’t really know. “Because we’re the Cubs,” blah blah blah, spare me. That’s not an answer.  WHAT. STOPPED. US?

2008. October 1. OK, Dempster got in a spot…in GAME 1.  We fell behind and got demoralized. IN GAME ONE. HELLO! 4 MORE GAMES TO PLAY!  What was stopping this team, the best Cubs team in my memory and my father’s memory and his father’s memory, from just, you know, PLAYING? Believing in themselves?  I’m serious, WHAT?  Can someone please tell me?

You know, though?  Here is the even more real question. Was it the same thing? In 2003 and 2008?  Who cares, losing is losing, you say. I disagree. The answer matters, and I’ll tell you why.  2003 was a gift. Everything came together in that lucky once-in-a-blue-moon way, and it was magical, and it woulda been magical if we’d gone all the way, but something happened.  In immediate hindsight the Game 6 choke seemed easily explained: lack of playoff experience, lack of big-game experience, tripped players up.  And as chokes do, it spread, in a series of bad decisions and bad luck and Golden Glovers misplaying ground balls and coaches not taking out finished pitchers and spazzy outfielders and ugh, ugh!

Sorry. Note, though: the failure was contained. Contained within the game–the NLDS was thrillingly fought, the NLCS until that point was also.  If you like, you can further argue that the failure due to inexperience was contained, within the season.  It didn’t say anything about the Cubs as a franchise, despite what people thought.  It was just a year. Disappointing sure, but it was just what sometimes happens to teams that improbably fight their way to the playoffs. The Marlins did the same, and just got a little farther.  It happens–that’s why we have a postseason at all.  Right?

2008?  This year was different. THIS YEAR WAS DIFFERENT.  We were plain good.  We clinched over a week before the end of the season. Best NL record. Most runs in NL. God knows how many other bests, firsts, best since’s; I’m bad at keeping track of that stuff.  But it was a Cubs team like none of us have ever seen.  And that team just didn’t fucking show up for the most important series of the season.  Here’s what freaks me out, here’s what kept me up last night: if THIS team couldn’t pull it off, what Cub team can?  How good do we have to be to make this happen?

(Maybe making it happen isn’t about being good.  Maybe it was too easy. Maybe you need to fight all the way, like in ’03.  ?)

Here is the emotional doublethink that defines my Cub fandom*.   Deep down I have a core of hope and belief that they can do it. But I also have a core of doubt and resignation to loss. And I never know which one is deeper.  Which is the core of which? I can’t tell. Maybe I should call it doublefeel.

*Maybe it’s everyone’s fandom, for all teams.  But I don’t remember feeling this way about the 1990s Bulls and I doubt Yankee fans feel this way.

Maybe that’s the difference between 2003 and 2008.  I was at the 2003 NLCS Game 7.  Not 24 hours after the Game 6 choke, I made and carried a sign to the park that said just “I BELIEVE”.  Why COULDN’T we win? WHY NOT come back from a bad game?  That was the day before!  That’s why it’s not a one-game playoff, the postseason, because a bad inning, an off day, can happen anytime. I believed. But that was the heart speaking. In my head, I could see us being outplayed, in slow motion.  You knew that a debacle like that wouldn’t happen to the Marlins.  And, doublefeel-wise, when the loss finally came, it felt both shocking and inevitable.

This year was the other way around.  Rationality was on the side of optimism. For once, for ONCE, we were just that good.  Look at the numbers!  But you can’t turn off that emotional side that is keeping you on the edge of cynicism and defeat.

So this is mostly just shocking. No, really. “Durr, it’s the Cubs, what do you expect” people will say. Well, I’ll tell you. More. I expect more.  Because it’s expecting less that makes people think jokes about lovable losers are acceptable.  This looked to be the year we left all that bullshit behind.

