Tuesday, December 06, 2011

What? DECEMBER?!

I SKIPPED TWO MONTHS OF MY LIFE.

This was accidental. I think. I don't even wish to go into all of the shenanigans that went down during these two months. Lives were changed, folks! Lives were changed. Moving on.

In short, here is a list of the things currently going through my mind:
1) Holy Lord. I was so skinny freshman year. CRAP.
2) I AM SO BROKE
3) ...except I just sold some jewelry to my wonderful roommate so...FOOD FOR ME
4) Lexington Lexington Lexington Lexington Lexington
5) "Brandy Alexander...gets me into trouble...that's another matter...Brandy Alexander..."
6) Toby hair is all over my pea-coat.
7) Optics homework! Do it! (later.)
8) What finals? Who cares anymore? WHO CARES?
9) I should probably talk about my vagina or the Vagina Monologues but I can't think of a way to do it appropriately. So no.
10) I ran out of band-aids for my zombie toe.
11) Related note: I'm 46% positive that the zombie apocalypse will start in my basement/room. THANKS, WALKING DEAD.
12) Stop, beard.
13) I am the prettiest ever.
14) Bed, probably. Soon-ish.
15) Or Christmas music? Christmas music is an excuse to listen to any artist. Except some.
16) Whitley Lehto-how do you pronounce your last name?
17) Monica and I found the Fourier transform of a picture of Laura in lab today.
18) My autobiography is going to be either super awesome (like Tina Fey's) or make me sound like a shut-in, rude pessimist (like that girl in line on Black Friday).
19) This list is too long.
20) Number 20 should be the end of this list.
21) But it's not! This list reminds me of the poetry slam I just read in with Abby.
22) ...I've got to get out of here.

Delicious.

Monday, September 19, 2011

New Home

Just a quick one before I go back to writing my Optics lab report, which I decided to try writing in LaTeX to make it look pretty, for once. I think the last post was about my impending fear of becoming a stressed-out shut-in alcoholic, but it looks like that won't be the case. Dodged that one. :]

But I figured I should update. I'm teaching two classes at MSU at the moment; one algebra and one physics. My algebra kids are as sweet as can be, and my physics kids drive me crazy. I still like both jobs, though, so that adds greatly to my happiness which, by the way, is running quite rampant since I have a house and not a cubicle. It's so much space for the three of us and the dog, but small enough to feel cozy and just like home. We like it.

Anyway.

A few minutes ago, I looked down at my Clemson t-shirt that I wore to teach a Michigan State class, and realized that I'm not sold-out loyal to any university (except during basketball season, but even then...). And that thought led to the realization that I'm not sold-out loyal to anybody either. Not that I'm disloyal, but I float from person to person and generally love most everybody that I spend time with. So that thought led to the question: what am I sold-out loyal to?

The obvious church answer would be Jesus, but maybe I'm not even that. As crazy as I sang yesterday, even AnnaMaria knew I wasn't really all there. She wants all of me. He wants all of me. I know what's in my way, but for some reason, it seems nearly impossible to get rid of.

At any rate, I'm happy for whatever happiness is worth. I don't want to sleep anymore. I just want to work. I want to be awake for this life. Awake and crazy.

Delicious.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rewind Again

I'm wide awake. Probably because it's only midnight. Probably because all of the things that I've done today can be encompassed into three things: movies, driving, chocolate. Probably because I'm about ten hours away from seeing one of the most treasured people in my life, finally, for the first time since May.

I always invent an issue. I can't decide whether or not I feel like crying...probably not. There's nothing wrong. Life is beautiful. It has been all summer, apart from feeling lonely, but that's just a little drop in the bucket. It was short-lived and no big deal. Here's the truth: I'm fine. I'm not an alcoholic. I'm not pregnant. I'm not in love. I won't be. (Maybe that's it.) I'm not completely broke yet. I'm only a little stressed, but I think the prospect of what is to come is getting to me. I need to find my planner and my checkbook before 10AM. I need four jobs and two majors. Life, just life, is knocking me out again because I spoiled myself all summer by getting paid to do what I love and couch-hopping and being absolutely free like I have to be. So...doing life like it always is? I don't want to. I am excited for what's to come, but I don't want to feel the breaking point anymore. I'm frightened of it. That's lame. It's the truth. I hate the person that I am during school. I chose to take over the basement in our house so that Casey and Chelsea wouldn't have to witness that selfish heap of stress, and so I could quietly pass out over of a physics book next to an empty bottle of Jack...no. No. No?

It's hard to erase the word 'inevitable' from my mind. It's a damn lie, but I always felt that I'd never take the easy way out. And that's the easy way out. Is it?

Time to come back up. This post is about the rest of my trip, as wonderful and free as it was. I'm not telling stories here, just pasting cities together with words. I don't want to novelize this. I just want you to have a taste. I want you to ask me first, and I'll have a story for you then.

Here goes.

Tampa/Miami: new cousin, plenty of music, plenty of food and such, meeting relatives and understanding a whole lot more about myself.

Baton Rouge/New Orleans: family, stomach flu, sleeping in bathtubs and on floor tiles, bayou, quicksand, Bourbon street, aquarium, hurricane, a bite or two of cajun food, a new home.

Nashville: seeing family away from family, newlyweds, new lives, mountains, Music Row, Jesus, booze, country music, "the best ice cream ever", having a hilarious 10 hours.

Madison: one sorely missed roommate, State Street, pi cutter, bacon, mustaches, pickles, dresses, fro yo, Lucille Ball, music room, finally singing together again, learning new songs, taking pictures of Epic, finally filling up at Speedway again.

Chicago: parking my car, leaving it for four days, packing clothes in a purse, getting poured on, not knowing exactly where I was going to sleep, having somebody come through for me every night, seeing dear old friends, seeing dear new friends, Mag Mile, Navy Pier, obligatory Bean picture, subway, Just a Touch of Love, Belmont on the blue line, Stella's, Ragstock, vintage thrifting, rooftops, hookah, bubbly, living.

Then home. Then up north to get beached and burned and rubbed and water logged again. Now home.

Next: new home.

Delicious.

