where i hide on occasion…

Now to be fair, this was a particularly hectic week and the ‘busiest’ my desk has been but upon reflection it pretty much sums up my existence as a postdoc…”semi-organized chaos”.

Click on the picture to enlarge.

What you don’t see is the 3 pairs of shoes under the desk along with 2 bags and flat rate mailing boxes. On the cubicle wall out of view are several postcards from friends in Boston, Jackson, WY–now Australia and Great Falls, MT, 3D dengue sequence structures and a post it note to pay bills–the line between normality and nerd is definitely a blurry one.

a typical lunchtime thought process…

Mmmm…hungry time for lunch…
lunch, pork and vegis with sauce and rice
hair in food…
hmmmm…my hair or their hair
*pulls hair from food*
their hair
*flicks hair onto ground, keeps eating*–meh


i wonder how many microbes are on a typical piece of hair
i wonder how many microbes are on my hair
i wash my hair
does she wash her hair
*looks at lady serving food*

I should culture/test my hair
that’d be interesting
no, not applicable–i need to test a food servers hair
*looks for dropped hair*
its on floor
floor contamination, damnit, can’t test it

someone in the US would wreak havoc if hair was in their food
is it that dangerous?
i should culture hair and see
*eats more food*

coffee sounds good
i should get around to reading Rob Dunn, wildlife of our bodies
he’d know if hair was dangerous
*finishes food, pays*

i read a lot of science blogs, scientists are getting ‘hotter’ looking
we used to have to hide under rocks
my German friend was surprised after learning i was a microbiologist
i asked why
he said because i’m attractive

i should make a calendar of ‘hot’ scientists
that’d be cool
with links to their publications and blogs

i should find someones hair and culture it…

Can people change?

Can people change?

When I ask this question I am surprised by the variation in responses I get. I suppose I assumed the general consensus would be “sure, yes”. After all we are all humans with the power of choice and ability to adapt and be flexible in our existence and relationships with others. I don’t think anyone doubts it’s ‘possible’ for someone to change, when I get more specific with the question is when they ‘waffle’.

When I ask about people specifically in their own lives whom they’ve known an extended time…when I ask if ‘they’ could change the response is usually ‘no, they are who they are, they’ll never change.’ I found that interesting. I too believe that ‘anyone’ can change should they choose to do so however, there are people in my life who I would be absolutely dumbfounded if they changed. They seem so staunch in their ways, their beliefs, their attitudes that nothing short of God or the devil himself could change them.

There are people that hold the belief that someone cannot/will not change from personal usually painful experience with that person. I have any number of stories of girlfriends of mine ‘played’ by a guy. They fall hopelessly in love with him, he entertains that off and on for a while then loses interest and moves on. I’ve been the ‘girl’ in that situation. Or worse he strings her a long, sometimes for years so that he has someone to ‘fall back on’–I’ve been the ‘girl’ in that scenario as well. And it happens in reverse a girl cheats on her guy or vice a versa and we are so unwilling to entertain notions that the person who cheated on us can ever be anything more than just a lousy cheater. Isn’t that where the saying comes from? “Once a cheater, always a cheater.” If you fundamentally believe that people can change why stick with saying ‘once a cheater, always a cheater’. The same applies for ‘once a bitch/gossip always a bitch/gossip’; once stubborn always stubborn, once ‘disappointed’ will always be disappointed’, once jaded will always be jaded, once wronged–now everyone ‘wrongs’ them….you get the idea.

I do know what it feels like to throw yourself 105% or more into a friendship and it crumbles anyway because that other person could not be bothered to acknowledge your existence any more for whatever reason. Reasons they never tell you. So what are you left to believe?

A friendship that you desperately attempted to keep alive despite different life paths and yet it died anyway (and that’s saying something given social networking today)…A person walks back into your life and decides they’d now like to be in your life again; you might have hurt them but they’ve also hurt you. Do you let them back in?

