Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Spinosaurus Tooth


Here is a fossil tooth I recently acquired, from a Spinosaurus, which is likely the largest carnivorous dinosaur, if not the largest land predator, that ever lived. It's somewhat difficult to say for certain as a complete skeleton has never been found (only scanty partial specimens). They have prominent dorsal neural spines for which various theories have been proposed. Some people think they were used for thermal regulation, others for sexual display, others to show aggression and dominance. It could also have been a hump. Regardless, this is one of the larger fossil teeth I own and one of my favorite specimens.


Spinosaurus Tooth
Kem Kem Beds, Morocco
Upper Cretaceous
70 million years old

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Pyritized Ammonite


Here is a beautiful Jurassic ammonite preserved in iron pyrite, commonly known as fool's gold. Almost hard to believe that this came from a squid-like animal with a shell (instead of a snail -- though I have plenty of those fossil shells as well). Ammonite fossils make great index specimens for dating rock formations, and have been found in every continent of the world. Sadly, they went extinct in the late Cretaceous, after what was likely a catastrophic bolide impact, alongside the dinosaurs.

http://www.thefossilforum.com/index.php?/gallery/image/28933-pyritized-ammonite/

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Trilobite



No fossil collection would be complete without the trilobite. The trilobite is the most-studied fossil arthropod, and was likely the dominant life form during the Cambrian age (though they lasted well into the Late Permian). They were probably the first animal to have compound eyes. Their form is easy to recognize and enigmatically beautiful, like a strange visitor from an alien world. The trilobite is a boon to fossil collectors. Many species are quite common and readily available, though there is plenty of diversity around to satisfy the most exotic of tastes. This little guy holds a special place in my heart as one of my first fossils. 

http://www.thefossilforum.com/index.php?/gallery/image/28462-flexicalymene-trilobite/


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Like a Dirty Snowball from the far-flung reaches of our Solar System

Some scientists believe certain meteorites to originate from comets, which have colloquially been termed "dirty snowballs" -- a mixture of frozen water and accreted stony material. Carbonaceous chondrites such as the CI chondrites have never been heated above 50°C during their formation and subsequent history. Otherwise, the water would have rapidly evaporated and the hydrous phyllosilicates would have been metamorphosed into other minerals due to the loss of water.

CI chondrites and the closely related CM chondrites are particularly rich in volatile substances, including water. It is possible that the CI meteorites could have originally formed in the outer solar system, at a distance greater than 4 AU (1 AU is the distance between our Earth and the sun). They were formed beyond our solar system's "snow line", a division representing a temperature of 160° K. At this temperature, any water present in the cometary/asteroidal body would have condensed to ice and been preserved. This is supported by the similarity of CI chondrites with the icy moons of the outer solar system, such as Europa and Triton. Based on mineralogical and chemical evidence, including the high deuterium/hydrogen ratio of CI meteorites, it is possible that the CI meteorites could be fragments of comets or extinct cometary nuclei. These are the extinct bodies of comets that have exhausted their volatiles, losing their tails, and subsequently being captured by the inner asteroid belt between the gravities of Mars and Jupiter.

Here is an article discussing the outer asteroid belt origins of the Tagish Lake meteorite:

"Peter Brown and friends noted that the orbit of Tagish Lake extended to that part of the asteroid belt where asteroids classified by astronomers as C, P and D types predominate. These asteroids are know to have hydrated silicates (water-bearing minerals) on their surfaces, and because of their dark color, are suspected to be rich in carbon compounds. These are also characteristics of the most primitive meteorite types known -- the carbonaceous chondrites, especially the types classified as CI and CM. This was the first clue that Tagish Lake might be a primitive type of chondrite." 

Thought to contain the most primitive matter in our solar system, could Tagish Lake have also been a comet in it's long and mysterious past? D-type asteroids are thought to have originated in the Kuiper Belt, a region of the solar system beyond the orbit of Neptune. Tagish Lake's characteristics strongly suggest that it is a primitive body coming from the far reaches of our solar system. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

We too are stardust

Here is an interesting Scientific American article on the Murchison meteorite, and why I have unofficially dubbed it "The Biologist's Meteorite." Murchison was found to contain more than 70 amino acids, as well as other organics (purine and pyrimidine precursors) that may have provided the raw materials for life.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=murchison-meteorite

They say that you can actually smell the carbonaceous compounds in freshly-cut specimens. Well, I recently won an auction for one and will soon see for myself! Waiting for it to come in the mail is killing me!

Additionally, powdered samples of the Murchison meteorite, when heated up to 900°C, show strong similarities in their reflectance spectra to C- and G-type asteroids. G asteroids exhibit strong UV absorption, a good example being the large asteroid / dwarf planet 1 Ceres. C asteroids, additionally, are thought to be the parent bodies of the carbonaceous chondrites.

Here is another (BBC Science) article discussing organics found in the Tagish Lake and Murchison meteorites:


Murchison




Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Allende

The Allende meteorite is the largest carbonaceous chondrite ever found on Earth. The bolide was witnessed on February 8, 1969; falling over the state of Chihuahua, Mexico. The Allende meteorite is notable for possessing many, large calcium-aluminium rich inclusions (CAIs), which are among the oldest objects formed in our solar system.

Some portion of the carbonaceous chondrites are thought to originate from 1 Ceres. While no meteorites have conclusively come from Ceres, it is possible that the reflectance spectrum of the surface of Ceres is not indicative of its crustal rocks.

The present models assume instantaneous cold accretion of Ceres from approximately 1-km-sized objects. These may have accreted earlier from solar nebula during a duration period of about 2.4 million years from nebula cooling and formation of CAIs. This means that Ceres may have evolved further from the simple aqueous thermal evolution found in CC meteorites.

Allende

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Elysium

Oh, I enjoyed Elysium. It's just that the film had two sides for me: a social agenda and an action story, and those two didn't necessarily work well together for me. The story didn't challenge me intellectually. It's been done before (and better) in other science fiction novels, and none of the emotional scenes really worked on me. Still, I found the movie as a whole rather enjoyable. Better than most I've seen this year. A surprise: Kruger is an amazing villain! The race-and-chase scenes were awesome, and the display of military technology had me drooling (just don't get me started on the physics involved, or lack of adherence to them. You've got to cut the line somewhere). Overall, not disappointed in the least.


Thursday, August 01, 2013

The deafness of deliberate solitude


At least he has his own devices, he can give himself that. Thinking to himself, who can fault them, for not seeing a thing that takes years of discipline and solemn inquiry to see? There is that certain kind of beauty that blooms in solitude, a rare flower that only grows under the most unexpected of circumstances. Wouldn't it be silly, to think that every seed would be exposed to the same photohydrological and chemical conditions? No, he would not assume that every sporophyte would remain the same. There is far too much left to be understood.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Why do so many drugs fail to get FDA approval?



Some thoughts / notes on the topic of why so many drugs fail to get FDA approval:
  • Efficacy-related failures
  • Safety-related failures
    • assess risk profile 
    • ex. systemic toxicity, tumorigenicity, arrhythmias, side effects
  • Research, Manufacturing, & Commercial Processes
    • optimized for one objective and not the other
  • Suboptimal endpoints chosen
    • clinical benefit difficult to measure
    • disease progression
    • overall survivability
  • Control Group Problems
  • Poorly-chosen Patient Populations
    • broad vs. targeted
  • Data Management
    • Suboptimal data capture / entry
    • Investigator bias
    • Reporting bias
  • Patient Enrollment
    • Suboptimal inclusion / exclusion criteria
    • Failure to meet enrollment goals
    • Cannot recruit enough patients for clinical trial
      • Although most patients do not have a problem with the drug; there is a need to redesign the trial
      • ex. change the dosage, administration, or procedure
    • Lack of money to redesign the trial and start the process over again
  • Regulatory
    • Key parameters must be clear
      • establish criteria needed for safety
    • Learning curve for both clinical operations and regulatory agencies
    • Agencies fear bad press & litigation
    • The framework is still evolving

caco-2 immortalized human epithelial colorectal adenocarcinoma cell line
is used to search for novel compounds to treat colorectal and other cancers



Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Miles to go before I sleep



I don't remember where I heard it from, but it seems rather fitting for today.

Looking at my fossils and meteorites is some comfort. One represents almost unfathomable time, the other almost unfathomable space. What a difference that seems juxtaposed against my present turbulence. What I would give for a little stability and a kind face.