Monday, August 08, 2011

The Rest of SARA

I know, I get it. My last post was a long article about the child sex trade in Atlanta, and yeah, it was written in early July. In my own defense, things have been a little hard to put into words lately. I've been stretched, stunned, amazed, furious, lonely, loved, exhausted, energized, lost, found, and eaten by leeches in the past couple of months...and that's only the surface of all that has happened this summer.

I'm not home yet, but will be in a few short days, at my own discretion. There's no possible way that I can write about everything that has happened, much less remember it...but I'll try. Honestly, I'd rather get together with you and tell you all about it face-to-face. This piece of writing will be about the end of SARA, and will hopefully segue into another piece about the road trip that I am currently on, just to prevent this from becoming my first book. (Not to say that pieces of this won't go in my first book...hah)

When I had left you, I was leaving Atlanta. What I failed to mention later is that I turned right back around and headed back into Atlanta to see Jayne for the fourth. Her life is...lovely. She has a lovely family, a lovely home, a lovely dog, a lovely job. But the trip was eye-opening for me. Her life, her family, her friends, the things that are important to her are so different from what I've experienced in my bringing-up. It seemed for a moment that she was living in a cut-throat capitalist environment where everything was bargained and bribed and traded, and where nobody really felt any better in the end. However, that probably isn't fair. That's just Corporate America. Her parents are wonderful hosts, and I immediately felt warmly welcomed and appreciated from the start. Their hospitality was truly a blessing and I can't put into words how much I cherished being part of a family for the Fourth, having missed my Fourth Up North for three years in a row, now.

Since Amy was in Brevard for the summer, we spent some time together as well. She came down and we FINALLY went to Williamston, SC, stalked the high school, crashed a wedding, and played in the park at night. Then, of course, like true imitation-Southerners, wolfed down hush puppies at Cookout with several choruses of "Why don't we live here for real?"

In the morning, we headed to Charlotte to see Wally and his new church as a surprise. We had thought, initially, that the church would be comparable (in size, at least) to Trinity, but in reality as soon as we walked in the door, people immediately knew that we were visitors. It was amazing, though; these are the sweetest, most welcoming and genuine people. Such a great environment. It doesn't hurt that the music was phenomenal, too...

Wally's friend treated us to lunch and then Amy and I headed downtown. Now, when I say that Charlotte is beautiful, it's a gross understatement. We drove around for a while with our jaws dragging behind on the pavement. Parked in the Nascar district, went to Discovery Place, and found a brilliant sushi place. We came back a couple of weeks later, found another sushi place, and found an apartment. We're moving. (When we become real people, of course...)

I just realized that I haven't really said much about SARA, although this is supposed to be mostly about SARA. That's probably because the day-to-day office work isn't particularly blog-worthy, also I'm not quite published yet and I can't tell you all of my secrets! But it is important for the reader to know that it took until July for me to get a clear research goal, and I took that and ran. Ran all the way to Florida.

Well, drove.

Just after I finally figured out what I was doing, SARA interns had a semi-reunion in Florida for the shuttle launch. I could type volumes about this. Long story short, we ended up in Melbourne around 8PM, in Cocoa around 1AM, and in Titusville (finally) around 2AM with a million other people. Seriously, one million. I still don't really know where the Space View Park is, because we parked our cars at the end of the line of chaos. We found a grassy nook to claim in the morning, and slept in stuffy, humid cars next to the highway. In the morning, we sat on the sweltering Causeway, infested with fire ants, and waited. We still weren't sure if the shuttle would go, but when the time came and we wandered down to the bank, Atlantis was only a minute delayed. Easily the most emotionally-saturated moment of my life. That sound. That sound. That, and all of the people there who care about things like this, as most people should. We were awed and happy and eaten alive, but it wasn't until after the fact that we realized that our future is now so much more in jeopardy than it had been. Hundreds of thousands of people just watched their jobs fly into space. Great stimulus plan. Great. (I'll stop now, since this is a rant for another conversation...)

So, then, back to the research. My own little cosmic scavenger hunt. My next adventure took me to Columbia and Charleston to see Nettie again, which was so good for many reasons, and shortly after that it was right back to Florida.

This time, all of the interns were at FIT for the last talks. We had fun, though, too. I mean, who doesn't love riding around swamps in airboats, searching for gators, and eating enough fried food to kill a person? After all of our talks were done, we beached it up for a while and then had a final grill-out and jam session. The previous evening, Dr. Webb and I accumulated a couple of fans at the Jameson Inn pool. It's such a great way to relax, finally, and I definitely ironically broke a string while singing New Strings by Miranda Lambert. It was a great ending.

Next day, a couple of us that didn't have immediate flights home went to Kennedy, where I definitely spent a fortune. It was worth it, though, by the end...even though it was mostly stressful and bitter because of the present situation. BUT I had my astronaut salt shaker signed by a real astronaut, who incidentally was definitely into me. (hah)

Then, I hopped back in the car...stay tuned.

Delicious.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

This Changes Things: Living for Revolution

With the aroma of coffee beans and the spirited ear-candy of a sun-kissed Atlanta drawl saturating the air, my mind struggles to re-connect with my fingertips at this chic little Starbucks. One of the most relate-able, charming, and down-to-Earth individuals that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting has just left, and I, energized to the point of experiencing an odd tremor or two, am left to process everything that she's left me.

The Place: Starbucks in Ansley Mall, ATL, GA
The Drink: Tall iced Chai for me, if you care to know
The Guest: Kaffie McCullough, current campaign director for 'A Future. Not a Past.' (AFNAP) and program manager of CSEC for the Juvenile Justice Fund (JJF)
The Quest: Eradicate domestic child sex trafficking in ATL, GA, USA

Let's start with this, and it's the truth: domestic child sex trafficking is a business; a damn good one, at that. In fact, there are more domestic children being trafficked in America than international children...by far. Four years ago, the main services provided by safe houses, such as Angela's House, were focused on survivors of DCST. However, major benefactors realized quickly that this simply wasn't enough; and furthermore, wasn't effective. If you want to destroy a business, you can't just take the supply off of the shelf; you need to eradicate the demand. In this case, the girls are the supply (the re-usable supply, unlike drugs or weapons) and just like that, we move beyond a moral cancer and shoot straight up to a multi-billion dollar industry. That is the unfortunate reality of DCST, and that is what instigated the movement "upstream", as Kaffie says, to where the victims were being "thrown in" by pimps and buyers.

