October 18, 2005

scientific semantics

my evolution class is giving me problems. the first two weeks of lecture were spent describing fossil formation and geologic forces, which, frankly, bore me. somehow interspersed with that, though, were intriguing examples of speciation - complelling proofs of evolution that i wished we would study more in depth, but was unsure whether i should be taking notes on. conscequently, most of my time spent in that class has been in one way or another mostly unconscious of what is being said by the lecturer, re. sleep or complete absorbtion in a book. the other aspect of the class, a discussion section that meets once a week is also mildly consternating. we read two articles before the discussion and are expected to have thought-provoking questions about them that we will all socratically discuss. i have no objection to discussion, frankly, i am one of the more voluble people in the room, but i can't say i am terribly patient with others' opinions, when, to me they seem uninformed. and in preparation for my next discussion, tomorrow, as it may be, i am reading two articles on adaptive theories. what irritates me is not so much what the authors are saying, but how much of their arguments seem to be based on semantics. or rather, the words we use to describe phenomena perhaps hindering our understanding of such phenomena.

i will, for example, take one of richard lewonton's points in the paper adaptation and turn it to my own purposes. the word "niche" is defined as an organism's interactions with both it's organic and inorganic surroundings. it is colloquially defined as an organism's environmental "role," however. this second and more lingering definition in a way poisions our impression of the character of niches. we begin to speak of niches as occuring independantly of the organisms that fill them. such as "the niche was opportunistically filled by the xxx, which found it vacant." as if niches were rather like apartments, occupied and vacated by various species, being created or becoming extinct at intervals, and occasionally being sublet. this view is erroneous, however, as it implies that the niches are static and well-defined. but by adding new, random parameters, a creative or perverse enough mind could name dozens of unfilled niches and wonder why no organism has evolved to fill them. organisms would over the years evolve to better fit their niches, though by evolving inherently change their behavior and traits. it is pointless, then, to define a niche as an entity separate from the organism itself, or as the organism's "role," as this leads to consternating circular reasoning. describing a niche as an organism's "role" has the doubly upsetting consequence of inviting the use of a whole new set of language to adaption. organisms "evolve to fill a niche" (a phrase often encountered, unfortunately) and suddenly have self-determined fates. natural selection is suddenly given the awkward trait of sentience, as if it had an endgame in mind, suiting the species to fit in its square or round peg.

since both articles i'm reading for tomorrow introduce the potential for that sort of ambiguity of language, i'm pretty sure i'll be grinding my teeth at some point. that, and there is one girl who, in both (?) of the previous discussions, has irritated me in some way by making an irritatingly narrow-minded point. the kind of thing that makes some people go, "hmmm, yes, i wonder..." and me go, "but that's completely irrelevant to everything as it exists now!" i try very hard not to be contentious, but sometimes, that is difficult. so, my class seems like it will be full of fascinating information, that i must sift through detritus and crap to get to. but at least i sort of enjoy arguing.

October 14, 2005

in-between times

i've been somewhere between content and full of malaise the past few days.

some things have made me very happy, like seeing a man dressed as wolverine on the street. or watching lots and lots of arrested development. or finishing my programming project with kick-ass competance. boo-yah!

other things have made me dive into gloomfest. mostly, boring lectures. also, the fine white anthers that fall like intermittant snow from the eucalyptus trees outside of boelter and lodge into the seam between the case and screen of my laptop.

and some things have left me feeling oddly conflicted. like making conversation with one of the gardeners on campus and having a nice talk in spanish no less, but then being asked for my phone number and suddenly realizing that it's possible that i was unwittingly being flirted with. hrrrm.

and plenty of things have thrown me into little rages. like the asian couple who sit in the back row of the lecture hall during evolution and mutter quietly to one another and cuddle over the armrest. and the horrible smile that he gave her the other day, like contented condescending sexual posession. it's a smile i've only ever seen in men. and the girl in my parasitology class who leaves her giant purse sitting in the chair next to her, even though she sits right by the aisle and people have to sit on the stairs because they come in late. the fact that my biogeochemistry professor gave us homework problems with several values all with different units that needed to be converted and all in blatantly obnoxious non-scientific notation.

and then there are the little contented moments, like just after i finished snow crash. and three days later, after i finished life of pi. or when i went to bed knowing that i could sleep late because i was skipping my programming discussion section. or when i hug my stuffed hippo. or when i introduced myself to the guy in my parasitology class because it was silly that we were walking down all the same streets almost side-by-side. or when i take my laptop to class and it sits all sleek and warm inside my backpack, waiting to emerge and be just terribly useful.

and one mustn't forget the small annoyances. getting my clothes out of the dryer to discover that they smelled like man-detergent, and thus a little bit like blaize (whose detergent it was). the fact that i still can't seem to sit quietly and just go through my parasitology online lectures like a good, studious girl without serious attention disorders.

and there's the sleepy, woozy headrush feeling after just waking up, or standing up, or not thinking too hard, or when i have to make sense of immunological facts.

and between all those other feelings, has been a sort of shiftless, bored, funk, where the back of my mind seems to be caught in a haze, like a thick fog lingering just at the edge of sight. and it's as if i'm just waiting for something to come along and stimulate me out of that apathy and into some real thoughts. such are the cycles of my brain.

