Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Month: January, 2004

Debate at Dartmouth

I arrived at Dartmouth Hall approximately one hour before the debate is supposed to start since I figured perhaps there would be tons of people trying to see it on remote viewing and I wanted to get a seat. But I was actually the second person here. The first person is another nerd with a laptop.

On my way here, (Dartmouth Hall is one of the buildings ringing the Green, a wide and right now frozen field in the middle of campus), I noticed a news truck with a huge satellite dish in front of the Hanover Inn (the inn is right across the Green), a bus painted with blue stripes and stars with the ABC news logo next to it, and another truck with satellite dish at the intersection to the Hopkins Center (the Hopkins Center is right next to the Hanover Inn). Many people with various signs were waving and chanting in front of the Hopkins Center.

The debate which is taking place in the Moore Theater at the Hopkins Center is titled “Every Woman Counts” which I assume will be quizzing the various candidates on their stances on various women’s issues. It’s going to be moderated by Claire Shipman, an ABC News correspondent.

Well, more later.

[originally posted at 3:37 PM]

Okay, so the camera is showing Moore Theater which is now mostly full. As for Dartmouth Hall, there is probably around 20-30 people even though this can seat 150. Perhaps more people will show up at the last minute.

Oh, and if you don’t want to read my live blog posts on the debate, you can actually watch it on Dartmouth TV now. It’ll be broadcast to the rest of the country on ABC, CNN, etc. tomorrow.

[originally posted at 4:24 PM]

Oh crap.

Dartmouth Hall is now empty because somebody was handing out the last tickets to actually go to Moore Theater. I now curse myself for being too slow.

[originally posted at 4:28 PM]

(very brief notes, may be misspelled, summarized, i.e. I can’t type that fast)

personal comment: the reception is really bad (purposely?), correction it’s Kucinich and not Edwards – I find them hard to tell apart

70% undecided voters in NH are women

domestic violence

breast cancer

affordable health care

half have not heard candidates on these issues

candidates: Dean, Lieberman, Kucinich

Q (moderator): Why should women vote for you?

candidates introduce wives in audience

Dean: because what done for [Vermont] (citing statistics), minimal wage, child care subsidized

Lieberman: do better job than Bush, give US fresh start, women suffer under current leadership, tax cuts to people who don’t need them

Kucinich: a story – statue of woman with arm outstretched to protect child in House, Iraq (?!), education of children – universal program with 50% cut in Pentagon, health care

[originally posted at 4:48 PM]

Q (Emily, a gynecologist): Affordable childcare?

D: Citing what he has done in Vermont, universal childcare, subsidizing, 20% bonus for home childcare, educational component, president’s proposal for welfare is “ridiculous”. Calls it “Anti-child-supervision” bill. President doesn’t have any idea because old white men with pot-bellies signed bill.

L: need childcare because now more single parent household, check website for details, Bush is trying to screw low income families for healthcare, increase tax credit so low income people could get childcare, childcare training, repeal Bush’s tax cut on high income.

K: Talking about when he was growing up, mother took care of kids but now mothers working and most money goes to childcare–create educational program (60 billion dollars), pay for by 15% reduction of Pentagon

(somebody in Dartmouth Hall is clapping after K’s speech, strange)

D: damage to kids before age 3, changes at that critical time

[originally posted at 5:01 PM]

Q (Carson, a Dartmouth student from California): What will you do about violence against women?

L: epidemic against women, terrible effects on next generation, speak out, encourage women to speak out, criminalize violation of restraining orders, national network for safeplace homes, train courts and police to deal with this problem, raising sons, consequences of today’s entertainment, ex. Grand Theft Auto

K: how much change do we want? notes his vote on a bill on domestic violence and schools–teach peace-giving to help men understand violence against women is wrong, too late if at emergency room or safe house, intl department of peace [personal note: what the hell is he talking about?]

[that same guy is clapping]

D: many programs already done at state level, make sure enough money to keep this running, male role models, drug and alcohol abuse also needs to be addressed.

[originally posted at 5:09 PM]

Q (McClain, a female resident in Hanover): What will you do for nominations in Supreme court?