OK, you know? I was feeling maudlin. I couldn’t get to sleep last night til 2:30 (apparently neither could Mark DeRosa).  Today, I had listened to the Steve Goodman song I linked to up there, I sat down to write this, catharsis, etc…and now I’m just pissed.  This year WAS different, goddamnit.

See you in '09

Postscript: As usual, Al says it better.  Wanting it too much…is it that simple?


1 August, 2008

Thanks Going Out Gurus!

Under the bridge

10 May, 2008

Under the bridge

Originally uploaded by techne.

View from my seat

27 April, 2008

View from my seat

Originally uploaded by techne.

Multimedia message

27 April, 2008

Multimedia message

Originally uploaded by techne.

Damnit, you can’t read that at all can you.  What it says is: at one location, you can get a plain ol’ hot dog, a “Nats dog value pack,” a Hebrew National, AND a Ben’s half smoke with chili. That’s right, no need to stand in line at the one Ben’s stand in LF.   And hilariously, NOT ONLY are these “Nats Dogs” badged stands everywhere, there is one AROUND THE CORNER from the Ben’s stand.

Lotsa snapshots of the stadium coming up. I am so psyched.

We call this place heaven.

Originally uploaded by techne.

Kosher sports hot dog stand@nats stadium

Originally uploaded by techne.


some kind of rubicon

1 April, 2008

A genetic test for the variant I published on last year is now available.

OK so that’s the background, now:

Not sure how I feel about this. Or even what to say.  Well, I should get to work anyway.  Finding the next gene 🙂

brain freeze explained

25 March, 2008


Why do we get “brain freeze” when we eat something cold?
-Christina Zuniga, via e-mail

Mark A. W. Andrews, professor of physiology and director of the Independent Study Pathway at the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, replies:

This commonly experienced pain, also known as an ice cream headache, results from quickly eating or drinking very cold substances. Officially termed sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia (talk about a painful mouthful!), it is the di­rect result of the rapid cooling and rewarming of the blood vessels in the palate, or the roof of the mouth. A similar but painless blood vessel response causes the face to appear “flushed” after being outside on a cold day. In both instances, the cold temperature causes blood vessels to constrict and then experience extreme rebound dilation as they warm up again.

In the palate, this dilation is sensed by nearby pain receptors, which then send signals back to the brain via the trigeminal nerve, one of the major nerves of the facial area. This nerve also senses facial pain, so as the signals are conducted the brain interprets the pain as coming from the forehead—the same “referred pain” phenomenon seen in heart attacks. Brain-freeze pain may last from a few seconds to a few minutes, which is blissfully short as compared with the duration of its cousin, the migraine headache. Research suggests that the same vascular mechanism and nerve implicated in brain freeze cause the aura (sensory disturbance) and pulsatile (throbbing pain) phases of migraines. Interestingly, it is impossible to give yourself an ice cream headache in cold weather—only in a warm ambient temperature will it hurt to wolf down a banana split.

Fortunately, abstaining from ice cream is not necessary. Placing the tongue hard against the palate may help, as will eating cold foods more slowly or warming food in the front of your mouth before swallowing.

Don’t you feel so much better now!!?! I do.

They are playing Morphine’s album Cure for Pain. What year was I….a junior?…at the end of the semester I started spending time with a woman I’ll call B. I have NO IDEA how we found each other, classes? friend of a friend? Anyway, her two obsessive loves were Morphine (the band) and Aliens. She had the director’s cut and knew bits of trivia about it that were very obscure in 1996…now, of course, you can find them all on IMDB. (Kids, we used to have to fight for the knowledge that made us cool and/or geeks. Also? We had to spend money on music, either directly or by buying tapes to copy from friends. Also? We couldn’t even really copy movies since double VCR decks were a lot rarer than double tape decks, so if you had a copied movie it was probably taped off TV. Also? Get off my lawn.) Anyway, Tryst. They do this to me all the time, what with the music.

