December 19, 2010

Proper etiquette with gifts

I received a gift from a co-worker that, while considerate, wasn't something I wanted. Unfortunately, he didn't include a gift receipt or return paperwork. I could attempt to return it to a local retailer, but without receipts I couldn't prove the item was originally purchased there and the store could refuse the return. I could attempt to sell the item online, but Amazon has a policy in place that makes it impossible to sell certain items during the holidays without sending them to an Amazon processing facility, so the company can vouch for their authenticity.

In the end, I did what the etiquette books say is extremely rude and should be avoided at all costs: I told him the truth. I explained that I appreciated the thought but would like the item exchanged for something else. Why should people be forced to keep items they don't want? I think re-gifting is just as bad an "etiquette sin" as being honest. And besides, don't most people buy gifts with the intention of making the other person happy?

So please, if there's any doubt the person may not like the gift you've selected, include the gift receipt.

December 16, 2010

A dream about intelligence

I had a dream last night, in which I lost my intellect. [Intellect was apparently a physical entity that could be misplaced.] I was removed from the classes I was enrolled in and chastised by various people. I remember feeling disappointed in myself and frustrated that there wasn't anything I could do. Then, for whatever reason, my intellect was "found" and I had to go to an administrative office to get my graduate student ID, which proved I was capable. I argued with one of the secretaries because she didn't believe me. So bizarre! And somehow, somewhere, there is probably a shred of truth to it!

December 09, 2010

Christmas 2010

I can't believe Christmas is only a few weeks away! Where has the time gone?

I've decorated my office with holiday flare, and it amazes me how a fake tree with twinkling lights and sparkly ornaments can really warm up a room. A layer of freshly fallen snow would complete the picture, but the weather forecast is without precipitation. It just isn't the same to look past stockings and presents to a green manicured lawn!

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas! If you've been good, I hope Santa brings what was #1 on your list. If you've been naughty, well then, kudos to you too! *wink, wink*

And let's not forget those less fortunate this holiday season. Please donate to the Salvation Army kettles or your local food pantry.

November 21, 2010

Online dating

I recently joined to try and meet single men in Northern Virginia. I figured that since I'm going to be here at least another year and am not getting any younger, that it was worth a shot. I'd joined eHarmony last year, but let my membership lapse after a few months because I didn't think it was worth the money. I didn't like eHarmony's communication system with all of the steps/layers you had to go through first before you could start IMing.

Anyway, I've been on Okcupid a few weeks now, and while I like it better than eHarmony, I've noticed that a lot of the men commenting on my profile are outside of my specified age range. What the heck?! I'm not interested in dating guys just out of undergrad any more than I'm interested in men in the "mid-life crisis" range. Why do these people respond to my profile when they don't meet my basic criteria? And why do older men seek out women so much younger, when there are plenty of women their own age? Wouldn't you want someone who has had similar life experiences? Geez ....

November 15, 2010

The price of being "safe"

With holiday travel right around the corner, I thought this post about airport security was spot on. I mean, seriously, how does taking off my shoes and discarding my unopened bottle of water make my flight safer? In Tennessee, I saw two TSA workers pretending to shoot each other with their hands. Sigh.

Invasion of the Body Scanners: why airport security will never work

I’ve been seeing a lot of frustration and anger at the new security measures going into effect in airports (especially from pilots). One issue is the new millimeter ‘backscatter’ x-ray machines. Previously, only your carryon bags were x-rayed, now they are x-raying your entire body. And since these new machines penetrate clothing, but stop at your skin, they show the TSA workers an image of you essentially naked.

If you don’t like the idea of being exposed to dangerous x-rays or being viewed naked, you can opt out, in which case you are given a thorough pat-down, including your genital areas. That goes for children too. Which would you prefer: Having your child subjected to dangerous radiation so they can be viewed naked by a stranger, or having their entire body including genitals felt up by a stranger?

But my real question is, what took everyone so long? I have never understood why people put up with airport security at all. Airport security has never made us any safer.

Airport security checkpoints were originally installed because of airplane hijackings (including quite a few to Cuba). But security never stopped a single hijacking. The main reason hijacking stopped was because we were able to get treaties signed with various countries (including Cuba) that guaranteed they would prosecute hijackers. So hijackers were arrested on landing and typically returned to the US to stand trial. Once that happened, the hijackings stopped, but curiously the checkpoints didn’t. (Interestingly, the other reason hijackings stopped was because we stopped giving so much media attention to them. Unfortunately, we haven’t yet learned the lesson that in order to cause terror, the terrorist wants publicity.)

The problem is, in order for airport security to actually work, it has to be incredibly (almost impossibly) invasive. Even with the new x-ray machines any terrorist wannabe could smuggle weapons at least as dangerous as the ones used during 9/11 onto any airplane. Are we going allow the TSA to perform full body cavity searches of everyone who is going to board a plane? Seriously?

Because the only answer to “how much privacy and rights do you have to give up in order to ensure complete safety” is “every last one of them”. And even that isn’t good enough. In maximum security prisons where people have no rights and full cavity searches are done routinely, criminals manage to smuggle in weapons and other contraband. You think you can stop it at a busy airport?

