Right after EcoGeoFemme pointed out that there haven’t been many memes circulating recently, Amanda went and tagged me for one! The assignment is to write about seven things that I’ve never talked about in my blog.
This is a tricky one for me, because like in real life, I talk/blog too much and with too few filters. It’s easy enough to find seven things I’ve never written about, but that aren’t meaningful to me: porcupines, ravioli, WWII tank design, the history of ten pin bowling. My other initial reaction was to go too far in the other direction, into TMI territory, but luckily I decided to tone those ideas down (there still might be TMI for some people). So I present to you a mix of subjects I just haven’t got around to, and subjects I’ve tried to blog about before as a full post but couldn’t find the right angle, or that otherwise caused a severe case of writer’s block.
1) I have a rather impressive scar on the inside of my left arm.
I got it in a rather embarrassingly cliched middle class way, by falling off a pony at a riding lesson when I was seven and breaking my arm just above the elbow. Contrary to everyone’s first reaction, the main scar isn’t from the bone breaking through the skin (although I do have a much smaller scar from that – just barely visible in the photo, slightly above and to the right of the mole). It’s actually from the multiple surgeries I had to have to repair the blood vessels and nerves that the broken bone cut through at the point where they all bunch together at the elbow joint. My arm swelled up after one surgery, bursting a couple of stitches and stretching the scar tissue out, and it stretched further as I grew. I’m lucky to still have my arm at all; during one surgery that was supposed to last a couple of hours but was well into its seventh (my parents were freaking out at this point, as you can imagine), the surgeons discussed amputation as the best option. Luckily, they persevered and saved my arm. I was in traction for two weeks (apparently there’s a published case study about how they set up the traction apparatus – I remember them videoing it – but I can’t find it in PubMed), and it took a year or so of intensive physio before I could use my hand properly again. It still sometimes spazzes out on me and I lose my grip on whatever I’m holding with no warning: this is good in that it got me out of playing the viola in high school (the position I had to hold my wrist in seemed to aggravate the problem), but bad in that I once dropped an open 2L bottle of conc HCl while doing my undergrad research project, destroying my lab coat and a patch of the flooring. I’ve never held anything that scary in my left hand since, even though these incidents are much less common than they used to be.
I remember freaking out when I first saw the scar emerge from inside the cast I’d been wearing; it was hideously red and swollen and flaky and gross. I cried. A lot. However, I soon realised that I could use it to scare younger kids and chase them around the playground, and I almost always win “biggest scar” competitions. It’s in such a discrete location, and it’s faded and flattened so well, that people sometimes know me for years before they notice it, and it’s such a normal part of me now that I barely even remember it’s there. Also, the position of one of my moles makes it look like a winky smiley face.
Funnily enough, I have two friends with similar scars in the exact same place, following motorbike accidents. Motorbikes are much cooler than ponies.
OK, that one went longer than I’d intended… I’ll try to be more concise in the remaining six points!
2) I sometimes have dreams about people I know that make me think about them in a completely different way. Usually just for the next day, but sometimes permanently. These dreams are sometimes the first conscious sign of something going on subconsciously, e.g. that it was time to let one friendship fizzle out, or that a formerly platonic friendship was heading in a new direction that had to be addressed. But other times they’re just completely from left field and make me giggle with their weirdness.
There’s a episode of Friends where Phoebe finally remembers why she’s mad at Ross:
“Oh, come on! Yes… remember that time on the frozen lake? We were playing chess, you said I was boring, and then you took off your energy mask and you were Cameron Diaz! Okay, there’s a chance this may have been a dream”
I couldn’t find the clip on YouTube, but it sums up the latter category of dream perfectly.
3) Being around my friends’ babies has had a complicated effect on me: it’s made me feel very secure in my own decision not to have kids, but also made me less scared of an accident. We had a scare just before last summer’s baby boom (my previously 100% reliable record of years of 27 day cycles suddenly disappeared with an unprecedented 42 day cycle) and I totally freaked out. We had another scare in November, and I freaked out considerably less. Although there was still some freaking, obviously.
