Thursday, September 28, 2006


Grape Jamboree day started with an hour drive to G’s house where I was promptly fed waffles and sausages while the children got ready. A short drive later and we arrived at “The Commune” where I got to meet the rest of G’s family and 3 large dogs. Not much is cuter than a gangly adolescent German shepherd, let me tell you. And now I understand why G says “We don’t watch TV at night, we sit around and watch the 2-year-old.” She’s *hilarious.*

We barely made it over to the “grandstand” in time to throw my name into the hat for grape stomping. The DJ called the first contestant: a 6-year-old girl. “I could totally take her!” I tell G. The DJ called the second contestant: an 8-year-old boy. “I could take him, too!” I’m getting pumped. I don’t know what the prize is, but I’m pretty sure that it will be mine. The DJ called the third contestant: a 10-year-old girl. “Something is wrong here,” I say as I see him sifting through the slips of paper. He is purposely picking little kids. I am being discriminated against because of my age! I should have put down that I was 12, not 28. I could have passed, I just know it.

He calls the rest of the contestants (5 in all) and the stomping begins. The kids stand in a giant plastic bucket and stomp away. The fifth kid chickened out, and his 12-year-old brother volunteered to take his place. The judges were reluctant to have him do it (I’m guessing he was too old for their tastes), but he did get to compete. This kid was my favorite. He got so into it that he splattered grape on the first row of spectators, and on himself from head to toe. We didn’t stick around to see who won (based on applause) but I can assure you that I whooped it up for the 12-year-old as I ate my grape ice cream.

On the way back to The Commune we stopped for Chicken on a Stick (a.k.a. Heaven on a Stick). I’m not exactly sure what they baste the meat with, but it’s one of the best fair foods I’ve ever had. Rumor has it that it gets better later in the day as the baste congeals on the meat, but I was pretty impressed as it was.

We picked up the rest of G’s fam and headed out to watch the parade. Lots of floats handed out candy, some handed out Freezee Pops, balloons, and my personal favorite: Saltines and grape jelly with a flier that said “In a ‘jam?’ Call on Jesus.” My favorite float: Slovenian dancers – where they wore traditional garb, but not really. One kid was obviously a punk under/around his traditional garb with his died black hair, black fingernails and black Chuck Taylors. He was the most enthusiastic of the bunch.

After depositing the girls’ candy cache at The Commune we headed over to the craft area. Two of the girls got fairy crowns and the third got herself a put-it-in-water-and-it-grows snake. G bought me a grape bunch pin made of beads and pipe cleaners as a souvenir. We swung back through the food area for some freshly pressed grape juice from an ancient grape press – way better than anything you could buy in a store.

We stopped by G’s apartment to watch “Nanny McFee” and let the girls chill out a bit before dropping them off at their dad’s. G drove me through the closest covered bridge and then we headed back to the food booths. Our dinner consisted of “Bucket o’ Fries” and a bloomin’ onion. Greasy goodness. We were happy and miserable at the same time as we stuffed our faces and watched the crowd. We saw folks trapped in: the 70’s, the 80’s, the 90’s and dressed in the latest fashions. We saw cowboys, Goths, thugs, hipsters, preps, and hippies. My personal favorite: a braided mullet and a bolo tie. The creepiest: the evening’s musical entertainment. This girl is what those little JonBenet Ramsey’s grow up to be. She’s 12 and a “performer” who basically did co
vers of Top 40 hits, but it was actually more like karaoke. She wore a shimmery purple jumpsuit and shook her ass. People came in droves. We headed back to The Commune for canolis.

I received one of my favorite compliments from G:
“Kate’s not a pansy.”
And don’t you forget it.

Back at G’s apartment I watched her chug from her bottle of Pepto and then make grape jelly. Not being particularly savvy in the kitchen I was impressed at how easy (and cheap!) it is. After sitting around shooting the shit, it hit me how tired I really was. I also realized that all day I’d been consistently counting to 3 as I performed a head count on the girls while walking through the crowds. I hugged G goodbye and drove home, where I proceeded to collapse into bed with a smile on my face. Happy Grape Jamboree!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Geneva Grape Jamboree - T minus 3 days

"...he could never fully trust a person who didn't find the prospect of squashing grapes in their bare feet irresistible..."
Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates by Tom Robbins

This'll be me on Saturday, BAY-BEE!

I can't wait.

I have to get to the Grape Jamboree early to sign up, and hope and pray and be annoying enough that they'll pick me from among the multitudes to participate (they only choose 5 contestants).

Wish me luck! Afterwards I'll try to post pictures of my grape-stained feet.

Monday, September 18, 2006

"Why you did that" by L

Because you secretly want to have a highly contageous disease where you have to stay home and not see anybody for weeks! And we have to slip your antibiotics to you under the door! You DO have meningitis! Get out! Go home! And don't come back!

When did I get this way?

Labmate: I just want to go home.

LK: Me, too.

Labmate: I have this pain in the back of my neck that’s making me nauseous.

LK: Me too!

LK, thinking to herself: The logical explanation is that we have stress headaches/muscle aches.

LK, says out loud: Maybe we have meningitis!

LK, thinking to herself: Where in the hell did that come from? Why would I say that? Was I trying to be funny? I don’t think that came off as funny.

Labmate: Yeah… I don’t know… I just want to go home.

Friday, September 15, 2006

The eye of the storm

I had my sufficiency meeting yesterday. That’s code for “last committee meeting ever.” I was EXTREMELY nervous about it. Not that I had any concrete reason to be, I don’t need one. My boss is crazy and unpredictable. You can go over your presentation with him 10 times before the big day, and be completely convinced that you’re both on the same page, only to have him pick a fight with you the day of the presentation… in front of your committee members… and make you look/feel stupid… because of some detail that he overlooked the 10 previous times that he looked at your presentation. But, I have learned that my nerves inversely correlate with how the meeting goes: the more nervous I am beforehand – the better it goes; the more relaxed and confident I am – the worse it goes.

