s Thoughts from the Physics Chick: May 2006

Monday, May 29, 2006

A dilemma concerning the very young

It seems like all of my married friends are having babies. I don’t know why I’m so surprised; when so many of my friends started getting married, I should have figured that this was around the corner. Still, there does seem to be an abundance of babies, this year. (We’ve already had one birth with at least four more anticipated.)

I live too far away to attend baby showers for most of them, but I’d still like to do something for the families. Having recently learned to knit, I thought I’d put my needles to good use in that direction. Unfortunately, I’ve run into a few problems.

Probably the biggest one is that I’m a slower knitter than I thought. I’ve been working on a baby blanket for
this baby for about the last five years, it seems. I decided to make a baby blanket because flat knitting is easier than circular knitting, because I wouldn’t need to follow a complicated pattern, and because I could knit it in small sections. I didn’t stop to think that a baby blanket might take a lot longer to knit than a hat or baby bootees, so there’s no way I can make blankets for everyone. (They’d all be in kindergarten by the time I finished.)

Baby bootees seem to be the answer. They’re small, practical and quick to knit – even I could probably make a pair in less than two weeks. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet learned how to make them. Socks, in general, require a greater degree of shaping than I’ve yet learned to do, plus they’re generally knit in the round. (I am making headway on learning to knit in the round. I finished one hat that looks lovely but doesn’t really fit. My second hat is going to fit OK, but only because I’ve already ripped it back twice.) What I’m trying to say is: I don’t want to be rushed into making (sup-bar) baby bootees in time for everyone’s babies, but if I go at my own pace, again, I might not learn how to make them until everyone’s kids are in kindergarten. (And baby bootees aren’t particularly practical once the baby starts walking.)

So. I think I have a few reasonable options. (1) I can just buy typical baby stuff for the babies, to the extent my budget permits. (2) I can finish the one baby blanket and not worry about the rest of it. (3) I can finish the one baby blanket and learn to make smaller projects at my own pace – probably no one’s going to get baby bootees, but I might finish hats or scarves for everyone by the time they’re all toddlers.


Saturday, May 27, 2006

Is he or isn't he?

Mormon, I mean.

M. is another library science student, who has my same job in a different department. Like parallel lines, we don’t really meet, but I’ve been vaguely aware of his existence since I started working last fall. (Oh, and we actually had a class together last semester, only I quit going after the first month.)

This is all well and good, only somehow it came up a few weeks ago that he’s from Utah, which thing I had never suspected. Even after learning that, I assumed he wasn’t Mormon (or at least not active) because he’s not in my ward, but then I found out that he’s married, so he wouldn’t be in the single student ward, anyway. (He wasn’t present for either conversation, I should note.)

So now I’m trying to figure out if he’s Mormon or not, all without being so direct as to ask him, of course. (I don’t know him well, and it seems like it might be a bit rude – especially if he is from Utah and he isn’t Mormon. Plus, I’m sort of enjoying trying to figure it out with the evidence at hand.)

So, I present to you the evidence for and against, with qualifying remarks:


He has a beard. (But lots of Mormon boys grow beards, especially ones who leave BYU for grad school.)

Ah, but he didn’t go to the Y, he went to the U. (This one could go either way. On the one hand the U is sort of a logical choice for Utah residents – of varying degrees of Mormon-ness – who don’t want to go to BYU. On the other hand, it’s still about 50% Mormon, so it’s silly to say that attending the U proves anything about someone’s Chuch membership, one way or the other.)


He lived in Utah. (Yes, but he lived in Park City, which isn’t really part of Utah, in a lot of ways.)

His family moved to Utah. What no-Mo moves to Utah if they can avoid it? (Yes, but they moved to Park City, as previously discussed.)

* * *

I think it’s pretty much a draw, at least until I get more information. I even tried looking for him last week at stake conference, but there were too many people there. (Oh, and I got there after the parking lot was full, so the ushers directed me to park on the grass behind the stake center. I had never parked on grass before. It was novel, in a white trash kind of way.)

In other news, I recently noticed a car with Utah plates in my building’s parking lot. I wonder if the owner’s Mormon . . .

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


This is my favorite story about Melyngoch (at least until I think of another favorite story). She may have to correct me on the details, but I think I’ve got the main story right.

Melyngoch was once in a class where she had to do a group project on Vandals. By “Vandals,” I mean members of the 5th century East Germanic tribe, not just destructive persons, generally. (I think it may have been an English class, since Melyngoch, being half English major, took a lot of English classes. I don’t remember what “Vandals” – or even “vandals” – were doing in an English class.)

