Saturday, February 26, 2005

mac and i go hiking

click here to go to the beginning of the story, then scroll up to follow the posts chronologically. remember, you can get a bigger image if you click on a picture.

i was wet to the thigh

it wasn't too cold out, so being wet wasn't a hardship.

these boots deserve an homage. years ago, GP convinced me to buy them from sierra trading post. amazingly, they fit perfectly and are fantastically comfortable. today alone, they probably prevented lots of damage to my ankles.

mac was wet all over. i'll be surprised if he isn't sore. his feet looked ok the whole way.

this was the pay-off. unfortunately, when i was at its feet, the spray was everywhere and i didn't want to risk the camera from there. so this picture misses a lot of what it looked like. also, it misses how amazingly loud it was. standing at the base, the wind and cold took away my breath.

we forded all kinds of stuff that looked like this. mac was a hero and a trooper. i learned a lot about hiking in a river. we crossed the river at least eight times. at first i tried to cross it on trees and stuff. at one point it was impossible, and we had to wade across. after that, i decided my camera faced better odds with me wading across the river than with me trying to cross more precariously but drier.

The hiking story begins here

this is the river in millard canyon. it normally is much more tame than this. it's swollen by our recent rain.

mac and i went for a hike a mile or so up the river to the falls. i have never been before. on our way there, we passed through the campsite where i stayed after i had accepted caltech's offer, when i came down to look for an apartment. it was the first time i'd gone camping by myself.

My gray hair!

Seriously, you have to click on this picture to see the larger version. My hair is finally ready for its closeup. I think it has a friend, but the friend isn't as photogenic. If I have a whole head of hair like that, it's going to fantastic. I'll shoot for my Andy Warhol look. The hair is not only white, it's very rough in texture and kinky. Having had smooth straight hair my whole life, I'm ready for something new. I wouldn't mind waiting until I have a tenure-track position before going gray though.

Friday, February 25, 2005

When setbacks don't overwhelm

This morning I planned to go by the lab and transfer some bacterial cells from a small container into a larger container with more growth medium. What would normally have taken 10 minutes took 45 and a series of alternative routes. The cells are usually grown in a shaker, something that looks like a chest-refrigerator with a window on the door, as above (with someone's idea of a scientist using it). It keeps the cells at a set temperature, often 37 degrees celsius, and rotates your flasks, usually at 250 rpms. I don't know why bacterial cells like to be grown at such vigorous rotation; it seems pretty violent to me.

The shaker that belongs to our lab was full of flasks from another lab. When I went to look at a shaker on the floor below us, it was broken, clearing up the mystery of why our shaker was full of another lab's stuff. Using other people's equipment is essential to smooth operations, and we have used theirs before in a similar situation just last week. I asked a bacteria maven in our lab for advice, and she loaded me up with adapters for the flasks and sent me to a shaker farther away that is known not to have adapters for the size flasks I was using (2 liter). Then we couldn't find a screwdriver to swap out the adapters. A screwdriver! After I had decided to try to use a too-big flat head screwdriver, I found the screwdriver hoarder and the appropriate screwdriver. Stuff like this makes me want to emulate HC and build up my own supplies of things. I carry a decent set of stuff from home in my purse, but I was just walking bad dog - I had keys and poop bags and that's it.

Next, I went to the shaker, which involved taking a cart with my two 2-liter flasks, adapters, screws, screwdrivers and my emergency brandy two floors down on the elevator. Just kidding about the brandy. Our adapters didn't fit in their shaker. I went to the lab whose shaker it is. They didn't know where the adapters were, but eventually we found them. Then, I installed the adapters and it worked. If this had happened yesterday, I would have folded at the first setback. I'm doing better.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

the mood tailspin persists

ug. i had a helpful talk with HC today, but depression is on me like a fog. i got up and swam, and i've been productive in the lab, and i've eaten well, but still with the well of sorry behind my eyes. still with the worst possible interpretations of everything. still with the grim outlook. still with the difficulty reaching out to people.

rule #7034

don't wait until you know enough to feel comfortable doing something for the first time. when you do it for the first time, you shouldn't feel comfortable. prioritize learning the things you really must know, and then go experiment.

this is a very hard rule for me. i just spent a lot of time trying to figure out how i could copy files with long filenames to the file server. apparently no one else was having this problem. the documentation says that the program is supposed to support copying files with long filenames from windows. finally, i went into the configuration file for the server after making a copy of it to revert to if i broke things, and deleted the entire section on how it handles file names. viola!

