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



Scroll down for the cheesecake. Keep reading for some meat.

Got an interesting idea from this post:

When people speak of losing a part of themselves when a loved one dies, they are speaking quite literally, since we lose the ability to effectively use the neural patterns in our brain that had self-organized to interact with that person.

What a great and accessible application of a neuroscientific idea to explain a psychological phenomenon — and it doesn’t even rid that phenomenon of its substance and depth.

I recently read Joan Didion’s book The Year of Magical Thinking, which is an extensive exploration of the psychology of grief and loss (I recommend it). If you read it with this thought in mind, I think it will give you an interesting angle on why grief can take the shapes it does. This certainly makes me think of how the same book could be written about the neurological changes Didion underwent in that time…and how that’d be a completely different but also valuable book.

I, for one, have gotten value out of both approaches, at different times. In difficult emotional situations I fixate on coming to an understanding of WHY — what could lead a person to do act X? Only later can I process them at a more emotional level. In the train ride to my parents’ house the night we got the news of my aunt’s suicide, I read this book like a novel. It provides an exhaustingly comprehensive psychiatric perspective on suicide’s origins, from the personal all the way to the epidemiological level. It’s written by a clinician/researcher and popularizer who’s respected in both areas, which is no easy feat. It’s later now, and so Didion’s book has been important to the current stages.

While I’m making book recommendations, I found the suicide book a bit too depressing before I had a particular reason to read it. On the other hand, Jamison’s memoir of living with bipolar disorder is gripping and of general interest.

The rest of the ideas in the post are the standard kind of annoying “we’re so close to developing supercomputers that we can download our brains to, and therefore use to live forever” crap we can expect from a certain stripe/era of AI research. Oh, so many issues I have there. A few:

1) One of my favorite neuroscientific truisms is “if the brain were simple enough to understand, we would be too simple to understand it.” Where would a bit dump of our brains/minds even BEGIN? The upper-left-hand neuron? (What about cultures that read right-left?) Memories (“I was born a poor black child”)? And which historical point in time to capture? Should we do backups to keep it current? Save older versions, perhaps to retain health, and ditch the body once deterioration sets in? Not to mention the utter meaninglessness of a consciousness without physical input. Just look what sensory deprivation can do to an embodied brain.

2) Metaphors squelch understanding and new ideas, and all the more so when they try to cover more complex phenomena. “The brain is a computer” squelches understanding of its function because it ignores a lot of the types of connections made between neurons.

In fact, it’s just this disconnect between computer simulations of brain function and the actual functioning of the brain that switched me from computer science geekery to neuroscience, lo these 10 years ago now. In a Neural Networks class, I kept trying to make my network’s neurodes more like biological neurons, and got more and more impressed with the impossibility of the task and how it revealed how little we knew about the brain. Considering that each year of biological education teaches you more and more about what the last class didn’t even get near, to have finally run up against the limits of knowledge in a field was heady stuff. I switched majors posthaste.

N.B., the metaphor of DNA as blueprint/book of life is similarly harmful to the understanding of genetics. But that’s another post.

Yeah, I fully and humbly acknowledge that these objections may someday seem as hilarious as “heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible” and other statements are today.* In fact, one of the coolest things about extended lifespans, to me, is getting to see so many new things developed and so many old things proved wrong. Not to mention the chance that I could see the Cubs win the World Series, although my brain may need to be in a computer for that one.

In other news, vote for me for DC’s Sexiest Female Blogger. Here is some cheesecake to encourage you.

No, I have no idea who nom’d me (Reaganite swears it weren’t him), why I care, or why I would be OK being associated with some of the most gossipy damn people in the DC internet tubes. Since becoming aware of the Best DC Blog site on Monday, I tried to figure it out by reading a few comment threads there and “DC blog wars” posts on BigHeadRob’s blog, and I tell you whut: I’m never getting that two hours back.

Here’s another perspective though. While I had fun comparing the bizarreness to junior/high school on Monday and Tuesday, on Wednesday we spent an hour in lab meeting discussing some psychiatric-genetics-research-field politics. And as any DC resident knows, politics is high school. When I tell him some of my hair-raisers, Reaganite assures me that scientist politics is not substantially different in form from Hill politics. So when we tell the poor kids who find themselves at the bottom of high school food chains that “it’s not always like this, it gets better, people grow up,” we are lying. Lying lying lying!