Even if we could have complete and foolproof airport security (which we cannot), it would not make us any safer. In fact, it would likely make usless safe. Consider the x-ray machines. You might argue that the danger from x-rays is low, but so is the danger from terrorists. So low, in fact, the risk of dying from the x-ray machines is likely greater than the risk from being killed by a terrorist. So at best, we are getting rid of one risk (which we actually are not, since airport security is not foolproof) and substituting an even greater risk. How stupid is that?

And finally, even if we could have completely and foolproof airport security that had absolutely no risks, we would still not be any safer. Because airplanes are not the only place where we are in danger from terrorists. In fact, some people have argued that a terrorist could easily walk into an airport carrying a bomb and detonate it near a crowded airport security checkpoint. This would cause just as much terror, and shut down our air transportation system. And airport security couldn’t stop it.

As we well know, any place where large numbers of people gather could be a potential target for a terrorist bombing. For example, 9/11 killed around 3,000 people, but football stadiums hold tens of thousands of innocent people. There are many cruise ships that hold more people than were killed on 9/11, and those often operate in international waters where they cannot be protected. Even if we made airplanes (and airports) completely terrorist proof, the terrorists aren’t going to just give up. After all, the Oklahoma City bombing was carried out on an entire building, using a bomb hidden in a parked vehicle.

So what am I saying? That we shouldn’t do anything to prevent terrorism? Of course not. Installing reinforced cockpit doors on airplanes already took away the incentive for terrorists to try to pull something like 9/11 again. Not to mention the fact that passengers are now more willing to fight back against terrorists. A group of terrorists could perhaps blow up an airplane, but it would be much more difficult for them to use the airplane like a guided missile to destroy a large building.

What I’m saying is that the money being spent on airport security would be much better spent somewhere else, like investigating terrorists so we can stop them no matter if their plans target airplanes, government buildings, water supplies, or whatever. Even Forbes magazine says that we should abolish the TSA.

Isn’t this something we can all agree on? Right now, the only group benefiting from airport security are the companies who manufacture the x-ray machines, and the only winners in the war on terror are the terrorists, who would have us quaking in our boots, except we had to take those off in order to go through security.

November 07, 2010

Pregnant at 70: A misuse of science

I watched a show on TLC tonight called "Pregnant at 70". It was about three women who, thanks to in vitro fertilization (IVF), were able to have children despite being way past menopause. Two of these women (aged 58 and 70) didn't have any previous children, but one (age 64) had had 10 kids (all of whom were now adults). The women relied on IVF because they (i) wanted a child with their new husband and (ii) weren't able to get pregnant naturally. But technically, these children aren't their biological children because they had to rely on donor eggs -- so their DNA wasn't even a part of their child's.

I was appalled that physicians would allow them to proceed with the procedure so long as these much older women were physically fit to be pregnant. What about life expectancy? Ability to physically and mentally provide care for 18 years? And I got so frustrated that these women would say that they aren't worried about having a child at their age because they don't physically look or act their age! WTF does that have to do with anything? Your body -- your organs, your immune system, etc. -- is your age and will behave accordingly. I think it is incredibly selfish and irresponsible to have a child that late in your life. At some point, you need to accept the fact that you can't have it all and, for some people, that harsh reality means you won't give birth. You can still have a meaningful life!

October 30, 2010

The short term memory of the American people

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." (George Santayana)

October 18, 2010

PhD comic

I saw this PhD comic and had to share it because I think all grad students have experienced a complete and utter brain meltdown. For me, it occurs when I'm being asked a barrage of questions that I can't answer without my lab notebook -- which is, of course, unavailable at the time. I go into a blank stare, mumble "Ahh ... I don't know off the top of my head ..." and slink slowly toward my office to procure the necessary documentation.

October 12, 2010

Superficiality in science

[Preface: I am aware that common courtesy is an integral aspect of a functional and polite society. I just wanted to rant a bit.]

Why do you say "we" when you mean "me"? Is it to make me feel like this is a team activity? You don't need to bother. I know that the protocol you mention following "we should" is what I will be doing. Without your assistance. I'd rather you just come right out and say that, instead of force me to smile and nod and play along with the superficiality.

And while we're being honest, if you ask me to do something, I take it as a request, meaning that I have the option to decline/refuse. I won't simply say yes because I'm a grad student and have no authority. If, however, I can't decline/refuse because the request is actually a command, then don't ask me. Tell me. Why give the impression of options -- that my opinion matters -- when it isn't a factor in the decision?

October 08, 2010

Expectations, standards, and the quest for perfection

I've been reading Lori Gottlieb's book "Marry Him: The case for setting for Mr. Good Enough" and I gotta say, she has some very valid points. A lot of women have a checklist of the desired traits we want in a partner -- sense of humor, financially stable, family-oriented, etc. However, these standards are often subjective, overly specific, and impossible to achieve. What constitutes a good sense of humor anyway? Witty banter or practical jokes? Being able to laugh at yourself or never taking anything seriously? The permutations of humor are quite varied, but not all would be acceptable.

We seek perfection in a spouse, eliminating potential mates before we've had a chance to get to know them. We seek perfection in a spouse, even though we aren't perfect ourselves. We believe adjusting our expectations to be more inclusive and cast a wider net isn't being realistic, it's settling. And settling leaves a bad taste in our mouths.

