مرحبا عليكم!

I study languages.

Thursday, December 31, 2009


I'm a teenage university senior.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Last night I welcomed Christmas Eve with my best friends. We call ourself the Friendship (F-ship for short) and all seven of us have been best friends since junior high (or before). We're kind of a package deal. People know us as a collective unit. In all honesty, these girls are my family. ♥
The night comprised:
- a tumultuous trip to Wal-Mart for last-minute sibling gifts and dramatic New Year's makeup
- the collective purchase of a ridiculous 90s chick flick
- the consuming of many mini oranges (whatever they're called)
- the starting of said '90s flick at 1:30 AM
- the finishing of said '90s flick at 3:30 AM
- plentiful girl talk
- falling asleep on the couch together
- waking up to a beautiful snowfall

Merry Christmas. Thank God for friends as beautiful/wonderful/perfect as mine.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


A survey of the literature for my Evolutionary Psychology and the Arts class, which, now that the booklist is out, promises to be more interesting than I expected.
(p.s., man, i'm blogging up a storm today. these things happen when you have zero pressing engagements.)


It's almost 2 PM, and I'm still in my pajamas with no makeup on. I just built a gingerbread house with my little sister, and snow is falling outside. Once I get ready and shower, I'm heading to Barnes and Noble. Idyllic, eh?

[saw this on fb & had time/the desire to fill it out (!)]

10 things I want for Christmas:
1. No homework/work/obligations of any nature. (Check)
2. My family. (Check)
3. My friends. (Check--except the roomies; I miss you guys!)
4. A spot in section 11 of next semester's physics lab. Come on, someone has to drop it...
5. MCAT prep stuff. Call me boring, and I'll call you impractical.
6. A luscious anthology of short stories.
7. A new purse; mine's getting old.
8. New music
9. New clothes
10. Wall art

9 things I enjoy:
1. Cello, pianos, and violins
2. Soft blankets
3. Peppermint ice cream
4. Red velvet cupcakes
5. Having expendable time
6. Baby laughter
7. Savory crepes
8. Compelling literature
9. Live musicals

8 things I do every day:
1. Compulsively check my e-mail
2. A crossword puzzle
3. My makeup
4. Talk to myself
5. Plan out my day
6. Smile
7. Eat something chocolate (even if it's just one M&M)
8. Facebook (don't pretend you don't)

7 musicians I like:
1. Regina Spektor
2. Bright Eyes (or Conor Oberst alone)
3. Rilo Kiley
4. Ingrid Michaelson
5. Kings of Convenience
6. Postal Service
7. Glee cast!

6 things that will always win my heart:
1. Intelligence
2. Sincerity
3. Wit
4. Musical talent
5. Eloquence
6. Ambition

5 favorite things:
Movie: A Beautiful Mind
Song: The Call (Regina)
Book: The Poisonwood Bible
Food: My mom's chicken enchiladas
Season: Winter

4 smells I enjoy:
1. Vanilla
2. Chocolate chip oatmeal cookies
3. Sunday roast
4. Snow clothes (if you ski, you know what I mean)

3 places I want to go:
1. Antarctica (I'd name a city, but I don't think they have cities)
2. Moscow
3. Mumbai

2 favorite holidays:
1. Thanksgiving
2. Easter

1 person I'd marry on the spot:
1. Taylor Lautner (I kid, I kid...)


I'm not a 13-year-old girl or a 32-year-old shutin, but I do read My Life is Average.
I read it for the same reason I compulsively read blogs written by people I've never met. Think about this: For the first time in the history of the world(!), we have a collective medium in which any person from anywhere can express his or her opinion about anything. Yeah, 90% of people probably should just keep their mouths shut. But that's exactly why I like it. I have a penchant for New Historicism, and I believe the Internet contains some of the most interesting forms of sub-literary cultural expression.

Now that my interest is justified, I can tell you that the only "story" I've ever submitted to MLIA was published! :-) I won't tell you which it is, but I will say that it is one of very few that is grammatically/conventionally perfect. Plus, it's actually funny (and not fake), which is why I submitted it.

Monday, December 21, 2009


Finishing at 101.84%, I top my entire Physics 105 class. Take that, gender-biased pre-med male colleagues who write me off as a scientist because I'm blonde and female. Take that, stupid nerds who yell out obnoxious comments to sound smart in class (please explain this to me; those kids are, without fail, retards, and when I feel particularly vindictive, I love popping their moronic bubbles).

p.s. ooooooooooohhh.

Fascinated, I showed this to my dad. Confused, his only response was, "Why would you do this?"
Because it is awesome, Dad, because it is awesome.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Christmas Break Goals
in any given order, except for number one, whose place at the top of the list assures its importance:

1. Rewatch Season 5 of Lost
2. Finish my book and at least three more
3. Write missionary letters (My poor friends! I write once and they never hear from me again)
4. Finish my plethora of summer research applications (I'm applying to 12-15 universities)
5. Solicit two stellar letters of recommendation
6. Get over this crazy cold (I haven't been sick in years; why start now?)
7. Host a fabulous black tie New Year's event
8. Pick up (and pore over) my new set of textbooks
9. Pick up both Glee soundtracks (or receive them for Christmas*)
10. Reclaim my pre-college dominance on the piano
11. Enjoy sun, shopping, and a basketball tournament in Las Vegas
12. Catch air on a snowmobile over the Continental Divide
13. Practice Arabic so I don't lose what marginal proficiency I've earned
14. Enjoy the holidays with my family :-)

Already started: 1, 2, 6, 14
Already finished: 5, 11

I love Christmas!

* This star denotes a Hint.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


My best idea this semester?
I made a completely anonymous TA evaluation for myself and sent it to my class.

It's both frightening and liberating to see what people REALLY think of you. My first (and favorite) question is "Describe Jessica in one word."

Responses so far (verbatim):

Hmm...perky? I don't think I've ever had that said about me. It's a quality I kind of hate. Maybe it's a result of nerves. I always wanted to film myself teaching so I could see how I sound. Maybe my anxiety comes off as perkiness.

Answers to the other survey questions reveal that I apparently explain things well, grade fairly, and that I'm not annoying. 100% of all respondents replied "Extremely true" to "Jessica cared about me! and "Jessica is a nice person." :-)

Positive comments so far:
"She seemed like she knew what she was talking about/knew the material really well."
"She is always smiling and lets us know straight what we need to know."
"She was really great at giving feedback and always wrote the right answer on our quizzes."
"Very approachable and kind."

And the negative side:
"Ummm...she tends to not explain more." (What does this mean?)
"I don't even know."
"Nothing! she was great!"

And an interesting one that someone wrote for positive AND negative:
"Was seen but not heard in class."

Well, I teach lab, not lecture...
I'll keep you updated as more people take the survey. In the words of Kronk, "That's one more for exotic bird bingo. I am loving this."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Want to be impressed? Really, really impressed? Check out the first song here.


Monday, December 14, 2009


I splashed into finals week today, submerging myself in physics and surfacing only to breathe in my perfect score. I love the little Testing Center messages when you're flawless. Congratulations! Perfect Score! Wonderful! They're very gratifying. I think I'd be even happier with my score, though, if I cared for physics at all. My physics class is a great example of why I'm sick of university-level science. It's huge, and the only reason I even come to class is for the iClicker quizzes and because I can't help but hold onto some stupid hope that one day, I will learn something I couldn't have gotten faster from an equation sheet. I space out or do other homework while jotting down necessary equations, and then I do all my homework right before the online deadline and don't think about the material until the exam rolls around. I've never had a physics class, so I guess I'm "learning" how to do physics, but believe me, I'm not learning anything. I learn through discussion, through intellectual arguments and trial and error and hands on work. Formulaic estimations get me nowhere. Ugh.

FACT 1: I love science. Pathophysiology gets me so excited I can barely form complete sentences.
FACT 2: Science classes suck. They're huge and no one cares about you. Plus, pre-meds annoy the crap out of me. And no, I'm not pre-med per se; I'm pre-MD/PhD. The difference is FACT 1.
FACT 3: English classes suck even more than science classes, which is why I'm an English minor and not an English major. If I haven't posted about this recently, get ready for the Airing of Grievances (Festivus?), because I have two English classes next semester.
FACT 4: Arabic classes rock.