I believe people can change and if they want to and it makes their lives happier and I would be excited for them and wish them all the happiness in the world on their new outlook or view on life etc…but no matter how much I might want to be apart of that persons life as well, I am doubtful that I would let them back in. Why? Because I already threw everything I had available at the friendship…I’d feel I had nothing left to give.

The Plan…or lackthereof

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” ~Charles Darwin

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything…

Amazing how quickly life can go from a single path to a different path in mere days. It would be nice if the paths in our lives to success was straight and we merely had to find the right puzzle pieces in the path…

Of course we all know reality is a little different…is it not?

So a plan that originally starts out straightforward can easily change directions and present us with decisions we didn’t think we’d have to make all at once.

On that note…we are officially leaving Thailand. I have taken a job offer at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Bethesda, Maryland…back in the ole U.S. of A. The start date for being onsite is May 1st, 2012 so we essentially have a couple months to pack up our lives here, finish up whatever work I have, travel around SE Asia as we haven’t been able to do thus far, move to a new state, start new jobs and plan a wedding all at once…ah damn, I still have to file my taxes too doh! Turns out our wedding couldn’t be at a worse time given it’s now right in the middle of all this change that is occurring. When we’d originally scheduled our wedding we thought it’d be in the middle of nothing else happening. We couldn’t be more wrong.

The timeline for those interested:

  • Februrary: Cope with the idea of leaving in 2 months
  • March: Plan and execute packing, wedding planning, job details, plane tickets, travel all free weekends, wrap up work at AFRIMS
  • April: potential travel for Mel to US to apt. hunt, more packing, more wedding planning, wrap up Tyghe’s class (his final is April 11), wrap up NRC fellowship requirements. Then spend the rest of April traveling before returning to Bangkok the last week and flying to the US the last weekend in April
  • May: Be onsite the 1st to start processing to work at WRAIR and move into apt.
  • June/July: Settle, start work, plan wedding
  • August: Get married, go back to work (we’ll have to take a honeymoon another time most likely).

Is the job a good one? Yes in fact it is right up my alley working with people I enjoy working with and can continue to grow under. Am I wild about living in Maryland for the forseeable future as this job is pretty much a ‘permanent’ job. Well I’ve never lived on the East coast and I know it will definitely be different. There were a lot of factors to consider in taking this job. I was sad that it’d take away my last year in Thailand. I love working in Thailand, I’ve built good relationships and I’ll be sad to leave. I was sad that it’d take away the potential travel time Tyghe and I would’ve had, if we’d had another year here. Now instead we are having to jam it all in at the end before heading back to the states, so we’ll have to pick and choose and cross the rest off our bucket list some other time in the future. The factors go on and on: Tyghe can get a good job in Maryland, the weather is more ‘agreeable’ in Maryland than out here especially for Tyghe, the job offer I got was a good one, its working on things I am interested in, its a smart career move, its a stable job which is becoming quite important in the ever fluctuating job market of the US…

So why am I lamenting…what have I to lament? Absolutely nothing realistically speaking. I think its the ‘child’ in me lamenting. Stupid right? I think it has a lot to do with my upbringing. I yearn for the nomadic. Most of my friends from high school and college have done a lot traveling, they had their backpacking Europe or Asia experiences, they worked for NGOs or in the peace corp…and now with the ‘nomadic’ urges satisfied they’ve moved onto working jobs and having families. Some of them are still traveling, some are having their families abroad. One of the things I’ve had to learn is ‘a break between life stages’ is a luxury that most of us may never have or afford. I came across an interesting blog about PhD graduates that decided to forgo the job offers and travel for their foreseeable future, their blog here: PhD nomads.

What do I mean ‘break’. The ‘child’ in me wanted a break. I wanted a time in my life where I wasn’t working, no responsibilities, no pending due dates…I wanted a time to sit and absorb, travel. Unfortunately such a dream requires money and time, neither of which I grew up with. Like many kids in my situation, we worked in high school, we worked our way through college, after college we worked then went to grad school or just got hooked into a good job right away. Most of us never having that ‘gap’ year as the Brits call it. Never having that time to discover new things, with very few financial pressures or responsibilities. I wasn’t looking for a year off by any means, I would’ve been pleased with 3 months off. I couldn’t between high school and college, too busy working and getting things together to start school that fall. I didn’t between college and grad school, I went directly into a job, from there went to Hawaii and worked more, from there directly into grad school. I’d planned to after grad school…but of course that didn’t happen and I immediately started my fellowship out here in Bangkok….

