Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Month: December, 2002

Watch Me Grow My Beard. (via Evhead) I’m skeptical about all the pseudo-scientific claptrap this guy is spouting–he sounds like an over-analytical lit prof–but I’m posting this because, well, I just find it a little weird that somebody is posting progress on facial hair growth. (But just wait. Somebody is going to put up a blog to document armpit hair growth, I just betcha.)

On with the Tuesday Too:

1. Do you have the google toolbar?

No. I have Google already bookmarked. Besides, I don’t do that much searching on regular stuff. Who wants to do googling when you can do blasting instead?

2. You may be surprised when you test yourself for hidden bias at

I haven’t taken any of the tests yet, but I have glanced at the ones that they do offer. I’m going to say up front that I know I have biases towards all of their subjects–I’m human, not perfect. Compared to my parents, I know I’m more open-minded (or naive considering your point of view), but I try not to be discriminatory.

3. What’s floating your boat today?

My boat is on the verge of capsizing. I’m doing an all-nighter because I have a presentation for a lab meeting to do tomorrow.

Ugh. I feel as if my brain has been sucked out by a cephalophilic monster. Two more days.

I’m wondering if my school has possession of all the thoughts I jot down. I know that if anyone comes out with a brilliant idea as a student and jots it down, it automatically becomes the property of the school. It happened to the guy who invented the sticky glue to put behind post-it notes. He scribbled the idea down in the margins of his lab notebook on a lark and now his alma mater gets a lot of money from world-wide consumption of sticky notes. So if that is the case and I write something down as a student that will later be profitable (a breakthrough discovery or a popular trashy novel) will I lose all my rights of my idea to the institution?

Popdex. Is it just me or is there a sudden explosion of popularity indices on the web?

A fellow student recently expressed conflicted feelings over what she believes and what she was raised to believe. Science isn’t exactly conducive for believing in life after death or even God but she “feels good” whenever she attends mass. It’s a case of belief and fitting in; not following strict religious rules is not going to send anyone straight to hell, yet the sense of emotional well-being is also appealing.

In my experience, I have never “felt good” the times I was in a church service. Perhaps I’ve attended the wrong services, but I suspect what feels good to one person and boring to the next depends on the temperament. Some people may argue that religion teaches moral values–and for some it may–but I personally lay that accomplishment at my parents’ feet. The only things I have been bombarded with were messages of being “saved”, propaganda, and antiquated rules that really should be modified to fit in with the modern times.

Going to church because it feels good isn’t wrong by a long shot but none of this solves the faith limbo that many young scientists go through. You’re taught to question everything and suddenly you don’t know if anything is certain anymore. In childhood everything is solid and real because it is unquestionable. And then you get older and learn that there is no Santa Claus. There is no Easter Bunny. And the proverbial bottom of slippery slope the question, is there a God?

No one is born knowing what to believe or not. This boils down to personal experience and observation. But whether someone is a religious fanatic or the most stubborn atheist, once he or she has formulated life principles, these should be followed consistently. An atheist going to church to listen to the choir sing is one thing. But if you’ve decided to make asking questions part of your life, questioning some things and blindly believing others is hypocritical.

Comparative Mammalian Brain Collections. An excellent resource for any student taking brain physiology. I’ve seen primate, octopus, and barn owl brain slices under the microscope as well as having a fresh sheep brain sit on my desk for an entire term (for studying purposes, of course), but there’s some interesting slides on polar bear, weasel, and manatee on this site.
Quatloos! The cyber-museum of scams and frauds.

I love the snow. This morning, thick fat flakes fell from a slate gray sky, blanketing everything. The only bad thing is that it covers everything, from potholes to rocks to tree roots. I nearly fell on my face from slipping on something that had iced over underneath the snow.

My sense of the ridiculous is creeping up on me again, most likely due to end-of-the-term stress. I’m thinking of writing a letter to “Santa” and including a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) to see where the letter ends up and who replies, if anyone. I wonder if the same thing would work if I wrote a letter to the Easter Bunny.