Now, since my boss has moved to TX, he doesn’t fly up here for committee meetings anymore, but he calls the room and we put him on speakerphone. I’ve learned that if I turn his volume all the way up, I have a better shot at eavesdropping from the hallway. When I was sent out of the room before the meeting officially started, I could hear my boss talking, and he was slightly on the negative side of decent, but he didn’t say anything outwardly infuriating – just nothing even approaching complimentary.

I was called in to give my presentation and it went relatively well. A bit of nit picking by the committee members, and a giant tangent from my boss. A tangent that he admitted from the start was “optional.” Why, then, must we belabor this topic when we may just end up dropping it from the paper as a whole?? Another example of him liking the sound of his own voice.

I told them that my goals are to submit my paper by the end of October and defend in early December.

At the end of my presentation I left the room, and assumed my eavesdropping position. My boss said that my paper wasn’t anything groundbreaking, but we’d try to submit it to Cancer Research. If it got rejected, we’d submit it to Cancer Biology and Therapy. Now, Cancer Research is a decent journal. It’s no Science or Nature or Cell, but it’s not the bottom of the barrel. Cancer Biology and Therapy (CBT) is the bottom of the barrel. It’s a journal that my boss and another guy started, so I’m pretty much guaranteed that it’ll get published. No questions asked. Whatever. I really could care less – as long as it gets published. Period.

Instead of calling me back into the room to sit me down and tell me their thoughts, my committee members just started to leave. I stopped them and asked “Aren’t we going to sit down and talk?” They said no. They said that we only need to talk if I start having trouble. I asked what they thought of my goals of October and December. They said “Good luck with that.” And “Go for it.”

Not the resounding vote of confidence that I was hoping for, but I’ll take what I can get. If they really didn’t think I could do it, I with they’d just say so. OR, if they thought I had too much extraneous stuff on my plate, that they’d do something about it. Their comments on the back of my form were “Finish paper, submit, write thesis, defend.” That, ladies and gentlemen, is my official, sanctioned, To Do List.

So I had my nice long sigh of relief over a meeting that didn’t make me want to cry. My friend N bought me dinner, and we watched TV for an hour – no mention of science or work – strictly vegetating. That’s the way to really celebrate.

Now I have to remain in high gear if I want to actually reach my goals. If you need to find me, I’ll be in the lab.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Hansel? Gretel?

Last night, as I’m walking to my car, I see some shmutz on my trunk. Getting closer, I see that it’s cookie crumbs. Someone has left cookie crumbs on my trunk. Granted, my car is parked relatively close to the door for the parking garage, so I can see that there is probably more foot traffic going past my car than others. But why would you put your cookie on my trunk? I wouldn’t put my cookie on my trunk. It’s dirty. Obviously, to the naked eye dirty.

The real kicker: this is not the first time I’ve found cookie crumbs on my trunk. This has happened a handful of times before.

I wonder if this is happening to the other cars parked near mine, and I only notice when it’s my car that is crumbed on.


Thursday, September 07, 2006

Like an over-ripe cantaloupe

My head would like to split open. Right down the middle. Just to relieve the pressure.

One more jolly malady that I’ve developed in my not-so-old age is migraines. The other maladies (since you asked) include: allergies to the sun, dogs, cats and hay fever as well as the inability to stay awake after 10:30 pm. I’m a joy. An antihistamine- and Excedrin Migraine-juiced joy.

Thankfully I get a visual anomaly prior to the actual onset of the migraine – so at least I know when I need to pop my liver-damaging pills. I still don’t know what causes the migraines (if I did, I’d avoid the stimulus like the plague, believe you me) and according to the literature I’ve found, it could quite literally be anything: from bright lights, to certain smells, to *allergies*, to stress and anything in between.

Today, my trusty Excedrin has let me down. The glitch in my vision came about 9/9:30 this morning. It is now 5:30 and my cranium has been politely requesting to burst open ALL DAY. She is persistent, you’ve got to give her that.

This has greased the skids on propelling this day into the Top Ten Most Annoying Days list.

The annoying things that have occurred:

1. One set of experiments that I HAVE to do for my committee meeting next Thursday WILL NOT WORK. They are the same experiments I performed not 3 months ago when they worked beautifully. All I have to do is repeat them. But no.

2. I can’t figure out how to troubleshoot said experiments, despite my best efforts to do so, including making all new reagents from scratch (in case you’re wondering, that is a huge pain in the ass).

3. Said experiments have to be performed in another building, in one of my committee member’s labs, back in a hidden corner where the AC blows right on me. (And no, my committee member isn’t around to help – he’s out of town… until tomorrow… when I will harass him.)

4. I took my MP3 player with me to keep me company in my hidden corner and my trick of taping the headphones into a certain position also WILL NOT WORK.

5. I started to revise my postdoc’s manuscript only to find it to be one of the most painfully written specimens I’ve seen in a long time. This agitated my pressurized brain and slightly, ever so slightly, tarnished my respect for this man. I know he’s capable of better.

6. My inbox was stuffed to the gills with junk mail when I got back to my lab. Apparently the university sells our email addresses to folks who spam us. For reasons I can’t comprehend hundreds of students decided to reply to the spam with “please remove me from your list” not realizing that they were replying to EVERYONE ON THE LIST. Idiots! I’d like to punch them each. Individually. In the face.

And on that note, I will be going home now, where I can feel sorry for myself in peace. I plan to enjoy a delightfully spicy Thai noodle bowl, which will hopefully distract my pain receptors long enough for me to finish revising my postdoc’s manuscript. Wish me luck!