This is the part where I slapped myself for being an idiot. What did I want in life? Was I happy as a nomad? Minimally, sure I could be happy–as exciting as travel and being a nomad is, I really wanted a home base. Growing up, that stability wasn’t there all the time, we moved around quite a bit, perhaps I didn’t want to leave the nomad life because that’s what I knew, I am good at being a nomad and the prospect of settling and sticking somewhere permanently is scary…visions of a restless suburban nightmare pop into my head…damn you reality TV, haha.

Fact is, I might not have had the blessing or good fortune of having that gap year, but I have still had the wonderful experience of traveling, experiencing new places, meeting incredible people–sure I had to work the entire time but that doesn’t mean I didn’t get to experience some crazy awesome and crazy awful stuff in my life. I have gotten to travel to 10 countries and live/work abroad twice. That’s more than many people get to experience in a lifetime and I’ve done it before the age of 35.

I think what’s so ‘scary’ persay for me is the fact I am now completely leaving a type of lifestyle behind that I’d grown up with, grown accustomed too and now have to explore a completely different part of who I am. It’s always sad to close one chapter of your life to start another, but the following chapters are what I am living for…not the past. I was sad to leave Montana after 7 years and move to Thailand, but it was one of the best decisions I ever made–being out here has been amazing.

I think the speed at which things happened and changed for us is a little daunting as well. It makes you second guess if you made the ‘right’ decision. But I’ve always walked through the doors that have opened to me and I’ve never regretted one of them, so I am walking through this one. The thought of living in Maryland doesn’t exactly get the heart racing but then again I’ve never tried living there or anywhere on the East coast so I don’t really know now do I?

Going to Maryland and taking this job weren’t in the original plan..but that’s ok, our adventure will continue to unfold back in the states. The perk with this job is that I’ll still be collaborating with AFRIMS here in Bangkok which will give me the opportunity to come back and work/visit.

The next several months are going to be a whirlwind of chaotic activity, perhaps now sitting at my computer on my day off–I should enjoy the relative peace I have sitting here, balmy outside, drinking a coke zero, birds singing like crazy, flower infused air, food I can barely eat due to the spice but is so damn good…yes, I will miss Thailand but I look forward to going back to the U.S., going back and creating a new home and starting a new chapter.

Apparently I like to sleep and stare at computers…

Devotional Blog:

Topic: “Spending Time”, 12/27/2011, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

This entry encouraged us to log our time for one week to see where our ‘priorities and passions’ were in our lives.

So a week from Sunday to Saturday (7 days) has 168 hours in it. Of those 168, I was alseep 53.5 hours…an average of 7.6 hrs/day. Although Saturday skews that as I slept 11 hours on Saturday and and if I just look at the work week, I slept an average of 6.9 hours/day. Apparently on the weekends I like my sleep, not to mention as the week progressed I got worse at getting up on time. My alarm goes off at 6am, I managed to get up and go work Monday and Tues at 6:30am. Weds and Thurs that got later and I managed to get up and go to work at 7am…on Friday it was 730am. A lot of wake-up fail!

So 168 hours in a week minus 54.5 sleeping = 113.5 to account for waking hours…which we’ll soon find out isn’t an altogether true statement…doh! Continue reading “Apparently I like to sleep and stare at computers…”

New years notes from a nomad…

So I don’t believe in resolutions because inevitably its not something that’s kept and its a waste of mind space…so I don’t do them. This year I opted to reflect on last year so I dug into my facebook (timeline is handy for this indeed) as well as some of the other emails, blogs or things that I’ve done to get a feel for last year…

Here are the highlights, anecdotes from my facebook wall, blog, reading, general musings, links etc:

Continue reading “New years notes from a nomad…”

Where is home?