In order to swim upstream, it is necessary to know the lay of the land. Who are these girls, these pimps, these buyers? If this is such a successful business, it's certainly accessible enough to anybody. With this in mind, researchers adopted a 'business methodology' to scrutinize this industry. By surveying the Atlanta streets and contacting escort services and major hotels, researchers were able to statistically analyze commercial sex transactions. For instance, if a girl 'looks young', based on a certain model, there is a 38% chance that she actually is as young as she looks, i.e. under-age. Over time, it was found that the number of under-age girls being sold off-line stayed pretty much consistent, but the online charts were rising through the roof. So, if nothing was done, Atlanta could rise to far more than 1500 under-age girls sold per month in the future, which is the current estimated number.

Focusing back on the girls for a moment: we'd like to think that they would be viewed as the victims of some sort of crime, right? Absolutely wrong. In Atlanta, there is no minimum age for prostitution, and legislation to change this has been shot-down by scarlet-red conservatives who claim that putting an age on prostitution would be that much closer to legalizing it (okay, fine...) but it still doesn't solve anything. Because of the ramifications of this law, many girls are actually being charged with prostitution instead of being rescued from it. But again, nothing like this would even be happening to these children if the demand were not so enormously high.

So, we can look at demand for a longer moment. Resulting from a study involving researchers who posed as escort service operators, it was estimated that 7200 men per month were knowingly or ignorantly having sex with a minor per month. Seventy-two hundred every month. Of these men, 10% actively requested an underage girl, and 47%, after receiving notification that "there's no way that this one is 18 years old", went through with the transaction anyway. I asked Kaffie if these men were travelers (since the international airport is such a buzzing international hub) or Atlanta-bred, and with a wince, she noted that 42% of these males were from the North Metro Atlanta area. Here's something that will throw a giant wrench in your demographic stereotype machine: the North Metro Atlanta area is predominantly white, predominantly suburban, predominantly affluent, and predominantly married. So, like Kaffie said: "This changes the conversation."

After hearing things like this, I have to admit that it makes sense to me. One hundred percent of my personal assault and the abuse suffered by members of my family has been at the hands of white males of our same economic status. However, it does give us something to think about. At first, the demographic for the prostituted girls could have perhaps fallen under a category such as "throw-away kid" or "unlovable". The majority of victims are run-aways, escaping from sexual abuse in the home 80% of the time. However, with internet soliciting on the rise, children are being lured away from steady, middle-class homes into the nitty-gritty of DCST. So, you can begin that empathy now, if you please; these kids could be coming from your neighborhood.

On top of the general false belief that DCST only happens in poverty, legislation is as insanely hard to change as pimps and buyers are to arrest. This goes beyond moral issues; it's political, cultural, and economical. Politically, police officers are judged by numbers. If they arrest one buyer for one victim, their numbers don't boost so much. However, if they ignore the buyers and focus on stinging the pimp, well...up shoots the status and credibility (which is a good thing, of course). However, at what cost? And speaking of cost, Kaffie was told by a reporter that escort services and DSCT bring in an estimated 750 million dollars to the city's economy. Who are we, passionate advocates of human rights, to deny the city of Atlanta $750,000,000 in these times of economic turmoil? One argument could be this: one of Kaffie's cohorts with financial expertise estimated that for every girl rescued from the mire, turned around, and given a job, her economic value would be between $800,000 and $1,000,000. If she stays in Atlanta and finds a niche for herself, starts a family, etc...she's more golden in many, many ways than she would have been if she had stayed down. These arguments aside, though, it's still a cultural problem. When you bring this issue home, where it lives with us invisibly, people get defensive. If you even touch a prostitution bill with the best of intentions, it is shut down by the people who you thought might be on your side of the issue.

People like Kaffie and I have to ask this: what is it about our culture that condones the idea of buying another human being for sex? Although there are several female pimps, there are almost no female buyers and so this extends further into a very literal gender issue (we're hitting every base, here, aren't we?) Something about the childhood and adolescence of the buyers must have shaped how they view human beings, little girls specifically. Since when was this behavior excusable? But we see it, time after time. Men with status get off, spot-free. Athletes, CEOs, religious leaders, you name it. Status is power here, but I believe that knowledge is also power. So, where do we go next?

For Kaffie, retirement (she said with a sparkling grin). In all seriousness, though, AFNAP has just launched a billboard campaign in greater Atlanta. Billboard companies have pledged to cut contracts with advertising adult services and, instead, advertise the fact that DCST exists and that having sex with a child could cost the buyer five to life. The first one went up yesterday...it's a major triumph. In addition, she, along with AFNAP, plans to spear-head new research geared towards boys. Boys on both sides of the grid. Boys who grow up to rape, boys who didn't get the chance to grow up before they were raped. The dynamics of survival-sex. It's a completely different issue and a heavily-veiled environment here, but something that needs to be addressed because, simply, it exists.

For me, Michigan. AFNAP also exists in Michigan and we have between 120 and 150 girls sold per month, so not only does AFNAP exist but so does the issue. I am searching for ways to get involved, have taken names, and am looking for more. I believe that SACI can get very much involved on campus and off, because the first step is awareness. I eat, sleep, and breathe this business and had no idea that such a large amount of girls were being sold in Michigan. No idea. So, let's do a little something about it. Let's live up to the name of 'Pure Michigan', because in so many ways, it certainly is not. There is work to be done, and it's past time to do it; and the further "upstream" we move, the more we, as activists targeting sexual violence, intersect and compliment each other.

It's been a bit of a tumultuous morning. The world is a wonderful place. A wonderful, terrible place...but I am a part of it and will be for (what I assume to be) quite some time to come. So, for the rest of my time in Michigan, I think it would be prudent to spend less time waiting to graduate and peace out (forever) for graduate school and the rest of my life and spend more time making it a sensible place to live. These are our kids. They are worth it.

So, with a hug and a "see ya later", Kaffie left and here I am. It's a big under-taking, but one that needs to be done with careful hands and meticulous understanding. I fully intend to do my best to do my part. Who's with me?

