This Week Last Year: September 3rd – 9th, 2010

Posted By on September 19, 2011

I should probably change the name of this series from This Week Last Year to Sometime Around Last Year, but at least I get things done eventually. That’s probably the best thing anyone can say about me: Cody Cobb gets things done eventually.

September 3rd, 2010

Damn good day today. Brought cookies to lab. They were enjoyed. Zora shared early stories of her and Pal.

.: One of the sacred rules of the common room for the second floor of the new wing of the Waksman building is, “If it’s left on the table, it’s open game for all.” It’s a good policy, I think, because it encourages sharing and prevents the table from becoming a common dumping ground where food and crap just pile up. Plus, if you bring something to the table, you get treated like a king for that day, and justly so.

September 4th, 2010

Resolved to finish unpacking today, one box at a time. Box of Legos slowed progress precipitously.

.: I mention this only to serve as an example for others when they move: be sure to unpack the legos last.

September 5th, 2010

Slept in till 1:00 pm with that Holly girl. Met Terry, a fellow redditor. We knew everything about each other already.

.: One of the problems with reddit is how pointless it is to discuss it with another redditor in meatspace. Every conversation between redditors happens the exact same way:

Redditor: “Hey, did you see the thing on reddit about the slip and slide?”
Redditor: “Yeah, that was hilarious. What about the grandma protestor?”
Redditor: “Also hilarious. What about the new way to organize spaghetti?”
Redditor: “Yeah, that was amazing. Have you tried it out yet?”
Redditor: “No, I never get around to trying those new things.”
Redditor: “Oh.”

.: Such was the case with me and Terry, a fellow redditor Holly introduced to me. He was part of a co-ed fraternity that Holly used to hang around. Their main priority as fraternity members was, apparently, to fuck each other, all the time, nonstop. If only everyone were as direct and systematic with their sexual desires to form an organization devoted exclusively towards it. Anyway he reddited a lot of the same things I did.

September 6th, 2010

Holly had second guesses. She chose me, though, so that’s cool. Bought Legos with Keith. Tried making a model of Mom and Gordon’s house.

.: I don’t get jealous. Envious, sure, I know what that’s like, but I don’t get mad when somebody wants what I have — I feel empathy if anything. I’m not sure how it came about, but Holly started talking with her ex-boyfriend and I don’t know – maybe an old spark reignited or whatever – but she started playing the What If? game and seemed quite shaken about it. I don’t see the need to fight for a relationship; the entire idea of forcing romance instead of letting it occur naturally seems contradictory or at least self-incompatible.

.: All turned out for the best, though, as she shook whatever notions she had of rekindling an old flame from her head and . . . and I don’t remember what we did when she came home that night because I didn’t write it down. I guess she watched me play with legos.

September 7th, 2010

Saw Machete with Holly. Gloriously stupid. Conflicting instructions Re: labeling from Pal and Toey – this happens often. Reviews of Kristina’s manuscript brutal.

.: One of the requirements for patenting an invention is that you must make the entire process transparent, meaning anybody with training in the area should be able to replicate your invention based on the instructions disclosed in the patent. Some companies, like Polaroid, famously chose not to patent their products because they gambled that they could keep the process secret for longer than the patent would last (and they were right). A best of both worlds approach is to simply patent a process so difficult that even highly trained professionals with no direct experience would have a hard time replicating it. You disclose all the relevant new science and background information that’s absolutely necessary, but you don’t mention anything about the fine-tweaks or the hundreds of unwritten middle steps between the written steps that only trained experience can elucidate.

.: Consequently, those unwritten middle steps never get written down. They exist only in the brief disturbances of air between the trainee’s ear and the mentor’s mouth. And often there’s no consensus, especially between, say, an old practitioner (Pal) and a more recent one (Toey), so that when a true neophyte (me) does something the right way (according to Toey), he’ll be told to quit doing it the wrong way (according to Pal) and to do it the right (wrong) way instead.

September 8th, 2010

Waksman retreat. Kristina and Simone both survived the Dooner treatment. Pancakes with Steve, Csanad, Sam, and Katrine. Good day today.

.: I could write more about this entry, but I think I’ll stick to simple: any day with pancakes is a good day.

September 9th, 2010

[…] I also fixed his computer […].

.: I knew we were in for a treat when the professor first showed up to class and turned his laptop on. Right up there on the projection screen was something I had not seen in nearly a decade: the boot screen for Windows Me. That very instance I knew — I knew something would go wrong, and I knew I would be too impatient to give someone else the opportunity to get up first, and I knew as soon as I fixed his computer once that I would forever fix his computer again.

.: The first problem was an issue with the external display mode which, I was told, “always worked before.” I fixed it in a way that would be impossible for the professor to repeat when the problem inevitably resurfaced, so I created a keyboard shortcut: control+shift+alt+D. Press those three buttons, and the external display would work again. This solution, I learned the next class session, was impossible for the professor to repeat when the problem inevitably resurfaced.

This Week Last Year: August 27th – September 2nd, 2010

Posted By on September 7, 2011

Note: I just could not find it within myself to write anything interesting about this week. I tried.

August 27th, 2010

Nobody at Waksman today. Beautiful day. Made awesome pancakes for Keith and Holly. Katrine’s birthday at Evelyn’s. Should hang around Steve more.

.: A lot of my friends are people I never see unless accompanied by other friends. I genuinely enjoy my time around these people, so you’d figure I would just as readily spend time with them solo, but for whatever reason that isn’t the case.

August 28th, 2010

Spent all day organizing CD collection. Went to Holly’s parents’ BBQ, fell asleep in Holly’s comfortable bed.

August 29th, 2010

Thought we’d go to Gunnison nudist beached, turned out it was closed. Went to see Inception instead. [...]

