Sunday, November 14, 2010

Grant application

Q: Why are you interested in this research?

A: My adviser told me to be.

Q: Why should you be selected?

A: Because I have no money. Hence, I have no data, which means no results. Since science is my life, without results, my life has no meaning. Sometimes I cry myself to sleep.

Q: How will your long-term goals be enhanced by this research?

A: It has the potential to eventually allow me to graduate, so I can leave this miserable place.

Click to submit. *click*

Sunday, October 31, 2010

God bless the broken road

Wow. So next week will be the one year birthday of this blog.

This seems like a good time for a post I was thinking of doing. I've recently gone on a few dates that I've really enjoyed. Before the first date, I talked to the guy on the phone, and afterward I was thinking how different I felt than when I first started dating in January, and how very very different I felt from when I started this blog, back in November. Just looking at my regular array of weekly (or thereabouts) activities causes me to stop and appreciate how much I have grown and healed since last fall. I made friends, found new interests, and rooted my faith in a stable and reaffirming community. (To read more about any of these, click the "read more" link below. The entry just got too long for the front page!)

These are just a few ways in which I was healed and even began to grow quite a lot in the last 12 months. There are many others (traveling, for example- I've been to more states this year than I have been since my family drove to Florida when I was 5) as well as professional accomplishments (3 publications and 3 conferences in one year!). However this entry is horribly long already. The point is, I've redefined myself. It's not even that I'm someone different from who I was before. The potential for all of these things was hibernating inside my heart the whole time. I just glossed over them, blinding myself by my own conviction of who I was. (Again, Ignatious had it pretty much figured out what the important questions are... maybe we should all try to get hit in the leg with a cannonball more often). Part of the problem was that as far as I could see, I could only be who I had been. Every funny story I could think of, every striking memory I had, contained someone who was essentially no longer part of my life. The only way out of the hole was to have the courage to brave new experiences for new memories. As scary as this was, walking into a void without anything to attach to, I took small steps, holding onto the wall of the swimming pool and kicking my feet, until I was able to venture into the pool, and finally swim the length on my own. It's easy to stay near the shallows if it worked in the past. But the entire length of the pool begged to be explored. The new me formed as my experiences formed memories which I judged as good or bad and subtly shaped who I am.

It's funny because my last relationship began when I was still hurting from the one preceding it. Now I'm not and everything in dating feels completely different. It's the whole, real me, and it's fantastic, no matter what happens next. And if things don't always work out, I'll trust the broken road to lead me on.

Rascal Flatts- Broken Road
I set out on a narrow way many years ago
Hoping I would find true love along the broken road
But I got lost a time or two
Wiped my brow and kept pushing through
I couldn't see how every sign pointed straight to you

Every long lost dream led me to where you are
Others who broke my heart they were like Northern stars
Pointing me on my way into your loving arms
This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you

I think about the years I spent just passing through
I'd like to have the time I lost and give it back to you
But you just smile and take my hand
You've been there you understand
It's all part of a grander plan that is coming true

Now I'm just rolling home
Into my lover's arms
This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you

That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you.

When everything feels like the movies

Yeah you bleed just to know you're alive.

Fred Borman's Earthrise

So again I was in the car, driving home after a pleasant night of socializing and football (read: snacks). And the song "Human" came on, which I was totally rocking out to, both because I think it's a really silly and enjoyable song and online forums held vehement arguments over the true lyrics before they were released (is it dancer or denser??!). And then, catching me on my high from the previous song, came "Iris".

There was a period when Iris was a "couple" song for me. But it is also a song that meant something to me before that phase of my life, and surprisingly, it means that same thing still. It's funny because the song is almost like one of those hologram collectible cards, where there are ridges and one side shows one picture and the other another picture, so that each can be seen if the card is held at different angles. One side of the song is romantic and about being in love, finding a connection with another person. But the other part of the song is about the very personal things about yourself that you don't show to others, and the struggle to remain true to who you are in the face of an ever-demanding world.

