Friday, January 30, 2009

Dear Snowboots Haiku Friday

Dear snowboots you are
the best purchase I have made
in the offseason.


Snow turned into ice
in a blink. The entire
city skating rink.


Also shout out to
Yax Tracks for unwavering
slippage protection.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

CSI: Reality

I don't really watch much TV. Cable here is really expensive and I haven't got the time. I'd much rather delve into a book or Vanity Fair than watch some lame TV shows. However, I did take in one recent episode of CSI and I've got to tell you: wow, is that show terrible! I'm a big fan of reality - don't really buy too much into science fiction. Sometimes I am able to suspend disbelief (like, in the case of Harry Potter), but usually I am a stickler for details. I didn't love Spiderman because they showed a spider biting him and then the spider's DNA intercalating with Peter's DNA and that's how he became Spiderman. From a scientific point of view, I can't even tell you how many wrong things there are with that picture....
Anyways, I get off topic easily. Back to CSI. In it, there is a crime committed, the people in the lab examine some inconsequential piece of evidence (rapidly, I might add) and discover the true identity of the killer. While some of the things they do on CSI are plausible (for example, you can extract DNA from smaller and smaller pieces of tissue left behind - but the results are neither rapid nor without fallicy) most of the things they present cannot and do not happen. Trust me, you CANNOT look in a microscope and be able to tell whether DNA is human or animal. DNA is DNA is DNA. You also cannot look at a drop of blood under the microscope and tell what species it comes from. Sequencing DNA is a long and arduous process, we don't put some tubes in a machine and have a read-out right away. The truth is that police departments around the nation are strapped for cash. Unless a crime committed is unusual or involves a celebrity or rich person, there are not enough resources to do all the things that are done on a case in CSI. While I hope the majority of people realize this, it can lead to a serious problem.
I served on a jury over a year ago. It was a really interesting experience, and I highly recommend it if you can do it. The suspect was charged with possesion and intent to distribute crack cocaine. The only witnesses were cops on a stakeout who both observed the suspect opening the door to a known crackhouse and busted the suspect in the crackhouse later on. A large amount of cash was found on the suspect. Drug paraphernelia and the drugs themselves were found at the house. The jury ended up being a hung jury (for several reasons, really) but we kept coming back to the fact that NOTHING had been fingerprinted. Wouldn't that have sealed the case if the suspects fingerprints were on the bag of drugs? If they were on the paraphernelia? We kept talking about it, saying we had seen it on TV, why couldn't they have done something so simple? Well, the truth of the matter is that the Philadelphia police department is hard up for money, just like every other place in the country. They can't afford to run tests like fingerprinting, DNA tests, etc. These tests cost tons of money. Take it from me, I could blow a grand in a day buying reagents for my experiments. It concerns me that we can't afford to pay for simple lab tests to proporly prosecute criminals. It also concerns me that innocent people could be convicted of crimes they did not commit because of circumstantial evidence. I can only hope that the future will bring cheaper, faster lab tests to be used in law enforcement. And that people take everything they see on CSI with a grain (or perhaps a bag) of salt.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

This Might Get Uncomfortable...

