Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Nervous Nelly

Listening to: 'The Look of Love' by Diana Krall [The Look of Love]

Oh wow, what a week. Three major things to report in three categories - work, friends, more than friends? - let me explain.

My office is ready!!! :D I'm so happy. I moved in today. OK slight exaggeration...it's not my office...I'm sharing it with 3 others. But still, I have an entire corner of the room to myself!!! I'm hoping to personalise it with lots of...chocolate chip cookies :D. The lab is also ready. So basically, the only thing stopping me from starting my experiments is...er...me. I'm so nervous. I feel like I'm on a diving board about to jump in to the swimming pool below...there are loads of people in the pool asking me to join them...but I can't remember if I can swim. I need someone to hold my hand...and there is no one. I'm going solo - that's what this whole PhD is about, isn't it? The butterflies in my tummy are at it like rabbits. I miss my lab partner.

Speaking of my lab partner, she was here this weekend with her boyfriend. It was AWESOME to see them both. It made me realise how much I've missed my ChemEng buddies. I didn't have much of a voice left for their visit (itchy throat + SL Soc Arrack 'n' Baila = no voice) but it was still a lovely weekend. It's so lovely to see such a happy couple.

Arrack 'n' Baila was 'eventful'. Had an amazing time...both during and (especially) after. Some would say that what was once on the backburner has been brought to the front. I'd like to be cautious, but I get the feeling I'm being swept off my feet (whether he who is doing the sweeping is aware of this, I do not know). Nervousness has taken over my entire self and turned me into, well, jelly. Why am I so bad at this? Ugh I find myself so annoying sometimes.

Anyway, it is time to sort out this room of mine. Saw Borat on Sunday which was HILARIOUS, and seeing Casino Royale on Friday...looking forward to some action!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Update

Listening to: 'Tear' by Red Hot Chili Peppers [By The Way]

OK this is going to be quick 'cos I really shouldn't be doing this right now. I woke up with fever yesterday so I took the day off - no fever now, but I've still got an itchy throat. So you'd think that I'd look after that and go to bed early, huh? Nope...instead, I chose to upgrade my blog to the 'beta' version. I'm such a glutton for procrastination! Anyway, now you've got a fancy-ish new template with funky labels. Enjoy!

Friday, November 10, 2006

In Search of Equality

Listening to: 'By Your Side' by Sade [Lovers Rock]

In a previous post, I mentioned my new-found obsession with Jorge Cham's genius comic strip - PhD Comics - Piled Higher and Deeper. I also included the strip Engineering Ratio as a sample. Now I added it 'cos as a female engineer, I find it very funny, and totally true. Recently though, I've been thinking about what the comic actually portrays.

The indisputable fact is that she's a female engineer, and therefore part of the minority. My question is...so what? Does the fact that she's the only female in the class mean that she's a freak? Does it make her a model woman who has achieved equality in a "man's world"? Personally, I think the low number of females in Engineering is more due to women not wanting to become engineers rather than them not being able to. As for her position as a role model to other women...is it more important to celebrate the fact that she's able to work in a traditionally 'male' field, or that she's able to do what she wants to? I think the latter.

The same applies with the male-female ratio of university entrants. So there are more guys than girls...so what? Apart from the fact that the guys are gonna have less girls to hit on, I don't see a problem. If the success rate of applicants was greater for guys than girls...then that would be something to look into. However, I'm too lazy to check if such an analysis exists online. Cambridge has a habit of investigating why there's supposedly a lesser percentage of girls getting 1sts compared to the guys - I'll tell you why...'cos we choose to waste our time crying rivers over stupid jerks who've treated us badly instead of studying, that's why! It's got nothing to do with our intellectual capacity as females.

Let's leave education aside for the time being. These days there's a lot of discussion about Niqabs, Hijabs, Burqas and 'freedom' (in a 'Western civilisation' context) for Muslim women. Now I won't pretend to be clueful on the religious requirements, but as I understand, it's largely a personal choice. So ideally, 'freedom' for Muslim women would be the freedom to choose which item of clothing they'd rather wear, and not be judged by society (regardless of location) because of that choice. Contrary to popular perception, not every woman wants to wear spaghetti straps and mini skirts ;-).

