Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I just rediscovered these photos taken of me after a St. Paul Chamber Orchestra concert some time ago...that lovely lovely dress has passed onto the land of worn out vintage (it was very fragile when I purchased it and never quite recovered). I thought about trying to sew it back together, but the satin was literally unweaving itself. It was loved. Very loved.

Monday, September 28, 2009

High school stereotypes

In case anyone hasn't seen the new show Glee---it's pretty wonderful. Not high art, but a show that is fun. Which is sometimes just what one needs after a week of fumbling through enzyme assay design.

It has hyper-stereotypes of the effeminate gay boy with a father who isn't too thrilled about his son's choice of tiaras; a cheer coach who would murder you in your sleep to win; the bossy conceited theater star whose heart is in the right place but spends the entirety of her waking hours being bullied; the punky Asian girl who just doesn't fit in...the jocks, the cheerleaders, the microcosm of high school life magnified to the point where you can look back and say "wha? It was really like that?"

No. It wasn't. But the bits and pieces you see hyperbolized on the show, oh yes. They were there. The insecurity, the love of winning, the fear of being left behind...they're there. High school was the time when everyone was a loser in their own special way while becoming "who they were" at the same time. The interesting thing is that only some people realized this fact.

Looking back, I can say that it wasn't the best time in my life. Yet, it's not time I regret. Lots of growth, experiences, yada yada. It made jumping into a new place knowing no one (= college) a challenge I was ready for. And in some ways, that triumph over something you're terrified of -- that's what high school is all about.

And I'm sorry...but this totally makes me smile:

Glee Football Dance (single Ladies) HQ Full Video - A funny movie is a click away

Friday, September 18, 2009


from here

...or why I'm going to bite the bullet, walk the walk, talk the talk, and sign up for 6.000000000. (aka, beginning programming). It's a useful skill. I should know how to do it. All scientists should. Now to find the time. Hmm... Or --- how to find the brilliant undergrad severely lacking in cookies that I could bribe to teach me. That'd be cool, too.

Monday, September 14, 2009

on being the child of my parents.

Every so often, a family joke comes up after someone (usually me) cries "OW! That HURT!" After I do something graceful like fall off the deck, or catapault myself down the hill behind our home on roller blades, or, you know, fall on concrete while...get this...walking.

"Well, at least we know that your mother didn't sleep with the mailman!"

You see, my father's head is peppered with the results of various infraction involving tools, or car hoods, his arms showing that yes, he knows what it's like to hit your arm against a hot engine that's still running. He shuns any attempts my mother made to avoid infections, and his scars show the storied history of a man talented at being a bit too busy working to notice such paltry things as sharp edges.

This is very much something I inherited from my father. And the only reason I don't have such a menagerie of injuries is because I don't work with things that are so --dangerous-- well...most of the time.

I know that the oven hood is there. I know that there's a corner edge there as well. But whether it's the inability to accurately judge space or an intensity on the task at hand or just plain and simple that my spatial perception is terrible...I don't really know.

My mother and I look very much alike, and this frustrated me time and again when I was younger. "Oh she looks so much like J!" "Oh that hair! I can't believe her hair. She looks exactly like you!" "Spitting image!" I guess what bothered me was that they weren't talking about me as myself...they were talking about my similarity to my mom. And as a kid, you don't realize that this is sometimes a compliment (I definitely take it as one now!) But's funny to think that even with all we know about genetics, there is a lot we don't understand.

Biologically speaking, each female on this earth contains two X chromosomes, one from her father, and one from her mother. Every male has one X chromosome from his mother and one Y chromosome from his father. (keep in mind that there are many reasons gender can be defined and explained, which is an entirely different discussion). But --- there is an important step that happens to every cell in the female body called X inactivation. In any given cell, only one X chromosome can operate at any given time, and this choice is made randomly. This means that some of my cells are more related to my mother, while some are more related to my father. If you called my mother "blue" and my father "purple" you could see me as some sort of mottled spotted thing; almost like a calico cat. This is called mosaicism (like a mosaic; it's the first option below).

from New England Journal of Medicine's article entitled X Inactivation in Females with X-Linked Disease, 1998

Other things can happen, of course. Mutations on either of the X chromosomes could preferentially result in having all Xs belong to your mom (middle) or your dad (bottom). But this isn't normal...what is normal is being a blend of both your parents, and different parts of a female's body have different slants towards either parent. However, it is important to remember that you have a bevy of other chromosomes that are present and active in all of your cells (22 from each parent) so that's why we don't have mottled hair color like calico cats (the gene for hair color is on the X chromosome in cats; it is not for us). However, 2000 genes are on this chromosome, and this can contribute to specific diseases (more often in boys) but also to X-linked diseases in girls.

