new year in new places

Happy new year! Over the years I have finally come to the realization that New Year’s Eve is not really that great and am no longer spending any money on a shiny new outfit for it. It seems to be the case (for myself, at least) that the less money I spend on the night and the less time I spend thinking about where you will be when the ball drops, the more enjoyable the experience. This year, I happened to celebrate ringing in 2014 six hours earlier than everyone back in New York in Rehovot, Israel drinking Goldstar and wearing jeans and my motorobike t-shirt. To say that I wouldn’t have it any other way would be stretching it, as I was celebrating with none of lover and loves from home, but it certainly was a good time celebrating with new people in new places.

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new year’s day in a grapefruit orchard in rehovot, israel

I will post soon about Rehovot but I must dedicate this post to new year’s resolutions. Being that it is 5 days after the new year and I am in extreme procrastination mode writing my grant, I can’t say that I am off to a splendid start, but what’s that saying? Better late than never? As reflect a little bit on how I have changed over the last year, I can say that in January 2013 I was wallowing mess of singleness, living under the delusion that I could manage my time well, and continuously scheming of clever ways to get off Long Island and see exotic places again–happy, nonetheless. Well, I still am absolutely horrid at managing my time but I seem to have pulled it together a bit and found a lover that won’t drive me crazy and went on an incredible journey with my friend Rocio throughout Utah and Arizona. I also managed to weasel my way into a trip to Costa Rica with my adviser to collect bats in which I have completely refocused my life work to study their sense of smell. And it is awesome.

Anyways, my resolutions. In 2014, I will:

(1) Never go three days without running and always run on a Monday. I am hoping this prevents and lulls and excuses.  And while I’m at it: Log my runs. A habit I had always thought about doing, but never actually committed to doing it.

(2) Sit up straight. My posture is horrendous and will often catch myself in photos slouched over and standing awkwardly in my single-footed pigeon-toed position and as I turn 25, it is about time this goes. I would like to say something like do yoga three times a week to do this, but I can’t say I actually will commit to this. However, I will say that I will do posture promoting yoga in order to accomplish this.

(3) Learn to do one pull-up. For the love of God, it is just one pull-up.

(4) Publish three papers. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there and I have none to show for myself for 2013. Sigh.  It’s a new year!

(5) Blog mindfully. The once-every-three month thing is pretty lame, I know. Although I would like to do it more often, what I think I actually am referring to is my tone.  Without trying to state my opinion one way or the other about this, the viral post “23 Things to Do Instead of Getting Engaged at 23” had many, many people offset by the content. I myself found the post somewhat entertaining and I do have enormous amounts of respect for women who go out on their own, especially in regards to travel. However, I did find parts of the post rather obnoxious at times with the whole “I am a woman and travel by myself to exotic places and look good doing it” attitude. Yet, I couldn’t help but think that I can sometimes sounds like that and I don’t think I want to anymore. I just read my insanely respectable cousin’s blog who is volunteering in San Diego living on $100 a month and I felt so much more inspired and refreshed.

(6) In relation to the previous point: volunteer one time this year. I know, one time. That is so pathetic. And yet last year I did not give my time to anyone else unless I got something back in return. As I trudge along in my PhD, I feel extremely self-fulfilled by my research. I find the olfactory system of bats to be the most interesting thing in the entire world at the moment and do not feel the need to justify what I do on any other level. Still, the world sucks. And as much as I can try to convince people that bats and the sense of smell are important to the betterment of the world, I think can still find some time to directly help somebody else.

(7) Read one book a month. With limited space, limited funds, and limited desire to ever move all of my books into a new apartment again, I hereby am declaring the rule that I can no longer buy another book. I either have to read one I already have or finally get my freaking library card and check it out.

(8) Wake up before 7:45AM every day of the week. I used to be up with the sun last spring and would run everyday. What happened to that girl? Time to find her again.

(9) Drink more water. I virtually drink none until I find myself parched beyond belief until I knock everything out of my way to search for the nearest glass to fill and chug and then repeat the filling and chugging three times. Life doesn’t need to be that painful.

Enough for now. We’ll see how I manage with that on my plate. Cheers to all the new people and new places and new ideas and new adventures in 2014!

what i have learnt from the desert

Photo by: Rocio Ng

I left with my friend on a long roadtrip through southern Utah and Arizona. You know, one of those go-have -a-life-transforming-experience-in-the-desert trips that are much needed after too many #thisiswhyimsingle moments. So here I am, sitting somewhere on the border of Utah and Arizona at a campgrounds that goes by the name of “Crazy Horse”. Rocio just finished making me eggs on our little stove and I haven’t showered in days. While there are many adventures to share, one hike in particular seems worth indulging upon.

