Thursday, June 16, 2011


by Allison Pang

For most of my life I've been a sort of jack-of-all-trades.I used to show-jump horses. I used to dance ballet. I took piano lessons from the age of seven until I quit around high school. I played soccer. Ran track. Played basketball. Became a certified SCUBA diver before I was 16. Learned to Cross-Stitch.

The list goes on and gets more boring as I think about it. But I guess my point is that for everything that I was exposed to, I never became "good enough" at any one thing.

I suspect my brain has issues with the way it comprehends things.

Take music for example. I can read music just a point. I can sit down at the piano and play whatever I feel like (a tad out of practice these days, but my fingers still remember Clementi's Sonatina just fine, thanks.) However. I can tell you what the notes are...but I only have a vague understanding of timing. Or whole notes vs half notes. Drives my husband crazy. (He was classically trained on grand pianos for most of his life by instructors who only taught concert pianists though, so I guess I can forgive him that.) To this day, I don't know if it's because I never really understood the basic concepts of music...or if I just didn't care to.

I have a tendency to shut out whatever it is that I have no real interest in. I don't know if that's because my head is already full of so much crap that the brain has to gird itself against what it considers useless or what. Physics for example? I know I took it in college. I don't remember any of it. At all. Except bolting out of class as much as possible.  Calculus? I adored it. Differential equations? Sure. Geometry? No idea. Couldn't do a proof to save my life. Eukaryotic cell and developmental biology? All over that bitch.

But still - all of those things could be considered important in the "real world," so you'd think I might have learned them better or applied myself more. So why the hell can I barely remember the application of Avogadro's Number...but I totally know that the kitchen scene in ET where Elliot's mom opens the door and knocks a drunk ET onto the floor was a screw up that the director decided to leave in the movie for the laugh factor? (And I learned that in 1984. When I was 10. Hello?)


Yeah, there you go.

Other useless stuff? I know how to sex crabs. (As in tell what sex they are, vs actually having sex with them, eww.)  I can also put them in a trance by rubbing my finger over a certain spot on their shells. (Well, maybe I *am* sexing them up? Dunno. I know it works though. Call me the crab whisperer.)

I know how to kill mice by breaking their necks with nothing more than a pencil. Which doesn't sound particularly useful except via context. (I used to intern at a wildlife vet hospital. Hawks and owls need something to eat, right? As a side note, I have been bitten or taloned by just about every smaller sized critter in the north east. Red squirrels are meanest things ever born.)

Horseshoe crabs have blue blood. Female clownfish keep harems of little male clownfish. When she dies, the most dominant male becomes female and takes over the harem. (Yes, I was a marine biologist. Is it showing?) I'll stop now. Promise.

And speaking of oddities, why is it that I'm so much more in tune with fake fantasy worlds than I am with ours? For all my hopelessness at  understanding "real world geopolitical situations," I can happily debate and articulate the ramifications of what's going in A Game of Thrones without a second thought. I suspect if history books were written in novel fashion some of us would probably remember what went down a bit better, but maybe that's just me.

Apologies for the rambling nature of this post, btw, but it's been a long few weeks and I seem to be having trouble focusing at the moment.


  1. Back away from sexing the crab cakes...back away slowly!

    The clownfish thing is really fascinating. Would make great fodder for a SF story!

  2. I view the "breadth over depth" of knowledge as vital to society. It means you can translate geek-speak for management. ~lash flutter~


  3. "If history was written in novel form" - um, yes. Anything I really remember about history - it's because I read a historical novel. The rest was dry and boring. Unlike sexing crabs. Which doesn't sound boring at all.

  4. Crab whisperer. Ha! Nearly shot milk out my nose. DO they have ears, I wonder?

    "I'm so much more in tune with fake fantasy worlds than I am with ours." Yeah. I get that COMPLETELY.

    I didn't think you were rambling, BTW. Lots of entertaining tidbits in there, nicely linked I thought. :-D