Monday, October 31, 2005


I don't have anything deep or provocative to say today. No profound thoughts or rants about how children should be raised or how women are oppressed even today. I just feel like I should check in since I've been slacking off in the posting department.
Here's what I've been up to the last couple of weeks.
Working like crazy. Before I got my Master's degree (a year ago this Friday!) I never worked this hard. I feel like the stereotypical grad student with hardly any personal time, constantly losing track of finances, keys, time, etc. Last weekend I worked the whole time. I got some good data though and my advisor went out of his way to email me and congratulate me on it, which made it all worthwhile.
Sunday night/Monday morning hurricane Wilma came. I don't want to downplay Wilma's fury because I know the other coast is really having problems. However, I slept through hurricane Wilma. I was all wound up about it, and then I slept through the whole thing. I got the day off work though on Monday which was good.
This past weekend was very fun. Friday night I met a friend's much-talked-about new girlfriend. The three of us had drinks and then went and saw In Her Shoes. I really liked the new girlfriend. She reminded me of my college roommate, which made me a little melancholy and made me miss her, but hopefully I made a new friend Friday. In Her Shoes was cute and a lot like the book (which was why I wanted to see it). Not too much to think about, perfect after a couple of beers and a hard week at work.
Saturday I watched my Gophers get spanked by Ohio State. It was close until the fourth quarter when everything came unraveled. For awhile I thought, no FANTASIZED, that the Gophers would make it to the Outback bowl here in Tampa and I could go and it would be awesome. But then I remember that it always seems possible through the first 5 or 6 weeks of the season and then things go downhill for my Gophers.
Yesterday I FINALLY got to go see Bodies. It was very cool. I don't have a whole lot to say about the exhibit without going into utter, excruciating, gruesome details. My one comment is this: Wow, the human liver is way bigger than I ever expected. Okay, that's it. Dean went with me and he held up very well. Not icked out or anything. One time he said he couldn't handle it and it had something to do with male reproductive disorders. He made me proud.
Nothing else new for me.
I hope everyone has a happy, safe Halloween!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Me Getting on my Soapbox about Role Models

“With the seventh pick in the first Fantasy Physics draft, team Natalie selects…discoverer of Cepheid variables and cosmic expansion…namesake of the most powerful telescope in history…attorney, astronomer and Hollywood playboy…Edwin Hubble!” I pick up the card to an eruption of applause and laughter.

It’s the first draft for our Fantasy Physics teams. A lab mate of mine got a set of physicist trading cards in his latest issue of Physics Teacher magazine. He and I are the only sports fans in the lab, so the first day he got them he came up to me with his stack of cards and said, “I’ll trade you a Marie Curie for your Torii Hunter rookie.” I laughed, grabbed the cards and mockingly put them in to two piles saying “Got it, got it, need it need it, got it, need it,…” A few days later he decided it would be fun to share the cards by letting me and the other lab mates draft for “teams.” We’re not sure how we’re actually going to play games or anything, but the hype is pretty big.

Of course, this is fun but it is all tongue-in-cheek. But why is it so funny? Is it inconceivable that people should feel about science the way they feel about sports? I’m not a complete idealist, but the recent “Love Boat” incident on Lake Minnetonka has caused me to step back and critically look at the way we feel about sports.

I started by realizing my mild irritation at the fact that the story just hasn’t gone away yet. Not because I’m such a die-hard Vikings fan. In fact I have sort of a love-hate attitude towards my hometown team. An attitude that isn’t improving as a result of their utter self-destructive season so far. I believe the reason for the refusal to let this story go (on a national level, I don’t even get to see Minneapolis news anymore) is two-fold. The first reason is good, old-fashioned media overkill. The second is richer, more complex and goes much deeper than simple sensationalism. The reason we can’t let it go is that we feel disappointed in people we consider to be our heroes, and we want them to know about it.

My first response to the story was to say to myself, “Football players are young men who usually grow up in underprivileged environments who all of a sudden find themselves with more money than they ever dreamed of. I’m so not surprised by this.” Of course, I’m not a parent whose son or daughter goes around wearing jerseys with said football players’ names on them.

