Monday, March 31, 2008

I'm not expressing my true feelings here!

As Coturnix and Mike O'Risal did, I checked my blog with the cuss-o-meter. How could I possible have come up with 0%?

Of course, the website that does this, is simply trying to get traffic for an online dating website. Which is why I'm not pasting the picture here. You'll just have to believe me when I say my score was 0%.

Anyway, if this is true, I'm not doing a good job. This blog is precisely so that I can cuss at the world as much as I want, and the world can read about it if they are so inclined.

Cuss-related anecdote:

When I first got to the US, I noticed within a few weeks that my level of cussing increased dramatically from what it was just a few weeks before back home. Nobody here understood what I was saying anyway, so if I just kept the tone even enough, I could say what I wanted, and I sure did so. Moreover, I'm familiar with a language that is perfect for expressing strong feelings (both good and bad), for which I find English quite inadequate. It was very satisfying to express myself, even though that would have been considered inappropriate at home.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hooray for women being the change they want to see!

When Sciencewoman asked Alice Pawley to join her on Scienceblogs, she asked for help choosing a name. I thought it might be too obvious, but it seemed to me, "Sciencewomen" was THE choice. Even though Alice is not strictly a scientist, and quite proud of being an engineer, she most certainly uses scientific principles in her work, and the name was simple. I suggested it, and lo and behold, it was chosen as the new name for their joint blog. And to reward me for coming up with the obvious, I got this in the mail today:

I'm so proud!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Artificial photosynthesis

From Sciencedaily. Photosynthesis involves the use of light energy to oxidize water, and reduce carbon dioxide, thus forming sugars, and releasing oxygen. Scientists looking for new ways to produce hydrogen as a fuel source from renewable sources, report that an inorganic metal cluster can oxidize water to hydrogen and oxygen. This process of artificial photosynthesis uses a rare transition metal. Problem solved? Not quite:
Botar explains the next step: "Now the challenge is to integrate this ruthenium complex into photoactive systems, which efficiently convert solar energy into chemical energy". So far, energy is still obtained from a chemical oxidant.

The mysterious ways of Jesus

According to Mike O'Risal every few weeks somebody spots Jesus somewhere, and the image ends up on Ebay. What he doesn't realize, is that this is how Jesus helps his faithful followers. This is just his way of making sure that they get adequately rewarded for recognizing his holy image. And sometimes even those who don't believe in him! I wonder how that works. If you don't believe in Jesus, how can you be convinced he's the peeping tom?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Atheists all around

Shameless blogwhoring. Cuttlefish does it again!

Watch out! Those atheists are everywhere.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Alice at Sciencewomen opened up quite a can of worms. She invited others to blog about their ethnic stories. Where do I start? I'll try to do this systematically. Considering the terms, I prefer to use ancestry over ethnicity, but that is just my personal choice. I don't know the full story of my ancestry, but I know some, and can make educated guesses about other parts. People find it virtually impossible to place me. My first name is Indian, my middle name French, my last name German, I probably look a little Hispanic (I've been addressed in Spanish before), but my accent is none of the above.

Roughly, my recent ancestry (if you go back long enough, we're all out of Africa anyway), is likely about 1/3 African, 1/3 European, 1/3 Asian. It works out something like this.

From my mother's side: My mother's mother was half Indonesian (Asian) from her mother's side, her father was half Belgian, half Turkish. My mother's father was of mixed African descent and European descent, I don't know in what ratio. I might be wrong about his ancestry, but I'm probably not far off.

From my father's side: My father's mother was half Chinese from her father's side, while her mother was a mixture of African, European, and I seem to remember she once mentioned Jewish ancestry too. Like my mother's father, my father's father was a mixture of European and African ancestry, likely not 50/50, I think his parents were of recent mixed ancestry too.

I don't think I want my ancestry any more generations further back than that. It gets too complicated.

When I first came to the US, I never filled out the part of the forms that asked for my "race." Even if I had been so inclined, what the heck would I write? I was everything, yet nothing on the list. However, when I needed to fill out a W-2, I was required. I was told I could not get paid otherwise. I refused, the form came back, and I didn't get paid the first period. I studied the form. These were my options: White, Black, Hispanic, Pacific islander, Asian, and Other. But if I filled out "other" I had to mention what "other" was. Eventually, I checked "other" and filled out "human." The darn form never came back again, and I got paid the next period.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

My Atheism

Inspired by a recent conversation with my mother, and kicked into high gear by VWXYNot, I figured this would be a good time to elaborate on my position as an atheist. It seems my mother never truly understood what I did (not) believe, which is probably an indication that we don't talk often enough. (Note to self: talk more often to mother).

I was not raised in a religious household. My mother had been raised catholic, my father protestant, but I don't remember my mother ever going to church or praying as I grew up, and my father was an atheist for as long as I can remember. I may be wrong about this, but I think my mother takes the position offered by Pascal's wager. (2nd note to self: talk more often to mother). She's not entirely convinced there is a god, but just in case there is one, she's unwilling to piss him off. Of course, I never did ask her what she thinks would happen to her if all this time she had believed in the wrong god, and one day she'd have to explain to her (the real god) why she wasted her entire life thinking the Jehovah guy (or someone like him) was real.

I did talk to my father about religion on numerous occasions, so I do know his position fairly well. His atheism was a result of what organized religion has done to people and the world over the centuries, and because it was incompatible with the scientist in him. This wasn't always an easy position. When my brother died very young, it hurt my father to the core to know that there was no afterlife, and that death was permanent, and that my brother's life was over except in our hearts where our memories keep him alive.