The predictable approach would have been to stand up in front of the class and give a presentation along the lines of “These are the Vandals. This is what they did.” However, Melyngoch’s group, in a brilliant demonstration of “show, don’t tell,” decided to be Vandals for their presentation, which would involve yelling at everyone, taking them hostage in a corner of the classroom, and even kidnapping a random student from the hallway. (The “random” student, it should be noted, was actually a plant. By which I mean that he was a friend of Melyngoch’s who was happy to help out, not a botanical specimen.)

Of course, a Vandal must be seen to dress as a Vandal, and Melyngoch came to school wearing black, knee-high stiletto boots with 3” heels, red fishnet stockings, a red (or black?) bandana, dramatic red eyeshadow and various other scary, Vandal-ish accoutrements.

The presentation, as I recall, went off swimmingly, with only the wrinkle that Melyngoch had to spend the entire day in this garb – walking around campus, attending other classes, possibly going to work, even going to a party that night. So here’s the clincher: Nobody noticed.

Various parties smiled and nodded and may have taken a second look, but no one remarked “I say, Melyngoch, you’re looking a mite Vandal-ish, old bean” because, let’s face it, she pretty much dresses that way all the time. I grant you that she more often gravitates towards a “gypsy,” “pirate,” or “goth” motif but she’s always dramatic and often dressed to kill, in more than one sense. The Boy who Cried Wolf comes to mind, although the consequences were not as dire in Mel’s case. So cheers to Melyngoch, the girl who couldn’t get attention for dressing as a Vandal.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A few of my favorite (typographic) things

1. Optima's {Q} (I like that the tail doesn't cross into the counter.)

Georgia's text figures (This is the font I use for this blog. I like other fonts better, but this one is commonly available.)

Garamond's {P} (I like the open counter. Very elegant.)

Goudy's {.} (I like that the dots in the {i}, {.}, {?}, etc. are actually diamond-shaped, not round. This is the typeface that the main text of the LDS scriptures is printed in, by the way.)

5. The double dagger {‡} in almost any serifed font. (I like the name and I just think it looks cool.)

Mason, especially its {T}, even though the font is overused. (Once you know what it looks like, you'll start seeing it everywhere, especially in sci-fi/fantasy contexts.)

Kabel's {g}. (Normally I prefer serifed to sans-serif typefaces, but I like the open tail of the {g}.)

Codex’s {j}. (I have strong feelings about {j}. I don’t like ball finials. I love how the tail of this one just barely curves to the left. This is the font I want on my wedding announcement.)

(Inspired by

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Dream Job: Interior Design Resource Librarian

I am in the habit of checking librarian job bulletin boards from time to time, mostly because I just to see what’s out there, and if I’ll be even remotely qualified for any interesting jobs by the time I graduate. (I won’t graduate for over a year, so I’m not really doing serious job hunting right now.) Most of the listings are run-of-the mill librarian positions in public or academic libraries, but you do run across the occasional specialty librarian position. Yesterday I found an ad posted by a large interior design firm that wants an in-house librarian.

Good points:

Working in an environment like this would combine the good points of being a generalist and a specialist. As a generalist, I’d get to do acquisitions, cataloging, reference and circulation in my own little library. On the other hand, the library itself would be highly specialized, so I’d be a de facto specialist in interior design, which could be fun. (Although I somewhat prefer graphic design to interior design, I really love all types of design and would be happy to “settle” for this.) Also, I used to work early morning custodial in the Brimhall Building (back when it housed part of the College of Fine Arts) and I loved spending time in the interior design section. I used to vacuum really slowly in the stock room, just so I could spend more time looking at all the samples.


Ideal candidate should possess the following skills:

be a self-starter – Check.

have excellent verbal and written skills – Check.

be detail oriented – Check.

knowledge of digital photography and Photo Shop **A MUST** – Check.

We are looking for someone who is serious about working as a Librarian. This is not a design position. – Check. While I love design, I am clearly aware of where my strengths actually lie. I am a librarian, not a designer.

Bad points:

They don’t require an MLS, which means that they’re probably not willing to pay for an MLS. (They don’t list a salary range, they just say that it depends on experience.) Also, it’s an hourly job, which is a little odd. If the amount per hour is high enough, it’s not necessarily worse than a salaried position, and at least you get paid extra for overtime, but the prestige factor isn’t as high. (Not that I care significantly about prestige, but the job status associated with being paid hourly might also lead to being treated horribly by the snooty salaried interior designers.)

Along those same lines, this is clearly a paraprofessional job, and not a professional job, and accepting a paraprofessional position in lieu of a professional one is supposed to be really bad for my career or my karma or the balance of the librarian Force or something.

