Tuesday, September 30, 2008


My title for today would roughly translate into "ambivalence at other people's sorrow."

So the bailout failed. I would love to deliver a long diatribe about whether it was a good thing that it failed or about how the world is now going to careen out of control, killing us all. Unfortunately, I don't think that I have a good enough grasp on what is really going on to have that passionate of an opinion either way. But for whatever reason, it made me really happy to learn that the bailout had failed.

On the one hand, I am kind of scared about the possibility of a recession. It would be rather unfortunate if people lost their jobs, got evicted from their houses, or were unable to, say, take out massive student loans to get superfluous Master's degrees in Neurobiology and Physiology. For all the damage that big business sometimes does to hurt the environment, screw over customers, and enslave the third world, it also makes electricity, chocolate, and Harry Potter books, all things that I'm rather fond of. Maybe I've just read too much Ayn Rand (a little goes a long way, I'm learning), but a functioning world economy still sounds like a good idea to me.

The rest of me, however, wants a lot of people to suffer for this whole sub-prime collapse. People have been recklessly chasing the idea of owning a home--chief among suburbanite concerns--to such an absurd degree that they borrowed more than they should have, spent more than they had (take out that second mortgage to pay for those much needed cruises and extravagant weddings!), and gambled on the fact that the economy would always pay for their irresponsibility. The lenders were equally the blame, convincing poor, stupid people that they should borrow more than they could ever repay, just so long as the closing costs get paid upfront.

When the dust settles I think we (or any of us who do or will pay taxes in the future) are going to have to pay for the irresponsibility that so many of us indulged in. The idea of handing Henry Paulson, someone who has apparently done a wretched job keeping our economy from tanking, $700 billion dollars to give it another go just doesn't really sound all that appealing. I'm rather glad that they're going back to the drawing board to come up with something better.

I can't really resist taking a pot shot here, so feel free to stop reading now if you don't want to indulge in the vile sentiments that inevitably come from horrible people like myself. 

When the world starts to fall apart like this we are supposed to be able to look to a leader to console us, explain the problem, and take positive steps towards fixing whatever is broken. Unfortunately for all of us, however, we don't really have a leader in America anymore. George W. Bush has done such an abysmal job, shown himself so unbelievably incompetent, and has practiced such mind-bogglingly irresponsible and obvious nepotism and corruption for his tenure in the White House, even his own party wants nothing to do with him. When he most wanted to step in and do something to help prevent the world from falling apart, he realized that he'd so badly botched his previous chances that nobody is listening to him anymore. The Republicans won't listen to him, Americans don't trust him when he tells us that the world needs this plan, and people like me smile contentedly when his best efforts now fall on deaf ears (even when it's possibly to my own detriment). Maybe Mr. Bush finally got a little bit of what was coming to him. Maybe we all did.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Behold your little ones

Yesterday Amanda and I started our first day of our new church calling, teaching the CTR 6B class (there are two, of which we were given the tamer group). Now as a general rule, kids make me rather uneasy; children, much like dogs, can sense my fear and (justifiably) like me less for it. 

Unfortunately, the calling means that we're gong to have to be much more punctual than we're used to being. Sunday school might start twenty minutes late, but primary actually starts almost on time; the kids with late parents just miss the opening song. On the plus side, however, I get to be with Amanda for the whole block of church.

Who, you might be asking yourself right now, would trust us with their children? Ironically enough, the second councillor in the bishopric, the father of one of our class, is the one who offered us the calling. He didn't even seem worried that we might teach him things that he might not agree with.

We told our class that Jesus drank wine.

I know that their well-intentioned parents were simply trying to keep their world a little simpler. It's also possible that their parents honestly believe that Jesus actually drank grape juice, citing the fact that the Greek words would be the same. Still, I don't believe in teaching half-truths or faith-promoting lies; how can we expect kids to be able to the tell the difference between Santa or the Tooth Fairy (who are patent fabrications we claim are real) and God (who is real but whose characteristics are complicated and often uncertain)? Why should they believe us when we tell them that God is real after they find out we lied to their faces about where their Christmas presents come from?