I don't think I ever truly believed in a god. I did on occasion attend church and a synagogue for some reason or another, and I'll admit to a few occasions where I shot a prayer up "just in case." But actually believe in the gobbledegook? No. Never.

My ex-husband always considered himself a christian, but didn't seem to mind initially that I was not. Eventually it became apparent that it was important for him that I went along with his christianity. So even though it didn't mean a damn thing to me, and he knew it, I got baptized, and we got married in a church. The funny thing is, he knew perfectly well that I didn't believe in the nonsense at the time, and that was fine, as long as I bowed my head and said the words. Ridiculous of course. My father (and I presume, my mother) at the time, didn't understand why I would do this, and just assumed that I had converted. Nothing could have been further from the truth, and in fact it was the beginning of the end of the marriage. Religion became a major source of contention, as my ex insisted on me attending church with him and performing in ceremonies that was all just a big joke to me. I wanted to keep the peace, and it really wasn't all that hard, and it didn't shake my lack of faith. I was never remotely tempted. In the beginning it wasn't a problem, but as time went on, it became clear he thought he could convert me. Fat chance! No amount of attending church or pretending to pray was going to change my mind. Quite the contrary!

Would I do it again if I had to do it all over? Probably, yes. For the same reasons as in the past. It didn't mean any thing to me, and therefore it didn't really bother me. Unlike maybe, someone who believes in Zeus, but has to pretend to believe in Buddha. That might be a problem, because one would have to betray the god one believed in. I didn't betray anybody, because I didn't believe in a god, and I didn't even betray myself, because I never fooled myself into thinking I did believe. It was all very easy. Bow head when told to do so, fold hands, say silly words, end with "amen." Very simple. The songs were kind of boring, but the choir sang nice. I can still appreciate the melodies and the poetry, even if I don't believe in it, can I? I like reading fiction too. And there was a sense of community that was very comforting. I could certainly understand why people were attracted to that kind of institution.

I don't think I could do that any more now. As I get older, I'm becoming more set in my ways and lack of believes. I don't "believe" in anything. I accept things based on the evidence I see for it. I haven't seen any evidence for the existence of god, gods, golden-egg laying ducks, elephants with 7 trunks, talking trees, flying tigers, immaculate conception, and the like, and therefore I don't believe in any of these. As any good scientist, I reserve the right to change my mind if I do see evidence to the contrary of the things mentioned above, or other unmentioned things I don't believe in. Pictures of one religious figure or another on pieces of toast are not evidence.

P1 doesn't believe in god either. But I'm a much more radical atheist than he is. He is for example in some ways superstitious, whereas I can joke about it, but no, I really don't mind taking cashier #13. In so far as there are degradations of atheism, I'm more atheist than he is. I must say though, that the fact he was atheist, was a big point in his favor when we first started dating. The older I get, the less able and willing I am to live with a believer in supernatural beings. It's a good thing P1 is very unlikely to change his mind in a hurry, because like before, it would probably be the beginning of the end. I would lose respect for him in a big hurry, and respect is another big pillar of our relationship.

I find it rather insulting if people ask me how I explain the existence of morality without believe. The bible is obviously not a source of people's morality (have you ever *read* that book? It's morals are horrible!), and if you think that you need to believe in god to remain moral, you don't need god, but the police right next to you all the time.

Although some people in my position might call themselves agnostic, and say that they withhold an opinion on the existence of an imaginary skydaddy, like VWXYNot, I'm perfectly happy stating that I don't believe god exists, until I'm proven wrong. And I mean *proven* wrong. I'm afraid that bible does not constitute proof, so you can spare me the quotations.

Oh, and if you wonder if people who don't believe in god can love (now who would come up with some ridiculous statement like that?), read the poem by Cuttlefish.

Monday, March 3, 2008


Well folks, I'm back. In more ways than one. I traveled last week to meet up with my mother in New York. I had either a really bad cold or a relatively mild flu, and was coughing, congested, you name it. Being in 20-degree weather didn't help matters. But it was fabulous! I bought the unlimited use for a day subway pass for $7 and had a blast going around town. I spent an entire day at the American Museum of Natural History. What a great experience.

But most importantly, I got to hang out with my mother. The older I get, the better I seem to get along with my mother. I really do admire her, especially for the way she's bounced back after my father passed away in June of last year. Like me, she misses him like crazy, but she sure is keeping very, very active. She's starting on her own PhD some time later this year.

I suppose that sort of settled it for me. I don't have a choice. I have put so much time, energy, blood, sweat, and tears into this PhD thing, I just have to give it one good, last shot. I have a year, I'm going to try and make it work.

I'm still undecided about the singing committee member. My adviser wants him to stay on. I don't know what I'm going to do.

On a lighter note, when I returned home, hubby came to pick me up with F1-2 and our youngest, F1-3 in the car. I got happy smiles from F1-2, but when I greeted F1-3, she turned her head and looked out the window. She was visibly pissed at me! Unbelievably, she ignored me for the better part of an hour, and whenever I tried to talk to her or offer her something, she would dramatically turn her head and look away. Eventually she did acknowledge my existence, and by now we're best friends again, but it took quite some time. While I was gone, I talked to her twice a day over the phone, and she sounded very happy. My husband says she was fine, and did not give any indication that she missed me, except for the first day when she asked for me a few times. Strange kid! If this is any indication for what's in store for us, we're in big trouble.