Ah, B. Why was I so interested in you? I think we shared a level of snark. Also a level of depression. For the last few weeks of the semester we spent many hours in her basement cave of a dorm room listening to Morphine or watching Aliens while not really having sex. There was a degree of sneaking around involved as she hid me from her hallmates (and hid herself from herself). It was all very tension-filled and dramatic for reasons I just cannot remember. The end of semesters was always a hothouse in some way. Girls, depression, euphoria…something was always going on, at a much more intense level than usual, for everyone on campus, me included. Unsurprising I suppose. So yeah, things with B were intense. And then we went home for break and that was that. We never really spoke again.

I swore off straight girls soon after, but she wasn’t the final reason, just one of the nails. (Heh. Nails. Oh wait! IIRC B also liked Nine Inch Nails.) The next summer, I innocently tried to get in the pants of C, a very cute, bubbly woman who lived on my hall in the summer dorm. In retrospect, I think she was from Minnesota. She was one of those happy straight girls who thinks they are just being nice to everyone, but in the outside world that everyone else lives in they are madly flirting with everything that moves. I flirted back, as you do. C realized she was in fact attracted to me, but she was 1) very Baha’i (Baha’i are as anti-gay as any other denomination, it turns out) and 2) very conflicted about her sexuality. Needless to say, perhaps, I never got into those pants. Instead I witnessed epic levels of angst and soul-searching. I felt bad for the girl, here I was just wanting a little fun, and I make her question her faith and very identity.  Sheesh.  Also perhaps needless to say, she came out f’reals a few months later. Hey — no need to thank me. Glad I could help!

Haven’t listened much to Morphine since. As I have now been given the chance to remember, they do get a bit repetitive. I don’t seem to have them in the ol’ iTunes, seeing as how — see above — I only had them on tape. I did see them in concert once. My review: I didn’t know you could be that high and still hold an instrument.

I do, however, own the director’s cut of Aliens. Outright. It’s one of my two desert island movies. I mostly watch it at night…mostly.

(You can expect more college reminisces between now and my 10th reunion in June.)

What I got

14 March, 2008

In early November of 2000, I was in New Orleans at the annual Society for Neuroscience conference. My boyfriend had come along, and we were staying in a beautiful bed-and-breakfast that, needless to say, was NOT on the conference hotels list. It was the internet boom–we ate so well that, to this day, our friends are sick of hearing about this trip. The election was going on–you may recall the election of November 2000 and how, er, stimulating it was. It was my first conference, my first presentation, and I was utterly psyched. SFN is infamous for its size (over 25,000 attendees) and its scope (“neuroscience” can mean almost anything, and at this conference, it does). All the posters and science to see and absorb…and then in the evening, all the ancillary events. Panels, interest groups, receptions, and I belonged there. Everything was possible.

As was my wont, I went to a career panel. I knew even during my undergrad years that academia was not for me, and that I was interested in an “alternative career” (a disgusting ivory tower phrase for the outside world, IMO). Of course, being an idiot who went to grad school for only the dimmest of reasons, I had no idea what I wanted beyond that. So I tried to go to a lot of panels and read a lot of books about “alternative careers.” This panel was not specifically about that–it was intended to present the diversity of options that would lay before me someday in the distant future. Good enough. I vaguely remember that it had a representative from the classic academia tenure track, a science writer, and somebody else–probably a researcher/administrator from industry or biotech.

But I CLEARLY remember the man who represented science policy. He described his days as a science and technology policy fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He had worked in the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, which did what it sounds like it’d do: assess technology for Congress. An intertube describes it this way: “The OTA was created in 1972 to provide Congress objective analyses of major public policy issues related to scientific and technological change.” A Congresscritter would come to them and ask for a report on any topic under the sun. They’d research it and write it up in a nonpartisan fashion. Another quote:

Holt pointed out how many of the OTA reports, from over a decade ago, are still timely and pertinent, including reports like “Retiring old cars: Programs to save gasoline and reduce emissions,” “Renewing our energy future,” “Potential environmental impacts of bioenergy crop production,” “Innovation and commercialization of emerging technologies,” and “Testing in America’s schools: Asking the right questions.”

