مرحبا عليكم!

I study languages.

Monday, April 27, 2009

On my way!

I've just been informed that there's no Facebook access at the Jerusalem Center. :-(
Blogs are okay, but I doubt I'll have much time to post. I'll probably just handwrite things in my awesome new journal and post them retroactively when I get time.
I am incredibly excited.

I've also been informed that I could be thrown against a wall and "aggressively groped" for wearing the wrong type of clothing. Apparently, wearing anything that doesn't look appropriate for a conservative Muslim woman means I'm a foreign prostitute looking for any and all advances. Being alone at any time carries the same connotation (apparently, a woman alone represents an egregious cultural sensitivity fail, as women in these cultures are NEVER out alone). Scary! Needless to say, I'm kind of rethinking my wardrobe.

Look out, Middle East! After just fifteen hours of airtime, you'll get a blonde, blue-eyed American girl who packed baggy clothes and stockpiled tampons (apparently expensive?) just for you.
Peace, Western Hemisphere.


I'm beginning the countdown.
Except for a few trivial items, I'm all packed. T minus 30 hours until I'm on my way.

Right now, I'm wearing sweats and glasses, eating yogurt and granola, and watching the first Lord of the Rings. Aragorn is as attractive as ever, of course...here's a sexy little clip. Really, where can I get a man like that? XD

Friday, April 24, 2009


I went to the ophthalmologist on Wednesday afternoon. After waiting in his office for a full hour, the medical assistant finally called me back into an exam room. She tested my eyesight and took a quick history, and then she said, "Here's an eye drop. The doctor will be in shortly." She gathered her things and prepared to leave. Suddenly, I felt all tense, and then all tingly. It was as sudden as if I'd been given an IV. "Oh my gosh," I thought. "She drugged me." I knew that was irrational, but I could not explain the way my body was reacting. My limbs became heavy and slow, and I felt my thoughts involuntarily clouding over. I was literally paralyzed with fear. My sympathetic nervous system was going haywire, and my brain was racing to keep up. What if I am strongly allergic to something in that eye drop? What if this is anaphylaxis? What is happening to me?

"Um, am I supposed to feel all...heavy?" I managed to mumble through my neurological haze.
"Oh, it's a numbing eye drop," she called, walking out.


Thursday, April 23, 2009


*Cue triumphant music*
The day before yesterday, my 4.0 was on its deathbed, ready to give up the ghost. Pale and sick, it had choked out a last farewell, and I had reconciled myself to life with my first A minus. However, yesterday afternoon, it made a MIRACULOUS RECOVERY thanks to the 96 I received on my impossibly massive anatomy final! Granted, I haven't seen proof in writing yet, but based on my calculations, I now have a legitimate A in every class. YAY! This semester's been hard, but I've learned SO much. Solution to last semester's intellectual stagnation: take senior classes. :-)

The current parasitology TA took me through the lab yesterday so I'll know where everything is for next semester. She taught me how to set boundaries so people don't walk all over me and how it's worth it to be picky about spelling. Honestly, I just can't wait to teach. I'm teaching a two-hour lab twice a week (just me! alone!), and then helping with lecture three hours a week.

Now, I'm just rejoicing over the end of the semester and preparing for Jerusalem.
[[five days!]]

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Current events.

Today I:
* just managed an A on my chem final, solidifying my A in the class (!)
* brought a huge bag of toothpicks and colored marshmallows to said chem final as help for chirality/optical isomerization, only to find that no problems required such an elaborate setup. I bet after my professor sent the e-mail allowing edible visual aids, he chuckled, "What idiot will actually bring marshmallows?" ATTN: I DID.
* took a two-hour nap from eight to ten pm and woke up thinking it was morning
* ate tres leches cake (♥)
* re-watched four episodes of Arrested Development
* set up an appointment with an ophthalmologist; I think I might have damaged my left eye
* was given a gorgeous (real!) diamond necklace by my grandmother

I am currently memorizing twenty-five intense PowerPoint presentations for my anatomy final tomorrow afternoon. I've put off anatomy in favor of parasitology and chemistry, so now that those two (hardest!) are out of the way, I have license to cram for this test. I hear it's 180 questions long, though, and I really have to do well, so I'm kind of dreading it...

Sunday, April 19, 2009


You know, every time someone Googles something that takes them to my blog, I get a copy of their keyword text. Some people Google my complete web address, prompting me to wonder at the fact that they have the information they need to find me, but must use Google as a mediator (?). Other people Google my web address, but they spell it wrong ("incense" misspelled as "insense").