Fossil Forum Gallery

Monday, July 01, 2013

A view into the past

Knightia alta Fossil
Early Eocene, 50 million years old
Green River Formation, Wyoming


Fossils are comforting in a way, because they remind us that time has existed eons before us into the past, and will continue to exist long into the future. It's almost enough to melt away present-day worries. In a hundred years, the world will be inhabited by entirely new people, and our worries & insecurities will be nothing more than a distant memory.


Noel's Vertebrate Fossils


Friday, June 14, 2013

To catch a fallen star

I just obtained my first three meteorites! It's amazing. Just last week I didn't know ordinary people could obtain meteorites. I thought that they were just for the very rich or the very lucky (who happened to be at the right place and the right time when a meteorite fell). With the internet, ingenuity, and the help of a small but very dedicated group of scientists, meteorite hunters, and hobbyists; meteorites have become much more widely available. These are the first three I've added to my collection. I have several more on their way, but I can barely contain my excitement with these. I love holding them in my hands and thinking about their origins in outer space.

My very first meteorite is called "Vaca Muerta". That means "Dead Cow" in Spanish. What can I say? You know I have to start things off with something colorful and peculiar. Here are some links to my collection in the Encyclopedia of Meteorites. You'll have to scroll down to "Noel Darlucio Pura" to see my actual pictures.


Vaca Muerta:
http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meteor/index.php?code=24142

Sikhote-Alin:
http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meteor/index.php?code=23593

NWA 869:
http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meteor/index.php?code=31890

My meteorite collection:
http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meteor/MetBullFindphoto.php?credit=Noel+Darlucio+Pura

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Gene Regulatory Networks

A special feature from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on the gene regulatory networks that control animal development. These systems regulate the expression of thousands of genes in the course of embryonic development and have been evolving for billions of years.

http://www.pnas.org/cgi/collection/gene_reg

This page has a useful link to the 50 most-read and most-cited PNAS articles.

My paper on Bicoid-depending anterior-posterior patterning can be found here.


Anybody home?

Not sure yet.
Just testing the waters.
Not exactly sure what I'm doing here, but I'm suddenly awash in memory.
Don't feel like starting all over exactly, but this place needs an entirely different approach.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A New Experiment

Something new I'm working on. It should keep me occupied in the next following months. Not sure yet how long I'll be keeping the domain.

www.PoetryBlog.org

Monday, February 19, 2007

Subconscious Ramblings #101

I haven't written in my blog in what seems like ages. I was once religious about this (updating it I mean), but recently I've been questioning what its objectives are and whether those objectives are still worth pursuing. At the moment, I will entertain the notion that it has no objectives. I once thought I could use it as a medium to find friends, or people who think similarly to how I do, but that idea quickly deflated and it became something akin to a notebook I use to sketch things or paste articles I could have found in a newspaper. As it goes, several things have happened in my life, and I'm not at comfort to discuss most of them in great detail. I will make a list of sorts, as that is really all I'm prepared to do, and you can make do with any of them as you will.

1. I will miss you dearly, Lauren, more than you or anyone could ever know.

2. I met the poet Rafael Campo a few days ago, while he was giving a poetry reading at the College of Physicians. He is a very likeable gentleman, and I am surprised at how well the crowd took his poems on sensitive topics like incest and suicide.

3. The Mutter's Museum is a fascinating place to be, filled with skulls and portions of preserved human bodies. I was able to see it briefly while walking with Dr. Campo. It was an unnerving experience.

4. The interview went very well for the new job I am considering. 

5. I hope pharmaceutical marketing will prove to be every bit as challenging and stimulating as I hope it will be.

6. I will try to stay interested in school, but it is hard when the topics are so theoretical and far-removed from any actual business. My recent experiences have made me interested in entrepreneurship, and I no longer think merely about genes and biotechnology.

7. My group didn't make it to semi-finalist phase of the Wharton Business Plan Competition, but I'm still satisfied with what I learned. I partially saw that this was coming.

8. I don't particularly believe in psychic experiences, but when I opened the doors of perception, I found a place of undeniable beauty and peace, and I thought for a moment that I would be alright. I sought to commune with an eternal and universal subconscious mind, and I felt that there was nothing to fear. I could feel the writhing minds and presences of people I know, and in the wide expanse of the universe, I wasn't alone.

9. I have a rather active and inescapable imagination.

10. This could be the last, but this is it.

Friday, December 01, 2006

High Rise

A fascinating article.

http://www.newyorker.com/printables/critics/030106crbo_books

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Not Knowing

I have a lot on my mind. I can’t even post it here because part of it is work-related. Part of it is people-related. Another part, a huge part, is money-related. What am I doing with my life?

Just yesterday I saw cancer patients getting surgery and having parts of their bodies removed. It wasn’t just teeth or organs underneath your skin that you never see. They were important parts-- like eyes, noses, and lips. Some of them will die.

When will I? Am I using my time here as best I can? I have avoided certain things, but maybe I should confront them. It will mean saying things I don’t wish to say. I will never know how much time I can possibly have.

Am I cutting my life short, stressing, burning myself out? or am I squeezing the most out of the short time there is?

Monday, November 20, 2006

^._.^ //

We came to the guy’s apartment, and the kittens were hiding at first. He gave me a drink and pulled the black one out of a corner. The black-and-white kitten came next. They were a little bit older than what you would typically call kittens, but they were very cute. Mike started playing with them immediately. The guy gave me a catnip mouse on a wand and the black one started playing with it, curling up into a ball. In a few minutes, after a nice conversation, Mike and I left with two kittens, meowing in a small plastic carrier.

After Mike left, the kittens started playing around in my room. They were very curious at first, sticking their heads in every nook and crevice. The black one came to me first. She’s more adventurous. I opened the door to their cage, and she came out sticking her head out to look at the room. She looked underneath the desk and the drawer first, then darted underneath my bed. The black-and-white kitten was a different story. Mike aptly named him “Penguin” for his tuxedo coat. He’s a shy Penguin. I had to pull him out of the cage, and he barely looked around before darting underneath the bed. He stayed for a good long while. I eventually had to pry him off with a cardboard roll in order to play with him. The black kitty was completely different. She didn’t want to stay underneath the bed for long. Instead, she jumped up on all my furniture -- the computer desk, the book case, the old fireplace mantelpiece, and if I hadn’t stopped her -- the paper lantern lamp next to my bookcase.

The kittens are absolutely adorable. When they’re sitting down, feeling too lazy to move, they just look at me as I pace back and forth around my room. They watch me as I move from corner to corner, their eyes like small green pools. I come back to my room from the kitchen or the bathroom, and there they are sitting on my bed, acting like they have every right to be there (and I guess they sort of do, but it is a human bed after all). Shy Penguin leaves immediately, but the black kitty just stays there, like her neat prissy self. Thank god they’re already litter box trained. I don’t know how I would deal with that if they weren’t, but so far they’ve been neat and well-mannered. The only weird thing is, sometimes the black kitty starts digging in the litter box, and then she clambers all over my bed, including all over my pillows! I still have to think of a name for her, but I don’t think it’s going to be quite so lonely around the house anymore. I can sit in my chair and the black kitty jumps unto my lap in the middle of nowhere. I spent hours watching them. I have to cut myself short. Time passes by and it is already time for bed. No wonder I didn’t get any work done.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Black Kitty looking deviously cute at food

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
"Penguin" is so shy he has to be photographed in a cage. Poor kitty. He doesn't like to stay still.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Mike holding the Black Kitty

More Kitty Pictures

Monday, November 13, 2006

On Pleasure, and On Pain

Three journal entries here. One from last week which I did not post because it was too negative. A second I wrote today and will post because I thought it would balance out the first, and a third just now. I'm not really a pessimist. I'm not exactly a realist either.


