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The Unsatiable Capacity of Children

I really hate accidentally posting a draft.


I want to read and review A Landscape With Dragons, but I can’t find it at any of my surrounding libraries, and it’s just not the type of book on which I’m willing to spend my extremely limited book budget. Not when there are so many books I want that I don’t have yet.

Oh the books I could read, the dreams I could dream!
The thoughts I could think and wonderful seems I could seem!

Ahem. Anyway…

I haven’t tried Half Price yet, maybe I will after work today. But if that fails, does anyone have any other ideas?

Germinating Stories

I had the oddest thing happen to me.

I've had the idea for a story floating around for years and years. Longer than I really remember. It was a children's story, something like 13 Clocks or The Phantom Tollbooth, but also different. It involved a truly atrocious pun that got my wrist slapped by Mike when I told it to him. But the idea was fun. While I never let it go, I never wrote on it either. I just couldn't get the hero started down the road. The only things I could think of had been done before, and they didn't quite fit anyway. So I let it alone in the dark.

And while driving to work, I realized how my hero got involved in the story. And as soon as I realized what happened to him, the story changed. The pun vanished, the hero grew up, the whole plot mutated into something completely different.

It was such an intense experience that I actually forgot I was driving to the bus depot and drove all the way downtown instead. I've never felt anything like it. It was insight, not invention, and both terrifying and exhilarating. I don't yet dare write any of it down, it feels rather like if I do, I am stepping off the edge of the world.

Bad days aren't always our fault.

I have been having PCR trouble for two weeks now. It's driving me crazy. One day, the assay worked, the next it didn't. I've been repeating them for weeks, sure it was the dNTPs, since we weren't using our usually brand, and that was the only reagent I'd changed.

The good news is that it wasn't my technique. The bad news is that the machine is broken.

The way quantitative PCR works is you add a fluorescent probe to the normal PCR reaction. The probe binds to the middle of your DNA strand and is broken into bits when the taq enzyme replicates the DNA strand. Breaking up the probe separates the fluorescent reporter molecule from the quenching molecule, and the assay emits fluorescence detected by the special (read expensive) PCR machine.

Well, this doesn't work when the lamp is broken. Not burned out, broken. So we have to get it fixed.

But this has been driving me to distraction for a fortnight, and affecting everything else I did. I've messed up genotyping, I've locked my keys in the truck at the gas station, I burnt the crust for my lime tart. It's all been bad, just because I was obsessed with figuring out what I was doing wrong. And equally obsessed with why I could never seem to do anything right.

When Noodles (our postdoc) told me he thought the light was broken, I ran upstairs to ask the only other recent user if her plates had been working. And the tone of voice when she said no and the expression of relief when I told her that we thought the machine was broken told me she felt the same way I did.

It's a hard thing to remember that sometimes you aren't doing anything wrong when an experiment doesn't work. The immediate instinct is that you have screwed up. When you can't figure out how you are screwing up it's extremely distressing. And when you realize you aren't the problem it's such an incredible relief it's like falling up.

Surreality, TX

I've often wondered where writers get ideas, but I've never asked because hearing their smart-ass answers just frustrates me even more. They can be more creative about where ideas come from than I ever thought was possible.

Fortunately, as a mother, I have at least one idea running about in the wild. (Well, he's sleeping right now, permitting me the leisure to write this.) This keeps me from feeling too inferior, even if it does take up most of my formerly free time.

But today I found out where ideas come from, because I had one. (An actual, intangible idea, not another baby.) I had the most surreal dream possible, that there just must be a short story hidden inside. The question is, what is it?

I'll give you a hint. It involves a giant green duck. And it is both far less goofy and more vaguely sinister than that description gives it credit. I'll try to draw up a picture of the Green Duck later today, just for fun.

GeekBaby on Halloween

GeekBaby was Link for Halloween!  Cute geeky baby pictures on the other end of the link.

Worst Fears

(Crossposted from geeklady.wordpress.com. I do this when I have time. Apologies for length, I can't figure out how to make cuts work.)

My worst fear is that I will go blind.
I do not even believe this is the worst bodily harm that could befall me, suddenly losing my hearing would be much more isolating. But I don’t fear losing my hearing the way I fear losing my sight. It is a fear that I’ve lived with all my adult life.
Everything I do is visual. My profession involves working with my hands at a lab bench, or looking into microscopes, or editing scientific illustrations for publication. My spare time is filled with embroidery, art projects, video games, board games, sewing, reading, writing. My vacations are travel, to see the world. Everything I do is visual. Losing my sight would demolish almost every single thing in my life.
I am myopic, so myopic that laser surgery could at best restore 2/3 of my vision. I have high astigmatism. I have thin retinas and every year at my opthamologist appointment I am lectured on the symptoms of retinal detachments and tears. I have a small cataract in one eye.
I’m twenty nine.

Really, my age is what makes it so horrifying for me. All these problems with my eyes and I’m not thirty.
I haven’t been unaware. I’ve taken good care of my sight. I’ve seen a proper opthamologist every year since I graduated with my bachelors degree. I hate people fiddling with my eyes, I can’t wear contacts because I can’t stand to havae them fitted, but I go to the doctor every year like clockwork. I struggled with light sensitivity and glare until after years of searching I finally found the perfect pair of sunglasses. I get new lenses every two years like clockwork, and wear each pair of frames for 4-5 years just to help bear the cost. Even with special vision insurance, a new pair of lenses costs over $400.
Last week I noticed a persistent bright spot in my vision, right at the focal point of my left eye. I was as though I looked at a bright light, then looked away. I wasn’t sure what to do about it, it took me several days to notice that it was persistent. Then I realized that if I closed my right eye, it was a blind spot. So I went to the doctor. There were tests.
I have a small hemorrhage beneath the macula of my left eye, from abnormal blood vessel growth, that is pushing the macula up. I have macular degeneration in my left eye and I’m not thirty.
Well, they can treat it. The current hot treatment is to inject an anti-angiogenic drug into the vitreous humor of the eye. So not only do I have the eye problems of someone twice my age, the best current solution is to let someone stick a needle into my eye.
I’m torn between a House-esque fascination with the rare and/or interesting and an increasing sensation of feeling sick to my stomach.
My fascination is, at least, authentic. It’s not bravado. I am interested in the treatment, and the theory behind it. And I hold out hope for future research and improvement in treatment.
Then the health care reform bill passed the House, and I’ve been feeling sick ever since.
I’m thirty. I’m afflicted with a disorder normally belonging to people twice my age. I can only, rationally, expect that the health of my eyes will not improve as I age. If I am lucky, it will stay the same for years before degenerating further. If I am unlucky, I will lose my vision.
And now, with the abomination of socialized care before me, what do I have to look forward to? Only to be left to go blind when I am no longer of any use to society. If there are new treatments, would I be permitted to benefit from them? As it stands right now, with relatively excellent health insurance and with separate vision insurance, I don’t know if my treatment will be covered. I would far rather pay for my treatment and take what comes, as I am faced with doing now! I have always stood or stumbled on my own feet, but I have never felt so powerless about my future as I do today.

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May 2010


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