Friday, August 31, 2007


Big surprise here, right? HT to GrrlScientist

You Are 98% Feminist

You are a total feminist. This doesn't mean you're a man hater (in fact, you may be a man).
You just think that men and women should be treated equally. It's a simple idea but somehow complicated for the world to put into action.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

See what I mean?

Life around me really is never boring. Remember how happy we were that F1-2 was in a class with 4 students, 1 teacher, 2 aides, and 1 intern? It didn't last long. Yesterday I was informed that he class had been scrapped. Yes, scrapped. Now his class had 1 less teacher, and 3 extra students. The school board decided that the kids in his classroom were over-served, and decided to combine the two functional classrooms, ship his teacher off to another school. Now he is in a classroom with 7 kids, 1 (different) teacher, and 2 (different) aides. All of the kids in F1-2's room were non-verbal,they now constitute more than 50% of his new classroom, and the new teachers has very limited experience with non-verbal kids.

So why was the teacher better qualified to teach non-verbal kids moved to another school, one might ask. And the answer is, she had not been there long enough. Yep, the other teacher had seniority, did not want to leave, forget about having teachers to meet the needs of the majority of the pupils. We've got our priorities straight here. And we most certainly wouldn't want to involve any parents while these decisions are being made, they might point out these little anomalies that will mess up the way we work. And around here, seniority rules. We'll inform the parents once it's too late to change stuff. We can't swap the teachers anymore, F1-2's teacher has already been assigned to another school. Never mind that she is leaving kicking and screaming that she is concerned that the children's aren't being met.

So here we go, having to fight for our son's already shaky future. He is going to be in the same classroom for the most important of his formative years, from Kindergarten through 5th grade. Whatever we do now, will impact the rest of his life. Overly dramatic? Maybe. But it just infuriates me that decisions can be made based on anything except what makes the most sense for the kids. If it wasn't for the fact that his current school is the *only* school in the county with therapists on site, I would have demanded him going to another school.

We haven't made up our minds yet where to go from here, but you can rest assured that noise is about to be made.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Poop on the train?

When you're around me, life is never boring. There is always something going on. Boring is good, boring is good, boring is good.

About 3 weeks ago, I woke up from an afternoon nap, and noticed that the ring finger of my right hand was bent towards my palm, and I was utterly unable to straighten it. It was the weirdest thing. It didn't hurt, feel sore, or strange, I just couldn't bend it. Bizarre. I showed P1, and he insisted that should go to the campus health center right away. Yeah right, that's gonna happen. I already don't have absolute confidence in their abilities, and now I'm going to go with this minor problem? Nope! It''ll go away by itself.

Wrong. It didn't. In fact, every time I wake up it seems to have gotten a little worse. It gets a little better during the day. I can grasp the finger with my other hand and painlessly straighten it out, but as soon as I let go, the finger stubbornly snaps back down.

Yesterday I finally scheduled an appointment, and feeling self-conscious, and almost relieved that it had been quite bad when awoke today, I went to an early morning appointment. From the look on the face of the physician-assistant I've been seeing for years now, I could tell that she didn't believe a word I said. The twinkle in her eyes said "now there is someone with imagination who wants an excuse note for class or something." She must have been surprised to hear that I am no longer taking classes. She then said she wanted to have x-rays made (even though it doesn't hurt, and I did not injure myself). Whatever. I'll do what she says. I felt really, really stupid.

On our way to the x-ray room, we run into the physician in charge, and she says to me "let's see what he thinks." He looks at my hand for 2 seconds flat and asks me where I'm from. Huh? "What is your ancestry?" he asks when he sees the flabbergasted expression on my face. "Do you have an hour or so? I'm from all over the place." He says: "It's called Doo-poo-train's contraction, and its genetic. Most common in people of Mediterranean decent." Me: "It's called what?" He looks at me as if I'm an idiot, and then with proper pronunciation repeats: "Dupuytren's contracture." Ah, I must have misheard the first time when I thought it had something to do with people pooping on trains.

The PA and I walk on, so she can write a referral to a hand surgeon for me. Meanwhile she stops every colleague she passes: "Hey, wanna see this. It's really cool. It's a real Dupuytren's contracture." "What? Hmm, interesting, can I see?" My hand get massaged for the umpteenth time. "Does it hurt here, or there?" No it doesn't and I'm inclined to think it's a bad sign when you medical provider gathers all her colleagues to stare at you and they all exclaim "cool," or "interesting."

