How Much Can We Expect Of Ourselves?

You know how they say the sign of a good chemist is an exploded lab? No? Makes sense, since they don’t say that. Honestly, the only way that would indicate a good chemist is if curiosity implied “good”, and as DeeDee has taught us, as a single factor it doesn’t help much.

A good chemist is sort of like a good chef – they keep their lab clean, know what’s boiling and got their theoretical shit together.

That last part and me? Not so much.

After a series of experiments in the lab, during which we’ve tested compounds to see which elements were in them, we reached the final test:
We’ve been given four clean compounds and no guide as to what to do with them.
Boy, do I wish I’d had more time to wrap my head around this one.

The particularities of what went wrong are not that interesting to a non-chemist. Merely know that I must have appeared lost like a pup in the rain as I let myself be confused by a table overlooking the colors of compounds and dissolution in water and acid– something that would not have happened if I’d been more confident in my own knowledge and remembered that iodate is yellow in acids.

For a moment there it got me down.
Here’s why it shouldn’t, and here’s why you shouldn’t feel down when you’ve got a hard time in your own classes. Continue reading

Fatal Mistakes and Their Subsequent Decisions

How do you fix a fatal mistake? A decision it took months of active searching and years of passive observation to make?
What if that decision was wrong?
What if changing it would put you in a worse position economically, socially and academically? Would you do it?

(WHY is this a duck?!?!?!)

(WHY is this a duck?!?!?!)

Continue reading

The Compound of Me

Am I of glass?
Corrupted glass with cracks caught in its structure?
Porous glass?

glass

Or am I a diamond? A strong network, one unit.

diamond

Perhaps graphite, stacked in layers that touch but never merge.

graphite

An ion bond, which is happily dissolved given the smallest hope of escape.

An atom bursting with emptiness.
An electron without a partner.

A positive, free energy.

gibbs

We Change History For Our Convenience

We like to look back on the past with a self-assured smile and a pat on the back. People were stupid back then, using the word “nigger” and thinking some people were better than others merely for being from a higher “class”.

To underline our own perfection we ignore the blunders of the past and we ignore the fact that they didn’t think of these things as prejudices but merely as the way the world was.
The story of Pippi Longbottoms has been censured due to a story in which Pippi travels to Africa and becomes the leader of some black people – also referred to as “Niggers” in the story.
I’m very sure Astrid Lindgren, the author, didn’t have some grand, white power plan with it. She wanted to have fun with this people she’d merely heard of, much the same way as the Indians in Peter Pan are as stereotypical as stereotypes get. Much like how Tintin treats the Africans in the first Tintin volume.

tintin in congo

Were they racist?
Sure.
But that’s how things were back then. Who are we to change history? And if we did it would only lessen our own victory over previous prejudices. Continue reading

My First Time Reading Aloud At A Book Fair

The stellar amount of books left me breath-taken, but even more impressive was the many people come to see them.
The Bella Center in Copenhagen was filled to bursting with publishers and the books they were pushing and I walked through all of it to get to my own publisher: Egolibris.
I was there because my Danish book, “Tidsfangen” – “The Time Prisoner”, had now been published.

DSC_0028

On the way to our booth I realized how heavy the competition was and the Bella Center transformed into a battle field.
Egolibris’ booth was small and situated in front of the Book Cafés large stage. I was about to ask her if that was where I’d be reading aloud when she sighed and said:
“Unfortunately we’ve got this big stage in front of us, so an earlier author had to basically shout in order to be heard.”
I smirked. “Don’t worry. I’ll steal them away,” I promised, confident in the boom of my voice, which was always remarked upon as being hard to ignore.

Continue reading

The Real Problem With Female Versions of Male Characters

It’s not because “it takes away from the original”. It’s not that “the story will be twisted to be about love and fashion instead of its core principles”, though that’s probably true given how the entertainment industry – and everyone else – think that’s all women care about and thus will only cater those two topics to us.

No, the inherent problem with making a spin-off with gender-bended characters is that, once again, the female is thought of as “the other”.
There’s Hulk and there’s SHE-Hulk.
There’s Spiderman and there’s Spiderwoman.
There’s Captain America and there’s American Dream.

american dream

The issue is, as Simone De Beavour states in her book “the other sex”, that while men are defined by themselves, women are defined in comparison to the men surrounding them.
This means that a female human being is not measured singularly but by what it is compared to other men. Continue reading

What’s wrong with immortality?

