Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Month: May, 2003

Catching Pets

Low, flat-roofed souvenir shops littered the sides of 98 like so many smudged white cartons. In one of those shops, amidst the garishly dyed coral and the shrink-wrapped tupperware containers filled with cowries, conches, and clamshells, I had noticed a small plastic cage on the top shelf lined with small pebbles. In the corner of the cage, a strange creature with the body of a whelk and the legs of a spider kept watch.

“We can catch hermit crabs ourselves.”

I expressed some doubt at my father’s words. Half the panhandle was already razed of palm trees and replaced with concrete and expensive hotels. Where, in these posh surroundings, would we find such a homely creature?

We stopped at the empty shoreline, where the 98 turned into a bridge. The beach here was less sandy, and where the water lapped at the land, the ground turned into small gray stones. It smelled of brine and car exhaust drifting down from the bridge. The sun was overly bright but failed to penetrate the pea-soup water.


I squinted, seeing nothing, not even my reflection. My father had waded in ankle-deep and reached into the water. He pulled out a turban shell, stained green from algae, and dropped it into a plastic container. I examined the shell, seemingly empty except for the frightened hermit crab that had retreated so far into its home that only the tips of its legs in the outer chamber were visible.

Unconscious Mutterings

  1. Badminton:: Birdie
  2. Obsessive compulsive :: Disorder
  3. Prosthetics:: Plastic
  4. Sophistication:: Suave
  5. Hiphop :: Jam
  6. Stammering:: Idiot
  7. Property taxes:: Money
  8. Lowrider:: Jeans
  9. Blowtorch:: Destruction
  10. Formality:: Necessity

* * *
PowerPoint Remix. I’m rather ambivalent about powerpoint. It’s well-suited for some subjects that require the display of data and where the speaker uses powerpoint as a visual tool and not a crutch for his talk. Then again, there are powerpoint atrocities such as this (warning! actual ppt file) that make you want to go back to scratching grunts in the dirt.

Addendum and Aside: Funny that I mentioned powerpoint exactly one year ago.

Down With Love. This is one of those nudge-nudge-wink-wink bawdy films that you can snicker throughout the screening without feeling guilty. It’s an over-the-top, cartoonish sex comedy paying homage to the genre that had its heyday back when Doris Day and Rock Hudson were an item. But like Pillow Talk and its ilk, I can’t help feeling that I’ve got the movie equivalent of drinking too many diet cokes.

Optical Illusions. I’ve always wondered what people perceive before they’ve been conditioned to see a certain way due to the properties of the real world. Would they see the “sloping” lines or would they correctly identify them as parallel? Unfortunately, there’s no way to ask a baby the necessary questions.

Button Maker. Here’s a little tool for the button-maniacs among us. I prefer text links which use up far less space. Besides, I hate Silkscreen. It makes me feel blind.

The air was cold.

I wrapped my arms around me and watched my granduncle sip from his cup of tea like a drugged Buddha. My sister was flipping through the trendy magazines on the coffee table and my parents were sitting on the couch, not quite relaxed, as my grandaunt conversed with them.

The room was filled with furniture glazed deep brownish-red. The walls were decorated with ebony panels inlaid with mother-of-pearl in floral patterns. An upright piano–completely off-limits–sat neglected in the corner. Curio cabinets faced each other at opposite ends of the room. They contained jade and ivory items, the most intriguing a carved ivory object–spheres within spheres. I puzzled over how such a thing was achieved.

Suddenly, my grandaunt turned her attention on me. Sitting on a straight-back chair with gray laced in her short black hair, she was a self-assured empress.

“Tell me, what do you want to do after you get out of college?”

Out of college? I was still a middle school student, not even thinking of applying to any colleges yet. My interests varied from month to month. So what was I to tell her? “Um, I think…I think I want to be a doctor.” I let out a breath. That sounded suitably impressive.

And then, unbelievably, she turned to my father and smirked, “You’ll have to work harder now, won’t you?”

My father laughed, embarrassed.

Nothing overt had been said, but it had been implied that we were the Asian equivalent of poor white trash. And that I was too dumb to get anywhere without a gratuitous amount of money.

What irritates me now is that I assumed that such attitudes from older Chinese women were normal. Subtle (or not so subtle) prying questions, as well as social barbs laced with comparisons are their usual fodder. I only see the brittle but polished surface. Is this a generational thing? A cultural thing? A getting older thing? I don’t know, but I’m sure they will continue to plague me with questions like ruthless interviewers.

Bomb Is Suspected in Explosion at Yale. Once again, this is something that makes me wonder exactly how safe I am at school. You would think that a law school would be fairly innocuous compared to where I work at (a medical school). Access to various buildings at Dartmouth during the day is pretty much free to anyone. Sure, the security people tell everyone to be aware of their surroundings and anyone who looks like they don’t belong, but exactly how many people spend their day doing this? Most students I know are worried about their next experiment or the next exam–not if the person coming in the door at the moment is a professor or a suspicious character.

