A Lost Lady by Willa Cather

I’ve been on a short classics kick of late, probably because the idea of reading a 1,000 page book seems like a daunting task as well as commuting with one is even worse. Anyway, I don’t know if you have noticed from the novels that I tend to review, but many of them are not American. I tend to stay international when considering reading classical literature, which I don’t quite know how to interpret. However, when I went to my favorite used bookstore recently I picked up a Willa Cather and thought to myself: “female American, this is knew, lets do this!” (Yes, I sometimes give myself a pep talk prior to reading, especially if its a new author).

I’m glad I read it! This novel took me 2.5 days to read. All of 174 pages and was actually a really easy read, but at the same time quite good. Cather is a talented American Pulitzer winner and has a knack for discussing what an American lifestyle was like prior to it being heavily settled. A Lost Lady concerns the life of Mrs. Marian Forrester and what consumes her life in the American frontier. The novel is told through the eyes of Neil who is a young boy when we first meet him to when he grows up, goes to school, and watches over Mrs. Forrester. Overall, for a short novel, the plot is quite good and there’s not much descriptions other than the thoughts of the characters and how they interact among each other (which is debatable as to whether people enjoy it or not).

The novel was a great joy to read, and I will be honest in that it was not exactly a light read or a happy one. Mr. Forrester has a stroke and Mrs. Forrester then has to take care of him. His businesses/land he has purchased falls below market value and the Forresters then become poor. Neil tries to help them by taking a year off of work to try to get their “stuff together” but because Mrs. Forrester holds fast to a connection, Ivy, a scrupulous attorney who just wants to make money, Neil leaves right after Mr. Forrester dies.

As I said, the novel is not exactly a “happy” one, but it does have some central themes that are key to understanding this era, especially with respect to women. Cather essentially defines a woman’s role by the man she marries. Mr. Forrester was very popular prior to his stroke, but afterward, it seems as though people abandoned the Forrester. Neil was the only one who stayed a true friend, and Mrs. Forrester knew this, but she never really was honest to herself. I also hope you noticed that I have not referred to Mrs. Forrester as Marian, but always as Mrs. Forrester. I believe this to be a great theme throughout the novel, in that Mrs. Forrester was “a lost lady” without her husband. Once he died, she packed her stuff up and moved west and remarried. Even when she remarried she continuously had flowers sent to her dead husband’s grave and when she died, her new husband had flowers sent as well on “Mrs. Forrester Collins’ behalf.” What a telling continuous symbol, which is greatly applicable to women today. Many women change their names to assume that of their husbands. For women in the sciences, this is a rather challenging thing to do, especially if one is published. I know of many women who did not change their names upon being married, or hyphenated their names. In today’s society, not changing your name does not have the social requirements as it did during Mrs. Forrester’s time. Would I be considered “a lost lady” by Cather if I didn’t change my name? Good question.

There were a few things that I wasn’t a huge fan of in this novel. For one, I think Cather portrayed Mrs. Forrester as dumb, sometimes dumb as a fox, but usually not very smart. It very much bothers me that a female author protrays the main female character as an idiot. But, maybe that was Cather’s point? Moreover, I wanted to learn more about Mr. Forrester. In the last two chapters the reader learns a lot about how the Forresters met and what attracted each to the other, and I think this is pivotal to the story. Mr. Forrester seems to be a high esteem character who has a ton of integrity, and really knew how to conquer America. It was quite depressing when Cather incapacitated Mr. Forrester and then killed him off. I felt as if he was a great man, and Mrs. Forrester really enjoyed being married to him and looked up to him herself, and was even more lost when he died than beforehand.

This novel was a pretty easy read, and was quite thought-provoking. It was a pleasure to read something by a female that was well-written and had some major themes that could be related to even in today’s modern age. If you stumble across one of Cather’s works I would suggest picking it up. She’s a great American author, and being a female and writing about female main characters was a joy to experience.

Advertisements

Pink Criss-Cross Nails

I stumbled across an image of a nail that had a criss-cross theme this past weekend and was like: “OoooooO, I wanna try!” So, obviously, I did.

