Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

I came to the US when I was ten years old. Up until that point I have never heard of Halloween, as we didn't have this holiday in Russia. Even having lived in the US for a few months I had no idea what this holiday was all about, so when our school organized a Halloween festival, I just thought it was something to do with fall and harvest. My whole family went to this festival, and it was here that I first encountered a haunted house. The school had set up the trailer normally serving the function of a gym, as a haunted house. I asked my dad what a haunted house was, he didn't really know and translated it as a 'hunter's house'. Envisioning it to be like a comfortable log cabin with moose heads and a fireplace, my sister (13) and my brother (4) ventured inside the 'hunter's house'. My sister was in the front, carrying my brother, and I followed behind. Inside it was dim with spooky sounds, fake blood, severed limbs, and cobwebs. We were confused, but we saw that it was organized like a winding corridor, so we moved forward. The first time someone dressed in a costume jumped out at us I shut my eyes and started screaming. My brother started screaming too. My sister kept moving forward, but pretty soon we were all screaming 'we want to get out of here' in Russian. We didn't know why people were trying to scare us, we just wanted to get out. I didn't open my eyes until we were outside. Once we got out we started crying and it took some time for us to calm down. I don't think we stayed at the festival much longer after that. So my first Halloween was traumatic. We didn't know about trick-or-treating at the time so we didn't even get candy that first year. In subsequent years I grew to like Halloween. It was fun to make costumes and go around asking for candy. I think I still went trick-or-treating in highschool figuring I missed out all those years I was in Russia. Now I associate Halloween with Ray Bradbury books. He is my favorite author, and he is actually the first author whose books I read in English on my own. The way he writes you could almost see, smell and hear the events he is describing. Something wicked this way comes. is a great Halloween read. Another favorite is From the Dust Returned So tonight I won't be going trick-or-treating, and I will probably get home too late to pass out candy. But I'll probably end my day with Ray Bradbury.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Actions have consequences

This seems fairly obvious. If you leave home late you will be late to class. If you make an inquiry you will receive and answer. If you take a step forward you will see what is around the corner; conversely if you take no action you will remain stationary.
Sometimes the consequences are predicted and expected, other times they cause surprise. Sometimes the acticipation of a certain outcome prevents action or conversely the desire for a certain outcome drives action, but in both cases the outcome is not guaranteed to be as expected and sometimes leads to surprising and unexpected revelations. There are also those times when you do something just to make anything happen, because inaction can no longer be tolerated.


Monday, October 20, 2008

A lovesickness gene? and find out how toxic your make up is

Lovesick voles as a model for the human condition? What's more the result of this research seems to be a drug to cure the pain of separation. Read the story here.

Also, I read about an interesting resource called Skin Deep. It is a searchable database containing information of the safety of ingredients in various beauty products, from shampoos to lipstick. It is interesting to find out all the potential hazards that the impossible-to-pronounce ingredients of the bottles pose to my health, but a criticism that I have of this database is that is doesn't mention what doses elicit the harmful effects described.



Strength to me has for a long time been equated with self-sufficiency. Strong people get things done and don't ask for help. Too long I have thought this way. I always aspired to be a strong person and so did not develop a habit of asking for help. Luckily, over the past few years I have begun to realize that asking for help does not make one weak. Some things are just not feasible without assistance. In many cases the outcome of just about any project can be improved with another's input, even if that input is just a suggestion not a physical action. When a person is locked into their own perspective of things they are limited by the scope of their own knowledge and experience. Another person's input into the situation adds a different perspective and the combination of perspectives can bring to light a solution or idea that would not be considered otherwise.

I shake by head in disbelief as I write this; disbelief at being the one to say such things. As soon as (and for many years after) I read Ayn Rand's "The Fountainhead" in high school I was in love with the idea of individualism. In her world the only limitation to a person's potential was their own lack of motivation and effort. An individual was enough to achieve anything of their own choosing. It took me many years to realize that this kind of blind arrogance is actually detrimental. Not utilizing other people's knowledge, experience and capabilities may give you a sense of satisfaction at having achieved something all on your own, but it also prevents you from achieving something greater than what you alone are capable of. So I learned that asking for help is not weakness, in most cases its just plain smart. Having said that, after many years of not asking for help it is hard to break the habit. Being a smart, strong and capable person I often choose to struggle rather than ask for help. And needless to say, sometimes end up wasting a lot of time trying to complete, learn, figure out, solve or otherwise accomplish something which would be much more speedy with someone else's help. Sometimes I just need a reminder. So today I got one: I have a cold and feel so weak that its pathetic. I could barely climb the subway steps on my way to class this morning. But feeling this way made me remember that asking for help is OK sometimes. So I finally got around to posting a question on a online forum, a question that's been bugging me for some time and to which I could not find a satisfactory answer. Lo and behold people replied to my question! I don't know why, but I'm genuinely surprised at the kindness of people and their willingness to be helpful; it makes me happy. So today I don't mind being weak, because it helped me to let go of my attachment to self-sufficiency, and thus lead me to the answer to my question.


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Expandable Posts

Today I finally learned how to make posts expandable in Blogger, thanks to Ramani of Hackosphere. Check out his description of the hack here.


of fish and chicken...

The previous title of my blog come from the research I do.  I am a graduate student of biology, in my seventh (and hopefully, last) year of school.  The specific branch of biology I toil away in is developmental biology, which is basically trying to understand how the embryo develops the way it does.  When I began my research the organism I studied was chicken.  About a year ago I had to transfer to a new lab, and I started to work with zebrafish as well.  The first part of last year I was trying to salvage my seriously badly planned chicken project, and for the past 6-8 months I've worked on a new project with zebrafish, which so far has been going more smoothly (tphew, tphew, tphew, knock on wood) than the chicken project ever did.  Recently I've been taking steps to revive and salvage the chicken project, as I hope to include it as a chapter in my thesis.

Ah, yes the thesis.  For years I could not visualize my project coming to a conclusion and myself as having finished my PHD.  However, I am in my seventh year, and the fact that I'm still in school is starting to hit home.  I am excited at the prospect of having a real job.  So I need to get myself together and finish this thing.  Is it possible?  I think so.  It will take a lot of work on my part, but I believe I can do it.  What do I need to finish?  Well, first I need to get a substantial amount of results.  Next I would need to get 'my box checked' or in other words get approval from my dissertation advisory committee to go ahead and start writing.  Next there is a lot of paperwork, a lot of writing, a lot of scheduling and finding examination committee members and of course the defense itself.  Now for the deadlines: in order for me to get a June degree I need to have my defense by May 8th.  I need to submit the thesis to the committee two weeks in advance; it would take 4-6 weeks to write (haha super optimistic here) so I need to have my experiments finished by february and to have my box checked by then as well.  I will be having a dissertation advisory committee meeting in the beginning of December, about six weeks from now.  At this meeting I hope to convince my committee that I'm ready for the box checking. To have a case for this I need at the very least a thesis outline and a bunch of data figures and even better a draft of a paper (or two).  

I know this is a really ambitious plan, but I believe I can do it.  I have been in grad school long enough and the sooner I finish the sooner I can move to Japan and get a real job and be with my (future) hubby.....(dreamy sighing)
Back to reality:  I need a plan and I need to stick to this plan in order for any of this to work out.  I think I'm appropriately motivated now to start making a plan.  Stay tuned!