me vs unix

a few times i've tried to install linux on spare computers. recently i bought a $200 computer from with lindows installed. i'm finding it pretty simple; they try to replicate a windows interface. there were a couple of problems that i couldn't resolve without digging into text files. my plan is for it to be my file server; i'm leaving it in my office.

it has taken a while to get the file sharing going. the lindows box runs samba. i was unable to access it without giving it a fixed IP address. the next problem was that i couldn't restrict access. that's the first thing that took me into the configuration files. now i'm having issues with long file names; i can't copy a long file name from a windows computer to the lindows computer.

once i get the dvd drive installed in the lindows box, i should have a pretty great backup system. i'll probably have to experiment to get it running smoothly. my goal is to have backups immediately available, and also archived to dvd and offsite. i also want a copy of all current data on both of my windows computers, so that i can use it when i'm not online. i'm online almost all the time, and i plan to use the active files directly from the lindows computer. this should solve my problem of trying to share files from home and the lab, a problem which i mostly solve now by keeping all my files on my laptop and walking that back and forth to work.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

McDonald's opens a new restaurant every four hours

today was dominated by an unfortunate mood tailspin, surely the result of a combination of missing my recently seen good friends and the (for me) general stress of socializing. hopefully tomorrow will be better.

spinster pointed out that mcdonald's has trademarked "i am asian" and has a website at with text like this:
Whether we're celebrating one of our cultural holidays or enjoying a Big Mac sandwich, we're helping make the magic mix called America become even richer. And McDonald's is right there with us, everyday! We are proud of our cultural heritage.
remember, don't forget to acknowledge mcdonald's trademark any time you use "i am asian." oh, did i forget? where's that TM symbol, anyway?

Monday, February 21, 2005

kj and mac

Hunter S. Thompson (1939-2005)

from boingboing:
Hunter S Thompson "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

The guy was a addict and a genius. I love his resilience, his ability to maintain his criticism at full volume year after year. From my own experience with angry addicts, I fear that the addiction and the resilience are interrelated. It is uncomfortable to be so angry for so long. Surely booze and other substances mask the discomfort, as well as generating their own tendencies toward anger. It's something we've seen with other great artists: madness or addiction, or both, limiting the impact of social marginalization, and facilitating access to creativity, vision, and righteousness. The social marginalization can even facilitate the artists' drive, with madness or addiction transmuting disconnection into persecution. I believe that we as a culture benefit from having artists and firebrands around. The question of personal cost is tricky. Do we lose artists in rehab, through medication? Do artists have access to rehab and medication? I have a friend who doesn't want to be happy, who says that his discomfort with the world feels authentic. I know that when I am not depressed, I am more resilient to the slings and arrows. Surely that resilience, the absence of extended meditation on the sorrows, limits my ability to address them.

Here's another quote, from his 2003 book "Kingdom of Fear."
We have become a Nazi monster in the eyes of the
whole world--a nation of bullies and bastards who
would rather kill than live peacefully. We are not
just Whores for power and oil, but killer whores with
hate and fear in our hearts. We are human scum, and
that is how history will judge us...No redeeming
social value. Just whores. Get out of our way, or
we'll kill you.

Who does vote for these dishonest shitheads? Who
among us can be happy and proud of having this
innocent blood on our hands? Who are these swine?
These flag-sucking half-wits who get fleeced and
fooled by stupid rich kids like George Bush?

They are the same ones who wanted to have Muhammad Ali
locked up for refusing to kill gooks. They speak for
all that is cruel and stupid and vicious in the
American character. They are the racists and hate
mongers among us--they are the Ku Klux Klan. I piss
down the throats of these Nazis.

And I am too old to worry about whether they like it
or not. Fuck them.
Well, Hunter, goodbye. You have my thanks and my sorrow for your pain.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

A 24 hour trip to the Bay Area

The best place to start is here. Don't click on anything until the page is fully loaded and has moved the view away from the top of the page. Navigate up from there.

The rain was fierce from here on in.

The approach to Tejon pass, about 90 miles from LA.

The car doesn't have a name yet.

Later I stopped and took this picture. I was on top of a hill. It was identified by a "scenic overlook" sign on the highway. There was a semi-trailer and a pickup truck on the hill. Neither showed signs of life. I didn't feel unsafe, but It made me think of the luxury of traveling with a big dog.

