Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Month: January, 2007

I Do Not Like This Week

There was a point today when I went “Oh f*%$!” and had some other particularly painful parts of my life flash before my eyes. People keep telling me that it wasn’t my fault, but I can’t help feeling that it is.

How do you staunch a mental/intellectual/emotional wound anyway?

Let Off Steam, Jinx My Car

I totally do not get why people feel it is okay to unload their problems on me. After five minutes of ranting, my eyes start glazing over. And it’s not because I don’t sympathize. I do. It’s just that my philosophy is to not tell other people my problems. Or at least not tell other people too much of my problems. There’s only so much attention span to go around before exasperation sets in.

What really annoys me is that all these problems I’m hearing about are just results of a bigger problem that people fail to see. Tunnel vision. If they’d just realize that focusing on one path is effectively boxing them off into a corner, they’d be so much happier with all the other opportunities sitting just along their periphery.

(Yes, I know the vagueness of my blathering could refer to anything: from boyfriends and career paths to finding a route or picking a brand of orange juice at the supermarket. But it’s deliberately so.)

As for my car: It broke down, in the snow, approximately one hour after I was subjected to the ranting. To put it lightly, I am even more annoyed.

Half A Gamut

Dang it, this always happens. Whenever I say I’m too busy to post, I post anyway. But it’s Friday and I’m carving out a little chunk of time to not think about work. All work and no play are for robots.

Good designs, bad designs. (via Dustbury) My blog templates are so easy that an idiot could do the same thing. Of course, I don’t have all the frilly stuff floating around on this page either so who knows how messed up the code would get if I got it into my head to cram in all the latest weblog widgets.

On the Use of Elevators in Research Buildings. I go by the rule “one flight up, two flights down” for using the stairs. But since I work on the third story–I use the stairs anyway. An extra flight isn’t going to kill me. The only time I use the elevator is for carting around stuff. Or if I’m carrying around glass vials with blood. I do not want to trip on the stairs and then have to call hazmat.

A Challenge to Science Bloggers. (via Evolgen) Put up science only posts for an entire week? Sign me up! Yes, this sounds sort of crazy, especially if I end up gibbering after talking about peer-reviewed science papers for a straight seven days, but it can’t be worse than writing a novel in a month.

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The Thursday Threesome: Plaid Kittens Attack!

Onesome: Plaid– Yes? No? Wouldn’t even consider it? Makes the outfit? Makes terrible wallpaper?

I’m not a plaid person although I might wear it under certain circumstances–such as being coerced into a kilt convention (and maybe not even then).

And yes, plaid does make terrible wallpaper.

Twosome: Kittens– Cutest things in the world? Creatures from another planet? Things other people have?

They’re okay. But like a lot of things, there is such thing as too much.

Threesome: Attack!– of the Killer Tomatoes! Okay, what’s your vote for the worst movie title of all time?

I couldn’t think up of any off the top of my head, so I looked up this page. Some of them aren’t that bad–I think being funny and cheesy mitigates some of the badness. And some of them, you just go ewwwwww.

To The Wire

The short explanation: I’m going to be really, really busy the next two weeks so do not expect any blogging from me until the first weekend of February.

The longer explanation: Most other people (read: grad students) would consider me insane for scheduling everything at the end of January. I have three different presentations to do (one for a class, another for a journal club, and yet another about my research for my advisors–yikes!). On top of that, I’m teaching a lab class. So yeah, I will be scarce around these electronic parts.

The Thursday Threesome: No California Oranges this Year!

Onesome: No California– drivers allowed! Do you drive and talk on the cell phone? Come on, fess up…

No. I almost never turn my cell phone on. And almost nobody has my number. There’s no reason anyone should be calling me and there’s nobody I want to call, least of all while driving.

Twosome: Oranges– and Apples and Pears, oh my! Do you have a favorite fruit?

Not really.

Threesome: this Year– I’m going to _______ (go ahead; fill in the blank. No, it’s not a resolution!)

Um, I’m not exactly planning to do something specific this year.

Some Carnivals

Tangled Bank #71. Go read some science-y goodness over at The Voltage Gate. There’s everything from the genetics of immunity to pollinating bees.

Here’s a carnival I haven’t heard before: Four Stone Hearth. See the latest edition. It’s about about anthropology and archaeology–two subjects I know very little about. There’s bound to be some interesting articles.

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As an aside: I think I’m getting addicted to podcasts. Must. Tear. Myself. Away. From. Them. Now.

A Science Book and Some Other Stuff

Hey science geeks (or anyone who’s interested in science!), this is your chance to get some cool science blogging in book form. The Science Blogging Anthology is now on sale!