This sounded like pure heaven. Then, as now, I was a dilettante, interested in too many things, and I was beginning to see just how fucking stupid I had been to go to graduate school, the entire POINT of which is to train you in specialization. The idea that I could grow up and use my prospective science and research skillz to tackle all sorts of different projects–and for a purpose? To a specific end? (I was also beginning to realize that my penchant for efficiency might have been useful day-to-day, but could never have a place in research as a lifelong endeavour.) Turns out the guy was there specifically to promote the AAAS Science Policy Fellowship that had gotten him to OTA. One needed one’s Ph.D. in hand to apply. Still, I took the application packet and read it cover to cover.

I did the same thing at my next conference, and the next, and at local panels, and eventually I was going to panels and I already knew everything they were saying about the fellowships. When I’d network and discuss science policy, I’d hear about the fellowships and how many doors they opened. In dark research moments I’d read about science policy and notice that nearly everything I read was written by a former fellow. While writing my dissertation, I found an ad for a related job in the back of the journal Science, cut it out and taped it in the “escapism” corner of my desk, near the photos of Paris and the ocean at Sharm el-Sheikh (a resort in Egypt where my sister had spent a summer). When considering jobs, the fact that my current job would put me in DC, where I would have top networking opportunities and learn incredible amounts purely by osmosis, was a consideration.

When I got here, I picked every brain I knew, developed my network, picked their brains, and then asked THEM for people whose brains I could pick. And picked them. All of them said the same thing. You must apply for the AAAS fellowship, it’s invaluable, it’s great, it’s perfect experience and perfect for the resume. They all said it was very competitive and then said they had gotten it on the first try. They all took great pride in telling me a particular insider “secret” about the system, such that when I spoke to a new person and I heard them get quieter and conspiratorial, I knew what was coming. I acted surprised each time.

The time finally came: my career had reached a turning point. I was on top of my field and had to either fight to stay there or bow out. The deadlines and start dates and end dates of my commitments and the fellowship lined up perfectly. So I applied. I came out to my boss as an alternative-career lover. I converted valuable research-world patrons into references in fields where they were virtually unknown. I spent valuable research time, time that our rivals were using to do science, writing my application. I doubted my decision when research went well, stood by it when not. I wrote and wrote and wrote about myself (the app was an essay, a CV, another essay, and a biography). I asked for help from aforementioned network. When they started giving me contradictory advice based on their personalities, I knew I had worked it for all it was worth. I sent it in and I waited. I got an interview and one last hoop: write a one-page memo about something and in the interview you will present it and we will ask questions. I sat down to write the memo and I realized that, after all these years of saying “I want to do science policy,” I didn’t know what “policy” meant. I figured it out. I sent it in. I interviewed.

I got the email at noon today: I got the fellowship. Now it’s 8. And I have no idea what to do now.


14 March, 2008



10 March, 2008

Well well well, I suppose the DC-based Emperors’ Club whores juuust weren’t good enough for Mr. NY governor. Typical NYC thinking, “we are the center of the world and better than everywhere else.” Well, neener neener neener, look where your NYC snobbery has landed you. Ha!

However, all may not be lost, Governor John. I have spotted a loophole.

The Mann Act, passed by Congress in 1910 to address prostitution, human trafficking and what was viewed at the time as immorality in general, makes it a crime to transport someone between states for the purpose of prostitution.


Via strange maps — a very cool blog — I find this:

Turns out this is a Thing: making Excel graphs of rap/hiphop lyrics. This page has the most comprehensive collection I’ve found.