Delicious.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Whole Truth

Ohh, Lordy, Lordy, Lord how I fail at this I'm-going-to-update-every-day-of-my-epic-summer thing. Sorry. I should have been updating far more often, as now I'm afraid that some of the passion and excitement has Hawking-radiated away. I'll try to quantum-tunnel it back in. (Ok, I'm done with the physics references now. Wait...who am I kidding? No I'm not.)

Side note: I just realized that it's easier to type with Symone off of my lap. (Symone, my guitar, for those who haven't met her and her cherry-red beauty.) My goodness gracious, it's been since the 3rd, hasn't it? I suppose the most logical thing would be to divide this post into cities. Ready, go.

Columbia, SC: Finally met Nettie face-to-face (YAY!) and we wandered around the South Carolina State Museum for a lovely afternoon. Found an old photo of Alan in the Antebellum South (no big deal) and, of course, got another 'I love you, Becca' from God when I randomly met two strangers in the Astronomy exhibit who, passionate with awe for the cosmos and science, befriended me and told me that they would be looking in the future Scientific journals for the "Robinson Effect" and actually said that they'd pray for my research. Just hold on to that for a second: pray for my research. To be honest, I don't think that they realize how much I appreciate and need that. Especially after today when the responsibility of two publications is growing heavier on my shoulders and my research seems elusive, meaningless and derivative, at this point. Something tells me that it'll turn around, and if not? I'll learn a hell of a lot more about solar flares than I knew before, anyway.

Up North, MI: The Jones wedding. About forty degrees colder than South Carolina, and I foolishly didn't think about that at all. All of a sudden, various members of my family became 'concerned' at the same time, and Grandma actually bought me a flight up so that I didn't have to drive 24 hours in one weekend (oh, joy!) Family has served me quite well. Of course, there was that whole Casey and Laura gig, and the Ashleigh gig, and we impromptu-rehearsed and sang our sets for the reception with the same whimsy as per usual. (Shout-out to Ashleigh: my American Honey!) But I can't describe how lovely the wedding was despite the cold and wet (my shoes actually molded) and how "Courtney" it felt, which means that it felt like comfort and camaraderie. Like music and various luncheon salads. Like I hadn't hugged a human being in over two weeks, and so I got my fill on long-overdue dock pictures and snuggly cousins and chick-flicks and the obligatory M&Ms and Twizzlers bowls from Aunt Sue (LOVE those!) because it's been years since we've all been in the same place and who knows when the next time will be? (PS Courtney: I totally knew that your birthday was in March. I suck. I'm distracted. Please love me still.) Then, Kellie and I flew back to the D where she headed to Cinci and I headed to the ATL.

Atlanta, GA (briefly, repeatedly): I flew into the ATL with a sunken heart, angry to sit at my gate, reluctant to set foot on an escalator, refusing to ride in the shuttle. I felt as if the entire airport were covered in a sticky slime, and I (shamefully) felt myself begin to judge every adult male and simultaneously attempt to look after every child under ten. Know why? Because Atlanta Airport (and Atlanta in general) is the world-hub for human trafficking and child prostitution. Yep, you read that correctly. The world-hub. So, like a paranoid cynic, the phrase 'Please don't get pimped today!' ran through my head every time I saw a little girl wander away from her mommy. But, my anger is probably rooted someplace else and will soon be replaced with empowerment, because on July 2nd, I have an appointment in Atlanta with a woman who is spear-heading one of the biggest anti-sex trafficking and anti-child prostitution campaigns in Atlanta called "A Future. Not A Past." This is actually right up-there in excitement with Tucson (which I'll discuss in a minute) and I simply cannot wait to discuss this issue with her, see what is being done, and find out what skills and tactics I can bring back to Lansing at the end of the summer. I'm star-struck for this woman and her movement. Stay tuned for a blog post right after that one, dripping with passion and fire, of course.

Tucson, AZ: Returned to SC only to turn back around, back to the ATL, out west over the wildfire. We had a four-night observing run at the SARA telescope on Kitt Peak National Observatory, which is only something that I've dreamed about since I was basically twelve. (Once again, no big deal.) To say that I had an amazing time would be a grotesque understatement, but due to the increasing length of this post, I'll try to be brief. I had never been to the desert before. I LOVED IT. I could hang in the Sonora, for sure, for sure. We took the days off of the mountain and wandered around the Sonora Desert Museum (the desert, basically, complete with sun-screen dispensers and water fountains!) and the University of Arizona, which has been added to my reach-graduate-school list (as they are incredibly competitive). By both day and night, we scoured the mountain top and toured many of the different telescopes, amazed by the landscape and the geckos and the science that goes on in that place. Everybody up there knows their astronomy (of course) but you have to understand how rare that seems sometimes. We spent our nights snapping photos of the new supernova in the Whirlpool Galaxy M51 for a joint publication, and after that, snapped photos of our favorite Messier objects and dark gas clouds. Standard. OH, and I hugged a cactus! Hugged! A cactus! I was the proverbial child in a sweet shop. But, of course, what goes up must come down and I am a woman who can't stay in the same place for too long anyway, so it was back to Clemson for us.

Clemson, SC: Today. Back to work, back to wondering how to squeeze information out of solar-flare spectra. Back to being terrified of computer coding, but figuring it out (with any luck). Back to the humidity. Tomorrow I hope to get more of a firm grasp on whatever scientific question I need to be attempting to answer. Inevitably, the doubts creep in and I lose focus, wondering if I really have got what it takes to do research without cookie-cutters and project outlines. Of course I do. I'm Becca Robinson.




Delicious.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Day...Whatever.

Obviously, I've run into one of those situations where intentions get swamped by routine. I had intended to provide my many, many readers (hah) with vivid descriptions of my everyday life in South Carolina, but as it seems, that might get a little...repetitive.

My typical day, as it were, would be getting up, work, lunch and The Office/Big Bang Theory, more work, work out, elaborate dinner, more The Office/Big Bang Theory, sleep, lather, rinse, repeat. To be specific, yes, I did say work out. They have a lovely gym here, since I refuse to run up and down hills in 95-degree humidity. Today the work out mileage broke 9.5, and I'm pretty happy with it. My knees hate me, though.