Devotional Blog:

Topic: “Home Base”, 12/12/2011, 1 Chronicles 16:43 NIV

So while the devotional entry gave me the idea of this blog…it’s actually got nothing to do with what she wrote in the book and I am citing a different verse. But I have taken her topic title of Home Base because it inspired what I will write about.

“Then all the people left, each for their own , and David returned home to bless his family.”  ~1 Chronicles 16:43 NIV

Since leaving Hawaii for college I always get the question of “so when are you going home next?” Where are you from? Where is home for you? Everytime I get asked this question it prompts me to ponder about ‘what IS home’ exactly. For me, home has always been where my folks are which over the years has changed locations many times. When we are in school we never think to call our college towns ‘home’–I certainly wouldn’t call Parkland, WA (near Tacoma) home–blech! When I moved to Bozeman, MT at first home was Hawaii…”Are you going home for the holidays?”–“Yes, I am going home.” That was years 1, 2 and 3. Around year 4 and in later years in MT I started noticing a change…”Are you going back to Hawaii for Christmas?”…”Yes, I am going back to spend Christmas with my folks.” Had I decided that Hawaii was no longer my home? Continue reading “Where is home?”


I started wanting to write this blog based on one of the devotional entries in the book about what would happen if you took the ‘Christ’ out of Christmas. My mind wandered into wikipedia reading about the history of Christmas itself. My mental wanderings continued into various conversations with friends and acquaintances talking about the mesh of pagan and religious traditions mixed into Christmas nowadays. Then of course that leads to the blatant commercialism that Christmas has become. I’ve only to travel 2 minutes by skytrain to see the influence of Christmas in Bangkok, a Buddhist country. Though they don’t officially celebrate the holiday itself by days off work, they encourage gift giving and the market places are bedecked in lights, fake trees, cardboard snowmen and other such holiday decor.

The rest of my mental wanderings are hazy at best and clarified eventually into a deluge of memories–as though I was being visited by the ghost of Christmas past… Continue reading “Stream-of-Christmasness”

Assessing the pathogenic potential of people

So it’s been a good while since I have posted anything as I’ve been attending a conference in Philadelphia, PA put on by the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Following the denouement of the conference I found myself at El Vez restaurant, awesome restaurant by the way, just down from my hotel sipping on a very strong (apparently) pomegranate margarita and going over my notes whilst eating lunch. And for those of you following my blog and know I’m fasting–before you cry foul, this week I’m off it due to a number of reasons but will promptly re-initiate when I return to Bangkok. When one is fasting for a year…actually turns out to be a little longer, I have to allow myself a certain modicum of sanity. Or rather preserve what I have. In anycase, back to matter at hand…

So I’ve been at this conference for the past week and it’s proven very informative though I feel like a small genetic fish swimming in a sea of immunology and epidemiology which is a bit disconcerting, especially since I come from a completely environmental background with minimal medical/clinical knowledge.

Now I am a genetic data cruncher who enjoys population level analysis with some mathematical modelling thrown in for good measure…

I know right? The personal ad practically writes itself. Continue reading “Assessing the pathogenic potential of people”

Thanksgiving in…Liberia?

I knew Thanksgiving was celebrated in the USA and Canada but I didn’t know they celebrated Thanksgiving in Liberia, apparently it coincides with the Church’s harvest day. Interesting. I wonder if there’s a history of celebrating Thanksgiving there or if this was a one time 2010 venture.

This year given I have been taken in many times for holidays we are hosting Thanksgiving at our place. Though, I am not making a turkey as they are scarce and expensive in Thailand. Thais do not celebrate Thanksgiving but its always nice to have an excuse to go to someone’s house to eat and partake in general merriment celebrating what American children learn as our ‘dinner with the Indians’. Indians who we then learn later in school, we decimated with smallpox, measles, typhus and plague among other diseases and war. DOH! Continue reading “Thanksgiving in…Liberia?”