Perhaps, we really do need to focus more on the good -- the plethora of qualities our potential mate has that are desirable -- than nitpick the few that irritate us. Afterall, what good is having impossibly high expectations/standards when you end up alone?

September 29, 2010


It is amazing how much joy a forecast of overcast skies and precipitation can bring. I thought this summer would never end, with temperatures in the upper 90's even in the last few days of September. The grass was all but dead and barren trees dotted the landscape. But today it started to rain! And it is supposed to keep raining for the next 24 hours. We haven't experienced a thorough soaking in this part of the state since June. Hell, it's all we talk about at work -- the chance of rain, how much rain other states are getting, how crops are doing without rain, etc. You'd think with such a long duration of nothing that all rain talk would've been depleted, but no, it persevered. I think my hot pink raincoat will only pale in comparison to the huge grin plastered across my face. RAIN!

September 07, 2010

Why the caged bird sings

I am a prisoner to myself. I wallow inside, in my apartment, because I have no options outside of it. I occupy my time staring out windows, wondering how things would've turned out if different choices had been made. I think of people to call, conversations to have, but never pick up the phone. I pace the hallway, dust the furniture, and convince myself that this is a passing phase. I wonder why I am alone -- if my being single is somehow a judgement of who I am. I daydream of angels and have nightmares of devils.

It is as if I am a bird, staring at the open door to my cage, and though I am slowly dying inside the metal bars, I am afraid to venture beyond them.
"I know why the caged bird sings" by Maya Angelou

... But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings with fearful trill
of things unknown but longed for still ...
for the caged bird sings of freedom.

Image from bare/not project (

September 02, 2010

Yet another disappointment

Am I that easy to cancel on? Do I have a sign on my forehead that says "spineless"? Why am I NEVER the priority -- the thing you absolutely can't cancel, the thing you have to schedule other events around? I feel so completely replaceable. You know that I don't have anyone else to hang out with here. NO ONE. You know that leaving me with two tickets to an event doesn't make up for the fact that you, last minute, made plans with someone else. So what that you only see this friend once every 6 months. I have friends I haven't seen in years. You should've said no because you already had plans. What is difficult to understand about that? It's common courtesy.

August 30, 2010

Yet another reason I don't have a lot of faith in humanity ....

While taking out my trash yesterday, I came across a hodge-podge of usable items someone lazily left by the dumpster, including a 7 foot tall fake Christmas tree in the original box (price $88) and an orange desk lamp with lightbulb. I guess he/she just couldn't be bothered to take these things to the local Goodwill or church or sell them on Craigslist. Why do people throw away perfectly good stuff? I felt like such a hoarder dragging the tree away from the dumpster and putting it in my car, but I can't justify having undamaged things being taken to a landfill. Luckily, a guy at work said he'd take it for his son. Merry Christmas, indeed. =)

August 27, 2010

"Restoring Honor" my ass.

Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally is tomorrow in Washington D.C. Beck will be standing in almost the exact same spot that Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on August 28, 1963, but instead of advocating non-violent change and racial equality, Beck will be spewing garbage. He will talk about how progressivism is the cancer of America -- the same progressivism that helped pass the Civil Rights Act. He will talk about how American history is so entwined with Christianity that the two are basically one idea -- despite the fact that the idea for the First Amendment, which separates church and state, can be traced back to Founding Father Thomas Jefferson. He will talk about how important it is that people join the Tea Party -- a movement with no discernible connection to the original, since they (1773) were protesting a tax cut given to the East India Company whereas they (present day) are protesting big government and personal income taxation.

It's amazing anyone listens to Glenn Beck's lies.

Glenn Beck's philosophy is opposed to everything Martin Luther King, Jr. stood for

What do you think of her? She's got a nice smile.

I was talking to a summer employee at work today. As the conversation jumped around, he mentioned another summer employee and, when asked by a co-worker if he thought she was attractive, responded that she was a bit thick. I was so surprised that I completely spaced out on the rest of what he was saying.

Thick? Seriously?? The female in question is probably 5'4" and 120 pounds, maybe less. Perfectly normal. She wears short shorts without fear and was the beauty queen at a local county fair this summer. How could he possibly think she was thick? And if he thought she was thick, my God, he must think I'm friggin' enormous.

And then my surprise turned to frustration and anger. Does he have any idea how many women hate their bodies because they don't match what the (unattainable) perception of ideal beauty is? Does he have any idea how much of a struggle women endure, constantly being judged on physical appearance? Women have to fight to be taken seriously as equals, and our bodies are scrutinized more harshly at every step of the way.

Perhaps I'm over-reacting, but I know that his comment drastically altered my opinion of him.

August 19, 2010

19th Amendment

Chamber Blames Women For Pay Gap: They Should Choose The Right ‘Place To Work’ And ‘Partner At Home’

us_chamber_of_commerceToday is the anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted the right to vote to women. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has decided to use this day of equal rights for women to argue that women are now to blame for unequal pay in the workplace. On the organization’s official blog, ChamberPost, Senior Director of Communications Brad Peck today makes the argument that the pay gap between men and women in the American workforce — women currently earn roughly 77 cents to every dollar a man earns — is “the result of individual choice rather than discrimination.” He argues that, instead of bold legislative action being taken to help correct this pay gap, women should pick the “obvious, immediate, power-of-the-individual solution: choosing the right place to work and choosing the right partner at home“:

Most of the current “pay gap” is the result of individual choice rather than discrimination. [...]

