Sunday, December 30, 2007

84 Seconds

I'm at work tonight, kind of late. I was supposed to be pretty busy, but I forgot to tell my cells that they had to cooperate, so now I'm mostly just babysitting a couple of longer experiments. I keep trying to feel sorry for myself, but I've actually had lots of company on iChat, and I just can't get up the momentum. Darn you, friendly people.

Mostly, my role tonight is to make sure that the compressed air tanks running into my cell incubator don't run out. There are two tanks attached to the incubator, and they alternate: 5 minutes on 1, 84 seconds on the other. 120 times. They flow at pretty high pressure, so it takes 3 full tanks to get through the whole treatment. Today, I had a couple of partial tanks to use up, which means lots of tank changes.

Now, this isn't actually difficult, as long as some moron hasn't tightened the regulator to the point where it requires superhuman strength to get it open. It also isn't that hard when you're changing the 84 second tank, since you have 5 minutes while it's off. It's the 5 minute tank that's the problem. You have 84 seconds to close the tank, pick up the wrench, loosen the regulator, put the wrench down, unscrew the regulator, get the regulator started on the second tank, pick up the wrench, tighten it, put the wrench down, and turn the tank back on. If nothing goes wrong, it's a piece of cake. Of course, the threads on the 5 minute tank and the 84 second tank go in opposite directions, just to make sure you can't accidentally put the wrong kind of gas into the incubator. It's a helpful feature. Especially if you can remember that the 5 minute tank is normal, and the 84 second tank is backwards. No, wait, maybe it's the 84 second tank that's normal and the...

Let's just say that I've been swearing a lot today. Especially at the moron who keeps over-tightening the regulator. For those of you following along at home, I've changed all the tanks several times today. That means, after the first change, I would be the moron in question. For some reason, that doesn't reduce the swearing.

Monday, November 5, 2007


Ok, so I haven't posted in a really long time. I know! And this isn't really a post, either. But look - a bookshelf that shows you what I've just read. Now you can see how I'm wasting time I could be putting to better use by posting. Or by doing something post-worthy.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Weekend writing wrapup #5

There's not much writing to wrap up this week, which is why I'm posting so late. I really don't want to put down in pixels how little effort I put into writing this week. I got one weekday, and that's it. I made some good progress that day, but I have definitely sagged.

It's partly because I've been really busy at work and partly because I've been feeling like crap this weekend. Mostly though, I just need to restart. Same as last week, really, only moreso.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Coshocton County Fair

Last weekend, Josh and I went back to Ohio for the Coshocton County Fair. Josh used to go every year, along with everyone else who lives anywhere near enough to get there. He hasn't been back for quite a while, and every fall when the weather starts to get cold, he suggests that we should go. This year, we got smart and started planning before the weather got cold, so we actually showed up.

It was a blast. The weather was perfect - sunny and warm, but not too hot. We drove to Ohio on Friday (I had worked Thursday night, so no one expected to see me four hours later on Friday morning... good thing). I thought we would spend the evening with Josh's family and hit the fair the next day. Boy, was I wrong. We walked in the door, said hello to everyone, picked up passes to the fair and went there to get dinner. I had missed that one of the main attractions is the food. During the day and a half we were there, I had stromboli, these delicious ribbon cut potato things that were basically fresh, perfect potato chips, a funnel cake, a footlong hotdog, soup beans and cornbread, fresh mini doughnuts, hot fudge cake, a chocolate milkshake, and steak on a stick (most things I split with Josh). I may be forgetting something, since we spent a majority of our time either deciding what to eat or eating something.