People are angry because football players and athletes in general are our heroes and role models to our children. Role models don’t go around performing lewd acts on cruise ships or urinating in people’s yards. My response to this is: Why are these people role models to our youth? We aren’t trying hard enough to be role models ourselves so we give that task to people of exemplary physical skill and get upset when they let us down. There are plenty of athletes who do amazing things for their communities, and those things are far from being overlooked. But there are other members of any community that deserve to be looked upon in the same light, people our children should look at and say, “That’s who I want to be like.” Furthermore, a person doesn’t have to be particularly active in one’s community to be a role model. I try to be a role model to my stepsister and younger cousins by showing that girls make good scientists and that science isn’t just a subject in school, it is an understanding of the world around us. I try to be a role model by showing that the world is bigger than your backyard, but not too big as to be inaccessible. You have to make your own adventures and the journey can be more rewarding than the endpoint.

I, in turn, have several role models that I still look up to. Some are scientists, some are parents. Some have overcome financial hardships, some have fought physical illnesses, some emotional illnesses. All have amazing stories that have nothing to do with how fast they can run or how high they can jump. While I fully enjoy sports as entertainment, life is full of much more interesting people that the people that fill our screens on Sunday afternoons.

I am fully aware that my child will probably not agree with me when they are young. They won’t walk around wearing a jersey that says “Einstein ‘05” and they’d most likely be given wedgies at school if they did. I’m also not saying that I can completely succeed in being the role model I attempt to be to the young people in my life. But I think we all can do a better job of being role models, instead of expecting others to behave themselves.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Inappropriate Behavior in Public

This week, an incident so scandalous as to put Bill and Monica to shame sent shock waves through the Midwest. Two cruise ships filled with Minnesota Vikings players, their friends and some “hired help” set out on Lake Minnetonka only to return 90 minutes later. Apparently the players engaged in a plethora of sexual activities not behind closed doors, but out in the open for cruise workers to witness. The cruise employees were so traumatized the captains decided to turn around and report the entire nightmare. I got a chuckle out of the story. While it’s definitely a serious matter this all happened in Minnesota. This is a state that maintains its progressive attitude yet still viscously hangs on to its wholesome façade. This is a tough balancing act and for this most part it does pretty well. After all, the state produced both Prince and Garrison Keillor. Oh yeah, and just about everybody worships the Minnesota Vikings. So what should these deities be allowed to get away with?

I was talking about this (currently the only) local story with my mom on the phone last night. After we exchanged what we had heard and opinions, she changed the topic.

“Have you updated your blog recently?”

“No, I’ve been too busy. Plus, I haven’t had much to say. I started writing something up about what happened at book group this week.”

“What happened at book group?”

I joined my book group a little over a year ago because I thought it would be a good way to meet new (non-physicist) people. The only local group I found met once a month at Borders and consisted of about 10 Jewish women, all retired school teachers. There is also one middle-aged Cuban woman and one middle-aged man. And now me, a timid, rather inarticulate younger woman whom they warmly welcomed. Not exactly a wild bunch. Anyway, for years they met at a large table reserved for them in the middle of Borders with a free carafe of decaf coffee. A few months ago we were rudely moved to the back corner between the W-Z fiction and the window. Our table was gone, but we still got the coffee. Then Tuesday evening our group leader informed us that we were being moved indefinitely to the café section. The manager had told her that the group was “a distraction to shoppers.” It was aweful. Between the coffee grinding and the background conversations nobody could hear anything. One person would say something and everyone just shouted “What?! I can’t hear you!” Anyway, we spend most of the time that we should have been talking about The Good Earth brainstorming instead about where we could meet from now on. Who will take such a rogue group? Do readers really carry a stigma of distraction?

My mother’s reaction to this injustice was priceless.

“Good Lord! So you mean to tell me that if you are a player for the Minnesota Vikings you can take a cruise, get a blowjob and stick sex toys up a hookers ass, but a regular citizen can not meet publicly to discuss a book?! What is society coming to?!”


After I recovered from a fit of uncontrollable laughter I said, “Now THAT makes for an interesting post to my blog!”