Arabic has catalyzed my intellectual expansion for the first time in years; through intensively studying a non-Latin, non-traditional language, my volume of knowledge has honestly ballooned. I've cruised along in math and science classes for too long without really having to give much thought to anything, but in Arabic, time spent in class doesn't consist of someone telling me things I already know.

I also had a job interview today. I don't know whether they liked me or not. I talked too much, I think.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Some guy outside the Bookstore just handed me a free apple. I devoured it happily and without question. Maybe I should be more careful about eating things given to me by people I don't know.

I'm currently sitting on a table in the Wilk terrace, and the guy across from me is having an intense relationship conversation with his male friend on the phone. I'm happily transcribing everything he's saying. It's a great typing exercise; plus, it's hilarious. I didn't know guys got advice this intensive from their friends.
Try this on for size (BYU exclusive!):

"If she starts kissing more than one person at a time, are you okay with that? You've gotta decide, man. And you've gotta warn your girl about that, if you decide to 'let her loose,' in a sense. Say, like, I'm going to only date you, that's my decision. But as far as you go, don't hurt me. I have to ask that. But you've got to make up where that boundary is. I'm not trying to say it's this way or the highway, but you do have to protect yourself to a point...Cause that's what it is, it's a feeling. First of all, does she have authority through received promptings for your life? No. So what was it? It was a strong desire of hers. Because she didn't want it to be exclusive. Well, it's so easy for me to sit here and analyze all of this stuff, but it comes to my own life, and it's like, shoot, I'm such a screwup. Maybe you can say, 'You don't have to call it exclusive, but I'm going to call it exclusive. You just keep me informed so I don't feel cheated.' Maybe she's just gotta work it out in her mind. And that's a good middle ground. I think girls are a little bit more accustomed to that, because they're the ones who are asked out."

Monday, November 30, 2009


I'm grading 400-level term papers. Or, I should be grading 400-level term papers. In reality, the papers are sitting quietly in a stack next to me on the couch, waiting patiently for my acknowledgment. I try my best to be as fair as possible, but in assigning people actual numerical scores I can't help but feel arbitrary. Student X writes an adequate essay--nothing spectacular, but nothing fatally flawed. Do I give him an 81 or an 83? Student Y knows what she's talking about, but egregious surface errors distract me from giving her a score she might deserve were my opinion based on content alone. 85 for her. Maybe. And Student Z, an overachiever after my own heart, presents a picture-perfect paper (I tried to think of another p-word to put here, but gave up after my first thought: "pyelogram," an radiographic image of the renal pelvis), but I don't give her a perfect score. It's a 97 for you, Student Z, though if you asked me what you did wrong, I'd nit-pick over pointless flaws subject to my mood.

My score sheet shows that I prefer odd numbers to even and that it's difficult (if not impossible) for me to award any of my students less than eighty percent. After all, I ripped apart their rough drafts with my merciless red pen (really, I use blue, not red, because of something I read that said receiving a paper back covered in red pen is a sucker punch to the self-esteem), and if my seniors incorporated my extensive revisions, they should sound fine. Actually, I guess, they should sound like me. And honestly, I can't decide whether or not that's fair.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Silly Eye Color Generalizations
by Regina Spektor
(an excerpt)

But those with blue [eyes] I shouldn't trust
'Cause I myself have blue
You fall for them so easy
You think you see right through

You take a leap, thinking the water is deep
When suddenly it's just grey rain
Then puddles at your feet, they freeze to dirty ice
But somehow they'll melt back to clean blue water once again

Blue eyes, they change like the weather
Blue sea, blue sky, blue pain
I wouldn't trust my own blue-eyed reflection
As far as I could throw that mirror.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Today a child came into my bedroom and pointed at my scarves. She jingled the coins on my belly-dancing skirt softly, so I wouldn’t hear from my place on the living room couch. My roommate—her sister—told the girl I had been to Jerusalem, where Jesus was, like in the New Testament, and I heard her small voice whisper, “Really?” Furtively, she shot a glance at me as I lay wrapped in a pink blanket on my couch, writing Arabic. I saw decision in her eyes. “Um,” she called, brown hair soft around her face. I looked up.
“Did you go in the tomb? Jesus’s tomb?”
“Yeah,” I said, smiling. “I did.”
“Was it cold?”
Cold? I suppressed a grin. The one pressing question this child has about Jerusalem concerns the temperature inside the Garden Tomb.
“No,” I babbled, “Jerusalem’s pretty hot in the summer. I hear it gets cold and rainy during the winter, but the tomb itself isn’t necessarily cold.”
She smiled, like I’d validated a fact she’d always known to be true.

It isn’t cold in the Garden Tomb. The tomb itself is carved from stone, and visitors are only allowed to walk on the left side. There’s a metal grate that separates the stone where Jesus may have been lain from hordes of passionate visiting pilgrims; judging by the dramatic displays observed regularly at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, it seems appropriate that here, one can see, but not touch. A carved wooden plaque inside the makeshift door reads, “He is not here, for He is Risen.”

People often sing inside the tomb; I’ve heard hymns in languages from Ethiopian to Swedish exuding from that famous rectangular hole in the wall. I would sit in the garden on many occasions; we visited at least every other Sunday. I read scriptures or wrote in my journal on the limestone bench across from the tomb, my upper body swathed in vibrant Middle Eastern flowers. Sometimes I’d join a tour group led by one of the few British theologians responsible for the garden’s upkeep and be moved almost to tears by the guide’s sweet Christian testimony, no matter how many times I’d heard it. Other times, I’d find a spot away from the main attraction, like the shady bench under the ivy-frosted bridge, and, in the words of Anne Shirley, “just feel a prayer.”
Oh, how I miss Jerusalem.

Friday, November 20, 2009


I am officially OVERWHELMED.

Today I learned that I have to originally derive a modified Mankin scoring system to describe the degradation of articular cartilage in a heterozygotic spondyloepiphyseal dysplastic mouse model. I then have to compile Shaela's and my work into a prospectus detailing what I plan to do for my honors thesis and how it will fit into the body of existing research...all by the end of finals week.
Then, over the next half of my college life, I have to DO the research. My professor describes my work as incredibly publishable, and I've been promised lead authorship (!!!) on any paper I produce. Honestly, it's impossible for me to ignore the allure of such a prospect. Am I really such a glutton for recognition that I'll sacrifice my life to peer-reviewed science journals?


AND, before Monday, I have to take the most complex molecular biology exam of the semester and write a 2500-word midterm for Philosophy of Medical Thought, tiptoeing around my words so my semantics-obsessed professor won't find problems with my vocab (seriously, he takes off points for reasons like "You should have used 'word x, interchangeable synonym of word y' here"). However, ever since I had an intense emotional breakdown in his office, he's been extra careful with my scores--I even received a perfect grade on the huge term paper I turned in last week. I think he's decided that he would rather keep my emotional health WNL than risk another episode of that nature. Let's just say I have a consistently embarrassing history with PMS and confrontations.

I saw BYU's production of Children of Eden last night and loved it, though the costume concept was a little off-the-wall. I cried multiple times. It's hard for a story like that NOT to hit home.

If I can survive until Monday, I'm home free until Thanksgiving break ends. I'm deluding myself into thinking I have much more time off than I actually do, if only in order to propel myself through this preliminary home stretch.
Next semester should be better--I hope.

Friday, November 13, 2009

the intellectual's love poem.

you'd wonder, if you read my mind
my thoughts grow thick and well-entwined
and underneath the velvet brush--
a vicious yearning for your touch.
you'll never see, i hide it well
bound, blind, and gagged, its instinct quelled
it's strange for me to comprehend
the ways of my commensal friend
he always tries to force my gaze
rip my fine focus from life's maze
and logic wins, but to a point
until your mind makes mine disjoint
my body language tells you more
than what i've said since or before
i try and hide my heart, it's true
my muscles red and vessels blue
yet maybe for a moment you
glimpse something i, in fact, see too.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mixed emotions.

