Saturday, December 31, 2005

Looking back

  • Biggest failure of 2005: Excessive eating and lax exercising leading to weight gain.
  • Biggest non-event of 2005: Baby, what baby?
  • Biggest research acheivement of 2005: Submitting my first paper for publication.
  • Biggest professional acheivment of 2005: Gaining valuable teaching experience with first college course and teacher-development workshop.
  • Biggest marriage acheivement of 2005: Getting through the first 3 months of the year.
  • Biggest personal acheivement of 2005: Maintaining this blog for 8 months.
All in all, I'd give this year an 8 professionally and a 5 personally. It had a lot of triumphs professionally and a fair number of tribulations personally. Maybe too often I avoided problems at home by diving into work, or maybe the all-consuming nature of graduate school caused those problems to swell in the first place. But I will end the year on a good note: Husband has been offered a job.

Friday, December 30, 2005

“For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat and wrong.” - H.L. Mencken

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


The creek near my house on December 22. It's even higher right now.

Today we are having floods throughout my state. We're experiencing what is called a "pineapple express" where a warm, wet air mass moves up from the southwest and drenches us with rain. When a pineapple express hits on top of low-elevation snow, that's when we get the biggest floods. Right now actually the rivers are bit a lower than predicted, but plenty of them are over the banks and causing headaches for drivers and home-owners in low-lying areas. And forecasters are predicting two more rain events by the new year.

So what is a flood? For most people, a flood is when a river overtops its banks and threatens or damages homes, roads, and property. For scientists however, only the first part is necessary. A flood is any water level that overtops the banks of the stream or other water body and submerges normally dry ground.

How often do floods occur? Using the scientific definition, most natural streams spill out of their channels every 1-2 years. In urban areas where parking lots, rooftops, and storm sewers have increased impervious surface area, reduced the infiltration capacity of the soil, and routed water rapidly to the stream, floods often occur multiple times per year. Similarly, agricultural areas with extensive tile drainage systems may experience greater magnitude floods more frequently than under natural conditions.

What is meant by a 10-year flood? How about a 500-year flood? A 10 year flood has a discharge that has the probability of occuring once every 10 years. The same idea with a 500-year flood. So a 10 year flood has a 10% probability each year, while a 500 year flood has a 0.2% probability. Frequently, these numbers are misunderstood. There have been numerous instances of journalists, politicians, and the general public saying things like: "Last year we had a 500 year flood, so we won't have another one for a long time." That's wrong. If you had a 500 year flood last year, this year you have the same probability of having one (0.2%). Thus, you can have 10 year floods 4 years in a row, or 500 year floods twice in a decade. But on average, you will have 1 10-year flood in a 10-year period.

How are these probabilities calculated? The probability of a flood of a given magnitude is calculated by looking at the historical record of streamflow for a given site. The highest flows for each year are sorted, ranked, and divided by the number of years in the record plus 1. The magnitude of the flows and their exceedance probabilities are then to fit a curve, which can be interpolated or extrapolated to get probabilities not represented in the original data.

How accurate are the calculations? While these calculations tend to be fairly robust for high probability events, there are several problems with estimates of low probability event magnitudes. First off, the records at most gauging stations are no more than 40-70 years long, which means that magnitudes of 100-year and 500-year floods are almost always beyond the range of observed data. And slight variations in how the extrapolation is done can lead to very different estimates of the streamflow. Compounding these uncertainties, very few watersheds (particularly those of interest to the general public) have been free of land-use changes during the period of historical data. Any changes within the watershed (urbanization, road building, agricultural drainage, reservoirs) will change the way water is routed to the stream, and consequently, change the distribution of flood magnitudes. Finally, the United States Geological Survey has current gauging sites on ~7000 streams in the United States. That means that the flood frequency calculations for many sites are based on regionally-calibrated models, not from data on the stream itself.

Filling in the picture: Based on data from nearby USGS gages, my little stream is experiencing a 1-2 year flood right now. But as you can see, the channel isn't very natural (note the submerged saplings from a restoration project a year ago) and my stream gets extensive storm sewer runoff, some of which comes from outside its natural watershed. When you combine those factors, it could be that the stream and surrounding areas (as well as all the plants and critters) are now getting deluged on an annual basis with what might once have occurred (on average) once every 5-10 years.