We also did the typical country fair things. We looked at pigs, goats, sheep, cows (briefly; I still don't like them), ducks, geese, turkeys, and horses. I think Josh may have picked up a tiny hint that I might maybe like horses a little. (Possibly because I told him that the only thing I wanted in order for the weekend to be a success was to pat a horse. I did.) So we watched harness racing, little kids in showmanship classes, and every horse-ish pursuit we could find. We also watched part of a tractor pull (more fun with earplugs, I think), bull riding (until I chickened out and made Josh leave) and tiny children in a roping contest. (There isn't really anything I can say to convey the comedic value of small children with big lariats and only a vague notion of how to go about roping things. They all get the idea of swinging the rope over their heads, but they always stop swinging the rope at exactly the wrong moment; i.e. when they're about to throw it. Usually they rope their own hats.)

We wandered through the extensive exhibits, and that was surprisingly fun too. I saw the biggest collection of antique irons I ever imagined, and some really lovely quilts and things. I also decided that if I ever live in the country, I want to win a prize for baking at the county fair. And, of course, we played games. Actually, the only game I played involved squirting a water pistol at a target. Guess which one of us aimed at the target and which one aimed at his girlfriend? Go ahead. Guess. I did end up with a medium sized frog, two small frogs, something that was intended to be a puppy but looked more like a Tasmanian Devil, and a penguin, so I had adequate evidence to show everyone that I was loved. It's a status thing. Plus no one won me a live bunny, thank goodness.

On the ride home, Josh and I noticed that we didn't want any of our normal road food - too greasy. Apparently we ODed for the moment. Instead, we munched on fresh apples. Therefore, I conclude that the Coshocton County Fair is good for your health.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


Yesterday, I gave my LAST STUDENT TALK EVER. That's right, you heard me. E-V-E-R. (On the internet, that's the equivalent of screaming loud enough to be heard in Kansas.)

This student talk thing is an annual requirement in my department. It's actually not that big a deal, although it's gotten me tied in knots once in a while. Once a month, usually on the first Monday, usually at lunch, two students give 25 minute talks about their research. The entire department is supposed to attend, and since bribery is the only way to get even a fraction of those people, lunch is served. (It's stuffed pizza. Always.)

Once a student has passed their qualifying exams, they have to give a talk annually. I have now given four: one from each lab. That's getting pretty old, I have to say. I think I will be the only student ever to graduate without giving 2 talks from the same lab. I'll have to check.

My talk was originally scheduled to take place in June, and it was cancelled. I didn't find out about the cancellation until about 40 minutes before the talk, and I was less than amused. It's all for the best though, because I didn't have to do too much preparation for this talk - just update the data slides, since I have actually accomplished something in the last few months.

There are a couple of small "unfortunately"s: unfortunately, I managed to get my computer into "practice mode" so instead of showing the slide as intended, it projected the slide, the next slide, a clock including seconds, and a running timer of the talk's duration. On the bright side, that allowed everyone to appreciate how exactly correct my timing was, in contrast to the other student who spoke. Also, neither my advisor, nor his wife, nor most of my thesis committee were able to attend. On the bright side, that meant that no one asked me hard questions, so yay.

All in all, it went well. I looked pretty, I spoke confidently (if maybe a bit too quickly), I answered all the questions asked, and I don't think anyone's in doubt that I'm back on track. I'm glad of that, and I think many other people are too. And, as of yesterday, I am 10 months away from graduating. Now that's progress.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Fall Solstice Destuffing, Part III

This event really wasn't exciting enough to take up three posts, but since we're still feeling the good effects (and since I still haven't done a couple of things I needed to do to finish getting rid of stuff), it seems appropriate that I'm still talking about it.

After we spread everything that needed to move out on the floor of the apartment, we very wisely decided to leave it all there and go do something else. Aquiring more stuff, to be precise. For some reason, destuffing also tends to result in us buying things. You wouldn't immediately think that would follow, would you? We were very good, though. We pretty much just bought things that were directly related to organizing. Carrie bought a box to organize her jewelry in so it wasn't spread out all over her dresser. I bought a basket to keep bottles of vinegar and sauces standing up in our pantry. I bought wine, of course, because that's required for any organizational effort.

