Monday, August 31, 2009

Casino Royale

If there's one thing that I've learned in the past few weeks, it's that sometimes things are a whole lot easier than I thought they would be. Masters interviews were one example, and Saturday night was another. For the record, I hate being set up with people. I despise the expectation that goes along with the whole scenario, and I'm usually the victim of terrible judgement on my friends' part, and end up praying that my mom will phone me and beg me to come home immediately because the dog has run away or something. So, when I received an invitation to Graham's birthday party and was told that I would be meeting my "date" there, I was a tad reluctant. I was really excited about every other aspect of the party. The theme was "Casino Royale", and guests were required to dress up as James Bond or Bond girls. So, on Saturday night, I set off to Sarah and Graham's house, dressed in my little red dress (black is so last season, dahling!), stiletto heels (yay! My ankle has healed! I can wear pretty shoes again!) and makeup (gasp!)! I arrived to discover that the house had been converted into a casino and everyone was looking very glamorous. After chatting to Duncan, Sarah and Graham, and the other guests, we got down to some serious poker (which wasn't all that serious, considering that half the table had never played before). Everyone joined in for the main poker game later in the evening, and I spent most of it admonishing Duncan for having folded when he had good cards. Then, it was off to the lounge to watch "Casino Royale" (which, incidentily, has the silliest dialogue). After the cake had been cut and coffee was served, everyone except Duncan, Garrith, Sarah and Graham left, since it was about midnight. For some bizarre reason though, we decided to start another poker game, which ended up lasting until 3am (at which point my mom really did call me to find out if I was ever coming home)! It was a lot of fun - having only learned to play poker about 2 months ago, I was quite impressed with my abilities! And looking glam and girly all evening (and wearing a new dress that I paid far too much for) was quite fun!

So, I know you're wondering who my James Bond blind date was! Truth be told, so am I! I'm not sure if it was Duncan or Garrith, and nothing was said about it (which, considering all the worrying I did about potential awkwardness, makes it feel like a bit of a waste). I did flirt with Garrith though, so I'll nominate him as my James Bond - although, truth be told, it's a little hard not to flirt when wearing a red dress and stiletto heels. It was fun though, and there was no pressure and no expectation about it - it just felt like we were a couple of single people at a party. In the spirit of Monday blog posts though, here are the 10 things that I learned this weekend (and mostly from Saturday night):

1) I should wear eyeliner more often.
2) I like playing poker and might actually be good at it.
3) Never play poker without glasses if your eyesight is a bit dodgy. Hearts and diamonds and
jacks and kings all look very similar.
4) Never leave your chips unattended, because they tend to disappear.
5) I like eye-flirting with people across tables. And mirroring their body language. Psychology is
6) Even if you have no serious intentions about someone, flirting with them can still be fun and
an ego boost.
7) You don't really have to pay that much attention to the plot in James Bond films. Someone
wants money or weaponry, there's a girl involved, shooting and explosions ensue, Bond gets the
girl. Simple.
8) Playing poker until 3am is fun. But it gets silly because everyone gets tired and starts betting
9) Performance on the Iowa Gambling Task can predict performance in poker. Hurray for
reliability (and don't worry if this makes no sense)!
10) There is something very nice about the confidence which older guys have when flirting,
because they aren't afraid to let a girl know that they're interested in her.

Friday, August 28, 2009


This was probably the longest week of my life. Most of it was spent driving to UJ, because week 3 of the dreaded Masters interviews took place this week. I started out on Monday with my first interview, which began with the usual "So, tell us about yourself". I did a little better on that one this time, and the interviewers were extremely nice. My favourite question was undoubtedly "If you were a piece of art, what would you be and why?". I made it through the interviews, research exercise, psychometric assessment (193 questions about myself) and the role play, but sadly got cut on the second last day, which was pretty crummy. So, it looks like I won't be at UJ next year. Luckily, I've got a back-up plan, which I'm feeling optimistic about - I'm planning to do research Masters at Wits and work at the Sleep Clinic doing neuro stuff in my spare time, and maybe be able to integrate my work into my research. I'm also debating doing some sort of neuroanatomy/physiology course, just for the fun of it!

Aside from the interviews, I also had an essay due this week, which I managed to finish about an hour before it was due. I was incredibly sleep-deprived, to the point where I was actually starting to feel sick, and found myself wondering if I was going to die or pass out before I finished the essay. Melodramatic, I know, but I was exhausted - so much so that Helen had to stop me from driving home without having first had a cup of tea. So, after handing in the essay, I spent an hour chatting to Helen about swords, the joys of working at a vet and boys. And make-up and hair-straighteners.