Last night my laptop's hard drive crashed. The screen froze up while I was entering quiz grades into Blackboard, so I pushed the power button to reset it, but my attempts at resuscitation came too late--its little soul had already passed into the realm of the no longer functional. Luckily, I have all my important files (pictures, music, etc.) backed up on an external hard drive. It was still sad, though. That little guy served me well for nearly two straight years. REQUIEM.

Today during lunch I visited the Pre-Professional Office. The whole atmosphere in there makes me sick. It was full of anxious pre-med and pre-law students attacking their respective counselors about recommendation letter dates, personal statements, and AMCAS troubleshooting. I sat quietly on a couch and flipped through the MSAR, which made me feel even worse. I don't know why this happens. I have a 4.0 and three semesters of advanced undergraduate research along with a 400-level TA job and an extensive, consistent service commitment, and I'm only a sophomore. By all standards, I'm a competitive applicant. But looking at the cold, hard stats turns my stomach. I don't want to see that the NYU College of Medicine has a median accepted GPA of 3.9 and an average MCAT score three points above the average for accepted students. Regardless of my position in the application process, that makes me feel inadequate.

Anyway, I'll leave you with the Miraculous Happening of the Day:
Last night I ended up just sleeping over at my family's house; I didn't want to drive back to my apartment at 3 AM. So I got up early, as is usual for me on Wednesdays (I teach), but took my time leisurely eating a bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats. By the time I got to my apartment, I literally had five minutes to get ready before walking (running) to school, so I changed, brushed my teeth, and zoomed out the door. On my way up the hill south of campus, though, something made me slow down. There was a kid struggling up the hill with bulky crutches and a massive backpack. I felt bad. After seeing six ankle surgeries that left my previously sports-obsessed cousin almost totally unable to walk, I have a soft spot for people on crutches. I stopped next to him. "Do you need any help?" I asked, expecting him to brush me off. He hesitated, and then almost broke down. "Actually, that would be great. I think this would be a lot easier if I wasn't so weighed down," he said, face flushed with emotion and relief, and handed me his backpack, which was almost as heavy as mine. We walked up the hill together, making polite small talk. I walked him to the Eyring Science Center, where he said he could take it from there. He thanked me profusely, and I felt wonderful. "This is so worth being late," I thought. "My professor will understand."
I walked into the Widtsoe building, sure I was at least ten minutes late for class.
I arrived at exactly the time I had wanted to arrive when I ran out of my apartment.
Impossible. But true.

I think Heavenly Father really knows how to take care of people.

Monday, November 9, 2009


Not all plastic spoons are created equal.
They're supposed to be, of course. Each one makes its way down the same shiny little ramp at the manufacturing plant in China boasting an identical mix of semisynthetic, semiorganic, amorphous-solid polymers. But however noble the producers' efforts to create a sea of disposable cutlery clones, their goal is never perfectly achieved. Blame it on the flaws built into a Gaussian distribution, but I can taste a difference.

It's not that I think about spoon morphology often. By their very nature, spoons aren't supposed to call attention to themselves. They're a means to an end, nothing more. But when a spoon is imperfect, I can't think of anything else. Maybe there's one little ridge in its otherwise pristine plastic surface. Maybe one edge is an eighth of a millimeter higher than the other. Maybe the bowl is just the tiniest bit deeper than usual.

Let me tell you one thing. I know how spoons are supposed to feel in my mouth.
And when I get one that doesn't conform, I'm not sure how I should react. Should I praise the Industrial Production Gods for evidence that even machines aren't perfect? Should I blame the unskilled laborer who forgot to fine-tune that one last piece of machinery at the end of his sixteen-hour day? Should I direct my emotion toward scientifically perfecting said machinery to the point where I inadvertently eliminate the job of the unskilled laborer (and any hope for the human element with respect to robots)? I’m not sure. What I am sure of, though, is that making that collect call to Guangzhou cost way more than it was worth.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Concert review.

She is better live than she is on CD--and that's a standard difficult to achieve. A classically trained Jewish/Russian pianist with a smile as attractive as her stage presence, Regina employs the talents of a violinist, cellist, and drummer to complement her grand piano onstage. She even picks up a sea green electric guitar and pop-synth keyboard for a few numbers, giggling with the audience at her spirited crowd-pleasing efforts. The real gem in Ms. Spektor's musical crown, though, is her vocal prowess. Whimsical at best and nonsensical at worst, Regina's words hold a mirror to every song, each one generously marbled with quirky, sparkling sounds. I sometimes take music too seriously--every track by my beloved Bright Eyes is its own tortured lyrical epic--but Regina's playful, bubbly vowels remind me that music is meant to be liberating.

Friday, November 6, 2009


Two Saturdays ago, I spent كل يوم in my favorite grey armchair at Barnes and Noble immersed in one memoir and one novel. I've been hearing increasing amounts of buzz about Miss Memoirre (no, that word is NOT French, it's Mine), so I thought I'd better review her book before someone beats me to the punch (and claims they found it first. After all, I am nothing if not competitive).


Baker's an under-the-radar comedian who's done work for This American Life and BBC, and she's worth your attention. You'll snort out loud at her ridiculous exploits as a young, single Mormon woman in New York City, especially if you're familiar with the cultural context for her subtle inside jokes. Baker's unfailing naivete never fails to provide a healthy basis for comedy, whether she's being romantically pursued by a famous actor, selling an ugly doll to a bratty child, or joking about losing eighty pounds (in her words, "pooping out a fourth grader"). As irreverent as it is compelling, this full-blown memoir written by a woman not yet thirty is sure to raise some eyebrows, but Baker does an admirable job of keeping her writing accessible without falling into the premature grandiosity characteristic of so many virgin authors (no pun intended)--or, for that matter, the mediocrity typical of the same.

Next up:

After Hosseini's epically emotional '03 tale ("The Kite Runner"), I felt I had every reason to expect great things from his critically lauded sophomore effort. Maybe I set my expectations too high. I enjoyed Miriam and Laila's heartwrenching, bloody escape from a relationship of government-sanctioned domestic violence, but for some reason, this text just couldn't induce the same binding emotional attachment I have to Hosseini's first novel--and it tried. I was interested, but not captivated, and therein lies the difference.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Ten Things I Like In People:
(reminds me: awwww.)

1) Intelligence
Nothing's more attractive than someone at the top of their game--and everyone else's.

2) Passion
People who obviously love something have the capacity to obviously love you.

3) Wit
True humor involves more subtlety than slapstick.

4) Attention to detail
Those who find the most joy in the littlest things know something the rest of us don't.

5) Attention to decibel
"Quiet" doesn't automatically imply "boring." "Reserved" doesn't automatically imply "naive."

6) Service
People who help out when no one else is watching bring sunshine to a world in greyscale.

7) Spirituality
Recognition of a higher power implies both humility and hope for the future.

8) An element of the Fantastic
Someone even marginally encompassed by enigma will never fail to surprise you.

9) Independence
The responsibility of supporting oneself dictates a clearheaded sense of obligation and consequence.

10) Integrity
Either you have it, or you don't.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


I have four midterms and a paper due this coming week. So, logically, I'm blogging instead of studying.
I think I'm too complacent about physics. I haven't had any problems with rotational motion (angular momentum, centripetal acceleration, and the like), so I'm more confident than I should be about tomorrow's exam. Arabic, too--I know I'm not sure how to spell everything, but for some reason, I'm too lazy to practice. I'm not even going to think about molecular biology until Tuesday night. I'll be finished with all these tests by Wednesday, and then I have a blind date Thursday night and the Regina Spektor concert to top off my Friday. Eventful, to say the least.

