مرحبا عليكم!

I study languages.

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.