August 30th, 2010

Today went by super quick. Once more no open mic night. Holly made delicious potatoes, but they might have been poisonous.

August 31st, 2010

Found my mutant. Same amino acid substition as Oy1 mutant in maize (E to K).

September 1st, 2010

Second Stone Soup here. Csanad, Toey, Steve, and Sam showed up. Holly’s not feeling well. I worry about her.

September 2nd, 2010

First day of Advanced Genetics with Jelenkovic, a contemporary of Mendel. Both Kristina and Holly scared me in entirely different ways.

This Week Last Year: August 20th – 26th, 2010

Posted By on August 30, 2011

August 20th, 2010

They stole my blood today. Blood tech was a pro. I told him about my entire thesis before he finished. Extreme nausea all day.

.: Anyone with enough dexterity to write their name legibly can, with a few hours of training and a steady supply of patient guinea pigs, learn how to stick a vein. The man who took my blood knew his way around a needle, yes, but he also knew how to handle people who couldn’t handle needles. I started sweating as soon as he brought the syringe in view, and he knew immediately what was going to happen next.

“So what do you do?”

.: He didn’t bother looking at me, the needle having just made contact with the skin. I knew he didn’t care about my answer, but I also knew he was just trying to distract me, and at the time that sounded like a great idea, so I told him everything. I gave him my elevator pitch on tryptophan inhibition as an alternative to antibiotic selection, and like a professional he pretended to understand everything I told him. Probably only twenty seconds passed, but it felt more like 28 seconds thanks to a quirk in temporal perception that humans experience when afflicted with anxiety.

August 21st, 2010

Lunch w/ Jack & Holly at Skylark – awesome food. Pal did a PCR w/ my primers – the first in a long time – and it worked for him (not with me though). Watched Rocky w/ Holly.

.: Skylark is a diner that’s too good to be a diner. They know they’re too good, they know they serve excellent food at non-diner prices, yet they still consider themselves a diner. They even have a beverage cart.

.: I love Skylark. I love their steak burger with its mash potato toppings and malt vinegar’d french fries, and I love their $5 glass of orange juice because they must go through 17 oranges just to make it. On this day Holly and I met up with Jack, who addressed Holly by her surname, a designation which she claimed she’s wanted to catch on for some time. There’s nothing like informal formality to foster familiarity. Plus, her last name is just way more fun to say than her first.

August 22nd, 2010

Wasted entire fucking day organizing CDs. Stealing WiFi from neighbor brings back bad habits. No more internet.

.: I convinced myself not to buy internet service at my new apartment, reasoning that the absence of meaningless stimulation would motivate meaningful pastimes or at the very least encourage me to leave the house, if only to find a place with Wi-Fi. And for a few weeks it worked! I started reading books again, and I stopped staying awake deep into the night. Then I found that if I placed my laptop in certain corners of the house I could pick up an unsecured Wi-Fi signal from the neighbors and, well, every single one of my internet-influenced bad habits came back. Compounding this breakdown of the will was the Wi-Fi’s broken signal; simply speaking, loading Youtube videos was an activity to be planned around rather than assumed. This meant I would spend more time on the internet, if only to wait for the damn videos to load.

August 23rd, 2010

Back in the lab. Every corn callus contaminated. Fucking hell.

.: These would be the special maize lines sent to us from Hungary. As finicky as corn calli can be, they hold up remarkably well in internationally mailed parcels.

.: I made two mistakes when transferring these calli to fresh media: 1) I did not ensure the new media was properly sterilized, and 2) I transferred all of them in one go. So, when I finally did notice the bacteria freely swimming about everything, I had no recourse but to ask the Hungarians to send another parcel. In the same week. After they had mailed me what was essentially a year’s supply.

August 24th, 2010

Holly had an upset stomach while waiting at my place, so I had Keith run her up some Pepto Bismal.

.: Among Keith’s many virtues is his willingness to help others — he’s downright enthusiastic about it. Telling him, “No thanks, I got this” is about the saddest thing he ever hears. You might as well tell him, “No thanks, go be useless somewhere else.”

.: I was busy in lab and couldn’t leave when I learned that Holly was sick with an upset stomach, so I called Keith to see if he’d be willing to bring some Pepto Bismal up to her. He was and, according to Holly, it was the cutest thing ever.

August 25th, 2010

Jack’s birthday at Edison diner. Switched clothes with Kyan. Put Phil Collins records in the bathroom. Holly did my dishes and made me spaghetti. What a girl!

August 26th, 2010

Hosted Stone Soup for the first time. Three people showed up.

.: When I first came to Jersey, I wanted to uncouple the stress of grad school from the stress of moving to a new area, so I arrived three months before school started. I spent those first months finding new and interesting people. This was most easily accomplished once I was introduced to Stone Soup, at the time a biweekly gathering of various Highland Parkers and New Brunswickians, mostly of the artist variety. I met a great deal of my current friends from those nights, so I was saddened when I learned the main host of Stone Soup was moving and closing shop. Knowing how important those nights were for me when I first started, I readily offered my place as the new spot for Stone Soup activities. The rest of the Stone Soup contingent, however, seem less ready for the change in venue, and on my first night as host only three people showed up. Those three people, though — they got to eat some sweet ass pancakes, so I’m calling this one a success.

This Week Last Year: August 13th – 19th, 2010

Posted By on August 22, 2011

Friday, August 13th, 2010

Skipped lab today. Fixed up apartment. Gave Holly “Word of Mouth” at PJ’s. Saw the Expendables.

.: I really thought Stallone was going to be more clever with this one. Looking back, I had no reason to think that, other than it’s what I wanted to be true. The Expendables was just another action movie, albeit with a handful of delightful cameos that were explicably but regrettably featured in the trailer. Nothing new could be found anywhere in this movie, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you’re all about getting what you paid for. I knew going in that I would see bodies blown in half and heads kicked off. But I wanted just a little bit more than that.