This design is a bit more time consuming than my previous designs and the main reason is it takes a while for the polish to completely dry in order to adhere the nail tape. Also, you have to pre-cut all of your tape segments (and there’s 4 per nail = 40 segments).  But, the end result is pretty and makes your nails look much longer because your accentuating the tip rather than the whole nail. Hope you enjoy!

My color scheme was a bit different in that I really wanted to do a pink base, but also a dual color for the criss-cross that completed each other as well as the pink base. In the end, I think my color scheme is mediocre. I really liked it at the beginning and now it’s getting annoying. (Oh no, I’m going to have to re-do my nails?! What will I do??? HA!)

Directions:

1. I painted two coats of pink to get a smooth and thick layer of opaque polish. Let these dry completely before moving on to the taping step.

2. Prior to painting the pink I pre-cut 1.5 cm segments of striping tape. You can vary the length because some nails will need more than others, but try to stay approximately 1.5 cm

3. I placed the striping tape first on my left hand then painting the designs, let dry, then placed the tape on my right hand, painted the design and let dry. This was just a bit easier to do because the tape is a bit of a challenge to work with if all your fingers has it.

4. Place two longer segments meeting in a V shape on the nail. The V tip should be about in the middle of the nail. Then about 5mm from the tip place another tape segment diagonally from one v-edge to the end of the nail. Overlap with another tape segment from the other edge of the V. At this point make sure that the V-tip and the overlap of the criss-cross meet at the center and you can draw a line bisecting your nail down the middle.

20140921_202540

5. Quickly paint the segments you want within the outline structure on the nail. I did this nail by nail and removed the tape right after I painted with a tweezer. The tweeze allows you to not get nail polish on your other clean nails.

6. Continue until the other hand is done in the same manner.

7. I used a top coat because this design is at the tip of the nail so it’s bound to chip. I also put the top coat on the edge of the nail to prohibit further chipping. This is a great trick I learned because that’s why polish chips: there’s an edge at the tip of the nail that allows for chipping, rough spots to develop, and so forth.

20140921_202623

Let me know if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions!

Turn of the Screw by Henry James

I have not been to my favorite used book store in a very long time (prior to summer). So, I recently took a little jaunt down the street during my lunch break. So far, I think I have been pretty clear that I love used bookstores, I love books (especially classics), and I rarely ever buy anything that is not on sale (in general). So a used bookstore where every book is less than $4 is my heaven!

Going to the store was not exactly on my list of things to do that day, so I didn’t have my go-to list of books that I wanted to read. Oh shucks, I had to look through every book in order of author’s last name. Oh my, what a sad, sad day. HA! Anywho, I stumbled on some great classics and found a few modern novels that intrigued me but I was not about to pay sticker price for them (The Red Tent, looks amazing and can’t wait to read).

So, I found a Henry James novel entitled Turn of the Screw and read the cover which characterized it as a new rendition of a scary tale. It was $2 and a little over 100 pages so I thought “why not?” Out of all the books I had, I started this one,  not only because it was scary and I was in the mood for scary, but also it was short. Well, it’s a James’ novel, which means that just because it’s short does not mean that it’s going to take a short time to read.

A week later I finished it and I can say I enjoyed it, not as much as I initially thought, but I did like it. In general the plot was well-developed and succeeded at being shocking, but not scary. Granted, I have never been scared by a book. Shocked, yes, but scared, no. Turn of the Screw is about a brand new Governess coming to teach two children who are orphaned and in the care of their uncle. The uncle has the children live at a large house that is not cohabited with himself so the reader never meets the uncle but only reads correspondence he sends. The two children, a boy and girl, and interesting characters. Naive, innocent at times, and conniving at other times. The Governess herself is a rather interesting character and the plot surrounds her transformation from a simple lady trying to educate the children to a woman who becomes so paranoid with situations. Now, there are two ghosts: Miss Jessel and Peter Quint. Both are past employers within the house who had interactions with the children both as ghosts and when they were alive.