As for elaborate dinner, well, I've fallen in love with my kitchen and all that it contains. I love food shopping at Wal Mart. I love planning out all of the different things that I can make. Tonight, for example, it was ranch and parmesan-encrusted breaded chicken. I definitely rock at this whole food thing, and I can't wait to live with two other gals that share the same love language. Roomie breakfasts, here I come. (Domesticity, anyone?!? This is why I should never stray to far from Tina Fey's autobiography. It is, after all, every feminist's guide to anxiety and awesomeness, a.k.a my existence.)

I've been playing with my Mac desktop (don't tell my dad!) and it makes my PC look like a redneck. I believe that the Mac vs. PC commercials should include an actual redneck playing the role of the PC. A nice one, though, an efficient, hard-working redneck (that needs to re-charge his batteries every 20 minutes.) Anyway, I must do fancy little programming things, which haven't been too difficult. What's that, you ask? Why, then, did I text you at 9AM complaining about how 'this bug has had me stuck for the past 18 hours' and asking you for a virtual margarita? Well. Turns out, that 'bug' is unsolvable and impossible. It's not just my ignorance or confusion or general paranoia directed at bash terminals. All is well. I've been sifting through Fermi spacecraft data for last month, and there may or may not have been a quasar detected, so...that's pretty cool. Let's stick with the 'pretty cool' part of this research, because it very much is.

So, that's life for now. Still sinking in to life here, hanging out with the guys when we can, trying to network somehow. I'll probably get to a church sometime over the next couple of weeks, so there's community, right?

I haven't hugged anybody (except my teddy bear) in 9 days. That's a new record.

Still...

Delicious.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Days Three-Seven: Camp and Cockroaches

Explanation for the four-day spread: lack of internet leads to lack of blog entries leads to lack of motivation to re-update when internet is finally found, and it's actually really, very comical watching a group of 15-odd physicists stuck in the woods, internet-less. Some people actually begin to lose their minds.

Anyway, the other REU interns from all over the map came together to Clemson's outdoor lab for the weekend, and we got to know and like each other very much so that we could essentially part ways for the rest of the summer. Thanks a billion, for that. Seriously, though, we ended up learning and doing a lot together. Each of the professors gave a talk on his specific field of research, and gave a snippet of what exactly each student might choose as his or her research project so that we each have something of interest to write about for JSARA.

In between the talks and cookouts, we did quite intrepid things like going on a canoe trip. I think that my canoe was clearly the most adventurous one, as Ninos, Tom and I only wanted to explore the bays and inlets in front of everybody else. Hence, we were out there way longer than everybody else; but the explorer's spirit paid off in a way that neither Ninos nor I really expected. Upon taking a swim to a distant bay when we returned, I stumbled upon a wooden crate on the deserted shore. (Honestly, I didn't see it at first because we were watching all of the fire ants do their thing. Physicists also enjoy insects.) Anyway, there was a rubber snake draped over the tree, and I was almost positive that I was going to find a severed head or some kind of dead animal when I opened the lid. Upon opening the crate, I jumped back in surprise, so those watching me from the far-off dock probably assumed that I had found a severed head. In reality, there was definitely a wasp's nest in there...but the angry wasps flew off and I stole their treasure. Mardi-gras beads and plastic reptiles. Ninos and I collected enough beads for all of the students, and swam back triumphantly. Honest-to-God buried treasure on an otherwise remote shore. Oh. Yes.

We tried, momentarily, to figure out what the crate was for. One of us suggested that it might be a geo-cache, but again, we were internet-less and couldn't look it up. (Update: just looked up geo-caching in Clemson. A few good candidates, but all in the wrong location. Also, there was no logbook in the crate. Sigh.)

That night, we all celebrated with a grill and a few guitars. Sausages and a jam session with Dr. Wood and Dr. Webb? I think so. We had a marvelous time, and I learned a couple of new chords (since I only know about three and a half.) And grilled corn? A revelation.

Anyhow, the four of us Clemson kids returned back on Sunday morning, and I absolutely kept in bed basically all day and watched season four of The Office. It's nice to be lazy every so often.

Today, though, I finally got my gym membership and worked out (hooray!) and stuffed my brain full of more gamma-ray-burst knowledge than it had ever consumed before. Made dinner for the guys, and won a game of HORSE later. Successfully captured my first non-Madagascar-hissing cockroach, released it outside, and realized that, oh, this is South Carolina and they are climbing underneath the crack in my door. So gross. I do not try to kill them because 1. That is a mess. 2. I maintain that they represent a species that cannot be killed; perhaps even by a gamma ray burst. So, I sealed my door (I hope) and am not going to think about it while I try to sleep.

For now, ice cream and Big Bang Theory.

Delicious.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Day Two: Lexington to Clemson

I should probably begin with a disclaimer that further solidifies the last post's claim regarding Lady Antebellum: I AM ADDICTED. (And seriously, don't tell my brother.) There is something about hitting Kentucky (I love that state) and dripping down into Tennessee and the Carolinas that actually brings out my country lovin' soul (which I was completely unaware that I possessed.)

So, I may or may not have belted out American Honey pretty much from Berea to Seneca (you pick the two states that make the most sense) and have fallen back in love with the Smokies, and also have found a new infatuation with mountain tunnels and the fact that given one slight miscalculation, they could crush me. I like that. Not being crushed, of course, but the notion that I could be. I like these winding highways and misty roads...and being mountain-hugged. I enjoy not being sure exactly which state I am in but having a map inside of my head. I like adventure. And being alone for a bit. And going somewhere. And using common sense.

Anyhow, I eventually found my way to Clemson (even though the very last road that I was meant to turn on absolutely does not exist) and found that my roommate-less, spacious-yet-basement-esque apartment is way more air-conditioned than I had thought, which makes sense, because I would otherwise die. It's rough out there...and it's May. Really, South Carolina? I'm from Michigan. Take it easy.

The apartment is big but it's pretty dirty, which to me just makes it Becca-friendly. I don't have to feel bad that I already put a huge gash in the paint carrying the top bunk out to the living room as a makeshift couch, or that my blinds have already snapped in half. No big deal. It's air-conditioned. It's got a kitchen. I'm in heaven.