Hey, whose car is that? It's mine! I wanted an Element with manual transmission, all wheel drive, side airbags, and silver paint with blue panels. Apparently people in LA don't want to drive stick shift cars. The the only Element in the state that matched my specs was in Berkeley. I flew up cheaply on Saturday afternoon, bought the car, socialized and drove back the next morning. Happily, I got to see Galen and Natalie, kj, and Mike, along with a little bit of International Bear Rendezvous weekend. Mike took me to Lone Star. I was the only woman at Lone Star, among probably 150 or so men. Being, as Mike says about himself, a hundred pounds lighter than everyone else in the room sure made me feel little and feminine.

Mike and I agreed that this is not nature (the trees with the pink blossoms are cultivated), but it was pretty enough to get me to pull of the highway.

I love the windmills. There are miles of them.

The weather on the 580 toward Modesto was good, and I got a preview of the green that was along the whole drive.

Waking up in San Francisco

Friday, February 18, 2005

The big picture

Today I finished one experiment and started another. That sounds like a logical progression, but really I started the experiment before I finished the one before it. I had gotten enough results from first one to know that I only got half the results I needed. I screwed something up with the other half, and I don't know what. You might say, think back. Did anything seem confusing? Well, happily (?), figuring out whether I screwed something up is not hard. Yes, I screwed something up. I screwed many things up. None of them really explain the fact that half of the experiment produced data and half didn't. HC and I have one plausible theory. In any case, I repeated the first half of the experiment today. I may never know what went wrong.

The picture above is an image of some of my results. They are part of the good half. There are two things a person might mean by "good results." One is that they get an answer to the question they ask. Here, I am asking, does this protein exist in this part of the brain? My question is answered. The bad aspect of the bad results I got was that they were completely uninformative. I did something wrong and didn't get any bands on my image. The other kind thing a person could mean by "good results" are results that agree with a person's hypothesis. It's understandable to have a pet theory, but, as MK says, you have to trust your data. If it's telling you something that's not what you expected, you need to re-think things. There's a middle ground of "good results," the kind that are confirming preexisting knowledge. Again, it's understandable to want your results to conform to accepted dogma, but if they don't, that's interesting too.

Just the Facts

This is a version of the picture above, cropped and manipulated to emphasize the difference in the three bands.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

polyanna now?

i've been feeling definitively better, depression-wise, for the past couple days. looking back, it's amazing how depression twists my thinking and perceptions. i can appreciate people for who they are instead of blaming them for what i'm missing. case in point, SM, my office-mate. yesterday he was talking about syria and lebannon, laughing at how the US was trying to spin things to its advantage. i appreciated his view, and thought about what a luxury it is to be around people from all over the world. i get to hear interesting viewpoints without trying very hard. when i was depressed, this was completely overshadowed by my longing for people weirder (in a good way) than i am. i still think it would be good for me to meet some more people, but the need has a different tenor now.

emergency response time

my place is 4 blocks from a fire house. today AH and i were home for lunch when we heard a car crash. we looked outside and saw the cars in the intersection in unexplainable positions. ten minutes later, when i walked through the intersection on my way back to school, there were four emergency vehicles there and more arriving. it made me glad to live so close to the fire house. surprisingly, we don't get too much siren noise. my friend SM lives on the same street as the fire house and said that they often turn on the sirens directly outside his house, which is more disturbing than the steady approach and departure of the noise.

Monday, February 14, 2005

what to do on valentine's day

1) enhance the sex life and general well-being of mice.
holly, who is sweetly concerned for the well-being of our mices [sic], has picked the mice that are alone in a cage as the ones we're going to kill tomorrow, because living alone is very stressful for a mouse. we have three males and one female. you can't put males together in a cage without them fighting, but she did put the female in with a male for tonight. have a good night, little mice.

2) torture a loved one.
the ear medicine arrived today, and, with AH's help, i treated bad dog's ears. he was quite patient, but i know it hurt. hopefully they'll get better quickly.

3) find out that you've got no soul.
and i don't mean i can't dance. DM, who went to Aida with us yesterday, talked about getting chills during the performance. i was not that swept up in it. i liked it, but more cerebrally.

4) get sweet valentine's day cards from your family.
i was touched.

