Miscellanea

My friend Andre invited me to a formal, and afterwards we played foosball. I’m terrible at foosball, despite the occasional practice I had with my friend Alyssa last summer. Then we sat down and played Mario Kart with the Wii. The last time I played Mario Kart was with a Nintendo 64 when I was probably about seven. Sitting on that couch with a friend, in a warm noisy room surrounded by people holding glasses of port, in Cambridge, England: it’s hard to describe the comfort, nostalgia, and pleasure of that hour.

I basically got told to [Sit down and shut up] during an explanation in lab the other day. I hate when that happens. Especially since I just feel bad about not knowing enough and only later figure out it was because I was handed a [Sit down and shut up] without the helpful brackets and subtext laid out for me; it was buried in the mass of words.

Are people comfortable with different levels of uncertainty, and is that what makes them all right with careers like science, where we use language like: “this suggests that this factor is not the main cause of…” or leads them to careers where more straightforward explanations are devised and employed?

I want, in the future, to be able to download our brains into non-biological bodies. I’d be totally cool with having non-biological brains too, but that will probably take a lot longer. My best friend Tiffany is not into this idea. She tells me that a lot of who we are is in our bodies, and that there is beauty in them. I think that it’d probably be a fairer world if all of our bodies were the same, but then again, I’m also kind of excited for artificial intelligence to replace humans (not in my lifetime). Tiffany and I could have predicted our respective responses on this. Friends :).

Buzzfeed is excellent, and recently sent me to an article about male body image, and how people struggle with this. I read about it. We all have our own sticking points, and it’s amazing how many of them there are, and how few, and how we return to our same sticking points over and over.

I don’t think horoscopes are equivalent to the MBTI Personality test. I don’t believe in superstitions, and I am atheist, which is apparently more unusual than I would expect in the US (where some people identify as non-religious or agnostic, but few report being atheist as a statement.) I think all of these things are related, and I think it is interesting how we find meaning and how our biases and heuristics work. I am very interested in these subjects and I hope they will surface in my work in the future.

When characteristics and patterns and idiosyncrasies are categorized, they form a higher-order structure that can be fit onto any of these miscellaneous behaviours in the future. What higher-order structures am I missing because they don’t fit “and if I were that person, how would I feel about that?” If motivations or concepts are foreign to me, or not interesting by themselves, what interesting higher-order structures am I missing, working around, not seeing?

That feeling when you find a community filled with open-minded people. People who take offensive questions from people who disapprove and give positive and encouraging-you-to-understand answers. People who say: this is my experience, but it may not be yours and that’s fine. People who say: your experience is valid. People who say: it’s your choice how you want to define yourself; take anything from here that you feel is useful. I have been astonished by the major top websites in the asexuality community: they are overwhelmingly positive and welcoming.

Whoooaaa I’m an introvert. It’s funny hanging out with introverts versus extroverts, and how this is a useful divide in personality. As I tell people, a major part of every vacation in my family is all of us sitting in the same room plugged into our respective devices. It’s also funny how apparently I’m very obvious when I’m out of it (as I call it), especially to people who know me. Or perhaps they’re just the ones to tell me—nah, I think everyone knows. One of the funniest ways I’ve heard it put is: “yeah, I could tell you had some introverted tendencies”. My extroverted friends think I place a lot of emphasis on it, and laugh at me when I complain about “too much social”. I’ve been hoping to get better at it, and I think I have… but apparently even when I’m trying my best, it’s a bit obvious. Ah well. As I was reading on a blog recently: “someone’s got to sit in the corner and maintain the website.”

(But then again, this isn’t necessarily a work thing, is it? Because extroverts seem to do about the same things as introverts during studying/working/website-maintaining, as far as I can tell.)

(Ha, I wonder if extroverts notice social-tiredness even more than introverts, because I find that my extrovert friends are often good at reading people. That’s always a fun balance, especially on the blog, because I’m like: well, I wouldn’t be able to figure out what I mean from that sentence if I didn’t have the context of me writing it in my own head, but some people I know are better at picking out meaning than I am, so how much better are they at the meaning-finding weighed up against how much context I personally would need to figure it out… (where “meaning” is often: the specific situation with specific people that sparked some reflection of mine)).

I’m still eating the same food as I was five years ago when I first started cooking for myself, plus some new tricks. (Don’t put hard-boiled eggs in the microwave; they explode. Spinach does not boil well. Sweet potatoes are awesome but not very available in England. Trader Joe’s is something to be savored, and it’s all right to be very, very disappointed when Iceland stops stocking frozen kale bags.)

