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Sunday, March 30, 2008

More meetings

Now that I am pretty much done teaching (only 9 reports to grade next weekend), April will be a flurry of meetings. I am attending another conference in 2 weeks. This one should be fun- it is usually a very boozey affair and it is a fun group of folks including a colleague from Desert Outpost, non-profit collaborator and the outside committee member for my dissertation. My abstract was also selected to be a highlighted student talk in a plenary session. Very good for the committee member to see, methinks! Of course, I have to figure out what to wear again too. The red dress worked well last time. Despite some overlap in the crowd, it will most likely be making another appearance.
The most important aspect of this meeting will be meeting with my committee member to update him on my progress and make sure that what I have planned for my final field season will suffice for the PhD requirements. You know, assuming I get interesting results.
Due to a bit of weirdness at the time, I have 2 outside committee members and this week I am driving down to mid-Atlantic city to meet with the other member. She is a person of special interest to me, as I would love to do a post-doc with her. During my visit, we will tour the lab, participate in a journal club, update her on my progress and hopefully talk projects and funding. ACK!
I spent today analyzing data, making graphs and putting a presentation together with all my projects and preliminary results (and baking blueberry muffins). The data part will come together but the biggest worry is the journal club. We don't really do those and I don't have the paper yet!
Luckily, we have one less distraction at home. The dog ate the tv remote this afternoon.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

bloggy blogging

When I started blogging, I had been a knitting PhD student for a year. I purchased my house in June, went off to field work for 6 weeks and started knit blogging at the urging of Amandamonkey and Hamster_grrl in August. This was an outlet for my creative and house-related projects. It was a place to post pictures for my family and friends.

This week I had my 10,000th visitor to my little blog. Now, I know about half of those are my mom and at least another fourth are me trying to see if my template formatting really worked. Still, I never imagined I would have many visits!

Posts these days are much more focused on grad life, research and academia (and kitties!) than they are knitting, but it reflects changes in life (and available time) over the past few years.
One thing that hasn't changed is that I am grateful to you for reading! The support and advice I have gotten from readers has been amazing. The communities of women in science/women in grad school/knitters are strong and I am proud to be a part of them. Even more than numbers, I never imagined blogging could lead me to feeling such a part of a community. Thank you! Here's to 20,000!


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Woo hoo!

Yesterday was my last day teaching for the YEAR! I still have a number of students meetings and 12 reports to grade but formal meetings for my course are complete for the semester. Plus, I got a fellowship for the fall semester so it is over for 2008! Yay!

Off to celebrate (aka sleep) and get down to the business of that progress bar in the morn'...

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Starting something new

Today found me starting a task that is vital to my dissertation, huge, and tedious. I have put off this data collection for a while but it is now time to buckle down. I had a lot of excuses for putting it off and they were all pretty much crap: organizing, teaching, other projects, trying to finish writing things up first. As I finished a couple samples, I mentioned to V that I should have done this a long time ago. Even as I was totally prepared this afternoon, it was hard to just start. I was so worried about messing it up or not doing it just right. Of course, it turns out that it is easy. And if I mess something up, I can redo it or fix it. All the procrastination and fear was just so worthless...

Well, V is also buckling down because he takes quals/comps whatever you call them the BIG exams starting the first week of May. I was not yet a blogger at the time of my exams so will have to re-cap my experiences with them sometime in the next month or so.
My own data related task at hand is looming as committee meetings are scheduled and my return to my research site is imminent. I am staying here through V's exams so that he has more support and less house/pet stress. Then it is out West for one final season in which I will finish my dissertation research in a blaze of glory.
Or, more realistically, I will finish with a whimper and a sigh followed by an evening of drinking good tequila.

But we aren't there yet- all the candy around here has been eaten so I must get back to it...