The rest of the week was spent trying to get my data collection done (13 people down, 47 to go) and avoiding my supervisor. Work wasn't particularly great this week, owing to my constant state of exhaustion and stress, and the fact that the fax machine/phone line was broken, which meant that people would keep calling and I would be able to hear them, but they couldn't hear me. I suspect that I may have further broken it, because it just got increasingly frustrating, and I keep slamming the handset down. Bear in mind that this was mostly just after I had found out that I was out of the UJ interview process!

The weirdness of the week peaked on Friday, when I was offered beer at 10:30am and spent an hour sitting in a dodgy clubroom at Wits, talking to some very strange boys. I went to visit Helen and Leia and the mouse, and then spent an hour chatting to one of my ex-tutlings, who reminds me of Duncan, in some strange way. He ended up playing me some music he thought I would like on his i-Pod, and is now making me a CD of said music, which turned out to be an Icelandic band who sound like a combination of David Gray, Coldplay and something else. I also gave him my number, which I'm probably going to regret doing when he turns out to be a psychotic stalker. I then spent the rest of the afternoon doing data entry before getting stood up by one of my test subjects at 4:30pm. I didn't really mind - aside from the fact that I had waited an entire afternoon for her. If I hadn't, I suppose that I wouldn't be getting an Icelandic CD though!
I should probably answer the question about what piece of art I would be. I chose a picture of a ballerina which I saw at a small gallery, which basically showed her pirouetting, and really captured movement, which I thought was very beautiful. After this week though, I was seriously tempted to say Manch's "The Scream"

or Salador Dali's "The Persistence of Memory", mostly because time seems to be melting away right now!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Rules of Engagement

In order to distract myself from the current disaster that is my research (and the fact that I have to test 56 more subjects by about 3 weeks ago), I am currently concerning myself with something slightly silly: engagement parties. More specifically, engagement party dates. No, I haven't been proposed to, since that would require having someone to actually ask the question. Rather, I've been invited to my boss's engagement party on the 6th of September and once again, I'm up the creek without a paddle - and worse still, without a date.
I really don't think I need a date for the sake of taking a date. I don't mind going to parties by myself. In fact, I was feeling quite confident about going to the party by myself, and enjoying the "I'm single and confident and don't need a token date" vibe. Then, as the result of a serious lack of sleep and a serious lack of sanity, I had a late night moment of panic, because I only know about 6 people (out of 100) who are going to this engagement party and what happens if I get separated from all of them?!? What will I do? Who will I talk to? Will I be the strange, lonely girl standing all by herself next to the crepes?
I've since come to my senses and caught up on my sleep and I'm feeling slightly less irrational about the whole thing. The creeping sense of anxiety hasn't completely vanished though and I've found myself hypothesizing about potential dates. This is far from being my favourite activity, because the prospect of having to ask a boy to an engagement party reminds me far too much of the Great Wedding Date Disaster of November 2008. I have thus flipped through my phone book and debated my options, which are starting to feel severely limited already, thanks to all the engineers having got girlfriends (who knew that this was possible when they weren't really sure what girls were!), the serious lack of boys in my psych class (I think we have 5, maybe 6) and Luke being in France. Even the bad options are out, since I discovered last night that my ex has a new girlfriend, and asking him would be really weird. Really, really weird (especially since hearing that he was dating someone made me feel kind of odd).
So, my current options are:
1) go alone and hope that I don't end up alone next to the champagne
2) swallow my pride and ask someone I don't really want to ask because they seem to
misinterpret us spending time together as me expecting us to start dating
3) ask The Crush (which is kind of scary, because he might notice that I like him, which might be
a good thing or end really awkwardly)
4) ask... Um... Well... Someone. Preferably someone who is willing to be awake at 10:00am on a
Sunday morning for free food. Based on the struggle I had to get a wedding date, this doesn't
really feel promising
This has led me to 2 conclusions - either I really need to get a boyfriend, or I need to find a convenience date, who will agree to go with me to all these weird social functions that require "plus one's". Alternatively, the Great Engagement Party Disaster of September 2009 looms...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Never Say Never Again

