Monday, September 29, 2008


Yesterday I went to the mangroves with my oceanography class to take some sediment samples. Other than waking up at 6am, it was a fun trip. We went to the other side of the island to a current mangrove site and a former mangrove site (they were removed). All the mangroves in Hawaii are invasives, so people here really don't like them. I was surprised because in Zanzibar the mangroves were an important habitat that served as nurseries to many of the species there. Here they just seem to be a haven for more invasives while taking away habitat for endemic species. Here are some pictures of us taking samples.

I took the bus to get to campus to go to the mangroves yesterday. And the sight that I was fortunate to witness at 6:30 in the morning was a large gentleman fondling his breast absentmindedly in the seat across from me. He inspired me to start a series of drawings that I am going to call "Bus Buddies." Please don't expect any groundbreaking artwork--it's just some doodles in the fashion of R.Crumb's restaurant series (but mine are much more juvenile and far less detailed). Here is my first:

This is another in the series. This was actually a woman I met on my very first bus ride to campus. Her name is Candy. I'd say she was about sixty and very sweet, but she was wearing the brightest make-up I've ever seen on an older woman and it seemed to be bleeding into the skin all around her face. (Maybe I'm being cruel...) Here she is:

Today I saw a video of hagfish devouring a huge yellowfin tuna that was dumped into the ocean for observation on scavenger behavior in benthic habitats. It was fascinating but horrifying at the same time. The body was writhing with these long black snake-looking fish, sucking off its flesh. But the really amazing thing was seeing the fish burrow under the skin through the gills and causing the skin to undulate around the body, creating the illusion that the tuna was still alive. Our professor hypothesized that this is where the idea of Medusa came from--they probably pulled the body of a woman up from the ocean floor with hagfish writhing out from her eyes and scalp (seriously, he said this, not me). Anyway, it was pretty incredible. Another cool thing I learned in my benthic biology class was that all the sand and silt and small substrate in the world that is in the sediment record has passed through the gut of a deposit feeder at least once. Awesome! The turnover rate is overwhelming! The invertebrates that inhabit this earth are more and more magnificent to me every day. More evidence of how nerdy I am...

I do not own measuring cups. But I may have to invest in them. I think I overestimated the amount of rice in a cup. I tried to make two cups of rice and ended up making about six. I know it expands, but not this much! I have enough food to feed myself for a very long time. But on the bright side, the chicken curry I made is amazing! It tastes just like my Mom makes--which is always the ultimate goal!

Now I need to prepare for my lab tomorrow. Some of my students wrote Ms.Ylitalo-Ward on their homework assignments--as if I were a legitimate teacher! It made me feel a little weird. But I love them :) They all had a test today in the lecture part of the class and it was interesting to look around the room and see some people look totally comfortable and some people with faces of intense anguish...My students looked perfectly relaxed and they all did great. One of the students in the other Teacher Assistant's lab section got a 14! Out of 50! So...I'm glad that one wasn't my fault (but I'm sure it wasn't the other TA's fault either).

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Today I went to Diamond Head and went snorkeling. There wasn't too much to see, but there were some cool fish. The reefs are pretty barren. I'm not sure if that is a product of the environment, or overfishing. The colors were muted. Based on the amount of sea urchins, it is safe to say that these reefs are unhealthy. But I've heard they are trying to change that. And the water is a lot rougher here than I am used to. Also, while snorkeling, I realized how lucky I was to spend so much time in Zanzibar where the colors are vibrant and everywhere you look was something new and exciting. But this substrate here is perfect for cephalopods, so that is exciting!

After Diamond Head, I came home and tried to do work, but I have been seriously unproductive. I did laundry though, so that's good I guess. I'm not sure why I have so much trouble getting anything done on the weekends. Or during the week either for that matter. I need to just get it together. It's a rollercoaster. I was so happy after talking to Les. But today I got an e-mail that someone on Coconut Island has already done all the work that I had planned to do. Ugh. It was so liberating to have a plan--a goal to pursue through grad school, and now I feel lost again. I wonder if it gets easier. I wonder if after a certain point anything ever feels right. You just have to make a decision and go with it, whether it feels right or not. And you can't look back. You have to move on if you ever want to have any hope of being happy. Oh, I'm getting philosophical... I'm tired. I thought this existential crisis thing was over--it's been going on for two years already.

