مرحبا عليكم!

I study languages.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


or Why I'm Not A Liberal Arts Major.

Sometimes I think people come up with new/radical ideas just because they're new/radical. I'm studying theories so counterintuitive that I can't believe their authors actually stood behind them. It isn't hard to come up with "surprising" ideas; the hard part would be devoting oneself to a paradigm-altering ideology while (probably) knowing the only reason you're perpetuating it is just to say something new. I guess once you tell yourself something for long enough, you start believing it.

So I'm reading Saussure on linguistics, and--call me ignorant--I read his theories the same way. I'm simplifying this, but Saussure postulates that words mean nothing; that there is no relationship between the "sign" (word), the "sound" (spoken word), and the "signified" (what is meant). Okay. That's reasonable. But when he starts talking langue/parole, I get a little annoyed. Langue is what he refers to as "reversible time," the system in which all signs operate. In langue, every sign has had every meaning it will ever take on from the beginning of time. No new words can ever be created or destroyed. They all exist at all times, and none of them mean anything. A snapshot of langue is parole, or the "individual utterance." A book or a discourse is an example of parole: a string of words trapped in nonreversible time, relying on langue for all meaning/merit. Therefore, conventional literary analysis is futile. Throw out aesthetics; it's entirely pointless. There is no distinction between "good" and "bad" literature; all that matters are conclusions we can draw about langue from parole. And good luck with that, because you can't actually draw said conclusions. This is because there is no real meaning, just infinite signs and signifiers. Every concept you understand is both fictitious and functional, both shared and unique.

From this, all sorts of nebulous arguments can be articulated (thank you, liberal arts majors), all of which lead to The Inescapable, Cliche Conclusion:
There is no meaning --> There is no time --> Communication is futile --> Everything is an illusion --> Nothing is real, etc.

My response: DEAL WITH IT.
However sophisticated your rhetoric, look around you. Do you see clocks? That's time. It's not reversible. Do you see a functional society? It's not perfect, but neither are you. Do you see yourself? Most likely, you are well-fed, clothed, and educated. What keeps you alive and able to articulate such ill-defined principles are the ion concentrations in your neurons, not some metaphysical connection to universal mythemes. Look around! This is what's real. Your pompous words are just that--words. In your own terms, that's nonreversible, empty parole.
Life is linear; it progresses forever with one constant slope. Minutes pass in increments of 60 seconds. Hours pass in increments of 60 minutes. Days pass in increments of 24 hours. Always. SO GET OVER IT.

My advice: Study what's there, not what isn't. Make a physical difference with your work instead of postulating hollow, sophistic nonsense that boils down to nothing more than circular reasoning. You will drive yourself (and me) insane.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


So I was just jipped out of $2 by the library printer.
It costs $0.37 for one page of color printing, and since my color ink cartridge ran out, I had to pay the exorbitant fee for all five pages of facial muscle insertion diagrams. Imagine my disappointment when I picked up said pages only to realize that they came out in black and white, and that I was charged anyway. It was a total Charlie Brown moment.

In other news, I have at least two tests per week for the next five weeks.
And the pure semantics behind Saussurean linguistics/poststructuralist critical theory is killing me. I kind of hope I die before we hit next week's unit on deconstruction.


Sunday, January 25, 2009


"Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry."
--Mark Strand

More on this later.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


It's coming up on 2 AM, and I'm sitting wrapped in a blanket in my empty house, listening to the rain pound on the skylight above me. Sometimes I wonder if I'm antisocial. It's not that I don't like being around people; I just feel most comfortable alone. It's not like I couldn't have gone out with friends tonight; instead, I chose to pick up dinner by myself and hang out in an empty house. Something tells me it would be socially normal to be disturbed by this, but I just can't bring myself to see things that way. In all honestly, I am wonderfully content all on my own.

This is why I feel so detached from the concept of marriage/perpetual companionship. I am extremely self-sufficient. I don't need anyone taking care of me or otherwise making sure my needs are met--I'm just fine, thank you very much. Constantly, I observe classic BYU couples, noting the way each individual seems to rely so fully on his or her counterpart, and I am physically unable to comprehend participating in a situation like that. I feel like those starry-eyed and emotionally immature girls could never in a million years be me--it's just such a distant and unfamiliar symbiosis from which even as an observer I feel entirely dissociated. I don't want it.

