2015-08-19 04:42 am

(no subject)

I took a long weekend and went to Rehoboth to see my family; they've been doing a vacation in Rehoboth for the past 10 years, renting a beach house from some church friends. My parents go for the full week, and my siblings join for the last few days. So I flew to Philly on a Thursday night and drove the 2+ hours from PHL to Rehoboth each, and spent Friday and Saturday with everyone, coming back on Sunday. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures, and my sister and dad had the same problem with camera phones that I do--so we only have some blurry impressionistic photos of the weekend from various restaurants. My sister in law had a real camera and took official photos, but she hasn't gotten around to sending them yet. ;)

Mom is doing well; she has a cane because her feet are numb (though they are coming back online slowly) but she was trundling all over the beach town and boardwalk, and napping to keep up her energy. Dad had a cough which was bothering everyone given his tendency to pneumonia and his responsibilities for mom, but he was insistent he was fine (and he was).

I got to have fun discovering the boardwalk (old hat for all of them, of course, but new to me), and the elder nephew and I rode the amusement park rides, the swinging dragon ship and spinning gyrotron, which are rides I haven't seen much less been on in years and years. Omg that was fun. There's something about being dropped from the equivalent of a 3rd story window that really does reboot one's emotional system. I think it's the primal fear of death combined with the top-down knowledge that you're not going to die that creates a certain state of clarity. :) I felt great for hours after that. Apparently no one else will ride those rides with my nephew any more, so that worked out well.

The hubby wouldn't come with me--he used to do vacations in Ocean City as a kid and it was not a good time for him. Plus the trip earlier in June left him with headaches for a few days, so even a short trip to PHL doesn't work. Just as well, to be honest--the traffic from PHL to the beach was INSANE the night I got in, and what should have been just a 2 hour drive took closer to three. Plus as I noted on FB, I made the mistake of renting from Dollar and so did everyone else in town: I waited an HOUR in line to pick up the car on the way out, and 15 minutes dropping it off on the way back. Given that National and Enterprise are basically immediate, no waiting at all in either direction, that is unacceptable. So I was supposed to show up around 6 or 6:30 and it was closer to 8 pm before I rolled in.

We watched the first Republican debate that night (followed by John Stewart's farewell show)--it was actually much better than I'd expected. I thought the questions were fairly hard hitting, and Trump didn't dominate the airtime as much as had been predicted. Kasich actually seemed like a reasonable human being. It was absurd how much time they spent talking about defunding Planned Parenthood and repealing Obamacare, as though that's what is keeping Americans poor and overworked these days. Did they even talk about the troops and various wars going on overseas? I don't think they did. A little about ISIL, maybe, but I may have wandered off for a drink and missed it.

I had a lot of time to chat with Mom that weekend, which was good (we agree about the Pope being a good guy :), and some with Dad, and more with my sister in law than I have in years, which was good. My elder nephew is playing Clash of Clans and other online games and I warned him to keep it to a minimum, using myself as a bad example (since I can kill HOURS on absolute garbage with those games, though we all know not to spend any $$ on it at least). He seems to be able to put it down after 15 minutes, though. Heh--Since Dad was so active in church renewal (/schism) in Argentina, he knows the head of the Anglican church there, and that fellow was friends with the guy who became Pope. Mom says the Pope likes to make his own phone calls, and Dad's friend has had the disconcerting experience of getting a phone call from someone who said, "Hey, it's me, the pope..." :) or words to that effect. ::chuckle::

and I did not have a fight with my sister about politics or anything the whole weekend. We were both very restrained and mostly just snorted at each other's inanities. ;) My SIL said that there were a few years when my sister and my mom got into screaming matches about it, at which point she would shepherd the nephews out of the house to the beach, but it's calmed down since then. That surprised me--I didn't realize they had fought about it so violently. That's kind of sad, so I'm glad it's not happening any more. Apparently my brother and SIL are much more centrist, which is a relief. ;)
2015-06-05 06:02 am

(no subject)

I have to admit to having mixed feelings about reunion. I do want to see people, but I am also aware that a lot of the people who will be there will be nothing like me, doing things I don't do. I have memories of past reunions of feeling very awkwardly out of place, at least around the SWIL and later years' Psi Phi people. I have never enjoyed the Saturday cook-out--the few times I went, I felt like a ghost on the edges of someone else's party. I have never played Settlers of Cataan and that's not my thing; I used to play Kremlin and Skitgubbe and that's about as complex as I get. I feel stupid not being able to play these strategy games, I don't know the more recent years' people. I didn't do the SWIL vacations, I don't have kids who play with other people's kids.

The reunion in some ways highlights the loss of social connections, given how tightly bonded I was with the old gang in college. And that is saddening (why did I ever think I fit in?). But dude, I really don't game, and that's been the thread that forms the social network glue for so many of these get-togethers over the past 25 years. My choice, and I chose a different path. I just pay for it occasionally.

(Part of the angst about reunion is it also highlights the life I've led and how incredibly boring I think I am to other people because I am monomaniacal about work, mostly, so I feel like I'm coming up short in the "how is your life going" department. Everyone else has things to talk about besides work, and I really don't. I'm happy that way generally speaking because I find work to be incredibly fulfilling, but getting together with the old college crowd always makes me feel like I was supposed to Do Better. What have I done for social justice causes lately? Why am I not balancing a deep passion for recycling or something that makes the world a better place along with my work? or at least why am I still eating meat? I'm such a consumer! I'm so disappointingly mainstream! It's silly but there it is. College reunion is the one place where I explicitly feel like I'm not keeping up with the Joneses, even though it is on a moral level instead of a physical one. ;)

On the other hand, reunion is at this point a cool mix of people I kind of keep up with from LJ and FB, and people I haven't seen in YEARS and have been wondering how they were doing. :) So I don't know what I am worried about, really. I'm taking the hubby so he can see the campus and some of my friends, and that also will keep it low-key.
2015-05-19 01:19 pm

(no subject)

I have been watching Game of Thrones recently, one episode at a time. I'm about halfway through season 3 and finally reached my limit on gore and violence. I had to fast forward through a scene because I knew what was coming and I didn't want to hear any more screaming and pleading.