I drove around the area in search of a food store, and it's like being in a foreign country (I miss Meijer!) But I eventually found a place and went absolutely nuts. First of all, I was a little faint from heat/lack of food/confusion/where am I again? So I'm pretty sure that I stumbled around the store for a good few minutes attempting to acclimate, and during this time I'm sure I resembled a paranoid, mentally-disturbed American apple pie, all dressed up in my 4th of July outfit. Once I gathered my wits, though, I did WORK, and by WORK I mean carefully selecting my new kitchen appliances and food to be cooked upon them. I didn't feel like doing that whole Lunchables thing again. Yes, I did get a couple of frozen pizzas, but I've got some ideas. Stir fry being one of them. Spinach feta omelet bruschetta with thyme being another. Ranch encrusted chicken another still. I can still think when I'm heat-stroking and fatigued, see?

Also: I need somebody to explain Collared Greens to me. What are they? What do they want from me? And who eats Okra?

Since my fluorescent lights flicker (and who wants fluorescent lighting anyway?) I bought a couple of small lamps until I can find a Medusa lamp, meaning until I can find the Walmart that is supposed to be nearby. It's nice in here. I still need to decorate, but all in good time.

I've met two of the guys in the SARA program with me, as well as my professor, so all things seem well so far. Honestly, though, I can't condemn this summer to comparison with last summer. There's just no way. So, slate completely blank, I'm about to go off camping with the other interns for the weekend. Somehow I'm quite aware that I will thrive here. Somehow.

And again...why do I live in Michigan? Couldn't tell ya. I'm missing all of this.


Delicious.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Day One: Lansing to Lexington

Since I’ve been busy (the usual amount, turns out) and have been spending all of my creative writing juices on writing my autobiography (which sounds more and more ridiculous the more I think about it, so I just won’t think about it), this blog has suffered a bit of a dry spell (and a moody spell, my goodness.) So, here I am, the Lansing to Lexington leg complete.

I did get the privilege to spend a quality six hours with myself, and I'll do the same tomorrow. I found out that I can get halfway through Ohio on half of a tank of gas (win) and could probably sputter on into Lexington on one very full tank if I wanted to be a super risky renegade. And my guess so far for the cheapest gas in America is some sixty miles north of Dayton at a minuscule $3.47-ish. It's disgusting that this fact causes me to yell at the other drivers and warn them to never go to Michigan. "Hey. HEY! DON'T GO TO MICHI---" whooosh as they pass me...and I do a little happy dance of insanity for my clever cheap-gas discovery.

I also discovered that I favor highway I-71 over highway I-75. Lovely Wife was right. There is nothing in Dayton. And I'd rather drive through Cinci than around it, wishing I were driving through it. And then being sandwiched between two semi trucks on the bridge to Kentucky (I love this state). Unfavorable. We will be fixing this route. Columbus, here I come, sweet beloved.

While driving through Kentucky (I love this state), I definitely got into one of those country-music moods that I absolutely never, ever, ever get into and just had to listen to Lady Antebellum. Problem is, I have exactly one Lady Antebellum song, which I listened to on repeat from at least Georgetown to Winchester. So, please excuse me while I download more Lady Antebellum for tomorrow's trip deeper south. (Also: please don't tell my brother.)

Alright, I'm back. I think I'm just succumbing to the inevitable: I will develop an annoying southern accent (which will sound ridiculous to actual southerners, and fascinating to people with nasally Michigan accents) so I might as well develop an irrational emotional attachment to Lady Antebellum songs.

Anyway, I'm side-tracking. I'm in Kentucky (I love this state) at Melissa's home, which she always so graciously offers to me and makes smell so good and decorates so nicely. After dinner and frozen yogurt, we actually took a walk through the actual heaven. Seriously, there were actual crosses and the whole nine yards. Really, it's only a grassy walking trail surrounding a lovely field of wildflowers, and oh, it only lines up in front of the loveliest Kentucky (I love this state) sunset ever. (And as for the crosses? The field is the future site of a church, so...that's why, I suppose.) I could hang here. I'm not sure if I mentioned this, but I love this state. However 'good' a person must be to live here, I'll be that good, and more.

Melissa and I then had the chance to chat about London airports, Dublin stalkers, being a city girl or a wide-open-spaces girl, the menfolk, the demonfolk, the regularfolk, being stubborn, being hit in the head with bricks, the usual. We are almost the same person. Thank you Jesus and internet, for instigating this friendship. I should also put a mandatory shout-out to the National Science Foundation here, but wait, no; that will go on my next publication. Silly me.

More camaraderie tomorrow then back on the road. I drove past so many blown tires today. (What do they pave these roads with? Needles and catfish bones?) Please, God, no blown tires while I have my entire life in the trunk of the car. Please. Also: please don't let my car get somehow stuck under a semi truck, which is what caused that huge backup in Florence, Kentucky (I love this state). Well, at least the traffic jam lent the opportunity to capture this lil' southern gem:


Oh yes, please and thank you.

Delicious.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Crazy Eyes

I've clearly been on sabbatical from this blog, so I suppose my excuse could be this: I've taken a break from this blog to write my archaeology blog for my archaeology project, which I aced, just sayin'. (This is notable, because percentages that exceed either 80 or double-digits, even, are becoming more rare than pregnant pole-vaulters...)

Another excuse could be a complete lack of bloggable events in my life, but that is absolutely false.

So. Where to begin?

I have a friend who has very large eyes. They're lovely, and they're huge. Wide open, all the time. Perpetual surprise. The first time I saw her, I thought to myself: "Woah, this chick has crazy-eyes!" (in the most reverent and respectful way that such a statement could possibly be thought, of course.)

But as I learned more about her, what she does for a living, the nitty-gritty and honest-to-God gut-wrenching aspects of her life's work, crazy-eyes made more sense. Not because she has a crazy personality or a crazy disposition or a crazy mental state, on the contrary; she's a level-headed wave of calm in a roaring tempest of chaos, in fact. But crazy-eyes because...she needs them. She needs a wide-eyed awareness of everything going on around her. She can't miss any details; she refuses. She is careful while she gently splits the hairs of justice as we don't know it. She tirelessly peers into the darkness in front of her, with guarded alertness, with preparedness, with experience and wisdom. That is why she needs crazy eyes.