For more information: USGS National Streamflow Information Program; Floods Q&A; Flood Frequency Analysis Tutorial (math-intensive)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Waves of writing

Over at Living the Scientific Life, Hedwig has written an excellent piece summarizing the state our scientific knowledge about the 2004 Great Sumatra-Andaman earthquake and the resulting tsunami that left over 300,000 people dead. I added extensive comments, in lieu of a post here today. So go over and read her piece and then browse the rest of her fabulous site.

Monday, December 26, 2005

for love of books

Every year since before I can remember, I have gotten books for Christmas. And every year that I've given gifts, I've given someone a book. Christmas Day, as a kid, was a chance to lose myself into a new book. As an adult, my Christmas book was treasured on the plane flight returning from the Midwest to wherever I was living at the time. This year, since I didn't travel for the first time, I haven't had much of a chance to read my Christmas books (to left).

I wish I had more time to read for fun, but for the past few years, scientific literature has taken almost all of my reading bandwidth. I'm so bad that when I want a little light reading before bedtime, I'll open up my professional society's weekly newsletter. Partially this malaise is due to my reading style, which borders on obsessive.

Usually come vacation time, I'll devour a book or two to compensate from my normal paucity of literature. When I start reading fiction, I read for hours at a time. Often, I'll start reading a book at 8 pm, and I'll read until 1-2 am, waking at 8 am to finish reading by early afternoon. During that time I won't eat or shower or even talk to anyone. After the last page, I wander around in a daze for a while just trying to get closure on the book and prepare my mind for returning to the real world. The last book I had a chance to read a good book in that manner was Harry Potter 6. When I can't read fiction or literature all at once, I don't tend to be very good at reading it all. In the past year, I've given up on Sometimes a Great Notion and I'm currently stuck on Reading Lolita in Tehran. It's not that they are not great reads, I know they are, it's just that I haven't been able to give them the chunks of time that they deserve and that I need to surrender to the world in the book.

And that's the beauty of non-fiction. By it's very nature it's not as escapist as literature, and often times it doesn't need to be read linearly. I can open to a chapter or a page, read for a few minutes at breakfast or in the bathroom, learn something, and then proceed to mull it over during the course of my day. For example, last night I read a section in Boundaries of Her Body about the mixed bag of judicial rulings on whether a woman can refuse medical treatment that might save the life of her fetus. Sure, the discussion might make more sense if I had it in the context of the preceding 250 pages, but it was interesting and thought-provoking nevertheless.

I hope that someday I can once again devour a book a week, or a day, escaping into the words of great writers who weave their tales so beautifully. But until then, until I can give the wordsmiths justice, I'll take my non-fiction. Just the facts, ma'am.

P.S. I know that Reading Lolita is actually a memoir, but it reads like a novel, so I've intentionally miscategorized it above.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas!

To all my friends near and far, in-person and virtual, I hope your day has been filled with joyful noise and peaceful quiet, solitude and companionship, and all that you hold dear.

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year, and I've been trying to figure out why. I think it's the sense of anticipation in the lead-up to Christmas. The sense that something new and wonderful and exciting is going to happen. There will be presents to be unwrapped and carols to be sung and feasts to be eaten and church to attend... The actual Christmas Day doesn't have to be spectacular (as a kid, I just spent the day in my jammies devouring the books I'd been given), because that sense of anticipation is what delights me in Christmas.

My husband says that his favorite part of Christmas is buying presents for people. He says that it's not that he has creative ideas or anything, but that once he figures something out for his family and friends, he knows that it will make them happy. (And, husband, my boots are fabulous). My mom likes the carols and the return of the sun with the solstice, and the fact that its a break between semesters is pretty nice too. My cousin likes how Christmas time is the culmination of the year and a new beginning for the next year. My 7 month old niece couldn't tell me what she likes best, but she thought the sweet potatoes were pretty wonderful. And my dog likes having everyone home and our extra-long walks.

As you reflect on this Christmas and those in your past, what is your favorite part of Christmas?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

mom's here - mum's the word

I'm not keen about her finding out about my alter ego so I'll probably be a bit quieter than normal for the next week.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

polar bears and penguins

Dear Coca-Cola Company,

While I have been known to enjoy your products, and never those of your competitor, I am saddened by the misinformation you are spreading in your current advertising campaign. I am referring to the television spot in which you show a family of polar bears who espy a partying penguins and slide down the hill to join the merriment. It's a very cute advert, but is totally factually wrong. And it contributes to the misconceptions I see my students exhibit. For this reason, I am asking you to correct your advertisement and make amends by providing some educational material about polar bears.

