Archive | October 2012

Organic Chemistry Class: A Little Like War

Organic chemistry. If you are pre-med, pre-dentistry, pre-pharmacy, a biology major, going into the health care or pharmaceutical industry, or any kind of science kid, you will, at some point, have to tackle this beast. You hear all the rumors, know all the people who’ve had to retake it for one reason or another. You sign up for the class (almost invariably scheduled for 8 or 9am, and you buy the model set. But you still aren’t really prepared.

Before taking O chem, I had a year of general bio, a year of anatomy & phys, several other bio classes (immunology, cell bio, molecular bio), and a year of gen chem. You would think that would be good preparation, and it was definitely better than not having that background, but O chem is a beast of a different nature. It is nothing like gen chem, which is full of chemical reactions and equations, measurements, masses, temperatures and (somewhat) straightforward physical laws. The first few days of O chem review some things from gen chem (oribital hybridization, VSEPR and molecular shapes), but from then on it is all new material, like nothing you have ever seen before. My prof always said that’s part of the point, to see how you handle something completely new.

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If You Were Blind, Would You Cut in Line?

Roller Coaster

This is something that is often–sometimes hotly–debated in the blind community. A lot of times, when you go to amusement parks, if you carry a cane you can cut to the front of the line and go first on all the rides. The last time I was at a leadership seminar for the National Federation of the Blind, we had a roundtable discussion about this issue, what we thought and what our experiences had been.

This is something I never really encountered growing up. My family went to amusement parks pretty often, but since I don’t use a cane, no one ever approached us and invited us to the front of the line, except maybe when we went to Disney World, I have some vague memory that it may have happened then.

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Breaking Bad Episode 201 “Seven Thirty-Seven”

201aimages Before I even start this post, I want to give a shout out to @Jesus Jr (Gonzo) and @Steven Michael Quesada (Gomez), who are both in this episode, and who have both followed me on Twitter – thanks guys! Click on the links to follow them.

So, Season Two. Visually, it starts out really differently from anything we’ve seen so far, setting this season distinctly apart from the previous one. The teaser is a total mystery. Black and white. Water, and more water. The sound of sirens. A floating plastic eyeball. A pink stuffed bear that slowly turns to reveal it’s singed side. What the hell is going on here? I won’t say, in case anyone reads this before getting to the part in the show where it’s all revealed. I will say I find this teaser artistically pleasing. I like the mystery, the starkness. And I totally want a pink bear like that, but not burnt.

Another thing that sets Season Two apart from the others is that this one was planned out in exquisite detail before it started. So there’s a lot of advanced planning going on this season. And there is so much that actually comes back, from this episode and others in this season, in future seasons. Lots of reverberation.

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For the Love of Seasons – Geomagnetic Imprints and Natal Honing

I have always had a thing for seasons, and it would be dishonest to say that the Pacific Northwest doesn’t have them, but it would only be slightly less untrue to say that it does. Portland, Oregon has seasons the way a Sound (as in Puget or Long Island) has waves: technically it does, but they are small and gentle ripples, and have nothing at all of the power and fury of the wild sea. The seasons of New England obliterate the landscape with a cyclical frequency and a constant intensity that I somehow find very romantic.

My ache for the extreme seasons I grew up with hasn’t faded, as I thought it might, with more time and conditioning in this more temperate climate; instead, the wanting accumulates. Even though I live on a big hill known for its power outages, impassability in heavy snows and general storm susceptibility, the most winter I’ve seen out my window–invariably on mornings when I have exams in like organic chemistry–only lasts long enough to take some cell phone pictures of the fleeting moment. Every successive winter that passes without significant snow, I feel a little betrayed by Mother Nature, or by myself for having chosen to live somewhere without real winters. I yearn for a good blizzard, the sky before a good snow, so dark it makes the lights inside houses and hallways look warmer, howling wind so gusty it makes the lights go out, months of snow angels and snowmen and forts and snowball fights and hot chocolate and sledding and real bundling up and layers and fires in the fireplace, a coldness and a darkness that seems to permeate everything, grab hold of the Earth and never let go until spring, when the ground would get soggy with all its melting snow. I miss that.

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Blind Encounters

When you are blind or visually-impaired, it leads to some experiences that are a bit out of the ordinary. That probably goes without saying, and I just thought I’d share a few.

One of the most common is what I call the “state the obvious” encounter. You’re on a bench waiting for a bus, in a cafeteria, at an office, in a classroom, at a coffeeshop, riding a subway or a ferryboat and a complete stranger comes along and states the obvious. “You’re reading really close up.” “Your eyes look weird.” “Wow, your glasses are really thick.” “You’re blind!” “Is that a blind dog?” (to which some people, hearing this over and over, learn to reply, “I sure hope not!”).