If it weren't for my culture's intense emphasis on marriage, I wouldn't worry about this--I feel like I could be perfectly happy navigating life on my own. Because marriage is considered to be so important, however, I sometimes worry about meeting someone who I could be happy with (and who could be happy with me). I'm low-maintenance; if I have to get married, all I want is someone loyal, smart, reasonable, and halfway amiable. I'll take care of myself, and he can take care of himself, okay? I don't need (or want) someone fawning over me all the time--just someone who cares to be around me, can provide me with intelligent conversation, and is simply a decent person. Someone who might sit with me in this blanket under the skylight--silent, with no expectations.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Learning curve.

I love the juxtaposition of my Wednesday classes.
I spend the morning in chemistry, parasitology, anatomy, and literary criticism, eat a quick lunch, and zoom to a senior class in pathogenic microbiology followed by an anatomy lab.
Literary criticism is a nice interim break from my sciences; my mind flips a tangible switch to bring myself from discussing reaction kinetics, neurocysticercosis, and cartilaginous pathologies to quoting Joseph Conrad for a description of Thomas Mann. I feel more intellectual when comparing archetypical patterns described by Carl Jung and Friedrich Nietzsche than I do the life cycles of Taenia solium and Taenia saginata, but I'm happy I get to participate so fully in both.

Pathogenic Microbiology is as difficult and over my head as ever, but I absolutely love it. Trying to comprehend and apply systems, responses, proteins, and pathways I've never heard of puts me on a high comparable to nothing else--it's entirely insane. Interestingly, my love for this class is not tempered by the fact that I am a total non-factor in discussions; usually, I comment, question, and/or challenge, but in Patho, I keep my mouth shut. Through listening to my brilliant senior classmates, I'm slowly picking up the complexities of immunology, though I have to look up even the simplest notation every time I read current research.

Monday, January 19, 2009


A spot at the Jerusalem Center is officially labeled with my name and picture. :-D
My flight to Tel Aviv leaves April 28, contingent on whether or not Israel and the Gaza Strip have blown each other off the continent. I'll spend four months studying religion, literature, and history in the Middle East, returning in late August in time to start my science-laden fall semester. This means I'll spend the Season 5 Lost finale and my nineteenth birthday over there. Talk about special.

In metaphorical life, I'm wrapping electrical tape around a bunch of frayed wires, and so far I'm happy with the results. At this point, I'm just thrilled it even turns on--it's been so long.

In literal life, I'm in St. George with the roomies. We've road tripped it for the long weekend, and we've had a total blast. After shopping, sleeping, dancing, eating, DDR, bracelet-making, and literally hundreds of pictures later, we'll make our way back to the apartment tomorrow afternoon.

In academic life, I honestly don't know how I'll present to my Pathogenic Microbiology class. Last week, I sat through a senior student's critical discourse on the paper we read with my mind blasted wide open. I have no idea on how I'll teach this class without an extensive background in immunology (which, as the senior I'm supposed to be, I should know inside and out at this point). Either I pick up an immunology text at the library or I'm toast.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Around me flows contentment, self-satisfaction--a contrast to my apprehension as I take a place in the second row of my all-graduating-senior Parasitology class. They don't know I'm not one of them, and the irony leaves me breathless and on edge. Carefully, I articulate questions about diagnostic pathologies and traumatic anemias, trying not to give myself away. As long as I can keep up, no one has to know.

Schistosoma mansoni is a blood parasite that makes its home in the tight bends of intestinal mesenteric venules. You'd think that being fully immersed in the bloodstream would make it a prime target for antibody-mediated immune response; however, the parasite cloaks itself in antigens similar to those normally found in blood, so potentially lethal white cells cruise right on by, noticing nothing.