I seem to be late to this meme, but jesus. I haven’t laughed this hard since I first found LOLcats. Here’s the one that got me the worst:

Of course I have been trying to think of my own. Here’s what I got:

Who should put it in the air?

a big bouquet of cactus

7 March, 2008

A Leonard Cohen phase is coming on. I can feel it. My iPod is presently about 75% hiphop; that percentage has been creeping higher and higher over the last few months, and I’m reaching saturation. This is how I do music: several months of immersion in an artist or genre, then on to either the next thing or revisit an old thing and immerse in that. (I’ll have to make it back in time for Mr. tha Funkee Homosapien’s concert at the 9:30, though.)

Cohen is, for me, an old thing. It dates back to around 1988. My mother had two albums on heavy rotation: Jennifer Warnes and Leonard Cohen’s Famous Blue Raincoat and Leonard Cohen’s I’m Your Man. And when I say heavy rotation, I mean: NOTHING else in the CD player. Nothing. I was 12 years old and my family was on a nickname basis with the man (we called the first album “Jenny sings Lenny”). I looked high and low for a blue raincoat of my own (no luck, even now when I don’t want one anymore). And it wasn’t even young-poet-living-in-Greece “Suzanne” Leonard Cohen, but darker, aging, “Ain’t no cure for love” Leonard Cohen. That can’t have been good for my perceptions of romance and adult relationships. (Srsly. I was reading Bop and Seventeen, listening to Tiffany and the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, and singing along to “Or I’d crawl to you baby and I’d fall at your feet/And I’d howl at your beauty like a dog in heat/And I’d claw at your heart and I’d tear at your sheets/And say please…(please…)”)

Still, those albums were my mom’s. They still feel that way. But when the tribute album “I’m Your Fan” came out…that was mine. REM! James! The PIXIES, fer chrissakes! Yeah, that’s the one I’ll put on my iPod first, it’s how I start. We’ll see where I go after that.

This all was inspired by stumbling upon this paper on my blogadventures today: “It Doesn’t Matter Which You Heard”: the Curious Cultural Journey of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. I know you’ve heard this song. THREE-YEAR-OLDS have heard this song. It’s a nice analysis of why, exactly, I know that you’ve heard the song.

Yeah, so I read that and my Cohen phase began. Since the internets it always seems to include reading this interview. I bring you an excerpt that always makes me smile. Have a good weekend, all.

MUSICIAN: I understand that somehow during the course of your travels you ended up in Cuba during the Bay of Pigs invasion.

COHEN: … I went down there and immediately found myself accurately described as a “bourgeois individualist poet.” I said, “That’s right. Suits me to a tee.” I wrote a poem in one of my early books: “The Only Tourist in Havana Turns His Thoughts Homeward.”

I was walking on the beach in the middle of one night and was suddenly surrounded by about 11 guys with Czechoslovakian submachine guns; I was an American who didn’t speak Spanish, and they thought I was the first guy off the landing boat. I was the first guy arrested. It was a bit tricky to sort this thing out. But they happened to be very gracious. Wherever they took me, by the end of the night we were drinking toasts to each other and “the friendship of the people,” and they let me go.

A little later it hit the newspapers in North America that the airport had been bombed. I’m in this little seedy hotel in Havana and somebody knocks on my door and says, “You have to go down to the Canadian consulate right away.” They don’t like the look of me there because I really do look like a Cuban revolutionary – I had a beard and wore khakis. Finally I’m brought in to one of the secretaries of the consulate – I’m pretending to be pretty tough. And he says to me, “Mr. Cohen. Your mother is very worried about you.”

The best feeling in research

22 February, 2008

When your experiment succeeds late on a Friday! Sends you home right!

(The worst feeling: well, you can figure it out.)

Aaaaah, what a nice feeling. I’ve been out of it, lab-wise, for weeks. This week I finally snap into what’s going on, step on people’s toes in my struggle to make them explain it to me, and in two days I’ve solved a problem that had been tripping the lab up for weeks.

That’s just how I roll.