.: Take, for instance, the scene where Stallone chases a seaplane while being chased by gun-toting bad guys in turn. The plane is going to take off with or without him, so he better make that one last jump — and he does! Oh, but only barely, and by the fingertips. Will he be able to pull himself inside the plane? Yes. Because that scene’s been done in every other run-and-jump context. You, the viewer, know he’s going to make it. There’s no suspense, no surprises.

.: But what if, instead of making it, he just barely misses? Now he’s in the water, and the plane’s taken off, and the bad guys are getting closer and closer. How’s he going to get out of that situation? I don’t know. I couldn’t think of an escape plan. And that’s exactly what the movie needed. That’s why they have writers. Whatever scenario they came up with to get his character out safely after that fall would have been creative, suspenseful, and totally unexpected. It would have been worth seeing. Instead, we got to see Eric Roberts shot in the chest and knifed through the back, which is almost as good.

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

Kim tried to wipe the freckles off a white kid’s face.

.: Kim is asian, if that makes the story funnier.

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

Drove to Maryland by accident. Turns out the Turnpike isn’t always I-95.

.: Holly’s friend Kate needed help moving into her new apartment. She had few possessions, but they were too big to fit in her car (mattress, bookcase, etc.). Holly had a CR-V at the time, and while the roof of a CR-V can support a mattress about as well as the roof of any car, Kate was evidently more comfortable transporting a mattress with a car she was not driving. Since this gave Holly and me an excuse to visit Philadelphia, we were okay with that.

.: I had assumed that the New Jersey Turnpike and I-95 were one in the same, an assumption I had to correct when we found ourselves in Maryland. And while this episode reflects poorly on me (as the person holding the GPS), I feel it reflects even more poorly on Holly (as the person who’s lived most her life in New Jersey and a significant chunk of it in Philly).

Monday, August 16th, 2010

Took Csanad to lunch at 4:00 pm. Learned how to isolate immature maize embryo. Still feel tired all the damn time.

.: My original Super Big Science Idea was to transform chloroplasts in maize. It had promise to be something important, it had several immediate and obvious applications, and — here’s the selling point — it had never been done before. That last point, curiously enough, did not stop somebody else from patenting the process two years earlier. Apparently you can patent something without ever actually bothering to do it. I did not know that. Neat.

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Picked immature Hungarian ear – only ten kernels pollinated successfully. Fell asleep in front of the lab.

.: Tissue culture does weird things to plants. A plant can grow perfectly fine in a soil laced with all sorts of environmental insults, but keep it on a seemingly ideal sterile nutrient media for very long and strange things begin to happen. They lose fertility, accumulate somatic variations, vitrify, or simply die. Chloroplast transformation is a tissue culture-intensive process, so any plant under consideration for chloroplast transformation must perform well in tissue culture. Tobacco is the gold standard for chloroplast transformation in part because it behaves so well in tissue culture. You can cut up a tobacco leaf or stem, poke it into some media, and it’ll be happy there for months.

.: Maize, on the other hand, is a finicky species. Immature embryos — which can only be collected at certain times, as opposed to leaves which can be used whenever — are the tissue of choice for maize tissue culture. They are never happy, though, and must be transferred to new media every two weeks. Then, after a few rounds of transferring, they still lose all viability and you give up in frustration. This is part of the reason why maize chloroplasts have yet to be transformed: maize is kind of a bastard in tissue culture.

.: There are certain varieties of maize that reportedly perform better (i.e., last longer) in tissue culture. One of these lines was developed by a laboratory in Hungary, and they sent us some prepared tissue culture samples in the mail. They also sent us some fully mature seeds so we could plant them out in the field and start our own line. It was from these field plants that I was to derive the new line of immature embryos. Unfortunately, these particular plants did not do so well at harvest time, and I found myself with only two usable ears from the dozen or so plants. Leaving one aside as backup, I shucked the other to find only ten kernels had successfully pollinated. Of the ten embryos in those kernels, I managed to mangle all of them during their attempted isolation.

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Second chance maize ear: one god damn kernel: Felt like an idiot sterilizing it. Lost embryo. Fell asleep in parking lot. Holly’s note on freezer.

.: I returned to lab the next day to operate on the sole other viable ear of maize. Imagine how big of a dork I felt when I shucked that ear to find only one kernel had been pollinated. I’d have preferred that none of them be pollinated, but since that one little guy was there I still had to go through the whole process of sterilizing and preparing the embryo for isolation. I mangled it.

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Doctor’s appointment for sleep troubles. Funny guy. Stayed home from lab. Groggy all day. Fixed up apartment some more w/ fancy bookshelves. Found my sock.

.: Throughout this failure of a week I had been plagued by severe sleep troubles: I wasn’t getting any. I tried to fall asleep at home, but my body refused. I tried to stay awake in lab, but my body refused. I couldn’t think linearly, and I probably endangered a great deal of people by operating heavy machinery at the time.

.: I made an appointment with the campus doctor, but I probably would have been better served by an appointment with a campus therapist. None of the tests showed any physical maladies, and I knew going in that I didn’t want to go on any drugs. Eventually it became clear that my sleep problems were stress-induced, most likely the kind of stress induced by sleeping on a really shitty bed.

This Week Last Year: August 6th – 12th, 2010

Posted By on August 12, 2011

August 6th, 2010

Daytime w/ Benjamin. Jewish Coonass breakfast. Watermelon fun w/ friends. Turned out to be spiked watermelon which is no fun at all. Big dick jokes galore.

