Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hooray for the Woolly Mammoth!

   My former advisor and current co-worker Dr. Y informed me today that researchers at Penn State had fully sequenced the nuclear genome of the woolly mammoth.
   So, we are one significant step forward in actually cloning a woolly mammoth during our lifetime!
I announced this to my biology class today, and they seemed genuinely impressed. They were less impressed, however, when I returned their tests from the previous class period. It had been over three chapters of evolutionary processes, and frankly, they did terrible. I told them I might've made the test a little too hard because it was my favorite section.
I announced that I had a small gift for my two highest scorers in the class, and as I was describing the little crustaceans called "Triops" that I was about to give to the top two students, a boy on the front row exclaimed "Triops!" and started babbling on about how he had some before and that they were really neat, etc. etc. I continued talking to the class, trying to explain to everyone what exactly these little horseshoe crab-looking things were, but I was having a hard time talking over the boy on the front row who continued to speak about his former pet Triops. I turned to look at him, and a boy next to him laughed and said, "Would you stop talking about Triops?" I tossed one of the egg packages towards the babbling boy. "That one's yours," I said, since he had been one of my top scorers. He was quite excited about his present, and I was relieved since these are college-aged students and I wasn't sure how they would react to my choice of gifts for their achievements. (The envelope clearly said "For ages 7 and up.") I passed out the other package to my other top scorer, and I think the rest of the class felt left out. They were unusually quiet and attentive. I shrugged and said the Triops "only cost a few bucks at Hobby Lobby," and someone murmured that it wasn't the same if they had to buy them for themselves.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I miss Marisa

   I miss my friend Marisa.

   I grew up with her. She was one of the only good things I knew in high school. She was honest and warm, and the most emotionally naked person I may ever meet.

   I don't know how she convinced herself that no one liked her. I told her she was one of the best friends I had ever had, and I asked her what I could do to help her. She said she wanted me to believe in Jesus. I wanted to help her get a good job, help her pay her bills, hang out with her and drink coffee.

   She was in a funk that she never broke out of. I felt so helpless. Like watching a train wreck. Like watching someone dive off the top of a very tall building. Like I was running with my arms out but I ran too far or I tripped and fell on the way there. It hurt my brain. I remember sitting in my car after I saw her for the last time. My head hurt and hissed like the static on TV. There were no clear channels.

   Marisa told me I was "mothering" her and she didn't like it. But I didn't know what else to do. She was making bad choices. She wasn't taking care of herself. I was worried about her.

   She said she was leaving town and she wasn't coming back. I asked her if I could come visit her, and she shook her head yes. But she never called me. I called her and left messages. I asked for her address. But she never called me.

Monday, November 10, 2008

I dreamt I talked to Don Langford last night

Photo: Don Langford and me with our Saturn Skies
    Don Langford was a bird without wings. I was only 15 the first time I flew with him. He was the most trusted pilot I ever knew, and I have flown with him more than anyone else.

   Don had trouble with one of his eyes in recent years. He underwent experimental surgeries in an attempt to maintain his flight status. I asked my father if it was a good idea to go flying with Don while he was still undergoing his eye treatments, and my father replied, "Don is a better pilot with one eye than most people are with both."

   Don wasn't flying the airplane he crashed in. He was the passenger in a two-seater. He had just sold a lightweight seaplane to someone; a man I didn't know. They crashed into the Tennessee River earlier this year, for reasons unknown.

   Don was my friend, my flight instructor, my advisor on all things aeronautical. I saw him clearly in my dream last night. He was glowing pale blue like the transcendent Jedis do in the Star Wars movies. He looked very frail, like he was going to disappear out of thin air at any second. I seemed to have knowledge that he wasn't going to be around much longer, but I didn't want to tell him that in case he didn't know.

   I looked him straight in the face and said very carefully, "Is there anything you want me to tell anyone?" And he said, without hesitation, "We're all going to the same place anyway."

   He was gone, and I was left wondering what he meant? Did he believe in Heaven? Is there another plane from another dimension, where we might actually meet up once again and go flying together? Or was he being cynical, and meant we all end up in the ground? I don't know.

   But it was so good to see him again.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Go Obama, Go!

   I fell asleep before the election results were over. I did not want to be awake if McCain won.

  The young black people screaming outside my window woke me up later on. It was around 11:30 pm. Well, I thought sleepily. This is history.

   The next day, I watched a very interesting program on C-SPAN where the chairmen for the Republican and Democratic National Committees participated in a Q&A session hosted by the National Press Club.

   Republican Chairman Mike Duncan was understandably upset, and he referenced a story about "Lincoln's young boy stubbing his toe" that I'm not familiar with: "It hurts too bad to laugh and I'm too big to cry." Duncan pointed out a few things he felt contributed to Obama's smashing win over McCain, including the sheer amount of money that the Democratic party had access to. He stated that the Democrats outspent Republicans "3 or 4 to 1" in battleground states. (Are we supposed to feel bad about that? Like THEY wouldn't have done the same thing if they had gotten as much support???)
Duncan also summarized some of Obama's campaign promises, and commented, "Put simply, Barack Obama just ran the most successful moderate Republican Presidential campaign since Dwight Eisenhower." He received a room full of laughter.

