Updates on my life

In case I have readers who I don’t know in real life and are not on twitter, I have news: I got into the physiology grad program that I wanted.

Unlike some of the braver bloggers I read, I didn’t feel up to blogging about the application process because I was convinced I would get rejected from everywhere. Some of my reasons were irrational and some were rational (I was just making the grade cut-offs for the programs I applied to), but apparently none were justified. I’m still surprised that someone (aside from me) think that I have what it takes to succeed in grad school.

So that leaves me with a week of school, one exam, and a summer before I begin my MSc and i’ve got some things on my mind. I hope you don’t mind me unloading in the form of a list.

  1. I’ve run out of motivation for school work despite still having my senior thesis, two essays for a social science course, a review for my seminar course, and an exam. Seriously how the fuck am I supposed to get myself to do this crap?
  2. I’ve been having a minor argument with a friend who is also heading for grad school over the way I went about choosing a potential lab. He seems to think that I should have focused more on whether they use the shiny-est, newest, most awesomely over-hyped techniques rather than finding a lab that works on stuff that I’m interested in. Dude has been going on about which schools have X-equipment and which ones have Y-equipment and why he totally wants to go somewhere with Y available. I am so fucking tired of hearing about this. He also seemed surprised at how much emphasis* I put of the social environment of a potential lab. Can’t wait to see that come back to bite him in the ass.
  3. I need to figure out what I’m doing this summer. I have three options:
    • I can start working in my future supervisor’s lab over the summer. Pro: I get a head start on my project. Con: I lose my last real summer vacation.
    • I can try and find another lab to work for over the summer. Pro: Learn stuff that I might not get a chance to later. Con: I lose my last real summer vacation. Also, Lab Tech in current lab has been hinting that she wants me to stay for the summer and I’m not sure staying** will be good for my mental health.
    • Find biology-unrelated job that pays well. Pro: I will actually feel like I had a summer vacation. Con: No science. Plus, the “pays well” part is probably a pipe-dream.

* That is, more than zero.

** More on this later.

Christmas means a lot of different things for different people. For me and other mecha fans it signals the yearly rewatch of Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket. Why celebrate Christmas this way? Well, I’ve watched 0080 over Christmas and New Years for the past two years and I plan to do so again this year because it’s by far my favourite Gundam series and since the last episode is set on Christmas Eve it seems appropriate. It also never hurts to have a little heartbreak and some tears to go along with the happy times that the holiday season brings.

0080 has often been called the “Gundam for people who aren’t Gundam fans”. I can see where this comes from because it is different in the scope of the story and isn’t a packed with the usual narrative clichés used in Gundam. It isn’t about a protagonist who is special and gets to pilot a giant robot and change history. Instead of the usual protagonist we have Alfred Izuruha, who is an ordinary 11-year-old who likes giant robots and because war hasn’t effected his pocket of space he thinks it is the cool stuff of movies (Basically, he is the perfect audience avatar). The extreme ordinariness of all the characters, not just Al, is pretty a huge difference from Gundam-as-usual. There isn’t a single ace in the whole show and, while I don’t want every mecha show to go this way, it is refreshing.

At the same time, 0080 is still very much a Gundam show in theme because war is still hell and the way to show that is through children or teenagers suffering and coping with it. Al doesn’t just around doodling Zakus and dreaming about piloting, through a series of coincidences fueled by his eagerness to be a “hero” he manages to meet a Zeon soldier, Bernie, and play out his dream. Of course, he ends up realizing that war isn’t a game he gets to play with no consequences in the worst possible way.

The ending is pretty brutal and heartbreaking in part due to the way Al comes to learn about the real cost of war. However, the full brutality — and also what makes the entire show for me — is the shear pointlessness of Bernie’s death. The moment I realized that Bernie will die trying to save a colony that doesn’t need saving went beyond simply tragic irony to making me feel the a touch of absurdity. Everything Al and Bernie did is futile, despite all heroism and sacrifice we see that the world really is out of the control of the protagonists. There isn’t inherent meaning in Bernie’s death and all the meaning is in what Al and ultimately the audience take from the story.