I think I'm done with the series. From everything I'm seeing online, it's only getting worse. It's now at a point where something supremely horrible has to happen in every episode, to different people every time. I just don't need to hear or see that anymore.
2015-04-19 02:40 pm

(no subject)

I was talking to my mom yesterday evening; I realized I could set the treadmill to 2.5 mph and talk to my parents while walking for half an hour, which is a good thing. Mom's had her last treatment--the 12th--and in a few weeks they'll find out of the tumor has pulled away from the hepatic vein enough for the whipple procedure.

No one is very optimistic about it; the expectation at this point is that she's a permanent cancer patient. However, for pancreatic cancer that's saying something, and everyone is admitting that she's one of the few who's made it through all 12 treatments of this new drug. Most of the others who started it have switched to something less lethal along the way. Mom said that surprised her because she never thought of herself as someone very strong; I said she wasn't lifting railroad ties or anything, but she always had endurance, no question. Sticktoitiveness. But they have put her in touch with palliative care, which I have to admit is a bummer. She says it is for the neuropathy and handling the ongoing pain from that, and I said on the one hand I am very much disturbed by the word "palliative" but on the other hand, I'm all for her not being in pain.

She pointed out that the death of a parent is always a shake-up; when her mom, my grandma, died, she (my mom) was in recovery, i.e. therapy to deal with all the messed-up stuff she had learned from her mother the alcoholic. And mom then pointed out that when Granpa married Margaret (his third and last wife, who was the spitting image of my grandmother at her worst--angry, mean, venal, stupid, belittling him at every turn even as she made sure he got his meds and was well-fed etc.), mom had a LOT of re-assessing to do. ;) I can't even think about Dad re-marrying. I don't think he'd last long enough without mom to even consider it. My uncle is dating again (and having his heart broken, sigh!) and it's not easy, but he's not even 75 yet. Dad's closer to 80 than 70 at this point.

Mom and I have evolved a lot together; we always got along, admittedly. I think I can count the number of all-out screaming fights we have had in my life on the fingers of one hand, and I don't even remember what those were about, per se. I'm pretty sure one of them was about them not letting me date a fellow from the local college when I was in high school (and I mean, seriously, good choice on their part), and the other one was some time around my college graduation and was something about my sister, but honestly I don't remember what it was. But let's be serious; Mom and Dad always came across as center to far right politically and theologically when I was growing up. Homosexuality was a sin (even if it was "just a phase"), not to be considered as a normal way of life; women priests were an oxymoron; Carter was a disaster and Reagan was great, though admittedly we didn't have a lot of political discussions around the dinner table. Dad as a diplomat had to implement the policies of whoever was in charge, and I remember him explaining that to me at some point in high school, that his personal beliefs couldn't affect how he did his job.

Mom swears they've both flip flopped between Democrat and Republican over the course of their lives, but friends from high school and college have both attested that my parents were some of the most conservative people they ever knew. And certainly the hubby, who has been around 20+ years now, says he definitely remembers some very vivid commentary on Slick Willy's presidency, back when we were first married. And of course Dad played a role in the break-up of the Anglican Communion of the past 20 years over theological intransigency (he's currently writing a book on it). So my impression has always been, with some evidence, they were conservatives all the way.

But Mom voted for Kerry, and Dad backs her up on that, with his waggling eyebrows attesting to the depth of the fights they had over that election. She definitely voted for Obama both times, and has had some choice words about the Bush/Cheney administrations, WMDs, and unfunded unjustified wars, demonizing the poor, etc. She strongly shared my revulsion and nausea over the CIA torture report last fall. Mom's claiming to have been a liberal for a long time now--I think it has to do with having gotten into the teacher's union when she was teaching high school for so long, and realizing that they were not the instruments of evil that she'd been raised to believe. That was the first crack!

But these last times I've talked to her, she pointed out she realized she's actually changed her views on gay marriage, and is much more accepting of it than she realized (or than Dad is! arguing with him helped her clarify her views, which is why it came up). And she said Dad has actually gotten comfortable, recently, taking the bread and wine from a woman priest!

I said hang on, I have to call hell and book my next skiing vacation... :) Seriously?? Dad and a woman priest? Mom, in favor of gay rights (even if only tentatively)?? My word. Mom has actually become a social liberal. I mean, it took me long enough--I was stupid for a long time--but I was a young adult and have had decades to re-assess my childhood upbringing and to be introduced to the ideas of privilege, institutionalized bigotry, etc. I never pictured she could change as well, during the last quarter or third of her life.

She continues to be a role model, however imperfect.
2015-03-22 05:26 pm

(no subject)

So this was spring break. I wrote and submitted a paper to a computer science conference; wrote and submitted an internal seed grant proposal; met with co-investigators re: revising and resubmitting our R21 this summer; got myself into one of the consortia for this massive "ABCD" grant call that NIH put out (that was 3 hours of separate meetings); went to the museum with Kava; skyped with a new guy in Singapore about potential imaging genetics collaborations; and went to a super computing workshop to learn about using the clusters here on campus. And had 6 other meetings not covered by these topics, with grad students and undergrads etc. :) And prepped my next week and some's lecture, gave feedback on two papers from grad students, got word a paper I'm senior author on was accepted (yay!), and found out the grad applicant I made an offer to has accepted (whee!).

Helluva break, I must say. No wonder I don't feel particularly rested!
2015-03-20 03:55 am

(no subject)

Apparently going to an art museum for the first time since I guess last year in Munich made an impact--I was definitely a bit manic as I was seeing more and more of it, and I sent an email home about it, posted on FB about it, and am posting twice here about it. That's a stunning endorsement for the museum. :)

But I did want to remember that I was standing in front of a piece by Wilfredo Lam, an abstract piece all pointy edges and round eyes and 3D shading, and seeing in it the echoes of his surrealism and cubism and the Brazilian spirits of his earlier work that had been included in the exhibit, but also the echoes of Guernica and Hieronymous Bosch, and the graffiti at this one corner that I drive past going to work every day. It was a weird experience of being highly aware that what I was seeing was not just the picture but the overlays and resonances of my previous experiences and memories; that I could not experience the painting in itself because my neural networks were already shaped and tuned based on everything that had come before for me.

There had been a big reflecting piece in another room, that was a curved set of polished facets; it didn't reflect back the room exactly but gave an overall impression and effect of the room, with the floor and ceiling inverted and broken up. As you stood in front of it of course your reflection changed what was in it--which meant no two people could ever experience it the same way at the same time, because they would be at different viewpoints seeing different patterns.

