Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Month: August, 2007


Booking Through Thursday: Indoctrination

When growing up did your family share your love of books?

My family is not as obsessed with books as I am, but they do understand the value of books. My Dad doesn’t read that much–all I’ve seen him read are newspapers, computer programming manuals, and skimming through The Lord of the Rings (but only after much nudging by me). My Mom is more the book person, but she prefers looking at craft books in English and histories and novels in Chinese. My sister understands my mild bibliomania and reading habits the best (although she is younger than me, so one could argue that I indoctrinated her), but she prefers contemporary romance (I do not).

If so, did one person get you into reading?

I remember buying books and going to the library with my Mom when I was very young. However, I don’t remember if my parents actually sat me down and taught me to read. I’m mostly positive that I knew my letters by about four-years-old. I say mostly, because I can’t recall exactly when words actually started making sense to me.

And, do you have any family-oriented memories with books and reading? (Family trips to bookstore, reading the same book as a sibling or parent, etc.)

I do remember family trips to various bookstores and libraries, but it was more in the context of general shopping, i.e. the bookstore or library was also in the same direction as the grocery store/clothing shops/etc. so might as well stop there too. Otherwise, the idea of reading with my family seems really odd to me–I’ve always considered reading a solitary activity. Sometimes I swap books with my sister, but other than that, everyone has different tastes in reading so it’s kind of impossible to get the entire family to read one book.

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The Thursday Threesome: Calculators may not be Used

Onesome: Calculators– and such: are you good with numbers? Do you have a calculator built in? …or does the presence of a second column demand some help from something electronic?

If you asked my teachers in third grade, they would say, NO. Compared with other kids, I wasn’t. Now, I’m okay with numbers. Looking at standardized test scores, I’m probably better at numbers than some people (maybe even most people). But this does not make me a mathematician. And of course, there’s this old joke about biologists not knowing any math…

Twosome: may not be– where you left them. Hmmm… What have you misplaced lately? You know: the item you are flat positive you left in one spot but somehow mysteriously migrated to another!

Aside from books, I subscribe to the minimalist way of organizing things. The less stuff cluttering the place, the better. Now, since I don’t believe in having a minimum number of books (and my bookshelves aren’t organized in any sort of system either) one would think that if I misplaced anything, it might be a book. Nope. I know where all the titles are despite the crazed stacks.

Threesome: Used– cars? When you buy, do you buy new? …or do you go for those with a few thousand miles on them?

Used cars are more practical. Throwing away money on a new car just to get the latest, just to be cool, just so you can one-up the Joneses is sort of stupid and shallow. If the car can get me from one place to another, that’s already a big plus for me. I don’t need to impress anyone.


From here. (via here)

Not all yogurts are probiotic though, so make sure the label says “live and active cultures.”

That label doesn’t mean anything. Apparently, these people have never taken an undergraduate microbiology lab. (In a class I had TA’d, one of the experiments was to test for the presence of Lactobacillus in a variety of plain yogurt brands–none of them had that label. The results all came back positive.)

Peeved, Yet Again

I’ve blogged about this countless times before, but I’ll blog it again, simply because I want to let off some steam. Please, please, PLEASE don’t ask me where I’m from in order to pin down my ethnicity. And if you still want to find out my ethnicity, please do not be rude.

Me: “I’m looking for [insert name of the person I’m trying to find]. Have you seen him around?”

Lab tech: “Where are you from?”

To say the least, I was flabbergasted for about ten seconds. Where the hell had that question come from? And why wasn’t this person answering my question? I had asked first.

Eventually, I answered, “Here,” which obviously irritated the tech since it was such a smart ass answer, but at that moment, I was too pissed off to care.

A Brief Book Review

As a mix of biography and science history, Vaccinated: One Man’s Quest to Defeat the World’s Deadliest Diseases* is an intriguing account of the development of vaccines centered around the one man who gave the world a chance to fight against some of the most devastating diseases. Maurice Hilleman grew up in the farming communities in Montana and later became one of the lead researchers for the pharmaceutical giant Merck who developed vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B, and others. However, Paul Offit doesn’t merely recount Hilleman’s life events and achievements. Offit also manages to skillfully weave the history and prior research that supported Hilleman’s experiments as well as the further developments and controversy that surrounded his vaccines. Vaccinated is an informative and humanistic look into one of the more practical aspects of disease prevention. It gives a whole new meaning to vaccines than being merely a shot in the arm.

*I received this book as an ARC, but even if I hadn’t, I would still recommend it. I would especially recommend this to biomedical students who do nothing but memorize textbooks. Sure, complain all you like about having no time for pleasure reading, but you can’t call yourself well rounded if all you know are mechanisms and experimental methods.

Bookshop Hunting

I figured that it was pointless to just drive to Spokane for a package and then come back. So I googled for Spokane bookstores and decided to hit all the independent booksellers there while I was at it. Unfortunately, a lot of the bookstores I was trying to find were closed on a Saturday (sacrilege!), out of business or so well hidden that they might as well be in a parallel universe.

However, I did come across two very nifty stores:

Auntie’s. It’s downtown on Main. You can’t miss it. Like any other “trendy” bookstore, it has a cafe. When school starts up again, I’m betting the place will be packed with college students. The inventory is a mix of used and new like BookPeople of Moscow, but unlike BookPeople, there’s tons of room to roam around. The place gets points for having the fantasy and sci-fi section near one of the entrances. The religion and new age section was also front and center–perhaps an indication of what sells well and the questionable temperaments of some Spokanese. Some genres were noticeably absent–the place did have a sort of arty elitist atmosphere–no westerns, romance, chick-lit, or mystery. Also, the placement of the science section was far from intuitive. While I was aimlessly wandering around trying to find it, I heard another customer asking somebody where the science books were. For those of you planning on visiting Auntie’s one day and looking for science books, I’ll save you some trouble (unless they reorganize): you’ll find Gould et al. on the second floor, stashed in the northwest corner.