On the bright side, it has a name, it's real, I didn't make it up, and it's not neurological or psychological damage. Ok, I clarify: maybe there is some psychological damage, but it has nothing to do with my finger. And best of all, there are treatments possible, the doctor I'm being referred to will explain my options.

Having done some more research, I now know it's common among Northern Europeans (apparently very common among the Vikings). It occurs mostly in men in their 40s, by age 80 the women have caught up, and it's equally common in women and men. Just my luck huh? A woman under 40, without any of the risk factors it's associated with, and instead of DC gradually introducing itself to me, it simply appears one Summer afternoon after my nap.

Picture source:

So I called my mother. I hadn't talked to her in a week or so. "Ma, have you ever heard of Dupuytren's contracture?" Expecting her to say "what?" I was surprised when she said "well you're father had that on his foot, and so did his sister. They both had surgery for that a few years ago." I vaguely remember my father having surgery on his foot a while ago, but had had no clue what it had been about. Was someone going to bother telling me that this thing ran in my family? I told her I had it in my hand, and described the symptoms. "Oh," my mom replies. "I've had the very same thing happen to my hand the past 2 years. It keeps on getting worse. I just thought it was some kind of muscle thing related to aging."

Double whammy. I'm getting it from both sides. Both my parents had nice gradual introductions to this affliction, but since Germanic ancestors from both my parent's side fooled around with those vikings, here I am all of a sudden with a ring finger refusing to stay in line and do what I tell it to. Note to self: give my kids plenty of advance warning.

So now, the waiting is for the hand surgeon to contact me. Although it's not painful, it's irritating as hell, because I forget about it, and I will reach for something only to realize I can't grab it, because I'm right-handed, and my right hand is less than 100% functional. It's also bloody inconvenient for doing any molecular biology, or microscopy. You kinda need your fingers to do itty bitty things that sometimes involves stretching the ring finger. I had never realized that particular detail before. But I'm painfully aware of it now. Oh well, maybe there'll be a quick and easy solution to this. Boring is good, boring is good, boring is good. At least they didn't accuse me of having pooped on the train.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


I mean Touch Screens. They do wonders for my little F1-2. And since he is in his new Kindergarten class with a grand total of 4 students and 2 computers, he is been exploring the world of software for children with disabilities like never before. He seems to really like the software called "The Letter Machine" by Edmark. It uses a type-writer like interface on the screen, for the children to use the touch screen to touch a letter, which then results in cutsie pictures popping up and funny sounds. Perfect for F1-2. Now in December my parents (thanks!) purchased F1-2 a touch screen, but at that time he did not want to use the computer at home.

Now that we're in the final stages of re-constructing the kid's play area, the computer F1-2 used to use occasionally, has been taken over permanently by F1-1. I gave my old laptop to F1-2, and now we have it set up for him. But darn it, the touch screen doesn't fit the laptop monitor!! A screen for the laptop monitor would cost me another $175, and that is money we simply cannot shell out right now. And F1-2 is constantly hanging around his laptop, wanting to play with it, but frustrated at the lack of touch screen. My heart aches for him. I guess we're going to have to find a way for to get him another touch screen.

My husband suggested trying to sell the old touch screen, but from the little research I did, it doesn't seem there is a big market for used touch screens. I doubt we'll get much out of that. And of course, if I do splurge and buy the kid the touch screen, how much do you want to bet that the 6-year old laptop finally keels over within the week?

Where is my son?

It's promising to become an uhmm...... interesting year. In the first week of F1-1's middle school years, we've gotten three complaints about him. One e-mail: he's really charismatic and funny, but I've had to talk to him twice already about being disruptive in class. This is what F1-1's favorite teacher writes me. Now, presumably, since this teacher is his favorite, he is on his best behavior in that class. Needless to say we're not off to a good start. Then another teacher called us on Sunday to complain about his being disruptive in class and lack of organizational skills. And this teacher overheard another teacher reprimanding F1-1, and told us to expect a third call.

Since then, I've watched every move F1-1 makes, but it's a little ridiculous. When is he growing up? I've emptied his backpack with him, organized all his class folders, thought him how to use his planner appropriately, had him do extra math exercises downloaded from the internet. I have to do so much with him, I suppose I'm in Middle School too. Except I've got my hormones under control, whereas F1-1's are starting to kick into full gear. Last week he came to show me his mustache, which, he claimed, needed shaving.