Bonny’s belief in Santa brings a bit of magic. Okay, so I guess in this case, believing in Santa may make the life of a little girl with a lot of other problems somewhat better (emotionally, that is). But as I think back to the time when I was eight, I’m pretty sure I did not believe in Santa Claus. In fact, I’m not sure if I ever believed in Santa Claus. To me, Santa was like the characters in fairy tales–out of somebody’s imagination. Christmas had always held more of a religious significance for me because the first things I would think of would be stars, angels, a manger, and farm animals.

30S Ribosome, initiation factor one, tRNA!

I can’t get the music out of my head. This morning, I watched a really old movie made at Stanford. It was an interpretive dance routine about protein synthesis done to poetry and hippie rock. It was like Sesame Street on crack. Truly a classic.

The world would be a much happier place if we did interpretive dances for everything. I know, I know, I’m a total geek.

Stop codon! Stop codon! Stop codon….

On to somewhat more serious topics:
With Pancakes, Every Day Is Sunday. Recipes? I don’t need no stinkin’ recipes. If I had to use them, I never follow them to the letter. I approximate, substitute, eliminate, add. One cup of flour? I just dump some in until it looks okay to me. Of course, with my method, there’s a greater probability for screwing up.
Enneagram Test. They said I was a type four. But upon more careful examination, I have the same score for being a type nine. And the rest of the scores look like a bell curve peaking at four. I also took a different enneagram test several months ago and also scored for type four. I wonder what I will score if I take the test a few years from now.
Gingerbread. I was curious about its origins despite the fact that I don’t like gingerbread.

Here’s the Tuesday Too:

1. Have you, a friend or relative ever been without health insurance? For how long? Did you/they suffer any consequences?

I had some fish when I was around nine. After a few weeks, they went out in a flush of glory.

2. Tell us what’s really “under your bed”?

Invisible dust bunnies. With sharp teeth.

3. What’s the message in your fortune cookie?

The last fortune cookie I ate (which was about two weeks ago) said something to the effect of “When you are 40, you will be wiser.” Ha!

And Another Thing I Detest

Carrying a tray of stained agarose, I punch the up button waiting for the ping and the grinding slide of the elevator doors. I should have taken the stairs instead. More healthier. But that thought is soon swept away. Why would I want to run up seven flights of stairs with hazardous substances that might get smashed into someone running the opposite direction?

When the doors slide closed, I realize I have a headache. And it’s not due to lack of sleep or stress. There’s a distinctive odor lingering in the air. Cigarette smoke. Smoking isn’t allowed in the building, so why on earth would it smell this way? Cigarette-scented air freshner? I’m about to gag and cough when the elevator halts and the doors open. I stumble out and I see the department secretary glare at me over her horn-rimmed glasses. She probably thinks I’m stoned.

I remember that cigarette smoke is an extremely persistent odor, clinging to the smoker like a parasite even with the source ignominously extinguished via shoe heel. It’s like tractor tracks in the snow. Obvious and easily traceable. Smoking outside a research facility (let alone a hospital) to me looks like an oxymoron. Only a few feet away, people are studying cancer and addiction, yet someone is puffing away, heedless that they are killing themselves.

My roommates had their physics friends over again. One of them had asked their American counterparts, “Do you smoke?”

“No. It’s bad for you. It smells horrible.” Besides, in the West, things are decidedly discrimatory toward smokers: they can’t light up in public buildings, restaurants, hotels, and airplanes.

My roommate reminisces. “In China, all the boys smoke. If you don’t smoke, you’re not considered a man.”

Huh. Maybe that explains these statistics that I see popping up everywhere. Why is it considered the grown-up thing to do? Does it make you look more sophisticated? Sexy? I find most smokers to be drama queens. They stand slouched outside with one hand in a pocket and the other dangling the cigarette in a studied gracelessness. Their expressions are pouty since they’ve been forced outside to do their habit. The poses are identical to those emaciated waifs in catalogues who attempt to sell perfumes with over-the-top names like Obsession or Allure.

But then again, maybe they are indeed walking advertisements. Except their obsession is smoking and anything that may have been an allure has become a turn-off.