Tuesday, December 06, 2005

So. I guess it's been almost six months since I started posting on this thing. What do I have to show for it? Eight posts. Are they good? Some of them are ok. Some of them are not so interesting. Am I supposed to be writing this for other people? No. But somehow I've changed my view of blogging over time.

I feel a duty to post, like an errand. I want to post things, but find (with the exception of the Body Worlds post) that I'm either (a) trying constantly not to offend people or (b) writing boring crap. Either way, I dont' feel like this project has been as successful as I wanted it to be. The ideology from the beginning was *supposed* to be blogging to write, blogging for myself, instead of trying to address the six people who actually read this thing.

I guess I figured that once I got over my fear of posting offensive or boring material, that I would become addicted to (or at least interested in) writing for the sake of writing. Yet I read blogs about everyday life (such as Waiter Rant or Clublife) and find that I'm clearly lacking some miraculous writing gene that makes ordinary experiences seem worthwhile. (I'm not the only one who thinks those two blogs are worthwhile, by the way - Waiter gets about 50 comments on every single post, and both authors have recently been granted publishing contracts.)

So. Do I have a filter that prevents me from writing for fear of what other people will think? Yes. Is that something that I should try to fix? That's what I'm struggling with right now. Part of me thinks that I shouldn't care, shouldn't compare myself to other people, blah blah blah. Stuff that I've heard and told myself a thousand times before. I've recently been reading a book (whose title I will not mention, mostly because I'm embarrassed to be reading it) whose main character is competitive to distraction. Although this main character is not only competitive but also manipulative, superficial, and stupid, I would hate to think that I'm anything, I mean *anything*, like this main character. And, unfortunately, the competitive edge that I read in her I empathised with. I shouldn't compare myself to those writers, but I do. So I feel like I should get over it and just write for the sake of writing; after all, that's why I started keeping this freaking blog in the first place. I'm *supposed* to be overcoming this fear of making people upset and getting *out there* more.

On the other hand, it's been six months. That seems like a long time. And although it is true that I've found the blog tremendously helpful sometimes (when I had to get stuff off my chest, such as in the previous two posts), it seems stupid to persist at something that you're really not warming to, especially after such a long trial period. OK, you could argue that six months isn't that long a trial, and that something as ingrained as my self-consciousness isn't going to disappear in six months. But I was hoping that in the world of internet anonymity, I would be able to overcome those fears, and so far I haven't.

So I'll keep writing, and I'll keep trying to push off the self-doubt and self-criticism that courses through me every time I sit at the keyboard. But who knows what will happen once that year comes through.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

*I do have a disclaimer on this post. It may be disturbing. If you want to know what's happening with me, this is the place to read about it. However, this post is a little more ... unedited than most. If you don't want to read it, don't. I won't care (because I probably won't know). If you do want to read it, but are bothered later, then tough. You were warned.*

As I've complained to many of you already, I've got a presentation next Thursday for my class. Our topic is ageism and how stereotypes of the elderly affect their health. That part is interesting, and not the topic of my post (although I'd love to have a conversation about it sometime - maybe the next post). Anyway, one of our group members found out about an exhibit at the Science Centre called the "Human Aging Machine". It works best on 8-12 year olds, but we decided to go to the Science Centre anyway to check it out. As a result, we were around for the Body Worlds exhibit. My two group members and another friend from school were really excited to see it, so the four of us trooped off to experience this exhibit.

Being the worldly, knowledgeable audience that you are, I'm sure you've heard various things about the exhibit, or if you live in Toronto, have seen the various advertisements that plaster the walls of our beloved TTC. To explain as minimally as I can, the exhibit is comprised of a number of human body parts, both healthy and diseased, so that people can learn basic anatomy as well as dysfunctions associated with different disorders. The key in that last sentence is "human"; the body parts are real, dissected from humans who have died as a result of natural causes or accidents and preserved, through a process called "plastination", into a rubberised form for exhibition.

As a budding scientist, I have always had a fascination with the human body. I've often wondered "what does the body look like when it does x?" or "imagine all the things, from cognitive to physiological, that have to occur in sequence in order for y to happen". I will admit to that fascination. And perhaps Gunter von Hagens was trying to express that same fascination. I don't know. In any case, I entered the exhibit not really knowing what to expect. I was not exactly excited, but I resolved to keep an open mind.

