Sunday, March 28, 2010


So, I love singing, and I've received a fair amount of positive feedback for that singing. Which is probably why my I can look at my experience in ward choir this morning with a certain amount of detachment.

When I showed up, I was the only soprano (amazingly, I'd shown up on time!). Shortly after, though, another woman, older and with a voice she's very proud of, joined the group. When she came in, she sat as far away from me as she could, which seemed a little odd since when you're singing you typically want to be close together so you can hear one another. At the same time, since Sylvia was with me, I could kind of understand--she's a good kid, but she's also at a rambunctious age. Anyway, This older woman (who I'll call "NW") complained about her lack of voice due to a cold several times during choir rehearsal, apologizing to the director and just singing as best she could.

So, toward the end of rehearsal a couple more women showed up--a mother and daughter. The mom's an alto, and the daughter is a soprano. When the daughter joined us in the soprano row, NW said, "Finally, someone with a voice is here."

I hate compliments that come at another persons' expense. I just wanted to say to here, "I'm sitting right here, and I can hear you!" but of course, I held my tongue. I contemplated leaving, but decided I was there because I love singing, I love joining my voice with others in songs of praise, and I don't care if my voice is the best and most amazing. It's mine and I love to use it to sing.

But I hate how small I felt for those few minutes after NW said what she did. I hate how easy it is for someone to get under my skin and make me feel worthless, less than I am. Today's experience reminded me of something from a friend's wedding where I was a bridesmaid. She had three bridesmaids, one rather tall (and standing in the middle of the group), the other two of us fairly short. This older woman came up to the three of us and said to the tall one, "you are a rose among thorns." I had the same feeling of being small, of somehow not measuring up. It's crazy that some cranky, unpleasant old bat has that much power, that I allow someone I don't know to have that much power over how I feel. It's crazy those stupid stings stay with me so long. I think not knowing these women makes their comments seem all the more real--after all, they're not friends, so presumably their opinions are untainted by a desire to preserve that friendship leaving them free to speak the truth, right? Right?


I woke up this morning to find my daughter decorating my backpack with stickers.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Republibot interview

While searching for a community in which I could mourn the end of "Defying Gravity," I found Republibot, which is a blog for science fiction geeks who also happen to fall on the conservative end of the political spectrum. When I opened my big mouth about having once worked at JPL (for a summer), R3 asked to interview me. Here's the resulting interview. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Sylvia's vocabulary includes the following words:
Hot (which describes most food)
Cat (which describes most animals)
Dog (unless they're big)
Shoes (which describes anything put on feet)
Cool (as in, neat)
Cookie (I know she used to say cracker, but apparently not anymore)
Drink (said, 'Dree')

And, of course, momeee and da. There are a few other words I think I understand ('ga' for blanket; 'peety' for clothing, especially if it's sparkly or brightly colored). She'll say something akin to two and three if you count with her, and 'T' is lately her favorite letter. Sometimes she calls a book a 'buh,' and she almost says hog (more like 'ha') while reading "But not the Hippopotamus." Not bad for a 19 month old kid.

I bring this up because the other day at breakfast Sylvia ran through pretty much her entire vocabulary in about five minutes. I don't know if she was trying to tell us something, just trying to be a part of the conversation, or just practicing her words for our enjoyment. Whatever it was, I was impressed and entertained.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


I've been in need of a spray bottle for a little while now. Apparently, or so I've been told, in order to get the perfect crust on a loaf of artisan bread you need to spritz it through the first part of the cooking process. Unless, of course, you have a fancy oven that steams the bread as it bakes, but, being a poor non-starving grad student, I just have a regular old normal oven. Which is fine, but it means that if I want to make bread I need a spray bottle.

At the store I had two options: a $0.98 small bottle and a $2.98 large option. Since the small option was also rather flimsy I purchased the larger, more expensive spray bottle and brought it home. As with all new toys, as soon as I unpacked it (which had to wait until after Sylvia went to bed--at 10:30!) I had to try it. So, I filled it with a few ounces of water and played with it until I convinced it to mist perfectly. Also, as with all new toys, the activity attracted the attention of my husband, who, as I put down the spray bottle, grabbed it from my hands and sprayed me in the face.

It's good people are predictable. Keeps life from disappointing.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patty's day!

Here's my little leprechaun cheerleader, enjoying some tasty rainbow "dinner"

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Reductio ad absurdum

I love satire. When done well, it's a great way to make a point.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I am, unsurprisingly

In response to this post.

There is a bumper sticker I love (that at least used to be available here) that states simply why I am a feminist:

"Feminism is the radical notion that women are people."

I am a person, and as a person I deserve the same rights and respect as any other person. At different points in history and in many places in the world today my status as a person wouldn't be clear--instead, I might be seen as property, first of my father, then of my husband, never of myself.