.: New Orleans: where gas stations sell distilled spirits at whenever o’clock, where Katrina tags aren’t yet a rarity (and chain restaurants are), where plastic beads represent a limited form of fiat currency, and where my friend Ben lived this time last year.

.: Breakfast was served promptly at 1:00 p.m. The place: Slim Goodies. The dish: Jewish Coonass. The subsequent trip to the bathroom: worth it.

.: After breakfast Holly, Ben, and I wandered down the rest of Magazine Street, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells — all of which would change without warning or concern for congruity. A vote of 2 to 1 prefaced our entering a strip club at 3:00 in the afternoon. Cover was waived, provided you purchased a $9 bottle of Heineken. This was my first strip club experience and very likely my last. Mechanical, scheduled gyrations of economically-influenced nudity just doesn’t do it for me, even when performed to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

.: The evening finished with a trip to the park. Joining us were some of Ben’s friends and a spiked watermelon. In New Orleans, I learned, there’s no need to mention that the watermelon’s spiked; that, among many others, is one thing you simply have to assume.

.: Having just met Ben’s friends, Holly and I decided to introduce them to Big Dick Jokes:

My dick is so big, I set my alarm clock to the time zone it isn’t in.

My dick is so big, you can’t see the Great Wall of China from outer space.

My dick is so big, loose lips sink it.

My dick is so big, the answer to it is 42.

My dick is so big, I masturbate with hugs.

August 7th, 2010

Driving. Driving. Don’t remember a damn thing. Shitty Super 8 motel room: fuck those fuckers.

.: By now Holly and I were on our way back to New Jersey. We were exhausted and dirty and sweaty, but that was okay because we weren’t stopping with any more friends or relatives. We also didn’t have the dogs with us, so we didn’t need to stop every three hours to let Jules pee or let Larry pretend to have to poop. That little guy loved to waste our time.

.: My motel of choice is Motel 6: they’re everywhere, they’re not that bad, and the $30 worth of lodging only costs you $30. On this night it was getting late, and I had been holding out for an exit with a Motel 6. Holly didn’t want me driving any farther, so we stopped at the next available exit and pulled into a Super 8. Super 8s, like Motel 6es, are everywhere, but they smell like the one grandmother you don’t enjoy visiting and charge you twice as much for half as much. Never again.

August 8th, 2010

Home. Sweet jesus we made it. Not a single fight the whole time – pretty damn good sign right there. I love this girl.

August 9th, 2010

Back in lab. Every single tobacco plate is contaminated – did not sterilize filter membrane. Pal gave me a “You made a very stupid mistake” look; he even took his glasses off.

.: One way to genetically engineer a plant is to shoot DNA into its cells with a gun. For tobacco, you cut leaves into small pieces and place them on a petri dish of gelatinous nutrient media. These pieces are then bombarded with tiny metal particles coated with your DNA of interest and, if you’re lucky, incorporate the DNA as their own. However, since gelatinous media doesn’t hold up well under firepower, a thin strip of filter paper is placed between the media and leaf pieces to help diffuse the blast. Everything must be completely sterile throughout the process, lest a stray fungus spore find its way into your sugar-rich nutrient media and devour everything. If you don’t sterilize the filter paper beforehand, then everything it touches (e.g., everything) will become contaminated, and you’ll have wasted three days of work.

.: Unless you go on vacation immediately afterwards. Then you waste three weeks.

August 10th, 2010

Did not do a damn thing in lab today. Made primer dilutions. That’s it. Watched Walk Hard w/ Holly. Crock pot dinner. Yum.

.: Right around this time was when I started having doubts about a career in science. Nothing had worked for me. My first major experiment was marred by the trivial detail of 4-methylindole’s insolubility in water. My second go at it suffered from aforementioned issues of contamination. I didn’t know what I was doing, but more importantly I didn’t care. It wasn’t exciting; it was frustrating, and I started looking forward to leaving the lab before I had even arrived. On this day, all I did was make primer dilutions. To do that, I looked at the amount of primers in each tube, added an appropriate amount of water, and gave it a shake. That’s it. That’s all I did. I didn’t care. I couldn’t bring myself to be more productive than those two minutes of work. And that’s a feeling I found returning many times as the year went on.

August 11th, 2010

First PCR in ages. Did not work. Made Brownies w/ Holly. She cleaned my kitchen. What a gal. I have to stop farting.

.: Those primer dilutions from yesterday? They were for the PCR today. Depending on the protocol one follows, a PCR reaction can take as little as one hour or can last as long as overnight. Mine took about three hours — perfect to start, leave for lunch, run a few errands, contemplate going to but never actually going to the gym, and come back. Then wait an hour to run the results on a gel, wait another twenty minutes to stain the gel with ethidium bromide, and then, after ~5 hours of total elapsed time, find out the whole thing didn’t work. There’s a lot of waiting involved, and a strong temptation to run parallel reactions as a sort of scientific bet hedging.

August 12th, 2010

Terrible sleep. I miss my dogs. Maybe I need them to sleep. Ripped my CDs. Maybe I need booze to sleep. It’s the oldest cure.

.: Dachshunds were originally bred for their role in badger hunting. As such, their shortened legs and propensity for burrowing were significant assets. In modern times, with the advent of fully automated badger extraction kits, the breed’s most prominent features are no longer considered assets but, rather, liabilities. Back and spinal problems are an inevitability for any active dachshund, and constant care and consideration must be given to ensure they don’t jump from tall heights, like couches or step stools.

.: Their burrowing instinct can pose problems as well; not to themselves, per se, but for their owners. Place any dachshund on a bed, and it will immediately find the opening to the covers and crawl beneath them. If the owner subsequently places their legs underneath the covers — perhaps with the intention of keeping them warm during a night’s rest — the dachshund will perceive the appendages as belonging to a cornered badger and will attempt to lick it to death. While harmless to most non-badgers, this activity can interfere with one’s ability to sleep. Unless, that is, one has grown accustomed to incessant dachshund licking; then they might find that they cannot sleep without it.

