Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Down south

I'm sitting in my mom's new store right now, which is called Duet. Half the floor displays my mom's jewelry, dresses and other pretty things, the other half is filled with my dad's music stuff. Thus the store's name. This place is huge. Only a third of the total area is retail space, the rest is storage, an office, a bathroom and lots of room to expand. It's in St. Pete Beach on an artsy-type street, across from an old-fashioned movie theater. Very cute.
This is my last day here. My dad and I fly back to Michigan later today. For the first time since I started coming here at the age of two to visit my aunt, my mom won't be on the flight back home with us. It's strange to think that she lives here now and I really don't know when I'll see her next. But she's happy and I know my dad will be, too, as soon as he's able to join her.
(See the photo of them in front of the new store)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


I feel awful. Like Jo in "Little Women" after she turns down Laurie's marriage proposal. (Bear with me if you haven't read/seen it) Her response to a perfectly good proposal from a wealthy, good-looking boy: "I can't say 'yes' truly, so I won't say it at all. You'll see that I'm right, by-and-by, and thank me for it."
I did the same today to an offer for a well-paying job. It sounds good on paper, but I know I wouldn't be completely happy there. And I'm sure they don't want someone who doesn't want to be there. It's just extremely difficult to get the person offering the position to understand that.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

This is the story of seven strangers...

Have you heard about the next supposed location for "The Real World?" It's Detroit, or rather a high-class condo in downtown Royal Oak. I'm sure I'm the last person to hear about it, but rumors say the next season of roommates will work at the Superbowl. Which means the cast is here now. It's kind of a crazy thought. It'll be interesting to see how they portray the city. I bet they make it seem like Royal Oak is part of Detroit, completely avoiding the 30-minute plus drive that separates the two.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Taste of physics

Physics was my absolute least favorite science subject. I avoided taking the class in high school, opting for advanced chemistry instead. And I struggled in college when I had to take a whole year's worth of introductory physics to graduate. I always considered myself a biology girl. It just made sense to me. I could look at a picture of a heart in a textbook and then imagine the flow of the blood through the arteries and veins. I could memorize the muscles of the body by their function. Physics wasn't as easy. Yes, in a way you can see physics in action as well. Observe gravity when you drop a ball, set up experiments to show momentum, acceleration and force. But get much deeper than that, and I was lost. So when I accepted an internship at Fermilab, the idea of writing about particle physics scared me. Here are just a few of the things I've learned in the last few months during my crash course:
  • Quarks, neutinos and antimatter, oh my. I seriously couldn't have told you about these particles a few months ago. But after numerous tours, interviews and questions, I've figured them out. Did you know that if your particles met your antiparticles, they'd annihilate each other? So it's a good thing there's no longer any antimatter in the universe (at least none we can see).
  • NOvA. Not the TV station, but a possible new Fermilab experiment that would study neutrinos. While writing a long story about the project, I tackled physics concepts I knew little about. CP violation, neutrino oscillations, theta 13, go on, ask me about them.
  • Women still are a minority in the field. Only 18 percent of physics PhDs awarded in 2003 were earned by women. This was obvious to me at the lab; I was one of three girls in my dorm and sometimes I'd look around the cafeteria and see only tables of men. Research science continues to be a difficult subject for women to succeed in, especially for those with children. That needs to change.
  • Experiments are huge, in both scale and collaboration. You'd think that searching for such tiny things wouldn't require so much equipment. But the sheer size of magnets, detectors and buildings is very big. See the attached photo of me at the DZero detector. I'm sitting in just a fraction of one of the detectors used to study the miniscule collisions.
  • Physics is interesting. Seriously. Fermilab exposed me to a science quite different than the one Professor Benenson lectured about at MSU while I fought to keep my eyes open. I'm amazed at how little we know about what surrounds us, and the idea that a single event can rewrite the theories we thought to be true. Physics, at least particle physics, is the key to understanding the universe, and that's pretty cool.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

12 weeks

Three months can be a long time, a short time or somehow simultaneously both. I think of my life lately in those measures. In the last nine months, for example, I've lived in three different cities in two different states in an apartment, a house and a dorm, respectively. During that time, I've worked for three different publications. On some days it felt like the three months I'd committed to was flying by. On others, it felt as if it would never end.
Three months is short enough to feel like a just a visitor. Yet it's long enough to make a new set of friends just weeks before your last day. It's the friends I often find myself thinking about. Friends for three months; both sides know the situation when they enter the deal. What happens after the goodbyes?
With a very few people, you keep your promise to stay in touch. You write occasional emails, maybe hang out if you're ever in the same place at the same time again. With other friends, you slowly stop talking. There's no real reason for the cease, but as weeks go by, you realize that the only similarities you had were the place you worked or lived. You still keep tabs on them, but your friendship really doesn't exist anymore. Then there are the friends who completely disappear. Emails bounce back with errors. Voice mails aren't returned. No one knows where they are, what they're doing. I guess it's just difficult to make a three-month friendship longer.
I think of all the people I've met in the last year. Editors and interns, scientists and students, star reporters and not-so-star ones. People I'd talk to on a daily basis whose last names have vanished from my memory. Living life in three-month spans is an endless cycle: from lonely stranger to slightly adjusted newcomer to friend and then back to lonely. It's somewhat numbing.