First off, what's wrong? It's very simple really. Polar bears only live in the Arctic (the northern Hemisphere), while penguins live in the Southern Hemisphere, principally the Antarctic. Thus, the chances of a wild polar bear happening on a penguin are zero. Maybe you are saying that everyone already knows that, why does it matter if we take a little creative license with our art? Because, sadly, not everyone knows this. I had a student who suggested in a paper that the native peoples of Antarctica would do well to make clothing out of polar bear skins.

If you don't believe me, ask others. Here's a quote from Polar Bears International:
One final misconception is that polar bears live at both poles. The belief is common among school children, who grow up seeing illustrations of penguins and polar bears together. Polar bears, of course, live only in the circumpolar North. They never encounter penguins, which do not live in the same regions as polar bears.
Polar bears are a potentially endangered species, with an estimated population of 22,000 to 25,000 worldwide, about 60% of which live in Canada. Most sport hunting is now banned by international treaty, but polar bears face increasing threat from shrinking Arctic sea ice as a result of anthropogenic climate change. Polar bears also have high levels of PCBs and other pollutants in their bodies as a result of the distillation of atmospheric pollutants from all over the world. These pollutants may be the cause of higher juvenile mortality rates and suppressed immune system functions.

One of my earliest memories is of a trip to Churchill, Manitoba when I was four. We saw polar bears along the shore of Hudson Bay, and I slid down a slide shaped like a polar bear. I especially remember a post card of a polar bear looking in the window of our hotel. The next time I saw a polar bear in the wild was at age 23 from a plane window on the ice south of Ellesmere Island. These are memories I will always cherish. But most people will never see a polar bear in the wild, which is why they need the images that they see on TV to be truthful. And that's where Coca Cola Company has a responsibility to their customers.

By choosing to use the polar bear as your corporate mascot, you also chose to tie your company's fortunes to that species. Endangerment or extinction of your mascot would be bad PR. Instead, create some good public relations and media for your company. Start with the simple: Polar bears live at the North Pole, while penguins live in the south. Then tackle the more complex: Educate the public about the threats facing polar bears. Adjust your corporate operations (manufacturing, marketing, etc.) to reduce Coca Cola's impact on the Arctic and on polar bears. Lead by example, and future generations of children will know the magic of the bears.

Monday, December 19, 2005

wisdom of the tea

My tea bag tells me: "He who has begun has half done. Dare to be wise; begin!" (Horace)

Seems like an appropriate message to someone who has been procrastinating on reviewing a paper. I guess I'll get to work. Talk to you once it's done.

Friday, December 16, 2005

reindeer games

The complete selection of Christmas seen over at *statgirl*

You Are Donner

The most loveable and sweet reindeer, you're also a total dork!

Why You're Naughty: You keep (accidentally) tripping the other reindeer while flying.

Why You're Nice: You're always smiling, even if you've fallen flat on your horns.

I'd like to think I'm loveable, and I sure am a klutz.

You Are "All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth"

Gee, if I could only
Have my two front teeth,
Then I could wish you
"Merry Christmas."

At Christmas, you are a happy soul who's easy to please.
You're biggest concern is making those around you smile.

Hmm...this one fails to capture the selfish side of me that comes out at Christmas, when I lust for new things and just want down time for myself...everyone else be damned. But then again, I do love Christmas carols and cookies.

You Are a Losing Lottery Ticket!

Full of hope and promise.
But in the end, a cheap letdown.

I actually got one of those from my in-laws a few years back. But the jackpot was >$100 million, so one uncle bought them for the whole family. It was kind of fun to think of the possibilities and kind of scary to think what a winning ticket might have done to the family. I'm glad no one won.

Your Christmas is Most Like: A Very Brady Christmas

For you, it's all about sharing times with family.
Even if you all get a bit cheesy at times.

I'd say that one's probably pretty accurate.

Merry Christmas!

a little light reading

Here I am, minding my own business, enjoying a day of clean up and job applications in celebration of yesterday's submission, and my advisor walks in. Now, normally this is a very good thing. But today, I got two Christmas presents in the form of a 300-page consultant's report relevant to my field site and a paper to review by early next week. (My advisor has been promising to teach me to review papers for some time, so I'm not entirely surprised.) So I guess those things will be my weekend reading.

