Uncertainty can be happiness

"Security is a false god," or running around the world as an FSO

Archive for the ‘Science’ Category


Posted by quirksalight on April 3, 2011

The most common question I get, considering my educational background, is, “How did you go from biomedical engineering to the Foreign Service?”

Convoluted? Yes and no. There’s a bit of history, and the kernels behind all this were placed a long time ago. In high school, I was on the high school debate team and that ignited my interest in politics and international relations. However, I was rather obsessed with science and had dreams of developing a treatment/device that would revolutionize medicine. It wasn’t until grad school, after being burned out of medical research, when I had to start thinking of, “now what?”. My temporary answer was to take a leave of absence for a year and teach English in Korea. That’s one of the earlier points in this blog, back in 2007.

But in Korea, teaching was one thing, but straddling two cultures socially and linguistically was a whole ‘nother beast. Plus, I came to Korea at a political change; for the first time in 10 years, the progressive party was out of office and the conservatives came into power the month I arrived, March 2008. This combined with my background in Korean culture and language, sciences, and interest in politics led to some interesting discussions with the faculty in my middle school, handling getting punched on a subway, acting as a facilitator for my foreign friends in Korea, and occasionally having to explain what the U.S. government was doing to my students, colleagues, and friends.

I really enjoyed that interaction – facilitating the understanding between two cultures, though not so much the getting hit part. Which led me to starting thinking about the Foreign Service. I always planned to go into public service, someday, when I was on the academic track. But I hadn’t thought about it again until when I was in Korea, pondering my next step. So I did – FSOT exam date was November 5, 2008. I got the acceptance in to the QEP in December 2008, decided not to sign a teaching contract for another year, gambling that I would pass the QEP and get to the OA, which I did. So I left Korea, with a freelance editing gig, prepped for the OA and passed on June 15, 2009. A year later, I was prepping to leave DC for my first tour as a POL officer in Seoul. whew! What a whirlwind…


Posted in ancedotes, commentary, election 2008, Graduate school, Korea, New York, school, Science, Seoul, teaching english | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

An update!

Posted by quirksalight on June 4, 2009

It’s been a while, and I have no excuses. Well, I have plenty, if you really want, but I’ll hold off. (See, Cousin… it’s up!)

Readjusting to US life is an ongoing process. I have to admit the hardest thing to readjust to was the distance of places and things. The corner market doesn’t really exist in the suburbs and the bus stop is a mile away (I checked).

Basically, it’s the car factor. I sold my car when I left for Korea for several reasons, including that it was over 7 years old and I had no real clue if i’d be back in a year. So I’m currently carless, working out sharing times with other members of my family. Which means I’m home a lot more than I’ve ever been, which in it of itself is a major adjustment for me. 🙂

But it’s not bad. I’m working on gardening and trust me, there are plenty to mess with on the landscaping and plant raising at the familial pad. I’ve got my little garden (so tiny compared to my mother’s monster sized one!), and I’ll be using my engineering skills to save the future fruit harvest from the local wildlife. Apparently the proverbial most wanted in the garden are the squirrels and the birds. Totally nicked last year’s berries, peaches, persimmons, and pears.

And yes, the FSOA… June 15th! My own little D-day…

Posted in amusing, ancedotes, Engineering, gardening, Humor, Science | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Forensics and English

Posted by quirksalight on February 9, 2009

Last week was the second to last week I’ll be in the classroom. It’s also a great group of students to work with, as this was the “English Camp” and the students are self-selecting… I don’t have to push them, they all WANT to be in school. 🙂 Just awesome…

So I tried to keep things interesting… hence, the last two days, we learned about some simple forensics. What it was, fingerprints and fingerprinting, invisible ink, and ink analysis by paper chromatography.

Paper chromatography:

Black ink on strips of paper

Black ink on strips of paper

Using alcohol to separate

Using alcohol to separate



Invisible ink:
Paper with ink

Paper with ink

Heating the inked strip

Heating the inked strip

After heating

After heating

Posted in amusing, ancedotes, Buheung MS, education, english, EPIK, fun, Incheon, Korea, school, Science, teaching, teaching english | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Deliberate psychosis (?)

Posted by quirksalight on October 23, 2007

It appears that sleep deprivation causes emotionally erratic behavior due to the shut down of the prefrontal cortex. Hmm… it’s good to know the mechanistic reason for such, but will this prevent people from not sleeping? Nah….