Most importantly, Carrie bought a five shelf plastic unit from Home Depot. It was sort of providential, as we didn't even know there was a Home Depot in the area we were going to. We were initially heading to Target, but we had to choose a Target that was near a Petsmart, since I needed to go and spend a lot of money on my cats. (Sigh... but I digress.) They really didn't have what we wanted, and we'd noticed a Home Depot as we were driving to the place. Now, if we'd come the usual way to the Target, we wouldn't have gone as far West as the Home Depot. But since we were coming from the Salvation Army dropoff point, we were coming the other way. The shelf is our reward, I think.

Or rather, that beautiful, organized storage cupboard you see above is our reward. We spent the rest of the night with the door open and the light on, just checking it out every so often. (This practice resulted in us accidentally locking a cat in for a few hours once we did eventually close the door.) And it still looks like that, so go, us!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Weekend writing wrapup #4

I'm holding steady on last week's pace. I got up Monday and Tuesday and had a great 45 minutes each day. Then I didn't get anything else done until Saturday. Circumstances got in the way, you know?

What I need to do is to be pleased about the progress I made (which was not inconsiderable; I have a rough draft of a 2nd chapter, and half of a 3rd) and make sure I start off strongly this week too, so that if Circumstances come to visit again, I'll still be moving forward.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Fall Solstice Destuffing, Part II

This past round of Destuffing marks the third time Carrie and I have Destuffed together. In the spring, we did our clothes closets, and last fall we did the storage room. This fall: the storage room again. Now, you might look at the starting picture from the last post and refuse to believe that we accomplished anything last year, but in fact other pictures show that most of the organization from last year was intact. It was just covered in several layers of things that had been thrown in, either because they didn't have homes of their own, or because we couldn't reach their proper places (due to things that had been thrown in previously, of course).

We started off by taking the dogs for a long-ish walk and then baking some scones. Nothing like a good, quick start to get a project off on the right track... but walking is good for us, so that must be ok, and in making the scones we used up a box of baking mix. See? Getting rid of stuff already!

Once coffee and baked goods had been consumed, we set a timer for half an hour and plunged into our bedrooms. In two half-hour bursts, I did pretty much all the destuffing I needed to do, including getting rid of an entire box of books. Carrie unpacked the last box from her move (in April of last year, I believe), so we're officially moved in. Then we took a break for lunch.

You may notice a theme here: we were avoiding the storage room with all our might. But eventually there was no choice but to tackle it, and so we excavated Stuff, bringing it all into the apartment so we could sort it and figure out what to do with it. The mess looked a little as though the storage room had exploded all over our living room. (Bonus: spot the puppy.)

Next time: The Exciting Conclusion, or Why Shelves Are Great.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Fall Solstice Destuffing, Part I

A couple of years ago, I was packing up to move after living in the same apartment for 4 years. As happens to the best of us, I had accumulated some stuff over the years. (I didn't actually mean on my hips, although there too.) I cleverly planned to sort through everything as I packed my boxes, and then take the appropriate boxes to the booksale collection spot, Goodwill, etc. During the spare time I'd have between packing and moving, of course. I think I pictured myself sipping homemade iced tea with a sprig of fresh mint while I did it, too.

Any of you who were around for that move may need to take a short break for hilarity as you compare the reality of the move to that pretty, pretty image. As I recall, the only way I had time between packing and moving was because the movers were three hours late. I was ready an hour before they arrived. Why yes, 3-1=very bad planning (and no fresh mint). I did manage to cull about 7 boxes of books from my extensive collection, but I was so panicked about getting moved that I didn't ever take them to the drop site. So they moved with me, and lived in my storage room for another year. Efficient, no? I swore then that I would destuff regularly, and never when I was moving. The solstices make great landmarks, and unlike my initial plan (the equinoxes), they tend not to line up with other major panics, like Christmas. So, solstice destuffing was born.

Destuffing has really come into its own since I moved in with my current roommate. I am what you might call "stuff intensive". My roommate also is stuff intensive. The combination of the two of us results in an apartment whose storage areas are easily mistaken for the formative stages of a black hole. There's definitely more stuff in there than can be explained by conventional theories of mass and energy. In case you don't believe me, I present for evidence the above "before" picture of our storage room.

