Saturday, January 24, 2009


Okay, Josh, here you go.
When I sign out of chat and see the 20 people I most frequently contact, 13 of them are women. And going into my list of Gmail contacts, just under 50% are female.

Based on this information, I stand by my assumption that the previous list of online contacts is not random.

Monday, January 19, 2009


Names of people in my Gmail chat list who are currently online:

This is a standard sample, too. Do men just spend more time online than women, or do I have a unique set of friends?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

More petty matters

As my faithful readers may or may not remember, I have a dear old cat who goes by the name of Hazle and is essentially eighteen years old. As his limbs have gotten less springy and more rheumatic and his balance has slowly diminished and his senses have dimmed, I've wondered just how much longer he's going to last.

Well, the cat with a charmed life (or nine charmed lives) seems to have finally hit the end of his leash. Bless his little heart, he stepped in front of a car moving into a garage yesterday evening and got his femur snapped. Because he's so very old and already in dubious health, we will be taking him in to be euthanized on Friday.

I guess I've known for a long time that this moment would have to come sooner or later. When I was in elementary school, I would try to mentally prepare myself sometimes for the death of the cat. Which is a little silly. I love animals in general, but I'm not a crazy animal person. It's more that I just get so incredibly attached to things and to people and to animals- and once I'm attached, I become fiercely loyal.

Thus it is with my cat. He's patiently survived three babies and only scratched them when severely provoked. And honestly, if someone were poking me in the eyes, I would probably lash out at them, too. He was my therapist when I was a moody teenager and my moral support when recovering from surgery and during those long, hard afternoons with chronic fatigue syndrome. For someone like that, how can you not be attached and loyal?

Tonight is my vigil. Tomorrow evening I need to back in Salt Lake, so tonight is my extended farewell to a good, good friend. Rest easy, little friend.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Trippin' to the coast

Kids, I'm lonely tonight. Just enough to make me feel contemplative and reflective and such. It's not a huge deal and it will pass quickly, I'm sure, as soon as I rejoin normal civilization. As much as I like my traveling companions, they are not exactly the people I would turn to if I were looking for deep, filling conversation or friendly solace.

I went to dinner last night with twelve men. Sounds great, huh? Of course, they were all either married, engaged or otherwise attached, or not my type. But they are all people I enjoy spending time with, especially in a group. If one of them starts getting on my nerves, I just let the natural flow of conversation take a turn so I'm no longer speaking to the offending gentleman. And while we have plenty to talk about and laugh about, and intellectually stimulating conversation may be plentiful, like I said, the deep filling conversation that I'm so hungry for right now is like a gaping hole in my middle.

I'm in San Diego with a group from BYU at a genetics conference (don't ask me why they decided to send me to the conference after I'd already graduated. I have no idea). There are fourteen of us- twelve men, and me and Amalia, our Bolivian grad student. Those twelve men divide down into four professors, Dr. M's dad, five grad students, and two undergrads. They're all really fun to talk to, tease, roll my eyes at, etc. I've known and worked with many of them for a few years. And I'm completely comfortable with them. Because I'm one of the guys.

It's a trick you have to learn how to do to a certain extent in a male-dominant field. But I really wish there was another woman here tonight whose native language was English that I could share some friendship with. There's something about Sunday nights anyway that make me hungry for friendship. I think the solitude is making it worse. Well, tomorrow will find me attending workshops on all kinds of fascinating things, as well as going to my poster session (read: glorified science fair) to stand by my cool poster in case anyone wants to know about the evolutionary history of Chenopodium species, and cracking jokes with my male counterparts and generally enjoying myself.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Kenya vignette: November 13- laundry and showing off the mzungus

Today was pretty unusual. To start, all my clothes were dirty besides my two skirts and the white t-shirt I brought, unwitting of the amount of mud there is in Gathiga. I haven’t worn it yet because I was sure it wouldn’t last at the orphanage for very long. Today was white shirt and skirt day because I washed all my other clothes this morning. Ruth and Grace helped me. I was actually glad they let me help at all, sometimes they think we’re more of a hindrance than a help. But I’m really, really impressed by how clean it’s possible to get a pair of pants or a pair of really, really dirty, red-mud-laden socks, scrubbing them with lots of soap and lot of cold water.

The only problem I personally had with laundry was that all the rubbing made my knuckles raw with friction. Ouch!

After laundry, Ruth decided to take us to her village, where she and Lucy grew up. We think it was partly to show off her white friends and partly because she wanted Cynthia to marry her nephew, who lives in the village. She took Cynthia, Eunice, Moses, and I, and we took two matatus through Nairobi and out the other side to get there, as well as a 2-kilometer walk. It was over a 2 hour trip one way. It was such a random trip. We got there and sat in the living room while Ruth and her mother made lunch. Riding on matatus for so long made me pretty tired.