(And now off I go to my phone-less, internet-less home, and neighbors who practice good wireless network security techniques. Damn them! Damn you, Verizon! Goodbye, sweet Internets…)

Love at first sight

18 February, 2008

So there I am, sitting in the Udvar-Hazy Big-Ass Hangar outside Dulles Airport. I’d been there for a few hours, wandering about with some of the DC flickrites. The floors are concrete, I wasn’t seeing anything; my feet hurt and I was discouraged. I looked up.

G13763 part one

Ah, now THAT’S the stuff. Snap snap.

G13763 part two

Wow, look at that baby. Have I ever seen anything so graceful?

G13763 part three

You know…I’m no poet. Maybe it’s true what they say about the thousand words, so here. Just look at her.

G13763 part four

Ah, there she goes. Keep your wings level, beautiful.

I scuttled around on the floor trying to get all kinds of other angles, but there was an SR-71 Blackbird in my damn way.

Blackbird SR-71

Did you know it’s the fastest plane in the world? Visitors to the Udvar-Hazy Center like to point this out. Heck, I was even doing it. (Mach 3.)

Out of my way, fools

4 February, 2008

I am NOT suffering your asses today.

We find the fool of the hour — there have been a lot today — on the pages of the Washington Post. He is a developer, with a corner property on the busiest intersection in DC’s “Chinatown” neighborhood. (I put that in quotes because it’s more accurately called “Chinablock” or “Chinamall.”) A major Metro station entrance is underneath the property.

Genius has put three large video screens on this building. AT&T commercials play 24 hours a day. They are so loud you can hear them before you are even out of the Metro station. The speakers are bad. The same ads play over and over. Even residents 10 stories above are kept awake.*

Here’s the fool part:

Miller said he remains committed to his vision for the corner. “Have you been to Times Square?” he asked. “It’s a mixture of light and activity, and what was the dregs of New York has become a tourist attraction.”

I can’t even think of a snark snarky enough to snarkumarrize what’s wrong with this.

Forces of reason, have your say:

Tim Tompkins, executive director of the Times Square Alliance, a nonprofit group representing businesses, theaters and property owners, said he knows of no billboards in the heart of Manhattan that emit commercial audio.

“Even in Times Square, where there is no such thing as a bad advertisement, that might be a little much,” he said.

Hey! Fool! Even the Times Square dude thinks you are a fool. Out of my way!


* I feel them. I live in Adams Morgan. I’m used to cacophony–hell, I even LIKE it. But I’ll tell ya, there is a big difference between unceasing recorded sound and the intermittent noise of woo girls and sirens and screechy bus brakes (I call that stuff “the Crazy”). In my two-plus years in this apartment, I have only once been kept awake by noise from outside, and it was not a Crazy night. No, that night, for some reason, starting around 3, the McDonalds across the street turned its “go away, homeless people” sound system up to TOP VOLUME and played 1940s-crooners Christmas carols. It was not even Christmastime. Just when I thought I would gouge my eyes out with my earplugs (oh, I’d MAKE it work, you best believe), they switched…to easy listening. Love lift us up where we belong!

Superbowl Stupidblogging

3 February, 2008

6:30 Stupid truck ads. Centrifuges have to be balanced or they will not spin.

6:34 Stupid me. I put too much sour cream in Liz’s Evil Dip.

6:38 Rescinded! Checked the recipe, and that was the right amount of sour cream I put in. …wait, I’m still stupid for making it at all. My arteries clog whenever I look in its direction.

6:40 Stupid East Coast. As a Midwesterner, I hate it when sports playoffs come down to New York vs Boston. Give me a goddamn break. Red Giants vs. the New Yankees BLAH BLAH BLAH. There are OTHER RIVALRIES OUT THERE, yo. cubfan63 is rooting for “a tie with lots of injuries.” Me, I am rooting for the Giants, because I like the song they ran out on the field to better than I like the Patriots’ song. (Kanye West’s “Stronger” vs. some Black Sabbath or whatever.)

7:03 Stupid Derek Jeter.

7:24 Why are there always so many job site ads during Superbowls?

7:30 Racial stereotypes much, Bud Light?!

