I must be upfront and admit that I have only, in the past year or so, started reading graphic novels. It wasn’t that they weren’t on my radar, and how could they not be, with the commercial success of the film adaptation of V for Vendetta, 300, Sin City,  and Watchman (well that last one is debatable, and I’ve read the book, and I still disliked the movie. That is another story).

Habibi is not only a beautifully crafted story, but also a delectable visual experience. I have not read any Craig Thompson’s other books- he’s well known for autobiographical graphic novel Blankets – but I was entranced. There isn’t a lot of text, but the illustrations are so dynamic and powerful, that any more writing would have detracted from the experience. From the very beginning of his story, I was drawn into the intricacies of the world he was creating, the characters that he developed over the six-hundred plus pages, and the story. The heart of Habibi is a simple one, but therein lies its beauty. It is a story of stories, and the beauty of the written word. Thompson’s use of Arabic calligraphy is one of the most stunning aspects of the work. The words melt and intertwine with the environment in the story. There is such an organic connection between the power and elegance of writing and the world that Thompson is creating.


The story focuses on the two characters as they struggle to survive, after being cast out of their own lives. Together they sacrifice everything for each other, they create each other, and they lose each other. They are star-crossed lovers, but their love for one another is ever-evolving.

One of the other aspects I enjoyed was the comparison of congruent stories in the Old Testament and the Qur’an. As someone who has a background in both history and political science, I could not help but be very excited by it. It helps to point out both the similarities and differences within the stories, which made for some interesting mental musings.


I cannot recommend this book enough. I finished it in less than two days, and I am not a fast reader (much to my chagrin). I was so captivated and embrangled in Habibi, I was a bit devastated to be finished with the story. That sudden feeling of loss, that is the sign of a truly good book.

Thompson himself is worth a gander. He does a lot of charity work, and recently worked at an institute for the deaf in Salt, Jordan. Check out dootdootgarden for more about him and his work. Here is an interesting interview with the author about how he came upon the concept for the novel. It’s pretty engaging, because Thompson was brought up in an Evangelist Christian family in the American Midwest. Clearly writing about Muslim and Arabic culture was not his first go-to plot point.

Happy reading!


Today is one of my all time favorite days of the year, this year I went as the Bride of Frankenstein from the iconic 1935 film staring Boris Karloff and the gorgeous Elsa Lanchester. It was pretty awesome, if I do say do myself.

I would be remised if I didn’t mention this juicy (and potentially terrifying) piece of news. It was announced yesterday that Disney has purchased Lucasfilm Ltd. for the tidy sum of $4.05 bn USD (£2.5 bn). Disney was clearly hot to trot, because they already have a new film, tentatively named Star Wars VII, slated for 2015. I’m hoping they do Knights of the Old Republic.

The sale includes the Star Wars in toto. ALL OF IT. I mean that has to be worth more than 4 billion. Here’s a video discussing the sale:

Have a safe and brilliant Halloween. Remember, deep down inside there is a mad scientist just waiting to crawl out.

The trailer for Iron Man 3 premiered today, and I have to say, from frame one it already feels like it has exceeded the first two films.

This initial trailer looks amazing and very grim. Tony seems to be coming to head with his mortality, which has definitely quieted his once-cocky and self assured demeanor. His nemesis this time around is the Mandarin, which is an interesting choice considering this film was co-produced by DMG, a Chinese firm (who also co-produced Looper), and he is being played by Ben Kingsley. There is a potential for this to ignite criticism regarding the casting (i.e. why isn’t the Mandarin Chinese?), which plagued the dismal adaptation of Avatar: the Last Air Bender.

Having Stark explore his own mortality isn’t really a surprise considering his personality, and the fact that he is an ordinary man in a superhuman suit. However, this could be fantastically executed wherein the story explores the inner struggles and the fall of a human god. This reminds me a bit of Gilgamesh  who feared his own mortality, and much of the poem explores how this shapes him as an individual.

I’m genuinely excited, because Iron Man and Spiderman are my two favorite superheroes.

The debate season is in overdrive, and the last ditch efforts to curry favor with the undoubtedly tuned-out populace of the land of plenty has resulted in some interesting pastimes for some would-be voters. The most recent presidential debate, which was on the 16th, was town-hall style. This seems to be a recipe for all kinds of awkward interrupting and infinitely quotable lines. The reigning champion was definitely Romney’s “binders of women,” which was clearly a well-intentioned response to an audience member’s question about what he was going to do to bridge the pay and equality divide between women and men in the workplace. According to a recent article published in the Guardian, woman receive on 77 cents to every man’s 1 dollar in for the same work.  Apparently, women with university degrees will max out their earning potential at $60,000 at age 39, whereas men will reach their ceiling at 48 and clock $95,000.

Source: NYT

It is baffling to me, that we can afford to send multiple missions to the Moon, and there was actually congressional hullabaloo about french fries, but women still are paid less for the same work. Here is a handy map to illustrate the disparity, which even extends to women of color.