Immortal creatures are all the rage and won’t you know it – these days a lot of them are pretty emotional about it. Either they lost something or someone due to time or transformation or they just bluntly can’t figure out how to live forever.

immortality

This theme of “struggling with forever” interests me. We’ve seen it in several popular stories:
Anne Rice’s vampire books, The Lord of the Rings, Groundhog Day, True Blood, American Gods, The Sandman, the hundred-year old man who crawled out the window etc. etc.
But what’s so bad about immortality?

Is it because we’re so afraid of death that we have to make the opposite situation terrible?
Is it because we already have a hard time filling out our schedule?

shcedule

It’s a new phenomenon history-wise as immortality used to be something you very much wanted or you’d end up somewhere very unsatisfying, like Tartarus with a three-headed dog barking at the door all day. And it’s a giant dog, so it’s not like you can tell it to be quiet.

But the Greek Gods had friends. Well, sort of friends. They had someone to hang out with, anyway, and do crazy shit with. Humans were just their playthings.
The current immortal ones are alone, they’re stuck with their human emotions and memories. Continue reading

Parents and their ideas

My father lowered his wrinkled hand to the ashtray and put the cigarette out in a cloud of smoke that made it look as if he conjured it from thin air. He didn’t look up at me but kept budding the cigarette though it was dead already. I felt sorry for the cigarette that it should suffer my offense.
“In love,” he said, “is such a rhetorical thing.”
The statement was senseless on so many levels to me that I refused to respond. Such phrases were typical for this man who thought each of his words were a breath to be caught and saved in a container that would only be opened on priced occasions when one needed consoling wisdom.
But his wisdom was rarely consoling and barely wise.
“In love is something we make ourselves. You can snap out of it,” he said. “It’s actually good to experience it so early so you can practice letting it go. You’ll be quite good at it before you know it.”
“I’m not going,” I said.
The smile was a crevice stretching through his face, a deep scar in a canyon. “Nonsense.”
I needed to interrupt before he unfolded his wings and wrapped me in their softness.
“No, you’re talking nonsense. I’m in love and that’s that – I’m not going ‘cause I’ll be with Ken and I think it’s sad and pathetic and immoral that you’d try to make me, what, learn to never love again merely so I can go say hello to your cousin? I barely know the woman!”
“She’s your godmother. You owe it to her.” My father still smiled.
“Then maybe you should’ve jumped out in front of a bus so I could’ve grown up there. But you didn’t. So there.”
We stared at each other for a while. I don’t think my father took any serious offense. It was a usual verbal brawl between father and son, something we engaged in often enough and with a distorted sort of pleasure.
But today it was merely distorted and annoying.
“It would make her happy if you came.”
I rolled my eyes and grabbed the edges of my illegal Calvin and Hobbes T-shirt. The image was one of Calvin as he shoveled snow and grumbled about how building his character always meant that his father got out of work. It wasn’t a coincidence that I’d picked this t-shirt for the occasion.
“You two would enjoy being black sheep much better on your own,” I said. Continue reading

Fear and Its Ugly Brother, Self-righteousness

‘Twas the beginning of a new semester and a new era for thirty-six young people all setting out on the journey to become chemical engineers.
“A chemical engineer must have a social knack,” they were told. “A chemical engineer must make raise the team-work flag.”
Little did they know they were to be placed in groups, groups set in chain-like rules, groups they were to settle with for months to come.

‘Twas the beginning of new friendships.
Drinks went like a merry-go-round.
Who shouts loudest, who asserts themselves, who puts on the mask of the clown?

Clown

When the fun was over, and hard days began, they trod in covalent bonds and electron orbitals like an apache mule trying to get to the top of a mountain. Things that should be easy became demanding in the context of drinking and sleep-deprivation.
As experiments began and reports had to be written a leader asserted herself and managed that everything got done.
A demanding tone, snaps without humor, and soon she was quite ignored. Asserting oneself with intelligence and pragmatism was not applauded. Continue reading