The part of the song that always struck me are the lines "When everything feels like the movies/ Yeah yah bleed just to know you're alive." I feel these words very deeply, but not in a morbid or even pessimistic way. My job is my life. It is challenging, and at times infuriating, un-gratifying, seemingly impossible, and downright miserable. Yes, it's true; on certain days I feel at a complete loss and can't see a way out of my hole. But what I love about myself is that I keep on doing it. Not just doing it for the sake of keeping up the challenge or because I need to or because I'm just too stubborn to give up. The reason why I do it is because I have a dream, and have had one nearly since I can remember. That dream is to be an astronaut and work for NASA and see the beauty of the earth from space and touch, in some small way, the mystery of the world. And every step I take further into a career in science brings me closer to that dream. That dream is worth being miserable and discouraged and going home feeling awful more than one night in a row. That dream is worth fighting for.

And the thing is, I don't know if I'll ever become an astronaut. But in moving in that direction, on the path that I am sure that God has set for me, I have found other things that thrill me and take my breath away. My current work is part of that; I think that it's thrilling to see science in action, to actually do an experiment starting with one thing and ending with something else. And if I am destined to study acid river systems as a Mars analogue, or hypersaline tolerant species, or colonization effects on populations in extreme environments instead of walking in space, then I feel that this is also worth fighting for. Or studying evolution in zooplankton or whatever I may find myself doing in ten years' time. The Goo Goo Dolls know that the monotony of everyday life can get to you, and that you can break free by remembering the things that you are fighting for. Sure, you can give up and settle for something easy and comforting, or give up on something entirely because you wanted to but it was just too difficult. But if you give away all the things that are difficult to do, will you be left with anything you truely love?

Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls

And I'd give up forever to touch you
Cause I know that you'd feel it somehow
You're the closest to heaven that I've ever been
And I don't want to go home right now

And I don't want the world to see me
Cause I don't think that they'd understand
When everything's made to be broken
I just want you to know who I am.

You can't stop the tears that aren't coming
The moments of truth in your life
When everything feels like the movies
Yeah, you bleed just to know you're alive

And I don't want the world to see me
Cause I don't think that they'd understand
When everything's made to be broken
I just want you to know who I am.

And I don't want the world to see me
Cause I don't think that they'd understand
When everything's made to be broken
I just want you to know who I am.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Surrender all hope, ye who are single

I apologize but this is going to be a rantful, self-pitying etc entry that I just can't help.

The problem appears to be that I feel as if I've dated pretty much every guy in Connecticut.

Or, for clarity, let me rephrase. I've either been on a date with- or at least chatted online with- nearly every male in Connecticut, and decided that they weren't for me.

This poses somewhat of a problem, for me personally, but also for other females in the area, or so I believe. There seems to be a real shortage of desirable guys. Now I may be a little picky, and I may scare away any males who happen to be reading this, but I really must get my frustration out.

I'll begin with problems on the website-meeting end of things. First of all, let's just put it out there. Don't go on a dating website if you don't have a job. Think that's unfair? Well think about this: the people who are reading your profile KNOW how much the site costs, and thus assume that you have some kind of excess money. You know, to pay for little things like dinner, movie tickets, coffee, breath mints.... it's like putting yourself out there before you're over your last relationship. If you're broke, then chances are you just don't have the funds to jump start a relationship. (Plus, shouldn't you putting all this time and energy towards getting a job?) For the record, I'm a huge proponent of girls paying for themselves but if you can't cough up your share then honey, no dice.

This next one is aimed at all you guys whose profiles read "I'm really into sports. Blah bleh and whatsit are my favorite teams. I like going to sporting events etc etc etc." Newsflash: I don't give a crap that you like sports. You're a MALE. It's a given. If you MUST, just list ONE team that you follow, and that's the end of it. Is the best reflection of your inner self the different names on the overpriced jerseys that you wear? Really, if you can't expand your horizons beyond just baseball, or football, or whatever, then I think you're going to have trouble in a serious relationship.