Yesterday went better (or so he says). Hopefully today will be better too. There is a bright spot at the horizon though. F1-1 has always hated reading. But two days ago he requested a novel for reading. The Da Vinci Code is not exactly written to 11-year olds, and my dear husband P1, was skeptical. I checked it out of the library for him, and he immediately read the first 3 chapters. Then, last night, when he was supposed to be asleep, I went into his room because the light was on. And he was still reading! Huh? Someone help! They stole my kid and replaced him with a fake!! I suppose that might explain the good behavior in school too.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Criticism does not equal libel

According to reports, PZ and SEED are being sued for libel by the author of a book that PZ reviewed. Not by any standard does the review that PZ wrote even come close to libel (there is nothing unjust about the post, and it does nothing to the author's reputation), so I can't imagine that the author has any legal leg to stand on. It might be that this is simply a stunt (as in: any press coverage is good press coverage), but it is certainly not making it any more likely that I would buy the book.

So, this post is in support of PZ, whose blog is the first and the last one I read every day. May you write many more book reviews, PZ.

Update: Blake Stacey has a timeline, and the details.

Monday, August 20, 2007

New schoolyear

This morning was the start of a new school year. An adventure for sure. With F1-1 starting middle school, and F1-2 starting Kindergarten, we have a lot of changes to deal with.

Needless to say the bus did not show up to pick up F1-2, so I had to take him in. Then quickly off to drop F1-3 at daycare, and then F1-1 to Middle School.

I think F1-2 will do well in his new class. His Kindergarten class is right next door to his pre-K clas, so it's almost like coming home. I was quite impressed to hear at the "meet-the-teacher" meeting on Friday that there are only 4 kids total in his "functional class room." Two Kindergarteners (of which F1-2 is one), and two 5th graders. They are all non-verbal, although the 5th graders are experts in using PECS. The class is lead by a teacher, two aids, and there is one intern. That makes the student-teacher ratio 1:1! Unless we move him out of the school, he will stay in the same class room through 5th grade. The focus will be on teaching him life skills like feeding himself, using the toilet, using PECS. He will also receive Physical, occupational, and speech therapy in group and individual sessions.

F1-1 did not want me to take him in, but I figured he'd be happier once he was in his home room without having to wander the halls endlessly in search of his home room. He walked several steps beside or behind me as if to say "I don't know this woman. I'm cool, and I don't need help." I tried to embarrass him as little as possible, and kept my distance.

What surprised me more than anything is how grown-up especially the 6th grade girls are. It's as if they all grew boobs over the Summer, and started wearing make-up and high heels. What happened to the little 5th grade kids I saw in the beginning of June? Will my son fit in with all these grown-ups. But I think he will do just fine. It's very interesting to watch pre-teen behavior. He ran into several kids he new and wordlessly hit his balled fist against theirs and turned his back on them without saying a word. I don't get it, but I think this must be an acceptable form of saying hello these days, because the other kids did the same thing and seemed nonplussed by my son's apparent lack of manners.

It's promising to be a very exciting year. Good luck to my both my big boys!!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Is America Ready for a Black President?

I don't like to post on politics in the US. It is not my country, and I feel I do not have the right. However, 2 of my children are US citizens and I do have the right to look out for their future prospects, and therefore, on behalf of F1-2 and F1-3, I speak out.

A couple of nights ago, I briefly saw a segment on tv titled: "Is America Ready for A Black President." I don't watch much tv, and I did not stick around for this, but the first thing that came to my mind was:

Because you feel the need to ask this question, the answer is probably "no."

Why is the color of someone's skin of any importance whatsoever with respect to his/her acceptability as a presidential candidate? Or their gender, their sexual orientation, their marital status. I can go on and on, but you get the point. The US is far behind other countries in the world, where men, women, and people of all possible skin colors are presidents, vice-presidents, cabinet ministers, members of parliament, and nobody thinks twice about it.

When I first came to the US, a colleague told me about a friend of hers, who had no idea what to fill in on a form when asked what her race was. She promptly filled out "human." On principal I never filled out those parts of questionnaires, I wouldn't know what to fill out. The whole concept of race is ludicrous to begin with, but even if I would accept US-accepted delineations of race, I still don't fit in any particular category, or more accurately, I would comfortably fit in all of them. So when the time came for me to be added to the pay-roll, I again declined to fill out the question of race. The form came back a few days later. I had to fill something out, or not get my paychecks. Surprised by this requirement I studied the form more closely. The options were something like: white, black, hispanic, asian, pacific islander, other. Aha! Other. I can live with that, I checked "other." The form came back again: You have to specify what your race is if you check "other." At my wits end I remembered the story my colleague had told me, and filled out "human." The form never came back.