Other reasons I care. Well, I’m self-centered. Show me a blogger who isn’t. Heck, show me a human being who isn’t. I’m competitive too, in weird indirect ways that are hard to describe: more against past versions of myself than other people. In my defense, I think people who know me will agree that these are not my mortal-est sins. (Guess which is!)

Also, as a child, I was an ugly duckling. Glasses filling half my face, feathered hair, not grown into the nose yet…maybe if I win I’ll post a photo of those days. Yay for the exorcism of childhood demons. And how better to prove the old saw that DC is Hollywood for ugly people? 😉

Also also, it’d make a truly hilarious addition to my imaginary business card. Dr. Scientist. Photographer. Sexiest Blogger DC 2007. OK, only sorta hilarious.

Yeah, I’m in Florida. Reaganite’s mom and I get on fine, as I knew we would. But we are all tired and stuff, and R. has to do some work, which is why I have all this goddamned time to blog. Shouldn’t have much more until I get back–going to Disney tomorrow, for the first time ever.

Vote for me!

*As you may know, Bill Gates denies saying “640K ought to be enough for anybody.”

Thanks, Gene

10 April, 2007

So yesterday leaving the Woodley Park Metro I see a trumpeter and a saxophonist playing jazz duets, and I’m all paranoid. Is this another experiment? Is that Wynton Marsalis? Am I on camera? Do I have time to stand and listen? Do I even like jazz??

Reader, I went to CVS. But! I walked slowly.

Someone at the best DC Blog voting likes that I have a thumbnail headshot. Well, because I like it so much, here’s the image in all its glory, where you can really appreciate the expression, earrings and dress combo. I really love the hell out of this dress, although nobody else does. Well, to hell with that! I’m going to Florida this weekend to meet Reaganite‘s parents….apparently it’s 80deg there. I shall pack it!

welcome to the jungle

Hmm. Not the sexiest expression ever. Sorta weird to put up during a sexiness competition. Well, perhaps it counts as “vivacious.” We’ll see how quirky a sense of humor the nothing-to-do-at-work DC blogger community has. Anyway, I do have a secret weapon photo. And two cats.

I should really update my blogroll. Right after I do my taxes, find summer clothes that fit me and are nice enough to Meet The Parents in, get a present for The Parents, prepare my bod for the Florida beach, finish my Artomatic installation, pick up cat food, and correct the galleys of my article before I leave. Oh and somewhere in there I should be solving the mystery of the genetics of bipolar disorder (including the enigma of functional intronic SNPs), processing my pregnant friend’s wedding pictures, sewing up her baby’s booties, mailing it all off, calling her to catch up, and mailing two other packages back to the companies that fucked up the orders — but these can wait until after the trip.

Did I mention my taxes? I had it all scheduled for this weekend. One day of Artomatic, one of taxes. Except I sorta had an Artomatic meltdown on Saturday. 21 feet of wall space I had to fill. 21 FEET!!! Well, not only do I not have the money to nicely frame that much stuff, but I simply have not been shooting long enough to even have the catalog of images I’d be proud — or even simply “not embarrassed” — to display. I had one idea for filling it but in the end it didn’t look good at all. So I went back on Sunday and changed spaces. Thanks to epmd for his proxying and selection of a large space though–if I’d’a thought I’d’a had the option of such a big space, I might have asked him to pick a smaller one, but it didn’t even occur to me that they’d have room like that given what I’d heard about past shows! Actually, I owe a lot of people for AOM favors: miscelena and kneb, bsivad, birdcage and the AOM board, furcafe…the usual cadre suspects. Gee, hope I didn’t forget anyone.

I’ll have to lay in much cash for all those drinks I’ll be buying them at the AOM bars.

uh…I’m nominated…

9 April, 2007

UPDATE: OK, I wasn’t eliminated. Time for my ego and I to check out, especially as now it becomes clear I AM filler (of the innocuous kind, which is fine by me). Indeed, it’s hard to escape the impression that the whole BDCB site is filler for the “DC blog wars.” I was vaguely aware of them when I was attending more meetups and happy hours, last winter and spring, and I thought they were a fluke of some kind, or something that people had outgrown…apparently not. Anyway, the less said about them, the better. My snark skills are NOT up to the task, esp not at midnight.

Don’t vote for me right now, because it’s an elimination round.

Apparently the nom procedure is not as rigorous as all that. Whatevs.

Scarily, the competition is now for “the BEST and the SEXIEST.” Now that’s a higher bar.