The exhibit begins in a long hallway with a series of exposes on different body parts. Let's use the spine as an example (as it's the first one I remember seeing). You are shown a spine, from the brain stem right down to the last vertebra in your back. It is explained via placards what the body part's function is. Parts that connect (e.g., nerves) are sometimes shown to further illustrate what the body parts can do. Then, you are shown said body part in pathology; for the spine, scoliosis was the disorder that they chose to explain. You are shown a scoliotic spine, and after you have absorbed this information you are free to move to the next slide. Once in awhile, they will present you with "summaries"; dissections of the body at a certain cross-section. You see a full cross-section, from fat to bone to muscle to nerve, and how they all interact. (I must admit, that part was pretty interesting).

One thing that I loved was listening to the people around me. There were many people who were either (a) well-versed in anatomy; (b) aspiring to be involved in the medical process; or (c) simply better learners than their neighbours. It was great to hear all the different explanations around me, the interested questions, the thoughtful answers. I was glad to hear that there were people out there who were really engaging with the environment.

Then you proceed to the main exhibit room, which spans two floors. Here are more human body parts, constructed, deconstructed, and reconstructed. They show more parts, both without and with pathology. You see more integrated body forms, so you get to see not just the stomach but the whole digestive system. And you get to see whole bodies, contorted to different positions.

These bodies have been plastinated, and they have been deconstructed and reconstructed in particular ways. You get to see how someone who sits down is putting stress on the nerves and muscles when he crosses one leg over the other. You see a ski jumper in perfect V form and how his muscles burst with their strength as they are contracted to their full power.

You may not notice at first, but it starts to creep up on you: These people have eyes. Some have fake eyelashes. The eyes are shown open (no eyelids present), they really underlined how lifeless the bodies were compared to what they were. In each case, the eyes stared into the distance, lifeless, lonely, blank. Although they're not whole (because their organs have been removed, to elucidate one aspect of the system, or cut up to show the process at different levels), they're still people. They moved once like this, although naturally. They weren't cemented into one place. They weren't forced into an eternal position.

You then proceed to the lower level, where they have more of the same: body parts, internal organs. Athletes in various poses, to illustrate the amazing contortions of the body to perform a basic movement. Animals. And in the far corner, close to the end of the exhibit, was the section where I lost it.

I should have seen the warning signs. I should have known it was coming. I was warned, and forgot. The embryos outside the glass, with one for each week of development from two weeks to ten (not discernibly human, but still). The embryos on the other side of the glass, from about three months to full-term. And in the centre, a pregnant woman, who agreed to donate her body after she learned that she was expecting, knowing that her illness (cancer) might not let her see the birth of her child.

I think I may be affected more than others by death, but I'm told I'm not the only one who was disturbed by this exhibit. But I can't explain what this part did to me. It was horrifying, degrading, dehumanising. It was death on a pedestal. The whole exhibit was death on a pedestal. The sadness I felt, for the woman who was almost a mother, for the child who never felt a raindrop or took a breath of fresh air or cried, for the women who so desperately want to be mothers but who never could. I cried for them all, right there in the middle of the exhibit. I cried for the athletes whose lives were cut short, for the children who only lived to be five or six, and for the rest of the donors, whose fate after death was to be exposed for public consumption. I felt guilty for having violated their privacy in this way.

I quietly turned away. For me, the exhibit had ended. I couldn't see anymore, couldn't appreciate the beauty of the human body or its functionality or its compactness. I subtly made my way to the end of the exhibit and waited for my friends to arrive. Afterwards, we lived our lives as we would usually, and I was able to get through it. But I can't help feeling that sadness.

I wonder how long it will take me to shake it off.

Monday, October 24, 2005

I was walking from my house to the subway, which takes me through the eastern edge of U of T campus. I was admiring the fall colours, noting how every fall they seem to change overnight. How beautiful they are. I should really spend more time outside in fall, because you don't see images like this all the time and they're really quite pretty.

As I headed toward the subway, this man approached. Our dialogue went as follows:

him: Excuse me, miss, this is the University of Toronto campus?
me: Yes.
him: Could you point me towards Victoria campus?
me: Well, this is it. Was there any building you were looking for in particular?
him: Uh, no, no.