I only thought of this because I just downed two cups of coffee in a half hour. To most of you, this isn't any large feat...but I've severely weaned my addiction to coffee after the Great Coffee Hangover of '09, which lead to the Great Failed Calculus III Exam of '09. Also because I just realized that coffee, while handing me an extra hour or two without needing sleep (I suppose), also lends me anxiety symptoms, which are not welcome this week.

So, as caffeine-related anxiety kicks in (and I'd rather have that kind, as opposed to the others) I felt my own crazy gaze widen, and physics-related angst sunk in. I have Thermal Physics and Computer science scheduled for this very moment in time, but I'm writing a blog instead, because everything inside of me wants to scream I don't care anymore!!! (This is when my physics gal pals and I decide that it's never too late to be a trophy wife.) But seriously, the thing that I should be screaming is closer to this: I don't care about anything except thermal physics and computer science and quantum physics and archaeology. (Ok, archaeology maybe not so much. I'm not too concerned there.) But it's true. I am a physicist. I AM. I have to get past this mental funk. I am capable of this. It's time for stringent focus. I can't afford to be a failure, not this late in the game. I'm sick of feeling like a failure. I'm just not going to be one anymore. Simple enough.

So God, please let me survive. And survive well.

Delicious.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Animosity Killed the Brat

Heavens to Betsy. Where to begin? Is it April? What was I talking about last time?

Oh, yes. Suicide. How very, very appropriate. Not entirely sure how to follow that.

Perhaps with this: all of life begins (or ends) with a choice. Sometimes it's a little difficult to see this, but I randomly (well, divinely) met a wonderful woman in the Lansing airport a few months ago and she constantly reminds people of the difference between just existing and choosing to exist a certain way. She chooses to live her life with gratitude and high expectations of a God that she truly believes to be great. So do I.

As a small-scale similarity, today I decided to wake up, get some things done, and look hot. Like, H-O-T hot. Because I wanted volume on a cloudy day. I wanted the black-and-white grit and grind of my own personal strut. I had to get out of the sweat pants for a hot second. After a week like this one, when everything was planned by the hour and then, like a distracted and saturated sponge, I had every liquid detail squeezed out of me over three separate and unequal exams...the pleather just had to come out.

On a slightly less silly note, life has been revolving around my choices, lately. Not because I've been ignoring whatever God might have to say about my life (ohhh, boy. Quite the contrary.) but because it's been Rejection Month or Crisis Month or Conniption Month or, I suppose, the Becca-Freaks-Out-Because-She-Thinks-Her-Plans-Are-Falling-Through-And-Impulsively-Makes-Ten-Billion-Separate-Plans-That-Somehow-Connect-In-Her-Wildly-Spinning-Mind-And-Accidentally-Realizes-That-She-Really-Didn't-Have-To-Think-That-Hard Month.

What a mouthful. Or--month-ful.

Because in the midst of fasting for 34 hours and taking a barefoot run on Paddy's day with a wonderful, wonderful friend and just dumping out the fact that I was scared of this or that happening, that I thought I had this or that planned, that I hate to be toyed with, that I have no desire to go back to Ireland this summer, that I can't live there yet, that I can't realize that my heart is there when I need it here, that I want another research astrophysics job, yada yada yada...I discovered...wait. What DID I discover?

I think it was something like this:
I discovered wisdom.
I discovered the purity of a Christ-centered conversation.
I discovered the clarity of a logic-centered conversation.
I discovered a new way to feel alive.
I discovered that my impulses are not ALL intelligent things to jump on.
I discovered that I need to shut up. Shut up, don't plan, don't connect irrelevant ties...just listen.

Because when the time comes, I'll be hit in the face with a two-by-four of obvious. As per usual.

Oh, like the time a couple of days later when I landed a research astrophysics job.
Like the time I found some phenomenal new friends to share my life with.
Like the time I stopped worrying so much.
Like time time I stopped fasting out of desperation, and remembered fasting out of, well, pure faith, I guess.
Like the time I realized that I am always where I need to be. (Thanks, The Kooks.)

Seriously. I am. And I'm not a complete failure. I fall constantly, but I choose to live life as a conquerer and blood-bought saint. Because I am.

Side note: I guess I'm also a good enough teacher to get this little gem from my students:



Yeah. I don't deserve them. My students are the reason that I love my job.

On that note, and many others, I declare war against animosity. Against mediocrity. Against failure. Against selfishness. Against me, for me.

Delicious.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Two Suicides = Too Much.

Video blog. Too large of a file size to post here, but y'all can catch it on YouTube if you want:


Basic gist: Becca is tired of senseless death and child suicide. So let's work on saving each other. Ok?

Delicious.

Monday, February 14, 2011

V-Day

Introductory exclamation: IT IS SO WARM. I mean, minus the wind that feels like it belongs off the coast of the Atlantic rather than blowing me off of my feet in front of the Cyclotron lab. Most of the snow is gone, which gives the world a little color again, and I love that.

Speaking of things that I love, it's Valentine's day again. So...yay? Miranda and I pretended to be Valentines so that we could get free ice cream from the Dairy Store today, thereby heightening the day's status to ULTRA Grilled Cheese Monday. Worth it.

I just realized about five minutes ago that the reason behind my feeling so awful today (yeah okay, sure) is the fact that my blinds were closed from last week, when I felt equally as awful. Open blinds, problem solved. Right?

Okay, I'm trying reeeeeeally hard to not make this a pessimistic post, but rather a sarcastically witty one. But alas, I used up all of my Valentine's spirit on the ridiculous video that my sisters and I made this weekend, which I can't post here because its file size is 115MB instead of 100MB. I love you too, Blogger Video Criteria.

I desperately need more free chocolate.

I more desperately need to study for my programming exam. Which is tomorrow. So tonight after work, my programming class will be my Valentine. Wait...no. It won't. It will, however, be my bad relationship. One more for the mound.

Ahhh...pessimism...creeping...in! I give up on trying to make this post readable, or cute. It's not my fault. You k now how you unexplainably loathe the things that you can't explain (making this an infinite loop of unexplainable unexplainables...aha! I WILL pass my programming exam!)? I've decided to go down the jealous, angsty, worthless path of eye-rolling lusty behavior, today. Because I haven't a CLUE what love is. This day isn't about love. It's about...what is it about?