Halloween was...interesting.
I admit to:
* Looking fabulous as an Egyptian belly dancer with the authentic accessories I bought in a Luxor night market
* Letting far too many guys get all up on me (yes, the dialect is intentional and appropriate) at the Loft
* Kissing someone whose name I never asked
* Practicing my Arabic with a random Moroccan dancer
* Screaming during 1979's "Alien" at some twenty-five year old graduate's house

such is the life.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


After pulling out of an on-campus parking lot the other day, I braked to let a few girls walk in front of my car. I watched them pass, absentmindedly analyzing their carefully chosen color combinations, and then my heart replaced my tongue. Shocked, I watched a brunette tuck a copy of my favorite novel into her bookbag. That's mine, I thought, in a flash of possessive indignation. I know every word of that text; my favorite parts are marked with love, tattooed into my mind's skin; the characters live in my subconscious memory, a series of emergent illusions only half mine. Can they be hers, too? Does she see herself in their eyes, or does she see me without knowing who I am?

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Ever since school started, I've lived life in muted colors and organic light. I listen to acoustic guitar and jazz piano while wearing earth-toned dresses and argyle tights. My thin, meticulous script lines the pages of perfect assignment after perfect assignment before I allow myself to indulge--to enjoy fresh salsa, a crossword puzzle, or the occasional episode of Glee.

REALIZATION: I'm horridly, inescapably mellow.
COUNTER-REALIZATION: Last night reawakened my senses.

My soft, efficient little bubble is, on all accounts, perfect. But honestly, I'd forgotten how much fun sharp lines and bold pigments can be. I'd forgotten the euphoric, harsh adrenaline that comes with driving fast, windows down, blasting something with a beat--with edgy games at 4 AM, falling asleep with a guy I hardly know, and eating French Toast at noon when we wake up.

Driving back to my apartment, I put my headphones in. Instead of the usual Ingrid Michaelson or Iron and Wine, I chose Jay-Z.
It's going to be a good day.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Paper rustles and I shift,
Patient, waiting here alone.
If I turn my head enough
I can see the next white room.
Screams of terror, fear, and pain
Mother’s reassurances
Thin, sharp needle, caught, then free
Band-aids and a goodbye kiss.
Goosebumps grow along my arms
Door creaks, and she’s far too near—

Tossing small talk in the air,
Colorful confetti words,
Frantic to distract myself
Yet I offer up my flesh
Smiling, like a blinded lamb,
Basest instincts tranquilized
Docile, I remain composed
Body soft, her needle poised
Metal penetrates my skin
Carves a hole into my arm,
Controlled trauma—it’s my fault
I’m grown up; I can’t react—

Child, at least you possess
The presence of mind to scream.


So I haven't had time to post like I thought I would.
I have 35 six to eight page parasitology papers sitting on my desk, screaming to be edited. I love editing papers. I just don't have the time. Hopefully I'll be finished by Tuesday, or my poor students are going to have to revise and resubmit on amphetamines.

I'm sick of having random lists of bloggable items everywhere, SO, at risk of ruining soon-to-be blog items, I'm posting my little list here. Be tantalized.

Kids and flu shots—presence of mind to scream
Seeing my own blood--chilling
Recipe construct. Simmer until cooked.
Ideas swirling under the surface, waiting to catch my conscious attention. Smoky tongues stick lightly, just enough so I can know they’re there.
Taking equations for granted
Seeing a random person with my favorite book
Taste for Arabic vocab
"All you need to do is challenge Jessica. She's so competitive, she'll do anything."
"Jessica's quiz answers are usually the gold standard against which I judge all other answers."
Time I spend with married men vs. time I spend dating
"My finger, the blue one--looks like I'm cooking crack."
Religion as a crutch

Saturday, October 17, 2009


I keep a list of things in the back of my mini planner to blog about.
It's about a page long, but last week I had three tests and three essays, so blogging has been de-prioritized.
I should have more time this week, though, and I want to catch up. :-)
I'm going to take a Molecular Biology test right now. In the meantime, amuse yourself with this e-mail from my friendly neighborhood physics lab TA. I laughed out loud. Maybe I should take the ALL CAPS APPROACH.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Comment on my most recent philosophy essay quiz (no emphasis added; all كلم كلم):

"You write excellent quiz answers! You are obviously studying the material with serious intent!"

I'm just a pre-med who has perfected the art of blitz memorization.


ما عنديش وقت

It is intellectually thrilling to be able to write in Arabic.
The statement above explains my recent lack of posts.
Not only is it spelled right, it is also grammatically correct.


Thursday, October 1, 2009


I should be nicer/more open to people. xkcd nails my typical reaction (as usual).
I actually had this exact exchange this week in the Wilkinson Center (only it wasn't a laptop, and the last panel took place in my head).

(original: xkcd.com/642)
It's not arrogance. Logically, it's confusion mixed with annoyance. You are interfering with my meticulously determined time management schedule. I know you're not interested. I'm definitely not interested. And I hate small talk. So back off. Thanks in advance. :-)

Thanks, Lee, for reminding me of this one!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Today was quite possibly one of the worst days I have ever experienced.

I'm generally a happy person. Sure, I work myself to death, but most of the time I feel like it's masochistically therapeutic.
Not today.

Today began at 4:50 AM after finishing my Arabic homework. Now, you need to understand something about me. I do all my work before I let myself relax. If I am doing homework at 4:50 AM, it is because I have been doing homework ever since class ended. I don't believe in taking breaks. Anyway, I finally finish my last page of simple sentences ("Did you have a blue car yesterday? No, I did not have a blue car yesterday. I had a red car yesterday."), tiptoe into my room so as not to wake the beautiful roommate I haven't seen awake in three full days (our schedules are entirely opposite), set four alarms (6:10, 6:12, 6:15, and 6:18), and fall into bed in the dress I wore to school.

Some time passes.

I awaken without any stimulus. It's strange, but for a moment I relish the feeling. Then I realize that there is sunshine in my room. I don't remember the last time I've seen sunshine in my room. Suddenly, I sit bolt upright. SUNSHINE??? I reach across to the dresser at the foot of my bed and grab for my phone. The digital readout offers me the information I'm looking for, indifferent to my swiftly accelerating emotional pace. 12:32. TWELVE THIRTY-TWO?!

I zoom to my bedroom door and open it right on top of my roommate, Christina.
"IT'S TWELVE THIRTY-TWO," I utter, crazed.
"Yeah...?" she replies.
"Did you just wake up?"
"Oh my gosh...that sucks!"

In an act of childish frustration, I hurl the cell phone dangling from my limp fingers into the wall. I rush into my bedroom and rip a random outfit from my closet (disregarding the fact that it's freezing and raining), then comb through my hair and tear out the door. On the way to school, reality begins to set in. I missed five hours of work this morning. I let down a professor and thirty students. I didn't call, leave instructions, or otherwise arrange to be absent. What did everyone do? Did they wait for me? Did the professor have to skip another class to take over mine?

I have never failed in a professional capacity. I keep every commitment I make, whether that means I stay up all night performing reactions in my research lab or patiently tutoring people I don't have time to appease. I have very close to zero tolerance for those who don't feel as passionately as I do about professional obligations. What am I going to say to my professor? I have no excuse. I simply slept through class.
Sure, I'm taking 17.5 credits. Sure, I work three jobs. Sure, I maintain a 4.0. But that does not and should not afford me any leeway, not in my mind or in that of anyone else.

I slink my way into the Widtsoe building's elevator like a kicked puppy. I have become the person I hate. Upon reaching the seventh floor, I stand sapped outside the automatic doors, searching for words. Nothing seems adequate. Blankly, I walk up to my professor's office door, knock, and enter. "Hi!" He greets me with a smile, like nothing is wrong. I don't return his sentiment. "Hi," I reply shamefully. I sit down. "I have never been so professionally humiliated in my life," I offer. "Okay," he replies. Dispassionately, I string together the chain of events that led me to this moment, and he simply listens. I don't offer excuses or try and shift the blame to anyone but myself. I make it clear that I am absolutely embarrassed and incredibly sorry. We talk about my schedule and my life, and he tells me I'm crazy, that when I spread myself that thin, "everybody loses." I've been warned about this ever since I entered college, nineteen credits on my first freshman schedule and a backpack approximately the size and weight of a typical boulder. But for the first time in my life, this piece of advice clicks. Everybody loses. He's right. I have stretched myself so thin that my threads have finally snapped. I might have the willpower to live the life I've designed, but in all honesty, my body cannot take it. If I could, I'd stay up all night every night. Sleep is an annoyance; it gets in the way of my to-do lists. But it is necessary. Relationships, too, are necessary. Friends and ward activities and TV shows and creative writing and pleasure reading and aimless free time are necessary.