Next: what happens when the containment barrier around our storage room breaks?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Weekend writing wrapup #3

This week, I made it exactly half way to my goal. That's not so bad, right? A half marathon is still a pretty major accomplishment. Of course, my goals are more modest, but I'm still feeling ok about this.

I wrote for 45 minutes twice this week. Both times I intentionally got up 45 minutes before I would otherwise have. On Wednesday, that meant getting up at 5:45, so I felt pretty heroic. It's definitely the best way for me to get anything done. On the weekend, I meant to write for 2 hours on Saturday evening, but I only managed one, and that's if I'm feeling generous. (But I am. I just had a chocolate chip cookie.)

I'm closing in on chapter 2. I thought I might finish it this weekend, but I at least got the hard part drafted. Now it's the easy part (easy-ish, anyway.) And then the fixing, of course, but even if I finish Ch. 2 tomorrow, I'm going to leave the fixing for this coming weekend.

So the glass: officially half full.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Slightly before the crack of dawn

Man, it's been a long day. It's 11:50pm local time, and I expect to leave work around 2:15am, and to return at 7:45 in the morning. (I get to take a nap after 10:30am though.) I'm posting this partly to elicit sympathy and admiration, and partly so that you will understand why sleep was important to me this morning.

I decided that I needed to get up at 5:45am. (I'm currently regretting that decision, although in the long run it was the right one. It has, however, left me incapable of remembering how many ts there are in "regreting." Or regretting. Something like that. Where was I?)

Ah, yes. I was waking up half a bloody hour earlier than necessary thanks to an adorable kitten who decided to turn on the light in my closet, and then plunge off the shelf she stood on to do it, bringing a stack of CDs to the ground with her. Grrr. You see, I have a separate light switch for my closet, and it is right at cat height above a corner bookcase full of stuff. Apparently it entices cats. This is far, FAR from the first time cute kitty has turned the light on. Generally she's just playing with the switch, but when I wake up, she saunters over with an air of "well, since you're up anyway... maybe you could just scratch my ears, hmmm?". GRRR.

Why, you may ask, don't I tape the switch in the "off" position? Because I have a large, adorable cat who likes to eat tape. No rest will be had if you're in the same room with Cassie and any tape or plastic product, especially packing tape. Apparently many clear plastics are made with fish oil. Certainly Cassie has heard that rumour.

Well then, why don't I keep the closet doors closed and eliminate the problem that way? Well, I might. But I have a third, medium sized fluffy cat who responds poorly to movement of her litterbox, or to lack of privacy. And we have enough litterbox trouble with her, thankyouverymuch. I'd rather lose sleep (I think).

So, to sum up: between the three cats, they have me right where they want me. In bed but awake, so I can pat them.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

On top of everything?

I was so pleased with myself this morning. I got up early, went for a walk with my roommate and the dogs, worked on my writing for the appointed 45 minutes. My lunch was ready to go, I even made my bed. I left for work at a decent time, and I had a plan for today. I'm Superwoman!

Then I looked down. Apparently Superwoman favours black jeans with brown shoes. Sigh...

Monday, September 17, 2007


I have a shameful secret. It's very, very shameful.

Sometimes? I like to eat bread with peanut butter and chocolate chips for breakfast. I always thought it was some terrible aberration, but it turns out my roommate does too. We got talking about it tonight because we were washing dishes, and we washed the grater. Now usually, washing the grater entails removing either fossilized cheese or lemon rind, and this time it was surprisingly clean. I tried to remember what I'd last used it for, because don't you hate washing dishes that were already clean? And then I remembered: we were out of chocolate chips on Saturday, and I was feeling sorry for myself. I wanted chocolate, so I grated some semisweet chocolate onto the peanut butter. For the record: gross. Why, I couldn't say.