There are a fair number of other fun but quasi-work-related things I'd like to read this weekend:
And I know there's lots more. It's just that I've got a lot of reading (and some writing to do). Have a good weekend.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

submission never felt so good

My first-ever, first-author manuscript is now officially submitted. I'm a bundle of nervous energy. I'm going to the gym...a good way to burn off energy plus early penance for tonights cookie exchange.

formatting references sucks

Pardon my language, but I now know why some authors limit their citations to a small list of articles rather than doing an extensive lit. rev. This is basically the last thing I have to do before the submitting the paper, and it is way worse than I thought it was going to be.

The society to whom I'm submitting says that journal titles should be abbreviated according to the Chemical Abstracts Service Source Index. Which is fine, except that I can't get access to it via the web. So I am forced to paw through other papers published in my target journal and see if I can find the words abbreviated there. But that doesn't help with everything. For example, how would you abbreviate Letters? Lett.? How about analytical? or report?


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Advice to a young grad student

Some modest advice for graduate students just got passed around our department (by a professor no less). I think Stearns has done an admirable job in being truthful about the realities of graduate school in the sciences. Much of what he states I've had to learn from experience. But I'd like to add a few points:

Good science takes time.
Either spend 60+ hour weeks for a few years or 40 hour weeks for a lot of years (or unfortunately, 60+ hour weeks for a lot of years). Plan on experiments, field work, and writing to take much longer than you anticipated. Plan on pursuing a lot of dead ends before you make something work. I once read that you should budget one third of your time to planning a field campaign. For example, if you anticipate 2 months of field work, plan on a month getting equipment ready, devising sampling strategies, making travel arrangements, looking at maps.... Read relevant journal articles more than once - you will always miss something the first time. Go through multiple revisions with the other authors of a paper before submitting it. Expect that the time from writing first (nearly-complete) draft of your first paper to submitting your first paper to be several months longer than you anticipated.

Make friends of your fellow grad students.
Your fellow grad student friends are the only ones who will understand what you are going through. Faculty members have either forgotten or repainted their memories with rose-colored glasses. Family members will wonder why you are "still in school" and why you don't " just get a real job." Friends from high school and college will get good paying jobs, marry, and have babies while you are "still in school."

Your grad student colleagues will be there to share late night pizzas and mid-afternoon coffees. They will listen to you vent about committee deadlines, broken lab equipment, and stupid classes, as long as you take your turn listening. More importantly for your career, they are often willing to offer occasional field assistance, proofreadering, constructive criticism, and collaboration. Again, you must take your turn helping, but in the end a few hours spent prepping someone else's samples or ripping apart a paper may net you a life-long collaborator. And don't limit yourself to only those in your lab group, look for people in complementary fields. They'll bring a different set of expertise and perspective to your work.

Don't forget the big picture.
In the throes of thesis work, it is all too easy to get lost in the details of your specific experiment, theory, or field site. Force yourself to step back every once in a while and put your work in context. How does it advance our understanding of the way the world works? How does it solve a problem for society? How is it not limited to a specific, unique place or species? Try to write the introduction to a planned paper. If you are left feeling like it is only a minor contribution not deserving of your field's attention, then you've probably forgotten the big picture.

I'll add more as I get a chance. I'm going home to bake cookies and play with the dog.

the ultimate time waster

As seen at it's probably me and doubtless others before that.

10 Random things you might not know about me
  1. When I was a child, my favorite color was pink. Then I read Anne of Green Gables...
  2. I don't drink coffee
  3. I have a weakness for good ice cream
  4. When I read journal articles for the first time, I tend to skip the equations
  5. At one time, I intended to go to law school
  6. I used to be a vegetarian, but my husband likes meat and he likes to cook
  7. My grandfather built wooden saiboats and played the organ
  8. I have ancestors that lived in the 13 colonies
  9. I didn't start liking the outdoors until late in high school
  10. I listened to goth and industrial music in high school

9 Places I've Visited
  1. Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia - during a flood
  2. Ellesmere Island, Nunavat, Canada - north of the north magnetic pole
  3. Baraboo, Wisconsin - home of circus world
  4. the Tongariro Crossing near Taupo on the north island of New Zealand
  5. Uppsala, Sweden in December
  6. a small town on the prairie where you can see the August thunderstorms rolling in for 50 miles
  7. Pocahontas County, West Virginia - the most rural county in the state
  8. Akureyri, Iceland - the second largest city in the country, population 15,000
  9. Mt. Desert Island, Maine - where my commute was a 2 mile bike ride through National Park