I have had the weirdest day - and fortunately, it didn't involve punching anyone (*gold star* for me!)! The weekend was pretty mediocre as weekends go, involving my wretched social constructivism presentation and a lot of procrastination, staring into space and general aimlessness. I felt a lot better by Monday, and managed to get some of my work done, which was rather helpful, since I had to do my presentation this morning. It wasn't fantastic, but the topic was kind of dull and there was no real way to spice it up. Fortunately, it was all over by 10am, and after that, the day got pretty exciting. In summary:

  • I went for coffee with my friend, Lizelle, who gave me a fantastic pep-talk about doing something amazing and cool next year, instead of doing research Masters or some other random degree if I don't get into Clinical Psychology. It made me think about what I actually want to do with my life and how much I don't want to put my life on hold while waiting to get into Masters. I'm seriously considering going overseas or doing something in the medical field. Who knows? Maybe I'll be working at the Sleep Lab next year...
  • I ran into my least favourite tutling from last semester's tutorials. He used to annoy the hell out of me because he didn't work and then gazed into space while sitting in the front row. Somehow, he's grown on me (like fungus, I'd say) and we had a long chat about Russian literature, Star Wars and the mystery that is Angela Carter's writing.
  • I was productive! I read an entire journal article in about 30 minutes and I'm actually motivated to do my academic work, rather than feeling like I have to do it out of obligation or necessity. My passion seems to be back!
  • I had a really nice chat to Luke, Helen and Leia, which involved Helen and I giggling about guinea pigs, high-fiving each other over the people I had shouted at (long story), me explaining the EEG thing (again), Jenny and I doing the "we're so happy that Richard and Kath are getting married" clapping/jumping up and down and scaring Luke thing, and some other random stuff.
  • I was supposed to get a book that I lent to Joe about a year ago back from him today. I waited and waited outside the psychology building, talking to Granville and Charles, and then eventually sms'd him. 30 minutes later, he walked past, on the way to get lunch, and I almost dive-tackled him. Turns out that he hadn't got my sms and had forgotten the book. We will try again tomorrow. This is why it's taken us this long to return each other's stuff!
  • I went shopping and bought a belt that doesn't look like it was stolen from a goth (sorry Helen) and my "Peanuts" t-shirt. Behold!

  • And finally, my research appears to have been saved! The psychology department are actually letting me use the people I wanted to use in my research, which, simply put, means that I have a sample!!! And I got an email from someone who actually wants to participate in my research!
I'm off to complete some more work now - I'm making the best of my motivation while it lasts!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Anger Management

I have never been so glad to see the end of a week! I'm not usually one of those people who counts the seconds until Friday afternoon arrives, but I arrived home today feeling incredibly glad that this week was over. Part of the reason behind this is that varsity is really stressful at the moment. The other factor is that I am suddenly, bizarrely, angry. This is particularly strange for me, because I don't usually get angry. I usually get sad and then feel guilty about whatever has happened, even if I have just cause to be annoyed. I'll usually cry, rather than punch someone. But, it appears after all those weeks of telling the psychology department about my ability to deal with anger, that I'm being tested on it. Instead of sublimating (the healthiest defence mechanism, according to Freud), however, I've actually been letting people know how I feel. It's been weird, but oddly good. I still feel somewhat angry right now, and I'm really glad that I didn't run into a few select individuals this week, because I would probably have punched them (which is rather strange, especially for me!) or told them exactly what I think of them. I have stood up for myself this week though, which has felt pretty good. Just to be on the safe side though, I haven't made any plans for this weekend, aside from house-sitting. I think it's probably safer for me to be away from the rest of the general population.
This post was originally intended to be a rant about how much I've wanted to punch certain people this week and how angry I've been, but as annoyed as I've felt, these sneaky little moments of happiness keep floating across my mind, kind of like clouds parting and the sun coming out on a rainy day. So, instead of ranting, I shall make a list of these things. Far more psychologically (and karmically) beneficial, I think!
Happy thoughts and things that have made me smile this week
1) It's a long weekend! (which really means extra time to do varsity stuff, but what the heck!)
2) I got invited to UJ Clinical and MACC interviews
3) I spoke to my supervisor and I might actually be able to make my research project work
4) I finally decided that enough was enough in a certain relationship, and that I'm tired of putting
my life on hold for someone who doesn't seem to know what they want. It was tough, but I
feel lighter and freer than I have in ages!
5) "I've got a feeling" - Black Eyed Peas
6) It's getting warmer! Summer is on its way!
7) "Airstream Driver" - Gomez
8) I have a crush on a boy. Enough said. :)
9) My boss and his girlfriend got engaged, and I'm so happy for them!
10) My crazy kitten, Darcy
11) Cake Wrecks - the greatest, most amusing website of all time!
12) The adorable "Peanuts" t-shirt that I saw at Mr Price. It says "Trade your boyfriend for a
musician". I have good intentions of buying it!
13) The prospect of my Wits stipend being paid into my bank account (which should help item
number 12!)
14) Being able to not take sides in arguments between friends this week.
15) I can wear heels again without my foot and ankle aching!
16) I have fantastic friends who have put up with my somewhat psychotic state this week
17) I'm reading "Atonement" by Ian McEwan at the moment, and loving it!
18) Sharing vet stories with Helen over coffee (there are things that only vet receptionists
understand, like the constantly disappearing pens)
19) Driving. I love driving at the moment!
20) Being EEG'd. Yes, I'm still going on about it. It was awesome!
Have a fantastic weekend!