After my roommate had finished laughing at me, we discussed the rules of making PBCC, because it turns out that there are rules, and we independently came up with the same ones, at some point in our past. (Indicating that they're actually Natural Laws.)

1. You can't buy chocolate chips at the store in order to make PBCC. You can only use ones that are hanging around the pantry. Then you're Using Something Up, which is a good thing.

2. Opening a fresh bag is also frowned upon. You can do it, but only in case of a real PBCC emergency (such as exams, moving, etc.)

3. Use of chocolate chip substitutes will likely end poorly. (See above. Also, when I was a kid I used to use hot chocolate powder once in a while. Usually I would inhale some, and then I wouldn't try it again until I'd forgotten how much it sucked to be coughing hot chocolate.)

4. The chocolate chips need to be properly distributed. If you put them on too thickly, they'll fall off (and you'll be a Greedy Person, which is worse). If you try to be clever and put them on thinly so you don't have to feel guilty, you'll be left totally unsatisfied, and it won't have been worth it.

5. If at all possible, have a glass of skim milk with it, so that you can feel healthy and virtuous. I think it's kind of like putting sweetener in your coffee and then having dessert.

Horrified? I promise I ate healthy food for the rest of the weekend. Really!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Weekend writing wrapup

I didn't do so well this week. The goal was 45 minutes on 4 weekdays and 2 hours on the weekend. I probably manged 1/2 an hour each week day, although it was a little fragmented. No writing this weekend at all. (Two false starts, total elapsed time = 3 minutes, if that.)

It was certainly not the idea week for writing. We had our department retreat Monday and Tuesday. Then I spent Tuesday night at Josh's, so I was commuting in on Wednesday. Thursday I went in to work early, and then had to trek downtown for 9:00 am. Friday I actually managed pretty well.

Lessons learned: I need to set aside 45 minutes *first thing* in the morning. I spent the week telling myself I was going to work later in the day, and even when I did, I just don't have the same concentration. Stunning revelation: I'm a morning person. (Everyone knows this except me, I think.) So I need to be much more stubborn about keeping that early time free. The difference between Monday and Tuesday, when I tried to work later in the day, and Thursday and Friday, when I got up early, was striking.

So if you're someone I'm neglecting in order to get to bed early and get up early, you hereby have my sincere apologies.

Friday, September 14, 2007


I'm kind of sucking at this frequent blog posting thing, aren't I? I keep starting to write posts in my mind, and then I wander off and do other things. So here's my week in list form, to be expanded serially:

1. Sleeping on a screened-in porch in the middle of the woods during a rainstorm is one of the best things that can happen to a person.

2. If you have good guacamole, put it on a sandwich with grilled chicken breasts and tomato. This may not be original to me, but it sure is good.

3. If one plans to do work involving one's laptop, one probably shouldn't also procrastinate by reading blogs online. Especially if one has left one's power adaptors at work and in Canada. On the bright side, Chris Merrill is the funniest woman in the world. (I can't make the link work. She's at

4. What is it about staying up late that makes me snack as though it would somehow cure cancer if I tried enough different foods? And why are honey dijon potato chips so surprisingly disappointing?

5. I'm back to tutoring my PI's daughter, which means I'm once again alternating between science and remembering how to say "summer camp" in french. (Suggestions welcome.)

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Weekend writing wrapup

I'm meant to be a writer.

That's a tough thing for me to say. I've redrafted the beginning of this post about four times now, so I just have to stick with that flat statement. I'm going to be expanding on that over the next little while, but for today, I'm more into the technical details. This post is the first in a weekly series: at the end of every weekend, I'm going to write a post about how the week went, writing wise.

As usual, I have a plan. (Don't I always?) I'm going to state it in public, to keep myself honest: I plan to write for 45 minutes on 4 weekdays, and at least 2 hours on the weekend. That gives me a day to play with during the week, and I can either work both days on the weekend or only one. I think it will work best if I'm drafting during the week and rewriting on the weekend, because based on today's experience, rewriting involves a lot of me wandering around, trying not to panic at how much work is left to do. (On the bright side, I got a lot of laundry done.)