All told, I'm surprised at how attached I already am. Our kids, Taft, Anna, Kaela, and Tayan (I think I screwed up the spelling of that last name, but that's what you have to expect when you invent names), all seem incredibly smart and earnest. We made cranes and colored them during class and Kaela's turned out better than mine (this is the girl who said that she wanted to be an artist when she grows up. Once, she apparently made a plate into a frisbee!). They seem to like me well enough too--they picked me to wear the silly sombrero (picture forthcoming when I remeber to bring our camera to church) when they won the contest for who could sing loudest. I have some ideas already about how I make class fun for them as well as teach them some things that will probably help them.

I think I might just be overwhelmed the by sentimentality of it all. I still have very fond memories of teachers I've had the past. The Holts, Brothers Krieg, Aamodt, Birkensha, Jefferson, Carter, and Sanders, as well as Sister Price all taught me to be a better person. I'm optimistic that I'll be able to be a good and memorable teacher to those kids like I've had in the past. That is, of course, if they don't release me from my calling first for teaching them that Jesus drank alcohol.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

NPR Overload

For those of you who have heard my ranting against the suburbs, you have probably already guessed that I love living in a big city. Mostly I am loving the fact that I haven't had to drive my car for over a month.

According to mapquest, my commute would be 45 minutes if I drove (it actually takes longer with Chicago traffic). Instead, I take a bus to downtown and then the "L" up to Evanston. Depending on when I leave, if I can catch the express train, and how long it takes me to walk from the train stop to my lab, it takes me between an hour and a half to an hour and forty-five minutes each way.

As a result, I have tons of time to listen to music and podcasts and I have turned into a podcast fiend. Every day I listen to NPR's story of the day, most e-mailed stories, Marketplace (secretly and unexplainably my favorite show), and The Onion's audio program. I also listen to Science Friday, This American Life, The Economist, Science, Cell, the Brainscience podcast, Futures in Biotech, Word of Mouth (the BYU writing center podcast--you're welcome, Lina) and some stuff from the BBC when they are new.

Soon enough I'll have exhausted the available archives for most of these podcasts and will be forced, either to find new podcasts to listen to, start listening to music, or, heaven forbid, interacting with my lab mates while I work.

Right now I'm very much enjoying being well caught up in what's going on with the stock market, technology, politics, and even pop culture (I have opinions on which shows should have won the emmy, for crying out loud). Classes start for me on Friday, so I'll have to wait and see just how much that class work takes away from my NPR time. If the class doesn't end up being terribly time-comsuming, my current life-style will guarantee that I'm well on my way to becoming one of those self-satisfied and arrogant "city-folk." You all might want to just spam my e-mail address now before I start sending you mail about how you can reduce your carbon footprint, that one funny joke Paula Poundstone told last Sunday, or how you can donate to your local NPR station.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Playing God

Surprised by how many of you ask about what I'm doing at Northwestern, I figured I could answer in a blog.

I am trying to answer how and why fruit flies sleep. I turn off genes in flies brains one by one and then measure how it affects how that affects sleep.

For the most part my research is pretty mundane; I have to transfer the flies pretty regularly so that they don't die, I have to plan way ahead so that the right amount of flies are being born in the weeks that I need them (it takes 10 days for an egg to hatch into a fly), and I have to load the flies into lots of little vials so the computer can count count when they are asleep.

Eventually the research will get pretty interesting. Once I find genes that make a big difference, I'll run more genetic tests and even dissect the fly's brains to check it's chemistry.

In case any of you find a fruit fly and want to know it's gender, I'm including a chart for easy reference.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

John is Dreamy

In tardy refutation of my colleague's previous post on McCain (he has been going wild with blogging, eh?), I would like to dedicate this entry in praise of the dream-boat that is John.

