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There's an article on genderqueer students at women's colleges in today's NY Times Magazine. As far as I can tell (as someone who's not in the trans community), it's a really great article, sensitive to the idea of a spectrum of gender identity. Gender and women's colleges were big issues on my mind when I was 17, and I wish this sort of discussion had been so accessible then. It made me very happy to read it. Check it out: When Girls Will Be Boys

This week's been a good week for NY Times articles all around. Others that I've been forwarding around:

For Bronx School's Dancers, the Moves Are Irish just in time for St Patrick's Day.

900 Feet Up With Nowhere to Go but Down: slackline + canyon + BASEjumping = crazy.

I forget, sometimes, that the NY Times isn't everyone's main news source. I always feel silly posting links to stories, because so many people have already seen them. But anyway, I liked these.


Feb. 28th, 2008 04:23 pm
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I'd like to share this quote. You may all have seen it, but I like to reread it anyway.

There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved. —Charles Darwin

I'm sitting at Ritual Coffee Roasters on Valencia, coding and reading. What I'm doing right now is a tangent, pulling me away from my molecular evolution project, but it's always inspiring to recognize evolution as the common thread tying together everything I work on.

On Tuesday, Nick and [livejournal.com profile] l_stboy and I went to Ask a Scientist at Axis Cafe. This month's talk was about history of science more than science itself. The speaker was Richard Carrier, a blogger and historian who gave a really good outline of what the Greeks and Romans got right and how they figured it all out. We got to the bar afterwards too late to talk to him more about it, but I'd love to hear more. Luckily, his thesis is coming out as a book next year, and it looks like it might be a nice accessible summary.
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Tuesday is Nick's birthday, so we're both going to Death Guild on Monday night (or really, Tuesday morning). I encourage other people to come too. I enjoy it a lot more when there are people I know there, and Nick would love to see people.

I think I'll stop by the Alameda ceili for the first half then drive back to SF, get all gothed up, and go to Death Guild some time after 11pm.
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Nick and I always get Clover organic milk. We use the empty cartons to hold food scraps, then bring the whole thing out to the streetside compost bin. So I was sad to notice that they'd added a plastic screw-cap to the carton last month.

I emailed the dairy and complained. They replied right away with some decent points: it keeps the milk fresher, and the spout is made of the same recyclable plastic that's used to coat their cartons. So maybe the impact isn't so bad, but a) I don't feel like separating the pieces and b) recyclable or not, less packaging is better.

I just got a letter from them in the mail. They're changing back to the old packaging next month! I wasn't the only one to complain, bt I feel like my voice made a difference.

Of course, I did notice that my screw-cap thing of milk stayed fresh well past its expiration date... I bet I could get the same result using a binder clip to keep the carton closed.

(The other downside of Clover Stornetta is that they have some religious affiliations that I disagree with, but they do more good than harm overall, in my opinion.)
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I stopped by City Hall on my way to lab this morning. After a pleasant wait, I solemnly swore that I would support and defend the constitutions of my state & nation, and that I'd well and faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter.

Being a deputy is so cool! I don't get a gun though. Or a horse. But I do get to officiate a wedding. Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! One day only! By virtue of the authority vested in me by the State of California!

This all came about rather unexpectedly. Last Thursday, I went out for a birthday beer with a few friends who could make it on almost no notice. At some point they asked if I'd marry them. Their reception is all planned, but they're doing the actual legal thing privately, on a specific day. And that specific day happens to be a Sunday, and City Hall is closed, so they need someone to officiate.

(Weddings seem to make everyone happy. The deputy clerk who took my paperwork lit up with a big smile when she saw what the form was.)

Edited to clarify: I'm a Deputy Marriage Commissioner, but just for a day. It's a pretty standard thing to do if you want a friend or relative to officiate at your wedding. http://www.sfgov.org/site/countyclerk_page.asp?id=22422
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I woke up this morning in a chilly bedroom in Connecticut, rejoicing in my warm wool socks. The world looked fuzzy until I put my glasses on, revealing the fuzz to be thick white snowflakes falling in front of the dark pine trees. The ground is covered by a layer of new snow deep enough to conceal the grass. A shaggy brown horse, happily retired, is wandering around his paddock snuffling in the snow for the last few green bits.