Then she said, “Okay. But can you please replace “blowjob” with oral sex and that other thing I said with anal sex?”

Sorry Mom.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Collection

This past weekend Dean and I went to Carl Crawford bobblehead day at Tropicana field. The Devil Rays (also Dean’s former employers) chose this weekend for bobblehead festivities as part of fan appreciation weekend, and the last games of the season. Anyone who knows us is well aware of our, ahem, collection. What people don’t always understand about all of our bobbleheads is how the collection started and why on Earth we stand in line for hours to get them.
For starters, Dean and I are both “collectors.” This is why we have too much baseball memorabilia, too many books and too many cats. Obtaining one of anything usually begets obtaining more.
In the summer of 2000, the Twins had their first bobblehead days where the first 5,000 fans received a bobblehead doll of a Twins player. Popularity has led the Twins and other teams to give away closer to 10,000 dolls per promotion, and inevitably there are still people who stand in line but don’t get one. The very first bobblehead doll of the modern era was of Harmon Killebrew, arguably the greatest Twin ever. Our decision to go to the game was rather spontaneous, but after the decision was made we were advised by my step dad to get there an hour or two before gates opened. He and my mom were going as well, but waited at a different gate with the elitist crowd, unlike us who had to wait at the gates outside general admission.
We sat on the cement ground, in the heat with other Twins fans that alone are liable to drive you nuts. Just us, for two hours, telling stories about growing up, reminiscing, fantasizing about the life ahead of us. Together. And then, when the gates opened, an eternity later our mission was accomplished. I wasn’t convinced I ever wanted to wait in line for another promotion again. However, Dean’s exclamation of “Look at the craftsmanship of this!” made me realize I had little choice in the matter.
Five years later and we still avidly wait in line for bobblehead dolls when we can. Even though we no longer live in Minnesota, we collect dolls from the Devil Rays games and various minor league teams in the Bay area. Dean genuinely likes them, but like me he sees something in them that no one else can. He sees our experiences and our past.
For instance, when we look at our Doug Mientkiewicz doll, we both crack up at the time we had heard there were going to be people camping out overnight for it. Since we had little else to do that evening besides watch TV I packed a cooler full of iced coffee, pop, chips and sandwiches and we headed to the Metrodome at 11 pm. We brought a couple of lawn chairs and blankets. It was surreal there because there were people in tents and families with kids who were playing catch outside the gates at midnight. We somehow got in line behind a bachelor there who we later named “Voice-immodulated Tom” because he had absolutely no control over the volume or tone of his voice. Being there by himself he struck up a conversation with us about his extensive collection of baseball magnet schedules. There we were in the middle of the night, outside the Metrodome sipping coffee and listening while Tom YELLED at us about his collection. We didn’t sleep or hardly have time to spend with each other. Hell, we were afraid to make eye contact for fear we’d die laughing at poor Voice-immodulated Tom.
When the gates opened at 11 am we collected our prizes, bought a couple of hot dogs and made our way to our seats. We were exhausted having not slept a minute outside and sat down in time to watch the Twins Tribute to Little League Teams. This consisted of thousands of little league players on the field. When we realized that the same kids on the field would soon be in the stands and on the concourse drinking Cokes and eating cotton candy we panicked and went home to sleep. We didn’t even see the first pitch.
Each doll has a story like this that reminds us that our collection lets us spend time together and gather little nuggets of stories to bring up the next time. Instead of watching TV or reading separate books, we are connecting.
This past weekend for Carl Crawford I thought that being the veteran line-waiter that I am, I could easily stand outside for an hour. No food or water in October, in Florida. I thought I had succeeded beautifully until I got in the door and became inebriated from one beer. One beer led to another and another until I was obnoxiously drunk, yelling at the umps, crying over losing Lou Piniela and threatening to vomit out the window of the car on the ride home (incase you’re curious, I never actually vomited. I managed to spit feebly out the window a couple times though). One thing I do remember is talking to Dean about naming our children and how excited we both are to have kids as soon as the time is right. Maybe someday when little (insert name boy’s and/or girl’s name here) is grown we can tell him/her we named him/her at a bobblehead game.