...Which brings me (almost cleverly, but not quite) to the point I'm trying to make. All these years, women have been 'fighting' for what we refer to as equal rights - the right to vote, the right to work, the right to be paid...the right to do whatever a man does. On the first point, we've done well. With regards to careers...apparently women are still paid less than men for the same work. I don't know how that result was obtained, but it's one that's used often. We're still in a society where a female engineer is labelled a 'freak'...and heaven help her if she's a computer scientist...(g)eeeeeeeek!!! In my opinion, while legislature may have changed, the mindset hasn't.

As it stands, the search for equality is more a yearning for everything that is masculine than a desire to be free to do what one chooses (if you're interested, try Ariel Levy's "Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture" - good read). The way I see it, it's far more important to ensure that every girl who wants to study (for example) Engineering and is smart enough has the same opportunity to do so as a guy in identical circumstances. It doesn't matter if there are only 5 girls who want to study Engineering...they shouldn't be denied the chance based on their gender. Gender shouldn't come into the equation at all. That, to me, would be equality. Not "I'm a woman but I can do anything a man can" but "I can do anything I want regardless of my gender".

Unfortunately, equality (like peace) is one of those lofty ideals that we dream about, but never genuinely work towards.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

It's Oh So Quiet

Listening to: 'Spanish Harlem' by Aretha Franklin [The Very Best of Aretha Franklin: Respect]

I'm bored. If it was Monday, I'd have ballroom dancing; Tuesday, Chinese; Wednesday, swimming; Friday, chores (!). But no, today's Thursday, and I have nothing to do. My night-owlish body clock won't let me go to bed early, so here I am, post-microwaveable dinner, listening to Aretha and blogging. Methinks a soliloquy is on the cards.

Supervisions

Gave my second set of supervisions today - 'supervisions' being the small-group tutorials that accompany (and hopefully complement) undergraduate lectures. I'm so used to being a supervisee that it feels weird being on the other side of the fence. And now I realise what a horrid supervisee I must have been! I'm half-inclined to write heart-felt apologies to my supervisors, but seeing as I now work with those very supervisors, maybe that's not such a good idea! I love it though. The more humorous side of my enjoyment is the sense of 'empowerment' with the red pen in my hand, when marking supervision work. I'm such a pedant! But on a more philosophical level, I find teaching deeply satisfying. When a supervisee says "oh I get it now", I get such an adrenaline rush! There's a lot of preparation involved and it is quite time consuming considering what I'm getting paid, but it's worth it. If only I could do this for the rest of my life...

Moving House

Well, not house, but lab...and considering I'm going to be in this lab for the next three years, it's kind of like a house. The new lab is ready. It looks so shiny! The past few days have been spent cataloguing chemicals and trying to find storage space for all the glassware. My plan is to somehow sneak a radio/CD player inside at some point...I need my music!!!

New Year's Eve

Yes I know there's another two months to go, but anyone who knows what Sri Lanka is like on the 31st of December will understand. The fact that I'm at home this New Year's is something I'm slightly apprehensive about. Here's the shocking confession: I've never been out on 31st night. I did buy a ticket for the most popular event one year, but the news sent my extended family into a series of panic attacks (the event is known for being home to a few well-publicised brawls), and I sold my ticket off because frankly, my family's peace of mind is far more important to me than an expensive party. The times I've been home since, I've spent with my parents.
Anyway, it would seem that going to one of these events (a more non-violent one, obviously) would be a good idea. But as with all 'good' ideas, I'm not convinced. These things always tend to be packed with people from my past - the same people who looked (and still look) at me as if I'm something the cat brought in. Now this wouldn't matter if I had a fun crowd to go with and I was able to avoid the condescending eyes. However, just as my luck would have it, my friends who can actually afford to go to these things are also friends with the beautifuls...so there's no chance of me avoiding them! Oh how I hate going home in December.

I guess it's time for me to catch up on some sleep. Thanks to Björk for the title.