Wednesday, November 28, 2007

On the road home... Home???

I'll be taking a trip back home next month.

Usually the first questions that my friends or colleagues at work ask me is if I am excited. The truth is that I am too busy and too tired to be excited, or even to think about my feelings. Also I have seen a pattern in my life, which has taught me to live at the present and not to think too much about an upcoming event. But there is also another thing. It may be a sad fact, but it is real and it exists...I don't miss my country.

I miss my family and my friends, but not the city or the country, and this is an upsetting reality.
I was in denial for so long, and it took me a long time before I could accept it. Accepted that I have so many bad memories and have seen so much unkindness from there, that all those stories and movies about the person who goes back after a while to his/her homeland and at the first step, bends over and picks up a handful of soil and smells it and then emotionally whispers "home, sweet home", bring a bitter smile to my face.

I am not talking politics. I am talking about my personal experiences. Although I know that somewhere deep, my roots are still Iranian, but at the same place deep down, I also have lots of hidden pains and regrets. I just know that I will have a lot to think about and to analyse...I'll do my best to be hopeful and optimistic.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Three faces of desire

I actually wrote a shorter version of this as a comment for lady sun, however, it's been an issue for me for quite sometime.

There are three different levels of desire, I think. The first one, I call it the same, "desire". That's when you want something and try to achieve it. Wanting a new pair of shoes, a red handbag, a new laptop, craving an ice cream in summer, a cup of warm soothing green tea at night, talking to your friend on the phone, ... These can be all categorized as the first level of desire. You want something, and by some effort, spending some time or money, you can get it. The achievement can be as easy as picking up the phone and dialing a number, or as difficult as earning enough money to be able to buy that new piece of technology.

Then there is "dream". Achieving a dream may not be as easy. It may need a lot of effort and also some luck. You may dream to fly to the international space station, or get the nobel prize, or become a bestseller writer. Well it needs a lot of work and effort, sometimes much more money than the price of a laptop, and also the luck of being in the right place at the right time.
If Anousheh Ansari's parents had not moved to US in 1984, I very much doubt that she would have been able to become a space tourist at the age of 40. Rosalind Franklin was not very lucky, so when James Watson used her data to build the model for DNA and then more than a decade later won the nobel prize along with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins, she had passed away four years earlier. J. k. Rowling had a strong attitude and a creative mind that turned her to a worldwide known writer. There are lots of other examples.

I think every person needs one or more personal dreams, or as paulo Coelho refers to in his book "The Alchemist", personal legends. They become the reasons a person has to live. Well I'm talking about those who need more than a degree and a marriage and a house and two cars and a bunch of kids to actually live. If one doesn't have such a personal legend, I would say they are just not dead; being alive? I can't say so. But this is another subject for itself.

Going back to the three faces, there is still a third level, which starts as a desire, then turns into a dream, and then after a while, after you discover that it is not just you or even your efforts paired with some luck which can make it happen, it turns into a "regret".
Everybody has regrets. They are parts of the life. They are parts of the bugs in the system (I talked about them in one of my posts before). Sometimes you just put them aside, and forget about them. But sometimes, you come across them every day in your life. They sit there, with a big ugly smile on their faces, making fun of you and your desire to reach them.
...and sometimes it hurts. It really hurts that no matter how badly you want them, they are inaccessible.

I wonder how many people have them, and how often they think about them...

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Molecular cooking

There is a classic questionnair named "The pivot questionnaire". It is believed to be originally a perustian questionnaire which was later used by Bernard Pivot and afterwards inspired James Lipton to ask it in his "Inside Actor's studio". One of the questions is "What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?"

Now there are lots of professions that I would like to attempt, if I were not involved in science.
I would have loved to be an actor. Living a number of different lives while you are living your own life at the same time, is really tempting. Also I could be a good director, still in movie business I mean.
I could have had a day care, it may seem a bit funny, but I get along very well with the kids, and I believe they have a wonderful world.
I could have been a psychologist, an engineer, a massager.

But If I were still in science, and I could have changed my field, I would have loved to study neurophysiology, study the brain, the neurons and all this nervous system in details. It is an amazing world full of interesting features and aspects.

There is another field that attracts me a lot: Molecular Gastronomy. Harold McGee (the author of "On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen" ) defines molecular gastronomy as "The scientific study of deliciousness". In the other words, it is defined as applying modern science to culinary problems. Interestingly enough, this name was first used by two scientists in 1988 : Nicholas Kurti, a physicist; and Herve This, a chemist. It is not still very well known or distributed, there are few schools which offer a degree in the field - naturally based in Italy and France - but it is gradually studied more and more.

Being a biochemist with a passion for cooking, it seems like an interesting field for me. Who knows, if I think my life is not long enough to become an actor, direct a couple of movies, open a daycare, and publish a paper in Nature on neurophysiology, maybe I can still touch molecular gastronomy, officially. Afterall, I apply the rules everyday in my small kitchen...

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Scent of a memory

The basics of the olfactory system (the body system to sense smells) is vastly studied. There are lots of studies on this system, how it works, the problems, the applications, etc. It is known generally that when odors are inhaled, they are detected by various olfactory receptors, which can distinguish a new odor from the background environmental odors and determine the concentration of the odor. The receptors are connected to the neurons which take the signals to peripheral and eventually central nervous system. They mostly end up and are analyzed in some of brain areas, including piriform cortex which is responsible for identifying the odor; and entorhinal cortex which is associated with memories.