8 ways to win my heart
  1. Give me good chocolate
  2. Do something totally uncalled for that makes my life easier
  3. Go with me for a hike in the woods with my dog
  4. Give me a good night kiss and bring me a glass of water for my bedside table
  5. Make me laugh
  6. Give me a hug
  7. Be a good listener
  8. Be nice to me
7 things I want to do before I die
  1. raft the Grand Canyon
  2. finish my Ph.D.
  3. stop caring what other people think of me
  4. raise kids
  5. set some major physical activity goal for myself and succeed at it (climb a high peak, run a marathon, hike the appalachian trail)
  6. finish a Sunday New York Times Crossword Puzzle - with no cheating or help
  7. play in an orchestra again
6 things I'm afraid of:
  1. snakes
  2. crocodiles
  3. being so demanding that no one could live with me
  4. losing my mother or my brother
  5. losing my husband
  6. my dog getting run over
5 things I don't like
  1. false sincerity
  2. male chauvinism
  3. People who have unchangeable opinions but don't know the facts. And don't care.
  4. Students who are convinced that they are no good at math (or can't write) and are unwilling to give it a try.
  5. being short on sleep
4 ways to turn me off
  1. stay home on all day while I work but don't walk the dog or clean the house
  2. look down your nose at me
  3. lie to me
  4. disparage my views and interests
3 things I do every day
  1. cuddle with my dog and husband, or at least think cuddly thoughts
  2. take my temperature
  3. drink water
2 things that make me happy
  1. bright sunny winter days when I have time to get outside
  2. live performances of classical music
1 thing on my mind right now
  1. How to balance what is best for my career, with what is best for Husband and I as people, in face of uncertain options and conflicting time lines
Time to completion: 2.5 hours of intermittent work

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

home again, home again...

I'm back now in the PNW - home to a messy house, another air stagnation advisory, a pile of contacts to follow up on, but best of all an excitable furry dog and a loving husband. I'm taking today off because I haven't had a day to myself for over two weeks, and I could use the relaxation time. But mostly I need time to switch gears, readjust to home life, and try to start figuring out how to get my husband out of his funk. I think my near total absence for 2 weeks ago and then my absolute absence for 8 days has allowed him to slide into the abyss. He's still jobless, has gotten a few official rejections now, his grandfather is in the hospital in Midwest and hasn't got long to live, and my mom is coming to visit for Christmas. He says he hasn't been sleeping, he's been irritiable with the dog, and did I mention that the house is basically a disaster?

So last night he drove to the big city to pick me up at the airport and we talked seriously for a while on the car ride home. And I'm worried about him. I wonder whether he's slipping into depression. And yes, I know that if he is depressed, he'll need professional help. But for the moment, I think I will see if I can get him moving a bit. I know that I always feel better if I've got something to do. So I roused him at ten, we ate breakfast together and straightened the Christmas tree. Then I caught up on email and bills while he watched TV. Around lunch time, his mom called with an update on his grandpa, he started cooking a pot roast, and we just came back from a big shopping trip. Now, I've ordered him out to fill out an application for a temp agency (his choice, not mine, I'm just imposing follow through). When he gets home, we'll make Chex mix (a Christmas favorite of his), decorate the tree, and maybe rent a movie for the evening. He loves The Santa Clause.

On a happier note, I got asked for letters of reccommendation for UWIRWTW.

Friday, December 09, 2005

i do not heart blogger

I have been having awful problems with posting to blogger this week. Apparently I'm not the only one having problems. Just thought I'd offer a word of explanation for yesterday's terrible formatting.