This Week Last Year: July 30th – August 5th, 2010

Posted By on August 6, 2011

July 30th, 2010

Dropped off the boys.

.: The primary reason for the road trip to Texas was Larry and Melissa’s wedding (see July 31st, 2010). The secondary reason was delivering my two dachshunds, Jules and Larry (no relation), back to my mom’s. I brought them to Jersey to keep me company, and I took damn good care of them. So much so that when I moved to my new apartment on the second floor and saw Larry take a terrifying dive down the stairs, I knew I couldn’t keep them there; the house just wasn’t safe for them. The outside was not much better, with Larry tussling with a possum and some mysterious creature under the shed in the same week.

.: So, I took them back to my mom’s, where their health was further endangered by lack of activity and excessive caloric intake. D’oh.

July 31st, 2010

Wedding of Larry & Melissa. Dance off. Holly made Oscar unable to respond. No Jade, Ryatt, or Gigi.

.: We arrived late to the wedding; violins were already playing as family of the bride and groom strolled down the aisle. Not wanting to interrupt the procession, Holly and I found seats in the balcony behind the main seating area. As with all midsummer afternoon outdoor Texas wedding ceremonies, this one was short. Larry and Melissa accepted each others’ end user license agreements, and I got to introduce everybody to Holly as they walked beneath the balcony on their way out. High fives were had.

.: Sadly, Gigi couldn’t make it ’cause she’s poor, Jade couldn’t make it because she found a butterfly that was just too fast, and Ryatt — here I speculate — likely didn’t come for the same reason why Oscar didn’t sit at the table with two certain guests (the result of recent drama of which I was entirely ignorant throughout the evening).

.: As dinner was winding down and people were leaving the table, Oscar joined us and started being Oscar. Holly, knowing of Oscar and my special arrangement in the universe but never before witnessing it, was not long provoked before she inserted various flower petals into Oscar’s mouth. I forget exactly the circumstances leading up to the event, but I do remember it being the only appropriate course of action. This stunt quickly endeared her to the rest of the table.

.: After dinner, Larry and Melissa performed their first dance as joint checking account holders. The dance floor was then opened to the rest of the guests, but nobody seemed eager or willing to dance to Daft Punk. I had to do something:

August 1st, 2010

Lunch at Starseeds w/ Travis, Kiera, Amy, Joe, Oscar & Holly. Culver arrived too late. Whose foods w/ Culver. Misunderstanding w/ Holly, Curb, & Oscar.

.: Starseeds is my favorite breakfast joint in Austin. It was there that I was introduced to Cholula, the greatest breakfast hot sauce, and it was there that Kiera, Travis, Amy, Joe, and Oscar gathered with Holly and me the morning after the wedding. I forgot everything that was discussed.

.: Before the trip, Holly was worried that she would somehow “interfere” with Oscar and my special arrangement. Something about being perceived as an intruder or something by Oscar. I forgot her exact feelings, but she was worried they wouldn’t get along and we’d all be tense and uneasy the whole time. She was wrong! After Starseeds and a quick Whole Foods expedition with Culver, it was just Oscar with me and her, having a blast. Then, after a nearly perfect day with Holly’s fears revealed to be unfounded, Oscar and I started reenacting one of our favorite scenes from Curb Your Enthusiasm. Unfortunately, Holly’s presence in the front seat and her unfamiliarity with the bit introduced a few structural problems for our reenactment, so Oscar (unwisely) turned to her and said, “Why do you have to be here?” Holly, understandably, took offense and hit him. Unlike Curb, we were able to explain the misunderstanding and resume our best friends forevership.

August 2nd, 2010

Hunter’s expo, tubing the Comal w/ Holly […]. Dinner w/ recently single Coo. So fucking tired.

.: At Hunter’s big technology industry expo, we saw all sorts of robots doing robot things. Holly was unimpressed because knowing how to program a robot to automatically sort M&Ms based on wavelength will do nothing to help people learn to love one another and start treating everyone else with respect. Which is true, I guess. I have to concede that. But I don’t think she saw just how accurate that M&M-sorting robot was.

.: Every summer for most of my childhood my dad would take the family to New Braunfels, and we would go to Schlitterbahn and tube the Comal river. Now that my mom lives right on the river, I can do it pretty much whenever. During the trip I thought Holly wouldn’t be interested in Schlitterbahn (I’ve no idea why I reached that conclusion, but that’s what I thought), so I suggested instead that we simply go tubing. I’m not sure why I never noticed it when I was little, but just about the only thing we saw while tubing was dragonflies fucking.

August 3rd, 2010

Holly meets the grandparents.

.: I wanted Holly to meet my grandmother. I knew they would get along, especially if each of them had a glass of wine in hand. Holly couldn’t believe my grandmother would use a word like “hankering” in earnest. The next morning my grandfather went outside to retrieve the newspaper and noticed two rolls of cornbread on the ground by the trashcan. He spent all morning obsessing over how they could have gotten there. Turns out Holly and my sister got drunk, found the rolls of cornbread in the kitchen, went outside to the trashcan, and put them on the ground. Mystery solved.

August 4th, 2010

Holly’s cousin Ruth. […] Daughters Gabriella and Mia are adorable — friend Ginger not so much. Sheet monster wakes us from nap. Fell asleep on Mia’s bed – she woke me up.

.: Finally we got to do something non-my-family-related. Holly’s cousin Ruth also lives in Houston, and she has two of the most adorable children I’ve seen. Their little friend Ginger, however, sucked. She was the most boring seven year old I’ve seen. All she wanted to do was watch TV — she wouldn’t talk, and she couldn’t even have fun making cupcakes.