I bought this hiking book written by David Day called Utah’s Incredible Backcountry. After selecting a hike to the Golden Cathedral (located in Escalante National Park), I am not quite sure we knew what we were getting ourselves into; however (as most Laurelbury Tales go), we somehow made our way out of it. I have never been so in the middle of nowhere in all of my life. And being more acquainted to living and hiking in the jungles and forest, the desert was an entirely new frontier.

We actually never made it to the Golden Cathedral–let’s just mostly blame it on the 110 degree heat and the fact that we didn’t even get started until noon because I am a newb and didn’t know to rent a vehicle with 4wD to drive down the back roads to get to the trailhead. Therefore, it took us 2 hour to drive 26 miles in our poor little Nissan Versa that we named John Wayne. There was basically no turning back at that point so off we went. Six sweaty hours later, the hike goes down in my “Top 5” list of life-transforming experiences. You know, like the Grinch had; I think my heart grew not one, not two, but three sizes that day. Something about throwing myself into a barren wasteland allowed me to learn a little about life and a lot about myself that day:

[1] Deserts are a good place to tell who your true friends are. Hiking in the desert alone would be a seriously idiotic aggressive move. Aside from the fact that you are hours and hours from help and you would likely shrivel, die, and be eaten by vultures if something were to happen, hiking through extreme terrain is good way to test whether or not you chose the right person to undertake this endeavor. Are they deathly terrified of blood or are they willing to cut off shredded skin and clean wounds when you slice your finger on a rock? Are they willing to provide soothing words in times of distress when your partner is overheating or are they more interested in taking photos of lizards? Are they going to break out into tears when the trailmarkers are nowhere in sight or are they going to break out into a desert dance and keep spirits high? (In case you were wondering, I happen to be the latter to all of the aforementioned questions).

[2] Deserts are a good place to test whether you are really in as great of shape as you think you are. In regards to number 1, you may or may not have to carry not only your pack up a huge cliff, but also your partner’s. Up a huge rocky cliff. In 114 degree heat. In the baking sun.

[3] Deserts are a good place to see if 9 years of Girl Scouts counted for anything. It did.

[4] Deserts are a good place to learn to learn what “scaling a cliff” means. There was one moment on the hike in which we reached the “you have got to be freaking kidding me” point. It would have been nice if David Day had mentioned that some climbing experience or equipment would be nice skills for this hike. But alas! None of which we had. Maybe it was the heat, maybe it was the burning passion in our hearts, but onwards we moved. Immediate lessons learned: crabwalking is not an effective strategy for taking on vertical rock; bear-crawling is a very effective strategy for taking on vertical rock; when it comes to the actual “scaling” part with about two inches of ledge to spare (also representing the distance between life and death), babysteps are not an effective strategy for this challenge. Little-shoulder-sitting-common-sense-Laurel was screaming, “For crying outloud, Laurel, it is all about getting that good footing.”; celebratory I-just-scaled-a-mother-effing-cliff-and-lived-to-tell-about-it dance will ensue upon completion; and finally, I should probably start doing push-ups if I am going to be doing this on the regular.

[5] Deserts are a good place to see who and what you think about as your life flashes before your eyes. In relation to number 4, scaling a cliff for the first time over an open canyon in which you would fall hundreds of feet to your death if you falter in the slightest, you have a tendency to recall who is actually important to you and who is not. [Note: Don’t worry Jade, you were definitely on the mind.]

[6] Deserts are a hopeful landmark that there still remains wilderness that has not been destroyed by the disgrace of humanity. As painful and stress-inducing as it was to drive up the extremely rugged roads in poor, little John Wayne, I find refuge regarding the human race in that they will never pave these roads in the interest of keeping the environment as natural and non-interruptive as possible. Escalante and the surrounding deserts are one of the few places left on Earth in which a human has never walked upon. And that is really freaking cool. If you really want to get away, go to the desert. You will be fully-exposed to the elements.  On a related note, I saw some of the cooooooooooolest wildlife I have ever seen. Favorites include a kit fox (OMG), desert hare, and dozens of lizards. Still waiting on a rattlesnake, tarantula, gila monster, and condor.

