Random Musings

Miss me at Town Hall Seattle?

My talk on how we can learn what makes us human from genetics and evolution is now online! I hope you enjoy it.

Why Doesn’t Anyone on the Enterprise Wear Gloves? and other Star Trek conundrums

I’m currently watching Star Trek: The Next Generation for the first time (just started season 6). I know, I know – how did a nerd like me miss the boat? Part of it was the fact that I was born the same year the series started, so you’ll have to excuse my past baby self for not tuning in. I’m also the only person in my family who likes sci-fi, so I wasn’t exposed to it there. But frankly, I avoided Star Trek for a long time because I thought it was the world of asocial uber-nerds who liked to blow up stuff with phasers and fabricate technobabble to pretend to be scientific.

Boy, was I wrong. First of all, the science on the show is fantastic overall. There are so many moments where I find myself thinking as a biologist, “Hey, yeah, that’s completely plausible!” You can imagine my glee when it was revealed that a Klingon spy was managing to sneak messages past the transporter’s filters by encoding them as amino acid sequences.

I also can’t stop thinking how damn progressive the show is, especially when I remember it was made over two decades ago. I had no idea that an integral part of every episode is discussing ethics, humanism, and social justice. Or that half the scenes would be in meetings, trials, or diplomacy. To me, one of the most striking example of the show’s progressive values is the relationship between Will Riker and Deanna Troi. I swear they have the most supportive, healthy fuckbuddy relationship that I’ve ever seen on television.

But of course, there are some things in the show that bug me. I think this is inevitable when dealing with speculative sci-fi, since there are always some consequences of technology that writers don’t immediately thing about. Thankfully nitpicking these conundrums seems to be an essential part of being a Star Trek fan, so I have to get these off my chest:

  • Why doesn’t anyone on the Enterprise wear gloves? If this has a simple explanation like “the ship generates an invisible glove force field when required,” please tell me. Because right now, every time Dr. Crusher touches a patient with some horrible alien disease, or Geordi handles some hazardous substance in the cargo bay, or someone touches a piece of evidence with bare hands, the scientist in me dies a little.
  • Why does everyone conveniently ignore the curative power of the transporter? When Dr. Pulaski is rapidly aged by an antibody that alters her DNA, the crew uses her old genome sequence as a filter in the transporter to transport her back in her previous state. No one mentions that they’ve come up with a cure to all cancer, but perhaps that’s because by the 24th century, cancer has already been cured in a different way. But they’ve also cured aging – just use an old transporter scan and you’ll keep being loaded as your 25 year old self.
  • How is Lt. Broccoli – sorry, Barclay – able to see and grab creatures in the energy stream during transport? If every molecule in your body is being turned into energy…how is sight or movement possible?
  • Why doesn’t anyone on the Enterprise seem to have any sense of urgency? I swear it took a couple of seasons to see anyone break into a light jog, let alone a run. I don’t know how many scenes I’ve watched where Worf and his security team casually walk to part of a ship to apprehend a dangerous alien/crew member/what have you. You think they’d be liberally using the transporter. You think you’re going to get away? BAM, Worf just teleported right in front of you! Or better yet, we teleported you to a holding cell.
  • When Geordi and Ensign Ro are believed to be dead but they’re actually on the Enterprise out of phase, at the end of the episode Geordi is ravenous because they haven’t eaten in two days. So we know even though they’re out of phase, they’re still having normal bodily functions. …So where did they poop during these two days? I know it’s not the most important question in the Star Trek universe, but knowing there’s phased poop hidden on the Enterprise fills me with endless mirth.
  • But the most baffling thing of all…why the hell does Synthehol exist? Why would you keep the awful taste of alcohol and get rid of the main point of drinking it, the intoxicating effects? If there’s anything in Star Trek that makes it hard for me to suspend disbelief, it’s this.

Butts Wearing Glasses

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What? I warned you!

Comments now working! …Other things still broken

Sorry for making all of you my inadvertent beta testers! I tried to get the site as ready as possible, but the true test is always when you release the hordes. Thankfully The Jenome didn’t get totally pillaged.

Now that I’ve worked out  more adequate hosting, the site should no longer crash if PZ blinks in this general direction. I’m still a little befuddled how GoDaddy originally sold me a hosting package that can only handle 200 simultaneous users after I described my traffic… But it should be okay now.

Comments should also theoretically be working, and you can login with either WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, Google, OpenID, Blogger, and Disqus. Hopefully those are enough options to cover everyone! I’m working on making it so you don’t have to leave the page to login and so you have a better comment box, but it turns out my theme is overriding the comment plugins I’m trying to use. This may finally be what pushes me to sit down and learn CSS, since my current method is taking what I know from Python and html and then editing things through trial and error…which may not cut it for this issue. So it may be a little while before I find a prettier and more functional solution, but at least there’s something for now!

If you click the “Subscribe” button in the tiny top menu, it will take you to the RSS feed for my posts, http://thejenome.com/feed/. Right now it isn’t pretty and looks like a bunch of code, but the feed is working. If you enter that address into something like Feedly, it should work (at least, it did for me). I still need to work on making this a little more functional; advice is appreciated.

There seems to be a rare but bizarre issue where people only get 403 or 404 errors when trying to view the site. I ran into this problem in the morning on a different IP, and a friend of mine had the same issue. But oddly enough, when we check on Down For Everyone or Just Me? it says it’s down for just us, and the site still worked from my phone. I have no clue, but let me know if you do!

And if you run into anything weird on the site, still have problems commenting, or have any helpful suggestions, please email me at jen (at) thejenome (dot) com.