Can I haz an end of the year meme? Thanks to Drugmonkey and his wacky variation on an old classic, I can.
  • Jan: Lessons learned from mistakes have always stuck around in my memories the longest. [link]
  • Feb: …most definitely not waking up to discover an empty bottle of vodka, a half empty bottle of rum, and that strange feeling that you’re still not quite sober at noon*. [link]
  • Mar: I’ve opened a bottle of Italian Merlot and I’ll try to write this post. [link]
  • Apr: No text. Just a video. [link]
  • May: Pyth suggested in a comment to a previous post that it may not be a terrible idea to vent/talk about my personal experience with self-injury. [link]
  • Jun: I’ve never experienced sexual assault. [link]
  • Jul: I’m not quite sure if adding “feminism” to my Google Alerts was a good idea. [link]
  • Aug: Everyone I’ve talked to today has been practically orgasming over the temperature today and I’d really like to know why. [link]
  • Sept: I spent most of today sitting around at the UofT Clubs Fair handing out cards advertising Unspecified Club Where I’m an Exec (UCWIE). [link]
  • Oct: Last week, I got to run through the immunocytochemistry protocol I’ll be using from dissecting out the tissue to taking pretty fluorescent pictures and, as can be expected of most first attempts, I failed completely (OK, maybe not completely as I did get one cell that looked like it could be usable data, but pretty damn close). [link]
  • Nov: J.B. Handley has decided that his organization aimed at peddling dangerous pseudoscience about vaccines didn’t make him enough of an asshole, so he decided that go for the tried and true way of proving douchebaggery: misogyny. [link]
  • Dec: J’ai toujours fait une prière à Dieu, qui est fort courte. [link]

J’ai toujours fait une prière à Dieu, qui est fort courte. La voici: Mon Dieu, rendez nos ennemis bien ridicules! Dieu m’a exaucé.

I always made one prayer to God, a very short one. Here it is: “O Lord, make our enemies quite ridiculous!” God granted it.

Voltaire probably wasn’t thinking of Bill O’Reilly and his paranoid “War on Christmas” bit when he wrote this, but given a time machine he could have been. Yes, it’s that time of year again: Fox News is yet again trying to show just how angry they can get over the smallest of things in attempt sell more of their hate — and it warms my cold, cold atheist heart. I don’t like Fox New and I don’t usually have a reason to watch it, but for the past couple of years I’ve made sure to catch all the “War on Christmas” bullshit because there is nothing more amusing that a bunch of adults trying to frame the phrase “Happy Holidays” as an attack on civilization. Seriously this is one bit of the 2009 coverage of their paranoid delusions:

Yes, kids, they are angry that Christianity isn’t being given special treatment. Come on, it’s oppression when you lump them with the Jews, Pagans, and African-Americans. Don’t you see that?!?!?! [insert bawling]

Bonus LULZ: The young woman who thinks people should be offended by “Merry Christmas” because it’s has nothing to do with Christmas and it’s just like saying “Happy Holidays” — which is why she can’t just say “Happy Holidays”.

The highlight of the “War on Christmas”-season, so far, has been Bill O’Reilly, Gretchen Carlson, Margaret Hoover trying to figure out why atheists hate Christmas:

The “theories” these assclowns come up with are:

  • Margaret Hoover: They hate American culture
  • Gretchen Carlson: They hate Baby Jesus
  • Bill O’Reilly: They’re jealous of the presents we get

I’m not kidding, this is actually what they claim to believe.  The best part is the basis of their claim that atheist hate Christmas is an ad that says “No God?…No Problem! Be good for goodness’ sake”  and has people wearing Santa hats. This is all the proof these people need to claim that atheists hate Christmas. I forgot, it’s also because the American Humanist Association doesn’t put up ads saying similar things any other time of year — oh, wait, they do.

J.B. Handley has decided that his organization aimed at peddling dangerous pseudoscience about vaccines didn’t make him enough of an asshole, so he decided that go for the tried and true way of proving douchebaggery: misogyny.

In case you missed the multiple smack-downs posted by some awesome science bloggers, here’s some background: Amy Wallace writes an article on how anti-vaccination loons (henceforth called antivaccaloons) are creating panic out of thin air and ignorance. J.B. Handley does his usual job of throwing shit at anyone criticizing him and takes it one step further by emailing Wallace some pretty fucked-up shit. Here have it straight from the horse’s (or rather horse fucker’s*) mouth:

Warning: discussion of rape and date-rape drugs Continue Reading »

Yes, even in a 4th year class on developmental biology.

I decided to take a seminar class on dev-bio for the following reasons: the topic is pretty damn interesting, I really liked my dev-bio and evo-devo classes last year, and the profs teaching the course are the most engaging instructors I have had at university. What I had failed to take into account was that class content would be highly determined by the students enrolled and that some student would have managed to get through three years of a biology degree believing in Intelligent Design. Apparently, this was a huge oversight.