In a sense, the mirror piece made obvious what was going on in front of every other painting, but I was only highly aware of it in front of the Wilfredo Lam piece. No two people will have the same response to a painting, at some level, because the sum of their previous experiences is never identical so the context for the perception, the resonances and responses, is different.

Which is not particularly deep, but it was pretty cool to have it bouncing about due to a museum visit. :)
2015-03-19 08:55 pm

(no subject)

I have a student intern Kava from the Netherlands who is working in my lab for the next 3 months, as part of a collaborative project with some faculty in Nijmegen. She's just a senior undergraduate but she's going for an honors thesis or some equivalent, and we've been working out a project with Alar her advisor for the past 6 months or so.

But GSU didn't have any resources for student housing, so she ended up in a decent housing situation with a nice couple but way south outside of the city, and was having a hard time meeting people in my lab etc. So I was feeling guilty and the hubby was urging me to do something, so I suggested that she and I go see the High Museum of Art on Wednesday, since it's spring break and a little more flexible. I wasn't sure if she wanted to do that but she jumped at the chance. ;) I hadn't been there before either but the hubby would never go with me so I figured I'd ask Kava. ;) So we had lunch and a few hours in the museum and some time to chat about work and other stuff.

The museum was really surprisingly good. They had a special exhibit on what I thought was surrealism, but it was only some of that. There were three artists--Wilfredo Lam, Jose Parla, and Fahama Pecou; I didn't really get the Jose Parla part, but Fahama Pecou had a bunch of oversized pictures of men and women in stylized outfits, paired with poems that were alternating lines of French and English. One of them next to a picture of a man in stylized African head gear said

Ma bouche sera la bouche des malheurs
qui n'ont point de bouche

--my intellect prevails from a hanging cross with nails

ma voix, la liberte de celles qui
s'affaissent au cachot du desespoir

--I reinforce the frail with lyrics that's real

Et surtout mon corps aussi bien que mon ame

--Word to Christ a disciple of streets
Life on beats

Gardez-vous de vous croiser les bras
en l'attitude sterile du spectateur

--I decipher prophecies through a mic
and say peace

car la vie n'est pas un spectacle.

--
It took to me a little bit to realize that the French and the English didn't say the same thing, but I could stand there with my cell phone and translate a bit of it one word at a time, which made for an interesting effect as the French part sort of unfolded, saying very different things from the English. It's a pretty cool conjunction of ideas, if I got it right.
2015-02-28 08:02 am

(no subject)

Mom is home from the rehab center, her protein cancer markers are in the normal range, and she's got a bunch more treatments to go but they will scale back the dosage a bit. She is in good spirits and back on line after her laptop got fried a few weeks ago. I have not been in regular touch with Dad,but he is in good health and doing ok.

Mom is thrilled that so many of her doctors and specialists and whatnot are Christians who pray regularly. When I was talking to her this week she mentioned she was getting prayer from Christians, Jews, Buddhists, vaguely spiritual folks, Muslims--basically, she was covered no matter what. I am amused.

I got the official notification from my dept chair that I am eligible for tenure and early promotion, so get the paperwork going. Tenure we knew about, but the early promotion is a question. I am still trying to get an answer on what that means. But yeah, now we are on a roll. We shall see what the future holds!

Haven't read any good books lately; I sent my nevvies a bunch of books for Christmas and another for yhe birthday in February, but haven't heard if they liked them. My sister had a couple of recommendations of books by various sci fi authors she thought were really good that I would like, and I asked her for a list. Unfortunately when I looked them all up they were all military sf, tales of fighting alien empires or stuff like that. Just a few shades away from Starship Troopers. SIGH. I had hoped for a possible point of contact. We all agree on GGK but that's about it.

I am a bit sad that Leonard Nimoy has finally died. On the one hand, I am very aware of the distinction between actors and the roles they play--so while hell yes, Spock was always my favorite, that character died long ago and Nimoy is not Spock. Either Spock was already dead or he lives on as much as he ever did, as a fictional character; Nimoy is not Spock. On the other hand, he seems to have been a genuinely nice guy who was generous and helpful and compassionate and generally a benefit to humanity; and that is a true loss.
2015-02-22 06:48 am

(no subject)

Well that was weird. This week was stressful--besides the usual demands, various psych subdivisions had their grad student applicants visiting and interviewing, and the subdivision I'm in charge of (Neuropsych and Behavioral Neurosci) is under fire from certain higher ups who think the Psych department doesn't need a neurosci division anyway, and so it was important that we interview and make offers and bring in good grad students to show our viability. So Thursday was our day of interviews.

And then the psychiatrist I'm collaborating with told me last week he had all his approvals, and we were discussing Monday how to get it actually started; and he said all the patients would be in the clinic on Thursday afternoon, and we could come then to recruit and enroll them.

So Thursday I had a last minute phone call with him at 8 am, then grad student interviews at 9 (only two applicants out of 4 could make it in person, the other two we are doing by skype/phone), then in the afternoon take 2 hours at the clinic (which went better than expected, considering I'd never been there before and never in my life have I been responsible for enrolling psychiatric patients)--then as we were finishing up the 2nd patient, a member of the psych team informed us that they had just figured out that they DID not have all the consent/approvals in place so we would not be able to use the people we just enrolled--then I ran back to the department to take our interviewees and a new faculty member and his family to the imaging center for a tour, then finish an NIH grant review before the dinner party for faculty and interviewees from my and another subdivision (which luckily I did not have to plan or arrange).

Oh my word that was a long and frustrating day. Couldn't start our clinical study after all after all that planning and excitement, and neither of the two grad school interviewees were all that spectacular in person either. Gaaah...

