Wednesday, July 27, 2005


I know that I left my posts last week a little on the negative side. A week of pampering by one's family and friends can make all the difference in the world. That and massive amounts of expensive wine.
The wedding. Let me start by clarifying one VERY important point. I think the groom is a really wonderful man. He is a great friend to Dean. The bride is a very sweet woman with whom I have little in common but I am more than willing to spend time with her for Dean's sake. That being said, here are the events that transpired as best as I remember them. The rehearsal was nerve racking as I had to see several people at once that I hadn't seen in over three years and with which I had definitely not left Minnesota on good terms. I exchanged half a dozen polite words with them while making it clear that I was trying very hard to be pleasant. The Groom's dinner was at a nice restaurant and Dean and I made a point of sitting by strangers rather than the dreaded ex-college friends. It was sitting by strangers that led us to meet an extremely nice couple that we hit it off with right away. We spent most of the rest of the time galavanting around with the couple and I hope we can stay in touch.
The ex-college friends retired from dinner early, while Dean and I, the groom, the new couple, and the bride's brother proceeded shut down the bar, drink all the provisional alcohol Dean and I had brought and got kicked out of the hotel hot tub for NUMEROUS violations. That's all I remember about that night. I was later told that I passed out and the gang carried on without me in another room due to my alcohol-induced snoring. I'm not sure what they did the rest of the night, but in Dean's words "the morning paper beat me to the room."
Needless to say I was moving a little slow the next day for the actual wedding. I had just gotten the hotel room to stop spinning when I had to attempt to look presentable for the ceremony. The ceremony was nice despite the fact that churches freak me out a little. Luckily, Dean's parents were there for me to cling to though while Dean was doing his best man thing. Speaking of best men, Dean was fantastic. He made a touching toast and after the meal, spent all evening mingling, unlike the socially-crippled ex-college friends who only talked to each other and then left early. Dean didn't spend more than five minutes at one table, making small talk, complementing the ladies and periodically checking up on his own date. After Dean's parents left early (they were smart enough NOT to stay in Boondocks, Minnesota for the night) I revisited the couple we had met the night before, where I learned that olives and beer go pretty well together. The reception was so UNeventful that even the groom was disappointed. For a minute it was looking like an ex-couple (with the girl now engaged) were going to re-connect in the presence of the current fiance. Unfortunately, much to the groom's dismay it didn't happen (I think he was hoping for some wedding drama to play out). Even that would have been slow by wedding standards.
So after closing down the wedding, the same group as the night before (sans groom) proceeded once again with the after party, and the hot tub violations. The security guard was so tired of kicking us out that he redirected us to an all night pool and hot tub. All in all, I think I earned an A+ at this wedding.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

You Know you're a Physicist When...

You finish your morning cup of coffee and find a resistor sitting at the bottom of your coffee mug.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

The Wedding Crasher

The way I see it, people are allowed one free pass to be drunk and belligerent at a wedding. If they do this twice, they've earned themselves a REPUTATION. At only 26 years of age, I've already used my free pass, which means that I absolutely must behave myself at the wedding Dean and I are going to next weekend. Unfortunately, much like the wedding at which I used my free pass, this wedding is in Boondocks, Minnesota and will be attended by people who have repeatedly disrespected Dean, and therefore myself as well. Unfortunately, I am three years removed from living in Minnesota, Passive Aggressive Capital of the U.S.A., and now even when sober can be thought of as belligerent by midwest standards. Dean's best friend from college is getting married and Dean is the best man. Which means that I get to sit at the Wedding Party's Significant Other table and dodge questions about when Dean is finally going to make an honest woman of me. I'll get to deal with reactions to being a (gasp) Owner of Three Cats and the glazed over looks that accompnay my response to the ever popular "so what do you do?" In short, things are not looking good for me being well-behaved at this wedding. So why am I going?
1. To support Dean and be his personal cheerleader for this college reunion of a wedding.
2. Because I would go to Minnesota to spend time with my friends and family sometime this summer anyway.
3. To see Dean in a tux.
So this weekend and early next week I am tying up loose ends at work, getting ready to grudgingly relinquish control of my duties in the lab. I leave for Minnesota on Wednesday but that doesn't mean you won't be hearing from me. The minute I am out of Boondocks, Minnesota and back to civilization I will give you all my report card for the wedding.
One more thing. A friend of mine sent me this quote and I loved it so much I thought I'd share.
"Men are like a fine wine. They begin as grapes, and it's up to women to stomp the crap out of them until they turn into something acceptable to have dinner with."