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Latest pet peeve: people wearing black coats. Yes, I know it’s oh so fashionable, but it’s not practical! Do you know how hard it is to see during the night? If you’re wearing a black coat, you’re blending into the background. And it’s worse in the winter months because the roads are icy and cars need more time to stop…

A Review and a Controversy

The Mislaid Magician by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer. Ten years after Sorcery and Cecelia and The Grand Tour, the cousins Kate and Cecelia are thrown out of their complacent family lives when Cecelia and her husband James are summoned by Lord Wellington to investigate the disappearance of a magician who was surveying northern England for a railroad. While investigating this mystery, they meet up with a strange brother-sister duo, enchanted dogs, and some very dangerous standing stones. Kate and her husband Thomas stay at home attempting to manage both couples’ children who have started making spells of their own. All of this is complicated by a night prowler wielding powerful magic and the appearance of a mute girl. As Cecelia, James, Kate, and Thomas dig deeper into these mysteries, it becomes clear that whatever is behind them threatens the stability of the country itself.

It’s not necessary to read the first two books to appreciate this one although I would certainly recommend so. I enjoyed reading this light fantasy mystery (if you wanted to split hairs, I suppose you could call it mannerpunk with hints of steampunk) even though figuring out who the villains were was fairly obvious.

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I’ve read most of the stories in the anthology Best New Paranormal Romance edited by Paula Guran when I decided to see what other people were saying about it. For one thing, even after reading the list of contributing authors, I was pretty sure this should have been shelved in the SF/F section and not the romance section where I actually found it. Personally, I don’t really care where books are shelved or what they’re labeled as–I’m one of those people who comb through every section to find a book because I don’t trust the college kiddies who work in the bookstores, the beleaguered librarians forced to stick genre labels on book spines, the marketing departments of publishers, and even in some cases other book reviewers.

I was not surprised to see the rabid backlash by romance fanatics (see the comments here and here; also some more comments about genre, although not exactly related, here) to the use of the term “paranormal romance” to refer to a subgenre of SF/F (like “planetary romance” in which the word “romance” refers to “adventure”) when it’s already been used as a term for a subgenre of romance (in which a happily ever after is required and the speculative elements are incidental). Yeah, yeah, it’s about a bunch of people fighting over semantics. It does seem sort of silly–we should be reading a book for the writing and the story and not for some random tropes that for historical reasons have been codified into genres.

I like stories that push boundaries regardless of what other people call them. But most people don’t–and for those people, labels do serve a purpose. If they pick up something labeled with a particular genre, they’re going to be disappointed–or even downright livid–if the elements stereotypical of that genre are relegated to the background. So on a marketing standpoint, I would be very cautious about using a term that already has a lot of baggage associated with it. Trying to redefine a term will get people mad (similar language purists ranting about the use of slang), so we might as well just invent a new term.

It’s Surprising I Don’t Have A Complex

I read the comments to this article and all I can say is: I’m not a freakin’ study drone! I’d rather be called a lab rat than a study drone. For one thing, I enjoy research a whole lot more than drowning in a morass of facts-to-be-memorized.

Although I have to wonder if these differences in test scores are due more to cultural differences rather than cognitive differences. My parents were relatively laid back and pretty much let me do anything I wanted. But even back in elementary school, other Asian kids seemed driven to do well academically or musically. I wouldn’t really say that they were doing this under their own impetus. It was more like meeting their parents’ expectations–parents who always had this “keeping up with the Joneses” or rather “being better than the Changs” mentality. I dreaded (I still do) meeting any of my peers’ parents. Or even some of my ultra-competitive relatives. They always made me feel dumb because I wasn’t as accomplished as little Harry or Jennifer.

However, I don’t know if I would call my fellow Asians study drones either. Maybe a more accurate description would be “neurotic.” I mean, you would have to be a little neurotic after facing pressure to perform all your life.

The Thursday Threesome: Strange Little Bud

Onesome: Strange– twists and turns on the web? Do you recall how you ended up here at the Back Porch? …just curious.

I probably found this on someone else’s blog. I was surfing for another meme to do because a similar meme I had been doing had died out.

Twosome: Little– by little we branch out and bloom. How often do you post per week? Is that more or less than six months ago?

I aim for posting once a day, but all I can guarantee right now is posting a couple times a week.

Threesome: Bud– break time is coming later this year. …but are the bulbs in your area pushing up through the soil yet?

It just snowed a couple inches yesterday so if any bulbs are pushing up, it’s way too early. Ask again in May. Although I did see some young women wearing skin tight clothing (and no coats) strutting around outside when it was below freezing. And no, I don’t get it either.