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Saturday December 31, 2005

Goodbye 2005, so sad to see you go

Not really. But it wasn't that bad a year.

  • I lost 40 pounds, gained 5 back over the holiday, and finally got back on the wagon. Hopefully 2006 will bring more success.
  • I started a new job, then left for a new job. Hopefully 2006 will bring me an even better job, one that I can keep for a good long while. Somewhere not in Ohio.
  • My Nik-nik died. And that was hard. He was the sweetest pet.
  • I started drawing again, because I missed art so much. For a while there, I was feeling really deprived without it. My first offering wasn't stellar, but I'm picking up skills again.
  • I saw MXPX twice!
  • I finally discovered the fabulosity of Gilmore Girls, and haven't looked back since.
  • March brought me the most spectacular gift ever... a beautiful little niece! And she's the best thing to happen to the Vurbic family since me.
  • My Old Roomie headed for life in Atlanta, Georgia, where she now spends her days teaching 2nd graders, watching movies from Block Buster, and telling me over the phone that I should move down there with her.
  • I finally visited Las Vegas. And loved every minute.
  • Recently I learned to make some mean chocolate-covered marshmallow squares. Which may be why I gained 5 pounds back.

This year ws so eventful. But I'm hoping 2006 will bring even more good things. Happy New Year everyone.


Friday December 30, 2005


One of the things I hate about not drinking is being the only sober person in a room full of drunken idiots. I mean, sure, it's entertaining watching your friends act silly and fall over themselves. But after a while you start to feel like the extra wheel. And this isn't enough to make me want to drink anything, just enough to make me really annoyed (and consider looking for new friends). It's one of the reasons I hate New Year's Eve.

That, and Dick Clark of course.


Thursday December 29, 2005

Note to everyone: I'm single. Get over it.

One of the things that frustrates me most about the holidays is spending time with friends of my parents. When we get together, they start with the usual line of questioning first (So, have you graduated yet? Where are you working?) before they drop inquiries into my relationship status. Which is fine, actually, because I'm single and enjoy not being attached right now. But what bothers me is the inevitable reassurance that even though I'm a big freak to them, it's okay because I'm young and still have time to get married. What?!

I don't understand why they feel the need to console me like that. I'm sure the intentions are nice, but it's really a big slap in the face. It's like telling me that there's something wrong with me, but it's okay because there's still time to fix the problem. Never mind that I don't want a husband right now, and am pretty okay with the idea of being single for a long time. Maybe even for life.

I hate that people devalue me that way, even to my face. I hate that I'm perceived as defective because I don't obsessively chase down every single man I meet or spend my days fantasizing about a Cinderella wedding. And more so than that, I hate that the way I feel isn't taken seriously by anyone.

Look, marriage is a wonderful thing. My brother is happily married, and it's the coolest thing in the world. And who knows, someday I might meet a guy that appreciates my quirkiness. Then maybe I'll get married, and it'll be great. But I'm not haunted by my singleness the way other women are. This may come as a shock to my parents' friends, but the truth is that I don't need a ring to be a normal, valuable, whole person.

Last night I had dinner with some friends of my parents, and of course one of them shot me "the question." And I responded honestly and respectfully. Then this woman proceeded to tell me that it's okay, because I'm still young, but I better not wait much longer. She never asked me if marriage was a priority for me; she just assumed that it was because in her mind, it ought to be.

I won't even get into the embarrassing anecdotes my mom offered at that point. Because even without them, I felt so devalued. I wanted so badly to remind her that I'm a smart and talented person, and that I deserve better than to have her look down on me like that. But I didn't say anything... I just nodded along and waited for the right moment to get the hell out of there. Forget holiday cheer; I will not put myself in that situation again.


Tuesday December 27, 2005

Leaving it all behind

A few months ago I got offered a job at Emory University in Atlanta, but decided to stay in Cleveland for a different job in research. I thought that even though it would be cool to live with my Old Roomie again and I'm getting sick of Cleveland, I wanted to do what was best for my future.

But here I am, still hating Cleveland, not in love with my position, and feeling bummed by all the dark and cold weather. I've lived here my whole life. I've never been anywhere else. I really think it's time to move. To hell with what's best for my future; I want something more now. I need a change of scenery.


Sunday December 25, 2005

Maria's first Christmas

Does it surprise anyone that my niece Maria was more thrilled by the packaging of her gifts than the actual toys?

Maria Christmas
Opening presents is fun!

Maria Christmas
Playing with boxes is more fun!

Maria Christmas
Aunt Drina made me a pretty picture.

Maria Christmas
Ooh, pretty.

Maria Christmas
I am gorgeous.


Friday December 23, 2005

What I want for Christmas this year

The short list:

More time to draw, read, and do all of the things I love.

Less work-related stress.

To drop the 4 pounds I gained back after losing 40.

And maybe another rat.

Can't wait to start my break.


