Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Month: April, 2007

What Kids Don’t Know These Days

I’ve just finished grading exams (yes, I have to do that on top of lab reports–oh, joy!) and all I can say is, there were points when I couldn’t believe what I was grading. The other TAs and I had this little joke since the beginning of the semester: whenever there was a question about Gram staining, Alexander Graham Bell would be lurking about as a “trick answer”. We thought it would be obvious to the students that Bell had no place in a microbiology lab. Boy, were we wrong.

And now, even at the end of the semester, some people still don’t think that Alexander Graham Bell had anything to do with the telephone.

End of the Month Mumblings

The semester is drawing to a close and obviously, everything is piling up. Exams (cringe). Committee meeting (double cringe). Grading undergraduate lab reports (a long protracted scream and running away). I have a bunch of half-finished book reviews that have been sitting around for the past month that I might end up posting sometime this week, but other than that, expect me to be, er, rather absent from the blogosphere for the next couple of weeks.

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Giving an Academic Talk. If I were the type of person to get a tattoo, I’d put this on my forehead (along with the aforementioned FAQ).

Nature, Nurture, or No Chance in Hell? Well, aside from the fact that I find it hilarious that Kurt Vonnegut referred to writers’ conferences as budding yeast, I’m not so sure if it’s one or the other. I feel very left out when all the other zealous writers say they’ve been storytellers since they were wee babes. I didn’t. When I was seven, I wasn’t telling stories. I was focusing on surviving the three (or was it four?) different schools I was being shuttled in and out of. The first time I actually enjoyed penning a story was in fourth grade for an assignment. It was a terribly cliched story starring a hard-boiled detective, a femme fatale, and a rich bad guy.

Page Numbering Question. I don’t number my pages. I date them. And unlike Neil Gaiman, I am too cheap to buy nice blank journals to write my stories in. Well, I do have blank journals, but they’re the cheapo kind and even then, I got them on sale. And I only brainstorm in them. Still, it’s very interesting to look into a Famous Author’s process.

Guidelines for Writing Literary Fiction. Fans of romantic fiction point out that literary fiction has its formula too–emotional hangups, dysfunctional relationships, irrelevant minutiae, unhappy endings. Yep, literary fiction would have to be a kind of genre, too.

Frequently Asked Questions Are Annoying

After yet another “interrogation” by a random Asian person, I think I need an FAQ for real life. Probably stapled to my forehead. If you are an Asian person, you know what I mean. The thing that has me so mad is that these questions are an attempt to pigeonhole me into some sort of ethnicity. Who the freakin’ cares? My ethnicity doesn’t define me. In fact, only knowing my ethnicity and “origins” won’t tell you anything about me at all.

My ancestors may have given me my looks (or lack of), but they didn’t make me what I am.

Two Links

Critical Mass. (via Juno Books) On one hand, I think this is an attempt by the book critics to save their jobs. I mean, who cares how many column inches you have on paper when you have unlimited electrons on the internet? Who cares about critics who only babble about the “literary and serious writers” when you can read someone’s opinion of virtually any book on Amazon? If the critics truly want to hang on to their turf, they should make a real effort at critically examining all books, not just the pretentious.

Crying at the Office. Um, I do not do this. I admit, there were times that I could have, but I didn’t. I never indulge in hysterics. But I don’t expect praise either. I suppose I’m a little too cynical (for a hypothetical 2Blowhards’ twenty-something) for anything to faze me.


The Thursday Threesome: The Cola Wars?

Onesome: The– marketing of goods and services. …and the things they do to try to get us to buy their products! Are there any advertisments or commercials that really stand out to you right now?


Twosome: Cola– cola, cola: which cola do you drink? …or do you? …or the UnCola? (Do you remember that ad campaign?)


Threesome: Wars?– Are there any good advertising wars going on in your area? Burgers, newspapers, ISPs?


Tangled Bank #78…

is now up at About Archaeology. Go read some cool science linkage.

Green Dresses With Breasts

Every time I pass the library lobby, I see a display of student art. This semester, it’s clothing designed to reflect contemporary issues. Frankly, I find the art very bad.

Sure, just call me an art heathen; I don’t consider good art to be merely conceptual. Perhaps other people prefer bluntness in their art, an in-your-face shout, an obvious depiction of meaning without the artist really reasoning anything through. But I would compare it to the op-ed columns of student newspapers (or any op-ed columns, come to think of it) where everything is bluster, black and white. No complexity.

Time To Clean Out The Bookmarks

On Predicting Violence (via Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Novels) Stephen King’s take on the VT shooting: Most creative people use the imagination as an outlet for violence. Cho wasn’t creative, just plain nuts.

Confused By What “2nd Cousin Once Removed” Means? Ah, everything is now explained with a nifty chart.

If ancient Rome had the Internet… “The soothsayer’s “Ides of March” email fails to get Caesar’s proper attention as it’s inadvertently filtered into his junk folder.”

Humans Wear Diverse “Wardrobe” of Skin Microbes. “Each person’s ‘wardrobe’ of germs seems to be as unique as his or her sense of style.”

Card Catalog Generator (via So Anyway) I love this kind of stuff. (I mean, that’s obvious given that my personal bookmarks are arranged in Dewey Decimal.) Maybe I should convert my links page into a card catalog…

Driving Orientation: A World Map. This doesn’t just tell you where you’ll be driving left or right–it’s also a visual for past colonialism.

The Laugh Gap Explained. Hm. Interesting theories, but I personally don’t laugh very much. I don’t try to be funny either, but it’s not because I’m afraid to be undignified. I guess I’m just somewhat humorless.

And here’s my link for Earth Day: 10 Most Magnificent Trees in the World. Go look at some pretty pictures while I head to the recycling center to turn in some dead tree media.

A Belated Meme

The Thursday Threesome: One-Two-Three

Onesome: One– or more siblings? …or just you?


Twosome: Two– favorite shows (TV or Movie, or heck, even iPod!) on this season?

In my copious spare time (hah!), I’m watching some older BBC documentaries. I might even scrounge up some energy later to write a post about them.

Threesome: Three– ways to cook hot dogs? That’s what the kids tell me. Yes? No? More? I’ll spot you the ‘boiling water’…

I suppose you could also grill them or roast them over a bonfire.

Look at the Forest, Not the Tree

Killer Reflection. No doubt, people are going to try to work the racial angle too. But I agree with the author–just because you’re a quiet Asian kid under pressure doesn’t mean that you’ll go on a killer spree. Heck, I’m Asian, quiet, and often under pressure, but you don’t see me going off half-cocked. The problem I have with all this exhaustive analysis in the media recently is that I get the impression that people just want to find the indicator that will tell people immediately that an individual has gone over the edge. There is no one indicator–you have to look at the whole picture.