Tomorrow I am going to the mangroves with my oceanography class--they stole my Sunday. We're leaving at 7:30 which means I have to leave here at 6:30 so I should go to bed soon.

I forgot to say that Coconut Island was the original Gilligan's Island. In the opening of the show they have a picture of the Island--of course the show wasn't filmed there, but it's still cool that they intended the Island to be representative of Gilligan's Island.

Friday, September 26, 2008

First Paper

So believe it or not, I have not had to write anything substantial since I got here until now. (But it is grad school, they should just let me do research already!). Now I have a paper due tomorrow on benthic biological oceanography and I am having flash-backs of my undergraduate career of intense and unyielding procrastination; relentlessly checking and rechecking my mail, blogging, eating, doing anything but my paper--it is rearing its ugly head once again. While I have a (thankfully) natural ability to read and absorb countless scientific journal articles, having to spew out the appropriate scientific nomenclature is not my forte. Ugh.

And Grey's Anatomy is on tonight at the same time as the Office! What am I to do? Well, if I don't get cracking on this paper, I won't be able to see either one.

On another note, I had my lab on genetics today. I love my Thursday lab. It is a smaller group. I know I shouldn't pick favorites, but they are so much more attentive and curious. They all have great questions are really seem to want to learn the science behind it. I love it! It is so rewarding when I can get them interested (especially because they are all non-majors and will probably not end up taking any other science classes). We took blood today and tested whether we were color blind and other genetic excitements. They got really into it (although I did have to prick most of their fingers for them...they were a little squeamish, but they did it and that is what counts).

My dad sent me this picture. It is a picture of me!

Also, I'm developing the semi-obligatory graduate student addiction to coffee... I'll have to detox at Christmas--is it sad I'm already thinking about Christmas?

UPDATE: I just beasted out my paper and realized that it is only supposed to be two pages DOUBLE-SPACED!! What? Am I in grad school? Once I double spaced it, it was close to five pages. So..I need to make it shorter. But, I understand. Now that I'm a teacher, I know how much fun it is to read papers. There was a homework assignment due this week and my students had to talk about osmoregulation--one student gave me a paper about plants. Now, plants do osmoregulate, but we are in a zoology class, not botany!! If she had written a paper that made sense it would have been fine, but these words were literally just random groups of nouns and verbs that made no sense together. One of the sentences was "Plants are often found close to their environments." Well...yes, I guess that is true, but WHAT? Ok, I need to be nice. I'm being mean. At least she tried. I gave her a 7, even though it basically made no sense at all. I'm a pushover...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I need a car...

I have decided that I need to get a car because it seems that the bus is a creepy pick-up place for weirdo guys that say uncomfortable things to me. Or at least that is how it has been so far. I think I am too friendly. People talk to me and I respond because I don't want to be rude. It is analogous to being on the plane and being stuck next to someone who starts talking at the beginning of the trip--once that line is crossed, you can't go back. You can't stop talking because it gets awkward. You can't just take your book out and make them shut up. Well, maybe you can, but I can't. Tonight, I had another such encounter. This guy was fine. Friendly at first, but then...too friendly. It was raining and he told me that it felt as if the sunshine came out when I came to the bus stop. He said he wished he felt as good as he did standing next to me every day. And yes, those are nice things to say--but not at a bus stop! And of course we were on the same bus and he sat next to me. And I continued chatting because I am awkward. And then he wanted my phone number and I made up some excuse about not having a phone yet since I just moved here. So he gave me his number and wants me to call him. The worst part is, he got off at the same bus stop and lives on the same street as me!! I walked into a store so I could get him off my trail so he didn't know where I live. Ugh. I need pepper spray. Or I need to keep my mouth shut and never respond when someone starts talking to me on the bus or at a bus stop.

In other news, I had a great talk with Les today! Yay!! I am going to get to study what I want and he is supportive 100%. I need to just de-stress already. I live in Hawaii for gosh sakes. I need some of that Aloha mentality. Chillax.