It is true that culturally speaking women are more likely to have to make the tough choices about work-life balance. But as we all seek to fit our values into a dynamic 24/7 economy, let’s not overlook the obvious, immediate, power-of-the-individual solution: choosing the right place to work and choosing the right partner at home.

Peck’s argument that women could close the pay gap by simply choosing jobs in better paying fields and marrying wealthier men is based on a faulty premise — that the pay gap in the United States between genders exists because women choose to work for less and men choose to work for more.

While it’s true that women sometimes migrate into fields that have lower pay, what Peck ignores is that even within the same occupation, women are paid less. For example, data collected by the Census Bureau in 2007 shows that “female secretaries…earn just 83.4% as much as male ones” and female truck drivers “earn just 76.5% of the weekly pay of their male counterparts.” A report put out this year by the University of Minnesota finds that women in that state are “are paid $11,000 dollars less each year than men with the same jobs.” A 2007 American Association of University Women report compared men and women with similar “hours, occupation, parenthood, and other factors normally associated with pay” and found that “college-educated women still earn less than their male peers earn“; the report concludes that workplace discrimination is the culprit in the wage gap.

It is important to note that this pay inequity is so pervasive that it even affects people who undergo a sex change. In 2008, researchers Kristen Schilt and Matthew Wiswall examinedthe wages over their lifetimes of people before and after a sex change operation. Even “when controlling for factors like education, men who transitioned to women earned, on average, 32% less after the surgery. Women who became men, on the other hand, earned 1.5% more.”

Unfortunately, the Chamber of Commerce has a long history of overlooking women’s struggles in America and of actively opposing movements for gender equality. While opposing the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978, the Chamber argued that pregnancy was a “voluntary” act and thus should not have discrimination protections in the workplace. In 1987 it ominously warned that the Family and Medical Leave Act would set a “dangerous precedent” of employer-sponsored benefits. And last year, the organization lobbied against legislation that would allow rape victims to bring lawsuits against their employers.

August 08, 2010

Toxic Love

This song is being played on the radio a lot lately, and at first, I didn't understand what it was about. I was too caught up in the words. Then I watched the music video. I get it now -- I understand. The song is about being involved with someone you love and hate, all at the same time. You know the relationship is toxic -- that he hurts you more deeply than anyone ever has before -- but the chemistry between you is so addictive, it makes you so delirious, that you can't stop, you can't walk away. When it is good, it is so good, and when it is bad, it is so bad. But you are a moth drawn to a flame. You'd rather the fire lick your wings, burn away your life, than not know what the experience is like. Damn!

July 30, 2010

The perils of dressing cute

I've been attempted to update my wardrobe the last few months. I think I realized how dim it was during Snowmageddon, when I was stuck at the apartment for a week straight and felt the need to re-organize and clean things I normally don't even think about. [Like those things you stick to the shower floor to help provide traction. Yeah, I thoroughly cleaned those.] It was on day 5 that I fully accepted the fact that (1) I have way more Tshirts than any one person should have and (2) the majority of them were freebies. So I've been buying more varied (i.e. non-Tshirt) clothing.

But this branching out into fashion has caused me to run into a dilemma. How do I balance my desire to look cute/sexy/young/hip with the increased, unwanted attention from creepy people? There are certain people I work (indirectly) with that I don't want gawking at me. It gives me the willies. And it certainly isn't polite to flip them off when their eyes linger. I guess the obvious solution is to put on an over-sized sweatshirt when I get to work ... or shut my door.

July 16, 2010

Poppy collection

I am in L-O-V-E with the new poppy handbag collection from Coach! The bags are super colorful with metallic gold straps and are perfect for summer. I've been a sucker for handbags for several years now. I think my adoration comes from the fact that I dress in jeans and T-shirts most of the time. I don't accessorize myself -- no rings, bracelets or necklaces -- and I don't even wear makeup much anymore. But I can jazz up any outfit with a nice handbag. And I've loved Coach since junior high, when I saw a beach bag (dark blue and white with a yellow daisy as the zipper pull) in a store window.

If only I could find them on sale ....

July 07, 2010

Heat Wave

It is so miserable here. The temperatures have been in the mid-90's or higher for over a month now, with no sign of abating, and the humidity is out of control. It feels like it is 103 today! Cities are breaking longstanding records -- on June 24, the high at Reagen National airport was 100 degrees, breaking the record set in 1894 -- while the DC population is being warned about the pollution levels. The weathermen are warning us that this will probably be one of the hottest summers on record. I'm so sick of being drenched in sweat outside while I sample leaves. I just hope the power grid doesn't experience widespread blackouts.

AccuWeather -- East Coast heat wave

June 23, 2010


The weather in Virginia is certainly indicative of summer. Balmy mornings that smell faintly of sand and salt water. Hot afternoons of endless blue skies. The perpetual swarm of gnats that follows you as you walk in the orchard. And sticky evenings of echoed laughter and running air conditioners.

I find myself thinking of bygone summers -- of adventures taken and missed out on, on sunburns and bug bites. I think of the last day of school and how thrilling it was to throw out the notebooks full of scribbling and the day planner full of reminders. You never felt more free than that day. There was nothing to do, no stress or homework to occupy the evening. You were able to shelve a whole academic year for 3 months.