I looked down to see a digital camera pointed in my direction. Oh, my god. He took my picture.

The dialogue continued:

me: Did you take my picture just then?
him: What? No!

So I turned and walked away.

I can't imagine what anyone would do with just a picture. My description isn't anything overwhelmingly unique; I look like any other youngish girl on campus. However, lately I've been horrified to hear about how much privacy we really have. If you have someone's address and one other piece of information (like their social identification number), you can find out pretty much anything you want: credit history, where they work, what movies they rent, etc. Now, I'm exaggerating a little, and a picture is not a SIN, but still. What can this guy find out about me? Where is this picture going to appear? What if I surf the internet one day and come across a picture of myself, looking disheveled and rushed as I stop to give a stranger directions? How could you violate someone's privacy that way?

Goodness knows, I'm pretty lucky that it wasn't a lot worse. I'll be the first to admit that. But I can't shake the feeling that he took away a little bit of my innocence today. I'm sure that eventually I'll forget about this incident, and I'll be able to walk that pathway without remembering what happened. But not yet.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

I'm writing another post, which I'm hoping to get up in a few weeks (no, really) but I just wanted to make a quick comment while I had your attention.

One of the events in my life over the past two months was going to university Nationals in Montreal. Amidst the organisational and atmospheric wonders of the weekend, a tragedy occurred that struck everyone there close to the heart.

One of the Carleton men's players passed away on the weekend, accidentally. If you want to find out more about it, then you can check Peter's blog to the right.

I don't really want to talk about the whys and hows and who are to blame. I just want to implore everyone out there to be careful. Please take care of yourselves and each other.

My sympathies go out to his family, friends, and teammates.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

My apologies for disappearing for two months. Summer offered more to me than I realised, and I got overwhelmed by the multitude of responsibilities that I took on.

I just came back from two weeks up north (where I was *really* out of the loop) and so I'm going to write about my experience. Stay tuned. No, really.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

I got asked to be on a Tier 1 ultimate team.


What the crap? How did that happen? I have no idea. I subbed for them twice, and I guess that I played ok, but I wasn't expecting to be invited to play full-time for them. I certainly don't consider myself a Tier 1 player. At least, not now.

OK. Maybe I should back up a bit and explain some of this last paragraph.

One of my main problems is that I get hyper-competitive when I play ultimate. I don't get competitive with everyone else, but I have high expectations of my performance and get disappointed when I can't live up to them. Not only do I get disappointed in my play, but I also start playing worse and worse as the tournament continues. This conundrum has affected my play at several tournaments, including last year at Canadian Nationals, and this year at Northern Flights in North Bay. I vowed after Northern Flights, the weekend before last, that I would not let this happen again.

As a result, I am supposed to pretend that every game I play is a game of pick-up. I'm supposed to have fun, not worry about the score, and just play. I did this last week at the Kahunas' game, and I enjoyed myself. Also, I wasn't a liability to the team, which is something that I feel when my competitiveness emerges.

However, being added to the Kahunas' roster may make me forget that I am supposed to play pick-up. I might get worried. I might start putting pressure on myself to prove that I am supposed to be there. I might start making mistakes and getting frustrated as a result. And I don't want to have that happen.

I want to enjoy myself this summer. I made a promise to myself after the spring fiasco (which I will describe in another post) that I would do everything I could to make the game fun for myself again. This attitude shift is supposed to help. And I guess it did, because now I'm playing with a really good team. But I'm still nervous.

Want neuroticisms? I've got 'em! :)
I meant for this blog to be private. And now it isn't. I'm trying to decide whether I care or not. Is this blog for me? or for other people? If it's public, then I may feel a tendency to write for others and not for myself. That, in turn, may inhibit my posts or stop them altogether. On the other hand, I was having a big problem keeping this a secret, so maybe it was just as well that it got out.

Anyway. Sorry to any who got offended because I kept this a secret for two weeks. I just wanted to be able to write somewhere and not worry about how good/interesting/creative it was. I'll try to do that anyway - maybe that will teach me to stop being so self-conscious.