Oh, yeah. It's a normal Monday. I go to class and eat grilled cheese and go to work and stay up too late doing the things that I should've done during the random, obnoxious, inconvenient hour breaks between places to be.

A normal, busier-than-healthy week.

That's it.

Delicious.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Window

It's February, and I've absolutely forgotten to write all about January. No matter. The reader should know, however, that following the events of the last post, I experienced one (or more) of the most unexplainable, deeply significant things that any woman could know. For me, anyway. Every hardship justified, right there. God screaming, lavishing love through random strangers, right there...followed by kindness after kindness, and the softest pillows at the end of the day. It was phenomenal, to say the very least.

But that was only a bit of January, and now it's been a bit of February. And I remain happy, especially after nights such as this one, for the most part. As a small exception, though, and if I were to be almost completely honest (and I feel that I can, with such a small following here) I am...miserable.

No jumping to conclusions allowed.

Misery is relative, especially for me, it seems. It's relative, and it's also frequent. To make things spicier, I don't have much of a reason at all to feel any misery. Not much, anyway. It could be the combination of many small things, as well as many big things beyond my control and not directly related to my life, as well as the fact that everything that does directly relate to my life is, and will remain, a stressor. And stress makes complicated things occur.

For the past week or two, though, I've felt like such a variety of things; misery being one. Desperation being another one of great magnitude, paired with the notion that I very well may be the lowest form of irresponsible human life, ever. My inability to unravel the mysteries of every-day, basic necessities is staggering; but I continue to be met with mercy. That, though, can make things worse, because I do not deserve mercy. Nevertheless, I get it. Loads of it.

I have to realize, though, that feeling like this is normal. Rather, I have to rationalize that feeling like this is normal, because I can't imagine that absolutely everybody is as afraid of going off the deep end as I am. Especially since that possibility has become more of a probable statistic, and it seems to be only a matter of time before...well. Sanity is fleeting. The more I try and hold on to it, the more it will elude me. Remember that one, Becca.

On the contrary, the beauty of my life is equally sufficient. I feel as if both joy and despair are woven through my DNA, and I have yet to understand under which circumstances either of those things act as alleles that are dominantly expressed in my phenotype, if you will. (What a terribly biological analysis; it's clear that I'm a bit off. Here, let me try again using a jargon that more closely resembles my actual field.) Simply put: a system under tension behaves differently than a system at rest. Take that as you will, and I'll take it in my way as well.

There are plenty of things to cry about, and there are plenty of things to laugh about. The time that I spend sobbing into steel pillows and wringing my hands over whether or not anxiety has engulfed me again is the time that I am wasting. Things will soon seem brighter. And if not soon, well...spring is coming, anyway.

Delicious.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Grounded

Coming to you live from Lansing, with a total case of airport blues. 'Tis a sad, sad day when a 9AM flight turns into an 11:40 AM flight which turns into a cancelled flight, which turns into a 3:30PM flight, which turns into a 6PM flight, which evidently turns back into a 3:30PM flight, which turns into a frazzled twenty year old woman in the Lansing airport pub, sitting fifteen feet yet remaining nine months away from legally tackling that enticing bottle of Smirnoff. Give me Chicago or give me vodka!

But I digress. Whatever lessons remain to be learned from this day, consider them learned. Whether the lesson is to never fly out of Lansing in January, because when your flight gets canceled, you will be left with zero options; or maybe it's the lesson that I have absolutely no control, or that I am incredibly too spiritually selfish...I don't know. In my fit of over-analysis I decided that today is an opportunity for a forced-surrender. The opportunity to say "Whatever, God, you probably didn't want me on that flight anyway...but please? Because I'm going someplace good. Doing something that I love. So...what's the deal?"

I've been reading in Job, after my failed and angry attempt at reading 1 Timothy. Why? Because Job is a figure in history that had it all...for a hot second. He was a guy that God literally allowed to be attacked in every way, shape, and form. I'm not finished with the whole book yet, but the long and short of the story goes something like this craziness: Satan got bored one day, and God showed Job to him. He showed Job off because of Job's solid faith, his intervention into the lives of his children, his wealth, his renown, his well-earned gain. But then, God does something that I, in my humanistic and minuscule wisdom, find very strange and a little (ok, a lot) frightening. God actually tells Satan to have at him, to take everything away from him, to send thieves and robbers to his livestock and assets, to cause an earthquake to flatten his children under the pathetic remains of his home, to make his life a miserable, rotten hell...but spare his life. Now, under ordinary circumstances, sparing somebody's life seems like a merciful thing, but in this case? Just the opposite. Job responds to this with complete hysteria. He curses the day that he left the womb and laments the fact that he had not been taken straight to the grave as an infant. He begs to plead his case with God, because he sees himself as good and righteous. However, his friends don't think so. They tell him that he is inferior to how he views himself, and that God is stronger and more powerful than anything that Job could comprehend, and that this plague was not from the hands of God himself, but from the other direction. Job, frustrated, disagrees and gets defensive, saying that he knows of God just as well as his friends do, that he is good and blameless, and basically scorns his friends for being lousy at comforting.

Rough, huh?

So in the past few weeks during which I've felt a little (ok, a lot) like Job, but to a much lesser extent, I can't help but read the story and find my exact thoughts written down; thoughts that have been written down for thousands of years and still enter my head in 2011. See, Job's friends are telling him exactly what he should probably do, but in Job's anguish he can't see the benefit. In my life, I've been told over and over who I may become and what I am to do about it, but it seems like an impossible feat. But really? These are pretty simple things to do. Internal attacks are a strange thing. Basically what happens is this: you start to question your own thoughts, you start to question thoughts that are not your own. You question reality. You doubt your maturity, and forget about discernment...that was never there in the first place. Things startle and scare you. You're pretty sure you've gone crazy, but you know that you're fine, really. And you want to be left alone...either left alone or comforted, but not talked at. Not talked at or lectured or judged...but like Job, even comfort feels like a judgmental lecture. Walls go up, isolation looks delicious, and you get hunted. Then dragged away, useless.

So, what do I do? I'm not sure. Step one: trust that I'll get out of this terminal in one way or another, safely. Step two: trust that I'll get out of this turmoil in one way or another, safely. Step three: see what happened to Job...and see what happens to me.

I love you people.

Delicious.