11/6/06

Dear Journal,

To what end do I write in you? It is not exactly boredom. Boredom implies a lack of work and responsibility, but my weariness of life (and it is a weariness of life) is something quite different. It is not lack of responsibility, but lack of purpose, and a questioning of why I do certain things. Work and study seems to be so obvious a pursuit I shouldn’t even question it. One works and studies to advance oneself, and learn a vocation -- to put food on the table so to speak, but it is also, shamefully, tedious. I fear it is becoming a chore. I must constantly remind myself that what I do matters to someone and will make some difference in the world. Then, I assure myself, it must certainly be worth it. Even then, I am using an external justification for something which should be able to stand on its own merit alone. Why can’t I just be at peace with myself? Why can’t I be at peace with being alone?... My life has been a constant search for work and companionship. To search for those two as I do is not exactly wrong, but not exactly right either. To what end do I search for friends and try to find people to fill the void within my life? I don’t think it has an end. I search for people because I’m bored. I search for people because I feel powerless and lonely. I search for people because I don’t know what else to search for. There is always the dark, tainting presence of death. I think the only way I handle it is by knowing that all of us will die, and maybe then I won’t be alone in embracing something I fear. I am a fool -- a poor, witless fool.


11/13/06

For once, let me write something in here when I’m happy. The world can’t possibly be so bad. There are creatures here that live and work, finding food for themselves, raising young, taking each new day without a care. Millennia of evolution, and each new creature has the resolve to survive. Surely they are aware of death on some level. They feed themselves, they avoid predators, they move on. It is man, who is bestowed with gifts beyond that of any animal, who uses it too to destroy himself. Perhaps it is the awareness of destruction that compels him to destroy. There is an awareness of something rotten and imperfect, perhaps the distance from an unknowable God? Yet, Joy. I said I would write about it today. It is merely the opposite side of the coin, opposite of pain. Pain cannot exist without joy. Things exist in relation to one another. I am joyful today. I see the darkness, but I walk in the light. How could any rational man choose not to? Divided between two paths, of pleasure and of pain, why would any rational man choose pain? Some people choose as events are doled out to them, but we all must experience pain and we all must experience pleasure. Do not dwell on things, but take them as they are. There is an end to everything. Change the things you can.


2:35 pm

Writing again. Yes, I am happy today. I have cleared my mind of worry and restraint. The rain is refreshing. The light falls softly on the leaves. I think I am happy when I am not deep in thought. Troublesome, is it not?

Monday, October 30, 2006

Courage to Strengthen

As should be befitting for this night, some quotes—from Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time:

I would not mind you in my head, if you were not so clearly mad.
-Lews Therin Telamon

Nothing ever goes as you expect. Expect nothing, and you will not be surprised. Expect nothing. Hope for nothing. Nothing.
-Lews Therin Telamon

An open chest hides nothing, and an open door hides little. But an open man is surely hiding something.
-Lini

A beautiful battle is one you don't have to fight.
-Mat Cauthon

I trust you like a brother. Until the day you betray me.
-Rand al'Thor

Do not trouble trouble till trouble troubles you.
-saying in the Maule

Stopping a man from what he wants to do is like taking a sweet from a child. Sometimes you have to do it, but sometimes it just isn't worth the trouble.
-Egwene al'Vere

If I had told Mother I think you are handsome, she certainly would have had you locked in a cell.
-Elayne Trakand, to Rand al'Thor

Both of them? Light! Two! Oh, burn me! He's the luckiest man in the world or the biggest fool since creation!
-Mat Cauthon, regarding Rhuarc's wives

I hope you're not Darkfriends. I don't like killing people after I've fed them.
-Elyas Machera, to Perrin and Egwene

He had four rules concerning action and information. Never make a plan without knowing as much as you can of the enemy. Never be afraid to change your plans when you receive new information. Never believe you know everything. And never wait to know everything.
-Pedron Niall

Until you can, remember this. We are always more afraid than we wish to be, but we can always be braver than we expect. Hold on to your heart, and the Aes Sedai cannot harm what is really you, your heart. They are not nearly so far above us as we believed. May you always find water and shade, Egwene. And always remember your heart.
-Sorilea

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

An Observation on the Male Species

This is just a random observation, but I find that men in general tend to like either sports or fantasy. At the heart of it lies a primal urge to kill. Sports is actually just simulated warfare. There is an offense, a defense, a hierarchical order, and a communal desire to win. Fantasy is the same, though it takes place in a quasi-historical battlefield and often finds ways of expression in novels and video games. Intelligence has nothing to do with it. Even intelligent men desire to kill. The male species must fight for something, secure social position and order, and make itself feel important. Fantasy and sports are two ways of doing this in a socially and morally acceptable manner. Gay men, however, are the exception. Although there are many who like sports or fantasy, there are some who choose neither. Whether they do this because they lack the primal urge to fight or because they’ve found a different and less obvious battlefield is another matter.

...so, philosophical considerations aside, I’m playing Halo this Friday with some friends. It should be fun. Anyone want to join?

Monday, October 02, 2006

"Nothing to be done."

"There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest—whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories—comes afterwards. These are games; one must first answer." -- Albert Camus

"At any street corner the feeling of absurdity can strike any man in the face." -- Albert Camus

Sometimes the sweeping existentialism comes. I could be watching a scene, walking to class, or holding a pen. Then, the sweeping thought hits, “Why toil at all?” I know there is more to life than this. I want there to be something more. Yet, it seems so petty, so insignificant to want to write more, learn more, do more and more endlessly. It is as if the bricks are being lay one by one, but the question of what they are being built for is paramount. I want a degree. I want money. I want to improve. But is there something more than this, more after this? Why must it seem so empty when everyone else is out of the picture? It all must come down to happiness. Oh, how to be happy …without love, or without drugs, or without God? Would it be possible? Man will always be entitled to some degree of unhappiness. It seems a part of existence…

Then, after the thought, to go back to work and blend in with the secular crowd, to the people who actually LIVE. Why must I think such things? Of all the people I know, I am probably the most existential of them all. Not to say that more existential people do not exist, but I do not know them. I do not know them.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Milk. Where's your mustache?

Yesterday I met with my personal trainer. He turned out to be a huge, built guy with a buzz cut from the medical school. The other one, surprisingly, was an equally huge guy from the engineering school. My trainer asked me what my fitness goals were and created a routine for my body type. We went to the weight room and he showed me all sorts of exercises I would have never thought of doing before. Some of them were pretty intimidating and maybe a little embarrassing for a small guy like me to do: the Bench Press, the Military Press, and especially the Squat -- but pretty soon after showing me, he would have me doing them like clockwork. Suffice it to say, I’m sore as fuck this weekend. I’ve never felt this good about pain though. This morning I lay in my bed with my chest and legs hurting and I felt good about not being able to get up. I’ve been eating like hell too to keep up with my training. I’m to eat a thousand more calories each day to fuel muscle growth. I’ve been eating eggs and whole-wheat peanut butter sandwiches like crazy, and I have a protein shake three times a day. I don’t know how long I can keep this up (it takes up quite a bit of time to prepare food, eat, and clean up so often), but I’ve been trying to eat every two hours. I start off with a stack of sandwiches in the morning and carry them around in my pack till they’re all done by the end of the day. I am never skipping a meal again. That to me now is the ultimate sin, and probably the reason why I couldn’t gain a single pound last year. I’ve been keeping a food journal too to keep track of how many calories and grams of protein I have in a day. Yesterday, I ate so much it amounted to 4140 calories. I guess that’s a thousand too much than the 3000-3500 I was going for, but I got scared I wasn’t going to meet my goal yesterday and had a gluttonous 600 calorie shake after lunch to make up for lost time. Guess I didn’t need it at all. My protein tally was pretty good though. After yesterday, I had consumed 218 grams of protein. That’s at least three to four times what I would have consumed on a normal day before, but it’s clear I wasn’t getting enough of it before. I’ve switched all the candy in my room for jerky, and I’ve acquired a fine taste for smoked meat. I’m staying away from fat though, as my calories should ideally come from carbs. My chest is still sore as hell today, but I can’t wait to work out again on Monday. Mike is undoubtedly going to start making fun of me, but I figure once I tell everyone about this thing, guilt is going to keep me from going back.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Night

I came home from work today tired, droopy, and sleepy. I unfolded my dinner from a paper bag. I sat in front of the desk, played music, ate quietly, and thought of life as a bachelor. Not in the romantic sense-- I have a partner after all, but of spending my days living alone. I do my work, I play video games at times, and I make my own meals-- if I make them at all.

Aside from art and philosophy, what else is there to hold life together but kids? I haven’t figured out yet what role they have to play in the equation. Our society is democratic now, on an intensely personal level. There is no debt we have to pay to carry a family name or prolong the race. It is no joke that kids are a liability. Yet, life seems awfully lonely without children. I still have many years before I should even consider it realistically. I can imagine though. The house will be too quiet. There will be no one to distract me from work. There will be no arguing, no crying, no splitting-up of chores; but still, no music, no conversation. Who, besides me, will play with my toys? Who would there be to cook for and give lessons to?