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Ugly Dress

I referenced my last sewing project, but though that the hideousness should be shared with the world. First, I want to make clear that despite this totally, utter failure, I learned a lot from the project. Such as...
  • How to make gathers.
  • And thus, ruffles.
  • That if the directions call for a step, you shouldn't skip it even if you don't understand it and don't want to drive to the fabric store again to get the right kind of interfacing. If you think something isn't going to fit. Fix it as soon as possible. You won't want to take the whole dress apart to fix it later.
  • I like purple.
  • Sizing is different if you use stretchy fabric.

Well, the thing is far, far too big on me. To make matters worse, I'm not convinced the style would be flattering if it were even the right size. Perhaps if I were trying to hide a pregnancy, which I am not (either pregnant or hiding it).

I plan on making a tank top out of the material from the skirt. Currently, I have 2 skirts started and fabric for another dress. The skirts are fabulous and the dress will make me SO ready for spring weather!

Oh yes, and I had help with the dress. Perhaps he was trying to warn me. Or at least stop me...

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The joys of marriage

I thought getting married was supposed to help me get a higher tax refund. It didn't. We actually increase our refund (by a lot) by filing separately. Weird right?
The biggest tax break couldn't replace this anyway...

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Presentation date

Writing date is still going strong- we even recruited a new writer! Sneks takes the prize with a big 900 (!!!) words in just over 3 hours! It was discussion too- not just methods or something easy!
I cheated on the writing portion today and mostly worked on a presentation. I then gave said presentation at my departments informal student seminar series this afternoon. The talk was on a side project that was started 2+ years ago. We are trying to write it up but the results aren't great. It could have about 30 more experiments and still seem incomplete. The topic is relatively new and what work has been done produces complex (sometimes conflicting) results. The audience had a lot of questions and I had very few answers. Most of the questions were of the 'Why don't you do X?' or Y? or J? variety. Well. To tell the truth, I had to stop doing experiments on this project because I didn't want it to be my dissertation. But between the cold I'm still fighting, my recent decision to minimize side projects from here on out and the ambiguity of the results I am just happy it is over! The paper will be to coauthors by the weeks end I can move on with my life! Moving things along feels so nice...

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Better late than never

I missed allll the fun posts about how many hours people work in a week vs how many hours academics should work in a week.

It is late, but here are my 2 cents. First off, I am tired of the stories of how all professors that have ever gotten jobs anywhere spend from 7 am till 7 pm in the lab and took only 5 days off throughout their entire graduate school experiance. Alright, and you had to walk uphill both ways to your lab and back too right? Barefoot and in the snow, I bet!

Compared to other students in my department, I work a lot. Not the most, and definitly not the least. Lately, 6-8 hour days are normal, followed by 1-2 hours at home after dinner, possibly in front of the tv. I do some work every weekend day. Not always a lot but at least an hour or 2 of grading. The schedule fluctuates with seasons, deadlines and experiments. When it is nice out, we will leave early to go running. When I am running experiments in the field, they are 13 hour days every third day with 10 hour days in between. That schedule repeats as long as I can stand it. Or until I run out of food and have to take a day off to grocery shop.

It seems like as long as you get your work done, it shouldn't matter how many hours you work. The kicker, of course, is that there is always more work to be done. More data, grants, papers to write. So, when does it stop? When you get so burnt out that you never want to see a journal article again? The link above has a lot of good suggestions for how to balance work with a non-work life. I think (as pointed out by many others) being efficiant helps. The days that are really focused on work, I feel less guilty for not working at home. Overall, I just try to take breaks when I need them and do enjoyable non-work things every day. Which reminds me- I have the ugliest purple dress to show you!

Honestly, I don't mind working so much. It is an investment in getting a job I will love someday (hopefully). My husband is still in classes so is doing schoolwork most of the time. We hang out together in our office, surrounded with pets, books, papers and computers. Since we are homebodies, it isn't too bad. As poor grad students, we can't afford to do much else and at least in the winter, can't spend time doing fun stuff outside anyway. I am sure my attitudes about time spent working will change with the stages of my career and as our home life changes. However, I doubt that the number of hours I work will ever decrease...