Oh, to be young again!

June 10, 2010

Friends with an Ex

I've never been friends with an ex-boyfriend before. I tried once before but it was a moot point. We had both become so hostile to each other that our communications were nothing but an opportunity to one-up the other person. The few times we hung out together were so awkward. It was like being back in the relationship, listening to music I didn't like while pretending to be interested. And, besides that, I don't date to make friends. Who does?

With my most recent ex, the situation is more complicated. And while I strive to be his friend -- for my own sanity -- it is like constantly ripping the scab off of a cut. I have to forgo my own hurt feelings that another phone call wasn't returned, so that I can be the friend who listens to all the other shit going wrong in his life. I have to stifle my anger to cheer him on, to tell him he's a good person, even though he broke my heart. I make such an effort to be there for him, to be a true friend, and yet he makes no effort to be mine.
"I was going where I shouldn't go,
seeing who I shouldn't see,
doing what I shouldn't do,
and being who I shouldn't be.
A little voice told me it's all wrong,
another voice told me it's all right.
I used to think I was strong
but lately I've lost the fight
It's funny how falling feels like flying for a little while ...."
['Fallin' and Flyin' from the movie Crazy Heart]

BP oil spill

A friend of mine posted this YouTube video on her blog (Thanks, Trish!), and I think it deserves to be posted here too.

June 07, 2010

Update: suntanning, lottery, and the oil spill

How quickly spring turns into summer! The weather here has been hot (high 80's) and humid for a couple weeks now. While that has been miserable when manual labor is involved, I have enjoyed the balmy mornings and weekends spent suntanning on my balcony. In undergrad, I used to go to a tanning salon, but that was necessitated more by the Midwest weather than anything else. I enjoy tanning on my balcony much more. I enjoy being able to read a book while increasing my melanin production.

In other news, I'm disappointed that 1 person in Ohio won the $260 million lottery. I know it is ridiculous to expect to win -- the odds of that are astronomical -- but the fact that someone wins is enough to pull me in. I only purchase a ticket when the jackpot is high, but my lack of luck doesn't let me even win back my investment. Maybe someday ....

And why hasn't BP been penalized more for its terrible safety record? Some 760 violations just in the last 3-4 years! [Exxon, in comparison, has 1.] Should we be surprised that a company which values profits over all else is responsible for the greatest oil disaster in our lifetime? No, I think not.

May 18, 2010

Cats vs. Dogs

To view this entire image, click on it. [I can't seem to figure out how it keeps getting cut off.]

Cats vs Dogs
[Source: Online Schools for]

Oil Spill

For as concerned, frustrated and distraught as I am over the massive BP oil spill and it's far-reaching environmental consequences, I understand the irony behind the whole situation. Yes, offshore drilling is inherently risky. Yes, the current oil spill is unprecedented and a clear indication that "fail safe" is not reliable. But we cannot air our frustrations at the same time that we are complaining about the cost of gas for our automobiles. To ensure this tragedy doesn't happen again, we need to leave behind a society highly dependent on gasoline.


I wish that you needed to talk to me everyday -- that returning my phone calls was essential to getting a good night's sleep. I wish that you told me how you feel -- how you still go back and forth on your decision, how you want so badly to be with me but are afraid of hurting me again. I wish that you sought me out during the day -- that spending some time one-on-one made an ok day better. I wish that you included me in your life more -- invitations to attend family functions and do mundane tasks together. I wish that you looked at me with as much yearning and love as you used to -- a drug-induced euphoria, in a way. I wish so many things that will not ... cannot ... come true.

May 13, 2010

Gender Disparity

It is sad that despite the progress women have made in gaining equality and control of their own bodies, gender disparity continues to be an issue. Women are still paid less than men for the same job -- 75 cents to every dollar. Women are still harassed and have lower expectations forced on them in male-dominated fields. Women are still being denied complete ownership of their bodies -- forced to see an ultrasound of the fetus they want to abort, mutilated to "preserve" their chastity, or publicly executed because they were raped. It is estimated that the number of female infants killed purposefully each year (infanticide) is greater than those killed in all the wars of the twentieth century. Knowing all this, it breaks my heart that the hatred and fear of women remains instilled in many men.
25 best paying jobs for women

Fulfilling the potential of women in academic science and engineering act

May 03, 2010

What's new

Sorry it has been awhile since I posted. I'd like to say that I've spent the time running around like a chicken with my head cut off -- barely able to keep up with all the craziness -- but that's not true. There have been busy times, sure, but not continuously. I guess I just haven't known what to write.

My relationship with my ex is interesting, to say the least. We're friends but at the same time, we're not friends and we're more than friends. It's so messed up. I can't seem to find a logical middle ground. I have the same feelings for him that I did when we were dating, and yet the love is diminished because I know he's capable of deeply hurting me. I'm still attracted to him and want to be near him, but know there isn't a future there. It is difficult for me to separate my past from my present.

A co-worker passed away recently. I realized that without religion, I'm at a loss of what to say to the survivors. Religion offers solace and comfort to those left behind. Religion helps people understand death by either reducing its finality -- death is simply a stepping stone on the path to heaven -- or its pain -- the person is with God now so rejoice in their reunion. Without religion, there isn't much one can say that doesn't come across as insensitive or trite. Afterall, no one wants to internalize the whole "death is a part of life" when the person lost is their own.