Maybe I just miss my parents. Maybe I am still thinking about that dream I had last night. As it went in the dream, my sister became pregnant, and she didn’t know if she wanted to give up or keep the child. She’s actually in the point of her life when she could choose either. My mother’s birthday is this Monday. I went to the store earlier and bought her a present. They think I’ve deserted them. I haven’t really though. I just left home. My father has gotten to the point where every time we come home to visit, he cries after we leave. He tries to do it in his room. Mother hears. We always end up knowing anyway. I used to hate him, but I can’t anymore. A little distance, a little freedom to do things as I want to do them-- and the feeling has more or less faded. I remember talking to a friend recently from high school. She hated her father too. She had more reason to then I did, but then her father died. It was so abrupt. I heard about it months after it had happened. She hasn’t spoken a bad word about him ever since. I wouldn’t call it regret exactly-- what she feels for him-- but I think she looks past his faults more and more. He wasn’t bad exactly, but different. The heart was there, but he didn’t go about things the right way.

What to do about the rest of the night? I am too tired to do work. Too tired to clean. It is too early yet to go to sleep, and I have no compulsion to go out and seek friends. I could still have a good night if I wanted to, but then I’d kill the whole night and be tired and sleepy at work tomorrow. So I’m stuck here, with only my thoughts and a paper-bagged dinner for company.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The role of binding site cluster strength in Bicoid-dependent patterning in Drosophila


A paper I co-authored based on research I did at NYU in the lab of Dr. Stephen Small:

"The role of binding site cluster strength in Bicoid-dependent patterning in Drosophila."

http://tinyurl.com/q2g43hs

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15793007?dopt=Abstract

Please share these links. Thank you!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

"All that is gold does not glitter"

I’m somewhat depressed today. Aside from the attack that happened to me last week, I just registered for my courses for the fall semester and started thinking about finances. I won't get into the details. It's depressing. I feel like I can’t afford school. After the robbery, I feel like I can’t afford life (or specifically, less-problematically: to live in a good neighborhood). I won’t be poetic about it anymore. I worry a certain someone enough as it is. Why can’t I ever be happy with a decision?

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost.”

Thursday, August 24, 2006

August

I realize I should probably write something in here. It's bad enough that I have such dire thoughts about myself, the nature of the world, the existence of determinism, and all the mad ramblings that come of questioning the world too much. All experiences are either good or bad, but they are essentially the same, like two sides of the same coin. As the philosopher prince put it (Hamlet), "Nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." I do not need to think that way again. What really concerns me? School. Friendship. A sense of meaning and understanding in the world. Emptiness. I could think of a few people who care and show concern for me, but at the heart of it, I do not think happiness could ever really come. No life suits me wholly. People agree and make jokes as they will, and they entertain me and lighten the mood, but I do not think they take me seriously. Maybe they see what they want to. I do not think it even applies anymore, but I would like to be a part of something. I find myself, too often, pensive and gray. When the clouds are over my head, I write, or I seek out others, or I immerse myself in something completely. My writing is filled with clouds, it's true, but it is only that I want to make something out of my time, and I see something beautiful in what I create too. There is nothing wrong with that. No one will criticize me for filling my writing with sadness. It is not the sole emotion I feel, but it is often the one I write about. Most dramatists are either tragedians or comedians. The ones that write both often show a stronger talent in one over the other. I never consciously chose to pursue one genre, but it is clear what I feel more strongly about.

Monday, July 31, 2006

The Noonday Demon

I haven’t written in here in so long. It looks so empty now, but it hasn’t been because I have stopped writing. I have written this summer as much as I ever did, but almost none of my writing could be posted. It is different this time. Nearly all of my writing has involved other people in some way. Not about bad things necessarily, but private things, and things certainly not within my right to judge or say publicly. It was simpler when I was younger. Then, to tell the truth was only a matter of right and wrong. Now, to tell the truth inevitably means to step on other people’s feet, to betray secrets, and to hurt people who have confided in me. There is a line between convention and the greater good I must be aware of, and I will not cross that line lightly. Conditions are not worse now, but they are more complicated. Things have changed as I have known them as a boy.

But perhaps it is not as serious as I have made it out to be. I have been in a bad mood lately. There can be no harm in telling the two people I know who actually read this journal, …and for the rest of you -- who read idly and say nothing -- if you have enough of an interest in me to read what I have to say, than I suppose you deserve to know anyway. I am going through happiness withdrawal. The pills I have been taking to lighten my mood suddenly seemed to stop working last week, and even at their highest safe dose, I simply sat still and felt nothing. It didn’t happen all at once. I have felt their power slowly diminishing these past weeks, but last Friday was the end of it. I felt nothing. Now, regardless of whether or not I take them, there is no lightening in my eyes-- emotions are less vibrant-- myself, am less inclined to receive and tell jokes-- my mind stays unstimulated, slow and dilapidated-- and everywhere, every thought that I think is mired in sloth and futility. It is as if all the happiness and intensity I felt the day before were drained out of me. This must be what it feels like to be a fallen angel-- severed from the hand of God. To walk, to talk, and to interact with people is like swimming through thick jelly, and that state is too vile and still too familiar to want to visit again. It is better when there are people around. Sometimes, I actually believe in the happiness I convey. My mind can get lost in a conversation and forget itself …but other times, nothing moves. My spirit is not lifted as it once was.

I thought to myself there must be a biological reason for this. Prolonged use could have made my receptors less reactive to the drug. I could be producing less-- there could be fewer receptors on the surface of my neurons. I will have to take a drug holiday. I have stayed away from all drugs this weekend -- and how sluggish those two days felt. It is good enough to see Mike, and have other people around, but to be alone is to be completely remorseful. I will try to stay away from pills this week as well. Maybe if I stay away from them long enough, my receptors will regenerate, grow back to their normal populations, and lose their resistance to the drug altogether. I will have to wean myself off of chemically-induced happiness, at least for a time, and at the least -- if I cannot manage it -- partially. How ironic is it that the only way to find happiness again is to stay away from it consciously? I have kept away from it for two days. I will only take enough this week to pull myself out of the bad spells. Everything should be back in order in a few days, or I will have to try something different altogether.

How odd that I suddenly find myself thinking about philosophy …How foolish those dualist philosophers were, to think the mind and the body are not linked. …I do not even think the mind can exist outside of the body. Tell me you do not believe it and I will show you a drug addict and a schizophrenic. It is as clear as night and day. I am certain of it.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

You can't get to Heaven if you're afraid of getting high

This is a great poem.


The Terms in Which I Think of Reality

Reality is a question
of realizing how real
the world is already.

Time is Eternity,
ultimate and immovable;
everyone's an angel.

It's Heaven's mystery
of changing perfection :
absolute Eternity

changes! Cars are always
going down the street,
lamps go off and on.

It's a great flat plain;
we can see everything
on top of a table.

Clams open on the table,
lambs are eaten by worms
on the plain. The motion

of change is beautiful,
as well as form called
in and out of being.

Next : to distinguish process
in its particularity with
an eye to the initiation

of gratifying new changes
desired in the real world.
Here we're overwhelmed

with such unpleasant detail
we dream again of Heaven.
For the world is a mountain

of shit : if it's going to
be moved at all, it's got
to be taken by handfuls.

Man lives like the unhappy
whore on River Street who
in her Eternity gets only

a couple of bucks and a lot
of snide remarks in return
for seeking physical love

the best way she knows how,
never really heard of a glad
job or joyous marriage or

a difference in the heart :
or thinks it isn't for her,
which is her worst misery.

Allen Ginsberg

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Quothade

So thrilled with the news!

One of my sonnets, "Thalia", was recently published in a new poetry collection, Quothade.
You can read it here:



If you like it, feel free to repost the link (on your blog, website, or facebook page) and tell all your friends. Thank you!

Monday, May 15, 2006

A-tisket a-tasket / A green and yellow basket / I wrote a letter to my love / And on the way I dropped it

So, tomorrow’s my birthday. When my sister asked me this weekend what I wanted for it, I realized that my wish list is rather small. As a hobbyist and an aspiring engineer, most of the things I want are beyond what people can give me. Yet, I’ve narrowed down the list to a few several things.