Monday, January 12, 2009


Comments in English class are incredibly nebulous; it's partially for this reason I'm glad I'm not a liberal arts major. Anything at all can be said, as long as you use classically English-teacher-approved vocabulary and allude to some sort of universal/overarching theme. From there, anything goes, because half of what you're saying levels out to just words for words' sake. When an English major raises his or her hand during a discussion, you'd better prep yourself for a "thoughtful" discourse in which you'll discard 75% of what is said to unearth his or her actual point, which could have been stated in one simple sentence. One might declaim, "In Henry James' Daisy Miller, my sympathies lie with Daisy herself, because she is a misunderstood pawn that society has sculpted into the quintessential American girl, lost in a world that takes her for granted because she is beautiful. I'm not sure, but when I read Daisy, her every line reminds me that she is not what she could be; we cannot blame her for her actions because the initial fault lies with society," when all he or she means is "Society takes Daisy for granted because she is pretty." I don't have a problem with sculpted sentences or aesthetic word choice; on the contrary, I embrace both. I just think I'd go mad if I had to listen to sophistic pandering like that all the time. They speak to use vocabulary and articulate a tiny detail they've found to impress the professor, without really having anything at all to contribute.

Conversely, in Parasitology class, if I am called on, I'd better know that the infectious life stage of Fasciola hepatica is metacercariae or that the clinical presentation for acute infection is characterized by tender hepatomegaly, slight fever, and anemia. We don't mince words in science. Thank goodness.

Audioemotional synesthesia.

Today I heard an exceptional amount of a certain sound and couldn't help thinking of a certain person.
Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Small things.

So I don't feel 100% good about enjoying college life unless I'm giving something back to the community. Sure, it's cliche, but focusing on myself all the time feels kind of like circular reasoning; I get all tangled up in things that don't matter and end up in a twisted mess with string tightening around my neck.

This semester, I can't continue mentoring disadvantaged youth; I have class right during the two hours I can meet with the kids. Feeling thoroughly selfish for cutting the sixth graders out of my schedule, I scanned the Honors Student Newsletter in search of a new regular service opportunity--and found something incredible. I am now the official Saturday morning pianist for a local rehabilitation clinic. I walked in today, balancing a large stack of sheet music, signed some HIPAA regulations, and sat at the beautiful piano, which is located in the large, sunny dining room just off the entry way. No one was there, but I saw my name and "Piano Concert" on the white board schedule for the day, so I just pulled out the bench and began playing. I opened a book of hymn arrangements, and old people started trickling in until I had a little crowd of wheelchairs around the piano. It was entirely sweet; one elderly man started singing softly as I played "O My Father" and "How Great Thou Art," completely off tune in a whispery voice. A more lively senior citizen painstakingly wheeled himself out of the room only to return with a harmonica, which he showed me proudly before loudly joining my chord progressions. One old woman clapped quietly every time I finished a piece, whispering, "That was beautiful, dear." I picked my way through Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera along with some movie themes and My Fair Lady, and then played a few contemporary numbers before concluding with Oklahoma's "Oh, What A Beautiful Morning."
And it was.

D&C 64:33

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Infinite improvement.

So I dropped Intro to Micro after sitting through just one lecture, in which some kid asked the teacher what homeostasis was and the rest of us classified differences between a car, a cactus, and a human using the seven characteristics of life. I'd have felt sufficiently underestimated by that lecture in the ninth grade, and consequently had to focus all my energies on not running out of the classroom in frustration.

My new schedule is MUCH better! I have Medical Parasitology and Pathogenic Microbiology, which are both senior-level classes and look to be a million times more interesting. I've already had to look up some new vocab (I know--new vocab?!) for Parasitology. Life is good.

OH, and at the honors seminar I'm enrolled in, after the lecture, they gave us SOUP AND BREADSTICKS. Like, real, delicious, hot, beautiful SOUP and BREADSTICKS. The syllabus said something about there being food, but naturally I expected a box of cookies or some donuts. It made my day.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Take two.

Today's class analysis:

Chemistry recitation: I like it so far (I'm the only freshman and one of five girls, and my TA is nice), but I sufficiently embarrassed myself during the introductions. For an interesting fact about myself, I said, "I have an anatomically correct skeleton, so if any of you need to practice..." and I left it at that. It was only halfway through the rest of the introductions that I realized that it sounded like I was talking about my OWN skeleton. "Oh my gosh! Can I remand my statement?" I blurted out. "Please," replied our shocked TA. "I meant...that I HAVE an anatomically correct skeleton. Like, a physical skeleton. Not ME." Everyone just stared and kind of smiled. Talk about awkward. I felt like I redeemed myself by doing a complicated math problem on the board later, but still.