As I said, the basic plot surrounds the evolution of the Governess. Essentially she becomes more and more crazed when she begins seeing the ghosts and starts being paranoid as to why she is seeing them and what they mean to do to her and the children. I will be very honest, the novel is ok (not great) and in order to understand a lot of the hidden themes and whatnot I had to read sparknotes. In all honesty, I have done this quite a bit. Usually, I completely understand the plot line but it’s the deeper meaning of a novel and why the author has this symbol, or what kind of themes other readers interpreted out of the novel that interest me. Just to get other takes on events is rather fascinating to me, and lets be clear, I’m a scientist and not an English PhD.

There’s really not much to talk about because the novel was so short, and I essentially told her the plot: Governess goes crazy. But, it was rather interesting to consider how much thriller stories have changed from 1898 when Turn of the Screw was first published to films like “Paranormal Activity” in the modern day. Almost as if James focused more on the psychological impact of the characters and the fright in considering that these characters are losing their mental faculties because of ghosts rather than actually being frightened by the ghosts as in modern day scare tactics of films. In the end, Halloween is approaching, so I would take a moment, pick James’ novel up and take a look. It’s not too scary, but it’s nice to read some original fright literature to start your Halloween theme early!

Ethics in Research Part II: Authorship

It can be argued that the main goal of graduate school is to co-author on as many papers as possible in the most seminal way as possible. For some, this may take six full years of research, while others can graduate in under four. I consider those in the last category, extremely lucky, and the former chose the wrong area of science. Just kidding. Regardless of how long the entire PhD process lasts for a graduate student, the key contribution to the end result is quantity and quality of publications. This Ethics in Research discussion will consider the pathway to authorship, what constitutes authorship, and some of the unethical issues that can arise when considering who to place as an author to a paper. I will forewarn you, much of my examples that I will provide during this discussion have actually happened to colleagues, including myself. They are not fictional, but quite the opposite, very true.

To begin with, you see a paper with the Title in large font and directly below that a list of names in some kind of order with their affiliations demarcated. Which name is the most important and who made the decision to 1.) include all of these individuals and 2.) in what order to include them?

In my opinion, it is the latter question that is less prone to ethical dilemmas. Usually, how the process goes is that the main contributor to the article (usually the person who does most of the work and/or the person who authors the article) is first author. The last name on the list is usually saved for the Primary Investigator (so the faculty advisor) or the person who used the most funds to support the project. When co-PIs author an article, the names at the end tend to be in order of percentage of work being done in their lab (last did the most work, second to last did major work, and third to last did minor work, and so on). There are the players in between the first author and the last which provide a good inkling as to how much of their work was contributed into the paper. A second author contributed a lot more man hours than the third author, and so on. Who places the authors in that order? This tends to fall on the PI in distinguishing in what position to list people. Now, it’s not an issue when a paper has three authors, but becomes a major problem in papers that have 12+ authors. Then, beyond the third author the PIs group authors into groups and by affiliation (or at least I’ve seen that). Obviously, some projects are really long and have a huge scope so groups all participate together and then write the paper with another group so it makes sense to group their names with each other. As I said, there isn’t too much ethical dilemmas that arise with authorship ordering, but I can speak to some extent on when an author deserved a higher placement than what was given. Moreover, there are some problems when a student needs a first authorship to graduate, so the PI places their name as first, when in reality they did not contribute to the extent as what a first authorship deserves. Otherwise, much of the ethical issues are who is placed on a paper.