My next complaint is about guys once you actually get into conversations with or make the effort to meet (I was going to say "subject yourself to a meeting with", but then that sounded too cynical.) I think that you should absolutely be yourself when on a date or meeting someone, but still, you want to make yourself look GOOD- physically as well as emotionally/mentally. When looking for potential suitors on a dating site, all of us females have the lurking suspicion in the back of our minds that you might be on there because you just can't cut it in a relationship, that there is something that you just don't GET about females, that you're afraid of commitment, or overly picky, or full of yourselves, you're a psycho racist arsonist-killer who gives lethal foot rubs, etc. I (hope) I give guys a fair chance to show that none of these stereotypes apply. However, I get discouraged when it seems that many guys don't give a moments' notice to a single thing that comes out of their mouth. No, I don't want to talk about gun control on a first date. I don't want to hear excuses about how you lost your job because some higher-up "didn't like you" (please see above), or for that matter, why you still live with your parents (which should be something you make clear UP FRONT and sorry loser but.... lame), or fake plans as to when you're moving out (out of the three guys I've met who have filled this criteria, all were planning on moving out "really soon" -ok yeah). It would be nice if you asked me a question or two instead of just blathering on about yourself. Also a compliment might be nice, and much more appreciated then you paying for my $3 coffee. Am I ranting yet? Don't tell me vulgar stories about your immature friends- let's follow the rule that stories that don't involve any females should not be repeated to females because it's probably a sign that they didn't want to be there when whatever was going on happened. And most importantly, do NOT ask me for a second date while still on the FIRST, unless I say something that implies I'm enjoying it such as, "I'm having a nice time" or, "I haven't had this good of a time in a while" or, "are you sure I'm not dreaming?" It puts us in a really awkward position. How many people can actually reject others to their FACE, when they clearly like you more than you like them? Make the effort to keep your pie hole closed and send me a text, an email, or god forbid a PHONE CALL saying you had a nice time and would be interested in meeting again. Also, don't make ME decide everything... have a PLAN of where to take me next. It's called being romantic, you might want to figure that out before date #2.

And to tie off the loose ends... tips for guys for whom there will be be no date #2 (or, sometimes, date #1). Let's put "rejection" in a better light. Do you really want to be with someone who doesn't feel like the two of you are a good match? (Case in point: pity makeout sessions are not good makeout sessions.) So if you can handle this, and ACTUALLY want to be friends, then do it. If you can't handle it, then get out. No girl who rejected you romantically is going to force you to be friends with her unless she's a jerk, so keep that in mind. Guys, if you continue to compare all of your following dates to her, then you can't be friends. If you're going to be insulted by her talking about her new boyfriend when she gets one, then you can't be friends. And if you're going to feel offended if she's not available to talk all the time, or if she doesn't pay enough attention to you, then you also can't be friends. Oh and one more rule; don't try to date her friends to make her jealous. That just makes you more repulsive to her, because it implies that you're an uncommitted horndog who never liked her that much in the first place. And on the other side of the coin, I know doling out rejections is unpleasant, but be kind. Also, it's kind of nice to have a hint as to why you think it won't work... like were you bored, am I too political, did my makeup look like Bridget Jone's after that time she put blush on in the car...

Anyways, that's my dating rant. If anyone has any constructive criticism, I'd love to hear it. Otherwise, maybe someone could find me Viggo Mortensen's phone number....?