Most entertaining, though, are the people who obviously never meant to end up here. The other day I had two visitors from New Jersey who Googled "aelisheva" and found me because it was the title of Katie's most recent post. More disturbing search text has been "paradoxes of material implication," an ominous query I traced back to a server in India, and "Why do they put plugs in the eyes and mouth of cadavers?" from someone in New York.
Another person a little closer to home, possibly frustrated by finals, Googled "PDBIO 120 TEST" (in all caps, nonetheless), and was presumably disappointed by the fact that there are no illegitimate answers to be found on my blog.

Keep Googling, folks! Just today, I've already had visitors from Portugal and Venezuela. I love the Internet.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


Two finals down.
Two congratulatory messages on the Testing Center monitor. :-)

Three more tests and ~nine days until I leave for Israel.
C R A Z Y.

I'm off to slam out a few hours of chemistry and religion in the library.


I read something about putting too much personal information on the internet and am now in the process of de-personalizing my blog. From now on, I won't name my university, my class numbers, or anything else that too obviously indicates my identity. I may even choose a pseudonym. Ideas are welcome.

EDIT: Gah! This place is a gold mine for potentially revealing information! I'm really glad I'm doing this.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Finals, etc.

I took my first final of the semester (English) today and hope my score (98!) will set a good example for my remaining four exams.

I had quite the interesting time in the Testing Center. I took my usual trip up the secret stairs to the music room, where I was ecstatic to notice an open seat right by a window, just like I have always wanted. There was a kid I knew from anatomy class right next to that seat, though, and there were tons of open seats in the room, so I knew it would make things unnecessarily awkward if I sat right by him. I was really sad at having to pass on the window seat. I brutally sacrificed a potential source of happiness to social convention. I never get a window seat.

Soon after I sat down, a girl a few seats back from me had a sudden hiccup attack. I don't know how else to describe it. All at once, she broke out into this loud, uncontrollable barrage of squeaky, guttural hiccups. At first it was funny, but it got old really fast, and after a few minutes everyone in the room was annoyed. I kind of felt bad for the girl. I mean, if your phrenic nerve decides to spaz out, there's really nothing you can do about it. But still, she was impossible to ignore, and I lost a good fifteen minutes just listening to her calm down. It was like sitting next to Loud Sneezer in my chemistry class. Loud Sneezer is a tiny girl who barely says anything. Her sneezes are sudden, intense, and repetitive. They are few and far between, but what makes them so notable is the fact that she actually screams while she sneezes. As in, it's like she's at a horror movie or something. It's an actual SCREAM. You know the phrase, "jumped out of your skin?" Well, that's what I did the first time I sat next to her. She looks so little and innocent, and then, AAAAAEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAA-CHOOOOOO! Trust me. It's deeply unnnerving.

Then, another girl came into my testing room. Not only did she sit RIGHT next to me, the first thing she did was pop the seal on a large bag of crunchy chips. ALERT: THIS IS MY WORST NIGHTMARE. I HATE it when people eat loud food in the Testing Center. If you're hungry, please get string cheese or a drink or something else that doesn't clear the entire atmosphere of any promise of concentration. Or just wait until you finish your test. You will not starve. I promise. Anyway, this girl did not make ANY ATTEMPT WHATSOEVER to eat quietly. She crunched and munched and gulped, dragging out the sound until it seemed like she was doing it on purpose. I kept visualizing myself standing up, slamming my fist into that obnoxious, rustling chip bag, and yelling "ARE YOU FINISHED? HUH?"

Between Hiccup Horror and Sickening Snacker, the hour it took me to zoom through my test felt interminable, but it was all worth it to walk down the stairs and find my ID number on the little monitor beside the word "Congratulations!"


I finally pinned down my fall semester schedule!
I can't wait.

Molecular Biology
Molecular Bio lab
Physics 1
Physics 1 lab
First-year Arabic
History and Philosophy of Medicine
Premedical Seminar
= 17 credits

I'm taking things down a notch due to my new TA status and the fact that I'll be working as a program director. Sounds exciting, though, right?

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Today I found myself painfully out of place.