But then Friday evening I was basically passing out at 8:30 pm and went to bed early; slept 'til 5:30 am or so, and thought I'd gotten enough sleep for once--but yesterday all I wanted to do was sit on the couch watching British panel quiz shows and napping on and off every few hours. Last night I passed out again at 9:30 and slept through until my 6 am alarm went off this morning. I'm not sick; I feel fine, hopefully this is just me demanding some down time. Today I really do have to catch up. ;)
2015-01-01 12:44 pm

(no subject)

Christmas was quiet--we had homemade keema and dal, I skyped home as they were getting together and opening my sister's birthday presents, the hubby and I opened gifties in the evening. We got my mom books that she wanted (and one that she didn't ask for, but which I wanted her opinion on, which she has already been reading and asking questions about! :), my dad some ballet videos he wanted; my sister didn't give me a list so I bought her a red pendant necklace for her birthday and a different one for Christmas. She seemed to like them! They looked as nice in person as they did on the website, which is a relief. ;) I got my sister-in-law a panini press she wanted, my brother got some Vorkosigan novels because I wanted to know if he would like them, my younger nevvie got a game he wanted and my older nevvie got Caves of Steel, the Stainless Steel Rat, and the Wizard of EarthSea. The younger nevvie will probably read them first, but such is life. :) I think my sister got my brother the Foundation trilogy, and about damn time--I couldn't believe he didn't already have it on his shelf. ;)

The hubby and I didn't swap Christmas presents 'cause we are saving up to buy some equipment, and we asked the family to chip in, so there are a lot of checks we need to deposit. :) But he got me the Just Dance 2014 and 2015 Wii games for my birthday, and I've been having a wonderful time with those in the meantime. He finally figured out what he wanted for his birthday (from *August*) and we went out before New Year's and got him a MacBook Pro. :) Woot!

I went to the 10 am Christmas Day service, which I think is the first one I've been to all year. It felt good, and I am very aware that I need to make sure to start going again regularly. We will try again.

We've been gearing up to go see my mom and dad, and spend a few days after that with the hubby's parents, before coming back for the start of the semester. We figured out how to turn the water off to the house before leaving, which was quite an accomplishment. ;) But now my mom fell yesterday and broke her hip, so she's in the hospital now getting a partial hip replacement. I had a brief chat with her and dad this morning, and we'll know more this afternoon hopefully. The hubby offered that we should flip the trip, and go to his parents first and then mine in the 2nd half of next week--I ran that by Dad and they are considering it.

So everything is very much in the air, and needless to say I am terrified of my mom going under the knife in her current state, though I appreciate it is the only option. I can *not* imagine how my dad is holding up.
2014-12-25 01:31 pm

(no subject)

The semester has ended, the buildings on campus are closed until Jan 5. I've been at home all week; so far didn't get a lot done other than update the syllabus for next semester and start picking at my updated CV for the March submission. I have a countably infinite set of deadlines hanging, including an internal seed grant and CS conference paper due Jan 12. I'll get on that tomorrow. ;)

The students all did well; I had 14 finish the semester, one of whom actually disappeared after the midterm and turned in not much after that. I had emailed her when she didn't turn in the rough draft of the paper, reminding her that without it she would get a zero on that and on the final version of the paper, and I didn't hear back. After all the assignments were in for the semester and she didn't turn in either the paper or the final exam essay, I emailed the senior lecturer who is in charge of undergrads in the department and said hey am I supposed to do anything about this? He actually passed the info on to some Dean of undergrads, who wrote back that yes, they've been in touch with the student in question and are discussing various ways of managing the family emergencies that made her disappear. I am glad to know there is someone else looking after such things, I must say. I wasn't aware of that back at UCI so many years ago. More of a safety net, here.

I skyped with my family back in VA yesterday for Christmas Eve--my sis had her tablet so we ran skype on both hers and mine, and it worked out surprisingly well. The video was blurry and choppy, of course, since she was on Dad's DSL and I was on wireless myself. But I could hear most of what was being said and they could hear me, which worked just fine! Not quite like being there, but close. My brother and his family went with Dad to the early Christmas service, but mom wasn't feeling up to it, and my sis's work didn't give anyone Christmas Eve off! Bunch of scrooges--she got her birthday off on Monday but she had to work until about 3:30 yesterday. So she didn't make it to the 4 pm service either, but everyone was there at 6:15 and we had a great call, I got to see her open her birthday presents since she hadn't done that earlier. We will be up to see them in person in early January, and that will be good.

I went to the morning service this morning--after not having gone all year, it was good to get to a Mass. ;) I really need to be there at 8 am on Sunday mornings again. I guess that is one of my New Year's resolutions!

It's tricky, listening to the passage from Luke about the census and the shepherds etc., and thinking back to all the arguments that not only did it not happen in winter, it didn't happen that way at all--the Roman census didn't happen any time around then, they didn't require everyone to move in order to be counted but counted them in place, etc. I had to think about what to do with it if the familiar story isn't true, which led to thinking about what it relates, what the values are, what makes it meaningful--which then opens up a can of worms about what makes it any more "meaningful" than all the special Christmas episodes on TV this time of year, that are full of good will and Christmas miracles and all that. Except that it's the Bible, it's multivocal, it's rich in ideas and lessons and not just a feel-good special episode. That helped. The sermon was actually about the role of asking for stuff, since everyone in the audience could identify with making lists as kids of what they wanted for Christmas, and how getting past the stuff to what you deeply want and need and where you are in life and communicating with God about THAT is what is important, what helps you grow etc. Not bad.
2014-12-14 07:24 pm

(no subject)

In the plane on the way back from ACNP I picked up The Walking Drum, by Louis L'Amour. I'm generally a fan of Louis L'Amour; I appreciate that Zane Grey is the better writer etc., but I find his stuff a little dry. L'Amour's stuff is simpler, always black and white, good and bad, with a minimum of romance and a maximum of action. I read one of the Sackett series and was hooked, way back when. It's all cowboys and desperados and strong men and noble women etc.

But The Walking Drum is his book set in the 1100s, with our hero starting out as a young man in Brittany having had his family all killed by a rival while his father was out being a pirate around Sicily. So he has to solve that problem and then head off to find and rescue his dad, being a galley slave and a scholar and a magician and all sorts of stuff along the way.

Reminiscent, actually, of Sea Hawk by Sabatini, where our hero ends up as a galley slave through no fault of his own and has to make his way through the Caliphate to rescue the woman he loves. Or Dragon Weather that I read earlier this year, where our hero loses his family to dragons and ends up in the mines as a slave, and has to escape and right all the wrongs through his own wits and strong right arm.

I sense a theme, here. :) Apparently stories that start with a massive wrong that our hero has to set right, growing up along the way and becoming strong and smart and clever and competent etc. is a common trope, that I am fond of. Much more so than the trope of the kid being told he's special and is the only one who can save the world and now he must go on a quest. Huh.