The project I'm working on right now is a fantasy (possibly YA fantasy, I'll let you know when I get there) that I've been working on for the last year or so. I worked on it pretty consistently over last spring, and I took a couple of days in the early summer to crash through 30,000 words. By the end of that time, I had a pretty good idea of what I should have written. (Sadly, it wasn't what I'd actually written.) But then I put it aside and didn't really do any writing for a while - trying to focus on the PhD, I told myself.

I pulled it out again recently, and worked out what the beginning really should be. Over the last couple of weeks, I've sketched out and drafted a first chapter, and as of today I have 2559 words in second draft. AND, unusually for me, I've sent it to Josh for comments. Yay! I also batted 1000 keeping to my planned writing times! Double Yay! (but considering that I started on Friday, there might be a grain of salt or two there.)

Anyway, that's it for this week's wrapup. Tune in next Sunday for more boring details!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

3 Cat Saturday

My favourite kind of day is a three cat day. I spent the day with all three cats curled up on my bed. Lovely. Of course, I took an unplanned nap in the afternoon, but I defy anyone to resist the sleep-inducing powers of three purring cats all curled up against them.

I had this great plan (because I always have a plan) that I was going to get up at the same time as a weekday (I also have the illusion that I have a weekday routine...). I was going to go for a walk, eat breakfast, and write for an hour. Instead, I slept in, never got dressed, and spent the day in bed. But I wrote for an hour! (ish.) I haven't seen a single person all day, and I'm working very hard to keep it that way. Let's hear it for days of sloth! (Oh, and I emptied the dishwasher, so not total sloth. Just mostly.)

I'm currently still in bed, although the cats are starting to wander away (I'm left with just Cassie, who spends 23 hours a day on my bed.) I meant to cook a nice dinner, but instead I had goldfish crackers and grape soda. There's something extremely satisfying about grape soda. Maybe it's because I haven't had it since the days when I would have called it grape pop.

I'm working on this great post about communication, and why it's important to me, and how this blog should help, and anonymity and so on, but it turns out that Deep Thoughts are right up there with cooking and socializing on the list of things I can't do on 3 Cat Days. So you'll just have to be content with a paen to grape soda for now. Happy Caturday!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Back to the grind

It feels very strange to be back at work today. It's very quiet around here - the boss is away, and the two senior people in my area (the boss's wife and a senior researcher) are on holiday. I don't have anything in particular I have to do today, beyond taking my cell cultures back from the woman who babysat them from me. Of course, there are 80,000,000 things I probably could/should be doing, but I didn't even manage to do the one data analysis task I planned to do today. (It was late in the afternoon. There were computer problems. Too Hard.)

Tomorrow I'm set to make a poster to take to the department retreat. It's a nice, discrete task, and it'll get me to do a couple of the aforementioned 80,000,000 things along the way, so that should be good.

I think I accomplished more today just by going through the motions with a reasonably good attitude than I would have by immediately starting new experiments. In fact, I'm heading home soon because I'm losing the positive attitude a bit. Nothing I could accomplish in the next hour or two would make it worth waking up tomorrow hating work.

So today, I got up at a reasonable time, I went for a walk with my roommate, I made it to two appointments, and I reaquainted myself with the lab. That's pretty good for one day.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Here at last.

Fun facts about me: I love to write. I'm a lousy correspondent. I spend way too much time in front of the computer.

What does that add up to? A blog, of course. I've been avoiding starting a blog for the last year or two because I thought it would become a huge timewaster. Then I realized that I am more than capable of wasting time without a blog, and at least this way I'll be helping others waste time, too. Isn't that generous of me? Plus, my mother has committed to learning to read my blog if I'll write it, and that's no small promise.

So tune in for updates on my life, my pets, my seemingly endless PhD, and other random musings. In the meantime, click here for cuteness.