BoM(H): I sat with David and a Freshman Academy friend, Stephanie, as our teacher hit us with his first assignment: to read the second half of the Book of Mormon in two weeks. Wow. That's going to take some work. I can see his point, though; there's no point in studying a text you haven't completely read. This honors class will be challenging, but hopefully not unduly so.

Chem lab: I have my own work station, drawer, locker, and cabinet shelf, so I'm happy. The experiments are done individually, and the reports are written alone, as well. On some quantitative assignments, we will share data in a group to arrive at more exact answers, but most of the work will be done on our own, which I am thrilled about. I love lab work, and even though lab reports look lengthy and overly specific, I think I'll have fun in this class. It's taught by a young, funny grad student, and I know about half the people in my lab room, so I'm happy.

Monday, January 5, 2009

First impressions.

Initial assumptions (to be continued tomorrow with my TTh classes).

Intro to Microbiology: Professor explains the class as a "warm and fuzzy" introduction to the subject, and the first two weeks will be spent "reviewing basic chemistry." Augh. FAR too easy, but it'll be four more credits of AMCAS "A" for my burgeoning premedical resume...

Chemistry 2: 300-person lecture hall packed to the eaves. I'm lucky my micro class got out early so I could get a decent seat--my university's most popular chemistry teacher is getting a lot of futile add requests. Looks fun, though; I can see why this guy's said to be so good, and I did learn a little something about reaction rates.

Anatomy: Ah, anatomy revisited! I'm bored so far, and my teacher didn't show. I answered a few of the TA's questions about ultrasonography, but spaced out through the lengthy discussion of directional terms. I think terminology should be a given at this point; I'm not in this class to practice proximal-distal, I'm here to learn specifics.

English (Critical Theory): I'm thrilled to start this novel-based introduction to literary criticism, and I'm not as intimidated by the liberal arts majors as I thought I might be (most I've met previously are just loud and not-necessarily-intelligently opinionated). My teacher speaks well and (surprisingly) has a fascinating background in pharmacology.

Explaining my presence in my lit class was the most entertaining activity I've participated in all day; after three consecutive science classes, I found myself swallowed in a sea of liberal arts kids. English, English Teaching, and Psychology are all common majors against which my Microbiology sounds pleasantly discordant. And all it took was listening to my articulate English professor to feel my non-scientific vocabulary begin to grow back. Furthermore, I correctly identified a Petrarchan sonnet and commented on its "classic inevitability," and I felt revitalized.
I think I'm going to like this semester.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Back to the grindstone.

Winter semester begins tomorrow.
I guess it's back to the grindstone.

xkcd sponsors TODAY'S MOMENT OF LEARNING, in the spirit of this.
I typed "back to the grindstone" into the Wikipedia search box, and this is what it gave me.
Ronnie Milsap discography
Apparently, "Back to the Grindstone" is the American country singer's 21st album, dropped in 1991 with the hit song "Since I Don't Have You." Good on ya, Ronnie. I might look you up if country happened to be my cup of tea.
Oconaluftee (Great Smoky Mountains)
This is the name of a river valley in North Carolina's Great Smoky Mountains that houses the main entrance to the nearby national park. Historically, Cherokee Indians have considered the river's water sacred, but it is apparently invisible to white people because they are blinded by evil. Huh. The flour mill there, Mingus Mill, uses grindstones to crush wheat into flour.
Ancient Egyptian Cuisine
Egyptians ground "emmer" wheat (more fascinated clicking-->a low-yielding wheat domesticated in the Far East) to make flour. Apparently, this type of wheat is very spiky, so the bread-making process was time-consuming; the wheat had to be painstakingly moistened and dried before the chaff could be effectively separated out.
A Tale of Two Cities
Just looking at the cover of Charles Dickens' literary masterpiece brings pleasant flashbacks of my twelfth grade class presentation on Lucie Manette. Wikipedia tells us that the grindstone reference here sends us to the part when mob-mad men and women massacre eleven hundred detainees in one night and hustle back to sharpen their weapons on the grindstone, displaying "eyes which any unbrutalised beholder would have given twenty years of life to petrify with a well-directed gun."

