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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Seven Nation Army

Sometimes, miscommunication can be funny.
Also, V is up there among the best smart-asses of his time.

Me: Sorry I didn't call you, my phone doesn't work in the lab and I was in there for-ever.
V: That is ok, what were you doing that took so long?
Me: I did 7 PCRs. They took fooooorevvvveeerrrrrr.
V: Ummm, why?
Me: 'Cause there were 7.
V: Wooooooooooow. 7 PCRs? Did you use a multi-channel pipetter for that?
Me: Of course, it is be torture not to.
V: Yeah, but isn't it just as time consuming to remove that 8th tip each time?
Me: Why would I do that?
V: Isn't that wasteful? Do they even make tubes to hold master mix for 7 PCRs?
Me: Well, you use a different tube for each one.
V: So, you don't make a master mix...
Me: Yeah, a different one for each one.
V: Gee, dear, you really are redefining efficiency. At the rate you are going, you'll be done in about 23 years.
Me: ........7 different PCRs on 32 samples each.
V: ......Oh.
Me: Smart-ass.

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Parades Go By

I am taking the afternoon off to do something fun!!!! * Ok, not really the WHOLE afternoon, but at least 4-5 hours. Somewhat close to me is this big festival thing. It starts today with a VW Beetle car show. Although mine is in IL with my mom, I have loved V-Dubs since I was about 7 and have driven one (red) since I was 19.


Next Saturday, I am taking the WHOLE. DAY. OFF. Can you believe it? Well, you probably can... But I haven't really been posting because I have been working my tail off. I have never put in as many consecutive 12-13 hour days before. And they are all grab-a-handful-of-peanuts-for-lunch, don't-get-to-finish-your-coffee busy days. The type of research I do is usually pretty limited by the schedule of the animals. You can't run experiments on them when they are sleeping. But you sure can do molecular work and analyze data at any hour of the day! I have been thinking about all this work and about getting burnt out. When you get burnt out do you know it is happening? Could it be happening to me? Will committing to other time consuming endeavors when I leave DO help combat it or make it worse?

Eh, I don't even care right now- I'm off to a parade!*

*Doing a little happy dance

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Boring knitting = no posts about it

I have been knitting away on the ol' Pinwheel Baby Blanket v.2 for a baby due in just under a month. I will finish it with no problems (I hope) as I am pretty far along. It is just stockinette stitch in the round. Switch color. Repeat. BORING. I accidentally left it at the house I was pet-sitting at all week too. I guess that means I must work on a different project tonight! Despite more babies on the way, I am not knitting for them yet. Or if I am- not blankets. I just can't do it. It gets so boring and I want to do something that challenges me and I want to work with fun yarn. In my poor-grad-student-knitting world, baby blanket = acrylic, easy (stockinette) project.
So, new knitting --What, Oh, What will it be?
The second silk armwarmer?
The thumbs of Fetching?
Cast on for the Sweater finally?
Will I get the courage to frog the Jaywalker?
Cast on for something new and lace-y?

Oh the possibilities! The suspense!!! The lab work I must go do so I can knit without guilt!

hmmmmm, I think I had too much coffee today.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

TV Waves

Just a few bullets of things that have been on my mind, waiting to be posted about. I have major writing to do for a first draft deadline next Monday in addition to the weekend of experiments, lit searching and data collection. Tonight, I am running and knitting. Yay!!