Friday, June 25, 2010

The wilderness will lead you

Tonight my prayer group was asked how they viewed the deterioration of the environment in light of their faith, and if it helped them make sense of it. One member shared how they interpreted the Genesis verse telling man to "tame the earth. Instead of the common interpretation used by the church in centuries past as an excuse to use the whole of nature as a tool to man's advantage, this person felt that the passage conversely belaid man with a responsibility to be an advocate for the environment, looking to God as a guide in using the benefits of nature for man's needs. I agree with this outlook but also think that there is a more intimate link between faith and preserving the environment. Put simply, as we degrade the environment, we degrade ourselves. I think that most would agree that as the overuse and misuse of the environment has increased, so has our speed. Our speed of travel and our speed of communication have undoubtably increased, while our patience and time spent in quiet reflection have nearly universally decreased. The harvesting of ready-made resources in nature has allowed us to move forward in technology so quickly. It has reaped benefits such as increasing the standard of living in many countries and curing debilitating diseases, but has it's price. More than just a correlation with a lack of time spent in reflection and self-realization, the loss of nature has an effect deeply felt in our humanity. Waves crashing against the rocky coast of New England can take your breath away. The breadth of the Milky Way shining above you makes you feel the endless possibilities where once you only saw dead ends. Something as simple as a shady spot beneath a tree can bring peace to a troubled mind. These things do not have value only because they exist. They have value because of the response and emotions that they can evoke in us. If we lost these things, would there be other experiences to replace them and give us these presepctives and feelings? I don't agree with worshiping the spirit of trees and rocks, but we cannot deny that the natural beauty in the world is an ever-present gift from God, an opportunity for guidence and reflection. When we lose these things, we lose a part of ourselves.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Better coupons than I get in MY paper...

The three hardest questions to answer at family parties while in graduate school:

Well-meaning person: So, what classes are you taking?

The honest grad student answer (at least in the sciences) is sorry, I don't really take many classes, or infact, any, after my second year. In any case the majority of my time is spent working in the lab and teaching, which is why I get "paid" to "go to school."

Well-meaning person: Is your plan to become a professor after this?

The honest grad student answer: After this, I expect that I'll never want to see an undergrad again.

Well-meaning person: So, when do you graduate?

The honest grad student answer: Walks away, bitterly weeping.

Monday, May 10, 2010

...and as a humorous followup to my last post...

This is one of the infamous graduate student comics. Click to enjoy.

It's easy; All you need is love.

Every romantic comedy, prime-time drama, and teen novel seem to have the same conclusion. The message is meant to be down to earth, fulfilling, and insightful, revealing some inner truth. Everyone knows that the lesson to the story is that as human beings, we need more than just posessions. We shouldn't let our monotenous duties at work or preoccupations with "rising through the ranks" and "climbing the ladder" monopolize our lives. Silly yuppies. Silly fashionists, computer geeks, and millionares. All we ever really need is love! Love is the answer.

Or is it?

What about those times that we don't have a romantic relationship in our lives? What about when we're looking for one? What do we do then? Every romcom urges us to "give love another chance" and get over ourselves, so that we can envelop our lives in a new relationship. But is that really the answer?

I've been single for over six months now, and if I'd listened to that advice I'd never have made it this far.

At first I didn't know where to turn. Losing such an absorbing part of my life was disorienting. But every day I had to come into work. It was a schedule, a routine. That was one goal that still existed in my life. I could lie and say that I threw myself into my work. I didn't. I was listless and didn't throw myself into anything besides being miserable. But eventually the misery subsided and the thing that was there when the sun began to rise was work.

My work is frustrating. It's stressful and can be unrewarding. Positive outcomes are not always proportional to the input of time and effort. However it was something that I could work at. I spent time and got things done. They didn't always work, but sometimes they did, and no matter what the outcome, I knew it was all dependent on me. I was in control, for better or for worse. And eventually, after time passed, my hard work was rewarded. As my mood improved, my social life emerged from hibernation, little by little. At work, a little bit of success spurred me on and in the past few months I've not only immersed myself in my work, but also in improving my career, and myself. Chalk it up to Fairfield and "educating the whole person." I'm not just pipetting and writing and correcting. I'm going to conferences, meeting people, making connections, and getting involved in my department and beyond.