April 12, 2010


As my birthday approaches, I've been thinking about my life thus far. Am I where I want to be? What will the next few years hold? I can't believe I'm in my late twenties! Where did the time go? And for all the accomplishments I have yet to achieve, here's a list of what I am grateful for.

1. The love and support of family and friends.
2. Being in Virginia.
3. The wisdom that comes with age.
4. My short-term memory.
5. Travel opportunities.
6. The affection of my cat.
7. Finding humor in graduate school experiences.
8. Completion of my Bachelor of Science degree.
9. Apple trees in bloom.

April 02, 2010

Happy Easter

I can't believe how quickly spring has arrived! The fruit trees are on the verge of blooming, dandelions have sprouted up, and the gentle breeze hints of long humid days. How good it is! So make sure to go out and enjoy the weather. I, myself, will be sunbathing while sipping sweet tea and eating a chocolate bunny!

March 27, 2010

Political cartoons

I am both happy and relieved that the healthcare bill passed. Access to affordable healthcare shouldn't be a commodity -- it shouldn't be a tool to separate financial classes within the country. For how can people pursue their unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness if they are systematically denied survival by unscrupulous insurance companies? So congratulations to America for taking a step in the right direction, to decree that healthcare isn't a privilege and that changes must be made to our current ineffective system!

And shame on the Republicans who refused to meaningfully participate in the discussions, who used violent language to express their anger and then acted surprised when Democratic offices and homes were attacked, who embraced the Tea Party protesters while some members shouted racist and homophobic slurs at the opposition, and whose tactics relied not on facts and discourse, but on fear-mongering and lies.

March 22, 2010


While I was reading about the House passing the healthcare bill (219 to 212), I came across a progressive quiz. It featured 40 questions that address various topics including war, religion, sexuality, role of government, and taxes. By indicating your degree of agreement on a 0 (completely disagree) to 10 (completely agree) scale, the quiz determines how progressive your views are and compares your views with other political ideologies. As you may have guessed, I am very progressive (score of 275 out of 400) and off the chart seen below. Not surprising is the correlation between education level and political affiliation.

How progressive are you?

March 19, 2010

Virginia: A pilot project in theocracy

I was concerned when Virginia elected a Republican governor. I was more concerned when I learned that McDonnell had amended the state's discrimination law by removing "sexual orientation" from the list. So now Virginia is prohibiting that type of discrimination? It isn't enough to say that discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated because racism, sexism, etc. are widely prevalent. The inclusion of the phrase "sexual orientation" provides a legal standing and accountability to employers. Why not remove gender from the list as long as you're at it?

March 17, 2010

Sicko (the movie)

Did you know that the United States does condone and practice universal healthcare? It is available to the prisoners of Gitmo (hazards to our national security) and the people of Iraq and Afghanistan (because we are fighting a war in their countries). And which individuals have the best options on healthcare after them? Our elected representatives in government, who can choose from over 200 plans and policies. I find it interesting that those against universal healthcare, who insist it is in violation of the Constitution and all that is sacred about America, are the same individuals whose jobs and financial resources protect them from experiencing lapses in coverage or removal from an insurance policy.

March 11, 2010

The Two Party System

A nice illustration that explains the core differences between the Republicans and the Democrats.

March 08, 2010


I was so happy that Jeff Bridges ("Crazy Heart") and Sandra Bullock ("The Blind Side") won for lead actor in a motion picture. Both of them are so talented and recognition for their achievements was quite overdue. And while I hadn't heard of any of the nominees for best animated short film, I did laugh at Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty. What nightmares the child must have!

March 05, 2010

And more hypocrisy ...

Republicans' big lie about reconciliation

Here's a good article about reconciliation and what it actually means for the healthcare bill. I'm really sick of people using fear-mongering to further a selfish agenda. And Republican politicians have no excuse because they used this same technique to ram Bush's tax cuts (for the wealthy) down the throats of the American people in 2001 and 2003, thereby increasing the country's deficit by 1.7 TRILLION dollars.
Republican's big lie about reconciliation

March 01, 2010

Food for Thought

"We are different from previous generations of conservatives. We are no longer working to preserve the status quo. We are radicals, working to overturn the present power structure of this country." (Paul Weyrich)

"A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward." (Franklin Roosevelt)

"It only takes 20 years for a liberal to become a conservative without changing a single idea." (Robert Anton Wilson)

"Liberalism is trust of the people, tempered by prudence; conservatism, distrust of people, tempered by fear." (William Gladstone)

"What is conservativism? Is it not the adherence to the old and tried against the new and untried?" (Abraham Lincoln)
A recently released survey of self-identified Republicans found that 23% want their state to secede from the Union, 34% believe birth control is the same as abortion, and 68% believe gay couples should not receive any state or federal benefits. For more shocking (but not surprising) results, visit the survey at .