Maybe returning to the grindstone won't be all that bad. I'll use the knife I bought off a Parisian revolutionary to cut a few stalks of emmer wheat, humming Ronnie Milsap as I make my way to a river I won't be able to see.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year.

((stealing Angela's New Year survey))

Where did you begin 2008?

In my grandparents' pool, I believe, after we all jumped in at the stroke of midnight.

What was your status by Valentine's day of 2008?
Most certainly single.

Did you have to go to the hospital?

Yes, and I loved every minute. :-D I was participating in an internship in the Newborn ICU, so I showed up every morning at 6 AM and stayed through however many classes I thought I could miss before zooming back to school, haha.

Did you have any encounters with the police?

Of course. Notably, I got my first-ever parking ticket, thanks to an extremely bored officer. My car was one foot (seriously--one foot) over the painted parking line. At first, I thought the ticket was a joke, and upon reading it I had to scrutinize my entire parking job because I was so confused as to why I had been given it. I took a phone photo, which I'd post here if I knew how to do that. Ridiculous.

What did you purchase over $500?

School. Textbooks I can't sell back that are piling up under my bed. I never opened my biology textbook--not ONCE--and I paid $120 for it. LAME.

Did you know anybody who got married?

Yes...and it was weird.

Did you know anybody who passed away?
Not personally.

Where do you live now?
Same as ever.

Describe your birthday.
Honestly? I can't remember. Maybe I was out of town...? I SHOULD remember. It was my 18th. That's pretty significant...OH, WAIT. My friends threw me a fire pit party. We had delicious carrot cake cupcakes and I ended the night having a House marathon with two very intoxicated friends. Ha.

What's the one thing you thought you would never do but did?
Intentionally suck up to a teacher. It was disgusting. He bought it.

Any new additions to your family?

Yes! Baby. Her head is unnaturally spherical and very cute.

What was your best month?

Hmm...May? I liked the graduation-time stuff. June was fun...HOSA Nationals. September was fun because starting college was fun.

Made new friends?

Yes. :-D It's fun to go through your phone book and see how many new numbers you call all the time that weren't there five months ago.

Any regrets?


What do you want to change in 2009?
I want to be challenged in my classes! Bring it on! (Please!)

Overall, how would you rate this year?


Have any life changes in 2008?
College, mainly. Living/eating/shopping independently = as good as it cracked up to be, which is a very rare occurrence.

How old did you turn this year?

Eighteen. Word.

Did anything embarrassing?
That's unavoidable.

Get married or divorced?

Start a new hobby?
Knitting by proxy? Haha. My roomie took up knitting, and I watched. Anything I could consider my "new hobby" would probably entail watching Arrested Development episodes online during any spare moment. Or I guess you could count my lab work.

Are you happy to see 2008 go?
No. I liked it. Besides, I like being 18. I don't want to be any older.

Drank Starbucks in 2008?
Yes. Delicious vanilla bean frappucino + bran muffin + Barnes and Noble = paradise.

Been naughty or nice?
I'm far too nice. At least, outwardly. :-D

What are you wishing for in 2009?
Mm, to go to Jerusalem this summer and not be bombed. To get a decent start at MCAT prep. To make more friends. Y'know.

Was involved in something you'll never forget?

Graduation? College?

Lost something important to you?
Not that I remember.

Got a gift you adore?
I love my new ski coat.

Tripped over a coffee table?
That definitely sounds plausible.

Dyed your hair?

I get highlights every so often.

Came close to losing your life?

I don't think so.

Went to a party?
Yes. Hosted a wildly successful party? Yes. :-)

Read a great book?
YES. The Poisonwood Bible, especially.

Happy 2009. Here's to all its potential energy.
"Raise a glass, and we'll have a cheer
My dear acquaintance--A happy new year." (
Regina Spektor)