At least I don’t eat on the floor anymore usually. This is probably the least amount of progress I’ve had at anything that impacts my life as much as cooking for myself does.

I love presenting to the public. I was talking to someone recently who felt differently, who went to the UK for his PhD primarily to avoid the major teaching responsibilities that are part of the US system. He said it felt like he was lying to people when he told public audiences about his research, telling them simplified things that weren’t true. I hadn’t thought of it that way before; certainly we’re generalizing over the details, but I’ve always seen presenting as the spirit of the thing. The goal is to just show people what science is like; the gist will work since they’re not going to be working on this in the future. He’s right though, and he had a good analogy: we definitely are lying to people, just like we get lied to at every stage of the educational system, learning the big ideas before we get told we were taught wrong about the exceptions. But he and I see this “lying” in different ways, with different end goals.

I see it as: “I’m here to tell you a little about what my life is like; to give you the best of its spirit, and if you want to come hear about everything else, you can come talk to me and I’ll tell you that too.”

A colleague and I work on problems differently. He’s more supportive than I am. And because of my training, my first inclination when we run into a problem is to go: let’s think it through on our own, while his is: let’s ask someone. The second is often far more efficient. They both work :).

When I’m in a large group and hanging out in the circle but not saying anything, I used to say to myself: come on, Monica, you’re over this. This is what you did in middle school. Stop being the silent one who no one knows (and therefore making this effort pointless, since not only are you feeling guilty and not enjoying yourself, but you’re not gaining any social connections here).

Then I figured something nice out: there are actually a few consistent patterns leading to me falling into this behavior. They include: 1) everyone being higher ranking than me. 2) The whole situation is tremendously awkward (even more common among large groups of introverts). 3) Other people are friends and interested in talking to their friends. 4) Other people are dominating the conversation.

Re: 1) I’ve gotten better at overcoming intimidation; huge progress on this front, actually, so if I’m still being quiet it’s usually because this is paired with something else. 2) I do try. If I’m the most extroverted one in the room, I very much do try. I’m usually all right if there’s someone else around to help things along, but sometimes you just have to give up. I’m not good at engaging large numbers of people at the same time. 3) Can’t do much about this one. It happens. 4) And sometimes, you just have to sit there politely and listen, and hope that the other people are interesting. Sometimes you don’t know enough or aren’t witty enough to jump in, and you just have to forgive yourself and let it go.

Acceptance, man, and not feeling bad about it. It’s the key to everything.

Some people need money. They are hard-working people and don’t have a back-up because of circumstances and they just need a grant. But we can’t just give everyone donations and grants. Can’t we set up a pot of money or something and have everyone take out loans? It’d be more self-sustaining, more people could benefit. I know there are so many complications I’m not taking into account here. But why don’t we have a loan pot for people who need it? Why can’t we do this through Facebook too? (What am I missing, because there must be several huge things that I’m missing?)

Gossip. Such a funny thing. I’d like to do pattern analysis on what people gossip about. I bet it’s been done. I should go look it up!

What’s your biggest fear?

I don’t know… dying’s probably first. (Most likely cause of death for Monica right now: car accident. Must not die in car accident, especially before loans are paid off. But generally must not die.) Then probably not achieving anything meaningful in life. I don’t want other people around me suffering either.

What’s your biggest fear in research?

You know that feeling when you’ve done your best but you don’t know exactly what you’re doing and you present your best work and the other person’s like: this is total crap? Used to happen to me a lot with social situations, happened to me a countable number of times in research. Hasn’t happened to me very recently, actually. I’m hoping it will continue to not happen to me as I know more.

Depending on the topic and the language you’re using, you can come across as so much dumber than you are. Also, sometimes I feel like pretending to be a “normal person” involves talking a lot about the weather and really easy topics. That’s not everything that normal people think about. But what if that is all you think about? Are you a normal person then, or are you abnormal for not being a thinking person who pretends?

Say a 19-year-old kid messed up, and accidentally destroyed a lot of peoples’ good work. Is guilt enough, or do they need more punitive measures? Are you trying to send a message? What if you aren’t, then what? What if you’re angry yourself?

I find it hilarious that you can tell which labs don’t like each other by reading papers in the scientific literature. Humor is so ridiculously dry in science, and all the aggression is extremely passive. It’s literally all in the footnotes and parentheses.