  • On the plane back to NM, there was a man with a big tv camera as his carry-on. He was sitting on the other side of the plane on row behind me. I overheard him tell the people next to him that he was a cameraman for the Discovery Channel..................No. Freaking. Way. I have wanted my own Discovery Channel show forever. It is pretty much my dream job. Not any show though- I have a specific topic and a whole seasons worth of ideas already. Plus-I'm fun! Put me on TV to talk about science already!! I even applied to be the host of "Ms. Adventure" on Animal Planet last year. I think I was either too science-y or not hot enough. Annnnywaaays, after spending the plane ride dreaming up situations where I introduce myself and they want to hire me as soon as they hear I am a scientist, I did actually go talk to the guy and his producer at baggage claim. It sounds like the stories they are doing here are pretty interesting. I tried to tone down the fangirl in me and didn't ask any details like what show they were working on but I did tell them about some of my research. No tv show offer or anything but they seemed genuinely interested and we had a nice chat!
  • I was asked to write my first letter of recommendation. It is for a professor from my undergrad days who I did my first research with. She also taught the first classes I ever took focusing on my field and subfield. She had a major influence in the general sense of what I am doing with my life and the strict sense of what I am doing my research on. I am so honored that she thought of me to ask for a letter.

  • I've never actually written a letter of recommendation before. Any advice?
  • This sign is off of I-10 (Maybe I-20? I can't remember) somewhere we were for field work. The maintenance man didn't understand why I wanted a picture of the two signs together. He had no answer when I asked him if I was supposed to email someone if I saw a snake....


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Beginning to See the Light

Something has changed. It snuck up on me and seems very sudden and drastic. I’m not sure how it happened but I am closer to being a graduating student than a beginning student in my Ph.D. program. Three years have passed and I am on track to have only two left. Of course all of this provides that I finish my research, the data is interesting and I don’t fall to pieces when it comes to writing the dissertation. Those are some pretty big conditions to meet!

Anyways, with this realization, my focus has changed. I have always needed to get papers written and get research done but it is different now. Things that I am most involved in are higher in priority than anything else. Side projects are just that and my own stuff has to come first. This might mean being involved in fewer projects but is a necessary step I think. I know that my time is limited and I am trying to use it wisely (at least when I’m not uhhh, reading blogs...). I have every day till the end on July planned out with experiments and lab work and have only 1 day off to run a race around the 4th. Things will be finished when I leave here.
The dynamic with other students and my advisor has changed too. In the department, I really don’t know the newer students coming in (besides V of course) because I am not in classes with them. Perhaps if I were actually there I would know them more but I’m plugging away at this thing and have been since they showed up. We don't even have shared hallways or happy hours to bond and commiserate over.
Things with my advisor are even weirder. Most of the time, I try to just accept his special brand of crazy and we get along fine- great even. But with some of my work lately, there are decisions to be made about protocol and our usual chats about research that always end with him telling me what he thinks will be best and then my choosing whether or not to do that thing just are not happening. Since it is my research, he is very, very quiet with his opinions and very loud about my making my own choices and making sure I can back them up with well founded reasoning. He even told me to be sole author on my poster at the big conference this summer (and I complied, but not without checking with him three times that it was the best thing to do). This push to research on my own is new and a little uncomfortable.
This light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel feeling is accompanied by anxiety. I’m not ready. It’s too soon. Not enough papers. Not good enough papers. Samples sizes must be bigger. More treatments. Did I miss a control? Will my committee be satisfied? It is also accompanied by confidence. I am ready. Look how far I’ve gotten already! I am sure both of these feelings will pass as I delve back into the intense research period that is planned out for the next month and a half. Either way, I am aware of my progression which is really, really weird.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007


I am back at DO and settling in for an intensive month of research, writing, data collection and preparation for my biggest conference of the year (more on all this later on...). Last weekend, in the midst of the flurry of the final wedding of the season (or at least for 3 more months), something happened that I haven't mentioned yet. This blog started out as a way to show my family and friends pictures and maybe get some help with my knitting. My PhD program and research don't leave much time for knitting and often I have thought of trying to change the title of this thing to not be so tied directly to knitting. I talk more about grad school and research but 'Underwater Grad School' just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Well, despite my included post not actually being about anything to do with grad school (it was about the wedding), I was included in the Carnival of GRADual Progress last month. I feel like I got invited to sit with the cool kids at lunch or something. I am a regular reader of most of the blogs included but am still figuring out how, when and how much to say about school and academia given my initial audience of friends and family. Anyways, I want to thank Geeka for hosting the carnival and including my post and Hello! and thank you to anyone stopping by from there!