In an hour I'll borrow the van (all-wheel-drive, luckily) and drive up to Boston for a job interview at Harvard.

Life isn't so bad.
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I'm going to the Gaskell ball tonight after the Sox game. First time in a year. And this time, I'm wearing a dress.

I's been a dancey few weeks. I went to FNW a few weekends ago and learned to redowa. It was the best FNW I've been to, and the first time I'd been to one in Oakland. Somehow I finally managed to introduce myself to people I've seen many times at the Alameda ceili but never spoken with. We even stopped by Au Coq for afters, because I missed their carrot cake. Odd to think how much has changed in my life in the last two years.

The ceili continues to be tons of fun, though I got there late this week and only danced a few things. I hadn't had enough dancing for the week, apparently. On Thursday, Nick, C, and I were watching the Sox game at a bar. Seeing Papelbon pitch reminded us of his celebratory Irish jig after the American League championship, so C mentioned that he was planning to go to set dancing that night. I tagged along with him to the Plough & Stars. He took me there once last fall, and I enjoyed it. This time was even better, maybe because I'd been missing having a full live Irish band so much. I do prefer ceili to set, but I'd happily do either if the chance comes up.

For those who missed it, here is Papelbon getting jiggy (with the Dropkick Murphys, one of my favorite bands). What do you think: does he actually know what he's doing, or is he making it up as he goes?

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I know baseball is only a game. I know my team got where they are today by paying absurd amounts of money. I know that for all the fan loyalty, half the players will be on other teams next spring.

I don't care.

The Red Sox made it to the World Series for the third time in my life. I wish I could bottle up this happiness and save it. I remember 1986 vividly. I stayed up way past my bedtime. I remember 2004 like it was yesterday. I rejoiced with dozens of displaced Bostonians near campus and cried over the videos of fans filling Davis Square.

Tonight, for the last game of the 2007 ALCS, a knuckle-biting game to end a knuckle-biting series, I was home. I watched last night's game in Connecticut with my parents, the first Sox fans I knew. I watched tonight's game with my fife & drum group at a chain bar in Billerica, then at the house of a good friend in Arlington, and finally, in a bar in Davis Square surrounded by fans. I was home. When Coco Crisp made the catch for the last out, the bar exploded. Three guys started singing Tessie (the Dropkick Murphys version). Shouting drowned out my attempts to call my two Sox-fans-by-association in California.

And yet, for all the enthusiasm, it was different. The bar was crazy for a while, but everyone went home. The square was deserted except for four police cars and a stack of barricades, prepared for the worst. Cars drove by, honking and screaming, and a solitary man played Tessie on his harmonica as he walked, but I had to agree with a guy who walked alongside me for a few paces. "It's just not the same as 2004," he said. "We're used to this now."
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Nick invited friends over for dinner last night and went all out on the food. It was amazing: tasty, colorful, varied flavors and styles, and it all worked together somehow. (And all vegan, except for optional cheese in a few dishes.) I think he made Morrocan chickpea stew (with olives and carrots), butternut squash gratin, roasted winter vegetables with parsley sauce, mango/papaya/avacado salad, and a green salad with walnuts. I might be forgetting something. Also, plenty of wine.

I didn't contribute much other than hostessy things but I had fun doing that; I got the house clean, found enough matching plates/utensils/wineglasses, fit seven people by moving my writing desk over against the table. It makes me really happy that our tiny main room works so well for this sort of thing. In fact, I think it's better than a larger space would be. The whole house was glowing with good company and good food. Hooray for friends.

We will definitely do this again.
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unread books meme )

I seem to start books and never finish them. In some cases I think I got enough out of it; I don't feel the need to read every one of the Canterbury Tales. In other cases I really loved what I read of the book but didn't have the time to finish (Ulysses). Many of the unmarked books are on my mental to-read list (Guns, Germs, & Steel); others I have no interest in (Atlas Shrugged). But many of my all-time favorite books are in bold. I just decided this morning (after reading a New Yorker article) that it's time to re-read Lolita and On the Road.