Sunday, August 2, 2009


I have reached a new, amazing level of nerdiness - and it rocks! While most people spend their Saturday nights at the movies or getting drunk in clubs or making out with their significant other, I spend my Saturday nights making valuable contributions to science. No, really - I do! Last night, at 19:00, I drove off to Wits Medical School to have my brain waves measured on an EEG machine.
The context of this is probably important. My friend Granville is also doing his BA Honours in Psychology. He's not a real BA student though - he's actually a BSc student, but you can only do psychology as a BA subject at Honours level, and thus he has crossed over to the dark side. He hasn't been deterred though, and thus his research project is seriously science-oriented - none of that "social constructivism- heteronormativity-tell me about your mother" stuff for him! He's a scientist at heart and really fascinated by brains, which is why his research project is based on how the brain interprets music and the extent to which it recognises sounds, harmonies, rhythms and metre as "music" rather than noise. He's also comparing how people with musical training , as opposed to people who have no musical training, experience music.
I have no musical training - I went for a year of keyboard lessons when I was 7 and my cousin tried to teach me to play the guitar when I was 15 (and that lasted about an hour). I can play "Chopsticks" on the piano and that is the sum total of my musical experience! Having explained my lack of musical background to Granville, I arrived at Med School, in the pouring rain, and wandered around the campus (with my cellphone, camera and wallet, might I add. Not a good move!) in the dark, looking for the physiology department. Granville finally came to find me, and we set off to the Sleep Lab. The lab is definitely not the usual sort of laboratory - instead of petri dishes and microscopes, there's a kitchen, bathroom, computers, the EEG, some couches and a coffee table and 4 rooms with beds! After some fighting with the computer, he ushered me into a room, where the EEG electrodes were set up. An EEG (electroencephalograph) essentially measures brain activity using electrodes attached to the scalp, which measure potential difference in the brain. An EEG reading shows brain waves, and EEG's are generally used to measure people's neural responses to stimuli (for more, see: For my EEG, I had to sit on the bed (it is the Sleep Lab, after all!) while Granville rooted through my hair and measured the distance between my ears (apparently, I have funny ears. No comment.). Once having found the right spot by feeling my skull (a skill known as "phrenology", which was a forerunner to neurology and neuroscience and basically consisted of determining people's personalities by feeling their skulls), he removed the layer of dead skin cells on the spot on my scalp and then smeared some conductive gel onto the area, and then attached the electrode. This process was repeated over the rest of my head, and really required a lot of control on my part because I really wanted to giggle. There's just something about having a close friend digging through your hair and sticking electrodes to your scalp which really does something to a friendship. His complaints about my incredibly thick hair didn't help though!

Once all the electrodes were connected, he checked them on the EEG computer and then gave me a pair of headphones. The rest of the process required me to lie down on the bed, in the dark room, with the headphones on, and listen to the assorted pieces of music he played me. It took about 20 minutes and it was a lot of fun! It was really calming - in fact, I'd pay money to go lie in a dark room and listen to music! I was so relaxed that I could've fallen asleep - which sent Granville into a mild panic, because sleep brain wave patterns are different from wakeful brain waves!

After answering some questions about the music and then washing the gel off my head (I wasn't told about this prior to the experiment, and still had goo stuck in my hair this morning), I got to see the EEG recordings of my brain waves! I also got a chocolate muffin for my trouble and spent the rest of the evening chatting to Granville about brains and boys and stuff. It was an awesome evening - if a little unorthodox for a Saturday night!

Me, connected to the EEG machine (hair-styling by
Granville). Yes, I do have electrodes attached to my head!