A young man came wandering in and we figured out that he was the guy that Ruth wants to “set up” with Cynthia. He didn’t talk very much, I don’t think the romance will go far.

After lunch, Ruth took us on a little walk to the family garden plot. I really liked the region she grew up in. One thing I dislike about Gathiga is the way the streets are all lined with hedges so I can’t see very far away and it almost feels a little claustrophobic. Ruth’s village is green, green fields and wide open skies. It was gorgeous, like a breath of fresh air. Beautiful. She also showed us a mango tree.

The guy from the house came with us, as well as a little boy, about six years old, I think. At first, at the house, he would barely look at us, although we smiled and waved. Then he randomly decided to show up when we walked to the garden. Then I realized that he was always standing next to me and he was returning my smiles. He didn’t speak any English, but we played some silly little games with running and skipping and making faces.

Ruth picked a viburnum flower and gave t to me. I loved it—it was very bright and much more colorful than viburnum in Utah. The boy noticed this and picked another flower and looked like he wasn’t sure how to give it to me.

We went back inside and the others had tea. The boy brought in a flower and put it on the couch beside me to indicate that he wanted me to have it. I thanked him and smiled and he beamed at me. I put it in my journal to press it. The boy went running off and was back a little while later with a while bouquet of nicotiana-like flowers but that smelled divinely like honeysuckle. I thanked him again and this happened about three more times before we left. Cynthia was laughing that he was going to bring me the whole garden if we didn’t leave soon. Fortunately, we did. As it was, we got back to Gathiga after dark, anyway.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

I just don't get it

As I've previously confessed, extreme misuse of punctuation, abuse of grammar, and blatant misspelling of words often makes me roll my eyes and laugh behind my hand. I'm a terrible person.

However, sometimes it also makes me furrow my brow. I give you exhibit A and exhibit B.

I just don't even know what to say. The first one isn't too bizarre except that the sign makes no sense (out of context at least), but the second one?

Excuse me while I go decorate my clock with a border of question marks.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Salt Lake County Continuing Education

Class: Ghostbusters
description: Want to get spooked? Looking for evidence or information about supernatural or paranormal activity? Go on-site to various locations throughout the Salt Lake Valley to detect any signs of paranormal activity. Call early as class fills quickly. Flashlight required.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Petty matters

I have rats up my sleeve.

But it's okay. I'm not a panicky girl, and anyway, these rats are pets. Michael got them for Christmas. They're cute little things, and he named the Salt and Pepper.

Michael, David, and Curtis are building a little Lego playground for the rats, so I decided to offer them (the rats) a warm, cozy place to wait while their little funhouse is completed. {Ha! They keep sneezing these cute little sneezes and their whiskers tickle!]

Hm. Looks like Salt might take a stab at typing something; she's eyeing my keyboard. Oh- nope. She just poked her head back into my sleeve.
Michael didn't realize that I had taken both the rats and was a little concerned when he realized they were both gone. The conversation went something like this:

Michael: Wait- where did the other rat go?
Maria: I have them both
Curtis: Well, I can see where one of the rats went- right there on the Legos.
David: What?
Curtis: One of the rats went potty on the Legos
David: Why would a rat go potty on someone's Legos?
Curtis: Clearly someone needs to teach the rats better manners

I think Curtis is having more fun than either David or Michael. Maybe that's not super surprising, because he's an engineer.

Angi told me two days before Christmas that we were going to get Michael a pet for Christmas. She and Dad came home from the store on Christmas Eve with two cute bay rats and promptly ran them to Angela's room where they spent the night. Angela couldn't resist, and tried to block off an area on her bedroom floor for the rats to run around in. Not five minutes after she let them out of their cage, the rat that became known as Pepper escaped under her bed.

I spent the next half hour laying on the floor and hanging upside down off Angi's bed to try to coax Pepper back out to where we could catch her and re-cage her. Once she was safely back in the cage, I thought it was a great idea to leave the things alone for the rest of the day, let them acclimate, and not scare them.

Midafternoon, I headed to the kitchen to start making Christmas Eve dinner, a rather involved affair. Once the scalloped potatoes were ready and the roll dough was made and rising, I had a feeling I should go back to Angi's room and check on the rats. When I tried to open the door, I met with quite a bit of resistance, as though something was wedged underneath the door, like we do to keep rats from sneaking out under the door. Bad sign. Then I heard Laura's voice in the room and told her to open the door for me.

When I finally got through, I found a very pouty-faced Laura sitting in the middle of the floor and only one rat in the cage. By way of explanation, all Laura said was "She peed on my hand. Then she ran away."

This time it was Salt who escaped. After we managed to capture her and put her in the cage, we all agreed to just let them be until we gave them to Michael.