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


(Warning: This post conatains excessive whining.)

Tomorrow morning I have to trudge up the stairs to my boss's office and tell him that I can't make my fellowship proposal work. I have to tell him that after racking my brain almost constantly for weeks and after one flat-out rejection and numerous unanswered emails, no one wants to collaborate with me. I've read dozens of papers and not one indicated that the composite material I want to study is useful for anything biomedically related. The worst is that I was given a second chance to make my research fit in better with the fellowship's theme and I have absolutely nothing to give them. My boss has pinned his hopes on me getting me this fellowship so that I wouldn't have to depend on him for funding for two years. He can't afford to fund everyone in the lab anymore because science funding has been butchered. The division of the army that funded all of the work for my Master's thesis doesn't exist anymore. The elimination of this branch of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency was part of a major shift in government spending away from materials and device technology and towards homeland security which mainly consists of weaponry and anti-terroism research. Yee haw. Thanks, Dubyah.
Anyway, a big part of why this troubles me so much is that I have failed at something that my advisor specifically tries to instill in all his students: market yourself. Dr. Hari thinks that being a scientist is 1/3 science, 1/3 teaching and 1/3 advertising. At conferences, meetings, poster sessions sell your product, that is, your research. If you aren't confident and excited about what you do, why should anyone else be? You are given a few sentences to capture and hold their interest. Writing proposals to make your research fit in with a pre-specified goal is an art, one that I thought I had a talent for. The way I see it, I have three options. Well four.
1. I could turn in nothing.
2. I could turn in the same proposal I did the first time with some of the sentences slightly changed to make it "revised" in the most literal sense of the word.
3. I could start over and figure out a completely new system to study. Set my research back at least a year, betray my goal of being a materials physicst all for the extra money and completely buy into the bionanobullshit.
4. Move to Key West and open a Tikki Bar.
Any suggestions?

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Cat 3 Storm

Dean left town literally minutes before the outer bands of hurricane Dennis started to reach the Tampa Bay area. I was ready to have a crazy ladies night out on the town while I was a bachelorette, but we decided that a hurricane with the possibility of tornadoes might be a little too crazy. So, I have bunkered down and not left the apartment all weekend. (Confession: I haven't even left my pajamas all weekend.) Those who know me best know that these kinds of weekends suit me just fine. And the rain hasn't been scary, just persistent. Once in between the eruptions of rain, I went to feed the Dumpster Kitties, as I now affectionately refer to them. As a side note, I've noticed that when I walk to the dumpster lately the neighborhood kids don't talk to me anymore. I think that in my attempts to hide my stadium cup full of cat food, I've come off looking like the crazy lady that sometimes hides out behind the dumpster. Anyway, the kitties must have bunkered down too because they were no where to be found.
These types of weekends remind me that my oldest cat, Nellie, and myself share one great passion in life: finding the warmest, softest spot in the apartment and taking a nap there. Generally I opt for the bed. Nellie always finds me there and looks up at me with these enormous eyes that say, "Hey! Good idea! I think I'll join you." Then she promptly jumps up and goes to sleep. Nellie has been known to be quite creative though. I swear, I would have never guessed the green chair in the office was a comfy place to nap until I caught her doing it once and tried it myself. Sometimes, though her ideas are fabulous, I just can't join her and it really sucks. Like when I'm folding laundry and she comes and lies in the pile of warm clothes. I would like nothing better than to burrow myself in there too, but a person has responsibilities.
So this weekend has thus far has been nothing but periodic naps in between reading nanobio stuff (yes, the hunt is still on for the bio pals to collaborate with) and watching extremely campy movies from the 80's. Surprisingly Wrigley, our own category 3 storm, that ferocious lizard hunting, ball fetching, water loving, bee chasing freak has hid under the bed the whole storm. Go figure.