4) I always used to say that if I won the lottery, I’d still want to work. But the older I get, the more I think I’d just want to bum about, living on a boat (summer) and in a ski cabin (winter) and maybe dabbling in a little writing. I think this is the opposite of how you’re supposed to change as you get older.
5) I believe in ghosts. Well, I don’t not believe in ghosts. I don’t believe in the usual way; I don’t think there are self-aware / conscious spirits floating around, trying to avenge their own deaths or otherwise deliberately haunting the living because of unresolved issues from their lives. I cycle through the local cemetery in the dark all the time: I aint afraid of no ghost! (Campfire stories are another matter entirely). But too many people I know and trust have told me too many, too convincing stories. There are also too many examples of multiple people seeing the same thing in the same place and/or at the same time.
The most convincing stories are where the person sees a ghost that doesn’t interact with them. “This white apparition rose out of a grave and waved at me” doesn’t cut it. But the other stories do. For example, my Dad has a story about a fellow student from his hall of residence who died after breaking his neck in a rugby scrum. A few weeks later my Dad was walking past this student’s room (which had been emptied and locked up for the year; no-one else wanted to live there), and saw the dead guy open the door, walk out into the corridor, lock his room door behind him, and walk away without acknowledging my Dad, who was standing a few inches away with his mouth wide open. He says it was unmistakably, undeniably, definitely, the dead guy (in the dead guy’s clothes). This student definitely did not have a twin or any other similar looking relatives (my Dad knew him well enough to go to the funeral and meet his family).
Now, I’m no physicist, but I do try to read the complicated physics articles in New Scientist, and I know that our understanding of time is incomplete and there are some unresolved problems with the current theories. Is it possible that we might sometimes catch a glimpse of someone or something from the past? That my Dad, and other people I know and trust who have similar stories, somehow watched a play-back of a moment from this guy’s life, like watching a video?
I can almost hear Massimo (and any other physicists who read this) laughing at me right now.
Possible alternative explanations:
a) cognitive dissonance
b) my Dad is crazy
c) my Dad has repeatedly lied to me about this experience (I don’t think he his. You should see his face when he tells this story).
d) lots of other people are either crazy or lying
e) I’m crazy
f) I’ve watched too much sci-fi
6) Um. Baby porcupines are cute?
7) The sad demise of Mad Hatter’s blog had really got me thinking. I totally understand her reasons. Don’t worry / celebrate, I have no intentions of shutting down my blog. But blogging really is a trigger for wasting lots of time on the internet, time that would be better spent reading, writing, playing my guitar, and hanging with Mr E Man and the kitties. I spend a lot of time reading and commenting on blog posts, and I don’t want to stop completely, because I love it. You guys are my friends, and I want to know what you’re up to! Also, you can’t / shouldn’t be a blogger without also contributing to the community by reading and commenting on other people’s blogs.
I think the solution (for me) is to try and be more selective. I went through my Google Reader account yesterday and deleted some feeds. I pruned way back to the bare bones, i.e. I unsubscribed from eight blogs (and resubscribed to three of them this morning). It’s so hard! There are too many good blogs out there! So I think rather than reading fewer blogs, I need to read fewer posts on each blog. Almost every blog contains a mixture of things I’m really interested in, and things I’m less interested in (speaking of which, I do apologise for the recent flood of posts about Canadian politics. Please bear with me). For example, it’s now five years since I last held a pipette, and I really don’t have any useful, current advice to contribute to conversations about lab work and related aspects of the grad student / postdoc experience. Similarly, not being a prof or lecturer, I have nothing useful to contribute on posts about teaching methods and such.
So, if you see fewer comments and page hits from me, please forgive me! I’m still skim-reading in Google Reader, but applying more filters to my thorough reading and commenting. And I’ll always click through to celebrate your highs and commiserate with your lows.
Unless they’re about breaking a pipette while teaching.
I tag: anyone willing to post their own scar photo!