I only half-follow the Best DC Blog site. I should RSS it, it’s often amusing — I haven’t so far because it’s so often got that slam book snarky vibe that reminds me of the junior high whimpering on the bed that I used to do. Anyway, this morning I noticed a link from it in my logs. How odd, I’m not a commenter there or on their blogroll. Well, it seems I have been nominated for Sexiest Female Blogger. By Michelle Malkin no less! (OK, really a Michelle Malkin hater. That’s 2 points in your favor, Michelle Malkin Naked.) Another mystery wrapped in an enigma. Have we met, MMN?

Perhaps I am meant to be filler for the list, and would be crossed off at an early stage with a snarky comment. Crossed off eventually would be OK, as I’m unlikely to win where there are far more exhibitionist types in the DC female blogger community. But to be first to go….ouch. The junior high bed-whimpering instincts are strong, but I got the psychological and physical chops to play this game now: confidence in myself, 20/20 vision, boobs, relatively flattering clothes, all the stuff I didn’t have back in the day when “She’s Like The Wind,” “Together Forever,” and “I Wanna Have Some Fun” were on Z95* and vests and bubble skirts were in…the FIRST time.

So, let the objectification begin.  Or, rather, resume: I have after all already posted/blogged this image.


That’s about all that’s PG rated (or is cleavage PG-13 now?) that I will share, image- or story-wise. After all, my mother reads this blog. Hi Mom! (Although she gets far less grossed out by these things than my sister does. Hi sister!)

Would it help to make an appearance at a blogger happy hour, in a nice little v-neck and heels? (I Blame the Patriarchy readers: they will, of course, be comfortable heels. I don’t own any other type. Hey, I never claimed to be a radical** feminist. Unfortunately for me, Katie Roiphe was an influence at this tender age too…although I’m also not a lipstick feminist.)
*I owned all of these songs. If you wish to mock me, I’d like to hear YOUR Worst-Of of what you were listening to in 1988. Anyway, I mark this as a dark era of prehistory to my musical awakening which began in 1991 with REM’s Out Of Time and Primus’ Sailing the Seas of Cheese. Also, during the late 80s my mom played a lot of Leonard Cohen and WXRT, which was at its peak then. This made me much cooler later on.

**I typed “radial feminist” at first. Heh.

the manolo

31 January, 2007

The Techne, she has been meaning to tell you for a while about the blog of the Manolo (the accent parody of which she is emulating).

At first she would pretend that she was merely reading the Manolo’s column in the course of her reading the Express paper of the Friday. When she started turning to the Manolo first thing, she knew it was the self-delusion to say that she was not a fan. Still, the Techne, for some reason she has the pride, and will feel a little embarrassed in such pleasures of the guilt.

But this is sillier than even the accent of the Manolo. The Manolo, he is not only super fantastic, he educates. For example, there is The Gallery of the Horrors, a good starting place where there are many harsh words about the Uggs and the many varieties of ugly clog available today. He also inspires. On the most depressing day of the year, he lifted the spirits with the photo of the outrageous Pucci boots:

Surely this was a public service. I was inspired to purchase boots just like this! But mine are not Pucci, they are Kenneth Cole Reaction. And they are the chocolate brown. And the heels they are wedges. And the embellishment is limited to the stitching on the seams, which is of the lighter color. And there is a faux fur turndown at the top which is meant to be worn with the jeans tucked in, which makes the Techne look like the wintry ski bunny and not like the manic socialite. And they were not $1000 of the dollars, but were on the sale in the basement of Filene for the 40% off, bringing their price into the Techne’s range of the double digits.

So yes, thank you Manolo for inspiring the purchase of the winter boots. I await suitable weather in DC in which to wear them.

I note also that the Manolo, he has a line of the merchandise. I think you will agree that the shirt on the bottom of the page, it is most appropriate for the Techne. It remains only for the Techne to decide between the black and the super-fantastic pink. The one above it, it is also the hilarious.

hail to the end of January

29 January, 2007

UPDATED: added Liz’s recipe, so people can get it straight from their RSS.  It’s below.

