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grad school rots your brain

June 29, 2010

Yu-Jin stopped by my office tonight to hang out and happened to mention that there’s a book subtitled “Mukamel for Dummies”. Apparently someone went through Mukamel’s book and rewrote it in a condensed form in plainer language. I got super excited, printed it off, and plan on reading a lot of it (with beer and popcorn!) tonight. I have issues…
But seriously, why didn’t I know this existed three years ago?

(Apologies to non-UCI people who don’t know what I’m talking about)


my new shirts

June 29, 2010

Geek Feminism posted a great article recently discussing many ways to view clothing as related to geeks and feminism. I wanted to respond to it with a discussion of two t-shirts:
Think Geek’s Ada Lovelace and Marie Curie “Heroine” t-shirts.

I bought these shirts pretty much as soon as I heard about them, as a graduation present to myself. Not only are those two kick ass awesome women, but one’s a chemist with physics leanings and the other is a programmer – I enjoy being on t-shirts. I love these shirts, on so very many levels. I love the blatant celebration of women who kick ass at sciency things. Marie Curie has always been a hero of mine, since I was ten or so and Mom told me that there was a famous scientist who shared my name. Ada Lovelace is a more recent love, but she too kicks ass in so many ways, and when people ask who she is I love being able to explain that she was the first computer programmer.

I love also that they’re stylish. If you don’t look closely, they’re just nifty looking t-shirts. I love that the design is off to the side and down on the bottom – it’s an off beat placement and also means that people studying it don’t have to stare at my breasts. I love that both women are portrayed as being beautiful and surrounded by their science. I love that both are feminine without being sexualized.

I love the size of them – they’re long so I’m not always accidentally showing skin when I stretch or bend over. I love that the fabric is substantial – they feel utilitarian, like these are everyday go to lab sort of shirts.

I love that they’re cool shirts celebrating geeky women, but they’re also just cool shirts. I’m not wearing a sign that says “YO I’M A FEMINIST”, just a shirt that shows an awesome woman, a shirt that’s subtle enough that I can wear it to work without feeling like I’ve got my heart on my sleeve, but a shirt that’s interesting enough that people sometimes ask me about it. (Interestingly, no one has asked about the Marie Curie one. Dunno if that’s random chance, or that she’s more recognizable, or if people aren’t looking at her shirt – the pink one – as closely as they are Ada’s shirt – the blue one.)

I think my only problem with these shirts, in fact, is that there are only two. Can we get Hypatia of Alexandria, or Rosalind Franklin, or a dozen others?

So why is this a response to the Geek Feminism post I linked at the top? Because sometimes that much thought goes in to clothing. Because at the intersection of “geek” and “woman” clothing choices get very interesting. Honestly I consider myself very lucky to be skinny, small chested, and tall, which makes my choices much simpler than other women I know. A lot of thought was behind my purchase of these two shirts, and that much thought goes in to a lot of what I wear, especially where work in concerned. I think about exactly what message my clothing is sending when I’m at a conference or a work get together, and I’m careful that my clothes say what I want them to say. Sometimes this is why I like to stay home and wear pjs (or wear them to work, for that matter). These shirts made me happy because all the thoughts that went in to them were happy thoughts. No agonizing about a shirt that’s too tight or might show too much skin, no worry that a skirt will have people thinking they need to lift boxes for me or help me with my computer, no wondering if I can walk in a pair of heels without breaking an ankle. Awesome, geeky, comfy clothing that I really love. Such a rare thing. So of course I bought them.

if only this were true

June 29, 2010

“Zuska likens pointing out oppressive behavior to pointing out stepping in dog shit (you would wanna know if you stepped in some, wouldn’t ya? It is a mistake not a character flaw, etc).”
Skeptifem said that recently on a blog post about calling people out on their mistakes. If only that were true. (Note: I haven’t read the whole skeptifem post, and have only followed part of the drama it refers to, but this post isn’t about that.) I really really wish it was true. “Dude, fyi, that was a pretty sexist thing you just said”, with the assumption that the person didn’t mean to be an ass and would like to try to fix those mistakes in the future. As I read more about various types of difference and discrimination, I become more aware of my own mistakes. I find myself feeling shitty about things I’ve said, thoughts I’ve had, and I find myself very much wanting to avoid such things in the future. I love it when people call me out. Heck, I read blogs on racism and disability issues mostly so that I will read things that do call me out, even if it’s not me directly, so that I can see where I’m fucking up and try to fix it. Here’s my note to people who think sexism (racism, classism, homophobia, cissexism, etc.) is dead: pretending it doesn’t exist will not stop it from existing. Acknowledging it and working to fight it will.

I am not poor

June 28, 2010

I’m going to try to be better about my financial perspective. I get angry when I talk to people who don’t actually understand what being poor looks like, so I should probably start with myself.

I am not poor.

I am nothing resembling poor.

I am underpaid for my education, sure, but I’m also still a student so I’m pretty damn lucky to be paid anyway. My rent might be a huge portion of my income, but my income is always adequate and my rent pays for a good apartment in a very safe neighborhood.

