Grant! and Things!

Life has been busy. Writing, traveling, data collection, teaching, dog loss. BUT, a huge amount of work has paid off in that I and my collaborator are getting a rather huge grant from NSF. This is for extending the system I developed for a huge chunk of my dissertation. It is very exciting news, but now the excitement is fading and the sheer terror is setting in over all the work I have in front of me over the next four years. Holy crap!!

What else has been going on? I finished my semester of teaching. My post-doc fellowship is one of those career development deals, so I do lots of research, but I also teach for a semester. I'll have to write about that adventure a little later.

Hmmm... I managed a week away to see family. A trip to California for a talk. A trip to Michigan for a talk. A trip to Massachusetts for a conference. And a trip for a rather strange conference in Phoenix. Naturally, I am still waiting on reimbursements for 2 of those trips.

I finished a couple do experiments, started a couple more, got some new toys in the lab. Worked with some great undergrads, including two fantastic students from the community college. Had one rather unfortunate undergrad situation, but these things happen.

I sewed some things- finished a 14th century dress and a 16th century Persian outfit. That was definitely interesting. I painted some things and did a bit of calligraphy. I'm also learning nalbinding, and finished a couple of hats. I'll have to post about that later also. Its pretty fun.

I read some books. My mother-in-law has been sending books. Cool books that I probably never would have found a read on my own. I also finished another couple of the Sookie Stackhouse novels. Three of us in the lab are reading them, so we have a built-in discussion group!

On the not-fun front, of course I lost my Gibbsy. That is still rough. And I started on interferons, a process which totally, totally sucks. Its a shot every other day. I spent a couple of months titrating up the dose. So I would suffer for weeks, start to get used to the dose, and then have to up the dose again. I am just now starting to feel normal again. This is a crazy saga also, which I'll have to fully whine about at some point.

So, busy times and I feel more behind in my work than ever! But hopefully I get something done this weekend- ideally get this one manuscript submitted- and then my stress level should decrease a bit.

Dog Loss

I've been having a very rough year, but making it through. Then my dog died last week. My wonderful Gibbsy, aka the Best Dog Ever. We were buddies. Gibbs was amazing. It was a great partnership of mutual affection, napping, and a love for peanut butter. And then he was snatched from me in a freak accident. He collided with a car and I collided with the pavement. I had to hold my sweet, paralyzed, shaking puppy while they euthanized him at the animal hospital. Gibbs lost his life and I broke my hand. He deserved much better after a lifetime of abuse and crappiness; but at least he had a great life for the time he was with me.

I really miss him. I loved everything about him. Little puppylicious Gibbsy.

End of another year...

Another New Years Eve. My husband was here for Christmas, but now he's back to 2400 miles away. So we're both watching Hulu and playing on the internet together. He's catching up on the first season of Buffy, which expires tonight (I finished it yesterday). I'm catching up on a couple of fall sitcoms. Sure, we're boring, but we like it that way. At least this year, we like it that way.

This year has been good and bad. I defended and moved to an awesome post doc position, I got a couple of great publications out, we got an adorable new niece and a new nephew, we moved half of us across the country, and we adopted Gibbs the free energy puppy. I only managed 5 bee stings. But we lost Milja, our cat of 10 years, after a long illness. We had to spend half of the year in different states. And I got a truly awful and scary medical diagnosis, which leaves me alternating between optimistic determination and wanting to crawl under a rock and cry. Actually, right now I'm more in the crying under a rock phase. It'll pass in another 10 minutes. Apparently this is normal.

But I am looking forward to the new year. I have a batch of awesome experiments ending and two new sets planned out. I have some nice travel planned, thanks to a decent travel budget and conferences in cool places. My husband and I have some visits planned, and hopefully he gets a job here soon and our cat Elsa will meet our dog Gibbsy. We even have our 12th wedding anniversary coming up this year! Twelve years and we're as happy as we've ever been. Except for that being in different states part. The distance sucks. Especially with the shitty medical stuff going on. But oh well.

Other great things? We got light-blocking, noise-reducing curtains for the bedroom right after Christmas. That plus the new humidifier means I don't wake up with traffic noise all night long, or even worse, those damned police helicopters. What is it with the police helicopters here? Seriously, they are constant and all night long. But I no longer care, because I can't hear them anymore.... ah bliss. And decent sleep is always something to look forward to.

Fun with Apples

When I was a teenager, one of my favorite afternoon snack was a microwaved apple. I'd slice an apple, sprinkle it with brown sugar and cinnamon and microwave it for a few minutes. It reminded me of the skillet apples my grandfather would make on Christmas Eve during our annual brunch.