October 08, 2005

another day

nice day, today. warm, though not perfect. had classes, which shouldn't come as a shock to anyone. i turned in one c++ program and began another one, which was more complex than i was strictly prepared for, but i think i have it well done. the programming left me all keen and high (have weird love of programming), which was a nice change as i spent most of my morning fantasizing about sexually mauling someone in the halls of the engineering building. actually spent rather more time than is healthy glazed over deep in deep thoughts such as that. got back to the apartment and was startled to see blake on the couch, as apparently he's graduated and living in the bay area, but he was down for job interviews and stopped by to see kat. i kamikazied an overlarge bowl of cereal while watching them make small talk and then lounged on the couch for a bit. read the second third or so of snow crash (in the grand cyberpunk tradition), which actually had kept me glazed for most of thursday's lectures, as i had it out on my lap while i was taking notes. the internet was out at the apartment all afternoon, as was the normal cable television, so i was left to amuse myself in other ways. ended up watching 10 or so episodes of arrested development and knitting a couple of lines on my scarf before dinner. i put my hair into braided pigtails, then kat and i finally went to see serenity. pretty good movie, didn't stray too drastically from the expected, so i wasn't horribly disappointed nor terribly pleased. i probably had a stronger reaction to the season premiere of veronica mars (echoed cries of "that's so fucked up!"), though i can't believe whedon killed off...!!! no, seriously, you killed off, like, my favorite character, you bastard. back to the apartment and down the hall a loud party was being thrown, which i'm pretty sure was in huge breach of rental contract, but, like, whatever, hurrah. read a bit more, fucked around online, and then, bed, and i'm still thinking about my nether bits. tomorrow i have some chemical oceanography homework to look at, a molecular parasitology lecture to read through, and another short program to code. it actually sounds sort of fun, though part of me still really wants to get drunk and then slobber on someone. or at least watch wrath of khan. that's been coming up too many times lately.

October 02, 2005

a simple summary

things have happened to me, but i'm afraid i havne't had a terribly compelling way to tell the stories. i moved down to la for school, of course, classes have started. my apartment is very nice this year, and i'm eager to live in a place what doesn't have indoor flooding. father and i were still rather rageful when he joined mom and me in la. after driving down from san fransisco without any traffic violations or overly reckless moments, i drove through a stop sign to get away from him and his whinging, unfortunately, he was in the back seat. i was sad we couldn't sit through a civil dinner, and for such a petty reason, at least on his part, but we parted with tender words of familial concern and i felt sort of bad about the fights. been hemmoraging money in la, but i excuse the expenses as normal new-apartment costs, and anyways kat and i, mostly due to managerial fuck-ups, are paid up through november. we attended a party shortly after coming here. party with booze, but i couldn't get drunk due to upset tum. sober as a mormon, i was hit on by three guy in decreasing unappeal. the first tried to nuzzle my phone number from my neck on the dance floor. the second tried the time-honored technique of dull conversation...on the dance floor. amusingly, he had been trying to catch my eye over the first gentleman's shoulder. i ran into the third on my way out the door, where he lurked with his friends, playing up the cute, ecclectic foreigner bit and wins on the points of originality and humor. i've seen most of my friends in town to mixed receptions - mostly very warm and cuddly, though some distressingly indifferent. i've been spending my time slothing around the apartment and watching episodes of firefly, a shockingly good series. i've also begun a pen and ink portrait, utilizing skills i had feared atrophied with almost a year's disuse. i'm happy to report, though, that my abilites appear to have remained intact and the piece is progressing nicely. it is an activity i greatly missed, however, and i feel as if i have regained something i did not realize i lacked. every so often, i remember a silly thing my mother does and i miss her teribly. mostly, when i'm watching one of the many spanish language channels or the food network, one of her silly chestnuts will pop into my head and i'll grow sad. beyond that, i find that at around 1 each night, i grow terribly anxious and must stretch my limbs, go outside, walk around. as one who has never had much use for jogging, it's peculiar that i am actually fighting the urge to go out into the night and run. and i must find someone with whom i may have the epic sort of conversations i so love. i would rather they be in person than over the phone, but i sit down with so few people here to actually have one of those lovely, long talks. i think that was the simplest thing to relate everything that's been going on in my life during my period of relative radio silence. at least the main points. oh, but i could use your input on a few things that have been on my mind:

1) what is the difference between corinthian and ionic columns (possibly misspelled, possibly just plain wrong) and there's a third type, isn't there?
2) if bizzaro world were really opposite to ours, what exactly would the landscape look like?

thanks, and goodnight. ;)

October 01, 2005

the thing it is

ballet on tv. to my left, a beetle under glass. it's been warm in la and my skin itches, hypersensitive to the touch of my clothing. the beetle taps it's hind leg, but does not place it on the ground. the dancers seem unnaturally happy to have apples. i am left wondering if i have hives. i want to get up and jump around, go for a walk somewhere, but it's 2 am. i hate ballets where it's all the coy princess being danced around by the admiring prince and the chorus is all waving their arms. i fear the since one beetle was able to enter the apartment, another, less benign bug may be lurking somewhere within, as well. while this one is docile and contained, the evil beetle is zipping round in hiding, waiting to bite us in our sleep. buggery stravinsky. apparently, male elephants at some point in time have hormonal surges that cause sweeling glands to press up behind their eye and drive them mad with pain. vaguely reminds me of star trek, where vulcans will go into periods where they must mate to go mad. i've been drinking water like mad for the last two hours. still thirsty. i think i'll have ice cream.