ALL HAIL WORDPRESS: I’ve been Latest Obsession for a year. My anniversary passed in a whirl of family crisis and January has been so busy I haven’t yet processed a single photograph. (OK, I did take the breast cancer ad picture, but that was a cameraphone.) Let’s not discuss how depressing that’s been, although my eye seems to be too tired to see anything, so it’s not like I’m feeling pressed for time, just not all that creative. Despite last week’s post about the protest, when the day actually came I realized I didn’t want to go down to the Mall and deal with it. (I’d had about 7 hours of sleep over the previous 48.) “So you’re pro-war then?” a friend asks. Snicker. (I have to say though, of all the major protest actions around this war, this one felt the least useful. When a war is incipient, new or popular, marching aginst it seems more purposeful than when it’s unpopular. )

ALL HAIL BRAINPOWER: One thing I have been able to do is read. This is notable because my dissertation seemed to stunt my attention span so much that I didn’t even have the patience for a New Yorker. Yep, my dissertation, as in the thing I was working on TWO Januarys ago. My ability to read for pleasure has been growing back, it seems; I didn’t notice at first but I’m actually reading a NOVEL right now, and it wasn’t even written by Kim Stanley Robinson. For some reason I started keeping track of the books I’ve read this year, and I realized I was on pace for one a week. So I think I’ll make that a goal.

ALL HAIL SECOND-GENERATION ANTIDEPRESSANTS: In other happy news, my cat Sue is a lot better than he was last fall. My vet put him on Prozac and it is really doing the trick. He’s pleasant to have around, even, as he hasn’t been since he was an only cat. So he’s off the market, but thanks for your interest, everyone, and your help. Oddly now it’s T-Bone who is a little anxious. He does this thing where he’ll lightly claw me (to get my attention) and then act like he wants me to pet him, but when I do he merely tolerates it and then walks away. You’d think a brain my size could figure out what’s going on in a brain his size…maybe I should slip him a little drugs too…


ALL HAIL RESALE STORES: I need new clothes. The effects of last January’s Heartbreak Diet (main effect: size 4) are disappearing, and all the skinny-person jeans I had to buy for that are now a weeeeeeeee bit tight. And the stuff I’m growing back into, well…it was old when it fit me the last time, and is painfully unstylin’. I prefer in my sartorial life to be at worst wincingly unstylin’. So a two-pronged approach. 1: The HD weight loss came about through eating too little, not exercise: even well after the H was repaired, I had quite literally forgotten how to eat and shop for groceries. And then I went home for Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and Family Crisis, all of which basically mean: carbs. So now if I want my skinny ass back I have to do it the hard way, by like, moving my body around, and stuff. I’ve been wimping out and waiting for the bus lately on my commute, so I’ll cut back on that. And I’m half-considering training for a long race, but considering how hard I find it to make time to run and how much I hate running in the heat, I doubt it will happen. Enter Prong 2: shopping. In my pursuit of Prong 1 today I was in Bethesda for a dance class, and stopped by Mustardseed on my way home, where I dropped over $100 for about 12 items of clothing. You gotta love numbers like that.

ALL HAIL DA BEARS: I may be having the world’s least likely Superbowl party. So: a Muslim, a Hindu and a Jew (2 of 3 vegetarians) are analyzing some genetic data. It comes out that they all have plans to watch the Bears in the Superbowl next week. We decide to watch it together, but all I can think about is: what the fuck are we gonna eat?? Is it the Superbowl without my friend Liz’s unbelievably yummy bacon dip? I don’t think so….speaking of which, hey Liz, how bout that recipe?

Liz, comin ‘through, posted this to comments:

Man, I’ve been outed.


1 lb bacon (i like a good quality thick cut bacon, but use what you have.)
16 oz sour cream (yeah i use light, but if you’re hard core, don’t)
1 cup Hellman’s Real Mayonnaise (DO NOT SUBSTITUTE)
4 – 5 Fresh Roma tomatoes
1 tsp garlic powder
Fresh ground pepper

Fry the bacon crisp (i bake it on a jelly roll pan at 400 for 10 minutes and keep an eye on it). Drain on paper towels and chop up.

While that is cooking – slice the tomatoes on the y-axis in half and scoop out the brains. Dice those up into ~1/4 inch pieces. I somtetime salte and drain these in a sieve. soemtimes i don’t – it’s fine either way.

Mix the sour cream, mayo, maters, bacon and garlic powder in a bowl. Add a healthy grind or 5 of fresh ground pepper. Pop it in the fridge for an hour or two and serve with Ritz or Town House crackers.

Yes, I did have a post about family crisis-related stuff, but I pulled it to work on it some more. Of course, I haven’t had the time or desire, so I may just put it up as-was. The topic was what to say to newly grieving people, since I heard a lot of “I don’t know what to say” type comments, and it’s actually not as difficult as people think to say the right thing. (Hint: let THEM talk.)