Saturday, April 28, 2007

A PhD, a DDS, and an MD, PhD walk into a zoo...

I’ll get to that later, but doesn’t that sound like the start of a good joke? Gold star to whoever can come up with the rest.

To play a little catch-up: my weekend spent visiting with my friend from 4th grade was great. The weather was fantastic so wandering around downtown Rochester was pleasant. We tried two new-to-me restaurants (the verdict: meh, they were OK), and even found that the game of Farkel that we were introduced to over Christmas is, in fact, not made up. Now the toy stores are selling Farkel kits with various themes AND score pads with all of the dice combinations and their values clearly printed for the memory impaired like myself. We had a good time. She even endured two trips to work for me to fiddle in the lab a bit and give her tours.

Having another sunny weekend lined up after that one, it was decided to do something out of doors. Our lab has a new hire (the MD, PhD) and she’s got to be the most forceful Chinese woman I’ve ever met. No wilting flower here, my friends. She’s got opinions and she’s going to share them. Anyway, we were asking about the lab for suggestions, and a nearby park *with* small zoo was recommended. So we got maps and directions, called up the Dentist to invite her along, and plans were made. It’s a nice zoo with animals indigenous to MN – my favorite being the river otters, who wanted to see spectators as much as we wanted to see them. The park also has a nice little trail system. The buds were just coming out on the trees, and there were some flowers just starting to bloom. Another beautiful day.

This last week I flew back to Cleveland to witness the end of an era. The last of us (M) who stayed behind was graduating from my old lab. OK, well, technically, there were 2 graduations (the second was two days later) but I’m so pissed about the second one I didn’t stick around for it and flew back here that day. That kid did not deserve to graduate like M and I did. Either way – she did a great job. I finally got to meet her family, putting faces to names, and witnessing first-hand the quirks she’d told me so much about over the years. The old boss was even in a good mood and publicly gushed over her. Good times. It was a fast and furious trip that I wish could have lasted longer – or overlapped with a weekend so that I could have stayed longer - but as it was the 48 hours I was in town were spoken for. I’m glad I was able to see those of you that I did, and sorry I missed the rest of you!

It’s going to be another beautiful weekend – ever consider visiting Rochester?

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Don't sit next to me. Just. Don't.

Yesterday I was 4 for 4.

1 for 4:

I’m sitting on the bus reading my book – it distracts me from the country music that my regular morning bus driver likes to blast. An older Chinese woman sits down next to me. I nod a hello and go back to my book, a universal sign for “I’m not going to be chatting with you because I’m reading, thank you.”

Chinese lady: “Oh! You’re reading!”

Me: “Yes.” Nose back in book.

CL: “Is it a good book?”

Me: “So far.” Nose back in book, thinking, “If it wasn’t good, would I be reading it?”

CL: “What book is it? Can I see the cover?”

Me: Shows her the cover. Nose back in book.

CL: Looks around for another victim. Not finding one, turns back to me “So, are you a writer, too?”

Me: I must have made a face during my pause before answering, “No.” Nose back in book.

2 for 4:

First seminar for the day – visiting faculty from Harvard giving a talk about his research.
Next to me is a man who promptly falls asleep within the first 15 minutes. He’s a loud breather half-snorer who occasionally wakes himself up with a snort. Look, buddy, you look old enough to be faculty. If you’re that tired or uninterested, pretend you have a meeting and skip out early. I’m sure your colleagues would rather have you leave early than embarrass yourself and your department by snoring during the Harvard guy’s talk.

3 for 4:

Second seminar for the day – student from the department. Next to me is a man I’ve not seen before, so maybe he’s a member of the student’s lab who’s showed up to support him… probably because his boss told him to. He’s at least my age and sits down next to me in the front row in full view of the rest of the room. He’s taken advantage of the refreshments provided and proceeds to devour his cookies and slurp his water bottle – loudly - during this kid’s talk. No longer entertained by his water bottle, he starts to pick at a zit on his temple, on the side of his head that’s facing me. Being a head wound, it starts to bleed with a vengeance. Having not been smart enough to grab a napkin with his cookies he’s got nothing to blot at the blood with.

So he rubs his fingers through it.

Then licks his fingers.


This goes on for at *least* 15 minutes.

He alternates running his fingers or the back of his hand through the blood to see if it’s stopped bleeding. I really think he thought nobody noticed. I can honestly say I’ve never been so disgusted during a seminar.

4 for 4:
This one was actually the least offensive/annoying of the bunch. Again, sitting on the bus to go home, I’m reading my book. A rather girthy young woman sits next to me, squishing me into the side of the bus. Not so uncommon – Rochester is definitely not lacking in fleshy women. At least she wasn’t talking loudly into her cell phone or chatting me up. I can handle being squished for my bus ride.