5) listen to the police helicopters of Los Angeles circle while you walk the dog.
unfortunately, this activity can only be carried out in los angeles. when i was considering moving here, a LA native warned me about the high amount of police helicopter (not black helicopters) activity here. tonight, mac and i were temporarily lit up by the spotlight which made 4 circles around the area during our short walk. they seem to have found what they wanted a few blocks from here.

ok, so 3 and 5 weren't so valentine's day oriented, but i like lists.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

you've gotten tough, says ani

i just came from seeing ani difranco in concert. that woman can make some noise. it was just her and a guy playing the upright bass. she was really energetic. it was a fun excuse to get dressed up and see some flavor of "my people," people i might imagine to be rare in LA. there were girls who looked like they could have been at a brittany spears concert, lots of women wearing kind of drab clothes, and some women wearing clothes that i was excited to see: clothes that said queer, or fashion forward, or both.

there was a very loud woman behind me who would shout out in the middle of quiet slow songs "i love you ani!" and "i love the way you play guitar, ani!" i actually cringed the first time she shouted. i told myself it was ridiculous to cringe on her behalf, and that i should be able to let other people do their thing. but i cringed again in response to her next outburst.

there were a lot of lesbians at the concert. some of the brittany girls were hanging on each other, and i had the uncharitable thought to wonder if their motivations went beyond increasing their attractiveness to boys. something about their behavior suggested that its display was the most gratifying part of it.

the smoke (from the stage and a little from pot smokers) didn't kill my lungs or well-being. i did get a headache, but some advil helped that. again, my improved asthma meds come through. amazing.

although i was fairly misanthropic throughout the concert, i was happy to be there. there was no seating, but there was room to stand away from the crush of the crowd and still see ani. i think it was really good for me to go to the concert, given how stifled i've felt by pasadena lately. i really need to broaden my social circle. i need to hang out with some people who are weirder and more out-there than me in some hard-to-define way, people who will inspire me and let me feel on the normal side every once in a while. in the past i've found people through volunteer organizations, political organizations, karate, school. to accomplish it here, i think i must become part of an institution that is physically located closer to the center of the city. until i have a car, i'm not going to be able to commit to it. i don't even know what 'it' is yet.

bad dog, who i fed and walked before the concert, needs a quick walk. here i go out into the pasadena night, in my leather pants, mirror ring, and sparkly jacket. tomorrow i go to the opera. what a weekend.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Now I walk the camera as well as the dog

This morning's weather reminds me of dramatic Colorado summer weather. I wanted to capture the sun on the mountains and the way the mountains disappear into clouds that look ominous at the base but fluffy and harmless on top. The close-up below shows that better. I climbed the stairwell in my building to get a better angle for the picture. When I got to the top, the gate to the roof of my building was open, and I had more options than I had hoped. Often the best places to take pictures from in Los Angeles are parking garages. They are easy to access, ubiquitous, and the same height or taller than most other buildings.

A hedge of note

I still don't know what he was looking at.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

"Bear with me"

This phrase recently has been adopted by the two physicists in my lab. Both of them have trouble explaining their work to the rest of us, because their work and English are both hard to understand. They have discovered that "bear with me" gives them a few extra minutes when the protests start. It's a perfectly appropriate idiom for them. The other day I heard one of them use it on the other, and it nearly killed me.

How to get no work done

i did hardly any work today. i got up, chased down and harassed the jackasses* who published my name change notice, walked woofie, went to the happy meds lady (more meds! that's what she said), went to lunch with the grad students in my lab including a rotation student who we were evaluating/wooing, went to the lab and moved desks around (i moved light stuff and got other people to move heavy stuff, my wrist/arm is feeling better but not that much better), went to the gym, got back to the lab and went to get burger and pie with hc. now i'm home. early tomorrow i'm due in court to say that i'm not trying to defraud anyone by changing my name. hopefully then they'll give me a piece of paper saying i'm legit with my not-really-new name.

*blogger wanted to change jackasses to Chickasaws.

last week i overheard a couple of professors talking about a talk they wanted to go to tonight. i just looked it up; art speigelman is speaking on campus. going to see him would probably help me feel less lost in the cultural wasteland of pasadena, and i would surely enjoy going to see him. on the other hand, i have a headache and am tired from my non-day, and i really want to stay home and watch alias and lost. if i had known about it earlier and made arrangements to go with a friend, i might have gone.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

These peppers were sweet, but I was sour

for what seemed like an eternity, today and yesterday i've been watching the highlight (lowlight?) reels of every cringe-worthy thing in my life. mostly it's '[real or inflated] bad things i've done.' instead of commercials, i get '[real or inflated] bad things people have done to me.' it's loads of fun. and all the intellectual insight i can muster doesn't cause a break in the show. finally i got a little bit of work started and went to the gym, and that seems to have helped some. it's amazing to me how steadily that kind of mental story can chug along, and how devastating it is. i can't imagine what it's like for people who hear it more than i do. sorry for the depressing entry - i am feeling better tonight.