K: Roe vs. Wade, needs someone with courage and not afraid to help America with expanded view, stand up to corporations, intelligent, heartful, spiritual, dedicated, seek to overturn Patriot Act

D: in Vermont 50% appointees are women, hardworking, not looking for party, treat women with respect (not Scalia), uphold and not rewrite Constitution, role model Ginsburg and somebody from Vermont [I missed the name], current court is too far right

L: don’t want one that decides national election (audience laughter), need impartial, don’t like Bush’s litmus tests, filibuster presidential nominations, don’t pack court with ideological, good example: David Suiter

[originally posted at 5:18 PM]

Q (Margaret, a chairperson in some women’s organization): What would you do to close gap in salary between women and men?

D: (missed first two reasons), need affirmative action, everybody tends to hire people like themselves not because everyone is sexist or racist,

L: needs to be addressed on legislative level, everybody’s rights, move toward equality

K: (another notable pause) talking about his own staff, raise up wages so that they were equal, executive order that every govt contract abide by equality and opportunity, women and social security, return retirement back to 65 so people can get more income at an earlier age

[personal note: K’s not taking into account baby boomers]

[originally posted at 5:36 PM]

Q (moderator): When will we see a woman president?

D: 2012, Hillary

L: 2012, Braseau (sp?)

K: blabbing about feminine perspective in oval office and don’t need to wait whether 2008 or 2012…(moderator cuts him off)

Q (a woman from Newport who was first woman in city council): Which women would you appoint to cabinet and why?

L: Need experienced women.

K: as mayor of Cleveland made sure women were in staff, ex. director in EPA

D: floating names will be foolish, somebody from Atlanta, Ann Richards

L: need women in defense and treasury

Q (from audience, missed her organization): Sex discrimination in education, etc?

K: sign executive orders to enforce it, too much emphasis on men’s sports

D: Title IX, story about women’s basketball

L: in favor of enforcement of Title IX

[originally posted at 5:38 PM]

Q (network against domestic violence): More specific on ending domestic violence? Systemic solutions?

D: Funding is critical issue, programs in state (Vermont), women testifying, education

L: reactivation and expansion of existing legislation, continued funding of progs in federal govt, courts and police

K: look at attitudes of men and boys and deal with that, want women to feel protected, make sure if crime committed that treated seriously by courts

Q (continued): programs are very underfunded

K: supports that

Q (moderator): economy and jobs?

L: grave and national matter needs to be addressed

Moderator: last question, thanks for coming

[originally posted at 5:42 PM]

Summary of my thoughts on the debate:

Dean mostly referred to what he had done as governor in Vermont.

Lieberman talked about what he has done as senator, against Bush’s policies, what’s good for America in general.

Kucinich paused a lot of times before he spoke about what should be done (in a very generalized way). I had the feeling that he bs-ed a lot of stuff.

[originally posted at 5:45 PM]

Additional remarks: Addressing women’s issues? Pfft! One hour is way too short to probe any candidate’s stance on the questions being asked. I didn’t get a feel for anything, especially since the answers were being limited to one minute each. Answers were too general and repetitive and I came away being more annoyed than enlightened.

Addendum: This guy actually got a ticket to go see the debate but gave it up for somebody who is a real democratic enthusiast. I would have just gone for the experience (I don’t side with any party) but hey, to each his own.

Happy Birthday to Marvin (a.k.a. the chicken in the comments)!

Also, you can see selected pictures Marvin took of the cat show on my other webpage.

* * *
Unconscious Mutterings

  1. Political:: Rant
  2. Concentration:: Camp
  3. Fish:: Stick
  4. Lunacy:: Lunar
  5. Red:: Planet
  6. Imply:: Reply
  7. Recognize:: Evil (?!)
  8. Sexist:: Pig
  9. Commercial:: Television
  10. Stricken:: Sick

The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living
The Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler

Before this, I have never read a self-help book. I see it as desperate optimism–there’s nothing wrong with reading such books, but I don’t see myself as someone needing self-help. I think I’m doing okay. I don’t throw temper tantrums or get angry. I’m not depressed and I’m not annoyed that often. But I set about procuring a copy of The Art of Happiness. Bud had recommended it and I figured there must be something in it if someone liked it.

