Friday, October 31, 2008

MS, halloween, piano, and the rupee

I finally got some good comments back on my manuscript! It seems that I really haven’t a clue about writing. But with a good reviewer, hopefully I’ll learn enough not to need so much help next time. I keep hoping for that sort of thing, and so far it hasn’t panned out. Every time I start working through a new MS, it stinks. Writing is tough! Criminy! I should’ve taken more writing classes. For some reason I keep thinking writing should be simple, but for some reason it doesn’t seem to be.

While waiting for comments to come back, I started in on data analysis for my next paper. I think I have a good plan of attack, since the data are similar to my last paper. Go through the raw data quickly, then graph it out and look up all the outliers to make sure they’re real. So far, most of the outliers have turned out to be false. That doesn’t really engender confidence in the data, but I figure that outliers often skew the data more than simply another data point that’s like all the other data points, so it’s better to focus on them. If TM keeps healthy and can keep going to school regularly, maybe I can get the data screened in a month or so. That would be wonderful! Then plan about 6mo for writing the paper…

Bangalore weather is wonderful. I think the rains have stopped, again, so we have sunshine and pool time! Hooray! TM loves swimming. Being with her reminds me of how much fun swimming is. Actually, being with her reminds me of how much fun lots of things are. I think I was getting to be a regular stick-in-the-mud ‘till she came along. She loves fingerpainting, playing with blocks, imagining things… it takes me back to when life was interesting and you could have fun anywhere if you wanted to. Kids are sure great that way. Especially if you have about 3-4hrs/day when they’re at school, so they get a break from you and you can get some of your work done.

Q has been more relaxed lately, which is lovely. I think he’ll get a bonus this year from work, and we’ll shunt it right into our student loans. I would love to get those things paid off. I hate loans. He’s going to the gym now, and it seems to really help him deal with life better. In a stressful job like his, he absolutely needs the exercise.

Hey, did you know (you probably didn’t) that we had trick-or-treaters? Here in Bangalore? It was wonderful! All the kids in our complex, and many more it seems, turned out for trick-or-treating! Maya and I went around to our friends’ houses, which was lovely. I’d put together a quick-n-dirty cat outfit, with ears and a tail. She liked it… thank goodness she’s 2 and isn’t too picky yet. I’ve already ordered her outfit for next year from Grandma. I think she’ll like being a princess, and Grandma loves sewing things like that (at least, she did when I was that age). They really don’t sell Halloween costumes here… but the kids sure had some great costumes anyway! Probably ‘cause so many of them have lived in the States before, and have fond memories of trick-or-treating.

What else is going on… I’m giving piano lessons to the kids upstairs, ‘cause I think it’s really important for them to learn music, and it’s fun, and they enjoy it, and they’re so nearby, and they have people to help with Maya during the lessons. We’re learning some beginning guitar chords also. I’m only charging 500NRP/hr, which is peanuts in the US, but definitely par for the course here.

Speaking of US prices and the rupee, golly, the rupee has fallen to 50nrp/$. Quite painful. It’s good for any of you who want to visit India, though! Stop by! We even have the guest room somewhat cleaned up. ☺


Sunday, October 5, 2008


I’ve finally sat down to read Origin of Species by good ol’ Darwin. I was scared off of it by a professor who said it was dry as a bone, but since I’m trying for a PhD in Evolutionary Biology, I figured I should give it a shot. It turns out that I really really like it! It’s amazing what they knew back then, and how they had many of the same problems we have now with people who really really don’t like the idea of God working through natural laws to create things. It’s also very interesting to read what a very intelligent scientist has to say about inheritance when they didn’t even know what DNA was – Darwin didn’t know about Mendel’s work at all, so mostly people were just kinda shooting around in the dark when it came to inheritance. They knew things were inherited, but had no idea why some things were inherited and some things weren’t, and why some would show up in grandchildren but not in children – what an amazing puzzle! Completely weird. It’s wonderful what we’ve been figuring out now, what with DNA and epigenetics and all that. Pretty cool.

Darwin starts out talking mostly about agriculture. It turns out he has the same audience in mind as many of my Biology 100 students. People who are intelligent but who feel very deeply that the Creation must have been a single (or septimal?) miraculous event. Darwin’s a wonderful writer. He talks about how man has wrought pretty amazing changes in animals, so much so that different strains of an animal can appear completely completely different, and he gives many examples of them. Did you know that Darwin raised pigeons? I didn’t. And it turns out there are lots of different, some pretty weird-looking, pigeons, and most of the varieties, especially the wacko ones, were selected by man. You could go so far as to say they were created by man, because he would have seen some weird-looking pigeon, one with a rather large crop, for example, and started to breed for that trait. After many generations of selecting for a big crop, he ends up with a bird that has, whoa, such a big crop that it looks quite different than the other pigeons.