February 26, 2010

Much ado about (healthcare) nothing

I don't want this blog to be overtaken by political arguments, but I get so frustrated trying to have a civil debate with certain individuals. I present facts and studies that support my statements and edit my litany so that it doesn't contain any unfounded comments. I expect these individuals to review the submitted literature before they respond, to analyze what I'm saying and juxtapose it to what they believe, and to address my points in their answer. And yet I am continually disappointed by what actually occurs. They fail to do any of those things! It is as if they have their fingers in their ears and are screaming at the top of their lungs. God. How can we (the public) expect the elected politicians to be civil in discussions, to work together and compromise, to do what is best for all, when some of them behave as children?
"But I don't want to go among mad people," remarked Alice.
"Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat. "We're all mad here."

February 23, 2010

Opinion vs. Fact

A friend of mine on Facebook posted an article about the difference between opinions and facts. While he and I differ significantly in political views, we both agree that facts -- studies and statistical data collected by reputable organizations -- hold more merit than a rambling individual who has no former training or education. Editorials and opinions are just that. You are entitled to your opinion, and I'll do my best to respect it even if I disagree with it. But opinions are not, and will never be, facts.

Editorials & Opinions: Don't confuse them with facts

You see, like me, she can remember a time when facts settled arguments. This is back before everything became a partisan shouting match, back before it was permissible to ignore or deride as "biased" anything that didn't support your worldview.

If you and I had an argument and I produced facts from an authoritative source to back me up, you couldn't just blow that off. You might try to undermine my facts, might counter with facts of your own, but you couldn't just pretend my facts had no weight or meaning.

But that's the intellectual state of the union these days, as evidenced by all the people who still don't believe the president was born in Hawaii or that the planet is warming ...

To listen to talk radio, to watch TV pundits, to read a newspaper's online message board, is to realize that increasingly, we are a people estranged from critical thinking, divorced from logic, alienated from even objective truth. We admit no ideas that do not confirm us, hear no voices that do not echo us, sift out all information that does not validate what we wish to believe ...

But objective reality does not change because you refuse to accept it. The fact that you refuse to acknowledge a wall does not change the fact that it's a wall ....

February 22, 2010


I adore Jennifer Love Hewitt -- her laugh is infectious! -- but even I was surprised to hear her boldly declare that she had "accessorized" her privates.

National healthcare

The debate rages on, but President Obama has put together a new proposal. The link is listed below.

February 18, 2010

Public perception of science

I read an article today that said 84% of the general public believes science has had a positive impact on society and has made life easier for most people. [And that is despite the fact that 36% of those surveyed said that science conflicted with their religious beliefs!] Scientists were listed 3rd, below military personnel and teachers, in terms of overall contribution to society.

The vast majority of scientists, however, feel that the public's lack of scientific knowledge is a major problem and that the media is to blame. Scientists also differ from the general public in the belief in or acceptance of the theory of evolution (87 vs. 32%) and global warming (84 vs. 49%). 

Not surprisingly, those who believe in creationism -- that humans existed in their present form since the beginning -- are more likely to hold a negative view of science and scientists.

The article does reference the Bush administration's refusal to publish reports that conflicted with their point-of-view, but I'll have to look more into that. Science should be considered valuable regardless if it supports or doesn't support a given hypotheses. Science is about learning, and sometimes the best lessons are those that don't turn out as expected.

The article also has a link to a quiz with 12 questions to test your knowledge of science. [I can't tell if the quiz is designed to test general topics or more complex ones.] I'm happy to report I got a perfect score.

Public praises science; scientists fault public, media

The science knowledge quiz

February 17, 2010

Academia and Motherhood - Why the two are not mutually exclusive.

A blog I frequent had a link to an article titled "The Academic-Motherhood Handicap". It outlined practices and expectations that are out in the open, but seldom internalized by women pursuing a science career in academia. The requirements to gain tenure are immense, so it makes sense that the dedication in its pursuit must be intense. Departments value those who put in long office hours, rake in large grants, publish umpteen journal articles, and push out numerous graduate students. But the time required to achieve these feats has to come from somewhere, and often that is one's social or family life. 

Imagine the difficulty then in being a woman in science, who wants to have a family and knows the biological clock is waning, but who also knows that the decision to get pregnant could (and probably will) hinder or derail her career. To spend almost 20 years in school to obtain a Ph.D. diploma, only to be sequestered as an adjunct faculty member -- forever underpaid and under-appreciated for the degree you hold. I know this is a fate that awaits many women in science because for every successful man receiving an award for his outstanding achievements, stands a woman who gave up her career to raise the children and manage the home.

For the full article, click here.

February 16, 2010

An A&E Marathon

Yesterday, I stumbled across the A&E show "Intervention". It's about individuals who are addicted to alcohol, illegal drugs, or food and their families and friends who can no longer watch the person slowly die. After 30 minutes of watching the addict live his/her daily life -- which depends on frequent daily substance abuse -- the family stages an intervention with an addiction specialist. The most disturbing part of the program is what happens at this meeting because in every case, the addict is in complete denial about how bad the situation is. [One guy in his twenties, who was homeless and estranged from his family, was shooting heroin 8 times a day and had been doing so for a few years, but felt that he hadn't hit rock bottom.] I can't believe that individuals who have to have a drink/hit right after they wake up in the morning, who pass out in some form of undress on their front lawn, who are unable to care for their children, who steal money and lie to their friends, can think that they have everything under control and can quit whenever they want to. Amazing!
"The abuse dies in a day, but the denial slays the life of the people, and entombs the hope of the race." (Charles Bradlaugh)

February 10, 2010

50 car pileup

Today's high winds -- in excess of 35 mph for most areas -- and light snowfall resulted in whiteout conditions that led to a 50 car pileup in Williamsburg, Virginia. Just horrific.