1. An iPod. An Apple iMac without an iPod is like Dorothy without the Ruby Red Slippers. It’s just not right. I don’t need much storage space because I don’t listen to much music (I have a one-track mind and it gets in the way of engineering work), but it’s nice to have for those long journeys back home. A cheaper iPod shuffle ($99), or a contribution to help me buy an iPod shuffle, is just fine. Of course, if I do get a larger 30GB iPod ($300), I could use it as a portable hard drive…

2. A copy of Microsoft Office created before 2003

3. Money to help me buy data decryption software ($100), but of course I can’t speak too much about this… all you have to know is that I can decrypt things for you as well once I get it…

4. Old computers: Parts can be salvaged. I know.

5. Old software disks: to run on said old computers, or just because the newer versions of some software that are coming out sometimes do less than the old ones because of pesky corporate lawyers.

6. Links to or copies of video game system emulating software. (I can probably find this online myself, but I’m too lazy to and I don’t always have the best copy or version).

7. If you’re at all inclined to gaming, I would seriously appreciate it if you would play World of Warcraft with me on the Proudmoore, Draenor, or Bleeding Hollow servers. I have two friends at Penn who play, my sister and her boyfriend play, and after I get him the disc, my brother will be playing as well; but this is the type of game that gets more fun as more people become involved. Seriously, if you want to play this game, I will BUY the disc ($50) for you. That’s how much I want you to play. I’ll even protect your character, as I’m gaining levels quickly and can help you while your character grows.

With that said, I’m turning 22! I’m going to celebrate by buying some strawberry cordial, to serve on the brand new cordial set my sister just gave me…

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Passing the Year

My exams are finished. I have a wonderful job. It lets me interact with people and do my work without being too demanding of me. I have an apartment, and my loans are steadily being repaid. My sister and her boyfriend have now moved to Philadelphia, offering a familial presence in this city. My parents are moving to a new house. Although some of my friends are graduating, I still have many that will be left here. Small things matter too: this new computer that I’m typing on, and the new toys that occupy my time. My work has been handed in. It’s done. I feel like my back is broken, but my soul and my will are being renewed. I’m done. Done -- that word feels like honey rolling off my tongue…


Paean

So one year passes and here I am,
No worse for the wear,
Tracking the streets
Like a contented fox
With his belly full.

It doesn’t matter necessarily
Who or what incarnation I am or
Where exactly this destination lies.
Nose down and feet pitching forth,
Leaves turn over like yesterday’s dream.

I could go on and lose myself forever.
A year, a city, passes by so easily,
Like a breath or an exalted sigh,
And I hesitate just momentarily to take stock
And feel for the presence of this wayward soul.

Beat, come, and let the steady pulse sing to me,
Press your hand upon this restless heart,
For I am real, and you are there,
And beneath this scrim
Of heart beating, arteries pulsating,
And breath riding in and out,

Lies a treasure, real and tangible.
Hold your breath still and watch!
(Who cares if nothing gold can stay?)
No sense in killing the moment out in measured time…
(I pray never to lose this sense of childlike wonder.)


--Noel Darlucio Pura
Philadelphia, 2006

Friday, April 28, 2006

Pleasant Diversions

The idea of an alternate reality will always appeal to me. To be able to change bodies and consciousnesses at will seems like something that would be superior to mere experience. Yes, it would be like something out of a science fiction novel, but what’s the harm in diverting the rational mind, no?...

Well, to make a long story short, and to nonetheless return to the mundane, my entire existence outside of work has more or less been sucked completely into a certain virtual product by Blizzard Entertainment called World of Warcraft. I started playing it as soon as I established my internet connection. I blame Derek for this, but then again, I’ve always had a certain proclivity for fantasy. It was just waiting for the right time (that is, free time) to come out.

(If you’re reading this, and if you happen to play, be sure to give me your server, faction, and name. Maybe we can go on a quest together. I have four characters on four servers so far, and I’m reading the novels too. I finished one overnight. God help me.)

In terms of other news, my sister moved to Philadelphia yesterday to begin her new job. She has a beautiful apartment on Jeweler’s Row, in one of the nicer parts of Philadelphia.
I’m to go to Jersey City this weekend to help my parents move out of their house. I have a nice package for my dad. Hopefully he’ll appreciate it.
Next week I have exams, and then Sarah’s thesis defense on James Joyce to attend.
Mike had a music recital yesterday, that unfortunately, I couldn’t attend. I want to hear him play again soon.
I started tests on a new cancer patient. She recently had her entire nose removed, and invokes much sympathy to look at, but hopefully it will be reconstructed again soon.
I can’t get too close -- just skim the surface, be objective, and move on.
I need to start studying again, lest this laziness get ahold of me. I have been writing some poetry recently, but I need to make the leap back to engineering again before this exam. At this point, it’s like entering another world. I’ve been so removed.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Booting oneself up by the bootstraps…

Fine, I’ll admit it. From the look of the screenshots, the new version of Microsoft’s Windows, Vista, is beautiful. It’s enough to almost make me want to buy it. Almost. Even at academic pricing, Vista is going to cost a fortune. I don’t know if and how all of my friends will be able to afford it. It’s enough to make me want to stick to Linux and only Linux altogether.

I need to say something about Windows XP. When Mac OS X came out, it made me lose all love for XP altogether. The OS X Tiger was a huge incentive for me to switch to Macs. I don’t regret that decision. OS X is far more beautiful and far more secure than XP. Just look at all the malware, spyware, and adware out there and you’ll know what I’m talking about… Granted, I did silly things with XP that I probably shouldn’t have, but it was the first operating system I really got to know. For that, I at least have some fondness for it. (…For those of you reading this who don’t know, I had a very late introduction to computing because my parents are fairly computer illiterate [some would say downright fearful] and never saw fit to have a computer in the house. I only started learning right before I went to college…)

The Mac OS X just beats Windows XP, but when Vista comes out, I may change my mind again. Luckily (or perhaps, disagreeably), Apple will be releasing their new Mac OS X Leopard at about the same time Vista comes out (late 2006 / early 2007). Knowing me, I’ll probably end up lusting after and buying both. I just don’t know how I’m ever going to afford it. This will probably be one of the few times I’ll relish being a student. Academic pricing is a huge deal when you buy as many computer products as I do… Upgrading hardware is going to be an issue too. Vista will use up a whopping 256 MB of RAM, which is pretty much all that my 2002-purchased laptop has. It won’t be running on that computer. By the time Vista comes out, I should have a whopping monster gaming rig that will rival most business-class computers. Of course, there is a solution from having to having to spend so much on software:

And here he is:


Tux, the Linux mascot.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Macmaker, Macmaker, make me a Mac...

I'm so happy. A certain long awaited-for package just arrived in the mail today. I'm going to spend all night playing with it... (What am I still doing here after class?) Bye!

Friday, April 07, 2006

The Makers Speak

Apple has just released a dual-boot for Intel Macs, or to put it in other words, Macs will now be able to boot Windows. My mind is blowing. Is it the marriage of PCs and Macs? Just about, in my humble opinion… I still can’t wait for the iMac to arrive… It won’t have an Intel processor, but I’ll get one eventually, you’ll see. …I’m also going to get my hands on a copy of the Linux OS this weekend. I met a great gamer (Derek) at Penn yesterday, and if I fall in love with this MMORPG as expected, I may just get / build a fourth computer to use as a gaming rig. It will be a massive Franken-Mac-Monster. I’m dreaming of having one computer capable of running Windows XP, Mac OS X, and Linux. The possibilities are endless.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue

New things will always continue to surprise me. These past few weeks have been a time of many “firsts,” and things have been so spontaneous and lovely these days, I haven’t even bothered to record them all.

First, Sarah finally came to visit me after many months-- nearly a year actually-- of not seeing me at all. The last I saw of her was before my graduation, and then we were consumed by academic life. I contacted her out of the blue to tell her about the Margaret Atwood event, and to my surprise, she came! …It’s so lovely to see old friends. It melted my heart a little on the inside, and then she had to go back home.

Margaret Atwood was lovely. She started the talk with jokes about Canada and feminism, very casually to my surprise. She carries herself so well, so effortlessly, as if floating on clouds. It is interesting to know that one so sharp and witty can be so disarming in person. I would have never thought such a small, sprightly woman could write such incisive, dystopian, and at times, romantic prose. …One more thing… but this will have to come later (you’ll see).