Oh, and by the power of Emacs, I fixed most of the annoying capitalization.
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Today I've had conversations with my advisor about: Burma; LinkedIn and Facebook; university purchasing; Burning Man; statistics. I have not, however, done any work at all. I also failed to get my computer order through the purchasing bureaucracy and, while occupied trying to get that done, failed to hang out with a friend who I keep punting on. Not my best day ever.

The computer: the fates pay too much attention to me. Last Monday, I brought my laptop up to the Alameda ceili so it wouldn't be sitting in my car. I remember having a long conversation with [livejournal.com profile] terpsichoros about hoping it would last me til I graduate next year.

The next day, my trusty Thinkpad T41 got two seconds into its boot sequence and went no further. It's since stopped doing even that. While a part of me thinks I should get it repaired, it is almost certainly the standard Thinkpad motherboard failure, and I have resources available for buying a new laptop. So, in an entirely uncharacteristic fashion:

a) I made an almost instant decision to get a new computer as soon as possible,

b) and ignored the nagging guilt that it's weird to spend the lab's money when I'm only here another year -- my boss said it's ok, and that's all that matters,

c) and... I am getting a Mac, because after ten years of running Linux and occasionally booting to Windows (much more frequently these days), I realized I am exhausted with things not working out of the box, and restrictions on what software is free enough, and I just want a computer I can turn on and do stuff on, and I hate Windows even more and yet I use it most of the time now so I can write papers, and... yeah. Ten years of pent-up frustration coming out my ears. Who knew? I'm still very happy to be running Linux on my desktop, but hey, MacOS seems awesome; all I require for happiness is a command-line interface, working browser plugins, and the ability to work on a paper and research at the same time.

So, a shiny new MacBook Pro should find its way to me some time this week.

(The computer died while I was working on my talk for a seminar I gave for the biostatistics department last week. Bad timing, but it worked out fine. I copied everything off the hard drive with no problem and borrowed a laptop to give the talk. At first I hoped the problem was just the disk, but it's not, and now I can look at this with a less silly perspective and realize that it is actually awesome to be getting a new laptop right before I graduate. After all, I have no idea what my computer funding situation will be in a year.)


Sep. 2nd, 2007 07:00 pm
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I'd like to go to the ceili tomorrow. It's been five or six weeks since I've had a chance to go, and I miss dancing. But the Bay Bridge is closed, so I can't drive there. (The San Mateo bridge would be reasonable for going from SF to Alameda, but I'm planning to be at work in Berkeley during the day, and that would be a stupid amount of driving.)

I still have bronchitis so I shouldn't really dance much. But if I do decide to go just to be social and get a few dances in, can anyone give me a ride to/from Berkeley or a nearby BART station?

Maybe I should just wait another week to return.


Sep. 1st, 2007 04:48 pm
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Two different friends called me today to say they were locked out and could I pick the lock for them? Two. Independent. Different parts of the bay. What gives? Unfortunately, a combination of transportation issues, bronchitis, and my very rusty locksmith skills meant I had to say no in both cases.

If a third friend calls later, though, I'm all set to go. I found my picks and started practicing on my front door. (I always have trouble with cheap door locks, actually.)

And a strange Edinburgh vignette: Last Sunday, we got ourselves to the airport after staying up all night. We were all waiting at the gate. I guess we looked fairly distinctive, what with our MCV jackets and all. Half the group was wearing tophats -- they're part of our summer uniform, and they couldn't be packed with the normal tricorn hats in the cargo shipment because they needed them for a parade right away when they got back to Boston.

Anyway, we got on the plane and sat down. The speakers played one muzak selection, then another. Then we heard the drum solo at the beginning of our show from the Tattoo, followed by the fifes coming in on White Cockade, with the Tattoo announcer's voice on top of it... We all looked around, confused. To be honest, we were all so sick of our show that no one in the group would have asked to hear it.