No need to be upset about this, we all know that agricultural crops look really different than wild ones. Cultivated strawberries? 20x bigger than the wild ones. Do you think the ancient Egyptians had tangelos? No, because we invented them. And wild watermelons are not red at all. And beefalos? Come on.

So once Darwin establishes that man can really change things, he sets up natural selection as being similar to man’s selection, in that things will change in order to be better adapted to where they are, simply because the ones that are best adapted to their environment will have more offspring than ones that are not adapted well.

He also spends quite a bit of time on how the whole species concept is fraught with difficulties. It is VERY difficult to determine what a species is.

I’m having a fun time reading it. Love this guy! Though I can see how a person who thinks anything other than a 7-day bazillion-species-at-once creation is blasphemous would put Darwin in the dust-bin pronto, probably burning it too. Ah well.

I’ll just say again that – just because we can explain parts of something doesn’t mean it wasn’t miraculous. If I’m having a miserable day and my husband comes home with flowers for me and we manage to fit in a 2-hr conversation, I’ll pray and thank Heavenly Father for such a wonderful miracle. As I did yesterday. I find no problems with learning a little bit about the wonderful methods Heavenly Father harnesses to accomplish His designs. Knowledge is… Beauty.


Another draft, pets, and vacation time

Things are settling in. I sent off yet another draft of my paper, and now I’m starting to attack the data for the next paper. I hate it. This part is very tedious. I have about 70 folders with 20-100 files each, and all have to be compared and “cleaned.” Check for possible mis-labelings, discrepancies in data, possible errors in sample naming, stuff like that. It takes a long time. Hopefully this time won’t be as bad as for the last paper, since I’ve done it already. And I hope the analysis goes quicker, too. I don’t think it’ll be worth sending it to Molecular Ecology, though, since at the moment it looks to me to be simply a cut-and-dry description of genetic patterns in a recent invasion, comparing central to peripheral pops. Hmm. Well, we’ll see how it pans out. And I’ll just have to nail myself down to the computer during TM’s naptimes.

It’s vacation time in India, so TM’s at home, and the only worktime I have is during nap. Normal routine should kick in after another week, and then there’s another vacation sometime that I don’t remember when or how long it is… ahh well. I just hope I can pull off this PhD thing. It’s really irritating to have to keep plugging away at things that seem to show very very very slow progress. At least soon we’ll have a paper submitted. I just hope we don’t have to resubmit it… it’d be lovely if they accept it with only minor revisions. We’ll keep the ol’ fingers crossed.

My older sister even read my manuscript and made comments. I’ll take a look at it tomorrow. So nice to have people who can read things like this and critique! My other critics are too busy to really hack it apart, so I’m glad to have someone who’s willing to whack away at it.

Q is on his way to Delhi, again. His company’s having a big shindig up there, and off he goes. He comes back in a couple days, though, and then we’re going off to Coorg for a few days for a holiday! Only the 2nd holiday we’ve had since we were married 8 yrs ago! I’m so excited! We’ll see elephants, eat good food, play in the forest, whatever. Yay! And he needs the break – his body is really starting to wear down under the stress. His company is even cracking down on him, making him stop work for awhile, they’re so worried about him. I’m glad they’re willing to back down a little, ‘cause we’d all like to keep him in good condition for awhile longer…

We still have 2 fish alive, out of 8. I gave 4 away, of which 2 had babies. I’m so glad I gave those away! Yay! The tank’s not “cycling” yet, but I’m hoping it will in a month or two, sigh. Daily water changes ‘till then.

We narrowly escaped buying a puppy this week. I’ve been so lonely, since our neighbor’s been gone for a month, and Vivek was gone, and I’m left alone at home with a sick and/or on vacation 2-yr-old… very very trying. For some reason I thought a pet would help. But here it seems you can only get puppies or kittens, and Q helped me realize that it would really absolutely not help at all. So we’ll all try to be a little more cuddly when we can, and weather the weather. Ride out the storm. Yuppers.

I feel kinda boring today, but figured it was time for another post. So there you have it!