Wednesday December 21, 2005

On science, religion, and dirty-dealing disciples

I'm reading the legal brief from the Pennsylvania court case today regarding the teaching of intelligent design in science class. For those living under a rock, a school board in Dover, PA tried to force science teachers to promote intelligent design as a legitimate scientific theory, as well as attack evolution as a controversial, unsupported opinion (teachers were told to refer to evolution as "Darwin's view"). Neither, of course, are actually true.

The judge ruled today in favor of families who were unhappy with the school board's decision. As a member of the scientific community, I feel relieved that someone in a position of authority, i.e. the judge, finally understands that undermining science in science class is a bad idea. Evolution is not "just a theory," as the school board tried to portray. Actually, it's not really a fact either, because it's much bigger than that. It's a whole bunch of facts, collected together and assembled in a way that makes sense. Kids shouldn't be told otherwise, regardless of how some religious people feel about it.

As a member of the Christian community, though, I feel saddened that some Christians feel so threatened by science that they would resort to any means necessary to destroy it. I'm struck by the dishonesty of the defendants of intelligent design in this case. As the legal brief points out, at every turn they distorted their position, in an attempt to make intelligent design look like a legitimate scientific theory. In reality, it's a religious belief in disguise.

The brief talks about how the intelligent design proponents, all Christian fundamentalists, twisted the facts and covered their tracks. The religious group that produced the book Of Pandas and People (the one that teachers would have been forced to suggest to their students) replaced all of the references to "creation" with "intelligent design" after teaching creationism was ruled unconstitutional promotion of religion in 1987. And yet they insist that this is not creationism.

Is that not deceitful?

Even the Discovery Institute (a creationist/intelligent design activist group) admitted that its agenda focused on replacing science with "theistic and Christian science." They knew that intelligent design is a religious belief, but tried to trick the country into thinking otherwise. And the most vocal leaders of Christian fundamentalism went along with them.

It's frustrating that these people are representing Christianity to the world. Because they claim that they have the fullness of truth, yet lie and scheme to promote a political agenda. And what could onlookers possible think, besides that Christians are a bunch of deceitful, power-hungry scoundrels? Probably that they're a bunch of stupid, deceitful, power-hungry scoundrels. Even the relief the verdict gives me can't overshadow the shame I feel.

It's equally frustrating that any of them would feel so threatened in the first place. Science is the study of reality. It looks for the truth about how the world works, and is not satisfied by the non-answer, "because that's just the way it is." Science helps the religious community to weed out its errors and let go of superstition. It does not, and can not, prove that God doesn't exist.

I know that this isn't the last of this story. For now, the science curriculum may be safe in Dover, but it's being attacked all over the United States. Christian fundamentalists, feeling threatened by science, are trying to undermine it, redefine it, or replace it all together. It's been that way for a long time. Longer than the United States has existed, really.

Hundreds of years ago, Christian fundamentalists attacked Copernicus for teaching that the Earth revolved around the sun, rather than the other way around. They insisted that his teaching was heretical and used Bible verses (Psalm 93:1, Joshua 10:12-14) to justify their assault. Galileo had to deal with the same thing, and was treated like a criminal for teaching the truth. Scientists have been persecuted for centuries for making discoveries that challenge religious beliefs about the natural world.

What was happening then is happening now, except that the attack strategies are different, more savvy. In the end, though, I think the result from this fight will be the same as those from years past. Scientists will keep discovering and Christian fundamentalists will keep fighting them. And after a few centuries the attacks will subside and Biblical interpretations will adapt. In the end, science will give us an even better understanding of the world, and Christians will come to appreciate it, at least until they find something new to rage about.

As they say, same you-know-what, different day. I just wish the Dover school board (and all of the others who rage against science) would wise up and realize that.


Monday December 19, 2005

Baking day zero hour

Today I'm whipping up a batch of my mallows "for real." Which means I can't eat any. Damn.


Saturday December 17, 2005

Things I've learned

As I sit here at work on a Saturday night (the same night in which My Old Roomie returns from Atlanta to chill with me) I find myself wondering why I'm allowing my career in research to consume me this way. I decided to make a list of all the things I've learned, and in some cases helped discover, in the hopes that I won't abandon science all together and get a 9-5 job like all of the shmucks I know.

Through experiments I've helped conduct in the past, I've gotten a better understanding of the circumstances that lead to relapse of conditioned fear and anxiety, and what countermeasures to employ to prevent relapses from happening. This is a big deal, because millions of people suffer from clinical anxiety. And this research also has implications for the treatment of addiction. Which is cool (the research, not addiction).

I've learned that the use of certain types of antidepressants in early development can lead to serious problems in adulthood, including the emergence of suicidal thoughts and behavior. Right now I'm performing research that is investigating exactly how and why this happens.

I've learned how to manipulate behavior (in a good way) and used these techniques to help children with autism develop adaptive life skills. I also learned to train my rats to use the litter box, which is of massively less importance than the previous example, but cool nonetheless. I don't get pooplets on my carpet anymore.

