February 2008

I just got out from my second bio exam here, which highlighted the gaps in my knowledge of enzymes–I knew the pathways, but not the more obscure proteins!

Even with my first two midterms and the Twain paper behind me, I’m going to be running on borrowed phosphates through spring break; next Thursday holds 6 hours of class, a chem quiz, a biolab test, a Japanese written midterm (which requires no less than two syllabaries, 250 characters, and knowledge of all readings and written styles), and the horrendously forbidding Chemlab midterm. I also get to read Pudd’nhead Wilson over the weekend.

The short of this? Have a lovely week of midterms; I’ll see you on the other side.

I’ve been debating what to write a Mark Twain essay on. At the one hand, I could take on truth versus lie in his works, which would be fascinating and engaging and entirely inappropriate for only four pages; on the other, I could critique a paper of my own following the 19 literary offenses of Fenimore Cooper. The latter option is certainly more wounding, but I think it will actually stretch me furthest. I’ve picked a fairly well-written paper (one on the codifying of gendered language in Japan) to make it even more challenging. There will probably be a good deal written under the lightning versus lightning bug category!

As for truth and lie, I have a few nagging ideas that I need to get out of my mind before I can concentrate on another Twain subject. Clemens walks a tricky tightrope in all of his work. As he says, a good storyteller is (seemingly) unaware of the irony, humor, and discord within his tale. The audience must participate in the story then, as much or more than the teller. However, there must be the suggestion, whether in certain juxtapositions or in the twinkle of an eye, to allow the audience to cotton on. When it comes to straight up lies, it seems Clemens looks to their effects to settle his opinion of their worth and appropriateness. His pseudonym is a good example to start with. Clemens does not write under his own name, nor even necessarily with his own character. The writer, author, and narrator are three separate species doing their best to appear as two. Twain exposes himself occasionally though slips in the character of the narrator, but knowing where he stops and Clemens begins is not so easy. Nevertheless, this deception is so well crafted and essential to the story that it falls under the protective label of art. In stark contrast to this literary nudge-and-a-wink are the malicious lies of some of Twain’s characters. Twain’s Parisian guide, for one, attempts deception for his gain and his employers’ detriment. One man tries to take in Twain and have him make an ass of himself by telling him all the wrong names for riverboat parts (Twain’s revenge, on the other hand, counts as an artful riposte). Capping that all is Tom Sawyer’s unwitting cruelty in the final chapters of Huck Finn – an instance where he has all the art of the story and nub, but an evil premise.

Twain was right about the general perception of truth, and he shows it in his camel story. That beast could and did eat everything, but when it tried to digest a few cellulose reams of the “purest” truth Twain had ever written, it up and died. All things considered, I think it fared better than most of the public.

I’m two weeks behind the times here (exams have kept me from exploring), but I recommend this article to make your day that much better:  http://www.nasa.gov/topics/universe/features/across_universe.html

 I also apologize if I gave the impression that White Day and Valentine’s Day were one and the same. White Day is the Japanese counterpart in March, in which men return the favors (usually multiplied in en value because of the gendered salary curve) to the women who gave them chocolate on V-Day. This causes some pretty funny hijinks in the corporate world…

I have a ton of Mark Twain to read (or it would be, if ink weighed anything at all) and a report on the usefulness of SDS-Page to complete, so I’m only going to post the first half of this translation tonight. The rest is soon to come!

For those of you who celebrated Darwin Day yesterday, OOOK! Even though we aren’t descended from monkeys, I enjoy flaunting my 98% simian affinity as much as the next hominid. Also, happy Valentine’s Day. I suspect the original man’s letters were much sweeter than our chocolate tributes, but, all things considered, I’m happy with the chocolate. Furthermore, I’m glad to be from a nation where both men and women receive gifts on the same day. From what we’ve been learning about Japanese corporate subtleties, White Day has gotta be one awkward occasion! Still, if that’s what you celebrate, have a good one.

To him was a cup borne, and a cordial invitation
in words offered, and wound gold
with good will given, arm-wreaths two,
garments and rings, neckrings the greatest
of which I on Earth have heard of.
I have heard of nothing finer under the sky
of hero’s treasures, since Hama carried off
to that magnificent stronghold the Brosings’ necklace,
jewel and precious setting – from cunning enmity fled
of Eomenric, and chose eternal gain.
That ring had Hygelac of the Geats,
nephew* of Swerting, on his last expedition,
after he under the standard the treasure defended,
war-takings protected; him fate carried off,
since he for pride sought trouble,
feud with Frisia. He those adornments carried,
precious stones over the waves’ cup,
mighty prince; he under his mighty shield fell dead.
Fell then into Frankish hands the king’s body,
breastcoats and that necklace also;
by a worse warrior was the slain plundered
after the battle carnage; the Geatish people
the place of corpses held.

*the word is the same for grandson and nephew. My choice of nephew was on a whim.

So, between studying for my bio exam, work, and studying for my chem exam, there hasn’t been enough time to put up a substantive post this week. There should be one Wednesday, after my exam, but this week is out. I think introducing the word regular into my update vocabulary was tempting fate. 

I hope you all had a great Mardi Gras and Lunar New Year. For those of you who swore off chocolate for Lent, I’m sorry, but you’re missing out on one of the better chocolate selections of the year.