Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Month: August, 2007

No Postings For The Weekend

The 3-Day Novel Contest starts tomorrow. I have no outline. Hilarity or horror will ensue.

(Cross-posted at Writing Sya.)

A Carnival!

Tangled Bank #87 is up over at Balancing Life. Go read some cool science bloggage.

Memes and Links

Booking Through Thursday: Statistics

There was a widely bruited-about statistic reported last week, stating that 1 in 4 Americans did not read a single book last year. Clearly, we don’t fall into that category, but…how many of our friends do? Do you have friends/family who read as much as you do? Or are you the only person you know who has a serious reading habit?

Sure, but that statistic also means that 75% of Americans did read a book.

I think everyone I know reads, even if it was just textbooks and journal papers. In a university setting, what would you expect? But I couldn’t really give a sure answer–because I haven’t talked about books with everyone. I had a roommate once who was a pretty avid reader, more so than me probably. I had to carve out time to do reading and writing. She was just a reader, not a writer.

As for my fellow grad students, I’m sort of surprised most of them (the ones I know anyway) do not read for pleasure. Many seem to prefer vegging out in front of the TV (or the local beer garden) after toiling in lab rather than doing some reading which would require a few brain cells. If they do read for pleasure, it’s usually science/science-related books or fantasy. Or at least that’s what they say they read.

* * *
The Thursday Threesome: Over the Rainbow

Onesome: “Over– the Rainbow” Has someone ‘Somewhere’ done the song better than Judy Garland did in the movie? …or does she still ‘own’ it in your opinion?

I suppose I’m a bit of a purist. I still prefer the Garland version.

Twosome: the– best all time album in your collection? …or one you’d like to have? Sure, the Go-Gos count, but hey…

Pablo Casals’ version of Bach’s Cello Suites.

Threesome: Rainbow”?– As sung by Billy Ray Cyrus? (Yes, on his latest album.) Who has done the best “cover” of a song you like to listen to? You know, better than the original artist…

I can’t really think of one.

* * *
You’re not a fraud, and you are valued (just not where you are now). Sometimes I’m afraid of voicing any of my doubts. If I start doubting myself, wouldn’t others start doubting me as well? Anyways, I want to point out that maybe the not-so-great conditions in academia might just be perpetuated by the thinking that everyone at a university values learning so highly that it doesn’t matter what they get paid. And if you say that you don’t care a whit for money–well guess what–of course you’re going to be paid in pretzels.


Why Men Matter: Mating Patterns Drive Evolution of Human Lifespan. Apparently we all owe our longer lifespans to old men getting it on. I don’t know whether to groan or make sarcastic comments about drug companies and pick-up lines.

Encyclopedia of Me Meme. (via The Things That Make Us Happy Make Us Wise and Cleaning House) This sounds cool–creating posts with topics ranging from A to Z in a memoir-esque fashion. I’m still debating on whether or not I want to do this. In my mind, memoir writing really shouldn’t be done by anyone unless they’re sixty or over. Otherwise, it’s just self-indulgent babble. But heck, blogging by its very nature is self-indulgent babble so it’s not like I’m going to break any rules.

A Survey With Some Lame Answers

(via Lynxswift)

01. Who was the last person you slept in a bed with?
Not saying.

02. Where was the last place you went out to eat?
Some place called Mongolian BBQ. I wasn’t particularly impressed.

03. what was the last alcoholic beverage you consumed?
Pinot grigio.

04. how many others have you cheated on?

05. what is more essential – a pretty face or a great body?
Is this a trick question?

06. what is the value of all the jewelry on you?
Twenty dollars. Yeah, that sounds cheap, but they’re just earrings.

07. medicine, fine arts, or law?
Anything but law.

08. when was the last time you got a good workout?
I’m always walking around, trying to avoid using the car too much.

09. best kind of pizza?
I don’t eat pizza that often. I just get whatever is available if someone else is offering it.

10. if you need a new pair of jeans, what store do you go first?
Cringe all you like, but I check out Walmart first. With some of the stuff I do in lab, it would be rather idiotic to don a pair of expensive designer jeans.

11. where did your last hug take place?
On my doorstep.

12. what were you doing at 11:59 PM on saturday night?

13. are you a quitter?

14. who was the last person you had in your room?
My parents, when they were visiting.

