Archive for: July, 2015

Quote of the Day: From the Optimist Folder

Jul 31 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

Not my favorite person, but:

When you get to the end of all the light you know and it's time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: either you will be given something solid to stand on, or you will be taught how to fly. - Edward Teller

Note that Teller is considered agnostic or an atheist by many. "Faith" in this quote may be anything. I see it as faith in oneself, belief in your ability to do.

Here is the only quote I could find about his religious views.  Not that I looked incredibly long or hard, and I am sure there is more out there:

 Religion was not an issue in my family; indeed, it was never discussed. My only religious training came because the Minta required that all students take classes in their respective religions. My family celebrated one holiday, the Day of Atonement, when we all fasted. Yet my father said prayers for his parents on Saturdays and on all the Jewish holidays. The idea of God that I absorbed was that it would be wonderful if He existed: We needed Him desperately but had not seen Him in many thousands of years. - Edward Teller (2002). Memoirs: A Twentieth Century Journey In Science And Politics. Basic Books. p. 32. ISBN 978-0-7382-0778-0

Thus, the solid footing or being taught to fly has to come from something other than a deity, who has not been seen for lo, these thousands of years.

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Music to write by

Jul 31 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

One of my favorite pieces of music is Farewell to Stromness by Peter Maxwell Davies

To my ears, it is sad and hopeful, and works well whilst writing.

It also reminds of one my favorite set of novels: The Cadwal Chronicles by Jack Vance ( Araminta Station (1987), Ecce and Old Earth (1991) and Throy (1992).)

Write well, Peeps.




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Visiting (very young) scholars

Jul 30 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

Jannelle, a late-teenage (college, I think) person is visiting one of my departmental colleagues. My colleague has known and worked with Jannelle's mom for a while - they've collaborated sporadically over the last ten years. I know her parents a bit, respect their work greatly, but they are not collaborators. Jannelle wants to be a biologist, and is here for a couple of weeks to see What Biologists (other than her mom) Do. She's been hanging with my lab for a day or so.

Jannelle seems bright and interested. But damn, she's got a manner that just fucking rubs me the wrong way. I've been trying to figure out what it is, so that I can decide if I'm being a jackass, or this is really an issue. I doubt I will do anything different, since I'll be polite and open no matter what.

I like uppity. I like sassy. I like being argued with. But I don't like being interrupted. I don't like people just walking into my office and starting to interrogate me. Would I use the word interrogate if, before asking the exact same questions, she had said "excuse me, do you have time to talk?". Not at all sure about that one.

Honest admission: if she had been a he, I would have been more irritated. I try to be open to everyone, but being interrupted by males really frosts my shorts.

I don't like people who are observing, in the middle of The Lab clearly doing something (prepping a large animal for surgery) start asking a million q's. I understand you are curious. I like curious, but you are being distracting. I was only seeing this from the door, and not part of it, so I didn't step in just then.

It feels to me that this is a kid who was encouraged to question, and explore, and grab life. But, I also feel like this is a kid who had every question answered by her parents, and who was taught that it was ok to interrupt others when she did have a question.

I think it is the interrupting that gets my hackles up. I recognize being interrupted is a button for me, and its been that way since I started. or was born. So, recognizing that, does it make a difference to how I treat this kid? I think not.

Some beautiful hackles raised:


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quote of the day

Jul 29 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

“By the time a person has achieved years adequate for choosing a direction, the die is cast and the moment has long since passed which determined the future.”

Zelda Fitzgerald





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Irritations and Maturity

Jul 29 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

I just had someone (who I like, who I respect) come in and perturb me. I am trying to getting (another) grant out the door. I was going to write "they" to be gender neutral, but it was a "he". He had a bone to pick with me. He didn't ask, he told. He assumed. He made a very (to my thinking) male assumption about "fairness".

What do I wish? - to finish the bloody grant in peace. And, of course, get funded.


I wrote this when I was working on my June submission, so about two months ago. Now, I don't even remember about whom I was writing. I consider that a Good Thing. Slicing open my thumb this morning whilst making breakfast, not so good. You win some, and you lose what seems like even more.


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When will we learn?

Jul 28 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

The NYT article on suicide at elite colleges is sobering. It is about how overachieving college students attempt & often succeed at suicide. But, this little bit was embedded in the middle, almost as an afterthought:

And so she had made a plan for making her life turn out the way she thought it was supposed to. “I had the idea that I was going to find this nice Christian boyfriend ...


But there was the issue of her sexuality. ... she had found herself attracted to other girls, but believing her parents and church did not fully accept homosexuality, she had pushed aside those feelings.