As it turns out, I've read this book before and completely forgot it. For all I know I've even written about it here before. ;) It seemed familiar as I was going along--the fellow who did the massive betrayal I remembered, and the importance of the horses, and the final scene where he saves his dad I remembered, but the details in the middle were a blur. It's picaresque, so you get to see Cordoba, Sicily, the assassins of north Africa, the great fairs of medieval Europe when he's traveling with a merchant company, etc.

There are a surprising number of pithy sayings that seem fairly deep, about philosophy and life and the intellect and politics, etc. But I didn't mark them, and can't find them now. But the importance of learning, in this story, is surprisingly emphasized. He spends the best time of his life being a scholar in Cordoba, which I can totally empathize with. His ability to read, to discourse, and to think is as important to his success as is his ability to fence. :) It's not the usual Sackett hero who is strong and silent and competent but not really bright.

L'amour really can't do women; some of them are innocent, some of them are worldly wise, some of them are competent and some are evil. In this case they are all gorgeous in one way or another, and our hero falls in love many times over, and loses them all one way or another. But none of the characters other than the hero really get any depth, so it's not like the women are getting much worse treatment than the men. Everyone is kind of a foil, a place holder to keep the plot moving along. In this case, there are a lot of historical asides as well as philosophical comments. He's no Tolstoy, but it's a fun read. :)
2014-12-11 05:40 pm

(no subject)

From a recent update from my dad after he and mom met with the oncologist:

...So we've had three miracles already: It was only because of where the tumor is that your mom fell ill and the cancer was discovered before it metasticized. She recovered so well from the hospitalization/rehab that they were able to continue with the powerful Folfirinox. And the therapy shrank the tumor in size far beyond any expectation..

So we're looking forward to more miracles. And thanking God for where we've gotten to today. Including breath-takingly caring medical help...

----
Me, I am far too aware of how many people don't get the miracles they need to consider this any particular sign of God's favor, but hot diggety, I could just cry from relief. ;)
2014-12-09 05:42 pm

(no subject)

Yay, some time to sit and post! (as it were)

The GREAT NEWS is that my mom's tumor has shrunk almost miraculously. Her numbers are down (whatever it is they use to measure tumor "activity"), the tumor is down to a fraction of its former size. She is not dying.

I repeat: She is not currently dying (at least not any more than the rest of us). The chemo affected the tumor very strongly.

Now, the tumor is still firmly attached to the hepatic veins or whatever it was, so it is not amenable to surgery. She'll have to live with it, and get chemo every so often to keep it in its place. Her pancreas that "should be like a bratwurst" has been atrophied to "more like a slice of bacon", because of the blood loss, so she needs pancreatic enzymes for the rest of her life. Somehow she has not developed diabetes, and I don't know how that is, given her pancreas is so affected. Her isles of langerhans or whatever it is that makes the insulin must be hanging on for dear life.

She's still on for another 4-6 rounds of chemo if I understood her right. Which is no fun, but she's totally up for it now that she knows her tumor hates it. :)

Other than that--the semester is over, I have final papers to grade, final exam essays come in on Friday. Same class for next semester except I need a master's level version of the same curriculum because now it is cross-listed for graduate students too.

I'm at the ACNP meeting this week in Phoenix--it is a great meeting at which to catch up with people! Most of the old FBIRN people are here, all the New Mexico people are here, Stepo and the gang from California are here, etc. Apparently I know a lot of the members and fellows of the group, which I hadn't realized. I need to apply to be a member this coming year; for all it's a velvet rope meeting (that is largely "pale, male, and frail", which they are increasingly desperate to change), it would be good to be able to put it on the old CV if I can get elected as a member. A bunch of members told me I should apply, and several volunteered to write me the needed nomination letters, which I thought was very sweet! Downright flattering, in fact. We'll see if we can make that happen.

I do not have a good estimate of my worth; the hubby keeps pointing out that I don't appreciate my own productivity, but I am too aware of how much I suck when I'm left on my own. I had many years of flailing and not publishing and I sense that still hangs out in the background waiting to emerge. Over half my publications have been in the last 5 years, which is only the last 25% of my career--while it's good to be accelerating, I also know how much of that was freakin' luck at falling in first with Stepo and then Vica. Stepo got me into imaging genetics at the ground floor and introduced me around, and Vica is a paper mill all by himself. I am trying to keep up the momentum they both gave me now that I am on my own but I just don't know if I can do it. At a meeting like this, I vacillate between feeling like a grad student again (so much I don't know!) to feeling like a prof (wow, look at all this stuff I know!) but then feeling like a failure because I haven't done all the cool stuff "everyone else" has. I know I am falling into that trap of comparing myself to the top people, the ones giving the keynote lectures and winning awards, and I am ignoring or not taking into account the mass of people who are wandering around the meeting being perfectly reasonable researchers and clinicians. And Vica at one point surprised me by muttering about how I was being as productive as several people put together, which coming from him means a whopping lot (I just about floated into the next session ;).

But ah well: The big textmining grant I put in in June got torpedo'd, not even scored. Anla just got the reviews back; I haven't had the intestinal fortitude to read them yet. We'll discuss it on Monday. I haven't heard back from the one on ADHD that Jeli put in in June, but I imagine it also got shot down or we would have heard screams of joy, I'm sure. SIGH. I'm on a couple of current submissions Vica's put in, which is good, but even he's having trouble getting grants through. I need to put in more than two or three grants next year if we're going to keep this ball rolling--with funding levels below 10%, if you aren't on 10 grant submissions every year you aren't going to break even. ;)

I've been able to hang out with Jufo a good bit in the last two days and talk about hallucinations, and I got Irso from the Netherlands to promise me her healthy hallucinators imaging data--I have plans for that!! :) :) We are going to figure this out, I am determined. :) Jufo is currently arguing with someone from Europe who claims that it's all due to over-connectivity with the auditory cortex; but neither she nor I can find that in any of our larger scale Sz data. I need to look again a few more times just to be sure; we all expected it would be hyper connectivity or something in the auditory cortex, but it is not showing up in the analyses we have done so far. At this point I'm thinking it's a combination of salience network malfunction and something in the auditory and inferior frontal/insular cortex (which could be language or cognition or emotional function, in that area), but it's not the easy answer of hyperactivity or connectivity.
2014-11-17 06:13 am