That's how the odors can be paired with memories. Interestingly enough, Anosmia (loss of ability to smell) may very occasionally be an early sign of degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer's disease.

Well, these are all the basic scientific facts. You can find lots and lots of references on the internet. Knowing all these, it still fascinates me how imidiately smelling some odor can awaken memories in you. I think the affect of smells in awakening the memories is much stronger and faster than any other sense... It is really amazing, I put some dried mint on my cucumber salad, and instantly become a 5-year-old girl playing in my grandmother's backyard, waiting for lunch to get ready. I smell a newly sharpened pencil, and become the 4th grade student trying to finish up my homeworks before my favorite TV show. I smell the wet soil after the rain and go back to my grandpa's small garden, and it happens only in a fraction of a second...

Those memories could be breezes of fresh air, while you are sinking in your work, and in everyday life. They can even bring back the beloved late people for a second, by smelling something that reminds you of them. I usually use that second to say hi , that I miss them, and I often remember them by smelling this special odor...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Turning points

According to Wiktionary, a turning point is "a decisive point at which a significant change or historical event occurs, or at which a decision must be made" . There are several turning points in one's life which have the ability to shape one's life and destiny. Not all of them happen at proper time and age though, as some of them occur when you are not aware and wise enough to turn to the right direction. But what does "right direction" really mean?

I believe "right" means you looking back - after you have already chosen the direcion and walked through the way and come across the consequences of your decisions - and feeling happy with yourself, your inner true self, and feeling that if you reached the same point again, you would still turn to the same direction. This is not a very easy concept though, as we've been trained to put so many other things before ourselves, going with the society's rules, keeping other people happy, not to change the portrait that other people know from us, playing the role that we play in our everyday life, etc. But if we can clear these clouds away, see our true self and know it, then we can judge much more truly.

Overall, looking back at the turning points and finding them in your life, and checking back the decision that you made then and there and considering all the consequences, at least can provide a pattern or a map which might help finding and predicting the points ahead, and hopefully making better decision for them.

...and it was very intersting for me when I saw a new book from "Garry Kasparov": "How life imitates chess" and found out that somebody else, somewhere else in the world, with a different nationality and culture and profession from me, has thought exactly about the same concept, with a similar approach :

"...Such decisive moments are tuning points- every time you select a fork in the road knowing you won't be able to backtrack. We live for these moments and in turn they define our lives. We learn who we are and what truly matters to us.... Developing your personal blueprint allows you to make better decisions, to have the confidence to trust your instincts, and to know that no matter the result, you will come out stronger. "

Shall I join the club, Mr. Kasparov?

Monday, October 22, 2007

A movie, an experience

Movies are interesting inventions of the human being, if we can call them "inventions". The possibility of getting away from the time and location in which you are living, and experiencing a new life, even if on some sort of screen, is a unique process, which still interests me after all the movies I've seen. Reading a book is also a similar process: for the time you are reading the book, if you can connect with the story, it seems that you pass one of those rabbit holes and go to another universe. Reading a book is a higher-level experience though, since every person can have their unique imagination and picture the same book differently. In watching a movie, however, you are experiencing the story from the director's point of view, which is still a different experience from your everyday life.

What makes it more interesting, is that sometimes you can even find some aspects of one's personality, by knowing which film genres one likes best. Those who love the comedy or sad movies (something they can have either a good laugh or cry well!) are usually very sensitive people, often with shallow senses. Those who love action movies, often have a 10-12 year old kid hidden inside them. Those who like film noir, don't seem to be so optimistic in life, and so on...

I will write more about the movies later, it's one of my favorite subjects. But what made me think more about the movies, was watching a nice movie the other day: Wonder boys (2000) After so much time, I really enjoyed watching a calm, nice movie, little bit of drama, some psychology, a nice written script, and good acting - well, except for Katie Holmes which was somehow boring- . It was a good experience which made my friday night.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The theory of reasoned action

I have always been interested to know what's going on behind everything. The basic question is, could any event or incident have a reason?
I am still not sure about the nature of the reason, it could be some sort of karma coming back to us, or our thoughts and imaginations getting a real solid shape being attracted to us, or maybe some sort of a planner with a special intention to make things happen the way they do.

The problem is, not all the incidents can be explained with one of these theories. I may be able to explain why I fell off and injured my hand the other evening in the rain (did I upset anybody?) or can find some explanation for achieving some of the goals I set for myself and imagined them or wrote about them (this one works magically, writing about what you want, and just let them be...they'll become attracted to you eventually), or can see the plan behind some of the things that has happend to me for the last 2-3 years and brought me here to Canada (I guess I can understand why that "ideal" fellowship was never offered to me back at home) ; However, I still cannot explain the recent deaths of two young, nice and innocent relatives of of them, a dentist, beautiful, a true lady, and the mother of two, who died of cancer at the age of 42; and the other one, a hard-working father of three, a 15-year old bright boy and 5-year old twins, who died in an accident. He was just 45 when he died.

I think in such cases, the only explanation could be that these are just some bugs in the system. Maybe this world like any other system has some bugs, which show as these not-so-fair incidents. Still, I tend to find some kind of pattern behind everything, even if it is not a coherent pattern of just one cause...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A new start?

This is just a test, or maybe a new start... Hello blogging world.