I am a person
and not a machine.

Today, this was made painfully apparent.
And maybe this time I'll learn.

On my way out, my understanding professor reassured me once again and offered me a fresh peach from his desk.
I took it.
It was delicious.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


So I wrote a lengthy tome about concision
Simply to display the fact I can
My professor, she's concerned about precision--
Ironically, she's now my biggest fan.

Guess what?

Do you concern yourself with your professor's hypothetical questions?
Do you take everything said in class as doctrine from the Enlightened?
Do you bother to be part of the collective reply when your professor asks something obvious?
Do you take (and subsequently memorize) overly specific notes?
Do you ask unnecessary, overly specific questions that do not concern the group?

I used to be one of you.
There is help.

It's incredibly easy to drown yourself in academic minutiae and lose all sight of the real world. Next time you find yourself losing sleep over the spacing on your perfectly formatted reference list, take a step back. Are you really wasting your time counting commas and spaces for a professor so wrapped up in his hyper-hyperspecialized research that his field of vision extends from one end of a beta-glucuronidase-stained Arabidopsis slide to the other?

You can do perfectly well in school without knotting your psychological well-being to your studies. I can't decide whether I wish I'd had this realization earlier or whether it will come back to bite me when it turns out my Molecular Biology notes are actually pathetic doodles of pathogenic hemoflagellates.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Peas, please!

Just now, sitting on my cheap, drab apartment couch, I realized the extent of my love for peas.

1) Peas are like vegetable Gushers. Each one is its own little explosive surprise in your mouth.

2) Peas are comfortingly warm. Next time you hold a bowl of peas, try this: While the peas are still hot, stir in butter, salt, and pepper and pour them into a nice bowl, preferably of thick material. Place the bowl at the base of your manubrium (see diagram) and enjoy the soothing warmth.

3) Peas are bright green. Nothing screams "Retinol!" quite like a 530 nm absorption wavelength.

4) Peas are healthy.
5) You can make peas in any quantity you want.
6) Peas aren't expensive.
7) Peas are a staple freezer food.
8) Peas are quick to make.
9) Peas are emotionally fulfilling.
10) Peas are DELICIOUS and wildly underrepresented on the vegetable scene.

Appreciate them!
This message brought to you by Google ImageSearch, some not-so-subtle copy-and-paste maneuvers, and half an hour I planned to devote to physics homework.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


I'm not sure how old I am.

In my research lab, I'm 25. I control numerous things and people and speak with a confidence and maturity I don't always possess. In this atmosphere, I am regarded with intellectual respect. I can analyze and interpret results on the spot, answering questions and pointing out problems to my professor's delight. I walk in and am greeted by name, and people are paid for accommodating my requests.

In Arabic, I'm 5. I pronounce the letters of the alphabet with great care, memorizing what they look like and tracing their exotic shapes. Asking questions correctly and interpreting answers based on context is my game, and like a small child, I smile and nod when correctly understood.

As a program director and TA, I'm 23. Seniors are my students and volunteers, and as their non-PhD reference, I must know everything they know and how to integrate it with the course material I teach. In this context, I must understand and thoroughly answer unclear and misphrased questions, and the things I say are written down to be memorized before an exam.

My birth certificate tells me that last month I turned 19, though I don't feel like the number describes me. Nineteen seems both too old and too young, especially when my age varies so much by situation. I lose credibility when someone I talk to asks about my age before my resume, but gain nearly as much as I lose when someone asks about my accomplishments without realizing my age.

It's an arbitrary concept, really. Age isn't determined by a date on a birth certificate. Age is an emergent illusion that derives from the combination of the way I look, the way I speak, and the way I present myself to a new and judgmental audience.

For two years, my solution has been thus: I present myself as the Generic College-Age Pre-Professional Student, and nobody has to wonder whether the girl at the front of the classroom teaching techniques in immunohistochemical staining is still technically a teenager.

Monday, August 31, 2009

And scene.

It's that time again!

Cue class assessments.

Research Lab: This morning I got up at 5:30 AM to vie for publication space with sixteen hungry male pre-meds. I picked up a cool project and will be able to head it up myself, but only time will tell whether I get my name on anything major. The pressure! (As an aside, I completed today's Times crossword with no help, and the first major piece I got read, "Publish or perish." Great.)

Phil 350: History and Philosophy of Medicine turns out to be a straight-up technical philosophy course. I'm one of four girls, which I can definitely handle. We're responsible for 25-page term papers, though, which have to be written in assigned groups (wtf). Hopefully I'll get a few kids who I can easily intimidate into doing things my way. :-) I just hope the professor's a fan of the Socratic approach. I'm jonesing for good questions.

Arabic 101: Man! This class is going to be a whirlwind. It's taught by a grad student, which should be...interesting. Not to brag, but I'm pleasantly surprised at how quickly I seem to pick things up. I remember things well and pick up on patterns. I'm excited for this one!

Tomorrow--TAing!, molecular biology, Arabic, & physics.

Friday, August 28, 2009


Yesterday I started to move out of my apartment, so I went through all my things to determine what I should bring with me. I was making wonderful progress until the unthinkable happened: I stumbled upon a box of books. Uh-oh. Three hours and one novel later, I realized it was 1 AM...and that my new roommates might think I'm creepy for trying to move in in the middle of the night. What kept me busy was this:

Written from the perspective of an autistic child, this simple, creative story will leave you emotionally exhausted in the best possible sense. Author Mark Haddon describes the world through Christopher's eyes with abject force, and the child's lack of situational understanding and context will strike any reader as both hilarious and painful. Christopher's father, Ed, is the character for whom I feel most sympathy--it's a quick read; pick it up and find out why!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Blast off!


Resuming interactions on BYU campus is reminding me that, there, I am Someone. :-) The last thing I thought I'd take from Jerusalem was a battered self-image, but I'm realizing that though I had the most amazing time of my life, I've been on a self-low for most of the summer. Now, I am back in action as a force to be reckoned with (haha) and haven't felt this good in a while.

I've been pleasantly informed that the director of the Jerusalem Center has given my name to a few influential people with the tagline "the best writer in the Center" (!!!), so a few new and exciting doors in editing and composition are opening for me (with financial compensation, no less!). I'll let you know if things in this area are further solidified. I've also gone over plans for this coming semester with the professor I'm going to TA for, and I've been pleased and grateful to find that he seems to truly value my opinions and input. I helped design a major term paper assignment today for which I'm going to take full responsibility--editing drafts, grading, etc.--and I can't wait! It's going to be an amazing semester. Plus, I've been in contact with the Center for Service and Learning in conjunction with my position as a new program director, and I'm putting on a poster demonstration tomorrow afternoon at the New Student Orientation Service Fair. I haven't visited with my lab professor yet, but I'm planning on starting in a new position (hopefully immunohistochemistry or electron microscopy!), and I can't wait to jump back into research.

My classes sound exciting, too, especially History and Philosophy of Medicine. It's a small 300-level philosophy class with one of the best-reviewed professors I've seen, and judging from the text, I can't wait to share what I already know about the subject (I've read a lot about the early history of medicine, but haven't studied it from an etiological or philosophical perspective!). And I can't wait to start studying Arabic more seriously; learning a non-Latin language will be an interesting intellectual challenge.

I have (most of) my books, I move into my new apartment tomorrow, and I'm psyched to start the new life I've worked so hard to create for myself.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Soap Bubble

I dipped my wand into the smiling light
And pressed my lips into the tight, glossed shine
The shape I saw was far too quickly gone.

