Sunday, October 21, 2007

Pine Cones

Saturday Tony and I took a day trip out to Starved Rock. It was a fun and relaxing time to be outdoors in beautiful weather with the fall colors all around us. If you've never been to Starved Rock I highly recommend taking a trip there - assuming you like hiking and outdoorsy stuff - especially this time of year. For me the most memorable part of the day was when we were hiking to my favorite spot in the park, LaSalle Canyon. As we walked along the sandstone path leading up to and behind the waterfall (there's a reason it's my favorite spot) I started to study the trail we were walking and noticed pine cones all over the path. Taking a look around I did a mental survey of the trees near by - Maples and Oaks and is that an Ash? I pointed out the pine cones to Tony who also looked all around us without seeing any conifers. We came up with various theories about dispersion by wind and animals to explain the presence of the pine evidence. As we proceeded through the cavern beneath the waterfall and emerged on the path opposite our initial trek, we reached higher ground and stared up at the sky. To our surprise, high on the top of the bluffs above our incoming path was a grove of white pines.

I had to share this story because it really made me think about God. Firstly because of the beauty in nature that I will ascribe only to His creation. There was something else though that really struck me. The pine cones on that path were a good analogy of God's presence in my life. So often I'm staring all around wondering where God is. Yet it's only when I slow down and reflect on my life (the path I'm walking) that I start to see evidence of Him all around (pine cones). I can get frustrated because I can't see Him (the pine trees). I'll even try to ascribe the good in my life to other things like luck or hard work (wind and animals). I can convince myself that God's far away and not really concerned with my everyday life, but like the trees high on the bluffs, He is always nearby. Just because I can't see Him directly doesn't mean that He's not surrounding me every step of the way.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Night at the Museum

A Long Time Ago in A Science and Industry Museum Not To Far Away....

C3P0, Princess Lisa, Tony-Wan Kenobi and R2D2

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

More on Dr. W (or maybe moron Dr. W?)

As cool as it was to meet and see a lecture by Dr. James Watson, I'm glad to have gone on the record as saying early on that as much as I admire his scientific research, I don't agree with his personal views. At his U of C lecture he made some very strong claims supporting atheism. Keeping in mind that U of C has one of the oldest, largest, and most prestigious divinity schools in the country this wasn't exactly a smart move, but few feathers were ruffled as it was not a University sanctioned lecture, but rather sponsored by a bookstore. I've since learned (as offal seems to have hit the proverbial fan) that Dr. Watson apparently enjoys making edgy, controversial and even inflammatory comments during his presentations. At Berkley a few years ago he angered audience members by giving a lecture that many students found offensive and sexist. And yesterday in the UK he topped that incident by delivering a talk that now has him labeled as a racist. It seems atheism is only one of his personal opinions that I find quite distasteful and I'm not the only one currently holding that view:
Berkeley genetics professor Thomas Cline said Watson's lecture "crossed over the line'' from being provocative to being irresponsible because the senior scientist failed to separate fact from conjecture.

"If he wants to give a talk like this in his living room, that's his business, but to give it in a setting where it's supposed to be scientific is wrong,'' Cline said, adding that listening to Watson at the podium was "more embarrassing than having a creation scientist up there.''

Ah yes, the creationist is not as embarrassing as a racist. Score one for Intelligent Design? I probably shouldn't joke about that, but the comment did amuse me. It just goes to show that there's more to being "smart" than just IQ and it seems even in the scientific world, intelligence stands for little without compassion, sensitivity and - you might go so far to say - the whisperings of the heart.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

NaNoWriMo Ponderings

This year I'm going all in with NaNoWriMo. If that sounds like some alien language, I'll clue you in that it's actually an abbreviation for National Novel Writing Month. The idea is to take the month of November and write approximately 1700 words every day and produce a 50,000 word novel (about 175 pages) by the end of the month. Bring on the Q & A:

Question: Lisa, why in the world would you undertake such nonsense?
Answer: I've had at least three people whose opinions I value tell me in the past month, "You're a really good writer". I appreciate the compliments but in truth, I don't believe it. I read A LOT and to me "good writer" classifies authors that are way out of my league. Yet at the same time, the only way to make myself a better writer - and possibly even someday ascribe the "good writer" title to myself - is to get some practice and actually write.