Authorship is defined by many as a reasonable level of intellectual thought provided by an author on a project. However, this definition can be a bit misleading. Does it take intellect to deliver a sample into an instrument? Does it take intellect to prepare samples? Does it take intellect to analyze the data that has already been run via instrumentation and draw conclusions from the results? What if a student didn’t run any of the samples, or analyze any of the data, but wrote the article; would that constitute first authorship over someone who ran and analyzed every aspect of the study but did not write it? These are the types of questions that must be answered by individuals prior to a publication’s submission. I know of a situation where a colleague contributed a figure to a paper, but no intellectual analysis other than the figure and received authorship for the paper. He wasn’t a part of the review process of the article, nor did he contribute to the section written about his figure. But, because he generated the figure he got onto the author list. Some may argue that this is acceptable. Some may argue that his contribution deserved an acknowledgement and not an actual authorship. Additionally, what if a paper was discussed during group meeting and some colleagues provided good insight into next steps or data interpretation. Would this kind of sparse intellectual contribution translate into authorship? A past PI drew the line at: if a student didn’t analyze data (even calculating averages) they did not deserve authorship. My current mentor is more gray when it comes to authorship, in that an individual really has to contribute in a tangible way in order to get onto a paper. These are very different ways of gauging authorship, I do understand that, and sometimes have caused some whiplash for me mentally because I see both sides, but I don’t know myself who to believe.

So, in considering these issues, how does the scientific world remedy these circumstances? Unfortunately, this is not an easy question to answer, moreover is one that is heavily dependent on quite a broad range of people and circumstances that there really isn’t a “great” remedy. In my personal opinion, and for what it’s worth, I think the ultimate onus lies on the journals for publication. Papers may be the intellectual children of their authors, but the end rights are held by the journal for publishing material that could have a potential for ethical issues. Perhaps journals should require authors to stipulate the contribution of each author for the publication? From there, the agreement would be that if the submitting authors provide false claims as the intellectual capability of each author (and what they in turn contributed to the article) they (the authors/submitting parties) would be held accountable and NOT the journal. This would also inhibit PIs from placing undeserving parties on papers, as well as give credit where deserved for respecting authors. This method potentially does not take an obsessive amount of time and would really add a sort of validity to the publishing process. But, on the flip side, maybe journals enjoy having 20+ authors on papers? Maybe Science thinks that their publications which usually have a ton of names attached to a piece of work is under the impression that the more the merrier? I’m not sure, but I am sure that the publishing world needs to take a step in the right direction for this authorship battle is getting out of hand.

The Simpsons Marathon on FXX Network

Growing up I used to love the 7:30pm time slot on Fox at night. They used to play Simpson episodes every weekday. Then a few years ago they changed the time to 7pm, ok a littler earlier, not going to complain. Then they cancelled them all together. Fox, you suck. Now, the new Network, FXX, has begun and one of the first things they did: air every single Simpsons episode EVER. Not only that, but in a marathon. Ok Fox, you just slightly redeemed yourself.

Simpsons is one of the most iconic cartoon families ever. They embody dysfunction, hope, bonding, and real world themes. I mean, when Maggie was found to have shot Mr. Burns, no one saw that coming. Innocent little Maggie versus the most evil character on the series. Oh do I love plot twists such as that. But, the Simpsons is not just about the plot, the characters, the voices, the stars that come on to do cameos (sometimes as themselves, and sometimes not). The entire show is about history.

Simpsons has made history. It’s premise has created many various spinoffs as well as escalated cartoons to more than just Disney films. They showed that adult humor can be embodied in a cartoon, let alone a cartoon that is geared more towards adults than children. Not only does the show hold adult themes, but it’s also on at prime time. Not at the wee hours of the night, when no children are watching, but 8pm on Sundays. Can you say family hour? Many shows have been booted from this time slot because their themes have become too racy for children, but not the Simpsons.

My intention to write this blog was not to spout off about how great the Simpsons are and the show is. Rather, my aim is to make the readers aware that there is/was a marathon, it was amazing, and that the Simpsons has evolved with time. Its evolution is similar to that of modern technology. The cartoons have gotten better, the themes that are discussed have incorporated new technology that has been developed, as well as new characters. Regardless of the evolution however, the Simpsons has surpassed much of the technology evolutions that have occurred. This is something that many people do not come to grips with. Cartooning has been around for decades, and now, many of the large cartoon-generating companies (ahem, Disney) now heavily rely on new technology to keep up with what the viewing public desires. Yet, there will always be the Simpsons. With dumb Homer, good-natured Marge, sweet Maggie, intelligent Lisa, and the devil-in-blue-shorts, Bart. The Simpsons have come this far, and taking a trip down memory lane through the marathon was truly a gift. Thanks FXX.