Friday, June 24, 2005

OK. So type stream-of-consciousness-style for five minutes, huh? I wonder how long it will take me to run out of stuff to say. I wish I could type better today. I really wish I could type better, period. Linus has ridiculous speed and accuracy, and I think that's what I want. When I was learning to touch-type, my mother tried to dissuade me from using the backspace key. I argued that it shouldn't matter, because it's there anyway, and I shouldn't be punished for using a tool that's available to me. How stupid was that. I guess that I should be typing something interesting instead of talking about my touch-typing history. Does anyone else think of random stuff like this? Hmm. I wonder what song this is. Oh, it's "Boogie Oogie Oogie" by Taste of Honey. Who names their song "Boogie Oogie Oogie?" Despite the name, I really like the song. I like disco. I think I'm on a soul/disco kick. It's been kind of fun, although after awhile I get really sick of hearing the same damn songs over and over. It's like the Edge; every time I listen to that station repeatedly over a certain period of time, I start hearing the same songs at the same times. In fact, there was one summer where "Never There" by Cake was just released, and I used to be able to time how late I was by when I heard it. If I heard it after I came out of the shower, I was fine; if I was still in bed, then I was in real trouble. Why don't radio stations mix up their music more? I mean, sure the Edge is an alternative station, but I bet if they threw some classic rock or something in there once in awhile, no one would complain. That would sure beat hearing the same freaking singles over and over again. OK, this song is "You Mean Everything to Me" by The Real Thing. Aww. I wonder how real The Real Thing was. How long did they last? Probably not that long, because I've never heard of them. Is five minutes up yet? No? Oh, man! I just cheated and went back to fix a typo. Sometimes, when I make typos, they sit on my consciousness like leeches and suck at my creative forces until I go back to fix them. I wonder how many other people are affected by mistakes like that. I wonder how long freaking five minutes is. It seems ridiculously long to me. I think I'm too self-conscious. Do you ever get the feeling that you're being really annoying?

Time to stop. Thank goodness.

*time delay of about thirty seconds*

OK. So that was actually kind of fun. I'm going to try to do another one. I wonder how good this will be. I guess no one is really going to care about the quality of my writing, because as far as I know only four people actually read this site. I think I'm comfortable having a nice, quiet, private site like that. It's kind of a reflection of me!

So I'm going to try to write in paragraphs. I wonder if that will make the blog better or worse.

I'm having trouble typing again. Man, I should really work on that.

I am really excited because I found a bag today for $13. Does that make me a girl? I guess it does. I know that I am a girl, and I shouldn't assume that one girl-like incidence is going to totally change my personality or anything, but I find it interesting that I have these random girly outbursts. I wonder if that would be a good name for something. Random Girly Outburst. Maybe like a book club or something.

Man! I just self-edited. I'm not supposed to do that in this exercise. I don't like doing this. I feel really shallow. I'm sure that I'll read over this and be embarrassed. Oh, well, who cares. Maybe after awhile I'll stop caring about what people think. Maybe. Sharyn (my old lab manager) told me that one of the (only?) benefits about aging is that you stop caring about what people think of you. That sounds great. I think I should age immediately. Except I don't really want to age, because then I would be the oldest Master's student in my program and also really bad at ultimate.

I wonder how many minutes are left. Five. Oh, god.

What determines a good name? I have no concept of that. I think there are all these team names out there that are fine, and also some that are not names I would want for my team. But I assume that for the bad ones, there's an inside joke in there somewhere that I really don't get. I am not a good judge of names. I know many people who are very picky about what their team should be named.

Ah! Self-edited again!

So, really, what's in a name? It represents you. You, or your group. And it defines who you are, and what people can expect from you. Sort of. But, I mean, I'm really not picky about what my team is named most of the time. I've rarely found a name that is really, really, terrible. I can't even think of one right now.

My wrists are getting sore.

So what's the big deal with names? Anyone?

I wish I could design shirt logos. That would be really good. Artistic talent could be kind of nice. It would be nice to draw straight lines, too. I remember asking my mom once how she could draw such straight lines, and she said, "It comes with practice. When you are older, you'll be able to draw straight lines too."

Why would I remember that? Do I talk about my mom too much? Not enough? It's not meant to be tinged with sadness or anything, just a memory I have. I attach no emotions to them. Really. You shouldn't either, whoever "you" are.

I'm self-editing again! It's that whole mistakes-cum-leeches thing again. Maybe I'll go back and edit my post once time is up so that it makes a bit more sense. I guess that's illegal in the rules, but I don't care. I -

Time is up.