So, if you value your sanity, don’t sit next to me. I seem to attract the weirdos.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I know I've been bad

Let’s see, I have a lot to catch you up on. Nothing too exciting or entertaining, so I’ll apologize now.

I was visited by 4 members of my Dad’s side of the family about a week ago: Grandma, Aunt 1 (Tanta), Aunt 2 (Auntie) and my Stepmom. It was a hoot. They’re all rather lively, humorous and unique. My Stepmom was nice enough to bring me an Easter basket and we hardly put a dent in it with the 5 of us grazing on it. I think that was to distract me from some of the other things she brought me. Again – parents cleaning out their own houses and deciding to foist crap on me. Though I will admit that it is crap I wanted – a chair my Dad made for me that I played with as a child, and some wood carving my great-grandfather made.

They enjoyed their tour of Mayo. We started in my research building, which on a Saturday afternoon was pretty dead, along with the rest of the clinic buildings save for the occasional grad student or security guard. Not having ever been in a research environment before, they were tiptoeing around and whispering. It took a while for them to realize that they weren’t doing anything “illegal” by getting a tour from me – but the key-card access and “Staff Only” tunnels really impressed them. It wasn’t long before they realized that their jokes sounded even funnier as they reverberated through the stories-high atriums and lobbies.

That night was like a sleepover party with plenty of talking, laughing, whispering and farting going on before they eventually fell asleep. Did I mention they were humorous and unique? Yeah. We finished off the weekend with some antiquing and a fruitful stop at TJ Maxx. I had a good time and I’m glad they came. I hope they can come again when the weather is actually nice.

This past weekend I went to the hometown for Easter with Mom & Stepdad. I was able to have some company for the drive over as my Dentist friend’s husband is still living in my hometown. Turns out it only took us about 3.5 hours to get home vs. the 4 I’d been expecting – and we talked the entire time. I wasn’t sure we could do it, but we did. My throat was sore by the time we got there. My parents took us out to dinner – mostly to thank The Dentist for being my friend and being cooped up in a car with me for several hours. My parents are understanding like that.

The weekend went smoothly overall. I got to sleep in, read magazines, deftly avoid/deflect touchy topics, *and* make cheesy potatoes for my family (a variation of your recipe Rozzer!). Grandma is still selectively crazy and Aunty is definitely quirky, so we had some fun after dinner conversation over peach & maraschino cherry upside down cake. I’d never had any kind of upside down cake before, and I don’t think I will again. Too mushy for me, I like cake to be cake-like. Reminded me too much of stuffing – which I also don’t particularly like. C’mon, it’s soggy bread. I left with a trunk full of more crap. Now my parents are potentially in great need of paring down – but they’re starting to give me stuff that I thought they’d want to keep, like photo albums of me as a baby and my old scrapbooks. Parents are supposed to have this stuff on hand to brag about me, right? Well, I guess I should be looking at it as now they can’t embarrass me with these collections from my youth – but what am I supposed to do with them? My closets are already full.

But they did start up my plant collection with 2 white orchids. Well, technically. One of them was accidentally deflowered and is now a lovely stick. I also relieved them of some wooden cheese & cracker platters (one even has the classic ‘70’s Harvest Pattern!) so now I’m set to throw a delightful wine and cheese party. I’ll provide the cheese if you bring the wine. I also took an electric grill off of their hands. No, not a Foreman, but something made by Rival in years well before George ever thought of slapping his name on what’s basically a panini press. It’s got a real grill with a heating element below it – from the side it looks like a decent chili pot. I’ll be curious to try it out – especially since I’ve been craving kabobs. Oh, and since it’s been snowing here and I won’t be partaking of any grilling outside any time soon.

My MN driver’s license finally arrived. The picture is better than I thought it would be – my eyes are fully open this time. Don’t worry, I’m hanging on to my WI license for comparison. The only thing that’s wrong with the new one is that my signature is all squished. I know my nice German name is quite long, but now it doesn’t look like my signature anymore. Another reason to hang on to the WI license.

I’ve actually started doing work in the lab. Nothing too exciting – just pilot experiments to put me through the motions of the new techniques and methods I’m learning. The boss got back from his Hawaiian vacation this past weekend, so it’ll be nice to show him my progress. I was even working with radioactive materials! My first time! Totally not as scary as I thought it would be. I’ve also started on the work for my old boss. He’s being a jerkface, but what’s new? Just solidifying my distaste for academic science.

I’m looking forward to this weekend: I’ll be visited by a friend I’ve had since 4th grade. Should be fun … if it actually stops snowing.