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Field roundup

V and I arrived back in Hometown, IL yesterday and I have since had long cuddles with both kitties, drinks with my bestest girlfriend, a trip to a great yarn store with my mom and a manicure. For the first time in 2 weeks I don't feel exhausted!

Field work this time was particularly physically demanding. The heat, cold and long hours and camping in bad weather all took their toll on me. We worked on 2 projects. One for the grant I have been working on since January and another that is an entire chapter of my diss. We got enough done on the first project that I can start analyzing samples and will complete the project with time to spare (YAY!!!!!).

We had quite a few set backs on the dissertation experiment though. Luckily, my methods worked which had the highest potential to be disastrous. Weather prevented us from working for two days which was disappointing but eh, you can't control everything. I never even considered our worst problem- vandalism of our site. The site is a public place that is locked up at night. Catching fish was difficult and time consuming so we tried to save unused individuals overnight to use first thing in the morning. We waited around to be the last people out of the site and woke up extra early to be the first people in. When we got there, somebody had messed up all our stuff and let all our fish go. I have never hated either 13 year old boys or drunk locals more in my life. Seriously. What is wrong with people? Luckily, this happened a week ago and I have dealt with it so that is the extent of my ranting about it but SERIOUSLY? Somebody BROKE INTO somewhere just to fuck up my experiment? Get a freaking life, jackasses.

Luckily, V was a champ and the best field assistant EVER and stayed extra long in the cold water to re-catch all the fish we lost. We ended up getting decent sample sizes for most of my treatments and got just under half of it done. I don't think that has set in yet....research for half of a whole chapter of the diss completed......that just seems crazy! 1/6 of my dissertation!

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Burn, Don't Freeze

We got to the field site on Wednesday. I got out of the car and immediately remembered what 107 degrees feels like. We started prepping for one experiment and I immediately remembered what 68 degree water feels like. Talk about your hard choices. V and I switch off about an hour at a time in the water and have escaped hypothermia but not sunburn. Luckily, we are doing two projects. The second requires long days in the heat but it is easier than switching between hot and cold. Today is our 'easy' day and we are enjoying the break, a prettier campsite, and the only WiFi in 100 miles.

In our off time, we have been avoiding the crowded campsites full of loud children and people who think they are better at guitar than they really are and going night driving. V loves catching stuff. Look how happy he looks! Even despite the funny sun hat and tick preventing tucked in t-shirt!
Here is a sampling of other things he has found...And don't worry- all were unharmed and immediately released.


You can see the large ant in the background for scale.

A big yet-unidentified dragonfly

Texas Horned Lizard, Phrynosoma cornutun

Checkered Garter Snake, Thamnophis marcianus, eating a roadkill frog! (Sorry Mom!)

Blacktailed Rattlesnake, Crotalus molossus

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (he's a big 'un!), Crotalus atrox
The pride of the trip thus far....Trans-Pecos rat snake, Bogertophis subocularis

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

A Punch Up at a Wedding

All pictures here are courtesy of neighbor-down-the-street. I love that last one! Yay!!!

Things around here will be pretty quiet for a few (more) weeks. We have another wedding to attend tonight. It will be great fun and is also a super knit-blogger meet-up wedding. Yay!

Then we head out bright and early tomorrow morning for Desert Outpost on our way to do field work. I haven't knit a single stitch or done any work besides prep for next week. The break has been nice and much needed after the flurry of experiments at DO, wedding stuff and the coming storm of field work, summer goals and the beginning of the end of my time in the desert. There are a lot of work related things on my mind, updates on the blogroll and links to do, and hopefully good reports on research (and baby blanket progress) to come in a couple of weeks!

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