It didn’t help that the person presenting decided to spring this on us as a wild change of topic. He started off doing a pretty good overview of some aspects of sex determination in mammals and how one model of this was creating. After about an hour of this he finished and put up a slide about how the stuff we learn in class and in the labs should effect the way we view the world. My immediate thought was: “Awesome, we’re going to talk about sex/gender/intersex people/etc!” Oh, how wrong I was. The segue wasn’t for that; it was for a slide with the words intelligent design plastered all over.

*Sigh* What followed that was an entirely uncomfortable 45 minutes.

He started off with an exercise involving us pretending we knew nothing about several objects and trying to intuitively place them in either designed, natural, probably designed. I, of course, decided to object because if I don’t know anything about these object I can make no judgement about their origins. It’s also pretty damn hard to pretend you know nothing about a lion or a pyramid. As you can guess, this was all about making us go “complexity = design” because obviously our “cognitive biases = reality”.

This was all to prime us for the magic that is — wait for it — Kirk fucking Durston. Was it rude to giggle at that point?

My problem right now is that I need to give this guy a mark (wee! for peer marking), but I have nod idea how to go about that. Do I give him a good mark because he did a good job presenting the science-y bits? Do I give him a terrible mark because he used the science-y bits to legitimize wasting my time on inane, drivel? Is it right to give him a zero because, while he can parrot biology he seems to have not learned the core of the subject?

I generally like PZ Myers and the Mr. Deity show, but I’m not at all cool with the latest episode starting at about 3:10 minutes in …

I know it’s comedy, but can we please do funny without icky ideas of gender and stereotyping of gay men? Gay jokes aren’t funny. The old “personal grooming and style isn’t for men, it’s for teh laydeez and the gays” routine isn’t funny. It’s offensive and it makes me go sadface.

Last week, I got to run through the immunocytochemistry protocol I’ll be using from dissecting out the tissue to taking pretty fluorescent pictures and, as can be expected of most first attempts, I failed completely (OK, maybe not completely as I did get one cell that looked like it could be usable data, but pretty damn close). It’s frustrating because I really wanted for things to go well so I could prove to that part of my brain that has no self-esteem that I’m not just wasting everyone’s time and money with my incompetence.

So, that week didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, but tomorrow I’m back in the lab and it’s a new week. I have some idea over where I could have gone wrong so maybe my failures will be more minor.

Today was the last day of the second week of school (UofT has decided to create massive confusion with a schedule that makes sense but is still so fucking stupid) and I think I may be settling in with this going to lectures business and 10 hour days. I miss being a lazy good-for-nothing.

General updates on life:

  • I spend more than the course recommended amount of time working in the lab on my fourth-year project. I’m currently in the lab honeymoon phase where I’m convinced my supervisor is awesome (even if she intimidates me), the research I’ll be doing is pretty cool, and the grad student teaching me is not a controlling asshat who thinks I’m an idiot. Now I just wait until everyone realizes that I’m an incompetent idiot.
  • I’ve had a quick intro to neuroscience in three of my classes which is almost all repeat of stuff I’ve already learned (in one class I’ve even gotten the same lecture I had two years ago by the same prof). At this point, I think I may be learning more about the various ways to give this lecture and the different things you can emphasize.
  • The only non-physiology course I’m taking this term is with the two awesomest professors I’ve had at UofT. I took a course run by them last year and it freaking blew my mind. Since I’m sure someone will make a wrong assumption on the subject, it’s a science course.
  • I’ve got a lot of events to help setup as club exec and circumstances keep conspiring to give us even more stuff to do. I’ll also, hopefully, be volunteering at the Centre for Women and Trans People. Yeah for non-class stuff to keep me busy!
  • The last two days have been crappy emotionally. Everything external to how I feel is pretty good, but my reactions to stuff are completely inadequate. Anytime I’m not mentally occupied I start feeling panic-y, like I’m about to screw something up.
  • If I could have any superpower, I’d want to be able to stop time while I nap/sleep…
…and on that note I should go to bed.

Search Term WTF

At this point, I’m used to seeing various combination of “vagina”, “penis”, “marbles”, “lost”, “in”, and “recover” when I check Google Analytics, the follow is new and full of WTF:

“if someone has been masturbating before for the past six years and he stop it. is it possible for the person to recover all the lost sperms”

Does anyone else wish to answer this reader’s question with something more articulate than “WTF?!?!?!”?