Also, very cool that science papers look veerrrry similar to how they did 100 years ago. It’s awesome that we’ve found a system to transfer knowledge that works!

Sometimes people who are so smart socially can be very dumb socially, and then when you’re trying to guess what kind of message to send so that they’ll pick up on it, you have no idea which audience you’re aiming for.

“The thesis must: be written in English, apart from quotations and recognised technical formulae.”

I love that they think I’m good enough to write my thesis in math.

The experience of scrolling through a Facebook wall is jolting when there’s a tragedy. Two themes precisely intermixed: posts about vacations and posts about sorrow.

Lizzie’s date told her that science was “just another religion”. …No.

When I talked to Tiffany about this though, she told me the ways it could be considered one. You believe in it. (I told her: no, you believe in the scientific process. She said: but that’s in religion, too. They believe in the process: fulfill all the steps, you’ll get the reward.) You search for evidence in what you believe. (True. But we have lots of different labs searching for different things they believe! But there are many different religions.) You don’t believe in other ways to see things. (…well, yes. Scientific logic is the path. It’s the way things are, it has not been disproved. You can disprove non-logical things.) There are specific instruments and a specific language.

Tiffany doesn’t disagree with me, she’s just bringing up a few ways in which it could be argued. Forcing myself through that process has made me aware of how careful my reasoning needs to be to properly back up my intuitive feeling on this. I think the difference is that in science, if someone proves you wrong, you have to listen to them. Especially if multiple people prove you wrong: you can’t just say, well, I’m going to do it this way, you have to say: well, this is a righter way, and so we all have to go in that direction. This is enforced through not giving people money unless they do this.

That’s such a small difference that frames processes as different in my mind as science and religion.

Computers are the first thing I do in the morning and the last thing I do at night. I wonder what will happen in the future :).

Some people adapt their clothes to a new environment, especially one they’ve already been in for a year. Monica… doesn’t change.

That weird feeling when a car drives by with loud music. They’re bringing it with themselves, but for the rest of us it’s just one moment. We are self— literally— centered beings.

One measure used to determine how much “social capital” someone has is how many followers they have on Twitter and Facebook, and how willing those followers are to do things for them. The same could be done with favors and actions taken in the physical world. That’s harder to measure. Wouldn’t it be interesting if everything we did was online someday?

When something has been exquisitely designed and you’re admiring the beauty of the object and the beauty of the thought behind it and someone tries to drag you into their admiration as well and you’re like: NO this is MY MOMENT, this is when you most need to leave me alone.

The adventures of someone who dislikes being accessible: no phone, working at night, enforced and somewhat rude boundaries in time and spaces. Also, pretty good email contact, because enjoys people a lot.

Happy. Home and working, doing exactly what I’m supposed to do.

Friends :). Friends who compromise for you and know you and have patience with you and respect you, who listen to you and are amazing people in what they choose to do.

When you’ve spent the last few minutes swearing at your computer for its stupidity, then you discover your own stupid mistake but you don’t have to apologize.

There are people who struggled with larger obstacles than others. Some things, I think, can be considered equally tough. Social rejection is universal. Can other obstacles be considered equivalent?

What is bravery?

Is it stepping outside of your comfort zone? Is there any non-dangerous situation in which you should stay in your comfort zone? What if it’s something outside your comfort zone but squarely within everyone else’s? Is it bravery if it’s unrecognized, or unrecognized by yourself? Is it bravery only if you sacrifice something? What does bravery look like in the modern world? Are there degrees of it? How has the term changed over the centuries? How does bravery compare to other positive attributes, and how much should we all be brave?

You know when you and someone else just… agree? Same worldview, usually, but even more than that; they’ll say something very specific and you’ll think: that’s exactly how I feel about that, that’s exactly how I would say it, that is it, it’s not that you understand it, it’s that you feel it. They’re their own person with their own views and ticks and flaws, but on this topic, you agree. You don’t generally agree, you don’t agree to respect differences, you agree.

When you’re sitting here, puzzled, trying to figure out where you should devote your energies. Lots of different projects to begin and continue, lots of energies to allocate. Positive and negative motivators both available; the negative ones keep you more critical, sharper; the positive ones work better. Feeling settled for the moment, pretty happy with it all.

Thank you all for reading, readers. Much love to you all!

Monica

 

 

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