OMG, the first reason for my love of John is that he was in the army. What doesn't scream walrus-like masculinity like heroically wielding a gun and getting captured and romantically imprisoned for the glory of our beautiful country in the name of Vietnamese imperialism? When deciding on my crushes (with which my vote goes naturally hand-in-hand), I definitely seek someone who can doggedly follow orders.

Next, will you just check out Cindy? I mean really, she is gorgeous. And has money. If she thinks he's worth it, I'm definitely on board. I totally want to be her when I grow up. I mean, did you see her volunteering to help all those yucky poor people in front of the film crews? She's so great. And, even if, as my colleague suggested, he left his old wife for Cindy, at least we all know he got it right the second time. We all make mistakes, right?

And finally, I looove McCain becaus he stands for The Family. You can tell, because his daughter loves him so much, that she marketed propaganda about him to children! And she even started a "blogette" about him to prep the crowds my age! This campaign isn't just about winning the election. It's about a lot more to John. It's about priming the world to swallow him, his slightly-watered-down version of the Bush Doctrine, and The Family for years to come.

Focus on the Family

At the risk of becoming one of "those" bloggers, I'd like to dedicate today's post to presidential politics.

Personally, I think that so called "Christian morality" has no place in politics. I was furious to see the Republicans attacking President Clinton over his extra marital affairs. I do think that it was OK to impeach Clinton for lying about Lewinski, but I don't think it was kosher to ask him about it under oath in the first place.

Since oh-so-many republicans thought it was a good idea to elect George W. Bush because he was "a good man," I ask you, is John McCain "a good man"? I'll give you a hint: here's a picture of his first wife Carol. She actively campaigned for John to be released from Hanoi and stayed faithful to him while he was in Vietnam for 4 years.

Here's a picture of John McCain's second wife Cindy. I won't dwell on the fact that he traded in his old model for the newer, prettier one, but I do find it inappropriate that he didn't wait until he was divorced before he started dating Heiress Barbie. So I ask you, Mr. Dobson, what is the greater threat to traditional marriage: homosexuals who want to practice monogamy, or heterosexuals who don't?

In an ideal world, enough Republicans would realize that their candidates are dirtbags, and then the Christian right could stop adulterating our politics with fallacious religious sentiments. Until that day comes, however, I suppose it would be alright with me if they wanted to vote for the more moral of the two candidates.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Sure, your next-door neighbour Austria was home to Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss, Schubert, and Freud, but don't forget, you make pretty good stuffed cabbage.

Robert pointed out that I neglected to include pictures of our trip to Budapest. Here's a picture of me.

We were only able to take a picture of the outside of our hostel because the pack of 4 batteries I bought only took 3 pictures total. By the time we could by some not-Hungarian batteries we had already checked out. In any case, we shared a one-bedroom private room for 15 euros a night; the bed was smaller than a twin but neither of us toss or turn at night so it was good enough.

Note to anyone planning on traveling to Hungary any time soon: beware the exchange rates. I made the mistake of exchanging some dollars for Hungarian money so that we could take the subway to our hostel, only the realize in hindsight that they gave me about half of what the money was actually worth. For whatever reason, it would have been cheaper for me to trade my dollars for euros and then my euros into forint than to just change dollars to forint. Luckily, we used our credit card for most of the expensive stuff (our anniversary dinner, the hostel bill) and Wells Fargo gave us the standard exchange rate, only taking a 3% cut.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

If you were a hot dog and you were starving, would you eat yourself?

I think it might be time to replace the eagle with this. What better image could we show the world than an anthropomorphic hot dog cannibalizing himself with a smile on his face? What lovely optimism.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

So here's Europe. We actually have a lot more pictures (we'll include some of them later, so that you too can enjoy the living hot dog squirting him/herself with condiments), but this should do for now.

Bergamo, Italy
The Arch de Triomphe
Musee de Orsay

Prague's absurdly deep subway system
Sony Center, Berlin

Holocaust Memorial, BerlinCopenhagen