I blew and gasped a little; it was bright
Through pretty lips I don’t believe were mine
I dipped my wand into the smiling light.

You blossomed, grinning, much to my delight
And melted me before we could entwine
The shape I saw was far too quickly gone.

But never was I doubtful or contrite
It’s my fault, then; I couldn’t see the sign
I dipped my wand into the smiling light.

Though rare, sometimes you wandered from my sight,
Your velvet shadow ripped from my design—
The shape I saw was far too quickly gone.

A bubble can’t put up a valiant fight
And time must first erase, then recombine
I dipped my wand into the smiling light
The shape I saw was far too quickly gone.

Friday, August 21, 2009


As usual, xkcd can describe my day better than I can: xkcd.com/294

Four hours at Barnes and Noble took me through "The Book of Lost Things" by John Connolly, a delightfully macabre narrative romp through the shadowy realm of the Brothers Grimm. David, a boy recently devastated by his mother's untimely death, embarks on an Alice-esque coming-of-age quest only to encounter a twisted all-star cast of folk tale villains along the way. Written for adults, this creative mythological survey will remind you why you hid your head under the covers during "Hansel and Gretel."

(Can you tell my mom's an endorsement editor? I've helped write pithy quotes for the backs of books for as long as I can remember.)

Yesterday in my bubble bath I finished "The Bell Jar" by Sylvia Plath, the literary jewel of the woman for whom I've harbored a morbid three-year fascination. I'm familiar with most of her poetry, but hadn't picked up her iconic novel until the day after my return from Jerusalem. I'm glad I saved it until I turned nineteen (same age as protagonist Esther Greenwood); there were many instances of age-related resonance I felt privileged to share. Plath's imagery, too, functioned beautifully within its context--accurate without overstepping its boundaries.

Thursday, August 20, 2009



American Lit podcasts from 11th grade.

I sampled a few of them and couldn't help feeling my eyes get a little glossy (talk about unexpected). I listened to Mr. Ostenson explicate motifs in The Great Gatsby and tried to name the familiar young voices I heard making comments. It's been three years since junior English, but, listening to Mr. Ostenson again, I wish I were in a literature class with a professor half so thoughtful.

Here's a sample, verbatim:

"Bottom of 187? Thanks. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy. They smashed up things--which ought to connote a car accident, right? A smashing, a crashing--they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness--and by carelessness, that's a loaded word, because what might that mean? (Lee, tentatively: Carefree? Hyung, loudly: Bad driving.) It might mean they're carefree, that they have no responsibilities, no obligations. It also might mean that they don't emotionally care, right? Either one fits nicely with Tom and Daisy, but the key is, what affords them this carelessness? (Class: Money.) It's their affluence and their wealth, right? So here's a very biting class commentary with cars and driving..."

Awww. I don't often miss high school, but now I wish I could have just one last literature class with the old high school AP set.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


I haven't spent a summer at home since I was 14--for good reason. I'll only be here for two weeks, but I'm already incredibly frustrated.
Ready for a rant?

My friends all have jobs, so I have no life until after everyone gets off (10 or 11 pm). I stay up and play until 2 or 3, then crash on my couch (I don't even have a bedroom here) until I wake up at 6:30 (thank you, Jerusalem), gulp down some pills, and again render myself unconscious until 11 or so. Then, depending on my mood, I will exercise, take hot baths with books, and/or compulsively complete crossword puzzles until I'm sick of everything. After this, I shower and get ready for the day, taking all the time I possibly can to do my hair and makeup. By this time, it is 2 pm, and I prepare to enter the single worst part of my day: the three-to-seven time block, in which I inevitably make frustrating realizations: I have nowhere to go. I have no one to see. I can't think of anything I want. I can't think of anything at all to keep me busy. Life drags on in front of me. Somehow, I make it until seven or so, when I eat dinner (a highlight) and flip on a movie or something until my phone rings and I finally get out of my house.

Basically, I'm counting the HOURS until I can move out again and throw myself into my schoolwork.
I NEED places to go, appointments to keep, people to interact with, and things to stress about.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Sometimes those I talk to say things I want to remember.

“I think some people should learn to play a musical instrument and stop thinking about things so much. Anyone who appreciates classical music could never deny there is a God.” –Katherine

“I find men boring. Women are interesting; if not for their looks, then for their personality; if not even for that, then for their misery. Women torture themselves.” –Hyung

Sunday, August 16, 2009


To quote the third Lord of the Rings movie, "How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart you begin to understand there is no going back?"

I've been home for two days.

More than anything, I miss Jerusalem and my life in Israel.
Here in Provo, it's exactly like I've never left--the same people are in the same places doing the same things. I am different, and I find it difficult to reconcile my old life with my new self. I'm not an entirely changed person, but I have been altered just enough to make it hard to readjust. I'm a child's toy, a wooden shape trying to fit through a hole built exactly to fit, only to find that I'm no longer the size I once was. I've morphed into something just different enough that I don't fit into the space where I used to feel comfortable. I have gained balance and perspective, and where my life was once two-dimensional and linear, depth and shadow now fall across a spectrum of color.

Things I have done to reacquaint myself with my old life:
Eaten delicious, authentic Mexican food
Eaten sushi and edamame
Finished off season 5 of Lost
Hung out with my friends
Seen a movie without Semitic subtitles
Had my hair done
Gone shopping for normal clothes

Things I have done that reflect my new self:
Bought (and started) 365 Times crosswords
Started reading The Bell Jar and Atlas Shrugged
Captioned nearly two thousand travel photos

Things I have done that reflect an integration:
Started writing again

It's a process.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


I am eighteen.
I can make the above statement for thirty-four more hours.

Eighteen is safe. Eighteen is me. Eighteen is The Youngest, which I usually am (and which I love).
It's bad enough being prematurely serious, but nineteen? For the first time in My Personal History, I feel too old.

My schedule tells me that my birthday will consist of taking two finals (New Testament and NT Field Trips) and then spending the evening at the Western Wall, which makes for good personal essay fodder, if nothing else. I've been there so often it almost seems routine. That isn't to say I don't love the place, though. Nowhere else in the world can you find an open-air synagogue where dramatically dressed Orthodox Jews bang their heads on Herodian stones.

Life here is so much better than beautiful; I can't believe my four months end in nine days. It's all so surreal--I live in Jerusalem. I love the friends I've made. Though it's cliche, I can say I've honestly changed. I am more fully an adult, in the best sense possible. I came to Israel as a hardcore young professional. I leave with more balance, spiritually, physically, intellectually, and socially--and maybe just the tiniest added measure of grace.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Hello, world!
I've been on the road all over northern Israel for the past few weeks, so I apologize for lack of posts. I spent a beautiful week and a half on the beach at the idyllic sea of Galilee in a constant state of sunscreen and sweat (it's morbidly hot and humid there, with July temperatures well over a hundred degrees), kayaked the Jordan River, broke my left baby toe hiking in the Golan Heights, and stayed at a strictly kosher kibbutz (legitimate Israeli socialist compound; have I explained this already?). I have a psychotic dream to spend some time as a kibbutznik at some point in my life. Learn a language, learn an ideology, learn agricultural techniques...sounds like an experience. Also, Kibbutz Yotvata (my personal favorite) has the most delicious ice cream of all time, which is a plus.

More later.

Friday, July 3, 2009


My current list of unreasonable demands (disclaimer: it’s now 5 AM, so I cannot be held responsible for any sappy, dramatic, idealistic—well, you’ll see)…

1) One luscious red velvet cupcake, generously frosted
2) A fabulous piece of literature that I find impossible to put down
3) Warm and gooey chocolate chip oatmeal cookies
4) Perfectly temperate night air
5) Ambient indie mood music
6) A stunning new dress
7) A soft, snuggly blanket
8) A stimulating conversationalist to share it all with ☺


I'm sitting in complete blackness in front of a semicircle window on the sixth floor of the Center. Jerusalem is dead; tonight's sunset marked the onset of Shabbat, but I can still make out the dimly lit Dome of the Rock among the scattered city lights. The ethereal dome is backlit with a combination of faded colors that makes it shine almost green in the darkness, evocative of some Gatsby-esque ideal. It's 3:40 AM. I'm listening to the first call to prayer of the morning from an East Jerusalem minaret. A security guard just shone his flashlight in my face and bid me good morning.