The book itself was quite elusive for the past couple of months. (Is this trying to tell me something, that happiness is hard to find?) After putting a request at the college library, a librarian e-mailed me back informing me that it was stolen. The copies at the public library were perpetually checked out until last week when the large print one became available. So I snatched it (along with the new biography on Ben Franklin, but that’s another story).

To say the least, I was disappointed. Perhaps the Dalai Lama really is an enlightened and wise person, but I’ll never know as the book itself was really written by Cutler who is a Western psychiatrist. Most of it was interviews interspersed with Cutler’s commentary and anecdotes of his own which I just found bizarre. The interviews themselves seemed guided and forced as if Cutler had selective hearing as well as thinking.

The Art of Happiness is basically a book on common sense for people who’ve forgotten there’s such a thing. If something bad happens, remember that things could be worse. One shouldn’t confuse happiness and pleasure. Loneliness can be combated by realizing that one shouldn’t follow society’s ideals about what a real relationship is. People add to their own suffering by focusing too narrowly on certain things. Extremism of any sort is bad. Getting angry doesn’t bode well for yourself as well as the people around you.

So maybe it’s useful–as a jumping off point to particular philosophical subjects–but I wouldn’t say it’s brilliant or life-changing. Otherwise, I’d say Cutler should stick to his psychiatric practice and let a better writer interview the Dalai Lama.

Oh well, I lost the lottery to get a ticket for this. It would have been really cool if I had the chance to see the debate live (and it would have been extra cool if I could blog the thing at the same time). I guess I’ll end up going to one of those remote viewing sites.

And it’ll be great if one of you (my readers) let me know if the debate is going to be broadcast on TV (since I don’t have a TV). They say it’s going to be closed circuit but if it’s not, then it’ll be pointless to bring my laptop for some live blogging.

Don’t Let This Happen To You:

I compared notes with the other TAs again. Apparently one of the TAs experienced a mutiny in one of his lab sections. After hearing that, I’m extremely thankful that all of my students behave like responsible adults and not spoiled children.

On Getting A PhD:

Should I Get a PhD?
Should I get a biology PhD?

Some people think I’m crazy for going to graduate school for who knows how many years. Well, I might be crazy, but one thing’s for sure–their priorities are different than mine.

Happy Chinese New Year!

Last Chinese New Year, I was off on a random outing to Boston. This year, I’m not starting the year being so random–probably being more industrious (since it is the year of the monkey), but I definitely don’t feel like it. Everything feels so ghost-like, but that’s what you get for coming to lab at 6 AM.

* * *
Thursday Threesome: Out of the loop

Onesome: Out– Are you getting out and about lately? …or is school/the weather/work/illness keeping you cooped up inside?

Well, I get to walk across campus at least four times each week due to the class I’m TA-ing.

Twosome: of the– Blue? Does the Winter season ‘get to you’? …or do you handle it as well as you do Summer?

I’m doing okay although I often feel as if I’m putting in more hours but getting less done.

Threesome: Loop– Hey, Spring is coming (and Winter is still here for some); do you have a loop you drive or walk to check out the scenery? What do you see when you’re out and about?

Spring? Spring?! Are you kidding? Up here, the snow doesn’t thaw out until April and maybe not even then.


“I must be doing something wrong.” That’s what I tell myself every time things run more smoothly than expected. I must be forgetting something. Comparing notes with the other TAs, I’m the only one who has not been getting questions by e-mail from students. Yes, that may mean less work, but it definitely sets me wondering. Do they think that I won’t know the answer? Am I an off-putting person; are they too scared to ask me? Do they think I’ll be too critical or too mean when I’m answering a question? Or is it another reason altogether?

Why would anyone do this? It may sound all technical with marketing jargon, but it’s degrading, nonetheless. Women will be making themselves into brands, i.e. objects. So if people don’t like me without the push-up bra, I don’t think getting one will help.