(no subject)

to be honest I did feel better yesterday after meeting with Cawr and Naco.Cawr is all bubbly about her new job,and Naco has taken seriously my suggestion that he should start writing grants, so he had been at all the mentoring and career development workshops over the weekend. Much more positive! :)
2014-11-16 02:43 pm

(no subject)

Wow I am grumpy today. I can't focus for the life of me. Thursday and Friday last week I was at the INCF neuroimaging data sharing task force meeting in DC; yesterday I was with my family; today I'm at SFN and in a few hours I'll head to the airport. But I have just no patience, and I feel like everything is just Too Much. Thursday was fine, great meeting, lots of interesting stuff, but Friday I had a nasty headache all day that didn't respond to anything, so I made it through the day but then I skipped the group dinner Friday night and just crashed in my room for 12 hours. Saturday was all right--I still had a bit of a headache but it went away, and it was great to see my family (and my sister and I did not get in a fight! we actually found other things to talk about like books and TV shows and traffic in northern Virginia, etc. I refused to respond to her assertion that the President is to blame for the increased "racial divide" and increased racial tensions in the US...). Mom was doing surprisingly well and was able to come to dinner at my brother's; but my word she is frail, and I'm not used to my mother being frail. It's rather terrifying. It was very clear she wanted me to come visit again as soon as possible, though possibly not until she's done with the next few rounds of chemo. That's stressful.

This morning I was trying to get here at 8:30 am to hear the first talks, and didn't make it to anything until 9:30--I got to the convention center around 8:45, but then went the wrong way round to get to any of the things I wanted to see, stopped in line for 10 minutes (and $10!) to get the worst coffee ever, a dry muffin, and a bottle of water, ended up throwing out most of the muffin and coffee and missing the one speaker I should have seen, who was the head of NIH talking about fostering reproducibility in science.

I did take some notes on the two speakers I did hear, and then split to try again to get a cup of coffee and work on my lecture for class tomorrow. That worked out ok, and I heard 2/3 of a really interesting lecture on ingroup/outgroup stuff before I met Suhsi at 12:30 for lunch--haven't seen her in years, so it was good to have a chance to catch up. But it took us forever to find a place where we could sit down and eat, and then it was almost 2:30 before I got back to the conference--and another mutual friend was supposed to meet us and never showed up, just kept texting she was a few minutes away--I dunno, just annoying. I had a niggling suspicion that other person did not want to actually meet with me, but I think that's probably paranoia and she's just a fruitcake. Sushi's doing fine and her hubby is doing great, top of the world for his career at least, but wow they are not happy people. And that's just hard to listen to. It makes me downplay my own enthusiasm, and since I was already feeling a little iffy about stuff, I couldn't keep up the bubbly persona. I ended up rather depressed, which is annoying when you're seeing an old friend.

I left Suhsi at the door to the conference and proceeded to go completely the wrong way round again to where I wanted to go, so I gave up on hearing the last half hour of the neuroscience of gaming because I couldn't find the room. I thought I would stop in at the working memory talks, where I could find the room, but I listened for two minutes to some grad student stumbling his way through an MEG study and gave up. Not worth it. No patience! grrrrrr.

So I am going to read through student paper rough drafts until I am meeting up with my post-doc and recent grad, and hopefully I can put on a happy face for them. ;) Then I am off to the airport where I can finish my lectures and other stuff in peace and not feel so much like there is something else I should be doing. I really wish I knew why I was in such a bad mood. This is a good conference, lots of good stuff going on, but for some reason I only want to go home and curl up in front of the TV with the hubby and forget anything else is going on.
2014-10-19 03:36 pm

(no subject)

It's been a while. :) At work, we have gotten a bunch of papers submitted (or revised and resubmitted), and an R21 got submitted (small grant); I'm actually quite pleased with all that! It was harder than it sounds. And I'm presenting to the IRB tomorrow about why it's ok to scan people with severe mental illnesses in the MRI. Hopefully I will only have to do that once, and we will be good to go. I'm scared of getting an imaging project actually going--it is a lot of work and a lot can go wrong--but I need to do it.

I am starting to feel like we are getting somewhere on the schizophrenia front--there are enough structural imaging papers and projects we have done that a) I am starting to believe that the multivariate analyses are truly showing reproducible results that are related to some underlying trait, b) we can do something with symptom measures like hallucination severity and c) I may actually be responsible for adding to the world's store of knowledge about schizophrenia. This is a good thing. :)

My hundredth paper is one of the ones currently under review. This is also a good thing!

The hubby and I have been out looking at the occasional house and neighborhood. Nothing yet, though a few things have gotten close.

I have to pull together my tenure packet, and have had a few meetings with my previous and current chairs about that. Omg it is a lot of work--you basically take everything that is on your CV and flesh it out by several orders of magnitude, so that what was a few pages now takes 8-10" of shelf space in printed paper. It is a serious waste of time, as far as I can tell. It doesn't say much that isn't already obvious in my CV. I have to print out copies of about 40-50 of my articles, which are already listed on my CV; I need several versions of my CV, one normal and one "annotated" so that for every article it says what role I played in it and what I did; I need the syllabi for the classes I have taught, slides from an example lecture, and copies of feedback from the students (that is one of the few parts not already captured by the CV); I take the grants listed on my CV and copy them again to another place under a new heading; I take the student theses, presentations and publications already listed on my CV and copy them to another place under a new heading, fleshing out who did what and arguing how I'm marvelous at undergraduate and graduate mentoring; and I need to write some teaching and research statement that proves I'm looking ahead and have a decent research program in place--which, again, should be obvious from the fact that I have four funded grants as co-PI, a couple as co-I, and half a dozen more under review. I'm sure there is more, too, that I am forgetting.

And I need names of about 8-12 reviewers who are expert enough to understand my work but not closely involved enough to care whether I do well or not, who are also tenured profs at research universities in the US. ;) They can't be on a grant with me, for sure, or my advisor or any sort of official mentor. That part's ok, but technically, I'm not supposed to have been co-authors with them on anything, and that gets more tricky! But I can write a paragraph or so for each one explaining who they are and what my relationship with them is, so that should help. I need to check with Vica and Jubo about their recommendations, as well as others that I would ask except we are on grants together--they may have suggestions.