15. is your bedroom window open?

16. can you speak another language?
Cantonese and French. Although I must say that I can only read a few characters in Chinese and I read French a lot better than I can speak it.

17. how about put your legs behind your head?

18. what is in store for your future?
Death, taxes, and a hot chocolate.

19. the last band you saw live?
Some obscure band jamming on the lawn next to the commons on campus. Well, I walked by them at any rate. I’m not really into bands.

20. when was the last time you went dancing while under the influence?
The sad thing is, when I’m dancing (i.e. flailing around), I’m not under the influence.

21. do you take care of your friends while they’re sick?

22. what is your favorite soda?

23. how many songs are on your iTunes?
587. I don’t use it that often because I generally regard iAnythings the domain of the terminally evil hipsters.

24. when was the last time you received something over 500 dollars?
My laptop.

25. have you been through driver’s ed yet?
No. I got my driver’s license before they (TN) started requiring driver’s ed.

26. what classes are you taking next school year?
Slave Labor 101…er…I mean some research credits.

27. who is your favorite person to have a serious conversation with?
Not anyone in particular. However, the best conversations usually occur during the night when you’re feeling a bit sleep deprived.

30. are you experienced?
In what? I wield a mean pipetman.

31. any historical figures that you envy?
First name that came to me was Ghengis Khan. I don’t think I envy him, but maybe my subconscious is trying to tell me something else.

32. describe what you’re wearing in detail?
T-shirt, jeans, hiking boots.

33. what brand of digital camera do you own?
Samsung. It’s a hand-me-down. It’s old and clunky. But it gets the job done.

34. what do you think about people who party a lot?
Unoriginal time wasters.

35. does talking about sex make you uncomfortable?
A little if it involves someone telling me about their personal lives. It’s just too much information. If it’s clinical, I can discuss it like anything else.

36. what makes a perfect evening?
Time alone to do some reading or writing.

37. who was the last person to sleep over at your house?
See #14.

38. do you have an iPod?
It was forced upon me.

39. how often do you tan, if you do at all?
I get tanned from being outside. Otherwise, no, I do not deliberately go get tans.

40. what was the last CD you purchased?
Michael Buble – Call Me Irresponsible. I am well aware that this labels me as an unhip mass consumer.

41. have you ever been offered a job?
As in out of the blue? No.

42. what is a band that you will always love?
See last part of #19.

43. have you ever stolen anything off of a road?

45. who was the last person you rode in a car with?
See #14. I was driving.

46. what of the seven deadly sins are you guilty of?
Extremely productive people would accuse me of suffering from sloth. They would cite this survey as Exhibit A.

Non-Existent Viewing Habits

I don’t have a television. I don’t watch YouTube. I have no plans to install plug-ins on my browser which would enable me to watch videos and flash files. (Yeah, so for all you bloggers who’ve been trigger happy with the video embedding–pffft!) Which probably explains a lot of things. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t occasionally watch movies or shows.

So in between lulls of travel show series (exactly when is Michael Palin’s New Europe coming out anyway?), I’ve been watching Mushishi, an episodic fantasy/supernatural/horror anime. I suppose one could compare it to Miyazaki’s Spirited Away and probably even more closely to Tactics and xxxHolic. I like both the folklorish and philosophical aspects of Mushishi, the clash between man and mushi (literally “bugs” but more like inscrutable nature spirits) whenever the two intersect. However, a note to slasher flick fans: you’ll probably doze off before the opening credits are even finished. It’s quiet but creepy–the deceptively sedate pace gradually builds up the uneasiness factor. I love the subtle horror in the seemingly everyday–perhaps that’s why I have little interest in watching live-action supernatural shows.

Sarcasm Unglued?

Cheer Up. Uh huh. There are some choice words I’d like to use to describe grad school. Guilt. Depression. Discontent. Exhaustion. Happiness as a grad student? Ephemeral. Illusory. Mythological. There is no carrot.

Subtle Hijinks

Shelf Decorating. (via So Anyway) During high school, I worked at the local library. Often, when I found myself shelving books in the adult fiction section, I would rearrange all the Danielle Steel novels (and there were several shelves of them) by color.

Anticipation Much?