Question: What is your novel going to be about?
Answer: I'm still working on that but as the advice I've most often read for new writers is "write what you know" there's pretty good odds that it will at least take place in a lab and might even be marginally biographical. Probably a good mix of genres since that's my reading style too.

Question: Why are you announcing this now?
Answer: I figure there's a two prong advantage if I get the word out that I'm participating, first, some of you might be crazy enough to try it with me and second, this way if I put the expectation out in public I'll be less likely to chicken out like I did last year when my inklings to do this were all in my head.

Question: Does this mean that we'll all get to read your novel on December 1st?
Answer: Fat chance! I've never tried this before and haven't actually written fiction since end of high school/early college. That means that there's a very high probability of producing 50,000 words of garbage and the amount of readers I pass my work onto will be inversely proportionate to the level of crap that deem it. There's only two people right now that are guaranteed a peek at what I come up with (you know who you are!). Of course, I may add people to that list if they (1) attempt NaNoWriMo with me or (2) are extraordinarily supportive of my pursuits. No guarantees though.

Question: Is there I way I can check in throughout the month and see how much progress your making?
Answer: As of November 1st there will be (hopefully) daily word counts and maybe even an excerpt posted on my NaNoWriMo Profile page (user: elbakerone). I'll also try to blog occasionally and let y'all know how things are going and if I freak out and quit half way through I'll shamefacedly admit that here as well. Until then, wish me luck!

Question: What if I have more questions about NaNoWriMo?
Answer: They have their own Q&A site. Find all your answers here.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Lisa and the DNA Man

Call this a big time "Nerd Alert" if you like, but Monday night I got to meet James Watson! That name might not mean too much outside of biology class but he's one of the men who won the 1962 Nobel Prize for discovering the Double Helix structure of DNA. (If the names Watson & Crick sound familiar, he's THAT Watson). He was giving a lecture on a new book he wrote at the U of C campus so my coworkers and I decided to go see him. The cool part was that we got there early and he was just hanging out so we got to sit and chat with him for a while before the talk. And he signed a copy of his book for me!

He's a pretty funny guy too. The title of the book is Avoid Boring People - he goes on to explain that boring is both an adjective and a verb. When you're young, he told me, don't waste your time with people that aren't doing interesting work and when you're old he says to avoid being a bore by keeping yourself involved with the work young people are doing. Also cool was the fact that he held a Q&A session after his talk. It was weird because every other time I've been to a scientific lecture or conference one of the first few question askers usually says a quick thank you to the speaker (sometimes EVERY person asking a question thanks the speaker) but five or six people asked questions without thanking him so I got in line. I said something like "Dr. Watson, first off I'd just like to thank you for coming. It really is an honor to have you here. You mentioned that you always knew you wanted to go into science I'm curious about when you first decided to become a writer." (He's written eight or nine books now varying from biology texts to biographical work and some other stuff that's more stories from his labs.) Anyways, he went on and on in his answer and all my coworkers told me that I had the best question of the night. I think he was just happy to be thanked and I also figured it was maybe something that he didn't get asked a lot.

He had a lot of cool things to say and aside from one of his responses where he presented his EXTREMELY atheistic views on the importance of science over religion, I really enjoyed his talk. I'm not sure why so many top level researchers can't find a coexistence between faith and reason but the more time I spend in scientific circles the more I realize that following Christ places me in the minority among scientists. As much as that is a frustration, I also see it as something of a "reason why I'm here". As awesome as it is to explore pursuits of the mind, they mean little to me without the whisperings of my heart. :)

Again, this probably much cooler if you're a big nerd (like me) but it really was a great opportunity. Just take my word that James Watson is to Biology what Albert Einstein is to Physics!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

A Sigh and A Shoulder Shrug

The Cubs are done. Again. And without even winning a single playoff game. It's sad, disappointing, frustrating, annoying and a slew of other adjectives that aren't fit for publication here.

"There's Always Next Year" doesn't seem much comfort right now, but somehow the Bears beating the previously undefeated Packers does act as something of a balm on the current Cubbie heartache....

But still. *sigh* It's gonna be a long winter.