I've been paying more attention to TV and radio lately. Probably because of the election and all the drama surrounding it. I stayed home yesterday to take in the inauguration of our first African American President. I thought it was great - the spectacle, the drama, the "peaceful transition of power". Sometimes I forget how lucky we are to have been born where we were. With all our problems and issues, I am not sure I could live anywhere else. However, we do have our issues, right? One of them being race. I live in Philly, a city that's over 60% African American. I live in a mostly white, mostly upper class neighborhood, but just a few blocks away (actually, like a block) is a mostly black neighborhood. Surrounding my school are mostly black neighborhoods. Obviously, Philly is a mostly black city surrounded by richer, more white neighborhoods. We most likely have more "ethnic" advertisments and TV shows on our local networks - for example, there are always McDonald's commercials starring an African American athlete (that is a "safe" stereotype, right?) or a young Latina soccer player. TV shows like Tyler Perry's House of Payne that comes on after the news or your token Indian dude on House. I know that minority stereotypes are slowly (very slowly, to me) being shattered, but I recently realized that since the election of Obama (and perhaps before that), I have noticed a marked increase in the number of ethnic minorities on TV. For example, there's a Crest commerical out there starring an African American female dentist, talking about the benefits of healthy teeth. She is commenting to another African American consumer woman. Woah! Two stereotypes down! Way to go, Crest! It's true, African Americans can be doctors and doctors can be women. It seems minority news reporters are on the rise too. Yesterday, the anchors were interviewing each other, asking Lester Holt what this inauguration means to him. Having our local TV reporter, Kristen Welker down at the Inaugural Balls. I think it's cool but I guess I also think it's so obvious.
Why is it now that we decide to emphasize how tolerant we are? Why does it take the unbelievable election of a black man to the presidency for kids to realize they can go anywhere and do anything? I know these may seem counterintuitive, and don't get me wrong, I am not unhappy with the exposure and emphasis on minorities. I think it's long overdue. And if Obama can encourage us to be more tolerant and to embrace our similarities rather than our differences, I am all for it.
I just worry that everyone will jump on the bandwagon to be "cool" but progress won't be made. I guess I'll just have to wait and see...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

It's Finally Here!

I must admit, it almost feels like Christmas today. People are partying all over the world because of our choice in leadership. How great is that? I am home today, watching all the festivities and taking in all the hoopla to hopefully one day tell my kids about the day we inaugurated the first African American president! Yay! I'm not sure what changes Obama will make. I can't know how much worse things will get before they get better. I can only have HOPE for the future. And I can only HOPE that this President will bring us together, weigh decisions with a intellect our previous president has not demonstrated and restore our standing in the world. I also hope that Obama promotes equality and education, promotes environmental causes and gets us the hell out of Iraq.

Yay! Here's to new beginnings!

PS: and I love Michelle Obama - finally! a career woman in the White House!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Ode to Andrew Wyeth Haiku Friday

Master Bedroom by Andrew Wyeth

He passed on today,
Ripe old age of ninety-one.
Prolific artist.


Caught a lecture by
his granddaughter here at Penn.
Painted till he died.


Captures the spirit
of the Brandywine River
both surreal and real.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thursday Book Report

When I read The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, I was so moved and enthralled about a book told from the point of view of a dead little girl. I loved that it was set in the Philly suburbs and I loved the characters, how richly they were developed. Even though the subject matter dealt with violent and scary situations, I still felt like the book was akin to a dense piece of chocolate cake - so good, I wanted to savor every moment. I received this book for Christmas (thanks, Mom!) and I literally could not put it down. Lucky is a memoir of Sebold's own rape her freshman year at Syracuse University. I must admit, this book is not what I would term an "easy" read. The book opens with violence and ends almost sadly, with this woman being forever altered from events that she had no control over. It was hard to read about her violent rape and the alienation perhaps most victims feel. She describes events in her life in an almost poetic manner. And quite like a train wreck, it's hard to look away. I have never (knock wood) experienced violence or crime like she has and I hope I never will. She writes in an almost detached manner, very journalistic to describe the rape. I would imagine that's the only way you can describe it since allowing emotions to enter into the act would somehow cloud it. Sebold clearly has a strength that most other characters in her book do not, and I admire her for it. However, she is not writing for sympathy or for people to identify with her. She is writing from her heart about events she had little to no control over. And the story is not summed up in the end in a miraculous ending that erases the rape from her mind. She will always be a rape victim. After struggling to put everything behind her, she realizes, years later, that she is still affected by the rape and it will always be a part of her. This book is a miraculous story told by a brave and open woman. I am so grateful to have experienced this memoir; it has put a clarity in my head on how different experiences can shape our lives. But they don't have to rule them.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

One week to go...