But no, it wasn't our doing. One of the flight attendants had been at the Tattoo a few days before. He'd bought the official CD and had it with him. And when he saw us all waiting at the gate, he knew exactly who we were.

It was a fitting end to the trip. As one of our drummers said, "We're not just international, we're all over the place!"
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I am home from Scotland. I am so glad to be home. I had an incredible, phenomenal month, but it needed to end.

I am looking forward to seeing people here. (I know a lot of you just headed to the Playa, but I'll see you when you get back. Have a great burn.)
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I'm back from a few days in Philadelphia, with something disturbingly like a suntan (by my standards: mostly freckles, and so much better than pink, though I'd prefer no sun color at all). I spent three days lounging around Nick's uncle's back yard in the suburbs. Played volleyball in the pool, threw around a football, drank my favorite east-coast summer beer (Harpoon IPA), and met every single one of his cousins, aunts, and uncles on that side of his family. We'd come the farthest, but they're scattered all over the midwest and eastern seaboard, so it was impressive to have all 26 people in one place. Nick's the oldest of his generation; it was like being transported back 15 years in my family, with hordes of school-aged cousins. It was very relaxing and far more fun than I'd expected.

I was sad to miss fireworks and barbecues out here, though. I was on a plane on the 4th, though it was pouring rain in Philadelphia at fireworks time anyway. (That was another great thing about the trip: weather! Thunder and lightning! Also heat and humidity, which I adapted to more quickly than I'd expected.)

Coming home Saturday worked well, because now I have all of today to get back into a productive mood.

I need some fashion advice. Next weekend, I'm going to a wedding. It's an indoor, evening wedding and they suggest semi-formal attire. It has a vaguely 1930s theme, though not so much that people will be dressed in period clothes. My only almost-appropriate dress is a light blue patterned silk dress, ideal for daytime summer weddings but a bit too floral for this. Should I search for a new dress? I'll check out Buffalo Exchange and Crossroads for something used, and maybe Nordstrom Rack for something really cheap. What sort of thing should I get? I'm thinking knee length, solid, not black. Bonus points for things that work with my existing shoe options: silver strappy sandals or black ballet-style pumps, both with kitten heels.

Or maybe I'll wear my suit with a nice silk camisole and heels and a necklace of some sort. That would be sort of fun. It needs to be dry-cleaned, though.
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I still think of myself as a musician more than a dancer. But, regardless of how I got into it, dancing has been a bigger part of my life for the last five years. There's one exception to that these days: the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, the massive bagpipe festival. For this event, I'm going to Scotland for a month to play fife with my old fife & drum group, MCV. I have a show every day in August, two on Sundays.

But guess what? I just found out that I get to dance, too!

At the beginning of the event, each night, the organisers are putting together tableaus of military music & history. And here's what they want us for:

"As the Duke of Wellington harried Napoleon's French forces across Europe at the beginning of the 19th century, military bands had become even more versatile and on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 they played at the Duchess of Richmond's famous ball at Brussels. Visual is dancers on the esplanade -- Highland dancers dressed for a society/Regimental Ball/ MCV "men" in 1815 dress."

So, apparently, I get to dance for the Queen. Vintage ballroom dance. Only about 45 seconds, I'm told. Who knows how much dancing we'll actually do, vs just standing and looking like dancers.

My only concern is that they'll decide I don't look convincingly masculine in our 1812 summer uniform. Well, my other concern is that I don't actually have an 1812 uniform, since we thought we'd only need our full dress uniform (1776) for this event, but I'm sure our seamstress is up to the task. Those of us who're staying for the whole month were asked to do this extra role, so that we don't need a new group of people to learn it halfway through, so I can probably just borrow a summer uniform from someone who's only there for half of it.