Also, I discovered Plinky, a site that provides daily writing prompts for your blog just in case you run out of steam. Check it out. Here are some archived prompts I may use in the near future: What's your favorite word? What's the most on fire you've ever been? Write a haiku about the last movie you saw. Give us your unreasonable demands. Defend your vice.


I know, I know; I've been really terrible at posting lately.

My excuse is amusingly described by a Jerusalem classmate of mine here.

Luckily, everything turned out all right--at least, as far as I'm concerned. XD

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Things I learned during my fascinating week in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan:

* If there's anything Jordanians love more than their current king (Abdullah II), it's their late king (Hussein); royal photos are blown up on just about every wall in Amman.
* Khafiyas (traditional headdresses) are infinitely comfortable.
* I know enough Arabic to make halting conversation with Jordanian taxi drivers and/or salespeople. Marhaba! Esmi Jessica, ana amerkiyye, men Utah. W enti mneen? Qadesh il buzza? Wahaad dinar? Shukran w salam aleikum!
* Don't tell Jordanian taxi drivers you're studying in al-Quds (Jerusalem) unless you want an awkward anti-Israel rant.
* The late King Hussein had a lot of expensive cars, and for three dinars, you can see them in a museum downtown. It's worth it.
* American food tastes six million times better when you manage to find it in a refreshingly Western mall in Amman.
* Swiss ice cream is the best in the world.
* Parisian pastries are divine.
* Both of the above can be found in Amman, a city both diverse and surprisingly modern.
* Two of the Dead Sea Scrolls are housed in a sketchy little museum near the Temple of Hercules at the Amman Citadel, along with replicas of a Nabatean god that bears an uncanny resemblance to Spongebob Squarepants.
* There is approximately eight hundred percent humidity in the Jordan River Valley.
* The beautiful Roman ruins at Jerash are incredibly underrated (at least, I had no idea about them until my visit).
* Petra is absolutely unbelievable.
* Petra contains much, much more than just the famous Treasury you see in all the textbook pictures.
* The little Bedouin children who sell jewelry at Petra are seriously convincing. I spent far too much.
* In some mosques, there are rooms full of long, black robes for unsuspecting infidel tourists like me to wear inside, which make for impromptu "Emperor Palpatine" impersonations.
* Arrested Development makes any bus ride fly by.

Bottom line: Jordan is beautiful and I had a great time. Here are some pictures...

I'm overlooking a Crusader castle...

Being actively stunned by the Monastery at Petra (quite a hike, but worth it!)...

Letting Bedouin children stick flowers in my hair...

Taking in the immensity of Petra's famous Treasury...

Being held for ransom in front of said Treasury...

And being intensively modest in a Jordanian mosque.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Sand and limestone are the same color as hummus and skin. Here, the world blends together across a spectrum of beige: living, nonliving, and no longer living. Crushed chickpeas match my stratum corneum and the worn bricks under my feet. This world is made of limestone. I am made of limestone, veined and cobbled, only I never knew it until I was dipped into this place. Eyes closed and chin lifted, I bask in the rivulets of molten stone, opening my mouth to bathe my pink tongue in liquid beige. Strike this stone, and overtones resound in perfect integer multiples of the fundamental frequency that has echoed through my veins for as long as I can remember.

We resonate, this place and I.

Mobius strip.

Walking down the stairs not five minutes ago, I felt the old, familiar void begin to gnaw at my mediastinum. Fortunately, this feeling that seems so pervasive at home is rarely a problem here. It’s times like these when I need to grab hold of something, to run away and curl up so far inside myself that no one could find me if they tried—and yet, cruelly, loneliness prolongs the episode. It’s times like these I just need somewhere soft.


I am very critical when it comes to the use of imagery in prose. For me, it conjures up the vision of an author examining himself in a mirror—if not primping, then tugging at snatches of fabric to ensure that every inch hangs just right. What he doesn’t realize is that as soon as he turns from his carefully polished reflection, the clothing slides from its immaculate arrangement and settles back into the unflattering grooves of an imperfect body.
(Of course, I would use imagery myself to describe the way I feel about this phenomenon.)

I bring this up because I can’t tell whether I’m becoming more skilled at discerning a text’s quality or simply becoming more critical, like an old woman who examines a grandchild with narrowed eyes, ignoring his youthful radiance to wipe a few untoward crumbs from his lips. There is perfection in imperfection. Its artful presentation is another story.

Friday, June 19, 2009


I don't write much anymore.

Know what's weird?
I know why.

Writing constructs a thin metal skeleton around the edges of my void, helping me to hold out against the vacuum just a little longer.
Jerusalem answers the echoes of the hole that's been empty for as long as I can remember.

For once
I am whole.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Word problems.

Wow. This non-blogging phase is so unlike me.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I am chronically ill. Diagnosis: monolingualism. It’s a difficult disease to cope with, characterized by long periods of latency spotted with acute, incapacitating flare-ups. After spending yesterday evening with two quadrilingual kindergartners (Hebrew, Arabic, Swedish, and English!), I’ve come to the conclusion that for the first time in my life I’m going to become serious about fighting for a cure. Basically, I can no longer stand the fact that I am fluent only in English. As in, I do not think I can be satisfied with my present lingual status ever again. My children are going to be bilingual at least—the cognitive flexibility multilingualism provides simply cannot be ignored—but before that can happen, I myself must become a serious language learner. I wonder if I can do it. Quite honestly, I’ve never tried. Oh, sure, I aced a few years of high school Spanish, like every other American teenager, but all I had to do then was memorize some vocab and know how to spit out a little basic syntax. As of right now, though, I am serious. I want fluency, and for the first time in my life I believe I am willing to work for it. I know I'll be busy next semester, though, as a parasitology TA, program director, and research assistant. The more I think about it, the more I think next semester is going to be just as backbreaking as my first two have been. On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, I won’t get out of class until seven PM; Thursdays, five-fifteen; and Fridays (my early days), four o’ clock. Hmm.

On another note, I just received a perfect score on my Ancient Near Eastern History midterm. I immensely enjoy that class; my professor is literate in every ancient language from cuneiform to Coptic (you think I’m exaggerating), and even worked on the team that translated the Dead Sea Scrolls. Judaism class, though, still tops the charts for me; my Israeli professor’s vocabulary canvasses the Oxford English Dictionary and then some, and every day I sit in awe of his immaculate oratory. It would be no exaggeration to say that I hang on that man’s every perfectly formulated word. Thanks to my exposure to him and to a few new friends that speak as well as they can think, my words are getting better, too. We play very competitive Boggle and do Times crosswords, which I’ve been delighted to realize are actually possible (I’ve never tried one before, and I completed my first yesterday, only running into trouble with two words!).

As I’ve said before, I currently live in the best of all possible worlds. I have eighty built-in friends, six brilliant professors, three delicious buffet style meals a day, living space that wins worldwide architectural awards, professional classical music concerts every Sunday, trips all over the country every Monday, trips outside the country every few weeks, an endless calendar of activities, one of the world’s most coveted views outside my bedroom window, a (seemingly) endless supply of shopping funds, freedom to do whatever I like whenever and wherever I like (excluding the West Bank and Gaza Strip), and access to the best gelateria in West Jerusalem. This is the pinnacle of happiness and satisfaction.

P.S. Happy National Hebrew Book Week! “Goodnight Moon” in Hebrew is possibly my sweetest purchase so far. Erev tov!

