Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Month: November, 2002

Today is World AIDS Day.

They speak for themselves:
JAMA HIV/AIDS Resource Center
The Body
Official Journal of the International AIDS Society
The AIDS Memorial Quilt
The CDC National Prevention Information Network

Despite the saying “It’s the thought that counts,” people are materialistic and like actually getting something tangible. Anyone who says otherwise are lying and deluding themselves.

I usually don’t have a problem with this. Most of the time I’m buying gifts for friends or family and I know what they would like to get. It’s not a guessing game. I would just go to the store with the item, buy it, wrap it up, and stick some sort of card on the package. Voila. I’m done.

It gets quite sticky with people I don’t know so well. Usually a card might work or simply a heartfelt, “Happy Birthday”, but it gets quite frustrating when they give me a gift first. It doesn’t matter what the gift is, because the whole entire situation turns into a bizarre example of a zero sum game where the rewards are respectability and “being nice” instead of money. In order to keep up, the next time there’s a special day, I feel obligated to get them a gift too. And I end up completely flustered because I don’t know what they want from me and I just want to break down and plead “insanity” to get out of a game which I didn’t want to play in the first place.

There are a few things I can conclude from this. I’m making things more complicated than they should be. I’m inept at reading other people’s intentions. Or people are being delibrately obfuscating. If it’s the very latter, I’d just wish they’d stop waffling with social niceties and come out and tell me what’s really on their mind.

On another note:
I finally have my photos up. These pictures taken at a cozy bed and breakfast place secluded in the lakes region inspired the setting for my writing project earlier this month.

Black Friday

Someone once told me that the term “Black Friday” referred to the financial status of businesses on the day after Thanksgiving. For most of the year, stores would operate in the red, but once the shoppers come in full force for the start of the Christmas shopping season, they will once again operate in profit. I actually prefer the alternate meaning–that people buy so much that they go into bankruptcy–because a lot of people appear to be reckless spenders.

I find it fascinating to observe the crowd on a busy day. In contrast to sunny Pasadena where most of the people are trendy yuppie go-getters carrying cell phones and pagers and shopping bags from expensive stores, people in Upper Valley New Hampshire on a whole seem a lot more down-to-earth and practical. Of course, that could also be the result of cold weather and snow.

Today was a big day for sales and people tramped outside despite the falling snow to head to the stores in lemming-like herds. But even over the mob behavior, it was interesting just to watch individual people. A family of women speaking a bastardized form of French mixed with English bought three microwaves. A fat man wearing low-slung jeans in an effort to look cool practically mooned an entire busload of people when he got up for his stop. Two adolescents, one with a skateboard and another with a video camera, prowled around town looking for trouble. Whiny children tagged along with long suffering parents. Bums slouched outside stores smoking and stamping their feet while not far away, a Salvation Army volunteer bundled up like an Eskimo rang his bell.

A kiddie movie I saw today:
Treasure Planet. I sat in front of a pair of catty mothers bickering about PTA meetings and fundraisers while their kids were shouting out periodically in the movie. I sat behind a harried father attempting to control his tantrum-throwing and sulking children. Yes, observing the audience is half the fun.

Box Fetish

I keep trying to tell myself that I’m not a packrat, but I don’t think these constant mantras are helping.

Lately, I’ve discovered a love of collecting boxes. Like those small fancy coffee and cookie tins. Large cardboard boxes. Plastic boxes. Cardboard boxes that used to contain packets of jello. Even jam jars. One time I saw a sign that said “Free Boxes”. I took home an armload of small paper boxes that could be used to store index cards. Except I don’t have any index cards.

My obsession with collecting things once got me in trouble. When I was in high school, I collected pencils. Any and every kind. During the height of my mania, I had to do college interviews. Needless to say, my meeting with the young doctor who was an interviewer for one of the universities I applied for did not go well.

One day, I’ve got to make myself throw them all away before my roommates finally realize I’m crazy.

Pictures of Boxes on Google. Yum.
Origami Box. I know how to make lots and lots of them fit together like Russian nesting dolls.

Getting pictures developed around here are way too expensive. Perhaps I should invest in a digital camera. I will probably have the rest of my very boring nature photos up sometime later this week.

A Link:
Recommended Reading. Completely useless. They kept spewing popular weblogs at me which never interested me in the first place. Of course, this little site might be nicer to you.

One of my friends was complaining about how quaint everything was. “I mean look at that gas station!” he said pointing to a pretty yellow clapboard building with a white awning. Fancy gas pumps painted in the same cheery yellow were lined up neatly in a row. Nicknacks decorated the store’s window. “Even the gas station is quaint!”

“It’s not quaint,” I told him. “It’s gaudy.”