Monday, February 07, 2005

the uninteresting crippled murderer

today i learned there is a time to protect one's ego. i presented at today's lab meeting. remind me not to do a presentation in which i'm trying to figure out how to do an experiment. i thought it would be useful for me, and it was, but not as useful as i'd hoped, and more ego-bruising than i had feared.

metafilter lead me to this, a really good article about life in columbian barrios.
To say this of human beings is to say both the best and the worst. They can get used to anything. And I got used to it too. You find yourself thinking: if I had to live in El Distrito, I wouldn't stay at Kevin's but at Ana Milena's, where they have cable TV and that nice serving hatch from the kitchen to the living room... Similarly, I now found myself thinking: you know, this crippled murderer isn't nearly as interesting as the crippled murderer I interviewed the day before yesterday.
i've also been enjoying the blog called "Bad Mother" lately, which is by Ayelet Waldman, wife of the fantastic fiction writer Michael Chabon. now i'm dying to read her books.

my roommate AH asked if i would mind if she had people over tonight to celebrate a birthday of S, a mutual friend of ours. i had to ask her not to bring people over - we've had people over two out of the last three nights, and i need some time to wind down. i feel a little bad, but i think my decision was reasonable, between our recent hostessing and the lack of notice. the lack of notice was not AH's fault; S only decided today that she would be willing and able to take time from her research for a celebration. S has been working hard in preparation for a meeting on wednesday. sadly, i'm not even going out to the birthday dinner. i'll try to make an effort to take S out to lunch for her birthday. it's the first time she's ever had her birthday without her twin.

I had a party, and I didn't cry

Nearly shocking, right? There was lots of food. The Superbowl was watched. People came over and sat on everything with a horizontal surface. Mac was overjoyed. Mac licked the (lower, out-) side of the bowl of guacamole and a dish AH makes with cheese in it, called, wait for it, queso. The football game was good, but you already know that, or you don't care. We have enough food to eat exclusively junk food for a week. Tomorrow is the third week in a row that I'm scheduled to present at the lab meeting. Two weeks ago I FORGOT I was scheduled to present. Last week my boss wasn't at work that day, unbeknownst to the scheduler of the meetings. So tomorrow may be the actual presentation day. I've just spent a couple of hours working on the presentation, and the great news is that my hand and wrist don't hurt too much. I'll take some advil and hopefully wake up to a fully functional hand. Such joy.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Did I mention my new camera?

i signed up for blockbuster's movie rental service. for quite a while, i've had the same three movies. does that mean i haven't watched any tv in the past month? no. it means that the movies i've had have been "fog of war,"mystic river," and "jefftowne," all heavy movies that i haven't wanted to watch. i waste of money. i've felt i should watch them. even when i realize that i haven't watched them yet, it's hard to turn them on.

today i watched "mystic river." it was quite good. tim robbins was amazing, as always, but exceptionally good. soon, i'll be getting new movies. and the next round won't be as deep, you can count on that.

did the presenter of the live sag award updates just call hilary swank "hilary suede?"

today anne and i went to costco to prepare for tomorrow's superbowl party. it's been a hard couple days - my arm still hurts from mac's cat chase, and i'm terrible at dealing with pain. it's also hard not to use one's right arm.

Thursday, February 03, 2005


when i got back to my apartment this morning from my walk with bad dog, there was a cat loose in my hall. mac went through the door first, saw it before i did, and took off after it, pulling the leash out of my hand. they went around the corner of the hall and them came flying back around to me. i tackled mac and put him in the apartment. then i went to find the cat. i was reassured by the fact there wasn't blood on the carpet. the cat had gone out the door that mac and i had just come in, which means the whole adventure happened so fast that the door didn't have time to close. when i found the cat out in the open stairwell, she was still breathing hard with dilated pupils, but seemed intact. i don't know if she's a stray or belongs to someone in the building. once i came back in the apartment and made sure that mac still had both his eyes and that his nose was intact, i realized that i strained my arm. so i've been icing and elevating it. i'm so alert to all kinds of hazards to dog and to people walking dogs in the outside world: skateboards, cars, squirrels, etc., but i was not expecting a cat in my hallway. i think bad dog enjoyed himself though.

later i found out that the cat belonged to my neighbor, who says it's the first time the cat had gotten out in 14 years. my neighbor was grateful that i told her that her cat was out and where to find her. i don't think she really took in the fact that her cat had a near-death experience.