....her father sat her down for a heartfelt speech about how proud he was .... “Tears rolling down his face, he said, ‘Kathryn, the reason I’m living is to pass you off to your husband.’ ”

Yes, this young woman's suicide attempt was, it seems,  partly about overachieving. About being perfect. But it is also about the horrible non-acceptance of being lesbian. When will these parents learn? The article concludes with...

... she is less concerned about covering up her true self. She has confessed her sexual feelings to her parents. They are working on acceptance. “My mom is there,” Ms. DeWitt said. “My dad is still working on it.”

This woman tried to kill herself, and her father is fucking working on it?

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Dubious quote of the day

Jul 27 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

So here is the quote of the day:

“If you have a great ambition, take as big a step as possible in the direction of fulfilling it. The step may only be a tiny one, but trust that it may be the largest one possible for now.”

―Mildred Mcafee


I used to believe this wholeheartedly. Firstly, follow your dream. Secondly, work as you can towards it. Thirdly, recognize not every step is a breakthrough. Right now, this still applies to the work in my lab. We need to do what we can. Its not always going to be a giant step, mother may I.

Now, there is part of me that wants to temper this advice with "being realistic, ok?". No way I will get to be an astronaut. That was my dream at 8 and at 10 and even at 16 when the hard reality of "women don't do that, especially ones with -5.5 diopters of glasses" sank in.

My dreams have changed, and that is ok. What is not ok, is feeling so tired that one gives up on all of ones dreams.

Crap, its Monday morning, and there is Work To Do. Grants To Write. Students to Torture, Postdocs to .. well whatever it is one does with postdocs. Dreams don't fulfill themselves.






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"How do you not recognize the face of the person you killed?"

Jul 23 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

I have no words. I read this and read this and read this. I have only tears.

The pain in his voice makes it clear how open his wounds still are. "How do you not recognize the face of the person you killed?"

No parent should ever bury their child. No parent should have to worry that someone will for whatever reason kill their child. But never ever for the color of their skin.

The element that is often missing from the news frenzy surrounding these deaths are the actual young people whose lives were stolen due to racial hatred and fear of blackness...

We should never ever forget the children, the proto-adults, who are killed. The parents putting their lives back together.

3½ Minutes, 10 Bullets never lets us escape the humanity of Jordan Davis.

From another post that reviews the film, by :

Jordan’s humanity was placed on trial, not Dunn’s criminality.

The madness needs to stop. It just needs to stop.


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fears about memory loss

Jul 22 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

I think about this because I am afraid that I will get AD.  I spent the morning thinking about the name of the coffee shop in Harvard Square that got sold to Starbucks years ago. The Coffee Connection. It took a while to remember.

One can do the right things for aging: exercise, eating well, living life. But in the end, the things that are largely genetic, even with an environmental trigger are there.

One can be neurotic and dampen one's enjoyment. Or one can embrace life, in all its messy glory. And acknowledge that messy glory includes a memory that at 60 is not what it was at 20.

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Austria and Jews

Jul 22 2015 Published by under eastern europe, Uncategorized

More from journals:

But I have still not touched on the Jewish question of Austria. I am trying to organize how I perceived each country's view of WWII, the Holocaust. I do not mean to be glib, or dismissive. But each was different, and these are just my shorthand, my perception. Poland was filled with guilt. Auschwitz / Birkenau is a national monument. There is a National Museum of the History of Jews in Poland, albeit heavily financed by American Jews. Remembering is paramount. Here is where the Nazis killed Jews.

Hungary, which lost the same order of magnitude as Poland, was less public, national but still there. There are memories and memorials and indeed, the Budapest ghetto was never liquidated and more Jews survived. The list of Righteous is longer, and even though Raul Wallenberg was Swedish, he worked here. He is honored here. But Hungary seemed more obsessed with the Soviet Union. Did I use the word strident before? Very well, I use it again. The "House of Horror" was dramatically in your fucking face about what the Soviets did.

But Austria, Austria struck me as a set of whinging self-pitying European fops. When historically they step away from the damn Hapsburgs, the message was "we were victims of the Nazis, too". No mention of 400,000 people enthusiastically welcoming Adolf Hitler, who never used the word "Austria", giving up their identity to his greater Aryan vision. No mention of Kurt Waldheim, no mention of ongoing anti-semiticism,

The only museum about Jews and the Holocaust was private, nearly empty, and  entirely Jewish/Israel funded. But it is clean and marble and modern. The doors are blast doors, and likely designed by Israelis with an eye to security. There is an archeological site in the basement, a synagogue from the middle ages.

Someone said that the outdoor memorial (a block of books with their spines inward) was in the movie The Woman in Gold and that the Helen Mirren character had the same response to it as he did "meh".

The emptiness of it all was what hit me. The emptiness of current people, the emptiness of what happened. The emptiness of Jews in this part of the world.

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