Racism will persist, if people, governments and institutions continue to attach importance one way or the other to humans' physical appearance, sexual orientation, or other properties that have absolutely nothing to do with their ability to perform their functions. It's time to remove the sections of form that ask questions about race. In scientific terms there is no such thing as a race, it is a completely fabricated property assigned to humans that has no purpose other than continue discrimination.

The question: "Is America Ready for a Black President?" is inherently racist, and sadly, a reflection of a society not ready to discard racism.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Mind compartmentalization

A couple of nights ago, my husband and I were talking. My mother had just left and this was the first time in weeks that we actually had the time and the energy to have a normal conversation. He asked me if I think about my father a lot. And the answer is "no." At least not in the sense that I consciously sit (or stand, or walk) and think about times past all the time. But he is always with me, somewhere in the back of my mind. A constant presence. Like my brother. Both my brother and my father have their own little compartments in my mind where the have housed themselves, and make their presence always known, although not overbearingly so.

My husband told me he had never heard it described like that, so this may or may not be a common occurrence. My brother occupied his space shortly after he got ill, and he's been there comfortably ever since. My father moved in when he got sick a little less then two months ago. Initially my father tried to take over a rather large spot in there. Since I realize I have to move on and get things done, I cannot allow him so much room. Now the territorial battle seems to have subsided a little bit. He seems happy with the allotment of my brain assigned to him, and only occassionally does he come out and try to invade other parts of me mind. It will get less. We will settle down at some point and agree how much space he can take up.

Does this sound creepy? Considering that I'm a staunch atheist, there is nothing remotely religious about this concept, although it's easy for me to see that others with similar experiences may mistake this phenomenon as such. It's just a way to carry the people I love and lost with me, and remembering them without actually having to sit down and bring up specific memories. It's very comforting to me. Both my brother and father are always very close at hand. It keeps them alive, at least in my mind. All the time.

Monday, August 13, 2007


Good news this morning. My good friend and colleague M. and his wife R. went through quite the roller coaster ride over the last 9 months. But after successful IVF, and some ups and downs, their twins were born late last night (or early this morning, I'm not sure which). Welcome to the world O. and S. May you have a wonderful life!

Congratulations M. and R. Good luck with the parenting of twins and enjoy!


My parent had been planning to visit me for months. When my father passed away, I convinced my mother to come anyway, which she did. She just left yesterday after a two-week visit. It was a good visit and my mother and I have never gotten along so well for such a long time. Unfortunately neither one of us felt much like doing typical vacation-style stuff.

I should have invited Knobody, her mother and father-in-law over, since they helped me out so much to get my mother's room ready on time. However, I think my mother wasn't up to meeting lots of new people and entertaining, and frankly, neither was I. We just spent a lot of time together, went out to lunch, and hung around the house. In the evenings and on the weekend she was busy with the kids, while I continued working on the construction project in the house.

I managed to get a pencil stuck in the roof of my mouth when I pulled the closet shelving system loose during install while I had the pencil in my mouth. Man, that hurt!! Of course, it was a great excuse to drink copious amounts of alcohol, after all, the wound needed to be disinfected.

The only major blunder for the past two weeks was that I booked my mom on a wrong flight out of here, and instead had to drive her to another airport to make her connecting flight home on time.

My apologies go out to Knobody, her mother A., and her FIL E. I had really intended to invite everyone over, but it just never materialized. Thanks again for all the help. I wouldn't have been able to do it without you!

Ma, thank you so much for coming. It was really good to have you here, and very therapeutic. You were great with the kids and a wonderful house guest. It was a pleasure having you and you're welcome anytime. After all, who will take F-3 aw-sci?

Wednesday, August 1, 2007


Ok, I admit it. I'm having trouble starting up. And not just this blog. Everything. It seems strange that I would just have to move on as if nothing has happened when my life will never be the same. I'm unmotivated to continue my work, I have trouble concentrating, and I'm downright angry that I'm expected to just pick up the pieces and go on. When my brother died I was angry that the sun came up the next day. What I'm going through now is similar. I wash oping this blog would provide an outlet, but I've been unable to come up with topics to write on. I just got my new laptop last Monday. Shouldn't I be ecstatic to be able to use it for such a glorious purpose as posting on my blog. Even though my father will never read it? My boss left about 3 sticky notes with an article on my desk last week, and I only found it yesterday when I popped into the lab briefly. I have mountains of work to do and no drive.

Right now, I'm just hopeful that this rant will kick my ass into high gear and wake me up already. Will someone please help me out here?

P.S. construction project is in the final stages, and although hammering helps a lot, I'm still lacking motivation.