[Ha! Right as I was writing about Salt escaping, I heard Michael yell out a rat on the loose alert and was informed that Salt was hiding under the couch. We tilted it back and I got to hold it in place while Michael and Curtis crawled under it to rescue the errant rodent. But everything is under control now]

{And Curtis is quoting scripture to the rats now; "if the Salt hath no savor, it is henceforth good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden underfoot." In the context of the rats' names, I find that rather gruesome]

The biggest concern whenever my family gets pets is the omnipresent cat that we've had for almost eighteen years. The cat, Hazle, is technically mine, since I'm the one who begged my parents for one (way back when I was six), and it has outlived, and in many cases eaten, all of our other pets. We've had hampsters, gerbils, other rats, and small lizards that have all become cat food. I've walked in on a few scenes where I found the cat sitting on a gerbil or lizard cage with a tail hanging out of his mouth. Those situations are always traumatic for the little kids, because there's not even a body to bury in the garden.

I think the only pets that were ever 100% safe from Hazle's desire for a nice entree were the fish, because they were in a completely enclosed tank, and the hermit crabs, because he was fortunately too intelligent to go after things with visible pinchers. Even the iguana that my brother Mark kept as a pet for a while wasn't safe. He let the iguana wander free in his room with the door shut, and one day he came home to find the iguana dead from a battle with the cat. (Although we're not sure exactly why Hazle did it- did he really want to eat the iguana, or did he just see it as a threat?)

Once, Michael and Mark got a pair of little lizards that they kept in a cage together. We had to reason with Michael that the cage was the best place for the lizard. He wanted to have his lizard sleep on his pillow next to him.

Another time, when I was very small, the only pets we had were a big tank of fish. We thought that was pretty cool, though, and we loved going to the store to get new fish for our tank. We loved guppies, neon tetras, coolie lowches, and a 2-inch shark that lived a lot longer than the other fish. Then we discovered that we could buy newts for our tank, which was awesome, of course. The only problem with the newts was that they found a way to escape from the tank and got loose a fair amount. Sometimes we caught them and sometimes we didn't. Occasionally we would come across a dead newt while we were cleaning out closets and things.

The fish tank was in the room that I shared with my brother Tim. We were probably about five and three, and we were playing school. Since I'm older, I was the teacher. During Tim's early life, he had an obsession with dinosaurs. He knew all their big long latin names and he had a huge collection of plastic dinosaur toys and dinosaur books. We both happened to look up at the same time and we saw that one of the newts had escaped from the fish tank and was slowly making its way across our floor. I didn't have much time to register this before Tim jumped up with a shriek and ran out of the room, yelling "Mom, Mom! There's a baby dinosaur in my room!" Too bad we never had a real pet dinosaur. It would have made his whole childhood perfectly happy.

Happy 2009!

This year, Matt and Tricia volunteered to head up the New Year's festivities for our family. Our main event was a three-event Family New Year Olympics. The opening ceremonies were highlighted by Tim whistling the olympic theme. I'll upload a video of that when I'm able to get it off my camera. Then the three events were Paper Airplane racing, Marbles, and Four-Square Ping-Pong.

Paper Airplane Racing was a nostalgia event. Fifteen years ago, every Sunday, my brothers would gather together and fold paper airplanes. Then they would go down to the basement, stand on the fireplace and see whose plane would go the farthest. That's what we all did last night, and everyone from my six-year-old cousin David to my grandma participated. This was not my strongest event, so I made sure that my planes at least had cool names. They were christened the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria.

After all the events were completed (with Grandma doing remarkably well at marbles), we played family Jeapordy via video skype with my sister Becca and her family in California.

New Year's morning at my parents' house. Michael wanted to make waffles for breakfast. Of course, as soon as Uncle Curtis, the family gourmet chef, caught wind of this, he enthusiastically found his favorite waffle recipe and offered to help out. So we had waffles for breakfast, along with lots of random and silly conversation.

Curtis' son, my cousin David, loves waffles. We don't have a little syrup container right now, so we were pouring our syrup out of a gallon container. This worked pretty well for most of us, but then David decided he wanted to pour his own syrup and he got a little lake on his plate. He decided he was really full after that.

Laura had some interesting conversations with David, too. Some of them went like this:

Laura: David, I'm going to eat you!
David: How do you know?
Laura: (ponders thoughtfully) Good question

Laura: David, it's too bad you're not a girl
David: [Grins shyly]
Karla: What? Why do you say that?
Laura: Because I work at a store here we sell cute things for little girls
Maria: Really it's because she still thinks boys have cooties so she can't be friends with them

Angi: Hey! Give me the syrup back, you hillbilly!
Maria: I think you're misusing that word. Everyone in this room is too educated to be a hillbilly
Curtis: I think it's more a state of mind than a level of education
Michael: I'm a housebilly