According to the National Women’s Law Center

Perhaps the argument against women is we are not a good investment. We will get married, get pregnant, and stay at home to raise out kids. The maternity leave in America is paltry in comparison to what you can get in Canada. However, such an argument is pointless. While some women choose to leave, just as many are willing to go the extra mile. There is far more hanging in the balance for women. I think many of us should we want a family, yet wish to make any headway, we have to weight factors such as age and a sense that we have to give something up in order to become successful in our careers. Men just do not have this dilemma. We should not be punished for biology.

Romney’s statement, about having “binder’s of women” was meant to illustrate that he was attempting to place women in a position over men. Of course this highlights an entirely new set of issues. Now he is showing a gender preference, shouldn’t he also have “binders of people of color,” etc. That may sound very un-PC, but it is an issue. Ideally, the hiring process should be entirely blind. A candidate is measured on their experience and ability (initially), not on race, gender, creed, or color. Obviously this model would run into huge snags during the interview process, where it is virtually impossible to eliminate personal bias.

Regardless, equal pay is a must. It is inexcusable that we are being punished because we just happened to be born a different sex.

On a much lighter note. I was inspired by the tumblr, which sprung up during the debate (how keen were those people?), by this image:

I very good play on the Bayeux Tapestry. Check out this site to learn more about this fantastic piece of history.



Not technically a word to the lay folk out there, but as a sailor, well, I know there is a healthy amount of nonsense jargon. Here is a very awesome clip (though you don’t actually see it capsizing….booo) about Oracle capsizing in San Francisco Bay. Luckily, no one was injured. It’s pretty intense, considering it’s difficult to do that to a boat that size. Also, it is going to be extremely extensive to repair, considering the boat cost several million USD to build. Those are some seriously customized sails.

Here are the specs on Oracle, who is training for the Americas Cup, which they won in 2012 in Valencia, Spain.

It is a pretty impressive piece of engineering, and is notable for its sails, which were  designed similarly to an airplane wing.

Watch it in action:

Well, not really, and I’m sure if you asked an actual physicist about it, they would disprove faster than light (FTL) travel in mere moments. Yes, it breaks my heart too.

I’m a big advocate of making any discipline more accessible to the general public. I may not be curing cancer, but I often get people looking at me with furrowed brows when I explain my research interests (well, I am a medievalist, so they may be struggling to stay awake, or not sneeze on me). Often I just boil it down, and half-heartedly say, “Yeah, sort of like that, but not quite.”

People who aren’t physicists can easily be intimidated by the field. Quantum physics can can feel esoteric and ridiculous. I stumbled on Minute Physics, which is truly fantastic. It is a youtube channel which breaks down some of the major topics, such as Schrödinger’s Cat and the Higgs Boson into digestible parts illustrated with stick figures. Personally, I can relate to the stick figures; I’m a terrible artist.

Ventures like this are the ideal way to spark interest in complex topics and I think they can ultimately nurture a burgeoning desire to find out more.

Here’s one on the origins of Quantum Theory!

Oh! Look, they have one about ‘Ye.’ It’s a Minute Physics/Paleography crossover!

Celebrate women, writing, science, and being genuinely awesome and awe-inspiring. Check out the official site: Finding Ada.


This provides me with the opportunity to reflect on the importance (very often overlooked) of women in academia, especially in science. One of my personal heroines is Rosalind Franklin whose story is both one of perseverance and brilliance, but also one of betrayal. She was the first person to accurately photograph the double helix structure of DNA. Her colleague shared this discovery, without her consent, with Watson and Crick, who published an article in Nature in 1953 that outlined their new approach to DNA. They went onto win the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1962, which would not have been possible sans Franklin’s pioneering work. After her work in DNA, she went onto work in virology and helped make serious advances in the field. She died in 1958, at the age of 37 as a result of radiation poisoning. Her story may have ended tragically, but at its heart and soul it is about a woman who was unreservedly committed from the age of fifteen to peruse what she loved.


I am only starting my PhD, but days like this, cause me to take a moment and appreciate the trail blazing women who came before me. They were the ones who fought tirelessly to allow women to not only have an equal education to men, but also be permitted into institutes of higher education. However, I was fortunate to be born where I was. Recently the Taliban attempted to silence the young advocate Malala Yousafzai, who, despite being only fourteen, has worked tirelessly to bring attention to the education deficit experienced by girls in areas controlled by the Taliban. She wrote a diary for BBC Urdu: Diary of a Pakistani School Girl. She was shot in the head and neck last week, and luckily survived. Stories such as this one reminds me how lucky I am, and that there is a lot of work to still be done. Every woman should have the right to an education, no matter where she lives.

So thank you Rosalind and Ada, because of your dedication to education I am able to study what I am passionate about. I hope I can make them proud.