The auditorium was small, but all the seats around me stayed empty. I had trouble finding the room and was nearly late; for me, the beautiful humanities building is unfamiliar territory. I wore jeans and a black jacket paired with grey Converse sneakers and watched the others cheerfully interact with classmates, family members and faculty in Sunday dress. Except for me, everyone knew each other. Years together in the same English courses had made them a family, albeit a professional one. The announcer began, and everyone half-listened, keeping murmured conversations alive under introductions, awards, and readings.

"Third place and $700 goes to Jessica for her essay, '_______.'"

I walked up and around to center stage, just as the other recipients had done.

"Jessica is a freshman majoring in microbiology and planning a career in medicine."

People looked up from their conversations, falling silent. I was an outsider. I was too young. I was not an English major. I was here alone. I did not belong. I could feel their eyes.

"She works as head of genotyping for a research lab on campus, tutors calculus, and watches the TV show, 'Lost.'"

Stop talking, my mind hissed, searing hot with an unshakable otherness. Please. My hands gripped each other, counteracting the overwhelming judgment that seeped from the tight-knit group.

"Jessica enjoys eating fresh salsa and red velvet cupcakes. She is currently preparing to spend spring and summer terms on study abroad in Jerusalem."

I managed a smile and accepted the envelope. I shot off the stage and melted back into my lonely seat. They were still watching. I felt them.
Who was this, who had interrupted the flow of friends and colleagues? What right does she have to place herself in the middle of our oneness? They were right. I did not belong. I was attempting to operate in a setting outside any I could relate to. I do not look or write like them. We do not speak the same language. I do not know their buildings. I do not know their professors. I am not one of them.

They brought dessert. Everyone sat together and talked. I took a cookie and ran away. Entering the chemistry building, my blood returned and a professor I met in the hall greeted me by name. Here, I belong. Here, my words are valid. Here, they speak my language.
I thought I could inhabit both worlds. Maybe I'm wrong.

Keep your distance.

Two hemoflagellate protozoan diseases to be avoided AT ALL COSTS:
* Warning! Pictures not for the faint of heart! I've selected relatively tame ones, but if you're not used to seeing this kind of thing, they may shock you! *

1. Mucocutaneous leishmaniasis: (pic) A secondary complication of cutaneous leishmaniasis (pic) caused by Leishmania braziliensis, this disease erodes moist, soft tissue, like your nasal septum or the area around your lips.

2. Post-kala-azar dermal leishmaniasis: (pic) Secondary to a visceral leishmaniasis infection by Leishmania donovani, this nodular rash can appear years after you think you've gotten rid of the disease.

In other news, I have 21 students so far for fall semester. :-) I like looking at the class registration and watching the few spots left open slowly fill up. I can't wait to be a TA.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


This guy NAILS it.
Enjoy the poem. I know I do.

Technology and Medicine
by Dr. Rafael Campo

The transformation is complete. My eyes
Are microscopes and cathode X-ray tubes
In one, so I can see bacteria,
Your underwear, and even through to bones.
My hands are hypodermic needles, touch
Turned into blood: I need to know your salts
And chemistries, a kind of intimacy
That won't bear pondering. It's more than love,
More weird than ESP--my mouth, for instance,
So small and sharp, a dry computer chip
That never gets to kiss or taste or tell
A brief truth like "You're beautiful," or worse,
"You're crying just like me; you are alive."


Reading days are here, and I'm not quite sure what to do with myself.
So far I have spent my time eating blueberry oatmeal, playing on the internet, and watching Donnie Darko clips. Apparently, productivity is going to be difficult (hence my blogging while I should be studying). But sometimes I just want to give in to that whiny voice inside that's yelling "I don't WAAAAAANT to study!" Because I don't. I really, really don't.
The two songs I have caught in my head are splicing themselves together (Imogen Heap's "Hide and Seek" and a new version of "Mad World" I picked up yesterday, hence the desire to watch Donnie Darko clips). They make an interesting combination.

Current options:
1. Day 2 DNA isolation and spectrophotometric quantification of my results in lab, a process that will take me a good three hours to perform alone (augh!)
2. Nap
3. Study
4. Blow everything off and go out to eat

A combination of options two and four is really, really tempting, but I don't want to be stuck in lab all night doing procedures I had ample time to finish earlier, and I know my GPA will suffer if I don't force myself to relearn semiconduction...

Monday, April 13, 2009


Are you ever so tired that you start legitimately hallucinating?