What else? In the past three weeks, I’ve bought three computers. These are three more computers than I’ve ever bought in my life. The first was a gift to Mike, an IBM laptop that I bought him for his birthday. The second was an iMac flat-panel G4 that I bought for myself. It was a compromise between the price and the newer G5, but I’ve always wanted a Mac, and this one is beautiful. Powerful too. I can’t wait for it to arrive in the mail. The third computer was a much older PowerMac G3, that I bought yesterday from a local merchant for a sweet deal. It’s definitely not powerful enough to do what I anticipate on doing, but I wanted a cheap Mac I could disassemble and play with. I cracked open the case yesterday and the internal architecture was beautiful …spectacular …breathtaking. I’ve never had the élan to open a computer before, and now that I’ve been studying computers so fervently, each step took on new meaning. I’m going to upgrade everything I possibly can, and when I’m done with it, I’ll have a powerful little Mac-monster.

I went to an Apple Store for the first time in Ruby Soho. I was in Mac Heaven. The walls were white and ephemeral and everything fit into place perfectly. The stairs where made of chrome and glass and white lights permeated the entirety of the room. I climbed the stairs and touched the wonderful machines on display. Everything was perfectly made. Perfectly.

Yesterday, I went to a lovely dance performance with Jaamil and some others he introduced me to. In one night I met another painter, a poet, several dancers, and a professor. I went to an after-party afterwards where they served wine and cheese over Mexican food and tequila.

My creative nerves have been piqued. I probably won’t be doing as much journaling lately. I have to return to writing poetry. The manuscript is only 70 pages long… after being reduced from 130… My nerves are charged, my heart is a-floating, and this weekend I’ll see old baby blue again. He’s in DC, and the weather is  just lovely now.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Many Voices of Margaret Atwood

She's coming to Penn! She's coming to Penn!


THURSDAY, MARCH 30, 2006
5:00 P.M., 17 LOGAN HALL

Jane S. Pollack Memorial Lecture in Women's Studies

MARGARET ATWOOD, Acclaimed author of many books of fiction, including A
Handmaid's Tale


"An Evening with Margaret Atwood on the Penelopiad"




Helen of Troy Does Countertop Dancing
by Margaret Atwood


The world is full of women
who'd tell me I should be ashamed of myself
if they had the chance. Quit dancing.
Get some self-respect
and a day job.
Right. And minimum wage,
and varicose veins, just standing
in one place for eight hours
behind a glass counter
bundled up to the neck, instead of
naked as a meat sandwich.
Selling gloves, or something.
Instead of what I do sell.
You have to have talent
to peddle a thing so nebulous
and without material form.
Exploited, they'd say. Yes, any way
you cut it, but I've a choice
of how, and I'll take the money.

I do give value.
Like preachers, I sell vision,
like perfume ads, desire
or its facsimile. Like jokes
or war, it's all in the timing.
I sell men back their worse suspicions:
that everything's for sale,
and piecemeal. They gaze at me and see
a chain-saw murder just before it happens,
when thigh, ass, inkblot, crevice, tit, and nipple
are still connected.
Such hatred leaps in them,
my beery worshippers! That, or a bleary
hopeless love. Seeing the rows of heads
and upturned eyes, imploring
but ready to snap at my ankles,
I understand floods and earthquakes, and the urge
to step on ants. I keep the beat,
and dance for them because
they can't. The music smells like foxes,
crisp as heated metal
searing the nostrils
or humid as August, hazy and languorous
as a looted city the day after,
when all the rape's been done
already, and the killing,
and the survivors wander around
looking for garbage
to eat, and there's only a bleak exhaustion.
Speaking of which, it's the smiling
tires me out the most.
This, and the pretence
that I can't hear them.
And I can't, because I'm after all
a foreigner to them.
The speech here is all warty gutturals,
obvious as a slab of ham,
but I come from the province of the gods
where meanings are lilting and oblique.
I don't let on to everyone,
but lean close, and I'll whisper:
My mother was raped by a holy swan.
You believe that? You can take me out to dinner.
That's what we tell all the husbands.
There sure are a lot of dangerous birds around.

Not that anyone here
but you would understand.
The rest of them would like to watch me
and feel nothing. Reduce me to components
as in a clock factory or abattoir.
Crush out the mystery.
Wall me up alive
in my own body.
They'd like to see through me,
but nothing is more opaque
than absolute transparency.
Look--my feet don't hit the marble!
Like breath or a balloon, I'm rising,
I hover six inches in the air
in my blazing swan-egg of light.
You think I'm not a goddess?
Try me.
This is a torch song.
Touch me and you'll burn.


From Morning in the Burned House by Margaret Atwood.



This Is a Photograph of Me
by Margaret Atwood


It was taken some time ago.
At first it seems to be
a smeared
print: blurred lines and grey flecks
blended with the paper;

then, as you scan
it, you see in the left-hand corner
a thing that is like a branch: part of a tree
(balsam or spruce) emerging
and, to the right, halfway up
what ought to be a gentle
slope, a small frame house.

In the background there is a lake,
and beyond that, some low hills.

(The photograph was taken
the day after I drowned.

I am in the lake, in the center
of the picture, just under the surface.

It is difficult to say where
precisely, or to say
how large or small I am:
the effect of water
on light is a distortion

but if you look long enough,
eventually
you will be able to see me.)


From The Circle Game by Margaret Atwood.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Long Road to Ithaca

Seductive sirens, monstrous whirlpools, a series of troublesome suitors, and men turning into swine -- mere fiction? I kid you not. I’m beat, weary and exhausted. I just want to find the time to sink lightly and effortlessly into the warm, comforting mattress of a king-sized bed. Sweet blissful tranquility I say. At last -- at least -- the worst part of it is over. It’s been a long week.

It all started when I emailed Elizabeth about going to Cornell for the weekend. She said it was fine. I’ve always wanted to see the campus and she’s always wanted visitors (at a beautiful Ivy League campus in the middle of nowhere, who could blame her?). I’m prepped and all ready to go. Ithaca is beautiful I’ve heard, and I just took the mother of all midterms from hell. (Escaping from the work of that class has been like avoiding the wrath of Poseidon on the high seas). Then, half-way there, after three hours of traveling from Philadelphia, she sends me a message that she’s overbooked with work. I can’t go. I’m stuck in Jersey City.

I try to make the most of it and spend the entire weekend at my parent’s house. To celebrate and show off the bounty of my new job, I get my dad a Reduced-Calorie Diabetic Cookbook. He hasn’t been able to eat decently in months, and so I make a marvelous (and I must say, completely experimental) salmon dish with a cauliflower calorie-alternative side dish; and an eggplant, tomato, and parmesan entrée to boot. He loves it. My mom buys tons of Filipino food for my brother and I, and as usual, I only eat half of it before I’m stuffed. The next day, I go to New York to haggle with merchants over computer prices and features. I don’t find a good deal and go back home empty-handed. Admitting defeat, I call my brother on the way back and ask him if he wants me to bring back burgers and fries.

The next day, the Gods have their revenge. My throat is burning, my mind is spinning, and my innards are retching from all the bad mojo. The next day is a mystery to me, shrouded in a misty haze of anti-diarrheals and painkillers. I do remember one vision. The Great Vortex: head leaning over a swirling whirlpool, watching my food and innards spinning round and round in a partially-digested mass before I flush. Terrible. Just terrible. I’ve gone from a man to a retching, puking pig at the mercy of a witch.

I take Monday off from work. I take Tuesday off too. I start to feel better by the afternoon, but my mother won’t let me go. My dad cites keeping me for “observation” purposes. I miss my one Engineering class. I have a presentation in seven days and my group meets without me. It’s a mutiny. I’m pissed. I go to the corner store with my dad and smuggle in a mango by the cash register. My mother takes it away, telling me I’m not well enough to eat exotic fruit. I’m forced to sustain myself on a diet of stale crackers and soda, held captive for what seems like an eternity on the small island of Ogygia (or fine, Jersey City).