2nd Look Books. This place doesn’t look like much on the outside, but oh my God, it’s a genre lover’s wet dream. The inventory includes first edition children’s books, popular titles that have just come out, and enough romance to give a romance addict a seizure. I happily spent my time browsing the extensive sci-fi/fantasy section and discovered some pretty interesting stuff. Definitely worth a visit the next time I come to Spokane.

Other things of note: I dropped by The Comic Book Shop after missing it a couple of times because of a car accident that partially blocked off Division Street. Otherwise, it’s sort of hard to miss due to the bright paint. Lots of superhero stuff, anime and manga, and collectibles. I was hoping to find a copy of the graphic novel called The Professor’s Daughter, but no luck.

While wandering around downtown on foot, I stumbled upon the Spokane Public Library–very nice–and then an hour later, somebody asked me for directions to the place. Finally, a direction question I could answer! In this case, it pays to be bookish. The Lilac Festival was also going on, although I didn’t see any lilacs, and I also discovered an interesting quilt gallery (I particularly liked the quilts with the crows) tucked in the back of the third floor of the River Park Square mall.

And finally, a pawn shop sign that pretty much sums up bad shopping experiences:

Mom Was Right

Kumquats and Quilts. Over a year ago, my mom and I were going to the grocery store to get some fruit and that sparked a conversation on the origin of the word kumquat. I was expressing my skepticism over whether or not it was really a Chinese word (given the fact that I hear Cantonese speakers “Chinese-fy” English words like cheese all the time), when my mom said: No, it is a Chinese word. And tried to explain why. I find it somewhat ironic that I’m finally convinced by a blog post written by somebody calling himself “Big White Guy.”

Tomorrow, Four Hours of Driving

I hesitate to rant about anything. Most people find ranting annoying. And perhaps ranting might tick somebody you know off and then things might get fairly uncomfortable in you personal and/or professional life. And if you’re female, it’s a double black mark against you because people might start thinking that you’re an addlepated and hormonal twit.

Anyways, I am annoyed. Really annoyed. Whoever came up with the asinine idea to deliver packages to residential addresses only from Monday to Friday, 8 AM to 5 PM, should be shot with fifty water guns and shipped to Timbuktu in a refrigerated tanker. With no extra change of dry pants. And make that a freakin’ double for whoever it was who made the nearest pick-up center in Spokane, Washington*.

I’m probably going to waste more gas money getting there than the amount used to send the package in the first place. And if the package isn’t there when I do get there…well, never mind. The people at the call center have already shown their incompetence earlier this week, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I get to Spokane for nothing.

*The delivery service which sounds like an internet speed requires my signature and my identification. That’s why they can’t simply drop the package off at my door. Why they can’t have later hours or even a pick-up center in Pullman like UPS is anyone’s guess.

Cleaning Out the Bookmarks

Fox Photos. And some very cool ones too.

Lightning! Ooo, smell the ozone.

Love On Campus. Just in time for the start of school! However I have just one word: Ewwwww.

The Prime Game. Possibly an addictive past-time for number geeks.

Think before you stand up. I’m one of those people who realizes, belatedly after one minute, that everyone else is standing up. Of course, I think: Damn it, I have to haul myself out of my chair because everyone else around me would think I’m ungrateful.

Cabinet of Wonders. This blog has some fascinating cultural-arty-weird posts.

The Origin of Everyday Punctuation Marks. I’ve always been puzzled by the octothorp…

Photos of cephalopodic playscapes. Whee!

Why Is That Not Surprising

A recent conversation that explained the last part of this:

“So it’s rush week for the sororities and they’re all required to wear sundresses or something like that. And they talk about really important things like…”

“World peace? Finding a cure for cancer?”

“No. Shopping.”


Booking Through Thursday: Monogamy

One book at a time? Or more than one? If more, are they different types/genres? Or similar?

(We’re talking recreational reading, here—books for work or school don’t really count since they’re not optional.)

It varies. Sometimes I’m reading one book at a time. Sometimes several. As for genre, sometimes it’s the same, sometimes it’s different. I know my answer isn’t exactly helpful–I’m just not particularly fixed in my reading habits. If I were, I wouldn’t get anything read.

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The Thursday Threesome: Going out to Dinner

Onesome: Going out– means what? Deal with this and plan that and…? …or can you just leave and hit it … where? Hmmm… Where is “out” for you?

It means getting out of the house. Or not being in lab. I usually don’t do much planning about where I’m going or what I will be doing.

Twosome: “…to– the dogs?” Is that just a strange expression? …or do you ‘get’ it? What’s the most curious expression you’ve heard or you use and others don’t ‘get’?

I understand the one about dogs. The first thing that comes to mind about strange expressions is “h-e-double toothpicks.” For some reason, I had a really difficult time wrapping my head around that one. Some New Englander type things are just plain weird.

Threesome: Dinner– bells and chuck wagon triangles: what sound means food to you? Okay, okay, sure, the ice cream truck counts!

Hm. The dinner bell, I suppose. Also, when I was an undergrad living in the dorms (I feel really odd saying that because at the institution I went to, it was called a “house”) there was a set dinner time. Some of the students were hired as “waiters” (who didn’t act much like real waiters)–the head waiter would ring a triangle to signal the beginning of the meal. The house president would end the meal by hitting a gong.