Or there are the oddball questions. One time I was reading a quote on a small piece of paper, close up, and some stranger asked me, “Oh whoa, are you listening to the paper? That’s so interesting.” What?!

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Breaking Bad Episode 107 “A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal”

Watching this episode, I was struck with the thought that this is maybe the happiest time we see for Skyler and Walter. Of course, there’s the getting frisky at the school board meeting, a board meeting which is about the lab equipment Walt stole. And then they get it on in the car. But it’s not just that. Later, there’s the scene in the bedroom that’s just so…normal. Well, except the fact that Walt is lying to her about going to a sweat lodge, but aside from that, it almost seems like they’re any normal couple. There’s something familiar and not quite sweet but warm in the room.

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Just Some Quickies

Just some quickies:

I updated all the writing sections–Personal Essay & Memoir, TV/Screenwriting and Fiction–to include more current projects and to give links in those sections to samples posted thus far.

Decided on including the audio for “She’s a Girl Rising From a Shell” which you can listen to here or here. It’s a recording from a live performance spoken word type thing from August 2005, so some things are different.

~Emilia J

Legends, Fakers and Painterly Writers – On Synesthesia 2

Some people have synesthetic experiences during seizures or on psychedelic drugs. Some say it’s more prevalent in artistic people. It’s a condition that tends to run in families so it’s believed that there’s a genetic basis. Scientists believe that all babies are synesthetes but as they grow and go through synaptic pruning, the senses fully differentiate in normal development. When I was young, I had a set of colored magnetic letters that loosely correlated with my letter-color perceptions.

Last year, a site called “I Write Like” was posted all over Facebook. The first time I tried it, I was told that my writing style resembles that of Vladimir Nabokov and I was floored by the coincidence. Though I’ve never read any of his work, I learned about his synesthesia while reading Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. Nabokov described himself as a painterly writer and it was the first time I heard of any writer whose synesthesia informed their work. It was a revelation that at least one other person might have had a similar inner world.

Famous Russian pianist and composer Alexander Scriabin faked synesthesia and created a contrived color-based musical system based on the New Age teachings of Madame Blavatsky, founder of the Theosophical Society, which combined science and esoteric beliefs. The founders of the Theosophical Society timed its inception to intricate calculations of astrological aspects. Numerology was considered sacred and perhaps a musical-number-color system supposedly based on a condition linked with psychedelic shamanic journeys and artistic creations imparted an ethereal quality, icing on the metaphysical cake.

It’s hard to describe the synesthetic experience to someone who doesn’t have it. One woman I used to work with would always ask me what it meant that, for example, 6 was a light blue. What was the underlying, psychic meaning of it? What did the color tell me about the intrinsic feel of the number 6? “It doesn’t tell me anything, it’s just light blue,” I would answer and she would get mad, as if I was ignoring special access to some universal truth.

I am a painterly writer, especially when writing longhand. Each letter is like a specific colored pencil. Colors inform word and phrasing and permeate through all aspects of what I put on the page. In fiction, I pick character names that are aesthetically pleasing in color and sometimes this bleeds over (unconsciously) into real life. A disproportionate amount of my characters, as well as boyfriends and crushes, have had names that start with A or J (red and green, respectively) and that are artistically agreeable in color.


For today’s writing sample, here’s another sample from the lyric essay “On Synesthesia.” For the first excerpt (the beginning of the essay) click here.

Don’t forget, you can check out other Friday writing samples here. And there’s always the Published and Older Works sections to explore as well.

~Emilia J

Breaking Bad Episode 106 “Crazy Handful of Nothin'”

Soooo much happens in this episode!

Heisenberg emerges.

Walt starts his treatment and shaves his head.

We get one of Hank’s most famous lines: “Chick’s got an ass like an onion, makes me wanna cry.”

Jesse finds out about Walt’s cancer.

We meet Tuco.

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Josie – Sunshower Chapter Two

alienworld-800“Josie, I’m so sorry.  Seth told me what happened,” Ray Ann said as soon as she saw me the next day, during our break between our first two sessions with the InfoMaster.  We were in the Psych-Lab Wing, the most central spot when the cafeteria wasn’t open.  White, windowless walls surrounded us on all sides.  Above were large fluorescent lights that left not a spot of darkness, much to my dismay.  There were large heavy doors on each side of the boxlike room.  The one to the cafeteria had a green metallic number pad next to it-students needed to punch in their ID numbers to enter-that read “CLOSED” in electric blue letters across the display.

“Oh, so you’re speaking to me now?  I feel honored,” I replied with a twinge of bitterness.  Lately it seemed she was a friend when it was convenient for her, or when she felt it was her duty.

“Of course.  I’m sorry about that dumb fight.  It was all my fault.”

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