John Adams
by David McCullough

I rarely read biographies and to say the least, I was quite intimidated when Gina recommended John Adams, a rather hefty tome and winner of the 2002 Pulitzer. As someone who hasn’t taken many humanities classes in college, I had the preconceived notion that this was going to be quite dry and, well, boring–Pulitzer or no. The only thing I knew about John Adams was from high school history and that musical, 1776, and I had a hard time imagining how much a biographer could flesh out someone who lived so long ago and now elevated to some historical and abstract icon.

To my surprise (and relief), John Adams read just like a novel and I learned quite a lot. The biographer was able to really get into Adams’ head because he had a vast number of resources available to him–particularly the extensive correspondence between Adams and everyone he came in contact with. The letters between John Adams and his wife Abigail show that not only were they deeply devoted to each other, but that Abigail was just as interested in politics and had a profound effect on Adams’ decisions.

Also surprisingly was the fact that Adams had been an extensive traveler. As one of the architects of the Declaration of Independence, he set out to Europe to procure allies and support for the Revolution as well as to serve as an ambassador to England after the war. When he came back, he became the first Vice President and then the second President–however, his term was plagued by the fracturing of the government into two parties (the Federalists and the Republicans), the machinations of the former Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton who had aspirations to positions of power, and the mudslinging press who derided him as an insane old man.

The most interesting relationship John Adams had was with Thomas Jefferson who was much more reserved yet was a seething mess of contradictions–contrary to New England farmer John Adams, Jefferson was an aristocratic Virginian although in theory for thriftiness and freedom of all people, still kept slaves and spent money recklessly. They were friends until political differences (primarily the breakup into the party system) halted communication between them. It was only after eleven years of silence did Adams resume his remarkable correspondence with Jefferson.

But despite the vindictive against Adams during his time as a public figure–he was fondly remembered when he and Jefferson passed away on July 4, fifty years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Trying To Put Humanity Back Into Science

Recently I attended a science writing seminar which, I thought, was fairly helpful–not just for people who want to go into science writing for a living but for those who want to communicate their science more effectively. A looming question that people got worked up about was: Why aren’t there more humanities in the sciences?

One big problem I see is that the two different disciplines (humanities and science) rarely mesh with each other. It’s not that they are fundamentally incompatible but that the individuals in each of those disciplines don’t go out of their way to cross the “border”, i.e. to go to the other side in an attempt to understand others’ thinking or to try to make themselves understood to a wider variety of people. Many science people think of the humanities as a joke, whereas people from the humanities (or the lay public for any matter) completely tune out the science lecture wondering what the entire point of it is. Albert Einstein and George Elliot? One might as well start blubbering gibberish.

Another obstacle for science writing is the stigma of writing itself among parts of the science community. Oh look at him, they’d whisper. He’s not doing science anymore. He’s a writer now. It’s as if being a writer was something tainted, something that makes the scientist akin to an Untouchable in the Indian caste system. Ah, if only people could understand that one could do science and write–there is such a thing called “time management” that would solve the problem.

So why should scientists care about communicating their work to the public? Well, I’m sure people want to know what research their money is going toward, after all, they’re not paying taxes just for your intellectual edification. The funding of modern science no longer resembles that of the past; scientists these days aren’t rich lords with money to burn or sycophants who come under the patronage of monarchs or rich families.

Scientists also have a duty to inform the public. Some ill-trained journalists may make the latest findings sound like proclamations from God just because someone with a Ph.D. said so–but science isn’t some far removed religion that one takes statements on faith. Science is rooted in culture, in society, our everyday lives–from plastic surgery to transportation to growing crops–and people have every right to question it.

And finally, there is the freedom implied in such writing. What purpose does it serve to keep most people ignorant? Science writing fosters the attitude to ask questions and be more open which can spill over into other areas of life. And openness will inevitably lead to progress.

Some articles about a new magazine dangerously treading the line between science and “hipness”–Geeks need not apply: Science is chick in SEED magazine and Seed, a very silly new magazine.