My hallucinations are auditory and visual, and for both, it's like my brain loses what I like to call its 'rationality filter.' It can't understand that whatever I'm thinking about is utterly illogical. Today during a guest lecture there were quesadillas boiling in a large pot. I had a top view, like I was looking down into the pot, and there were boiling quesadillas being stirred. Wtf? And I was convinced the lecturer was singing, and I enjoyed the music for a full minute before remembering(?) it wasn't real.

Maybe this is how insanity starts.

The weird part is that I'm beginning to think things like this go on inside my head all the time, and it's only when I'm tired that I lose control of my rationality filter and get to see what I'm really thinking about. And if my mind's really just playing around with boiling quesadillas, I think I might be screwed.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Racemic mixture.

The two of you are perfect enantiomers.
I think about you exactly the same way, and even your names are interchangeable.
Synechdotic extensions of one another, you move, speak, and stare in an identical rhythm. I can't help being swept up in your fluid synchronicity, and every time I am, your sheer chirality catches me off guard. Who'd have thought either of you could possibly have an optical isomer?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Fine focus.

I'm suffering from a severe lack of definition. It's like I've got both eyes in a compound microscope with my thumbs twisting the fine focus knob, and I can't decide on the plane I want to visualize. I try and see past this semester, planning for Jerusalem, and then remember that I have to worry about finals first. Before I can worry about finals week proper, though, I have to study for my practical lab finals this week. But I can't focus too closely on the lab finals because of all the superficial details I have to take care of, like making housing payments, doing laundry, and going grocery shopping (not to mention the fact that I'm going out of town this weekend and need to refine details on that, too). On top of all this, I'm planning for next fall semester, because I have to sign up for courses on Thursday. I have to decide what I want to do in my lab, too, for next semester and for the rest of this one, and I have to train a new guy to do my job in the summer. Thus, I'm constantly switching gears between coordinating fall classes, checking off housekeeping items, studying for two different sets of finals, planning for my study abroad, and making ends meet in lab.

Not surprisingly, I can't focus.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Death comes for the --

This morning, I rest my face against the glass of the cage on the counter, staring in at the tiny black mouse. She peeps out of the sawdust every so often, snuggling her silky paws into the fibers and curling softly against her swollen stomach. I imagine her nursing the almost-formed babies she holds so deeply inside, their dark, warm kind of alive obvious only by soft kicks against her viscera. She walks heavy and slow, like an old queen with all the purpose of royal motherhood, and I stare at her because I know she is going to die. I know she has only a few more minutes to exist, a few more minutes to feel her perfect children roll over in fluid contentment before the end. Worst of all, I know there will be pain. In the back of my mind hangs the sudden and half-humane snap, followed by the chaotic jerks of a spinal cord in violent torque, so for that last while I watch her burrow quietly in the sawdust, oblivious.

Soon, the professor bustles in with trays and tools, and next to the cage I ready the sharp and gleaming instruments: forceps, scalpels, tiny scissors and razor blades. I label my tubes and bathe them in the cell lysis solution and enzymes that will soon be digesting clipped babies' tails. Tissue, I call my samples, but that does not change the fact that they will come only when the life on the table before me has been severed and apportioned. The tails are mine; the knees, Jason's; the temporomandibular joints, Melissa's; the sternums, the doctor's.

He lifts the mother from her cage, pinching the scruff of her neck, and her belly balloons under the weight. It doesn't matter now. Twenty seconds. "Have you ever seen a cervical dislocation before?" he inquires casually, and I shake my head. Before I can absorb the implications of his words, his thumb and forefinger slam into her neck, and her vertebrae crunch together sickeningly. Terrified, I expect a quick end after the shock, a nice and painless relaxation, but instead my eyes widen as I watch her body writhe in freakish contortions, every second more painful than the next. The scene is sickening; dark blood flows from her nose and mouth, and disgust radiates through to shake even my most distant synapses, but I can't remove my eyes. Now? I plead in my mind. Is it over? Each desperate jerk brings a shudder from us both, and I listen to her nearly-soundless shrieks as she slowly expires.
Ten seconds, I know, can last longer than forever.