If I continue on, I'll learn many more things and help discover many more things. And that's what keeps me doing this day after day, because I love to learn and think and know and discover. I just wish I didn't have to spend all of my time either doing research, thinking about research, or reading research. I'm exhausted.


Tuesday December 13, 2005

Mallows and pet grief... and still down 38.5 pounds

So I gained 1 1/2 pounds back. I expected to gain more, especially since I tend to deal with grief and general feelings of bummed-ness by eating sugary things. Last year when Fatty died, Steph brought over a pint of Ben & Jerry's to make me feel better. And this year I have my own home-made chocolatey things to console me, so I figured I'd have to welcome back the last five pounds I lost. But so far, so good. I'm still optimistic that I'll hit 45 by the end of the year.


Monday December 12, 2005


I'm finally home from a 10-hour day at work, and I'm beat. My eyes are seeing double from staring at a computer screen all day. Tomorrow I'll probably be burning the midnight oil trying to get this project done for a Wednesday deadline.

You know, I love doing research, and science has always been a passion of mine, but so much of it is tedious. And time consuming. Sometimes I wish I had a 9 to 5 job that didn't consume me like this. But then again, I probably wouldn't find it interesting.

When can I win the lottery already?


Saturday December 10, 2005

My, what a sexy group

This is the centerpiece of the family photo session I tried so hard to avoid. I have to admit, it doesn't look nearly as bad as I anticipated. Plus I'm in the back (yay).
The Vurbic clan
From back left: Sister-in-law Sarah, bro Ante, my dad (growling), me, sister Klara. My mom and niece Maria are seated right smack in the middle. Larger.

We are an attractive bunch, eh?


Thursday December 08, 2005

My Nik-Nik died today

Today when I let Weezie and Nicodemus out of their cage to run around a bit, I noticed that Nikki was a little lethargic. I figured it was because he was on meds for his respiratory infection, but after about 30 minutes he rolled onto his side and started breathing really slowly. I petted him for a few minutes, and he just drifted off.


Black eye and runny nose, he was still a sweet little rat. This is exactly one year to the day that my Fatty died. It's so weird. I'm really bummed out right now.


Marshmallow science

I've finally perfected my chocolate covered marshmallow procedure, and I'm ready to make that 40 pound weight loss a 35 (until after the holidays, at which point it's back to grind). They're that good.


Wednesday December 07, 2005

Time for seasonal mood swings again

As I was driving home from work last night, I realized that lately I've been feeling a little bummed. I'm a little lost, a little uncertain, and a whole lot of lazy. I don't want to shop, or go concert hopping. All I want to do is listen to Smashing Pumpkins, then hibernate until spring.

This happens every year. I used to think it was just because the Christmas season is so overwhelming. A lot of people get depressed around Christmas for this reason. And I figured it would be worse for me since I don't really celebrate it, save for a few gifts I buy or make for family and friends. I hate the circus it's become, and I don't buy into the threat of damnation for avoiding a man-made holiday. Plus Jesus was probably born in the spring.

I realize now, though, that it's probably not Christmas that bums me out every year. I really think I have seasonal affective disorder. The lack of sunlight really saps my energy and unleashes my inner Edgar Allen Poe. Oh, so melancholy.

Wake me up in April. Or send me a lightbox.


Tuesday December 06, 2005

Never mind the mallows

Today was the official taste testing for my chocolate-covered homemade marshmallows. Despite the fact that the actual marshmallow part turned out as delicious as I'd hoped, I forgot to buy sweet milk chocolate and used semi-sweet baking chocolate instead. Now I have a bunch of mallows whose coating tastes sugarless. Back to the kitchen.

Liz, you wouldn't want these. Maybe we can swap after I make another batch!


Monday December 05, 2005

Getting all domestic

Last night I decided to test run a homemade chocolate-covered marshmallow recipe (this should do wonders for my diet). Being the domestic goddess that I am, I dropped the candy thermometer in the hot, boiling syrup and broke it. I then proceded to get the gooey mallow all over my hands, clothes, table, kitchen appliances, etc.

We'll see how this turns out tonight, after a good 24 hours to set. I'm hoping all goes well, because I'll be giving these out for Christmas unless I can find something just as yummy (and just as uncommon) to make for everyone.

::Crosses fingers::


Saturday December 03, 2005

40 pounds less of me

I really can't believe that. It sounds like such a big number. I've surpassed merely fitting into my "skinny jeans" and now need smaller sizes all together.

I hit that mark today. A year ago I would have awarded any milestone with a trip to Chipotle, but I think I'll skip the fajita this time around. I'm going to buy myself some pants.


Thursday December 01, 2005

Attack of the Furby

I gave my parents my old Furby since they now babysit my niece on a daily basis. I figured it would keep little Maria busy for 30 seconds or so. From what I hear, she seemed to like it, but I think she was the only one. My dad told me today that after Maria left, he couldn't get the darn thing to shut off. It blabbed on for hours. Knowing my dad, I'm surprised he didn't smash it into pieces.