Monday, November 27, 2006

Quickly: the weekend in a nutshell

- Traveled to and from Rochester without incident – even got sniffed by the drug/food sniffing dog. Fun!

- Found a place to live and put down a deposit (townhouse, attached single car garage, hooray!)

- Found a new bedroom set AND sleeper sofa (if you want to visit, that’s where you’re sleeping)

- Ate out a lot and slept well (with earplugs)

- Nobody got testy (including me) all weekend

-Now trying to unload some of my old furniture to make room for the new (and for an easier move)

I feel much better having this aspect of things wrapped up. Now to finish my thesis…

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The correct answer

A tablespoon is just shy of 15 milliliters (like 14.98). I thought it would be much less. The closest guess we had around these parts was 10 mL. Mistress Bionerd wins!!

And, in case it doesn't update fast enough, the title of the last post should have been Monday, December 18. Not the 14th. I'm retarded.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Write this down: Monday, December 18 at noon

Finally. FINALLY. I have set a date for my thesis defense.

You can write this one in ink on your calendars. “Monday, December 18 at noon.” If you happen to be in the Cleveland area, feel free to drop by. It is a public presentation so hop up on caffeine and bring snacks to keep yourself awake.

“But Lil’ Kate, you said you wanted Friday, December 15. What’s the deal?”

I’ll tell you: getting the important people in my life to agree on a date is like herding kittens.

I floated the idea of the 15th to my parents. They said that or the 14th would work best for them as they can’t take off much time from work. They laid on the guilt pretty thick about choosing a later date, saying they’d miss the presentation, but could make it to help me move. My Mom’s a lapsed Catholic, but she’s retained the guilt-trip-giving talent. *Complete* with choking up.

So, I floated the idea to my committee only to be told that it would be “impossible” to have it on the 15th due to the Holiday Party (now scheduled in the online calendar for 9am-5pm). I countered with “Alright. How about the 14th then?” Half of my committee members got back to me within 15 minutes saying they will be out of town. My committee chair will be out of town the 8-14th so that eliminates moving it up to the 13th.

Shit. We have to try a later date. Now Mom will let the tears flow.

I called her up and she pulled a complete 180 on me. “Oh no, Honey, don’t stress about it. The important thing is that you graduate. We’ll work something out. You just don’t worry about us.” Now the creative problem solving gears start to turn and she and my stepdad start cooking up convoluted schemes involving moving and attending my defense.

Um, excuse me? Who is this? Where am I? All of a sudden you’re flexible and accommodating?

You make me crazy. Make that “crazier” than I already am.

So I float the idea of the 18th to my committee members. Three of them get back to me right away. The fourth – I don’t know what his excuse was. I waited 24 hours to call his office – which he was in, he answered on the first ring – only to have him say the 18th was fine. If you’re sitting at your desk, next to your phone, at your computer, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S HOLY, email me back. It literally takes 5 seconds to hit reply, type “Fine” and hit send.

OK. Great. We’re settled. I called up the department administrator and reserved the conference room for 4 hours (about 1.5 hours for my actual talk, and the rest for me meeting with my committee privately).

Now I have to get my title approved by my boss and then I can get the fliers printed up and my paperwork filled out for the Grad Studies office.

In retrospect I’m a little glad that my defense got pushed back a few days because now my boss has changed his mind yet again and I have *more* experiments to do for my paper. I think when I tell him “I feel overwhelmed and I really need to wrap up doing experiments so that I can focus on my thesis,” he thinks I’m overreacting. “You’re a good writer, you’ll be fine,” he says to console me. If I’m such a good writer, why does he rewrite my papers? I’m glad he is complimentary, but he doesn’t take into account that it takes me a long time to get my writing to the “good” stage. It doesn’t come easily to me. I’m way better at editing/revising other people’s work. Hands down.

Anyway, that’s where things stand as of this minute. I’m feeling simultaneously relieved and overwhelmed.

I’d like to go home now and take a nap.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Trivia and an update

A little science trivia for my geeky friends:

Take a stab at how many milliliters are in a tablespoon.

Don’t cheat and look it up. Just take a guess, and let me know before you Google it.

It’s a little exercise in spatial reasoning and perception.

I was way off, even though it’s actually listed on my measuring spoons. I never paid much attention to that part. And until the US converts to metric, I really don’t have to. Or unless I decide to try cooking with pipettes and graduated cylinders...

