neuroscience lite

It has come to my realization that I could actually have pursued a more lucrative career in the health sciences like my mom hoped I would. Oops.

So last month and over a bit of February (remember, I had vertigo, so my brain fried itself and I spent 10 days not being able to comprehend more than three written sentences at a time), I read Reading in the Brain, which, while dense, is pretty awesomesauce. It’s about exactly what the title says, duh. I read it at a very convenient time, since I’m taking a class titled Literacy and Services to Underserved Populations. One of the things I keep realizing in library school is that, for someone who considers herself rather enlightened and attuned to social justice issues, it really hadn’t occurred to me that there were so many issues surrounding illiteracy, like learning disorders, the obvious social structures and issues that keep children from finishing school, and more. So coupling my natural interest in how social politics perpetrate inequalities with the actual science of how reading works was interesting, because it made me worry for a minute that I would take a stance that teachers don’t know what they’re doing, and being a progressive Democrat who is the daughter and sister of teachers, I DO NOT DO THAT. EVER. Because teachers, generally speaking, super duper know what they’re doing. But I digress. Dahaene described the entire neural process of how the brain, fascinatingly enough, has basically two simultaneous processes, one for recognizing letters and one for recognizing full words, even if that word is actually written incorrectly or includes typos. Fascinating stuff. I can’t really explain it to you as well as he did, and at times he got slightly too technical for me, but given that this was not my first time in the neuroscience book rodeo, I think it was probably due to my overtaxed brain. Continue reading

it’s best not to be in love unless it’s complicated

I’ve clocked a lot of iPod time lately instead of reading time. My new job (!) is usually just me hanging out at the computer doing computer stuff, so music is necessary for my sanity. I’ve been downloading a lot of good stuff lately, thanks to deals from Amazon and this lovely new thing called Freegal that is cropping up at libraries here and there. So I’ve added some Neko Case, Vanessa Carlton, Ingrid Michaelson, and more to my library. But no matter how much music I accumulate, I tend to glom onto certain albums and listen to them excessively, until I am sure of which songs are my favorites and until I imagine myself inside the album and live and swim in it and just love it unconditionally and forever.

I do this mostly with albums that are by bands or duos where two people are pretty much equally the lead singer. It’s especially my favorite when it’s a male and female voice because it feels really intimate, which I admit is rather heteronormative and not actually very fair, but hey, I grew up in America. Also, the Pierces go onto my list of duos I can listen to forever, and they’re sisters.

Anyway. Bands/albums I listen to way too much because I love the dual quality of the lead vocal: Jenny and Johnny’s I Am Having Fun Now, anything by the Pierces, a lot of Rilo Kiley’s Under the Blacklight (okay, I also have a Jenny Lewis fetish), most stuff by Stars, same with She & Him, and the latest album I’ve added to that list is the Civil Wars’ Barton Hollow. Continue reading

vanity! (sung to the tune of “agony” from “into the woods”)

I am actually more on the girly end of the spectrum than the tomboy side, though I think that binary is absurd. I refuse to leave my house if I don’t look showered and generally put together, I own a ton of hair products, and I’m happy to get free makeup samples when I buy my Clinique moisturizer twice a year. But I’m also very forgetful, so my relationship with makeup is generally the kind where I’m walking to the T and then I remember, “Oh, shoot! I was going to put on mascara today so that I would look pretty!” I own a lot of it, and I’m always happy when someone competent is playing with my hair or putting my makeup on for me, but I guess I don’t have the gene where you naturally know how to do your hair and makeup yourself. Also, not being particularly gifted with my optic sense, I am fascinated by people who cut my hair or people who can look at a magazine photo and copy a celebrity’s makeup, because I honestly don’t know what it is that they’re seeing in the follicles or eye folds, because I literally cannot see that kind of detail.

Anyway. This summer, when I was teaching high schoolers, I noticed how much makeup they were wearing. And I came to the realization that at 22 (now 23), I have reached the point where it really is important to kind of bow to society’s demands and wear a little makeup and present myself in a way that will not hinder my ability to get job interviews, be taken seriously, be seen as my age (I got carded for buying a lottery ticket on New Year’s Eve and was told I didn’t just look under 21; I looked under 18). Also, my body seems to have gotten confused about when you’re supposed to have acne, and instead of giving it to me when you’re supposed to get it, when your life already sucks as a teenager, I have it now. Anyway, I’ve now gotten mostly used to being a little more primpy on a somewhat regular basis. My eyebrows are always at some level of plucked, which is good, because I actually like the way they look now. I also wash my face at night before bed. In summary, I do all kinds of things that normal American girls have been doing since they were 12, except I started when I was 22. Continue reading

researchin’

Last week I went down to New York for a day and a half to do research for the novel I tell people I’m working on. It was a really illuminating experience for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that I don’t really know what doing research with primary documents entails. For a library school student at a college that boasts a huge archives program, I’ve never really been in an archives, so stepping into Schomburg was new for me. And then I’ve also never done research to write a novel before, not having finished a long narrative work since the novel I wrote when I was 12 (I think it was 54 pages, single spaced, which is actually not all that bad). But I’m in the school of fake it til you make it, so I was all prepared to fake it.

Fake it I did. But I felt rather awkward. The biggest two things I’ve learned in library school thus far are that everyone is excited that you’re in it until you ask working librarians for help/interviews/jobs, and then they stop being interested in you, and also that you can’t work in a library unless you’ve already worked in a library/you can’t know how to use an archives unless you already know how to use it. And that’s exactly what happened at Schomburg–I’m sure it’s not on purpose, but archivists tend to kind of look at you like you’re a jackass for not knowing how to behave in an archives, but really that’s absurd, because it’s not even a library, so it’s not exactly like you learned the proper usage of one back in elementary school. Anyway, I figured it out, got my temporary NYPL card (!), and found out that the sound archives I requested weren’t there yet, but that I could go upstairs and look at the rest of the stuff I wanted. Continue reading

imagination spaces

When Amanda was visiting me, we talked about things to do in Boston, and we realized that we are not compatible museumgoers. It’s funny that museums are especially a kind of thing that you can’t enjoy with just anyone. We all have our favorite people to do certain things with, but there are things that we can do with everyone and find them enjoyable, or at least palatable. Museums, though, require really compatible companions.

I noticed this in Prague when my friend Emily became the only person interested in going to museums, for one, and we both had the same way of mostly ignoring each other but sometimes talking about the art or exhibits, and other times making silly comments, like how I really want reproductions of the plates that Salvador Dalí painted on for my house. Things worked out perfectly for us both because we didn’t expect the museum to be a place where we were going to socialize, per se, and also we wanted to spend about the same amount of time there. It’s hard to find a museum soulmate. Continue reading