   Howard Dean, the Chairman for the Democratic National Committee (and who ran for President 4 years ago), took the stage and said something beautiful about Obama's win. "As a nation, I think what we did was choose hope over fear, we chose the future over the past, we chose unity over division."

   I needed to hear that. I want to believe in that.

   Every upset Republican I've talked to is worried about one thing: their pocketbook. They are convinced that Obama is going to raise taxes and take some of their precious money away.
   Nevermind that the Republicans have spent the past five+ years championing a senseless, endless war that we simply cannot afford. Where did they think we would get the money to pay for the war tab? This absence of fundamental planning boggles the mind, and the lack of concern over the mental health of our sent-and-return-again soldiers has incensed me. YES, these men and women are strong. YES, these men and women are brave. They are also human beings who were not designed to endure this sort of mental trauma. And certainly not over, and over, and over again. I am particularly furious about the treatment of our troops, let me tell you.

   I watched a press meeting with Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House. She said the Republican members of Congress had been working together to repeatedly block legislation to "protect" Bush from performing a veto. She explained that if an agenda reaches the President and he vetoes it, the whole world knows about it. But, if it gets blocked by the Senate, only a few people know about it. She said some of the agendas that have hit this "Republican obstacle" have included things like the withdrawal date for our troops in Iraq, another stimulus package, and an unemployment insurance extension.

   With at least 5 new seats being changed to Democrats, I am expecting to see some real action now!

   One final thing to ponder - Howard Dean also mentioned that the Democrats as well as the Republicans have access to everyone's credit card data. He said that they could predict with 85% accuracy who we will vote for based on these data. Be careful what you buy!


Saturday, November 1, 2008

Life - post Halloween

   I am still recovering from the two fabulous Halloween parties I attended over the last week. My friend Sheri hosted an all-out, no holds barred costume event for Halloween - an annual event that I always look forward to. At the party, I met Sheri's sister for the first time, and I can't stop smiling about some of the things she said that night. ("God tells me to love him. So I do." "That's my family. I'm sorry." "I might've gotten a better kiss if I could lift my legs like she could.")
We were all happy to see the return of "G", who had been missing from the band scene since his wife left him for the new drummer. G was the smelly-good pirate, who let me borrow his rosary since I was dressed as a nun. Karaoke was a little intimidating in his presence; G was always the lead singer of the now-disbanded band. Near 3:00 in the morning, I saw him face-down on the floor, repeating "I'm fine, I'm fine" every time the host tried to get him to move to a blow-up mattress.
Sheri usually has our favorite psychic Marius at her Halloween parties, but he was back home in New Zealand. I hope to see him next year.
The smelly-good pirate, Sheri, her sister, Mitch, the kids and I all went to lunch at the Powerhouse the next day. I first ate at the Powerhouse years ago when the band was playing outside. G had lost his voice because they had performed elsewhere the night before. No one could figure out why they thought double-booking in one weekend would be a good idea. I remember the boys fighting, trying to figure out who would sing. Then G's wife took the stage and rescued them. She had been fired by the band previously. This was all, of course, prior to the new drummer coming on board.
Things change so rapidly. You can't predict just happens.
  The most recent party I attended was populated mainly by college professors. The host had retired from teaching, but was well-thought of by her colleagues. Apparently when she hosts a party, they all come running! I felt lucky to be there. I was the newest faculty member, and I thought a lot of most everyone there.
   Our department head walked in dressed as Abe Lincoln, complete with high-rise shoes and a stove-pipe hat. Dr. A had brought some wonderful muffaletta-style dip that I couldn't stop eating. And I saw one of the former chemistry instructors, who had left his position to complete his Ph.D. at the same university where I earned my Master's. We talked about the few professors we knew there. We also talked about old movies and remakes. The host's husband absolutely refuses to see the more recent version of "The Manchurian Candidate." He said he was "old" and there was no way anyone would be better then Angela Lansbury...not even Meryl Streep! He and Mr. G helped me write down a list of must-see movies and they eventually sent me home with a copy of "The Day the Earth Stood Still."
   Mr. G told me about a conspiracy theory about why the U.S. is converting to Martial Law...some binary star system is supposed to interlock with our solar system for a few months in 2012 . One of the planets (Planet X?) may swing by Saturn and the gravitational effects could be devastating for Earth. Earthquakes, tsunamis, that why George W. is so hellbent on controlling the oil in the world? Are we snatching control of the planet's major resources and converting to Martial Law because there is a real, probable global disaster headed our way? I told Mr. G that the Bush administration had been in favor of returning to the Moon...Bush isn't exactly a science person, so I was already assuming there was a military reason for his interest. The conversation topic made me wonder if our current federal administration had some inside knowledge and wanted to get some warm bodies set up on the Moon in case our beloved planet does flippy-flop over on its axis and kill all of us. Hmmmmm.....
   Then I stood up and got a Mickey's malt liquor and tried to decode the secret message inside the twist-off lid.