I fly places a lot. I fly to visit my family, and go on trips, and can always afford these plane tickets. When I fly, I use suitcases that were gifted to me, but I could afford to buy luggage if I didn’t have this set. I also use several hundred dollars worth of electronics to plan trips, entertain myself on the flight, and arrange for transportation too and from the airport.

I do other traveling too, that involves expensive backpacking gear or spending money for slot machines. When I go on these trips, I often spend a little extra to bring home souvenirs, gifts, or just to splurge on good food for traveling.

I can afford a new dress, new shoes, and new accessories to get dressed up for a wedding.

Not only do I always have enough to eat, but I eat well: my veggie intake is limited mostly by the fact that I’m still learning appealing ways to prepare veggies, and not by my income. I eat excessive amounts of delicious food, and while it’s not always the best on the shelf, it’s still filling, mostly nutritious, and delicious.

I have enough clothes. They fit, mostly. They keep me warm and decent. On top of that, I have the resources, to express myself in my clothing. I can afford to be picky, to buy clothes that say what I want them to say.

I have books. Lots of books. And CDs. And DVDs. I buy new ones every now and again, when I want to. I have so much stuff that I’m excited to move so that I’ll throw some of it away in the process of packing. Let’s say that again: I have so much stuff, to the point that I don’t need a lot of it, and want to get rid of clutter.

When my allergies act up, I take pills. When I get sick I go to the doctor. Now that my finances have settled I have no worries about my ability to pay for any illness I might be reasonably likely to get. I also have the resources to eat well, exercise, and read about health in an attempt to need less medical care.

I want to learn Spanish. The real limiter in this endeavor: time. I could afford, if I had the time, to invest in some expensive language software, or classes, or both, to make this process easier.

Yeah, there are a lot of things I don’t have. I still have loans. I save money by not owning a car. There are things I can’t afford, like…I dunno. Expensive jewelry whenever I want it. Flights to Europe. Kids. But for a single young person, I make more than enough. I want to try to remember more that I do have enough money, that I’m not poor. Maybe whine a little less about my income. People raise families on what I make – it ought to be more than enough for a single person.

two feminist thoughts

June 10, 2010

This is a recurring thought of mine, but I find it frustrating ironic that to give myself the best chance of having a discussion about feminism and sexism, at least with a person who haven’t had that discussion with several times before, I can’t say words like “sexism” and “feminism”.

This post, on insulin pump accessories and what they can mean to people, got me thinking a lot about how being queer has affected my feminism. Being bisexual, and genderqueer, and just generally queer radically influences my views on gender essentialism, which in turn speaks to all areas of my feminism. Sometimes it’s good for me to be reminded of that, to remember that not everyone comes from this place, and that other experiences color the world very differently.

nerd’s night in

June 5, 2010

Worked most of the day today, and I wanted to relax a bit in the evening. So, wearing my new Ada Lovelace t-shirt (also go the Marie Curie one, both from ThinkGeek, and both teh awesome), I put on “Return of the Jedi” and spent the evening with a soldering iron, a screwdriver and duct tape, repairing my mp3 player speakers. I’m happy to say they work now! Although, I do have a couple of pieces of plastic and many screws leftover…

(btw the manner in which my speakers came to be broken is pretty funny. The end section of the headphone jack broke of IN my mp3 player. II had to disassemble the whole thing just to get the piece of the jack out to get the mp3 player functioning again. Then I had to take apart the speakers and buy a new jack, then loose, then find the new jack again, before I could get the speakers working again. But yeah, the headphone jack broke in the speakers. I couldn’t believe it.)

what have we learned?

June 3, 2010

I was watching West Wing with dinner tonight and got to the episode that aired right after 9/11. It’s been nearly nine years, and it saddens and scares me how little we’ve learned.

The plot of the episode is that a captured terrorist named an accomplice who has an alias that’s the same name as someone who works in the White House. They lock down the building and question the guy. Meanwhile, a classroom of high school students happen to be in the building when the lock it down, and they talk with the staff and learn a lot about terrorism. They talk about how Islamic extremism hardly resembles Islam. They talk about how the problem isn’t Arabs, but people who are willing to use any means to enforce their will. They talk about the plight of the Afghan people. They talk about the roots of terrorism are poverty. They talk about how American pluralism is so different and important. Nearly nine years later, I don’t think we’ve learned these lessons well.

What really stuck me, this viewing of this show, was the questioning of the suspect. Nearly nine years later, I’m sure that it wouldn’t have been questioning. We would have hauled this guy away to some unknown room. We’ve decided that suspected terrorists don’t have rights. We don’t have to let them have a lawyer. We don’t have to have a reason to hold on to them. We can hit them, we can torture them, and it’s all okay. This guy was innocent. He happened to have the same name as a named terrorist; he wasn’t one himself. We currently have such innocents locked up in rooms that official don’t exist. We whisk people off to unlisted sites and hold on to them until we feel like letting them go. Or, if we’re feeling weak stomached, we ship them off to allies who have even fewer qualms than we do. Proof isn’t required. When did we decide this was okay?