Welcome to The Jenome!

Welcome to The Jenome!

Hello, former Blag Hag readers. Welcome to my new home.

The Jenome was created as a sort of rebirth, even though it still falls victim to my curse of only being able to come up with pun titles. I’d like to compare it to a phoenix rising from the ashes, but that’s a little too grandiose. The Jenome is more like Selginella lepidophylla, the “Resurrection Plant”, blooming back to life after withering away into dormancy due to years of drought and hardship.

And you thought there couldn’t be a geekier metaphor for resurrection than a phoenix. Pfft, why turn to mythology when you have biology?

My blogging waned in 2012 due to a combination of graduate school stress and time commitments, a vicious harassment campaign against me by internet misogynists, and a stupid brain that’s predisposed to depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, the following year was even worse. In March 2013 my mother was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer, and in April of 2014 she passed away. I simply didn’t have time for blogging or speaking when I was constantly worrying about and visiting my mom, while simultaneously try to work on my PhD.

As horrible as these last couple of years have been, they’ve also given me a new perspective on life. As an atheist, I’ve always believed that this is the one shot we get at life and we should live it to the fullest. But this last year made me realize exactly how true that is. You never know if you’re going to get cancer or get hit by a bus, and all the planning in the world can still get derailed by the unexpected.

This wake up call also showed me exactly what my priorities are. I want to explore how the universe works, share that wonder and excitement with others, and create art to make the world a slightly more interesting place. I don’t want to think writing something is pointless because someone else beat me to a topic. I don’t want to spend weeks debating a sexist comment posted by some random asshole living in a basement. I don’t want to be an unintentional amplifier for hate and vitriol. I don’t want to feel pressured to write about specific topics. I don’t want to worry about creating professional posts for getting a job. And frankly, I can’t totally relate to the “Blag Hag” persona anymore – Blag Hag was effectively my less thoughtful, more reactive college self, and I have definitely changed since then.

I originally fell in love with blogging because it was an open, interactive journal for me to be creative. And this is my attempt to get that back with a fresh start. If I want to write about serious topics like the latest scientific advancements, or religious privilege, or feminism, then I will. But I’ll also feel free to post about my strategy in Civ 5, or what I thought about the latest episode of Game of Thrones, or a random doodle I made of butts wearing glasses.

I enjoyed my time at Freethought Blogs and still consider the bloggers there my colleagues and friends. I don’t want to imply that they restricted my blogging topics in any way, because they gave me absolute freedom. So why did I leave? Honestly, I’m a perfectionist control freak who hates working in groups. I’m simply happier and in a better mental space when I have total control, even if it’s control over minor things like how to arrange widgets in a sidebar or what font color to use. I gave joining a network a chance for the increased exposure and the extra spending money, but I realized that’s not what’s important to me. My anxious brain got too caught up in writing “Freethought” topics, or worrying about the frequency of my posts and how it reflects on the network as a whole, and it sucked the fun out of blogging. What I really wanted was simply a space that’s 100% mine.

So, welcome to The Jenome, where the theme is yet again Shit Jen Thinks About. I really can’t express how thankful and touched I am to have readers who have stuck by me through these hard years. I’ve constantly received messages from people who miss my writing or are just hoping I’m doing okay. I still have to pinch myself that anyone wants to read what spills out of my head, but I’m happy to be able to share it with all of you again.

Edit: Yep, I know comments aren’t working well. I’m trying to figure it out!

Hair

I keep having the urge to do something crazy with my hair – dye it purple, chop it into a pixie cut, or (the craziest option) bring back the bangs that plagued me as a child. It’s always been in the back of my mind, but before I was too concerned about what others would think of me, or how it could affect my professional life. But now all I can think is that the time is right. I live in Capitol Hill, where I stand out because I don’t have colorful hair or tattoos. I’m in grad school, where even some of my professors have dyed their hair bright colors because it’s no big deal. I’m young and it’ll grow back, so why not do something fun with it when I’m still in my 20s?

But then I can’t help but think…are people going to interpret this as “Oh no, Jen is having a crisis and going wild because of her mom’s death!”

I guess I’m still too concerned about what others would think of me.

If anything, my mom would have liked it. She was always telling me how I’d look cute with short hair. And while my dad could only grumble at all the rainbow-haired people when they visited Capitol Hill, my mom just smiled and said:

“Reminds me of art school!”

The Chef Delusion

After watching hundreds of Food Network shows that have the message of “Being a chef and owning a restaurant is grueling, time consuming, poor paying, thankless work and is an especially terrible career path if you have absolutely no restaurant experience,” my subconscious still fantasizes about quitting everything, becoming a chef, and opening my own restaurant.

Look, a kitty!

Look, a kitty!

Honestly, I just wanted an excuse to put Pixel’s cute face on the front page. Can you blame me? Look at that adorable grumpiness and those beautiful, judgmental blue eyes.

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Blag Hag Grab Bag 9/10/13

Today’s theme is how elated I am to not be officially involved with the atheist movement anymore:

Blag Hag Grab Bag 8/22/2013

I woke up in a pretty bad mood, but thankfully I have Pixel who knows just the way to distract me: puking all over the carpet. Thanks, kitty.

I think we could all use a cute cat video about now

Here’s one of Pixel playing with her favorite string toy and fetching it out of her tower. Forgive the shoddy left handed iPhone camera skills.

Blag Hag Grab Bag 8/15/2013

Congratulations to my labmate for her successful dissertation defense today! She now officially has the coolest name ever – Dr. Claw.