Without bothering to wait for the twitching to end, the doctor lays her supine on a paper towel, deftly slicing in a place below her neck. He tugs with just the right force, and I am surprised and horrified to watch her belly split open like a seam, exposing her still-churning internal organs. The swollen uterus moves and twists; I realize her babies are alive--real. It's strangely easier, though, to watch the vivisection once she's open; with familiar organs falling to her sides, she resembles a biology experiment, and as long as I block the memory of her death, it is simpler to be dispassionate. With swift precision I can't help but admire, the doctor snips out the uterus, separating it onto its own tray. A pang of sadness hits me as the mother's mutilated remains are pushed aside; she gave life to these soft babies, and we can't even leave her with the promise that we'll care for them, because we don't intend to. Slitting open the uterus is like opening Christmas presents; each fetus is confined in its own muscular sac, separated from the others like sausages on a chain. We dissect into the sacs for phenotypical surprises; we're breeding for a mutation, so will it be this fetus with no elbow joint, or the next? The babies are separated out onto the tray, poor, red, helpless things, one inch long and smooth like melted plastic. What strikes me most severely, though, is that they're still moving. They'd be viable in just about a week, but even now they have musculature and nerve function, and I can't help but wish they didn't. With hungry scalpels, we slice them into pieces, and I hear their hoarse, soundless cries and can only imagine their pain; at least this time, I can take comfort in knowing it will be short-lived. Soon, the tissues lie quietly in pools of solution, life snatched from them in the ice cold name of empirical science.

With forceps, I am given a series of tiny tails, which my quivering hands place tenderly into the solutions that I know will devour them. Later, I will mince them with surgical scissors, homogenizing my solutions and preparing them to be centrifuged out for genotyping that must be finished by Friday. I realize that I've spent five hours in the lab, and so I prepare to leave. On the way out, though, I sneak a glance at the mother, glass-eyed on the table as everyone else's blades taste her babies' severed parts, and I can't suppress a shudder.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Sleep deprivation.

If you were to encounter me a few hours ago, you probably would have laughed. And pointed. And possibly thrown something at me to verify my capacity for stimulus-response. But I was comfortable. In full public view near the entrance to the Museum of Art, I lay like a scrunched slug under my neon-rainbow winter coat across a run of three couches, face smashed in James Joyce's The Dead, hands strung loosely through my purse and backpack straps, and legs sprawled all over the place. Next to me sat a vat of bright lemon dish soap I'd brought for a presentation's object lesson, my open anatomy lab manual, and a half-finished water bottle. I passed out on those couches for a good three hours, dead to the world as my brain forcibly commandeered the rest it so badly needed. I'm surprised security personnel didn't ask me to leave. Maybe they felt bad for my pathetic-college-student state of health. Or maybe they left me there because I was framed by two colorful displays from the modernist exhibit and my presence added to the quirky consumerist theme. Regardless, I was grateful for the break.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


I am at work.
Within earshot is a Polynesian choir singing in a language I don't understand, a too-loud television blaring Fox news, the hum of distant exercise machines, the sound of my fingers on my laptop keys, and the vibration of my cell phone.
I find it fascinating that I can distinguish every one of these sounds, automatically gauging their distance from me and whether or not they contain an element of pressure. For example, I can hear my phone move across the table, and the deep, moving quality it exudes isn't the same as the clear tone I hear when it beeps. It isn't a sound, it's a feeling, but I'm not close enough for it to be physically real.


Today at work I had to correct two different people.
One, assuming me to be a fifteen-year-old high school sophomore, asked if I had been attending truancy school in the mornings, and the other asked whether my husband would be accompanying me to Jerusalem.



My essay's going into a book that makes up part of the university's general English curriculum.
Personal narratives written: 1
Essay contests entered: 2
Total financial yield: $1000
Times reading my essay to an audience has caused disproportionate levels of anxiety: 2

PLUS, I've been selected to be next year's program director for Crisis Hope! I'll be managing therapeutic recuperation for victims of rape and domestic violence in conjunction with the hospital and a few related organizations.
I'm thinking I'll ease off on my characteristically killer course schedule next semester so I can be functional as a program director, a lecture and lab TA (Parasitology), and hopefully a Writing Fellow. I think I'll just take molecular biology and its lab, introductory physics and its lab, and an advanced English class, and then supplement my schedule with easy seminar classes and lab work so it still looks like I'm taking an above-average courseload.
I can't wait for next semester...OR for Jerusalem! I leave in 26 days. If I can get through this next week (huge research paper, anatomy lab final I have to ace, and parasitology lab final) and then finals week, my life will be free and clear.


Many different words in my life begin with the same Latin prefixes.
meta: transcending
dia: through
epi: on/upon

metacyclic trypomastigote