The position is in San Francisco, which means a horrible commute or living in an apartment the size of a refrigerator box or both. (Or worse.) Also (and I mean no offense to Thmazing et femme or to anyone else who lives there), I really hate California, and would be willing to go to great lengths not to live there. Plus, this is a high-end interior design firm, and interior design firms care about image (by definition), which means that it’s probably full of tan, blonde Beautiful People, and I don’t really want to be spending my days with Beautiful People. They make me depressed.


background in Interior Design and/or Architecture **A PLUS** – Not so much.

Reality check:

I don’t graduate for over a year, by which time this position will most certainly be filled.

Friday, May 12, 2006


Yesterday I was listening to an NPR program on mothers. One of the essayists talked about how hard it is to be a modern mother – how she has to balance work and friends and taking care of her kids, etc. I thought “Oh, that’s so true. If/when I do have kids, I’ll be busy and tired all the time and sad because I won’t be getting any intellectual stimulation and lonely because I won’t have enough in common with either academics or stay-at-home moms.” (Whether or not I should work after I have kids is a subject of mild debate between my mother and me. I think I’ll be OK just staying at home; she thinks I’ll be bored and unhappy if I’m not working at least part time. This is, of course, a moot point at present. I’m currently a full-time student and won’t be anything else in the foreseeable future.)

Anyway, my thoughtless agreement with this woman suddenly made me realize how very pessimistic I can be, even in areas where I don’t actually have experience. I feel somewhat justified in a pessimistic attitude towards life, love, health, school and work – at least there I feel like I know whereof I speak. But I am somewhat surprised to notice that I am the most pessimistic about marriage and motherhood – two areas where I don’t have firsthand experience.

I find myself giving undue weight to negative comments and dismissing positive comments for a number of reasons, I suppose. First, I think there are simply more negative comments than positive ones. People are more inclined to speak up when something is going wrong than when something is going right, so there are more complaints about how hard it is to be a wife and mother than there are positive observations.

Second, I dismiss people who I suspect are still on some kind of hormonal high. Yes, I know you just got married and it’s been the best two weeks of your life. Come back when real life has settled in a bit. (I suppose that new mothers don’t necessarily have this problem – childbirth, postpartum depression and sleepless nights might be enough of a reality check for anyone.)

Third, there are the people who just have had easy lives. The ones whose parents always paid for everything, who married equally beautiful people with similar pedigrees, who may have had a tight couple of years while the hubby went through grad school, but who are sitting pretty since he landed a high-profile job. I am perfectly aware that such people exist, and I’m sure that they enjoy being wives and mothers to boot. I fail to see how their lives have anything to do with mine.

Fourth, there’s just general pessimism. I have seen too many times how doing all the right things leads to happy results for others, but not for me. I have little reason to believe that I should end up happy, even if I do all the things that are supposed to make me happy.


I was talking to my Mom on Sunday, and she told me about having my 9-year-old cousin, C., over to do some gardening. (My Mom didn’t think that my 17-year-old hulking man-child of a “little” brother would be willing to do two hours of manual labor for $5.) They had a lovely afternoon of it, talking about things like what happens to an earthworm if you cut it in half, and they even got a fair amount of work done.

Of course, the unanticipated consequence of this event was that 7-year-old A., C.’s next younger brother, was very jealous of C., and he wanted to go work at Aunt L.’s house and earn $5. A. was too little to work in the garden, but my Mom thought of some cleaning that he could do, and so he came over, too. Enter, 4-year-old E., the next in line. Now my Mom was trying very hard to think of a paying job for a 4-year-old that genuinely needed doing. She finally remembered that she has a giant tub of my brother’s old Legos that need sorting. (She wants to be able to let kids play with the standard blocks without losing the specialty blocks.) So she figures that she can probably have E. come over some time to sort Legos for $1, and maybe they’ll watch a movie, too. (Hopefully the next youngest, 2-year-old Z., will be too young to notice or much a fuss.)

In telling me the story, my Mom also said she’d forgotten how fun it was to have “little people” around the house. It’s been a while since the Hulking Man-child was anything like “little,” and she doesn’t have any grandkids. (This is the point when a mother would stereotypically start giving her unmarried daughter hints about getting hitched and settling down. It is to my mother’s great credit that she never bugs me about such things, she just vaguely said that she’ll “probably have grandkids” in four or five years. And if I’m still not married in five years, I imagine she’ll just push the “deadline” out that much farther. Or the Hulking Man-child will have kids by then.)


So maybe having kids won’t be all about being tired and lonely. Maybe it could also be about the fun of having little people around. That could be OK.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

It doesn't matter if you're left or right

The other day I realized that the biggest factor in whether or not I can be friends with someone isn’t political persuasion, social leanings, religious involvement, hobbies, ethnicity or age. It’s whether or not they can laugh at themselves.