Friday, June 5, 2009


Red Crescent, not Cross, suits Palestine best,
And candy-pink paint is peeling from walls.
Impermanence rules, and will, too, with you.
You, while I cradle and nuzzle your hair.
You, tiny baby—ideologically,
you are a crossroads and eventually—soon—
there will come a choice. Palestinian
Israeli is not a contradiction,
though your document reads Jerusalem
alone. No nation is yours, no land is
your home. This city was cut from the face
of the world, and its serrated edges
now frame your soft face. I can see your blood
like that, you know, right through your paper skin.
I could see your soul like that, you know, right
through your new-formed eyes. Now, perfect child,
tell me who you will become. Show me the
papers; let me see protest signs or a
diploma, pipe bombs or smiling children.
Where is your passport, your definition?
If later you walk through a camera
lens, right behind an American man
who talks through my news, will something in me
recognize you? I held that child, I
fed milk to that boy and cradled his head
while he burped, nudging my hand with his tongue.
Tell me who you are.
I can’t read in Arabic.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


My Israeli professor (a self-proclaimed 'practicing liberal Orthodox' Jew), on teaching Judaism to Mormon college students: "I think you're wacky, but no more so than I am. In religion, there's a line past which nothing is rational."

On another note, it made me smile to notice that university life seems to be identical all over the world. I made a side trip to Hebrew University (arguably the most prestigious university in Israel) this afternoon to access Facebook for the first time in over a month, and I was happy to see people in weird outfits handing out flyers, loud groups singing and marching around campus, a packed library, an unhealthy level of food consumption, and friendly student camaraderie. I guess college students will be college students, regardless of nationality, religion, or location.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Shout or be lost in the shuffle.

As I get older, one of the most repeated sentiments I notice is “I don’t want to grow up. I still feel fifteen.” I don’t agree, and don’t think I ever have. Adulthood is all of me there is; if there was ever a child, she died yearning to be taken seriously. Some of her immaturity may flash to the surface every so often; her jealousy, judgment, petulance, or pickiness bubbles up maybe more often than I’d like, but I’m used to pushing down her ill-defined ghost in favor of logic, my new muse. My decisions are rational, legal, and always thought through. I wear contact lenses, and ironically, the prescription on my box tells me I’m nearsighted. In reality, I’m almost painfully hyperopic, used to forcing my life’s stream through a pinhole to achieve ends that won’t pay off for years. I don’t play or joke or even laugh gratuitously. I’m quiet when someone else is talking, and I’ve never understood those who continue conversations in flagrant disregard for words someone else has prepared. I like to think it’s because I respect a speaker's ideas, but maybe it’s because I have nothing to say, which is not uncommon. I’ve become used to allowing my opinions to occupy only the confines of my sulci, and where I used to challenge or debate I now murmur and accept. I allow others to keep their own opinions, even when I know they’re wrong. I don’t step in to correct; I simply don’t care whether they’re wrong anymore. I know they’re wrong, but don’t care enough to defend the fact that I’m right. I could produce a textbook page, quote Herodotus—shut them down with a pillar of fire, but I don’t. I think I’m simply sick of self-promotion.

Even here, people search me out because they’re bubbling over and know I’m skilled at catching the overflow. If I were to pick a life theme, this would be it: because I don’t speak, I listen. It’s not a choice, it’s a default option I’ve learned to run with. I used to wait for moments in conversation when I could contribute, where I could offer a story or comment to let the world know I was me. Now I let my work ethic speak for itself. If others want to know me, they can examine what I produce, because in all honesty, I’m not much more. I’ve met 79 classmates here in Jerusalem. Time and time again, we introduced ourselves to each other. I’m fine with questions that have an answer. Where are you from? What do you study? What’s the composition of your family? It’s the others that get me. Tell an interesting fact about yourself. I have around five pithy comments I keep on hand for just such an occasion, but here, they exhaust themselves all too quickly and I am left to reconcile myself with my own empty shell, superspecialized already. The list of things I do is embarrassingly short. I maintain a perfect GPA. I do lab research. I fall into bed exhausted every night after short exchanges with my roommates. Sometimes I participate in social events, but the few I select come infrequently. How, then, am I to explain my life in just a few casual sentences? I could tell them about my research, and maybe at one point I would have done so, but the comfortable ruts of technical vocabulary I would fall into are grounds for alienation. I could tell them the truth, that I live in my test tubes and books, but then I sound absolutely un-friend-able. Telling them my ambitions sounds pretentious and unfounded; telling them I can water-ski and wakeboard sounds fake. So instead I say nothing. Instead, I revert to an almost seventh-grade self-consciousness. Back then, I knew the middle school gossip queen, and I saved up until I had twenty dollars to bribe her with so I could get some idea of how other people saw me. I’m grateful I never got up the guts to give her the money. At that point, I may not have recovered. I remember one day in ninth grade, when I asked my friend to be perfectly honest about where I fell on the spectrum of fourteen-year-old looks. “Well, you’re not pretty, but you’re not, like, incredibly ugly,” she told me, and I thanked her for her honesty.

I’ll end quoting Adah Price from Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible: “Silence has many advantages. When you do not speak other people presume you to be deaf or feeble-minded and promptly make a show of their own limitations. Only occasionally do I find I have to break my peace: shout or be lost in the shuffle. But mostly I am lost in the shuffle. I write and draw in my notebook and read anything I please. It is true I do not speak as well as I can think. But that is true of most people, as nearly as I can tell.”

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Something I like about Arabic is the way the words seem to have an intrinsic purpose. Culturally ancient, their very shape and tone seem to complement their meaning. Already, simple Arabic words can make my easy English seem so hollow; too often, my lips have shaped the shells of sentiments I don’t mean, and my endless strings of recursive signifiers have been subject to more than a little superficial regurgitation. It’s my opinion that the empty constructs of vocabulary-for-its-own-sake naturally devolve into a series of sequentially smaller circles until, driven so far into itself, language disintegrates entirely. In this way, entropy applies to words just as well as molecules.
This makes me wonder if the Arabic literary aesthetic has the deconstructive concept of trace. Quite honestly, I wonder if it’s necessary, because I can feel humility and sincerity in shukran and warm, accommodating contentment in its mirror image, afwan. One has to smile to say aywa, and its binary, la, is tight-lipped and curt. Of course, my experience with the language is still painfully shallow, so maybe I’m drawing immature conclusions from a skewed confidence interval. Regardless, I like what I hear.

Monday, May 25, 2009


I took over 250 pictures in Egypt.

I LOVE THE DESERT. Please. Click. Enlarge. Enjoy. Now--imagine it all around you.

Giza Plateau...ENOUGH SAID!

Yep, I'm riding a camel! Wearing what they call "genie pants." Haha!

The infamous Hypostyle Hall in Karnak Temple. AMAZING! Enlarge it and check out the Bedouin guy who poked his head in at the last second.

Luxor Temple...ahhhh!

What I like best about Egypt is the sheer volume of STUFF left over from the ancient world. There's so much to see, and most of it is in stunning condition. Honestly--I could spend YEARS there and never see it all. I mean, in just over one week, I climbed Mount Sinai for the sunrise; rode a camel; sailed the Nile; took a sketchy sleeping train from Luxor to Cairo; mildly contracted a parasitic disease; was verbally assaulted in a Luxor street market; had an impromptu dance party in the Cairo Hard Rock Cafe, filmed by the entire Egyptian audience; saw thousands of Egyptian relics, large and small; climbed deep into stuffy underground tombs in the Valley of the Kings; skinny-dipped in the Red Sea late at night; crawled into the burial chamber at the Great Pyramid; and much, much more.



Hello, world! I'm still alive!
I think this is the longest I've gone without posting since I started blogging.
But, it's worth it...I've been in EGYPT!

Highlight pics imminent.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A few pictures!

I always thought I'd let my words speak for themselves, but Jerusalem transcends anything I could ever say. Enjoy my first attempt at posting pictures!

Here's some of the scenery around here. Beautiful doesn't even begin to describe it. Click to enlarge; really, it's worth it!

This is the perfect afternoon I described a few posts ago. You can see my book and backpack in the shadow of the first arch. I meant to cut it out, but I decided it gave the shot personality. :-)

Here's the Dome of the Rock. It's right outside my window, and every time I look outside, I have to do a double take.

And finally, here I am! And no, the road sign does not read "Brigham Young University Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies;" it reads "Mormon University." XD