More generally: I should be flipping out about this whole event, because I hardly know any of the street music yet and I haven't looked through the drill in ages. It's so easy to put it off, thinking "I'm good at memorizing music", but the street music is hard enough that I can't just memorize it without playing it out loud, like the drill music. I should set up a practice schedule or something.
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I spent the morning sprawled on the grass in Berkeley, shaded by the parasol I got from [livejournal.com profile] loraxorg and [livejournal.com profile] akaba's wedding a few weeks ago, eating Thai brunch with [livejournal.com profile] cerevisiae and [livejournal.com profile] crs. It was just about the perfect day for that sort of thing.

Now I'm at home, putting the finishing touches on something C is making for M. I'm providing Illustrator skillz. (Photoshop would be better, but I don't know enough Photoshop yet.) I should find more uses for this hobby of mine. Probably best to generate lots of good science and then illustrate it.

I'm also trying out my contact lenses. My eyes look so small. I tend to think my facial features aren't my best asset, and I like the way my glasses make my face look bolder. But others disagree on both counts. Maybe I'll get used to how I look without glasses, but I intend to go back to glasses after Edinburgh.

Last night we went to a party that had two great aspects: 1. I got to see the hosts and many other people who I don't see nearly as often as I'd like to. 2. The Yankee Swap provided a home for the damned candles I've been trying to get rid of for months. See, Nick's sister-in-law always gives us attractive scented candles for Christmas. And they give me a headache when I get anywhere near them. I didn't want to throw them out, but I kept forgetting to bring them to Goodwill. They were one of the popular swap items, so now they've found a much better home.

And on Friday night, I showed a charming out-of-town guest around my neighborhood and had a most excellent evening: wandering through Dolores Park to see the view, and happening upon the trans march; vegetable sushi at Country Station, "best down-home sushi", closing this weekend; great beer and music at Revolution Cafe, which is slowly becoming my favorite bar.
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My "choose both!" plan worked out well on Monday night. I got down to Alameda in time for Anne's lesson. The dance looks a lot more complicated than it is, at least in my opinion. I think I pretty much have it in my head now. It's quite fun, and it was impressive to watch her teach such a huge class with surprising success.

However... when I got vaccinated on Monday, I didn't expect it to be much of a problem for dancing. Irish dance is, after all, notorious for moving nothing but your legs. But Anne's wedding reel is not a very traditional dance, and many of the fancy moves involve linking hands with your partner over your head, then turning. My very sore shoulders stopped liking that halfway through, and I was slowing my set down, so I spied [livejournal.com profile] zhaneel69 watching the dance and asked her to replace me. I'm sure I'll get another chance to practice it.

The lesson went long and I needed to get on the road. I grabbed C for the first waltz and then left, sad that I couldn't stay longer and dance with more people. But I made it to Glen Park just as everyone was finishing dinner... perfect timing. I caught up with Lael, who I hadn't seen in forever, and saw M and L et al's awesome new house.

In their living room is a piece of art that I'd fallen in love with at the Canvas Gallery, a large, burnished copper sheet with a woman's face cut out in reverse silhouette. Sure enough, mdh bought the piece from there. I wasn't expecting to see it again.
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I've been reunited with my car. All it needed was a tuneup, in the end. I asked if there were any big problems looming on the horizon, and the mechanic said "Everything looks good. [pause] For a Neon."

If he'd said it looked or sounded good, without that caveat, I'd have had to laugh. Especially with it sputtering and rumbling in the background. But two years of use and counting, on a free car, with total maintenance so far under $600... Can't complain about that.

I like my mechanic a lot, but San Leandro is far from home. A few people have pointed out that there's a great shop down the block from me, at 18th & Florida, the San Francisco Auto Repair Center. They're a co-op, or something like that, and they rent tools and space and have classes on basic car repair. But I'm told they also have a good normal mechanic. Maybe I should check them out.

On my way down to the mechanic's, I looked out the window of the BART train as we passed the airport. I saw a jet, normal-sized but at the wrong angle for me to identify it, flying low and slow and flanked by two red helicopters. They were the size & shape I associate with medevac helicopters, not the little bubble-shaped news choppers and not military as far as I can tell. What's up with that? Google News is uninformative.
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