I am not the same as anyone else around me. I do not possess the same talents, interests, or abilities as anyone else, man or woman; child or adult; in this time or place or any other. But I do, as a person, have certain rights, including the right to make my own decisions. Choice is the greatest gifts of feminist to their daughters and I rejoice in the opportunities I have in my life. I rejoice in my education, in my marriage, in my child. I rejoice in my faith and in my doubt. I rejoice in my safety, in my voice, in the myriad benefits we as a society enjoy because women are empowered and involved in this society. I am a daughter of privilege because I enjoy the rights and social expectations of this time and place and I am grateful for that. And because of that gratitude I will call myself what I am: a feminist. Not the man-hating, disdainful of traditional women's roles straw(wo)man; just your typical, garden variety feminist who thinks she's a person who deserves the same rights and respect as any other person on this planet, and who hopes someday everyone on the planet really will experience the same rights and respect as everyone else. THAT will be Zion.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Couple of programs

Yesterday I was listening to Morning Edition on NPR and heard this story that features an LDS couple who avoided the financial crisis because their "faith encouraged them to be financially responsible." I thought it was an interesting story, and a good plug for following the prophet.

For those interested in the history of childbirth, this story on Radio West highlights Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank. It's fascinating that women have been worried about the "right" way to give birth for centuries. The description of twilight sleep was particularly interesting to me. My husband's grandmother, I think, used the combination of morphine and scopolamine to induce twilight sleep. Even so, the experience was apparently bad enough she only gave birth once.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Peer review

I've heard a lot of complaints about peer review, mostly from people who don't have to deal with it. I am not well-versed with peer review, since I've only published one article and my advisor did all the shepherding through the review process. From my perspective (as a now published author), it seems to work okay. Your peers give you comments, most of which (in my case at least) reveal places in the text that are unclear and need to be strengthened. I thought my paper was much improved by the peer review process.

I'm guessing in response to everyone else out there who claims the peer review process sucks and either doesn't catch everything bad or let through some "valuable contributions," the newest open source Earth Sciences journal, Earth System Dynamics is modifying their peer review process. The description on the website reads:

In the first stage, papers that pass a rapid access peer-review by the editorial board are immediately published on the ESDD website. They are then subject to Interactive Public Discussion, during which the referees' comments (anonymous or attributed), additional short comments by other members of the scientific community (attributed) and the authors' replies are also published in ESDD.

In the second stage, the peer-review process is completed and, if accepted, the final revised papers are published in ESD.

I'm wondering how well it'll work. It's hard enough to get reviews when people are asked directly to review a paper. I have a suspicion what will happen is most papers will only get the fast review and will languish with nobody paying much attention. Controversial topics, on the other hand, will bring the cranks out of the woodwork and will see lots of comments.

I hope this experiment works. I hope this is a valuable improvement to the peer review process. I am simply skeptical that the time restraints each scientist faces will undermine the addition to the vetting process. But hey, I'm excited to see what happens!

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Derrick is coming into town this weekend (yeah!) for some as yet undetermined period of time. Yesterday I was talking to my MIL and mentioned to her we probably wouldn't call Saturday night to let them know Derrick was in because his flight gets in at 11 and they'll already be asleep. So, I said I'd call Sunday morning. My MIL said, "Oh, not too early though. I know you need to, uh, reconnect as a family."

Monday, March 1, 2010

manic depression

No, I don't actually suffer from manic depression. I have relatives who do, and I definitely do not. I do, however, experience noticeable and (seems to me) large mood swings, typically in response to stress. I love working hard, especially in lab. The happiest, most productive times of the last couple of years for me were 1)the month I spent at Woods Hole, and 2) the two weeks I spent at Brown. I can't believe how happy being in lab, being productive, made me feel. The high from Brown lasted for about a week after I got back, during which time I felt smart, competent, extremely happy and relaxed all the time. I was sure for that short week that I could handle career and family and friends, and do a good job to boot. There wasn't much Sylvia could do to make me unhappy, which was good because her readjustment to having just me around, and having me not want to hold her constantly, wasn't always pleasant.

Fast forward another week and I'm back to my normal self. I don't know if I can do this, I'm frustrated and worried and stressed. I don't think I do a good job, or that I can handle the rigors of an academic life, never mind an academic life combined with motherhood.

What I didn't realize until reading this article is that such feelings of despair and insecurity (though probably more pronounced from the sound of it) plagued Charles Darwin. The article goes on to describe how a couple of researchers are suggesting there's an evolutionary reason for depression: it helps us think.

My own experience with depression was characterized by a crazy-sharp focus on what made me a bad person and on the situation that revealed all my personal faults. My depression went away when I moved away from the situation and was physically removed from the triggers (mostly people) who figured prominently in my ruminative cycle. There are still triggers I have to watch for (I still hate talks on personal revelation, for instance, because of the "personal revelation" I felt concerning the relationship that precipitated my intense unhappiness).

I'm not sure I buy the entire argument--I'm not sure I really see the evolutionary advantage of feelings that inhibit ones ability to provide for oneself and for loved ones--but there is some definite food for thought there. I only wish I could harness my own melancholy to make myself a better researcher instead of doing what I normally do--blogging and other less than productive distractions.