more postcards

• in your research statement - be specific enough that the search committee
knows that you know what you are talking about but not so techincal that they
can't understand the jargon and may think that it is not a big idea. If you can
you could say "et al and et al have said this but my data make me think this..."
that will be persuasive that you have a good idea and know what you are talking
• if you get one job interested in you, you should be sure to let the places you
are interested in working know that you have a competing offer/expression of
interest. For some reason, that will increase everyone's desire to employ you.
Of course, the trick is getting that first fish on the hook. (pardon the
• a friend of mine has been able to nicely summarize one science thing that she
has learned each day of the conference...I've been trying to sit in talks and
figure out how to remember the 1 thing I've learned. I did well yesterday, but
today was a wash.
• I've been encouraged to apply for an Ivy League job by a faculty member in the
department. Not a post-doc mind you, but a TT job. And in that related
engineering field. It seems so ridiculous, but what the hell.
• I gave my talk today and I had a bad bad case of the nerves. In me these
nerves cause a tightness and tickle of the throat that leads to spasmodic
coughing. Not as bad as last time, but still rather embarrasing. I knew it was
going to happen and I still couldn't talk my brain/body out of it.
• But after the talk, while watching another nervous grad student present, I
compiled a list of the most common symptoms of stage fright:
o coughing (check!)
o talking very very quickly (I don't think I do?)
o wild laser pointer behavior (No!)
o apologizing when you mis-speak or pause (hopefully not too much)
o blushing (likely)
o profusely sweating (yes, unfortunately)
o umms and errs (no?)
o tongue clicks
• last night's conversation with potential prestigious post-doc advisor seemed
to go very well, although we didn't get to really concrete plans. And
unfortunately the next NSF proposal deadline in my field isn't for 6 months.
And the reprecussion of that is that I wouldn't know whether or not our
proposal got funded until around the time of my defense....which means that I
would either be facing the possibility of unemployment, or having to take a
second-choice post-doc. I suppose I might get an actual job, but that's feeling
very remote right now. I can totally empathize with Ms. PhD and her math/month
thinking right now.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

postcards from the edge (i mean, conference)

First and foremost, I want a hidden tape recorder or a mind that worked like one. There's so much being said so fast and sometimes I realize I miss things even as they're happening. Since one can't pause real conversations, it would be so helpful to be able to go back over them... pausing, rewinding, and fast-forwarding as necessary. Do you think I could get a mini-tape-recorder in place it in my bag? Would that be unethical or just absurd?

And then in no particular order:
  • best quote: Attributed to Jane Doe as a comment on a paper draft: "The work is in the past, the paper is in the present, and god knows what the future holds." (If you want to know who Jane Doe is, you'll have to email me (science dot woman at hotmail dot com) because it'll give away my -ology.
  • # of society award winners: 9, number of females: 2 (one of whom was my undergrad thesis advisor)
  • # of new society fellows: 43, number of females: 7 (plus/minus a few where I am too unfamiliar with the name to assign a gender)
  • most frequently heard job advice: get a post-doc, preferably someplace prestigious, and get a few publications out, then start hoping
  • but don't get too many pubs out because you'll need some of your Ph.D. or postdoc pubs to count towards your tenure quota.
  • in your cover letter, mention specific people with who you would envision collaborating
More later, I'm going for a beer...

big city, bright lights

Yesterday, I was enjoying some of the niceties of city life, good chocolate, good bookstores, good tea...but then last night I tossed and turned because everytime I would get to sleep a loud noise from the street below would reawaken me. So, for the moment at least, I'll take my culturally-deficient small town life - especially my very quiet deadend street, where I sleep all night with only Husband and dog to disturb me.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

5 grad students in a hotel room...

all with laptops with wireless. all browsing science websites. Can you say "nerds?" Gosh, I wish I could tell you what conversations we're having....

Sunday, December 04, 2005

just can't stay away

despite my best intentions to avoid the office today, I'm here now. Midwest U. wanted preprints/reprints and one of mine was only located on my external hard guessed it, at school.

I still need to write the cover letter, revise the research interests, finish printing. Oh and pack for the conference (turns out my toiletry bag was here too) and write those darn conclusions for my talk. I think I'll sleep on the plane tomorrow.

Speaking of - I am leaving early early tomorrow morning for 8 days for a conference/short course...I'll be bringing the laptop and the new wireless card but I may or may not post much.