After recovering from nearly withering away, it was hard to get down from the high we felt from the day. The wild west has something about it–it does something to you. Good, bad, and ugly–it brought out the wild at heart in me.

you must not know about me: women and science and beyonce

I need to share a recent encounter I had with an older female professor in my field whom I had never met before at the conference I just attended. I was approached by her and was first complemented on how she enjoyed my talk and we briefly discussed how the whole “women in science” issue. I am not even a hardcore feminist and usually don’t give it much thought but it was interesting to discuss at the time. The conversation then took a turn for the awkward and, in my opinion, somewhat appalling.

After telling me that I had reminded her of herself when she was my age because of being driven and focused, I took it as complementary and thanked her for the kind words. She then proceeded to tell me that I also reminded her of herself when she was younger because of the way I dressed. Finding this a bit odd, I asked her too explain. She elaborated on the fact that she used to “dress fashionable” and  used to like wearing short skirts and cute outfits. However, she felt it necessary to warn me that I shouldn’t dress as “sexy” as I do because no man is ever going to take me seriously in this field, especially regarding the dress I wore during my presentation. They apparently are not able to control themselves when a woman is giving a presentation in something that is remotely flattering on their figure. Therefore, it is up to me to “tone it down”.

Now maybe I am overreacting, but I felt two underlying messages emitted from this conversation: [1] I dress like a skank and it needed to be brought to my attention by complete stranger. [2] I should take it upon myself to change my appearance because men are disgusting pigs.

Allow me to clarify and defend my choice of wardrobe. For my presentation, I wore a neutral-colored, tailored dress that was form-fitting, but went down to my knees and by no means showed any sort of chest exposure. To me, it was my “business-formal” dress and it would be my choice to wear it to an interview or any other professional encounter. I realize there is a time and a place for dressing certain ways but I feel like I am tuned-in enough to the modern world to know what is appropriate and what is not.

Upon hearing her unload upon me that basically no one was paying attention to my presentation or cared about what I had to say due to the apparent massive erections in the audience, I was a bit taken aback by the unsolicited comment. And as I sat there trying to understand the point she was trying to make, I grew more and more disgusted with what she had to say.

Yes, I realize there is probably some truth to the statement, unfortunately. Yes, some men are repulsive who have issues with strong, independent women making their place in the world. But I would like to think we are at point in history where women can feel comfortable pursuing what they are interested in, whether they are at some sort of minority or not.

It actually wasn’t the “men are detestable creatures” message that horrified me though. It was the fact that she felt it necessary to tell me that she thinks I should feel like it is my fault if I were to be judged by another person for the way that I was dressing. While I’m sure her intentions were genuine, I couldn’t help but stew about the actual interpretation of the words. So I am supposed to submit myself to the prejudices placed upon women while I was just trying to look presentable to a general audience? Doesn’t that just propel the problem and continue to hide any sort of statement that a strong woman is trying to make? I am supposed to cover up myself and change who I am because of somebody else’s pervertedness? The more I thought about it, the more infuriated I became.

It was then that I thought to myself, WWBD? (What would Beyonce do?) I think it is fair to say that if she were approached with words such as those that I received, there would be zero tolerance of submitting herself to changing who she has worked hard to become just because there are distasteful (and probably innately jealous) people who feel the need to make people feel bad about themselves. I am pretty sure that it would only further encourage her to walk out to her next presentation with more pride, bathing in the hate and giving zero thought to insecure people.

I’m with her–if you got it, flaunt it. Boy or girl. Be proud of who you are and if people are going to judge you, that is their problem. Don’t make it yours. They are the ones sulking with sour faces in the background. Embrace who you are. Haters are going to hate, but the more you fall under their insecure outlook on the life, the more empowered they become.

Okay maybe a bit over-the-top, but hear me out. If everyone is so gung-ho on getting women into the tenure track positions and making their place in the world of science, stop telling the one’s who actually show a shard of confidence that they are never going to get anywhere in life for trying to be who they are. YOU ARE THE FREAKING PROBLEM, not me. And if you can’t listen to what I have to say because you can’t focus on anything but my appearance, then you are the one with issues. So if you are a female in the field of science (or a female in any field for that matter), please never hesitate to do what you love in whatever appearance you feel comfortable in presenting yourself. Don’t ever for a second get to thinking that you need to change for somebody else. Don’t ever let them think they are the ones who are “irreplaceable.”

how to succeed in life after trying really hard

Behold! I am about to expose a deep-seeded lifelong secret that has ensured my success in everything I have accomplished thus far in life [which is nothing to write home about, but still]… Before I do anything I am scared to do, I belt out this song. Like probably around 20 times. And it is a flawless technique. I promise you, if you listen to this  before anything you have devoted a million hours of effort towards, you will without a doubt rock it.

Rock This Bitch–Ben Folds Live