Love is a wonderful thing. But do we really have to make it the ONLY thing? Do I really have to feel bad about myself because I've decided to turn my focus elsewhere while I wait for it to come to me? I can tell you I'm more grounded than I have been in a while. I'm not writing love off. I put my social hours in. I pick out flirty outfits. I talk to guys in the bar. But at the end of yet another night when I haven't met Mr. Right, I can face getting up in the morning because I know I have something else.

The Beatles

Love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love.
There's nothing you can do that can't be done.
Nothing you can sing that can't be sung.
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game
It's easy.
There's nothing you can make that can't be made.
No one you can save that can't be saved.
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you
in time - It's easy.

All you need is love, all you need is love,
All you need is love, love, love is all you need.
Love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love.
All you need is love, all you need is love,
All you need is love, love, love is all you need.
There's nothing you can know that isn't known.
Nothing you can see that isn't shown.
Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be.
It's easy.
All you need is love, all you need is love,
All you need is love, love, love is all you need.
All you need is love (all together now)
All you need is love (everybody)
All you need is love, love, love is all you need.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

When the courage of men fails

I find it amazing how many people now harbor an affection for Lord of the Rings. True, a large fraction of female viewers were solely devoted to Legolas the elf when the movies premiered, but I daresay that most of the fans are true. What makes this story so compelling? Why are we willing to sit through hour after hour of fictitious creatures and places? True, the cinematography is outstanding and the landscapes breathtaking. But we all know that few people will sit through amateur film festivals or hours of the travel channel for these reasons. No, it is the story, and the characters, that keep us coming back.

TNT has shown all three LOTR movies this weekend. (One each day; all three at once has a way of leaving one in a sort of Middle Earth-induced coma.) Watching them all in sequence, I find it amazing how dark the movies really are. The characters run into problem after problem, with only brief victories to puncture their constant trials.

And yet, the darkest, most hopeless story of all, that of Frodo and Sam, is also the most compelling. These two Hobbits have little idea of where they are and where they are going. They have never been outside their homeland before, and their only guide is a vile creature who sabotages them every step of the way. Not only are they constantly in danger of straying off course or being ambushed by the enemy, but they have to carry their greatest and most dangerous enemy with them at all times, a ring which corrupts them from within. They travel miles through bleak, misty marsh, climb desolate mountains, and escape from a city under siege. They face constant discouragement and disillusionment. I love the artistry in how the movies portray almost every scene of them after the breaking of the Fellowship as dreary and foreboding. Sam and Frodo are constantly surrounded by dark stones, towering landscapes that dwarf them, and other shadowy, ominous surroundings.

The message is meant to be depressing. The tale is meant to sound hopeless- nothing goes right for these two characters. And yet they keep trying. They keep going, they keep walking, though they do not know the way. Sam knows Frodo is losing his trust in him, yet he does not leave. Frodo finds his very being changed by a burden that he did not ask for, yet he keeps the ring and resists its call with every fiber of his being. The two face constant danger, in stark contrast to their former lives of blissful simplicity in the Shire. And the only thing they have as proof that giving up or leaving the task to someone else is the word of a trusted but mysterious friend, in accordance with the beliefs of a council made of of others they do not know and each have their own best interests in mind.

But despite all of the setbacks, doubts, and dangers, they go on. It is truly inspirational. Although these little Hobbits are heroes, they often fail to act heroic. They are fully human and flawed. They are plagued by fears, selfishness, and temptations. There is nothing perfect or even strikingly selfless. Instead, they seem to be normal, frail, and fallible. The things that make them heroes are the choices they make. Once they leave the Fellowship, no one is there to enforce their mission. The Hobbits choose to continue of their own accord. They do not give in to temptation, pain, fatigue, or fear. This is why they are heroes.

Makes me feel kind of guilty for complaining about my own life. :)

Image from