I finally break free on Wednesday, after seeing a doctor and invoking the supreme authority of her opinion. My father wishes me well and anoints my head with healing oil (which he believes can cure anything from headaches to hemorrhoids). I leave and the wind is high and I set full sail on my makeshift raft. I cross the Hudson River to get to the jeweled isle of Manhattan. There, my efforts are rewarded: I search several electronic boutique stores and find a merchant willing to sell me a laptop with all the features I need at an attractive price. I pay immediately and leave the store with a spanking new laptop (well, new in the theoretical sense, as technically it’s parts have been remanufactured from corporate computer stock). I visit the Great Oracle and have him install a new operating system and productivity software on my computer. Then I make a few modifications myself, and the Golden Bow is good to go.

I return to Philadelphia for a mere two days of work, and the week is already over, but the weekend has finally arrived! I give the laptop one final checkup and stick a big red bow on it before boarding my train.

I unboard the train and Mike and his mom are there to pick me up like a beggar (but a king in disguise? -- well, who knows?). His mom stuffs me full with more fresh fish from the sea and disappears. Mike shows me his huge, huge 30-gallon fish tank and gets distracted and starts talking to people online. All distractions aside, I get him away from the computer, the cell phone, and anything that has remotely to do with a weather station. We sit on the sofa in the living room alone. Then I bring over the gift and unzip the case, and tell him to look at the present I got for him. He opens it, looks at me, and gives me a big hug.

It seems like I never did make it to Ithaca after all, but sometimes, the pleasant reality of things can serve just as well.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

"Bohemia, Bohemia is a fallacy in your head. This is Calcutta. Bohemia is dead."

LAST HOUR. Walking home through the streets laden with newspaper, the electric heat of neon signs, and the remains of broken glass bottles, the sound of sirens pierces through the night air like a razor. I arrive at my doorstep, reach into my pocket for the key, and open the door. Flopping into bed, eyes melting into … heavy-lidded sleep … into … walls melting … yellow candle wax dripping drip drip.

DREAM: hours pass and the ticking of the clock continues, beating like a death march into my solitary brain, craving want of more release out. I out. Want out. Want more out out. Find. Voice. Own. No. Someone, something else. Want. Want to be Led. Led. Dead like Lead. More. There is a woman, muse or siren. She extends her hand and calls to me. I (sweetly, coquettishly), mother of all things, promise you

reasons,
answers,
immortality
The works.
Here is the door.

An escape
from all the poverty,
the uncertainty,
and even,
the unmentionable of all things
(family).

I wake.

I opened a book.

Enchanted

by the soft, melodic tunes,
dances of dark-haired gypsies
patchwork clothes and hand-crafted instruments,
writers smoking inside cafes,
Parisians drinking absinthe,
and painters on the local street corners panning sun-swept scenes with their hands,

the vision was
PURE HEAVEN.

I searched for her like a Romantic on the high seas, sniffing out music like blood on a hunt, turning musty old pages, raiding forgotten libraries. I went down on all fours, upturning rocks, searching for signs of intelligent life.

and found
the words:

VACANT. NO LOITERING. KEEP OUT.

Whole cities, decimated from abuse, or not abuse so much as neglect

Like Lucy Gray,
Or Solitude.

The life gone out, snuffed out like a case of DDT, gone elsewhere. There’s going to be one long Silent Spring in America. Childhood dreams and cold regimes just don’t make for very interesting themes.

I hit Alphabet City like an amnesiac on a binge. Craving, the direst, rabidest hunger of all things: MEMORY. Help! My name is Icarus and I’ve fallen and I can’t get up. I was thirsty and I drunk the waters of Lethe, and now I can’t remember a DAMNED THING.

Where have all the FUCKING ARTISTS gone? Where the IDEALISM? Where the stronghold of our dignity, our vanity, and wit? I’ve been led by faeries and spriggin gnomes on a wild-goose chase, chasing shamrocks, shadows and illusions! …as if it were some,

some fantasy,
or an aforementioned vagary,
to fill a post-modern vacancy?

Echo: I’ll tell you where they’ve gone.
(Resigned to universities).

Point. (Don’t hide your shame. Just nod and smile. They won’t know).
Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone.
--It’s so young and blissful to be naïve.
--Or so blissful and naïve to be young.
--Or want to be so.

Forego the foregoing. Suck it up and be useful. Forego. FOR EGO.
To be or not to be: the aristocrat, the capitalist, the work-for-pay anthroposophist. Thinking: Think as you like, but act like others. Be the black sheep, but wear white,

and be dazzling.

--Come smile now.
--(Why are the talented so depressed?)
--I’ve given too much life to gold and glitter.
--Why give a care?
--Life is only temporary.

Too much spirit, too much of that good immortal soul.
I’m still burning in that impenitent flame of longing, you see.
Too young to give up on the dream.
Too old to absolve myself of the responsibility of life.

Come all ye wise men.
Follow that star. Dance with me.
Let us remake this city.
Our image is as divine as any.
Shake off this mortal coil.
And when the night is through,
Let us go forth, singing.


Friday, March 03, 2006

On Being Whole

Today I saw a cancer patient for my job -- a nice, grizzled, grandmotherly old woman with light hair and a tired face. She was sitting in the testing room waiting for me. Some of her lower jaw had been removed for oral cancer, and we had to put a towel on her chest to catch the dripping from her mouth. She was one of the kindest people I ever met. I gave her sample after sample to try to measure her responses, and she would kindly ask questions, laugh, and make conversation in between tests. During a break she asked me if I cooked my own meals, and she told me that she used to be a lunch lady at an elementary school.

I couldn’t help but be reminded then of my days back in public school, when my teachers would spell words out on the board and recite times tables to the class. One of our teachers loved reading the story of Amazing Grace, and would gather the class sitting on the floor around her to listen. At lunchtime, the lunch ladies would come in hauling huge carts with food trays, because the cafeteria was too small for every class to have their lunchtime in it. No one minded though. It was more fun to eat in class. When the day was over, the lunch ladies would say goodbye to everyone and haul out the garbage bags.

I didn’t tell her this, but it was clear from the short conversation we had that she liked doing her job. She had four sons that she liked to cook and make things for, and she had grandchildren now.

In the end, it seemed that she had come to terms with her cancer and was living normally. Despite having her jaw removed, she had a sense of humor and still loved to eat chicken. I saw her out and went to cleaning out my solution bottles. I looked in the mirror and felt briefly for my jaw. It was oddly comforting to feel the hard bone beneath, thinking to myself how nice it is to be whole.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I took it upon myself...

In celebration of Ash Wednesday, I took it upon myself to go to the gym. After all, is there a better way to celebrate the intelligent designer than by perfecting his intelligent design? Right after work, I headed to the studio rooms and joined a kickboxing class, right next to pilates and salsa. To my pleasant surprise, the kickboxing class was much better than expected. Our instructor was a peppy athletic girl with cheerleader in her voice. She taught us how to punch and kick, and all this while swinging to the beat of pop-rock and dance music. While executing my jabs, hooks, and roundhouses; I was listening to dance remixes of Madonna and Cher! Where else can I combine fighting with club music? It’s like clubbing, but without the prima donnas and the drama queens. To top it off, no one seemed to catch on to me. I chatted with the instructor after the class, and to persuade me to buy a full membership, she mentioned being able to check out girls while working out. I was flattered. I gathered my things and hit the weight room. I may never look at working-out the same way again.

Friday, February 24, 2006

I’m trying to prove if whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. I haven’t succeeded yet.

Note to readers: No, that doesn’t actually mean I’m here drinking or taking various substances, although I did have a wonderful sangria last week in D.C… It means, rather, that I’m here all lonely and alone on a restless Friday night, waiting for a certain warm and fuzzy someone to arrive by train.

It does get cold in the winter.
I need a hug!

Turning a new page

I’m choosing to work for the chemosensory neuroscience lab at Monell. At this point in my life, I have to value application over pure science. It’s the potential to make a difference, and not simply love of the technology that drives me. There will be many people to interact with, scientists and study subjects alike, and I’ll learn a thing or two about conducting a clinical study and psychology. This will serve me better than working at the ivory tower, even though the research will probably teach me more about research methodologies and statistics over the quantitative molecular sciences. It will be fun, something vital, entirely new and exciting. Let’s see how it goes.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Question

The phone rings. Nose embedded in a thick stack of papers, the noise fails to elicit a response. It rings again. I pick it up. I hear a vaguely familiar voice with a thick French accent on the other end of the line. It’s the second scientist, the one I interviewed with for a position at the university. He tells me I’ve been offered the job. Shock. Surprise. Breathless Elation. I’m in a conundrum. Now the new variable is entered into the equation.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

C'est Moi!