.: But the other two kids were able to make up for Ginger’s unadorableness. When Holly and I fell asleep on the bed upstairs, we were awoken by tiny, clumsy footsteps ascending the stairs. I rolled over to see who was coming through the door, and it was the three girls cloaked in a bed sheet trying to wake us up as the Sheet Monster. It was the cutest thing I will ever see.

August 5th, 2010

Morning w/ Ruth, say bye to the girls by walking their feet on the ceiling. “Upside down.” Shipley’s! Drive to Ben in New Orleans. Late night sushi -> early bed Cody.

.: I couldn’t sleep in the same bed as Holly that night, not for rules of morality or decency, but because Holly’s snoring could wake even Oliver Sacks’ patients. I relocated to the leather couch in the living room but was woken up a few hours later by Mia and her father, who spend every morning watching cartoons together. Adorable, yes, but man was I tired.

.: The girls didn’t want us to leave. They had bonded with us and thought we were neat and wouldn’t it be great if we would just stay there forever and do things with them like picking them up by the feet and walking them across the ceiling. Would that I could do that forever!

.: The drive to New Orleans afterwards was a somber one for reasons not transcribed in my diary. Somewhere along I-10, a dog had decided to give up. He picked a spot in the middle of the highway to lie, unaware or uncaring that vehicles several times his size were speeding about him. We swerved to miss him, immediately pulled the car over on the shoulder, and rushed in the middle of the road to stop traffic. I approached the dog cautiously — too cautiously in the mind of an unhelpful motorist who slowed down just long enough to yell, “Pick him up!” at me. The dog was in absolutely miserable shape; I didn’t know if touching his skin would make him turn around to bite me or cause it to come off. You could see why I was hesitant if you weren’t going 65 mph. It started raining, my car wasn’t completely parked on the shoulder, and traffic was beginning to build up behind Holly. I started panicking, which helped me overcome my hesitation, and I picked up the dog and moved him to the shoulder. I didn’t give much thought to the situation after that, other than, “My car’s jutting out in the lane 50 yards ahead, I better go move it.” I couldn’t carry the dog that far without him falling apart, so . . . we just . . . left him. In the rain. Emaciated with no will to live. All he had in his last moments was his collar.

It’s 2:23 a.m.

Posted By on July 31, 2011

.: I have no proper gauge for the relative worth of money. By that I mean I’ll happily drop $15 for a meal I could make at home for $2 and requires less time to prepare than it takes to drive to the restaurant, tell them what I want, wait for them to make it, and drive all the way back, all while having to wear pants. $15, gone without a thought. But I’ll seriously deliberate for minutes on which brand of toothpaste is the better deal.

.: Should I spring for the $2 bottle of toothpaste that’ll last me three months or the $7 fancier bottle that’ll only last me two? Toothpaste doesn’t come in bottles. They come in tubes. “Tube of toothpaste.” It should be a no-brainer: buy whichever one has the wide cap so you can stand it on end and let gravity take care of maintenance squeezing for you. Totally new direction — that’s where I’m taking this line of thought.

.: That’s how they do it in Europe, and it makes perfect fucking sense. And it’s not just toothpaste bottles — we are at the dawning of a new era of gravity-assisted squeeze technology: ketchup bottles, shampoo, conditioner. They’ve even started printing labels upside down to encourage you towards a more sensible future.

This Week Last Year: July 23rd – 29th, 2010

Posted By on July 29, 2011

July 23rd, 2010

Despicable Me w/ Holly and Keith. Kind of sucked. Oscar’s music parcel came. We’ll see how that turns out. /Movie/

.: Keith lived on the first floor of the house whose second floor I had just started renting. An aficionado of Lego and curator of innumerable model aircraft, he was a warrior steadfast in his opposition to boredom: he could always be found wielding a hammer, drill, or other constructive implement while searching for scrap metal, wood, or PVC to incorporate into ladder, ramp, or fortress; he annotated every page of his copy of “The Dangerous Book for Boys” with neon-colored sticky notes protruding all over like tentacles, prompting comparisons to the more unorthodox species of the Ordovician seafloor; and he apologized to none for his public love of Lady Gaga and the Black Eyed Peas. As he was 11 years old, he could be both adored and forgiven for these qualities.

.: Holly had seen the trailer for Despicable Me during one of our movie outings and had laughed in a manner disproportionate to what the content on the screen would in a normal person her age evoke. With undue excitement, she suggested we take Keith to see the movie. We did. It sucked.

July 24th, 2010

Nearly killed self moving. Desk and hutch don’t fit in doorway. […] Oscar’s parcel is fantastic.

.: One of my greatest regrets in moving to New Jersey was having brought a house worth of relatives’ furniture along with me. Rather than furnish my apartment with future landfill material from Ikea, I reasoned that having familiar houseware around me would help ease the transition from Texas and counter any swellings of homesickness. My reasoning was flawed and cursedly so — such was the conclusion I reached as my new landlord and I struggled against 9.81 m/s² of solid oak desk. So large was this executive (and so narrow was the stairway) that even the metal levelers had to be removed to make use of every available inch. Keith, naturally curious and helpful, kept poking his easily crushable head into the hallway below, even after stern proclamations of his likely crushing should he continue doing so.

.: Eventually the two(!) of us managed the haul the desk up the stairs. Our jubilation was cut short, however, when we tried to fit it through the main doorway only to have it laugh at our idealism. Since we were in no condition to carry it back down the stairs, we simply relegated it to a permanent spot in the stairwell where it would serve no purpose except to mock us daily with its presence. Then, immediately afterwards, the exact same thing happened with a hutch.