A month ago, I received a mysterious white package. I opened it. Yay!* It was an ARC of Nalini Singh‘s Caressed By Ice. I probably held out for about half a second before I started reading. I know. When it comes to fun storytelling, I’m weak.

In a future, alternative Earth, tensions simmer between the Changelings (shape-shifters) and the Psy–humans with evolved mental powers who have ruthlessly quashed their emotions through a protocol called Silence. In their search for perfection, the Psy have thoughtlessly disposed of anyone in their way–from the Changelings whom they regard as nothing but animals–to even their own kind showing any “flaws”. It’s only once that the Psy atrocities have been discovered that Changelings, humans, and defecting Psy try to fight back.

Caressed by Ice concerns Judd Lauren, an assassin for the Psy Council who had defected to protect his family from the horror of being “rehabilitated”, and Brenna Kincaid, a wolf Changeling who had been tortured by a Psy killer. Amidst the search for a murderer and the machinations of the Psy Council, Brenna and Judd struggle with the fact that there is even a relationship between them. While Brenna wonders why she is attracted to an emotionless man with the capacity for evil, Judd fights developing feelings that could literally kill him.

Science fiction and romance are two genres that are often at each other’s throats. Many attempts at mixing the two have resulted in poor results. However, Singh manages to weave what is essentially a romance with sci-fi elements. The romance and the characters are compelling–Brenna is a strong female who knows what she wants as Judd desperately clings to Silence even though it’s falling on him like a ceiling studded with sharp spikes. The nuts and bolts of the world-building are not obvious, but the world is surprisingly thorough and complex (enough so that I would strongly recommend reading the previous books first if you decide to delve into the series). For example, Silence is not merely a plot device. It is a logical outgrowth from the Psy’s abilities and psychological proclivities. In one aspect, the series is speculative psychology. Envision Pavlov’s experiments taken to the extreme. The conditioning strongly hinted in the previous two books of the series is explored with Judd’s character.

After finishing the novel, more questions are raised than answered. So far, only the Changelings and Psy have been described in any detail. It’s been mostly Changeling vs. Psy with humans as minor characters if they appear at all. So how, exactly, do humans fit in this world? Who is the Psy rebel called “The Ghost”? Where do the loyalties for certain mysterious and ambiguous Psy Council members really lie? How fragmented are the Changelings? And what will certain characters do now that their initial plans for the next phase of Psy evolution have been derailed?

Of course, questions aren’t entirely a bad thing. They’re effective hooks. And I, for one, will be waiting for the next installment to find out if they get answered or if everything gets even more delightfully byzantine.

*This is becoming a habit. I’ve started Singh’s other reviews similarly.

Links And Commentary

Leave No Rock Unturned. Cool. It’s happening on the same weekend as that crazy 3-day novel thing I’m planning to do so at the moment, it is uncertain if I will be able to come up for air to do this.

Washington Post’s article on Latino Interns – a different perspective….or is it? A much better articulated piece than what I was ranting about here. Why is it that because I’m not white, that I do not conform to some Caucasian ideal, that people automatically assume that my real identity is not that of a North American? Why do they assume that even when perfect English comes out of my mouth?

The most daunting numbers I’ve seen yet. This is only scary if you’ve gone into grad school with tunnel vision. Sure, there’s still this perceived stigma for pretty much any job outside of academia, but these days, you’ve got to keep your options open. My philosophy is: there’s no such thing as fate or destiny. You don’t know what the future will bring you. So don’t cross off a job opportunity just because someone sneers at it–because someday, it might mean the difference between having alternative work that you happen to enjoy or bitterly flipping burgers because you can’t get the “perfect” job.

Narrative Book-Fiction for Grownups. Why must there be certain books for “grownups” to read? And why must “grownup” be associated with “complex”, plodding, and storyless drivel calling itself lit-fic? What’s so good about reading stuff for “grownups” anyway? The critics might approve–but how much influence do they hold on people’s real lives anyway? None. If people are seeing only two choices for reading: lit-fic vs. bestsellers, then something about book marketing and literacy education has to change. Don’t let some English professor or a bunch of rankings on The New York Times tell you what’s good–good is subjective. I think there are plenty of interesting midlist authors getting overlooked–simply because people don’t venture that far in the bookstore or they’re overwhelmed by the variety. Of course, if people read more in the first place, they wouldn’t be so leery about picking up a dud…