New research has also shown that these inactive Xs may not be as inactive as we thought, yet this is a fundamentally intriguing posits that idea that males are more related to both parents than females. For women, however, this mosaicism appears to random, which means I very well could have patches in my brain that operate more on my father's wavelength than my mothers (although, again---this could also be due to differences in the other 22 chromosomes). What does this have to do with mailman issue? Well, based on a lot of different things in how I think, there are parts of my brain that seem to bend one side over the other...and it's an interesting idea to think of how and why I am like either of my parents.

And this doesn't even bring in the nurture side of the equation. Oh biology...your complexity keeps me on my toes.

Monday, September 7, 2009


I've been seeing a physical therapist for about five weeks now, and I gotta tell's great. I work out about two hours every day; a lot of stretching, that killer foam roller, and elliptical in order to build up the muscles in my legs that have become totally imbalanced over the past year of painful inflammation and misuse.

I see the progress every day; from the little tiny bruises all over my legs indicating muscle tearing and healing to the fact that, wow, I can use the stairs again! I love it. Lesson? Insist on seeing a physical therapist after an injury. Just do it.

Post script: there was a men's water polo tournament this weekend, and the ellipticals overlook the pool (kind of like the ones in Shirk that overlook the squash courts). It all seemed well and good with their little caps and so forth swimming through the water, throwing a ball. And then they got out of the water. And I nearly died inside. You don't expect the caps they wear to be over half of the fabric that is physically on their body. We're talking some pretty ridiculous crack-age, not to mention the fact that they decided to put their name and mascot on each cheek. They're like those eensy weensy shorts girls wear....except instead of "Cutie Pie!" it says "MIT" on one cheek and the beaver on the other. Not what a girl expects while innocently elliptical-ing away...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

remembering my grandparents

My grandfather passed away five years ago...and my grandma currently isn't doing so hot. But a few weeks ago, I decided that there was nothing more than I wanted than to hear both of them talk about their childhoods in Gibbon and Tracy...and talk about the gang of hooligans my grandfather ran around with, as well as the cute football players my grandma used to date...all of it.

It was wonderful to hear them speak again. I'm glad that I have a permanent recording of him saying my name, using the word futz in a sentence, and holding my grandmother's hand.

"You know, Bridget...the past year and a half have been very difficult, with the cancer treatments and all of that. My days are numbered. But the thing that tides us over is all of the good years we've had together. It's been such a good marriage, and Inez has been such a wonderful wife. And despite the fact that our travel is pretty much restricted, we can still sit back and remember that we've been there, and we've done that. ... We've been the most blessed couple, I guess. That I know."

I want to do this!

Brilliant. He takes old photos (often from the Library of Congress) and matches them to their current location. Absolutely lovely. It makes me want to scan some old news articles from the Boston Library and have a scavenger hunt through the city to try and make a match. Can you imagine a photo of the old statehouse against paths instead of nestled between skyscrapers?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

waking up.

Because of the wonderful physical therapy that I do (which, yes, is wonderful...I can walk!), I wake up every morning at 6 am. Now, I used to wake up at 5:15 in high school, even on Saturdays for I know it can be done. However, it is light outside right now at that time, or at least it's not pitch black. There are also construction workers throwing blocks of cement off the eight story building next store, which tends to, uh, help the waking up process.

Yet, I think into the future winter months when it won't be light out until 3 hours after I have to wake up. Miserable, right? So, I'm thinking of buying a sunrise lamp. These brilliant lamp/alarm clocks start turning on the light slowly half an hour before your wake up time and are at full light by the time your alarm rings.

However, the downside is that they are:

A. Ugly.

Exhibit 1

Exhibit B

Exhibit C

Exhibit D:

B. Expensive.

Exhibit A = $80.00
Exhibit B = $129.00
Exhibit C = $140.00
Exhibit D = $119.95

There's also this contraption called the Lighten Up! which you plug into the wall between your light's plug and the wall eight hours before you want the sun to rise (for the low low cost of $30!). Now, this is close, but it means that for a 6 am wakeup it needs to be plugged in at 9:30 pm...which won't work since I have orchestra some nights. But, this is a lot closer to what I want (although you can't use LED or fluorescent lamps for it...bummer).

So...what to do? Someone want to invent a prettier sun lamp? That'd be swell.


picture from here

So lovely. Next summer, there will be a whole lot of strawberry picking and freezing. I bought a chest freezer that is currently sitting (turned off) in one of my storage closets, but by next summer it is going to be full of strawberries. And blueberries. Mmmm...