Now go watch an episode, for if you are not a fan, you have to come to grips with the reality that the Simpsons is a piece of entertainment history. So partake on that history, enjoy it, for it won’t last forever, but it sure is worth a few laughs.

Teal Glitter and Brown Nails

Not too sure if any of you have experience in taking nail glitter off, but let me tell you it is one of the most painful experiences you will have to do if you enjoy using glitter. It is a hassle, most of the time painful, and will make you never want to take your polish off. This has now been remedied by the miraculous Julep. Julep devised a system that does not harm your nails all the while taking off that pesky polish in a jiffy. Here is the link to the product: http://www.julep.com/shop/nail-hand-foot-care/partys-over-glitter-nail-polish-removal-kit.html I would suggest if any of you use glitter on your nails to invest in it. Julep also sells separate packs so you don’t have to continuously buy the kit.

Speaking of Julep, I just got a surprise mystery box and it came with a flat (but not matte) light brown, almost cappucino color. Perfect fall color! So, I used this color as my base. From here, I added a bit of shimmer and irridescence by incorporating a sponged lighter brown on top. Finally, I don’t know about all of you, but I love a good teal color with brown. It is one of my favorite color combinations that I use often. I had this teal glitter that was very small flakes in a clear polish and I used that. I sponged this one as well, but you could just paint the glitter over the two other colors.

20140913_203323

For this design, the most important aspect is the layer of colors. Obviously, glitter is going to go on top. However, in previous posts I have always said to place the lighter shade behind the darker shade. If you are using a sponge, I have found that either light on top of dark, or dark on top of light will work. I believe it is because sponging will place a lot of color in one set place instead of painting the nail with a single thin layer. Sponging is similar to dotting in that respect. Also, sponging is really easy. I usually use used make-up sponges that are going into the trash anyway, so I just use the other end that doesn’t have make-up on it. The method is similar to using saran wrap, just has a different marbled look. Lastly, as you can see on my nails, sponging will be a bit messy. So you can just let it dry for a few hours and scratch it off, or take a Q-tip with some nail polish remover and clean the nail. Either way, it falls off in a short time.

20140913_203401

 

Hope you enjoy!

Mediterranean Couscous and Chickpeas

I love carbs. I don’t care what people say, good carbs (not doughnuts or the like), but some good pasta is really good for both you and your diet. To balance my previous chili post with some good wholesome carbs, I made this simple couscous recipe with foodstuff I had sitting in my freezer and pantry. It was light, airy, and great warm or cold. This would make a universal side dish and is so simple to make, you can mix and match any vegetable you have around the house to go in it. I hope you enjoy.

Ingredients: 1 cup quick cooking couscous, 1 can chickpeas, half of a bag frozen cauliflower, 1/2 cup of corn, 1/3 cup of chopped onions. Dressing: olive oil, cumin, lemon juice, dried basil, garlic salt, honey, ginger, balsamic vinegar

Directions:

1. Dressing: 3 tbsps of olive oil, 1 tsp of basil, juice of an entire lemon, 1 tsp of cumin, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1 tbsp of honey, 1 tsp of salt and a dash of garlic salt, 1 tbsp of balsamic. Mix well. Now, this dressing tastes not so great alone. I kept adding ingredients until I thought it tasted mediocre. When mixed with the veggies, I was shocked at how their flavors really made the dressing come out. So don’t be surprised!

2. Cook the couscous. While cooking, defrost the cauliflower, onions, and corn. Or heat up if at room temp. In another bowl, heat up the chickpeas so warm.

3. Mix the dressing well and add the veggies and chickpeas. When couscous done, add that on top and combine well.

DSCN2669

Enjoy warm. Or put in fridge for a bit to let cool down.