Tuesday, March 11, 2008


I am back from my trip and, ugh, it was the worst conference experience ever. Travelling was bad both there and back. Some registration problems, only about 7 people from my subfield, bad weather, no sleep and I've been sick since I got back.
Not all bad though. I had 2 undergrad women track me down after my talk to ask me about my field and how I got involved in it. I got to judge some talks. Touched base with some funding folks and had quite a bit of fun with some conference friends.

Tomorrow it is back to our regular writing date and hopefully business (and blogging) as usual.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

I'm an idiot

I have been trying to fit my talk in 12 minutes. Cutting here, revising there. The quickest I have done it is 12:54. Then, I thought it was weird for my talk to start at 7:40* when it was a 15 minute talk. Turns out, it is 20. I can say everything I want, slow down a bit and even add a slide if I am still too short after a few more practices.
Ugh. Such an idiot!

*Not actual time.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Another reason to work from home

I lost my watch. Technically, I did not lose it though. Actually, I put it somewhere and the cat knocked it around and now I can't find it. Luckily, it beeps on the hour so once and hour I have a chance at locating it. I go to a different room and just sit quietly for 5 minutes in hopes of hearing that little 'beep, beep.' So far- no luck. The fear of its batteries going out or of the tiny speaker being muffled against something is starting to set in. Seriously, I need my watch. Practicing a 12 minutes talk is difficult with no timer. Luckily, I have about 36 more 'beep,beeps' to find it before I head south.


Monday, March 03, 2008

RBO Good

  • Thanks for the comments on the dress. I love it and am wearing it for my presentation. I have worn a lot of red for presentations and interviews and this came up a number of times in the comments. Being a power color, it commands attention and is memorable- both good things (particularly because I am competing for best student talk).
  • Last year when I was out West, a big portion of the project was something that was risky. We didn't know if it would work, but if it did- it would be the first test of a specific idea AND totally good for the Earth. My advisor went to the site yesterday and it seems to have worked! Yay Earth!
  • We had another writing date today. I wasn't feeling like writing at all but still managed a few hundred words and some good revisions. I hope to make up for it tomorrow with renewed excitement due to the above bullet!
  • Sunny, 60 degrees, a good run outside, I wish spring would stick around!!


Sunday, March 02, 2008

Red dress

I went shopping yesterday. The goal was to buy a pair of black, everyday shoes, that can easily be worn with jeans or a skirt. These elusive shoes would replace the $4 clearance, Target loafers I bought 3 years ago. Armed with a credit-gift-card from house sitting and a department store credit from a returned Xmas present, I was determined. I bought no such shoes. I almost bought some black, 2 inch heeled, peep-toe, T-straps. Naturalizer is a good brand* and they were 75% off. In the end, I passed then up for being too narrow.
I am giving talks at two conferences in the next two months. With no new shoes, I went along my way looking for a new top for these conferences. I didn't find any. Everything was too summery already.

Which brings us to the red dress.
I found a knee-length, faux-wrap dress with a collar and a tie at the waist. It is a heavier cotton that reminds me of stain-resistant khakis. Bright red.

So, the question is this- Is it too much to wear a bright red dress for a conference presentation? The conference is small and runs the gamut from jeans to suits. I plan on toning it down with a black cardigan. I would have no problem wearing this dress to teach in, but dress? Appropriate?


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Saturday, March 01, 2008

Spring Break Woo!

Woo hoo! The advisors are out of town (both V's and mine)! The undergrads are gone! Time to break out the good booze and swing naked from the chandeliers of our hallowed halls.
Or, you know- work just like normal.

Actually, the only out of the ordinary aspect of the week is that I am going to steal a decent chair from V's lab for the week. Proper posture- now that IS something to get excited about!