We have discussed cooking a turkey in the autoclave, but we’re not sure how it would stand up to the pressure – probably not real well, even if it was in an oven bag. You know, like those cookbooks about how to cook on your engine block or in your dishwasher, but geekier.

In other news: I continue to plod towards graduation.

The boss was in a good mood during our meeting and didn’t give me too much more to do on my paper. Mostly perfecting the figures, which I find ironic considering some of the crap he lets slide for others. He also wants me to add some extra analyses to some of the data I already have (which is WAY easier than generating it from scratch).

Then I’ll update the text, send it to him for revision, make the revisions, and then send it to my committee members for their perusal/revision. After that we can finally submit it.

And I really think that he’s coming to grips with the fact that I won’t be around to do the revisions (should there be any, and there probably will).

The boss was also amenable to picking a tentative defense date. I chose Friday, December 15.

But it’s only penciled in.
I have to make sure that: 1) my committee members can come, and 2) that a conference room is available.

Apparently that’s the same day as my department's "Holiday Party" (don't let them fool you, it's a Christmas party), which is a daylong event full of food, skits, humorous awards and sing-alongs (fun the first few years, annoying the last few years). Also the conference room I originally had in mind probably won’t be available because the Party will be in it.

One of my committee members has told me to pick a different day because “it’s important to present to the department.” Well, yeah, but couldn’t we schedule it for the morning, before the Party starts? I think he thinks that no one will come to my defense. Fine by me. That’s their choice.
The other option is the 14th, when the departmental seminar is. If it’s an internal speaker, I may be allowed to ask them to reschedule. Otherwise maybe we could schedule for right before or right after the departmental seminar. We’ll see what I’m allowed to do. Seems that for as laid back as the Biochemistry Dept. appears to be, they really like to have their thesis defenses scheduled at noon on days when there is nothing else going on.

If I don’t get the 14th or the 15th it’s going to suck because those days work out best for everyone - me, my boss, my family who might like to attend, and the family helping me move - everyone who won’t be attending the Holiday Party. My parents can’t take off of work to attend both my defense AND help me move if I don’t have it on the 14th or 15th. They’ll miss the defense and just come down to help me move a couple days later.

It’s a conundrum that I hope my committee and my department will be willing to compromise with me on.

I’ll keep you posted.

Monday, November 06, 2006

My Landlords: Part II

Since that first chitchat there haven’t been any extensive conversations. I see L in the driveway after work – seems he putters most evenings. I see D in the basement of the big house when I’m doing laundry.

Based on my stereotyping of what I believe a cross between a Buddhist and a Metaphysical Christian would be like, I think D is hypocritically superficial. The big house is opulent, the yard and gardens are just so, and she’s hyper about cleanliness. She seems to follow her grandkids around with a mop and whitewashes the basement walls after it rains because the red brick starts to seep through. I’ll repeat that: she *whitewashes* the *basement* walls. The basement. Nobody goes down there except her and me. So either she’s really trying to impress me, or she needs more hobbies.

Anyway, the a couple weeks ago when I was doing laundry I ran into D. Seems life had been exceptionally hectic for her, what with moving the nonprofit offices out of the 3rd floor of the big house to offices downtown, training new staff and planning a Halloween benefit to raise some cash. I sympathized and wished her well. When I came back to get my laundry I found 4 fat envelopes waiting for me. D wanted to invite me and (“hopefully”) some of my friends to the benefit to “help keep [her] nonprofit financially viable.” Opening the invite, I learned that my ticket to this little soiree would cost me $125.

My jaw dropped. I’m sorry, but on what planet / in which dimension / in what alternate reality do I have $125 to blow I mean “donate” to an organization I have never utilized nor feel committed to? Run by someone who is not a close friend? Someone who could easily buy and sell me? Plus, I’d have to make a costume OR wear something black-tie. Two additional situations I’d rather avoid.

The RSVP had a box you could check for “Sorry I cannot attend, but enclosed is my donation of $_____.” Ah, an option for the rest of us. Giving to a good cause but not allowed to attend the party. A party with a chocolate fondue fountain! Obviously everybody wins.

Now I’m not trying to say anything negative about her organization, or discourage donating to good causes. On the contrary, I’m sure her organization has helped people, and I’m sure being a nonprofit isn’t easy – you’re kind of forced to coerce money from people, not making a profit and all. Rather, I’m trying to advocate perception, tact and discretion. Is that so wrong?