The hubby and I went to the Maker Fair in Decatur a few weeks ago; it was all 3D printers and virtual reality glasses, as well as a surprising amount of metal working and welding (more than one steam-punk makers' group!). There were a bunch of booths from GA Tech, with all sorts of lasers you could build/get/hack, and someone who was converting old living room furniture into bicycles, the astronomers had a booth, there was a gamers' group actively hacking away developing games in one booth and letting people play the new games in another, and Agnes Scott College had a nice display about using easily available drones to collect pollution measurements dynamically. And the home-schooled kids' booth, where they had--wait for it--home-made soap (SIGH!!). The highlight was the build-it-and-race-it go-Kart race that we happened to get there just in time to see; it was all adults with serious go-carts built out of lawnmowers and old bikes and various bizarre things, and they had to do a full 20 laps of a curvy, hill course. It was a bit like a science fair, in that a number of groups were there showing off what they had done; but others were showing what could be done, and a few were actually looking to recruit new people.

What surprised both the hubby and me was how few groups were actively recruiting new people; we had thought it would be a good place to get on mailing lists and see who's doing what around town. But only one group was actively pushing a sign up sheets, and others were positively reticent. Very odd. A collection of introverts. ;)
2014-10-09 09:17 am

(no subject)

I posted on FB about a strange interchange in class on Monday; I had a visiting lecturer talking about her work with people at high risk of developing schizophrenia--they are already showing mild symptoms and starting to lose function but some of them, of course, are not developing schizophrenia. I asked her about the symptom of "unusual thoughts" -- I understand hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, etc., but what is "unusual thoughts"? So she was trying to describe them; they are a lot like weak delusions, e.g. convinced that you are in a romantic relationship with a celebrity you've never met, but not quite reaching the level of a firm conviction. But, she pointed out, you have to be sensitive to what is a weird thought based on the person's background; certainly people talking about ghosts and magic outside of your own sphere of experience may reflect their own cultural and religious background. And then she gave an example of a subculture, trying to steer away from religion (a particularly tricky topic since religious grandiosity and delusions can play a role). She asked how many in the class had heard of the Illuminati, and almost everyone nodded and chuckled.

Then she asked, ok, so who runs the Illuminati?
And the chorus came back, "Jay Z and Beyonce!" Which completely floored me--I never thought of anyone *running* the construct commonly known as the Illuminati, and I certainly would not have pinned it on rap/hip hop stars. But she pointed out that certainly within Atlanta (and it turns out it's bigger than that, it's quite the internet/youtube thing) there's a connection between rap/hip hop and the Illuminati, so if someone suddenly spouts off about that, that doesn't count as "unusual thoughts."

I asked the hubby if he'd heard of such a thing, since he's more knowledgeable about conspiracy theories than I am, and it was not news to him. He pointed out that the Christian Right started taking over the conspiracy theories a few decades ago, and the Illuminati is a favorite (and certainly in looking this sort of thing up since Monday I've seen Glen Beck's clips talking about it). So while when I heard about them back in the 80's it was in the role of shadowy financial folks controlling the world in league with the Trilateral Commission etc., now they are the source of all social and moral decay (favorite topics of the Christian Right). So Hollywood and the entertainment biz is purportedly rife with people who sold their soul to the devil and are working for or with the Illuminati to destroy Amurrica. How can anyone become that successful if they haven't sold their soul, after all? And particularly a black man or woman.

SIGH. Double SIGH. Wow, people can be stupid. I am intrigued that the conspiracy theories have become so rife that they are common place, though. Is that a change or was it always that way? It seems like a change to me, but I wasn't polling the average guy on the street in the 80s.
2014-10-02 04:28 pm

(no subject)

Mom’s been home for a few days now, and even had her first dose of chemo on Tuesday. So far, so good! She also got her genetic testing results and has none of the BRCA markers, which has relieved her mind greatly. It’s no surprise to me—I’ve said for years that our family doesn’t show the cancer phenotypes that indicate BRCA—but I’m glad she finally got it off her mind (and she can quit bugging me to get it done).

Apparently I can't do Lj-cut at Dreamwidth, so my apologies for the long entry... I will have to figure that out!

Tuesday night I flew from Atlanta to Toronto. A few years ago, Arvo from Toronto sat me down at a conference and picked my brain about multi-site neuroimaging, and put me on as a consultant on a grant he was submitting. It didn’t get funded but in the revision he again picked my brain and this time put me on as a subcontract. That version did get funded, we’ve been having various start-up calls over the summer, everyone’s done their non-human scans and calibrations, so here I am with the rest of his group getting yet another multi-site schizophrenia neuroimaging study started.

I spent all day yesterday at the scanner as he and two other PIs went through the protocol—eye opening for everyone, since some of these guys hadn’t been in an MRI in 20 years, and they discovered that a 1.5 hour scan was pretty much the limit of what they could do or what they would ask anyone else to do, which I very much agree with. Also the cognitive tasks are a mess, but that’s not my department. ;) I caught one error in the protocol on the first scan, which made me feel like at least I earned my right to be here. ;) That was finally all over at 5 pm, at which point I sat down with Arvo and one of his post docs about all the stuff I had thought of during the day, confirming various points and raising other ones—then we met Jike and some of the other project PIs for drinks, then off for a big project dinner with all the staff from all the sites, then another round of drinks at another bar, and back to the hotel room at midnight. I felt like someone off of freakin’ Mad Men. ;) But I was drinking mostly red wine, and once dinner was over I only had water, so this morning was not so bad. I discovered that Stestr from another university in Toronto, the one who taught me about Partial Least Squares and Canonical Coefficients and whatnot way back when, who was on our external advisory board for the project back in California, not only remembered me but picked a seat next to me so we could chat during dinner--which was nice because I knew hardly anyone there except him, and I was hoping we could chat.  Random stuff comes up when you put different people together, so after we talked about what we both were working on and points of commonality in some of our work, someone was commenting about the training tapes for the clinical part of the study and how old and out of date they were—they said one of them had a Steely Dan soundtrack, and Stestr said he preferred a band called Steeleye Span. It was quite a shock to us both to find someone else who even *knew* about the band! And it turned out he’d run into it when he was 18 and doing a road trip with a friend who was a fan (Stestr is now 60)—while I was introduced when I was in college, by others who were fans. :) Such is life!