.: Oscar’s music parcel included three mixtapes and a 60-year-old book boasting the varied and uncontested superiorities of Texas, many of which remain unchanged since the original date of publication. Supposedly each mixtape had a specific theme, but I only managed to identify the theme of the second one: I miss you, come back, you’re everything I need to complete who I am, etc. The other two CDs had tracks by the likes of Scissor Sisters and The Bar-Kays, which I guess could share the same theme as the second disc, but with more dancing.

July 25th, 2010

Moved out of shit-hole apartment on Paulus.

.: All I had left to do was sweep the floors and scrub a few counters. I had given away most of the leftover cleaning supplies to the neighbors, and all that remained in the apartment was a mop, broom, sponge, bucket, and step-stool upon which was placed a box of donuts. The front door was open because I didn’t think I’d have to worry about theft at that point, and one of the neighbor’s toddlers wandered in without me noticing. Moments later I heard her mother calling for her from inside the apartment, and I stop scrubbing the counters to investigate. I found the kid emerging from my back room with one of my donuts in hand. Amused by her sneakery, I asked her where she got that donut from. Before she could give the standard toddler response of confusion mixed with blanket denial, her mother realized what had happened and hit her on the head. She didn’t even try to explain to her daughter why it’s wrong to take other people’s things; rather, she just started yelling at her.

.: I tried to put a stop to it, but having never learned how to deal with parents who are awful human beings, all I could offer was a limp, “Hey — what the hell?!” It didn’t do much to dissuade her. Soon, another mom arrived and they both started laughing at me for thinking it wrong to hit someone five times as small as you. Having schooled me in Parenting 101, the first mom yanked her daughter by the arm, and they left to join the others out front. I reflected on how glad I was to be moving and how I never had to see these people again. I gathered my thoughts, grabbed the remaining donuts, went outside, and gave them all to the toddler and her siblings.

July 26th, 2010

Drove.

July 27th, 2010

Continued driving.

July 28th, 2010

Stopped driving

July 29th, 2010

Loud and boisterous night out w/ family. SLEPT.

.: This was the first road trip Holly and I spent together. The official reason for the trip was to attend my friends Larry and Melissa’s wedding in Texas. When I told my advisor that I’d be gone for two weeks, his response was appropriately curt: “Long wedding.”

.: The preceding weeks were particularly stressful on Holly as her parents’ approval of the trip wavered daily. Not that she needed it, really, since she was already living with me and her financial dependence was limited to her inclusion on the family’s cellphone plan — but it would have been nice. Also, she was 25, how was this not happening?

.: So we drove. My notes are a little sparse, so I’m not sure which night we stopped at her aunt’s house in Georgia. We definitely stopped at the house of somebody who lived in the south, for every bedside table had its official collection of Lewis Grizzard stories, and the central air made the summer outside unnoticeable.

.: We finally arrived at my brother’s house just north of Houston. Judging by the use of capital letters to emphasize having slept the following night, I can surmise that we did not get much of a chance to sleep immediately after arriving. The next day was full of introductions and my dad, ever the considerate entertainer, treated us all to an authentic Brooklyn pizzeria — you really could taste the geographical distinctness! Holly did what she does best and quickly had a whole table of strangers develop a strong liking to her. I recall her leaving my dad unable to respond on several occasions, but in a good way.

.: Isolated quote of the evening: “Dad, what would you say is your favorite type of prolapse?” “The kind you get.”

This Week Last Year: July 16th – 22nd, 2010

Posted By on July 22, 2011

.: I bought a five-year one line a day memory book, or a “calendar diary”. As lame as that sounds, I think it’s a pretty neat idea: each page is dedicated to a day of the year, so that as you finish one year you wrap around to where you started, only one line below. It’s a nice reminder of how much or how little time has passed since certain events, and I’ve just recently completed my first year. To celebrate, I’m going to post a summary once a week of last year’s week. When appropriate, I’ll post the entire original entry as is, and then elaborate as much as my memory allows.

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Purchased twitter analog. Designed maize chloroplast target sequence w/ Pal & Toey. Failed to yield to plain-clothes cop at crosswalk.

.: I had ambitions at one time to genetically engineer the chloroplast of maize. It would have been a real achievement — Monsanto and Dupont having spent half a decade each on the project before giving up — but I suffered a few nontrivial setbacks, chief among them being a lack of tissue culture experience with maize, and not being able to prove my proof of concept in tobacco first. Additionally, Cody from one year ago was a right liar; we never did design the target sequence, so I’ve no idea what he’s talking about.

.: The ticket I received for the moving violation was, as has been claimed by all since antiquity, total bullshit.

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Started Oscar’s bd present. Saw Denise yell at and abuse her (?) kids. Toaster Oven! /Book/

.: I had just moved into my new apartment and was still in the process of cleaning out the old one. Most of my books were still in boxes, but the landlord’s son had left two perfect bathroom reads in the bathroom: The Martian Chronicles and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. I had tried reading the latter in one sitting while on the toilet, but the rear-end red ring started chaffing so I switched to my recently-purchased (and soon-to-be-despised) lounge chair from White Lotus Furniture that I stupidly paid money to have. I finished the book in a few hours, and it rightly deserves any and all accolades you wish to throw at it. What I remember most is the last sentence; I don’t think I’ll ever read another story with a more perfect ending. I won’t spoil it by quoting it, but I will say it depends on a quirk of the Gregorian calendar.

.: I did start Oscar’s birthday present, and I do intend to finish it one day, possibly for 2012. I am sure he will love it.