Posted in brain, health, Nerdity, neurons, Science, sleep | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Straight out of the comics and into our world…

Posted by quirksalight on September 26, 2007

“Radiation hungry fungi could clean up waste”
“Chernobyl Fungus Feeds on Radiation”

Yes, astronauts would be able to grow fungi in outer space, but do you want to eat that?
On a more serious note, it’s amazing how things can evolve to their surroundings…. change or die.

Posted in Bizarre, Chernobyl, freaky, fungi, mold, outer space, radiation, Science | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Perseids meteor shower

Posted by quirksalight on August 13, 2007

This weekend was the peak of the Perseids meteor shower. A couple friends and I went out to the eastern end of Long Island to check them out on the beach. We did get to catch the beginning of it, but as the meteors are best viewed from 11pm to dawn, we didn’t get to see the shower in its glory. 😦
I was hoping to get some photos, but not enough action for any pics. Though on the upside, we found a great place to look at the stars and it was a nice way to start my birthday this year.

Posted in astronomy, birthday, meteor shower, Nerdity, outdoors, Perseids, Science, Space | Leave a Comment »

Apparently I’m safer out of school….

Posted by quirksalight on August 9, 2007

The latest issue of Wired magazine had an amusing article: The Best Dangerous Science Jobs
My current profession: #6 – Graduate Student
Kaboom!?!? [Source: Wired magazine]

Is it a bad thing if I look at the list and think, “hmm….possible checklist?”

#1 (Astronaut) – I wanna go to space!!
#2 (BSL-4 researcher) – Ebola, anyone?
#3 (hurricane hunter) – “We’re off to see the Wizard! The wonderful Wizard of Oz!”
#4 (Doctors without Borders Lab tech) – Danger, with a side of microbes…
#5 (Propulsion Engineer) – nah…
#6 – (Grad student) – Doing it now
#7 – (Volcanologist) – cool, but not really interesting
#8 – (Biologist) – done it

Posted in amusing, danger, Graduate school, Humor, Nerdity, print magazine, Science, Uncategorized, Wired | Leave a Comment »

A very funny issue?

Posted by quirksalight on August 3, 2007

Or Stats can be very amusing…
bentropy posted a comment about Gene Expression‘s article on Intercourse and Intelligence that was an interesting lead. And yes, there were some inversely proportionality going on…
Don’t worry… there are always outliers… 😛
Yes, apparently you can get research funding to study just about everything.

Posted in amusing, Bizarre, Blogroll, intelligence, research, Science, Sex, Social commentary, social science | Leave a Comment »

To reproduce, or not to reproduce… that is not really why we do it like we do it on Discovery Channel…

Posted by quirksalight on July 31, 2007

The New York Times published an article in the science times called, “The Whys of Mating: 237 Reasons and counting,” reviewing the original paper, “Why Humans Have Sex”, published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. The authors determined four major categories behind our mating desires: Physical, Insecurity, Emotional, and Goal Attaining.

The top 8 reason why men and women have sex are the same, though not in the same order. After that…women list more the emotional reasons, while men tend to diverge towards the physical.

Posted in amusing, Bizarre, Cheating, contraception, dating, Humor, Mental Stream, metaphors, Nature, Nerdity, People, Polls, Science, Sex, Social commentary, statistics | Leave a Comment »

Montreal bound!!!

Posted by quirksalight on June 24, 2007

I leave Sunday morning for a two week trip to Montreal. Originally, it was supposed to be one-week, for a scientific conference (my last major conference as a grad student for the forseeable future) there. Interestingly enough, the conference overlaps with the Montreal Jazz Festival, so I decided to extend my trip a couple days. A couple days became an extra 8 days upon learning that some friends of mine will also be attending.
Most definitely psyched! I haven’t had a long vacation in a while, and the total music immersion is something I’m very much looking forward to.
I’m staying at the Montreal hostel, the run by Hosteling International. The place has great reviews from individuals and other independent guide books, and it looks like the place is well-run, has bar crawls (woo hoo!) twice a week, and has gotten rave reviews.
I plan on renting a bike to see the city before the Jazz fest, as Montreal is supposed to be a very bike friendly city. I’ll fill in details time to time but I doubt I’ll be posting much while there.

Posted in amusing, Beer, biking, Humor, Jazz, liquor, Montreal, Music, nightlife, Otherlife/grad school, restaurants, Science, sleep, travel, vacation, yarn | 3 Comments »