February 09, 2010


So I've been stuck at my apartment since Friday thanks to a seemingly endless barrage of snow. The blizzard of 2010 dumped 26 inches where I am, though nearby counties reported over 32 inches! The entire area shutdown as plows attempted to clear roads and electrical lineman attempted to restore power to some 112,000 people. 

And just when things are starting to be under control -- primary and most secondary roads have at least had 1 pass; 6,000 people still without power -- another storm is coming. The news reporters cheerily tell me I could see another 8 to 10 inches of snow. And, if that isn't bad enough, the winds tomorrow will be around 35 mph, so whiteout conditions and drifting are expected. Omigod! I've cleaned everything I can think of from sinks to toilets to furniture to carpet to light fixtures. I've written letters and watched movies. What else is there to do? 

Snowmageddon is here and refuses to leave!! Someone please save me from this wintery hell. 

I hear Hawaii is nice this time of year ....

February 05, 2010

Valentine's Day

Another year, another Valentine's Day. God, how I despise this holiday. A commercial fabrication to force people to buy tacky gifts and overpriced roses for one another to "show" how much they care. Shouldn't you do considerate gestures for your significant other throughout the year? I would rather date someone who made an effort to show me how much he cared with random gifts or cards than only on the one day I would expect it. Of course, I am single and bitter, which exacerbates the mindset. Valentine's Day has always made me feel like there must be something wrong with me. Why else would no one want to spend an insane amount of money on tacky heart-shaped candy and a sappy card for me? Ugh. I'll be happy when it's March.

January 25, 2010

Profile pictures

It's amazing how something as simple as taking a picture of yourself can bring out anxieties, feelings of inadequacy, and concern for how your friends/family/network/strangers will view you. I suppose part of the reasoning lies in how we view ourselves, and the way we cope with our limitations -- perceived or actual. We try to select images that showcase the best version of ourselves. This is especially true of online dating websites like eHarmony or Humans are a visual species and the desire to form a relationship -- platonic or sexual -- is initiated by appearance. But what I didn't realize is that what constitutes the "best profile picture" depends a lot on your gender. This blog analyzed over 7,000 profile pictures to see how eye contact, facial expression, background, etc. impact the interest you receive from the other gender. The results are somewhat unexpected!

January 21, 2010

Barbie's next career

A fellow woman in science recently posted in her blog that Mattel is letting the public vote for which career the iconic Barbie doll toy should have next.  Your choices are: environmentalist, surgeon, architect, news anchor and computer engineer.  I'm partial to computer engineer because (1)  news anchor seems so cliche and (2) I'm not sure if environmentalist is this the same as environmental scientist or if Mattel will use this as a platform for a Barbie who is green and hyperaware of her carbon footprint.  Regardless of your preference, go vote!

Go forth and vote!

The original blog post can be found at:

January 18, 2010

Sides to a person

I can always tell when I'm really comfortable with someone.  I blurt out the first thing that comes to mind, even if it is embarrassing or silly, and I laugh so hard I cry.  That's how I know I trust the person with the real me.  No masks.  No careful editing.  But sometimes, for one reason or another, I feel that I have to show only certain sides of me.  For example, there's a guy I work with, and although we're friends, he has never seen the real me.  I'm very careful not to be too vocal about my political or religious thoughts.  [He's the complete opposite with no room for discussion.]  I'm very careful not to divulge items I intend to purchase [as they tend to show up on my desk.]  I'm a toned-down diluted version of me.  And while he thinks we're such good friends, I know that it's all a half-truth.  But I do it because it's what I want.

January 10, 2010

Small steps forward

So perhaps I was a bit melodramatic with my first 2010 post. My love for heartbreak isn't the same now as it was back in summer. It is tempered and much more cautious. I am constantly aware of the game -- the one I play with myself by engaging him in conversation and hanging out; the one he plays with himself by not wanting me to be with anyone else, but we aren't together. He recently told me that everyday, when he drives home from work, he wonders how he could've fucked all this up. I just stared at him and didn't say a word.

In other news, I went bowling with a couple guys from the service organization I belong to. Despite the fact that I had to invite myself, which seems impolite, they were very welcoming and fun to hang out with. And the guy who has rarely talked to me in before, during or after the weekly meetings, was quite the gentleman in leading me to the bowling alley. He even pulled over and waited for me to catch up, when I didn't make the light! A pleasant surprise. I wonder what future months will bring?

January 04, 2010

A new year

I'm usually so excited for a new year to begin. I hang my new calendar and flip to the first new page. I carefully put away the Christmas decorations and re-read the holiday cards. I give the apartment a thorough cleaning. I start to think of all the new adventures I want to have -- the places I want to see, the festivals I want to attend.

Yet this year isn't quite that way. I feel caught in a time warp, where despite the passing of days and months, nothing has really changed. I still love someone who broke my heart into a million pieces. I still struggle to meet new people and make friends. [Why are people so cliquey in this part of the state?] I still don't know what I want to do with my life. It is all so frustrating! I want to feel like an adult, but I'm a glorified child.

Perhaps 2010 is just starting off with trepidation. Maybe it'll get better.