And once again, even though this group is tangential to all my previous collaborations so it is all new people to me, all the PIs are men; the key physicist at Toronto is a woman, as is the head of the imaging center (and actually, the key imaging physicist at one of the other sites is a woman too), but there were only two senior women at the meeting the past two days—me, and the Toronto physicist. She has, by the way, done an amazing job at figuring out ways to compare DTI scans across scanners, that I hope she publishes, because wow everyone needs that and there is nothing out there! But there were plenty of women in the room, at the meeting, but they were all recruiters, coordinators, clinical raters, temp folks who are basically kids on their way to medical school. I do not understand why no women are in schizophrenia research—I mean, there *are* women in schizophrenia imaging research; I can think of half a dozen serious PIs off the top of my head; but wow, it is easy to pick up a group of such researchers and have no women in it who are at the top level. (Nancy Andreassen, Raquel Gur, Judy Ford, Dara Manoach, Cindy Wible, Carol Tamminga, Lynn Delisi, Ayse Belger, Deanna Barch are all at the top of their game and at or near the top of the heap; below them are a couple who used to work with Ty Cannon, Cadenhead and the gal who does DTI research and just got a professorship, Katie whose name I never remember, and Ayse’s friend in Alabama I met at one point. Carol even runs the big multi-site BSNIP project. And of course I just sent Cawr off to do schizophrenia research as a post-doc, and hopefully she will keep it up. Among the males doing imaging in Sz, we have Cannon, Thompson, Toga, Pearlson, Glahn, Malhotra, Brown, two McCarthys, the male Gur, Mathalon, Lim, Bustillo, Potkin, Carpenter, Carter, Csernansky—and that’s all established guys, not even dipping into the youngsters who are just getting their professorships. So it’s not an all male field; but it certainly isn’t evenly split.)

Anyway, it was a little tough rolling out of bed this morning but not too bad. Today was mostly the meeting, reviewing for everyone what the study was about, what was being done, what had been done so far, what the plans are. Arvo did a great job and I now understand it a lot more. It’s very different from the previous Sz projects I’ve been part of, in that they are doing a decent amount of cognitive work, but very little by way of clinical symptoms. Not the usual battery of symptom measures, very little on positive symptoms, but lots of social interactions assessments. I need to get a copy of these tests so I can get familiar with them. Social cognition is not my strong suit…

My flight was at 5:30 pm—I was routed through LaGuardia—so I was on the same flight as Anma and the rest of the NYC site team, and Anma and I shared a cab. I actually had met him before as part of the GENUS project this past year, and it was interesting to chat with him about that—he’s a man of definite opinions, and I hope I never get on his wrong side—if he doesn’t like you, he doesn’t care who knows it. He’s one of those super intense people who bikes 50 miles for fun and seems to have everything beautifully under control and in balance, and yet is super productive and brilliant and charging ahead on his own goals. The kind of person I will never be but I do admire them from afar, a bit like seeing a rare species in the wild. I prefer people like that when they are more like Vica or Hast, actually nice to other people by default and not biting; but you can’t have everything.

We got to the airport by 3:40 and it was smooth sailing through customs etc. (except one fellow got detained for almost an hour! We still don’t know what bizarreness is in his background ;), but then we found out the flight was delayed by almost 2 hours. Which meant I wouldn’t make my connection! And of course, my phone hadn’t been able to connect to the Canadian networks since I’d been there, and the wifi in the airport wasn’t working. The folks at the counter just kept saying that LaGuardia delays were affecting both inbound and outbound flights so connecting passengers “should be” fine. Luckily, the café had networked tables with ipads, so eventually Anma pointed out I shouldn’t take the counter people’s word for it, so I checked with delta.com and my 2nd flight was delayed as well; but they were able to rebook me onto a direct flight from Toronto. (Why I wasn’t on a direct flight to begin with I am not sure—possibly it was too expensive when I was looking at it?) However, the connection was spotty/slow and I couldn’t print the boarding pass from the café table, so I went over to a Delta counter and asked them about it. They said they couldn’t rebook me because I had bought my ticket through Orbitz and they couldn’t change a two-leg flight for a single-leg flight!

Well that was confusing and disturbing and my hopes were dashed, but Anma was having none of it. He took me over to the counter where my putative new flight would be boarding from, explained I was on the flight and asked if they could print me out a new boarding pass? Which the woman very kindly did, there it was in the system, no problem. I need to buy Anma a drink the next time I see him (which will be next week in New York, come to think of it). Way to model assertiveness and efficiency.  I’ll be home before midnight tonight.
Though fuck me, I am behind. Naco’s revised paper is due tomorrow or they won’t take it; my incoming student for next spring needs a whole bunch of paperwork done to get her visa process rolling; I’m a month behind on ENIGMA work; and the R21 with Hekl needs to be finished!! I’ll be up early tomorrow and getting right to work…
2014-09-23 08:24 pm

(no subject)

Almost a month after being admitted, Mom is finally home from the hospital and the rehab facility. Sans drains, wires, tubes, or even canes (though she does have a walker or something for when she gets tired). She is almost beside herself with glee at being home! :) :) The nurses at the hospital I think told her that when the body responds that badly to chemo, it's actually a good sign because usually the tumor is taking an equal hit--if you shrug off the chemo, so does the tumor. I'm hoping they are right and that tumor has shriveled!

They also did not take out her gall bladder, for all it was giving her such fits. Now she is back to recovering and stabilizing a bit before starting again. (fingers crossed!)

It has been good to be in such constant contact, though. I know it has taken a toll on Dad to be emailing everyone so frequently, in and around being at her multitudinous doctor consultations--and taking care of himself! The day she went into the hospital, he lost a crown! So he's been dealing with that totally under the radar, for the past few weeks. Poor Pop... He had to get a bridge and everything, all by himself with no one to help out. Never rains, huh? But people from her church have been coming by the hospital regularly, and my sis has been over every weekend cooking and helping out (she is earning stars in her crown!!!), though that often doesn't help him get time to himself. As he pointed out, the challenge is finding time to do the laundry and restock the milk, etc.! It will be a break for him too, to have Mom back at home, even if she does need gentle handling and a lot of help.

When my brother was out and had dinner with us he pointed out in those early days, Dad was basically watching his wife dissolve before his eyes, getting weaker and weaker with the fluid building up in her abdomen until they figured out what was going on and got it drained/reversed/etc. That was a particularly horrific metaphor (and the hubby held me tight and made me promise to never dissolve ;). With that in mind, this does seem miraculous, even if it has taken a slow upward swing over weeks and was not an overnight recovery.