7:30:20 (I must remember that I am not the target demo for Anheuser-Busch.)

7:41 Justin Timberlake rocks.

8:04 OK, people were bitching about Prince’s guitar being too phallic??!

8:06 Srsly, though. It’s a FLYING PENIS. That pierced a pink heart.

8:32 The head-shrinker commercial made me laugh so hard I cried. Reaganite thinks I’m insane.

8:39 Maria Shriver endorsed Obama three days after Arnold endorsed McCain? (DC football.)

9:13 Ha! The Frist-Carville ad rocks. Those Segway tours are awesome.

9:39 One reason I seldom watch football is that it makes me feel 10 IQ points stupider.

9:44 Still laughing at the “tiny head” line from the ad.

10:10 Now, THAT is why I watch playoff games even when I don’t care!

10:16 Of course, the shout-outs to the Polo Grounds and Yankee Stadium do irritate.


31 January, 2008

I signed up for a leadership course, taking place next week, for which I had to take the Myers-Briggs Temperament Sorter. I went in today for a little meeting thingy where we got the results and got talked to about them. (Very interesting, actually.)

So here I am on the internets, and I am looking at lists of careers for which I am well suited:

  • Bounty hunter.
  • Private investigator.
  • CIA or FBI agent.

So basically, I was meant to spy on people and carry guns. I KNEW IT! Good thing I went to a liberal arts women’s college!

Along those lines, here’s some things I should NOT be:

  • Poet. (Don’t I know it.)
  • Child psychologist. (“GROW UP, KID!”)
  • Video editor. (Should anyone be this?)

Also? Photographer. Hey! What’re you trying to say, anonymous poorly-designed webpage??!

Interestingly, the “yes” list has “professor” while the “no” list has “English professor.” How very true.  (It was because of an English professor that I majored in the sciences.)

I am also not meant to own a bookstore.  THAT I don’t get.  I mean, I’d get to keep a gun behind the counter, wouldn’t I?  For all those bookstore holdups?

Proof: rally caps

27 January, 2008

Wrigley Field, June 7, 2003

Originally uploaded by techne.

Faboo Cubs blog Bleed Cubbie Blue is whiling away the dark winter of the baseball fan’s soul (19 days left!) by counting down the top 20 Cubs home runs. Here is BCB Al’s number 18, a dinger I remember very well. You can find my stories about it in the comment thread for his post (search the page for techne). Non-baseball-y readers can click through to this picture’s flickr page for a shorter, less technical version. (Note to all: “Twitchy” is Sammy Sosa.)

In this photo Jake (l), Paulo (r), and I are sporting rally caps, a baseball technique. Some background: there’s a lot of superstitions in baseball, and one large subset of the superstitions involves changing or not changing things. You don’t change things if you are streaking–eat the same meal, sit in the same place on the plane, shave or don’t shave, do what my die-hard Cub fan middle school math teacher did during the 1989 playoff race and don’t change your socks. Likewise, if you are slumping, you need a slump-buster of some kind, from dietary to sartorial to, er, sexual.

This is the theoretical basis of the rally cap. Is your team behind? Do you need a rally? Clearly, what you have been doing in the game thus far is not working. So you mix it up and wear your cap backwards and inside out. Laugh all you like, but look at the picture and read the post/comment, people: rally caps WORK!

“But Techne,” you say, “I am still skeptical. And you are just a fan, anyway, shouldn’t it be players who would have to wear rally caps?” OK, smartass. You want more evidence? Listen to this! An internet (Wikipedia) tells us of two situations where players allegedly used rally caps:

  • New York Mets, 1986 World Series
  • Detroit Tigers, 1945 World Series


DCist Exposed 2!

23 January, 2008

Crafty Bastards b-boy battle, Adams Morgan, DC

Originally uploaded by techne.

This photo was chosen for the second annual DCist Exposed photography show, opening March 7!

Thanks DCist!

See you all there!