Here is a rainbow I saw from my window

Also, I am out of cheese. It is a sad day in a young girl's life when there is no cheese in the refrigerator.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fun with New Computer

I haven't named it yet. My new computer needs a name. Hmm. In the meantime, I've been having fun with the built in camera. Yay! Here are some pseudo-artistic silly photos of myself.

Other than getting acquainted with my computer, I have been trying to get organized. I think Les is a little frustrated with me because I am not settled on a proposal for research. But the thing is, I've talked to many of the other students who say that you take the first two years to figure it out. Then I get these other messages that I need to know exactly what I'm doing right now. Ahh! Also, since I probably won't be working under Les, I need to figure out if there is anyone else who wants me. What will I do if they don't?

The bus has been really crowded recently. We get packed in like sardines and while I'm standing with my arm up, reaching for the bar, with my armpit in someone's face, I feel like I'm in a deodorant commercial.

Monday, September 22, 2008


This weekend I went to the Hawaiian Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) on Coconut Island in Kaneohe Bay. It's on the other side of the island. It was beautiful--it's a whole different island over there. I am hoping to do research over there and probably will end up moving to that side of the island eventually.

Here are some photos :)

We also saw a Cassiopeia cnidaria there which is the "upside-down jellyfish." They sit with their bell on the bottom with their tentacles spread around above them in the water column. They have symbiotic bacteria that photosynthesize for them so they can just sit on the bottom and chill in the sunlight getting all the energy they need. Here is a photo of one that we picked up and put in a bucket. It looks right side up because when we released it, it had some air in it's bell. We fixed it later though :)

Afterward, I went to a friends house, drank some wine, and watched Jane Austen Book Club. When I went home, there were a million people out at the bars, dressed in very little clothing. I had a moment where I all of the sudden realized that I am old. If everyone around you is young--it stands to reason that you are old. So I'm old. I used to go out and have fun, but I guess my priorities are elsewhere now. Or maybe it's because I don't have time anymore. Now I know why scientists are always thought of as antisocial, lonely, nerds. It's not that we don't want to go out really, we just get caught up in all the research and forget how to talk to people, dance, flirt, or any other social graces. Oh well, soon I'll be living on an even smaller island and barely see people so I won't have to worry!

Thursday, September 18, 2008


My brother did the coolest mural on my sister and my friend's wall.

Other than that, I'm stressed. Getting back to work....

No wonder they call it "hump day"

So today was the perfect blend of the good, the bad, and maybe a little of the ugly. First the good: My new computer and printer came today! Then the bad: My external hard drive with all my photos and documents and music died (almost at the exact same moment the computer arrived)... And the ugly: I stepped on a piece of glass and cut my foot pretty badly and made a mess all over the carpet because I don't have band-aids. I found out my mom isn't coming to Hawaii in October anymore. But, I talked to a woman today who studied the species of octopus I want to study and she helped me a lot and is willing to help more in the future. So that's another good thing.

I don't understand how this happens everyday. I get home and am exhausted and before I know it, it's 10pm and I haven't accomplished anything and I need to get up at 6:30 tomorrow to get the lab ready (hopefully tomorrow goes a little better). Ok, well, I am going to make myself some tea, read an article, and then go to bed.

I'm listening to Laura Marling, The National, and Captain Beefheart (not simultaneously) right now in my life. They are all awesome.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Teaching is hard...

Seriously. I think I was always one of those nerdy students who was super academic and loved and respected my teachers, so I never really realized how hard it must be to teach a room full of kids who are mostly uninterested and want to leave. That's what happened to me today. I felt like it was an uphill battle today to get anyone to do anything! I don't know what it was--but maybe osmosis and diffusion is not super exciting... There was one student who took his computer out and was blatantly chatting with someone online!! What am I supposed to do with that?! I told them that cell phones will NOT be acceptable--but I never thought they would just whip out their computers! I felt kind of crushed. I want my students to like me, but I don't want them to walk all over me. I just felt like I lost control over them. Ugh. Hopefully next week will be better. This lab was just horrible. Nothing was going right. None of the experiments turned out the way they were supposed to. I had to tell then what was supposed to happen--but where's the fun in that? Oh well.

Although, I did have one student who is a glass blower (and I got really excited because I want to take a class--and apparently the program here is top notch) who says she wants to bring in some of the water that they dip their glass into to see if anything is living in there. So, I was pretty happy about that. She is interested enough to find something outside of class and bring it in to look at it.