Most of yesterday and this morning, I was stuck in the epitome of tourist traps, Meredith, for a biochemistry retreat. Last night, I was a nervous wreck since another first year grad student and I were going to present a poster on some work that another grad student had done which was published in Science. We were the only first years presenting a poster, which was odd because we just got here relatively speaking, and I was afraid of making a hash out of someone else’s work. Thankfully, the judges thought we did pretty well.

And for anyone wondering about my participation in NaNoWriMo, I finished yesterday. If you’re curious, you can read my 51,040 words at Writing Sya. (Warning: This is a very rough draft, possibly with grammatical and spelling mistakes, and with plot holes big enough for an elephant to crawl through. I like the ending though. Dramatic and cheesy.)

Without further ado, the Tuesday Too:

1. What’s the longest time you’ve gone without posting an entry in your blog/journal? What was or is the reason behind your dry spell?

I’ve actually become more consistent in writing here ever since I switched to the blog format last year. Usually my dry spells are during holidays. I’m too lazy to look it up at the moment, but I’m guessing it’s the sporadic entries during 2000 and early 2001 every month or so.

2. Are you “going over the river and through the woods” for thanksgiving, or is the gang coming to your place? Perhaps you have something to be particularly thankful for this year. What is it?

Once again, I’m going to be by myself during Thanksgiving. I’m sure my roommates and I will plan something (most likely not a traditional turkey dinner). It’s not worth it to fly back home for two extra days. Christmas will be a different story.

3. All those bumper stickers that say, “I’d rather be…”, what does yours say?

Sleeping. I haven’t done much of that in a while.

Writing in public? I feel very self-conscious. I know that as writers, we should all have this “screw you, I’m driven by art to write” mentality, which in its very arrogance would demand respect from non-writers, but truthfully, I can’t be that arrogant. Oh, I may try looking the part by turning myself into a hermit, but all that would grant me will be strange stares by passersby.

What I’m deathly afraid of is that someone I know who’s in science will stumble onto my little hobby and not understand. Scientists should be solely obsessed with science. No one really says it, but I always get this impression that if you’re not stuck in lab for every minute of your life, you’re not truly dedicated to science. But damn it, I’m not that single-minded. I would like to be a little more complicated than a simple slave to science. Feynman, for instance, played the bongos and womanized in his spare time.

Well, I don’t play the bongos and I certainly don’t womanize, but I do write. But maybe I’m really content with this little neurosis about being accused of not being serious when I’m occupied with this compulsive hobby. I certainly gain a bit of elicit pleasure when I’m hiding behind a textbook in the laundromat to take notes when I’m actually writing instead.

More links today because I’m feeling brain dead after conversing with nerdy physics graduate students:
Don’t get too attached to that laptop. Or maybe he really wasn’t doing work on his computer.
In 1993 the US Geological Survey stopped collecting data from “unassociated events.” Too bad. I’d like to know what’s going on.
2002 Best Inventions. Some neato stuff.

Scientists Planning to Make New Form of Life. You know, with an arrogant guy like Venter spearheading this project, I’m not surprised. This is indeed a cool idea but it requires a certain amount of machismo (not to mention many sleepless nights) to pull off and brush aside the criticisms that these scientists are “playing God”. But to some extent, aren’t we all gods to our own fate already?

What’s the difference between a street, a road, an avenue, a boulevard, etc.? Normally, I wouldn’t care, but it would be nice if everything was a “street” so I wouldn’t get a headache attempting to remember everything.

Design For Chunks. Designs for doggie bags on airplanes. I can’t believe somebody has put effort into this.

As I walked home tonight, the sky above was inky and the air thick and misty. Even on the sidewalk, I didn’t feel quite safe. Fast drivers could still mow me over.

Global goofs: U.S. youth can’t find Iraq. This just makes me real mad. These kids are in my age group and they can’t even find the Pacific Ocean? I had to memorize all 95 counties in Tennessee. I had to learn the location of all the countries in the world from Southeast Asia/Polynesia down to those ridiculously tiny but long-named islands in the Caribbean. And all of this was before high school. All that education gone to waste.
Dark Passage. A fascinating yet morbid look into urban ruins.
The Internet Yodel Course. Practice makes perfect and makes the people who live with you think you’ve lost your head.
What Your Children Really Want This Holiday Season. It’s odd. I don’t remember my previous Christmases very clearly. I don’t even remember what I did on last year’s Christmas day except that I blogged rather incoherently about movies and books (which were borrowed from the library, mind you, not bought). I always found the holiday highly disappointing. When I was younger, I was jealous of other kids who had huge Christmas trees and presents piled three feet high. Now the commercialized shopping season is making me feel quite cynical. I don’t blame my parents. They spent money on me in other ways (like paying for music lessons). And now I’m just a poor student who can hardly afford sleeping in let alone getting presents.