A Meme and a pleasant diversion, stolen affectionately from another friend’s journal. I didn’t think to do it then, but I’m glad to have done it now.

1. What did you do in 2005 that you'd never done before?
Visit Philadelphia.

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I don’t make resolutions.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My boss actually back at the bio lab, *and* my biochem. professor too for that matter!

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Alas, my pioneering spirit… it withered away with the autumn leaves.

5. What countries did you visit?
Does Quaker country count?

6. What would you like to have in 2006 that you lacked in 2005?
A friend who is a poet. (Read: Sarah is gone and has left me all alone at Penn!)
Furniture would be nice too.

7. What date from 2005 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
April 16, but I’m not saying why… ;-)

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I’m here, aren’t I?

9. What was your biggest failure?
I’d like to think of mine as a multitude of tiny insignificant ones that can be beaded on a string like pearls.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I got a nasty email from someone that was totally unnecessary and which, I proceeded to ignore.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
A three-piece suit, finally!

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Again, alas, not all of us can be blessed so bountifully…

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
I have a list. They’re all getting a lump of coal for Christmas.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Sallie Mae and CVS.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Oh my god, look at the size of that LIBRARY!

16. What song will always remind you of 2005?
La Vie Boheme!

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? Ask me the same question tomorrow
ii. thinner or fatter? I lost what I had gained. In the end I was even.
iii. richer or poorer? I haven’t checked the Nasdaq yet. Hold on.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
I’d always wished for time to do NOTHING.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Walking. Someone needs to buy me a car, quickly before the soles wear out.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
Making Cheesecake, eating with the family, watching the Stock Market (which, stubbornly, was closed for the holidays), and then seeing the cutest boy in all the world. ;-)

22. Did you fall in love in 2004?
Has it been that long already?

23. How many one-night stands?
I’m made people!

24. What was your favourite TV program?
Gilmore Girls, Teen Titans, that Evolution special on the Discovery Channel, CNBC

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
*Now* you say? I think I stopped hating people after eighth grade.

26. What was the best book you read?
This year the award goes to WICKED by none other than Gregory Maguire.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Mikey!

28. What did you want and get?
small things: some cash, a watch, several books, and a life

29. What did you want and not get?
I still want that 20’’ flat-screen G5 iMac.

30. What was your favorite film of this year?
I would have probably said RENT, if someone had only gone to see it with me...

31. What did you do on your birthday?
I don’t have a birthday. I was genetically engineered. :-(

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Just one? Don’t wishes always come in threes?
…let’s see, should I ask the Wizard for the brain, the heart, or the courage?

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2003?
I can’t remember that far back. People still used 3-and-1/2-inch floppy disks back then.

34. What kept you sane?
As Akira Kurosawa once said, “In a mad world only the mad are sane.”

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Queen Elizabeth I

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
The signing of the Magna Carta. Boy was that a big mistake.

37. Who did you miss?
Sarah, come back from Greece! America needs you!

38. Who was the best new person you met?
All the wonderful people here at Penn, but, I would have to say especially Adi, my boss, and Zeen.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2005.
Let Einstein tell you: “Insanity [is] doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
Thank you for the music, the songs I’m singing…

And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming!




GREAT NEWS EVERYONE! I just got a job offer! I’m to work at a research institution right next to UPenn’s campus, for an organization of scientists dedicated to studying the chemical senses. I’ll be working in NEUROSCIENCE!

I’m going to spend the rest of my night in a mad frenzy reading science journals. I’m still psyched. I can’t contain myself. I’ve been thinking about neurons ever since the phone call. I’m going to get out my neuroscience and behavioral psych books and start studying right away! Everything else is just noise to me now.

The Simplest Cause of Pain

Faced with the question of what kind of person I wanted to make myself, I looked to literature, at those characters so entrenched in fiction they show more truth than our actual selves. After much deliberation, I came to an impasse. On one pole lies Ayn Rand’s Howard Roark, a man as driven, cool, and confident in manner as he is competent in intellect. He stands for empiricism, rationality and capitalism at its finest. Naturally, businessmen and engineer-types are attracted to him. He gets the job done. I’ve always adored Howard Roark. On the other hand lies Oscar Wilde’s creation, Dorian Gray, the new Galatea to an age-old Pygmalion -- or an effete dandy’s solution to an age of English propriety. Dorian Gray is sleek, cool, calm, admired, and confident. I'm careful to say "admired" and not "loved." Dorian Gray is, to say the least, the face of charisma -- the embodiment of youth and joy. Artists and dreamy, romantic-types are attracted to him, but then again, so is everyone. He represents society at its finest.

To be Roark is to be in control. Roark is pure production, and the master of his domain. The caveat of course is that the more and more a man becomes like Roark, the less spontaneous and creative his life becomes. He becomes entrenched in discipline and ritual. Eventually, he becomes what he desires most: a robot, an automaton that can get the job done with no cause for concern, worry, or error. No man wants to become that: to stand up, get the job done, sit back down, and do another. Any man that admits so is purely a masochist! No one is an assembly line. Where then is the sense of pride, and the joy in one's work? Of course, Ayn Rand portrayed Roark as a man on a mission and one driven by a fierce passion and intellect to move the world. What I think is the reality, however, is that the job gets done with or without his input, and the work gets tedious after some time. We’ll always want for something more.

A man hasn't lived until he's seen every bit of the world: each tower, each alleyway, and each street there is to cross. That's the way we’re meant to live. I’d want to be immersed in it: the big, beautiful, noisy, and hard-paved world. I want to be able to look in the eye and see that I've conquered it, seen every sight there is to see and experienced everything worth experiencing. I'd be filled with fright to do otherwise. Shear fear of missing something alone should be motivation enough. I know that one day, I too will be settled in my grave, and I will want to look back on my life at the very end and not have a regret for those things I never got to do. That's what drives me. That's what wakes me up in the morning, to climb ever higher and fall flat on my face crying, and to want to go up to a random stranger and hug every damn person I see.

I guess the problem is purely one of the heart and the intellect, or as Greeks saw it, of maintaining the delicate balance between the Apollonian and the Dionysian. What Roark stands for is Reason, and Dorian, sheer Passion. They’re opposite ends of the pole, two ways of living. Apollo, the Sun God, represents classical order and reason triumphing over the entropy of nature. In Apollo’s light, magnificent cities are built, wild pastures are tamed, and great statues are erected in tribute to the creative powers of man. Dionysus, the God of Wine, represents something entirely different. In Dionysus’s fleeting night; wild inhibitions are released, beasts are unharnessed, and secret pleasures come to fruition. To worship Dionysus is to give in.

As a person, Dorian Gray was neither born nor made. He is too artificial to have been born of man and woman, and too natural to have been contrived. He simply is. He is like Athena, springing in full armor from the head of Zeus, belonging neither to man nor woman, mother nor father. People see him like a nymph, in its insular sacred beauty. They want to possess him, or aspire to be him, or both; but little things get in the way. People are too shy, they never say the right things, don't have the right clothes, or don’t think they can compare to other men, or gods. To be Dorian Gray is to defy reality. People appreciate his style, his charisma, his immortality, and the way people gather around him like ants to honey; but his shallowness is to be mistrusted; and his lack of responsibility, abhorred. Someone who gave thought as much intensity as feeling would want more than that from life. He would be capable of so much more.

To move mountains, to make something useful, to believe that an Anybody can be a Somebody -- there’s the true source of pride. There’s the sense of validation. It’s all one big game at the end of the long haul. A person can’t long to possess one world, and have some of the other. It just doesn't work that way. Now, take Howard Roark and Dorian Gray for instance. Both were artists in their own right, and both tempted destruction. Everyone sought to destroy Howard Roark, for his spiritual vision and his disregard for appearances. Everyone accepted Dorian Gray, for his lack of a vision and complete immersion in appearances. Yet, he eventually destroyed himself. To live, in accordance with or despite one’s best self -- that is the big question, and the simplest cause of pain.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

~Benjamin Franklin

On the subject of clubbing, men seem to be fiercely divided. The seasoned seem to think of it mindless prattle, pointless grinding, and an endless cycle of repetitive flirtatious episodes. Not to say that it couldn't be fun, but not all nights end equally. The rash see it as a natural release of energy, a favored compulsion, or a giving-in to spontaneity -- or choose not to put it into words at all. I don’t think I’ve been rash enough to make that decision.