Also, what am I going to do about House and The Biggest Loser being on t.v. at the same time!? I think I am going to have to watch House first and then the last hour of TBL. These are the important questions. These are the struggles keeping me up at night.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sad day..

Today, I came into my apartment, and saw a gecko...under my clear shoe mat... where I come in the door...and he is dead. It's not Jeffrey, he's a different color. But he is so small! And he's not moving, even when I lifted the mat off of him and tried to get him to run away. Sad...

I've discovered that the labs I teach take up at least half of my work week--whether it it preparing for the lab, teaching the lab, grading the homework, preparing quizzes and homework, or answering inane questions about the lab. Today we were preparing for the Osmosis and Diffusion lab we have for tomorrow. First of all, this is a lame lab. I need to make it exciting somehow! There is a ton of time where you are sitting around, waiting for something to happen. Ugh. Last week there was some down time and I talked about the life cycle of malaria, and parasites that live in the sand, and African sleeping sickness for a while and terrified all my students... But I think those things are cool! They seemed interested...but also frightened. This week I have to think of something cute and fuzzy to talk about... tardigrades maybe? Oh inverts. I love you. None of that charismatic megafauna for me. Only the little spineless creatures wiggle their way into my heart.

Anyway, it took three hours today to figure out that the lab we were going to be doing for tomorrow is terrible and doesn't even work! Because someone forgot to read the instructions! WHAT?! Hasn't this been taught before? Where's the professor? What was he thinking? Oh well, we fixed it--but really, every week, I only get through lab on a hope and a prayer because EVERYTHING could go wrong. I hope the students can't see how tenuous my hold is on any type of order or understanding of things. Last week in my second lab, all the paramecium were dead! I had to scramble to find some live ones for them to look at! Thankfully I found some and regained some composure, but it was close. I don't want to let my students down. Also, I have one student who refused to kill her paramecium because she felt bad--she wants to be a marine biologist. Nu-uh. Lady, you better reconsider. Science is about looking at dead things. Seriously. You can't be a scientist if you can't kill a paramecium. Now I know that sounds callous, but seriously, they're gonna die anyway and you kill them everyday without knowing it! And yes, it is different when they have eyes that are looking at you, and of course there needs to be a reason to kill it that will lead to some beneficial research, but we all learn to do it. And you need to if you're going to study this stuff. When something dies needlessly (like my gecko friend) I'm sad, but for the sake of research, I understand. Whoa, this is getting into a whole controversial area I wasn't planning to talk about. I need to go to bed soon anyway so I can prepare for tomorrow's fiasco of a lab.

Also, I've been watching "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia"--Hilarious. And super offensive. I love it.

Monday, September 15, 2008


What?! This is awesome!

Girls Night

Last night, I spent some time with my friends and we made baked clams and watched Top Gun and drank wine. Yay girls night! We're going to try to do girls night at least twice a month. It's important to release some stress every once and a while.

This weekend was crazy busy. I made a list of things I needed to do, and I got two things done...out of about ten. But, most important thing, I got wireless internet! Now I can skype and watch t.v. online--the two main reasons to have wireless.

I had to go to the mall to pick everything up for wireless and I was overwhelmed by the things they have there. There is a Tiffany's, Harry Winston's, Coach, Fendi, Prada, Chanel, you know, all the important stores that I shop at all the time. Who are these stores for? My guess is rich Japanese tourists... But, maybe I'm being too narrow minded.

There was a parade this weekend in Waikiki. I saw Hula dancers, Ms. Hawaii in a Morris Mini, people on horses, a few marching bands, kids dancing, naval officers--all very exciting. I guess there is a festival every year called "Aloha," and that was what was happening this weekend. Also, there is this thing every month called First Friday's where artists in Chinatown put out all their artwork and there is music. I need to go to that! I guess I'll go next month. So much to and play.

Alright, I need to get ready for class.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


I have a new friend. I found him last night. His name is Jeffrey. I am going to try not to step on him...or vacuum him up. I vacuum all the time and I hope he gets out of the way.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Paramecium Lab

Today we had the animal cell lab and I think it went well. My students still seem pretty clueless, but now that I am really holding their hands through the whole thing and they seem to appreciate it. I drew a lot of elaborate pictures on the chalk board with all different colors and I think that helped. I love chalk!