Personally, I have an abysmal track record with skillet apples. I finally got my recipe perfected. I would have posted a picture, but I ate them pretty quickly tonight. So, sliced green apple and butter in a skillet. Sprinkle over some sugar and a good amount of cinnamon. Cook that down and stir every now and then (but not too much or the apples break apart). Once those apples are soft and the moisture is getting a nice caramelized texture, toss in some amaretto and its done.

I added a little bit of whipped cream on top. Seriously, my refrigerator is never without whipped cream. The canned kind holds up well and its easy to put a tiny bit on the little deserts I can't seem to live without.

Right now I'm in the countdown to Christmas. My husband is flying in on Tuesday, which gives us 2 days to get all the cooking done for our Christmas Eve dinner. Of course this means I will be starting earlier than that. Cookies. Breads. Ham to brine. Herring to get together. And of course many, many vegetables to peel, chop, boil, mash, and whatnot. I love cooking. I still have to get the recipe for liver casserole from my mother-in-law. Not my favorite, but my husband misses it, so we're going to have that liver casserole. Maybe I'll post a picture when its cooked.

On Shitty First Drafts

One of my favorite books on writing is "Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life," by Anne Lamott. A very good friend gave it to me a number of years ago and its one of those books that gets better on the re-read. Anyway, Anne Lamott writes about the inavoidable "shitty first draft." Every first draft is shitty. That's what second drafts are for... and well sixth and tenth drafts as well. This is how you get to looking back on something you published a few years ago and wonder what awesome person wrote it, because wow, it sure reads well.

I am a master at crummy first drafts and this is because I have no fear of committing total crap to the screen. If that degree in writing has done anything for me, it has been taking away the hesitation of writing that first sentence. Yep, all due to that degree and enough coffee... or occasionally a half a bottle of wine (at home, I promise. I cleaned out my drawer of vice when I moved to the new university).

What has come as a revelation to me is that a dear former mentor of mine writes shitty first drafts also. He's one of the best writers I've ever known. He can take a few of my paragraphs, make some minor tweaks that never would have occurred to me, and the text just sings. God I hate it when he does that. So freaking annoying. I usually only saw what were probably his fourth or later drafts. Until Google docs. Collaborating with Google docs is an eye opener because everyone sees every little draft. I always knew he worked hard at being such an awesome writer, but I guess it never really clicked until I saw those awful first drafts. Crap-tastic, just like mine.

This has been pretty inspirational for me. And a reminder that good, clear scientific writing is not going to come quickly, so I might as well hunker down and enjoy the process without all that extra anxiety piled on top. It'll get there. Eventually. At some point. With enough coffee.

Farmville Addiction

I finally succumbed to Farmville on Facebook. A few people in my family are addicted, and were trying to talk me into signing up on Thanksgiving. I was on the fence, especially since I had happily blocked those notifications in the past. But then I called my loving spouse, who promptly informed me that if I would just sign up already, then he'd have enough farm neighbors to buy a bigger farm.

Being somewhat compulsive, I have spent way too much time planting fake crops and arranging fake livestock. But I have called a halt. I got things the way I wanted them, and hopefully now I can just maintain. Being a bit nerdy, I managed to do this in just a few days my maximizing harvest rates and whatnot. Thinking about optimal farmvilling rather than optimal foraging for a little while can't hurt, right?

On the plus side to the Thanksgiving vacation, I got a huge amount of work done yesterday. No brain fog then- and I remembered to write all my thoughts down this time. The girl can learn to cope, that's for sure.

This week is going to be busy. I have to write and give a guest lecture for Thursday, get the house ready for a visit from my loving spouse, finish up testing this 7th block of my current experiment, analyze that, and put together a presentation on it for the lab meeting on Friday. Oh yeah, and work on that huge grant that is due in January. And meet with 3 new undergrads about doing research in the spring. And follow up on a list of phone calls. Blech. Give me data all day long, but I hate phone tag (and even worse, having to talk to the people once I get them on the phone).

Collecting frogs becomes sadly dangerous

This is incredibly awful. Some biology students were collecting frogs along a trail only a mile from their campus, and some trigger happy hunter decided they were a group a deer. He shot and killed one woman, and injured a young man. The hunter was trespassing.

Student Mistaken For Deer, Shot To Death

We had some lovely outdoor adventures back in my undergrad days... slogging through wetlands, in the dark. Once someone had to pull me out of a lake after I sunk to my knees in the thick muck trying to collect a sample from a cool-colored algal bloom. Getting covered with ticks. Getting covered with blood. Attacks of poison ivy. Snakes. Chiggers. Hypothermia. Clouds of blood-sucking mosquitoes. Birders. Scary stuff. But, no one ever shot at us.