I'm about to start working on another round of job applications, and it finally occurred to me that I should go back through all of my transcripts and list out the -ology courses I've taken and how willing I am to teach them. I came up with 12 courses that I would love to teach ranging from the intro class I taught this summer to graduate seminars that exist only in my dreams. Some of them are core courses in any undergraduate major and some are applied science-in-society classes. I can't imagine being asked to teach the whole gamut of them anywhere, because a small department wouldn't have the grad courses and a big one would be more specialized. But it is very reassuring to know that I'd feel relatively comfortable with anything on that list. So I guess I'd should actually get started on those applications then.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

frustration running high

So far today, I have spent 3 hours on the phone with my mother and the airlines going through several iterations of christmas ticket buying (yes, buying tickets several times and then canceling them). For those that know me (and my mom) that alone is enough to merit the post title. But I've also been a wee bit stressed out about the upcomign conference (in case you hadn't noticed), and I really needed the day to finish up the talk, gather my stuff together and get enough done that tomorrow all I have to do is pack. Instead:

8:30-11:30 - plane ticket buying
11:30-1:30 - recovering from above, eating lunch, doing laundry
1:30-2:00 - dealing with flaky roommates for conference (at this point I'd just like a room to myself, no matter the cost)
1:00-3:00 - at the library getting articles from "obscure journal on small particles" which of course is not available on-line. I never go the library, but naturally the one time I need to it is overrun by undergrads cramming for their finals. At least the parking meter was broken.

So now I am here at my office where it is blessedly quiet and I might actually be able to gather my thoughts and figure out what I need to do before I leave. So, to do:
  1. install wireless card and make sure it is working
  2. cancel extraneous hotel reservations and double check all flight times and requisite hotel reservations, incl. getting phone numbers and maps as necessary
  3. write conclusions slide for talk
  4. gather materials needed to apply to Midwest U.
  5. gather last paper drafts so I can make edits
  6. pack up all necessary electronics
  7. organize/hide piles of papers on my desk so I am not overwhelmed when I return
  8. get cash
  9. get gas for my car
  10. read jnl articles from library that may hold key to talk they don't
  11. gather other jnl articles/books so I can review background info before talk
  12. transfer my notes on who I am meeting where and cell phone numbers from random scraps of paper to one organized list
  13. plan schedule for 1st day of conference
  14. drink my chamomile tea
All right, seems like a do-able list for this afternoon...filled with lots of organizing so that I can get work done and very little work actually allotted to be done. Looks like the christmas shopping is going to have to wait until I get back, because tomorrow I need to:
  1. pack
  2. hem pants
  3. apply to Midwest U
  4. keep polishing talk
  5. practice talk?

Friday, December 02, 2005

No Christmas carols here

...despite having added 3 Christmas CD's to my iPod, they didn't make this week's random ten. But it was a pretty interesting mix anyway.
  1. Pancho and Lefty - Emmylou Harris
  2. Are you out there? - Dar Williams (classic teen angst)
  3. Luna - Smashing Pumpkins (I actually don't listen to them that much, they just keep popping up in the shuffle)
  4. Zombie - Cranberries
  5. Better Be Home Soon - Crowded House
  6. Road to Dead - Paula Cole
  7. Where you lead - Carole King
  8. Halcyon & On & On - Orbital
  9. Puff the Magic Dragon - Peter Paul and Mary
  10. This Train Revised - Indigo Girls
I really want to write a post on my childless, married perspective on the latest incarnation of is feminism dead?. BitchPh.D. had an essay that I largely agreed with upon initial reading. However, I have promised myself to improve my critical reading and thinking skills as they apply to things outside of science so I'd like to re-read those posts and some of the other noise on the issue. I wrote about this stuff a few months ago when the NY Times article came out, and I'd like to revisit some of those issues. Just give me a few days to process things, think critically, oh, and do some of that science that I need to do.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

deep breaths

After the beginning of the week being this huge push to get menial data analysis done, I am now at the stage where no more data will be generated, and I have to figure out how to turn a so-so set of results into a compelling story for my talk.

This is made more complicated by two main facts: (1) I am essentially new to the sub-sub-field and am not finding it easy to make the interpretations or even know what things need to be interpreted, (2) while I can present an observed set of phenomena, we really don't know the mechanisms that create the phenomena. So I'm left with "well, we see this, and then this happens, but we don't really know why, but it could be one (or more) of these 10 things..." Which is fine, but not good. And good would be a really nice impression to make. (sigh)

However, even if I were to get no sleep for the next week, and have a brain transplant, we will not know the mechanism any time soon. So that's just the way it's going to be.

Having re-formed the conclusion that the science is only so-so, the stress is gone. Instead it is replaced with a draining of my energy. Who cares about this talk? Not me. I'd rather go back to polishing my manuscript, writing job apps, sleeping...just about anything.

But giving up isn't an option, so I guess I'll go back to working on the powerpoint.