I have trouble finding common ground with serious feminists and dour libertarians, but I have equal, if not more trouble with stern Church members who equate somberness with spirituality and think that I am far too light-minded for my own good and need to tone it down.

I am someone who has a very hard time approaching life with seriousness. I laugh at people. I laugh at organizations. I laugh at events. In fact, the more seriously a person or organization takes itself, the more I want to poke fun at it. (This has led to some problems with law enforcement/security types, who tend to take themselves very seriously.) And the closer I am to someone, the more likely I am to tease them.

Of course, the fact that I tease those whom I care about the most makes being my friend a perilous situation. You’ll have to ask Melyngoch about the time I emailed her a picture of a manatee with a note to the effect that even though she’s really fat (like unto a manatee), I’m still glad we’re friends. (In my defense, there’s a back story that makes it not quite so randomly mean. And she loved the picture and wanted to enlarge it to poster size.)

My saving grace, I suppose, is that I laugh at myself more than anyone, and I expect those whom I tease to tease me back with equal vigor. And with equal venom. (Which is to say, none. Teasing someone in a way that isn’t actually mean and helps them laugh at their problems is a difficult art to master. Better to leave off if you can’t get it right.)

A perceptive friend of mine once said: “I have to laugh, because if I didn’t laugh, I’d cry.” That probably sums up my approach to life better than anything. Life is hard, and I don’t feel like crying all the time, so I’d rather laugh through my tears, and laugh the most at the hardest things in life and with those I care most about, whose pain I am most likely to share.

“We’re not laughing at you, we’re laughing near you.”

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Book: Persuasion

I started this a few weeks ago on a bus ride to Chicago and finished it the next day on the way home. (The bus rides were the beginning and end of a two-day field trip for my library buildings class. More on that later.)

All in all it was probably a 4 or 5-hour read, expedited by the fact that I’ve seen the BBC-produced movie multiple times, and it’s very faithful to the book. (I always feel a little guilty for watching the movie of a classic before I read the book. It makes reading the book so much easier, and it seems like reading the Classics ought to be painful, or it doesn’t really count.)

There were a few things missing from the movie that I enjoyed picking up on in the book. One was Admiral Croft’s reaction to Sir William (“the baronet will never set the Thames on fire”), which is a charming foil to Sir William’s reaction to the Admiral (that if the Admiral would find someone else to do his hair, Sir William “should not be ashamed of being seen with him any where”).

In many ways, Persuasion is a much more mature love story than other Jane Austen stories. Unlike Emma and Sense and Sensibility, there is no “wise, patient man educating the immature young girl” dynamic. There’s no Pride and Prejudice-type bickering, no unfortunate engagement to a girl from Plymouth. It’s just a case of two mature people who were once in love and then ended up hurting each other deeply through stubbornness and inexperience, and who are just trying to figure out if they can make things work again.

Of course, reading a story about an “old maid” of 26 years is a little disheartening. On the one hand, she certainly ends up happy, even though every one has given up on her (including herself). On the other hand, we don’t all have a Captain Wentworth in our past to come back for us. True, the situation of a modern single girl isn’t nearly as bleak as that of one in Jane Austen’s day – some of us can become spinster librarians! – but the prospects of a single Mormon girl of “a certain age” aren’t nearly so rosy. I wonder if Jane Austen’s popularity among Mormon girls is due in large part to the fact that we, too, live in a marry-or-perish world.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


Last Thursday was the last day of class for one of my classes, so our professor decided to take us out for drinks during the last hour. Longtime friends may guess that this was the first time I’d been in a bar, and longtime friends would be correct. So everyone was sitting around, drinking beer or iced tea and talking, and in a moment of very great weakness . . . I had some mozzarella sticks. And some nachos. And some cheese fries. (OK, a lot of cheese fries, and there may have been ranch dressing.)

Attentive readers may remember that corn, potatoes and dairy foods are on my “forbidden” list. I certainly remembered, but I was feeling rather devil-may-care-ish at the time. Those of you who are fond of quick and severe punishment for wrongdoing (in the manner of the God of the Old Testament) will be happy to learn that I had a horrible headache for two days straight, and I couldn’t sleep for the next two nights, either.

Now that it’s been a few days, I am back to my regular health, meaning that I have a slight headache all the time, a moderate amount of trouble falling asleep, and I’m always tired, no matter how much sleep I get. (I’m tired of putting about 200% into the Word of Wisdom and getting about 50% back. I would like to be not weary, not faint, and to find health in my navel instead of just belly-button lint.)