Yesterday I talked with Les about maybe doing cephalopod research and he is all for it :) He said that if that is what I want to do, I can! I'm so happy. He is a great guy and an excellent resource. I am probably going to do coral work with him too (which I am excited about because I got to see some of it and they are amazing!) but my research will probably focus on cephalopods. I've gotten a bunch of information from a few people here and Roger. Everyone is so open with their information and helpful with project ideas. Yay!!!

Now that I am thinking I want to study cephalopods all the time, I am getting a little obsessed with reading everything I can about them and I have come across some cool sites. Here is a site with gift ideas :) And here is another! I need to stop procrastinating and get my work done...

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Bobtail Squid!

So, I'm going to talk about squid, but first, I need to discuss something disturbing that just happened to me. I decided to go buy myself a toaster oven. I was planning on waiting until people came to visit me to buy me a toaster oven, but I couldn't wait any longer! Anyway, I went to my favorite store (Don Quixote) and bought myself a toaster oven. Since I had no way to get home other than the bus, I got on the bus with my big box and sat in the only available seat with space next to me to put my purchase. What I didn't realize was there seemed to be a reason that seat was empty. The people behind me were singing and seemed to be intoxicated and...if they were cartoons, stink lines would have been emanating from their bodies. Of course, they decided to talk to me... The first man said he was hungry and wondered what I was going to be making in my toaster oven--I said I didn't know yet. Then, the gentleman next to him said "She's so beautiful, I could live off her dead skin."!!!? What the hell does that mean!? Ugh! I was so creeped out. Especially because they both started cackling and then continued talking to me about goose poop, God, and guns in Washington DC. I tried to think if I could get off the bus early, but I had this cumbersome box that I had to walk with, so I just smiled grotesquely until I was able to escape. But I can't get over how weird that was. What kind of a thing is that to say to somebody? Is that supposed to be a compliment??! If it hadn't been broad daylight, I would have been more frightened though...

Alright, now to squid. Yesterday, I checked out the Zoology Department van so that I could see if I could find some bobtail squid to observe in the wild. Since no one else wanted the van yesterday, I went with my friends to do some grocery shopping at the commissary before hand (which I can't normally go to because I don't have a military i.d.). My friend has a military i.d. and told me that groceries are cheaper there so we decided to go. It was amazing!!! It was huge!! It's a giant mall with cheap stuff for military people. They had tea for less than 7 dollars!! They had bagels for 4 dollars cheaper than any other store in the islands!! We filled our cart to the brim with cheap goods from the mainland. My friends kept making fun of me because I was freaking out about how inexpensive everything was. It was because of this trip that I decided to buy my toaster oven. I found mini pizza crusts to make home made pizza on :) I'm very excited.

After our grocery excursion, we went to the beach to see if we could find bobtail squid. It was super windy and very low tide, so we actually didn't see any at all...but we still had fun. We sat on the beautiful deserted beach and drank some wine under the moon and stars.

This past week was super busy, but productive. I got my Hawaiian driver's license (and I wish it said McLovin' on it instead of my name). I had my first real lab sections where I was a REAL teacher!! They asked lots of questions...and I realized I will need to hold their hands much more than I thought. Undergrads are not too bright.... I look at them and think, "was I like that?"

Ok, I need to do all of my work now. I'm going to the beach to read :)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Manoa Falls

On Saturday I went with some friends to Manoa Falls. It was beautiful. Apparently that is where they filmed some of "Lost" and I could definitely tell. The trees were dripping with orchids. The banyan trees were enormous and intimidating.

Yesterday and today I went to the beach to study. I think I am going to try to go there more often for studying. I need to take advantage of living so close to the beach :)

Also, I tried out some surfing today! I wasn't great and will need to practice, but it is fun. I'm not sure if I will ever be great at it because I think my body is the wrong shape.

Tomorrow I have a lab to teach about microscopes. Yay! Playing with microscopes! I hope they enjoy it as much as I do... Apparently my friend told her students during their introductions that they should be happy that she didn't make them make animal noises--because she knew someone who did.