I listened to parts of Bush's last press conference yesterday. I am pretty sure he used the word "misunderestimate" on referring to the US federal response to Katrina. In honor of only one week until our exciting and historic inauguration of an actual literate and intelligent president, I thought it might be funny to reflect on some "Bush-isms". This website had me cracking up for quite a bit today. Have fun!

Every Morning...

I walk by this coffee shop that just opened in my neighborhood. It's called Karma Cafe and it's in the site of an old video store which contained one angry man and one wee little angry dog. I walk by this coffee shop every day since they've closed the South Street Bridge. I've never gone in, but it looks nice. There are always people in there on their laptops, typing away. And it always reminds me of the Family Guy episode where there are two guys in Starbucks and they talk about how they can only write in public places where other people are watching them. It kinda cracks me up every day.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


I grew up an only child, surrounded by kids my age in the neighborhood, but never any siblings of my own. I am not sure whether it's because of this or just because I'm weird, but I invented imaginary friends for myself at a very young age. My parents jumped on board and my Mom would tell me stories every night about my imaginary friends. At first, there were just two little boys, Took and Poonah (look, I was, like 2 years old!) who were brothers and seemed to always be approximately my age at the time. A little later on came Chrissie and Sarah, who were best friends, not sisters and they lived in a tree house in a forest. Took and Poonah lived across the clearing from them. As my little world grew, so did my imaginary one. It came to include the Seven Dwarves (although not Snow White, interestingly), the Three Bears, the Smurfs and Care Bears, as well as Took and Poonah's cousins Pook and Toonah (along with their dogs, Luke, Duke and Hook). I'm not sure why my Mom and I started talking about my bedtime stories while I was home on break this past Christmas, but remembering all this stuff just cracked me up. I added an 8th dwarf, named Chocolatey (my love of chocolate began early, clearly) and I was always adding friends or scenarios. The stories my Mom told me at bedtime were as much mine as they were hers. The characters were often found in some sort of benign scenario, such as a rainstorm or something like that. Chrissie and Sarah would always come to the rescue, since they lived in a treehouse (which was essentially immune to flooding, much unlike the forest floor). Took and Poonah would use Took's Uncle's army cookbook in order to make some cookies for everyone (they always made too much). Everyone would gather at the treehouse to sleep on the floor and wait the storm out. These characters became a part of my life, much like friends and family were a part of my life. Since I was "in touch" with them every night, I felt like they were with me most of the time. It's so funny to reflect back on these stories and to think of the things I came up with. I hope before long, my Mom and I can write some of the stories down. I remember them so fondly, I would love to share them with my kids one day.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Haiku Chilly Friday

It's official now:
middle of winter has come.
Freezing my ass off.


Starting the new year
off right. Longer walk to work,
have more yoga soon.

Working this weekend
Gotta get 'er done before
the thesis meeting.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Back into It - the dilemma

I went to this wedding this past August. Alex and I flew to CA, got a car and a hotel room for a weekend and got to see my friends from college. We had a great time. Alex fit in with "the boys", as the husbands are called, and I got to see my girls and have a blast catching up. Here's the dilemma. I have yet to receive a thank you note for either the bridal shower gift that I sent for the shower, or the wedding gift I sent before the wedding. While I am assuming that all things were delivered, I would like some acknowledgment of the gifts that I sent. I am sure she has my address, because we received the wedding invite in the mail in her writing. I think mostly I am annoyed at how dumb this whole thing is. We spent hundreds of dollars on short notice to get to her wedding and to be there with her when she married her husband. I even dragged Alex to all of this, on his birthday, nonetheless. While I realize that the small gesture of a thank you card cannot possibly "pay us back" for the amount of time and effort we put into coming to her wedding, it's a nice gesture that acknowledges all that we did and all the hoops we jumped through to get to her wedding. And to have not sent anything for over four months after the wedding, it just seems a little rude. I know that etiquette says to wait six months, but I just think it's likely not it the mail and will not be in the mail. Advice to all you planning parties, weddings, etc: appreciate your guests and the sacrifices they've made to make it to your parties. And send prompt thank you notes.
And this concludes my thoughts for today :)