This also reminds me of a fire alarm that occurred this week which emptied the biomedical buildings. No one was aware that there were any drills planned and some people were annoyed because their experiments were interrupted and ruined. I had thought maybe a bunsen burner had accidentally tipped over and had triggered the alarm. Then again, in light of this article, it might have been something else.

Getting locked out of your own home sucks.

No, my roommates did not throw me out. Apparently the locksmith/security people who had installed some state-of-the-art keypad thingee in front of the apartment building also changed the locks. The construction workers nearby who were supposed to have the master key found out that their key doesn’t work either.

I stormed down to the housing office (past a quartet of trombones, a woman on crutches, a couple sitting under a perfectly coiffed tree) just before closing time and the rather perplexed and clueless women at the office gave me a new key. The key still doesn’t work, and the office is closed, but somehow I’ve managed to yank the door open on the umpteenth try.

So much for “security”.

The “Little” Things:
Beauty in the eye of the builder. (via Byrd’s Brain) I’m flabbergasted. And I’m not just saying that because I like big words. If she truly felt that her marriage was worth more, she would have never bought the insurance policy in the first place.
Tea Aids Oral Health. “A spot of tea may offer more than just a pleasant way to pass the afternoon. Research findings presented this week at the 103rd General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in Washington, D.C. suggests that it can help fight bad breath and may boost the powers of toothpaste.”

Crypts of the Capuchin. “A macabre cathedral right in the heart of Rome built with the last earthly remains of the hooded brothers.”
The Catacombs of Paris. “Double exposed film made for a happy accident in the case of these unretouched photographs taken in the miles of winding subterranean tunnels that lie under the streets of Paris.”

Soda and Crackers

Some people have definite ideas on where they want to go and won’t hesitate to let you know it whether you want to or not.

I want to go to XYZ University!
I’m going to work for the 123 Company!
I’ve already decided I want to go to Prof. InsertHisNameHere for my thesis lab! (And I don’t see the point of doing the third rotation!)

I have no problem with ambitious people who know what they want. But these loud declarations to all and a sundry are a lot like the preachers who proclaim their faith on street corners–insincere and self-ego-inflating.

Also: Why don’t washers and dryers accept nickels, dimes, or pennies? Or even dollar bills for that matter? Are other types of currency not good enough? Besides, I don’t have any more quarters.

Yet Another Note: I’m tired of people coming to this site using weird and disturbing search terms. Don’t they ever read the short summary that the search engines provide with the link? If they ever read them, it would be immediately apparent that this site is not what they’re looking for. Or am I the only one who ever reads search summaries?

A link: “[T]he similarities between one story and another is intriguingly similar.” Tell me something that I don’t already know.

* * *
The Thursday Threesome: Rain, rain, go away. Come back another day.

Onesome: Rain, rain- Some people love rainy days every once in a while. Are you one of them? Do they make you want to curl up in bed with a good book or going walking through the mist? Or would you rather it just go away?

I like rainy days. Sunny days make me cranky.

Twosome: Go away- If you could go away to just one place, where would you go and why?

Anywhere, really. I need to see someplace new.

Threesome: Come back another day- What’s the one place you’ve been to that you would like to go back to another time?

There are many places that I’ve been to that I would like to go back. One reason is that I never really appreciated or explored those places while I was living there. I let myself be sidetracked by other things that I considered more important at the time.

I’m trying not to do that at my current location, but it’s difficult, especially since I don’t have a car and the bus system here is almost nonexistent. It’s easy to make excuses (work, not enough money, not willing to throw pride away and beg for a ride with someone who does have a car) instead of just going out and doing it.


He stands on the threshold, a stone wall. Like every morning, the strange, lumbering creatures appear on the other side carrying large pieces of wood intent on making as much noise as possible. It didn’t matter that he stood there in plain view–these creatures only cared for their own tasks, such as digging up dirt and placing odd-shaped stones in random patterns.

A bark startles him from his vigilant reverie. A shaggy yellow canine appears from around a corner, its nose pointed straight at him. Silently cursing himself for his own carelessness, he leaps off the stone wall and makes a sprint towards home.

Gratuitous Meme Linkage:
Blogumentary Preview Trailer. The beginning had me grinning maniacally–I was half-expecting some green alien babes to show up in the rest of the thing–but I guess you’ll have to cut the piece some slack since it is work done by an amateur. Hopefully, though, the rest of the documentary won’t be filled with tech-savvy yuppies like the preview.

A Spy Machine of DARPA’s Dreams. (via Blogdex) There’s already serious ethical considerations in human genome sequencing (for instance, if you have a gene to predispose you toward a disease, insurance companies could deny you coverage), but this project takes notions of privacy to a whole other level. Do you want someone to know what you had for breakfast, which articles you read, and exactly what keystrokes you hit on the keyboard? Do you want someone to have access to your medical records, your grocery list, the transcript of your latest kinky encounter? If this information is gathered, a stranger could know you, could track you down, could impersonate you. Very scary.

These Girls These Days. Humph. I hope I’m not like those girls.