.: Denise was a neighbor at my old apartment and half of the reasons I moved out (the other half being her boyfriend, Bobby). I can’t recall the exact instance of abuse I witnessed this time, as there was more than one and those kind of events blend together when you try to forget them. The question mark is there because I never figured out which kids were hers and which belonged to the other two women living in Bobby’s apartment. It was a hen house, and the mothers constantly fought one another. Earlier in the year I had broken up a fight between Denise and another mom, to the unbelievable amusement of several gawkers outside who at no point attempted to intervene. None of them considered that maybe, gee, it would be a good idea to not let that one lady punch the other lady, who’s pregnant. Far easier instead to point and laugh. And then laugh at me for stopping them.

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

Cheap Trick/Squeeze. Larry killed a possum. UTI? Organized kitchen and bought corner shelves. God damn hot is what it is. /Concert/

.: Having never even made a mixtape with both Squeeze and Cheap Trick tracks on it, I was not sure what to expect from a concert offering only Squeeze and Cheap Trick. I had been a fan of the latter for some time, but I only knew Squeeze for that one song, as well as another that Holly introduced to me a few days before. It was a good show all around, even if everyone was twice our age and the ushers wouldn’t allow dancing (possibly because everyone was twice our age).

.: When we came home, we weren’t greeted as we normally would be: with tiny, shrill barks and paws scratching fences in the back yard where the dachshunds, Jules and Larry, were. Instead, the boys were quiet. Holly went to retrieve them while I unlocked the back door. As she leaned over the enclosure to pick Larry up, she saw a writhing snake-like snake thing and screamed. I rushed over, Defensive Boyfriend Mode fully activated, to find a dying juvenile possum, tail still twitching as its salt gradients equilibrated. Holly begged me to put it out of its misery, then weirdly protested when I picked up a cinder block. We argued about how best to solve the problem of the possum’s continued existence, but before either of us could persuade the other the possum helpfully perished all by itself.

.: The corner shelves were a great idea for an apartment with severely limited storage options, but a combination of unevenly applied layers of paint, structural stress from age, and quite possibly just plain shoddy craftsmanship of the house meant none of the corners were actually right angles. I put the shelves up anyway.

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Second attempt at open mic. […] Went to hospital for wiener problem.

.: Jack invited me to see an open mic stand up show run by coLAB. I tried my hand at stand up back in April (my first date with Holly, to boot!) and I did reasonably well. I hadn’t planned on performing that night, but the dumb look on my face prompted every one of the comedians to try crowd work with me. (I’m sure it wasn’t just the dumb look alone; I was sitting in the front row and nobody knew who I was. Jack had left when the show started, so I was also by myself.) I never intentionally heckled the performers, but if they initiated I figured the game was on. Eventually, after a few acts, the host asked me if I had a routine prepared. I didn’t, but what I did have was a dachshund who would lick the asshole of my other dachshund, so I talked about that. It wasn’t just a comedy routine, either, because they got to learn what an caecum is.

.: Later that night, high on another successful stand up experience, I couldn’t sleep. Then, once the high wore off, I still couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t sleep because the inside of my wiener began itching, and an itch in one’s urethra just can’t be scratched. I later realized, after having been swabbed by a doctor, that one’s inability to scratch their urethra is unquestionably a good thing.

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Gave away mini fridge to upstairs neighbor. […]

.: The neighbors above my old apartment, though nowhere near as bad as Bobby and Denise, were assholes. Three teenage boys and a single mom meant music Music MUSIC. I became that which I despised when I first picked up the broom to knock against the ceiling. Then I quickly grew to despise my younger self for despising what I would become, because uhn-tiss-uhn-tiss-uhn-tiss is goddamn annoying. One of the kids, Eddie I believe his name was, had a friend who didn’t like to use the doorbell. He preferred standing outside my window and yelling, “eh-DAAAAY!” towards the window above. I forgot why I gave them my mini fridge, come to think of it. Those guys were assholes.

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Conoeing w/ the lab. Pal splashed me. Idiot tweens w/ one foot outside the raft: give chance a direction.

.: Every year my advisor organizes a canoeing trip down the Delaware river for the whole lab. Canoes this year were occupied by Toey and Pal, Csanad and Kristina, Greg and Simone, and the niece of a former student and me. I believe the niece’s name was Gabriella. She didn’t speak English, so I didn’t get a chance to know that many things about her aside from her suboptimal stroke. Greg had been a counselor at a summer camp and knew his way around a canoe; his undergrad, Simone, couldn’t swim. I still felt like the new guy in the lab and was rather intimidated by Pal at that point, so when he snuck up behind our canoe and splashed me with his paddle, it was a little disorienting. I knew he liked to crack jokes in lab, but I hadn’t reached the point where I dared crack my own. I like to think the turning point was when I unleashed the fury and splashed the hell out of his canoe. Toey, unfortunately, was collateral damage, but you know how these things go.

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Designed Sulfur Gene for Maize and Sylvestris. Told Pal a dick joke.

.: It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since designing the sulfur gene. I still haven’t had success with it in the lab, but hopefully that will change in the very near future (I was going to italicize “very”, but that seems excessive).

.: I don’t remember what the dick joke was. It seems weird that it was good enough to write about but not good enough to write down. I was probably nervous that he wouldn’t get it. Have I mentioned that my brother unwittingly told a dick joke to George H.W. Bush?

Scent of a Candle

Posted By on July 16, 2011

.: The label on the candle said “Fireside”. Not one to simply take a candle at its word, I leaned over the tiny dancing flame for a confirmatory sniff. It didn’t quite smell like the roaring fireside I imagined it to be (which, to be honest, is a little ambitious for a 4 oz candle), but I did notice an unusual crackling sound coming from the candle. The weird thing about the crackling was how quickly it increased in volume as I leaned closer and how fast it quieted as I leaned back.

.: My scientific curiosity kicked in, and I successfully recreated the sound every time I leaned in. After the fourth replication, I noticed the candle really didn’t smell like a fireside at all, but instead possessed a remarkable similarity to burnt keratin.