Friday, July 08, 2005


I came into this world 26 years ago today, kicking, screaming and yellow. I was unhappy about the whole thing, but I’m over it. Last night I couldn’t sleep. It might have been the 3 cups of coffee, 32 oz Mountain Dew Slurpee and 44 oz Diet Pepsi I shared with Dean at the Rays game. Or it could have been the CONSTANT harassment I endured from Wrigley ALL NIGHT. Whatever it was, it caused me to reflect on birthdays past. Here are some of my memories:

6th or 7th birthday. Having a sleepover with my fiends and getting in my mom’s closet and playing “dress up” with her “night gowns.”

8th birthday. My parents got a used Ford Pinto wagon. Beige with wood paneling and plaid seats. Tres chic. My friends and I were excited and fought over who got to ride in the back to the water park.

10th(?) birthday. My parents treated me to a shopping spree at Toys R Us. This seems like a dumb move on their part, but it was actually incredibly smart. As a little girl a loved playing with little dolls, little animals, little cars, anything little (is it a wonder I work in nanotechnology?). As a result, at Toys R Us, I was happy as a lark shopping for my stuff, but I don’t think I racked up more than a $50 bill. It was probably one of the cheapest birthdays ever for my parents.

19th birthday. Working at Bachman’s, Paul had the day off but came in and surprised me wearing a goofy outfit with his guitar. He sang me a song he wrote for me for my birthday. It’s still one of the fondest birthday memories I have. Plus Patty brought in homemade devil dogs.

21st birthday. Going out at midnight on my birthday for my power hour. Minneapolis used to close at 1 so you could go out for one hour right when you turned 21. I went with my girlfriends and Dean, the only boy. I drank an insane amount of alcohol and then went home. Dean and Amanda spent the rest of the night soothing me and cleaning me up while I alternately vomited and insisted that I was indeed GOING TO DIE. Dean and I had been dating for 6 months. After seeing me in such a state and staying with me, he must be the one. The next day I was so sick I could barely choke down a celebratory glass of wine with dinner.

24th birthday. I spent alone in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, on my internship. I thought I would be lonely, but I treated myself to a sack of Krystal burgers (still far inferior to White Castle), a six pack of Bud Light from the local Super Walmart and read Anna “Banana” Karenina. All in all, not bad.

I could go on, but I wanted to share just a sample of July 8th memories. Some silly, some sweet, some gross. By the way, today has been great so far! Thanks everybody for the cards, treats and well wishes.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

A New Majority

Something amazing has happened at work this summer. For this summer, there are more women than men working in the lab. I realize that this is a statistical anomaly brought on by my advisor's ability to communicate well with men and women. This tends to be a quality that women embrace more so than men, hence he always has a lot of women wanting to work for him. Because we have two undergraduates (both women) working under a fellowship and we have a couple of guys doing internships and working from home, on a regular basis the women outnumber the men. For once, the white, middle class, male scientists are in the minority. And they are FREAKING OUT.
As a little background I will start by saying that most everything you can imagine about being a woman in physics is true. There is a boys' club. There are men who condescend us. There are men who are scared to talk to us. There are men who don't know what else to do so they flirt with us. There are men who think that if juggling work and a family requires us to work less than 80 hours a week we don't deserve their jobs. We are bitches if we are aggressive. We're not cut out to be physicists if we are timid. If we are frustrated with them we must be PMSing. Most of the time, these are things we learn to live with. It does get tiresome though.
That's why when we realized we were the majority, everything changed. Suddenly, we can totally be ourselves and let our guards down. We don't have worry about being judged because one of has to pick her kids up or I have get dinner started for Dean. We understand that as women, we are more efficient with our time, more focused thinkers, more open to each other's ideas, and oh my God we are better listeners. We understand that a compliment can change everything and that a woman's worst fear is being thought of as stupid.
This summer has been productive, comfortable, thought-provoking, interesting, full of wonderful conversations, and most of all FUN.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Hoochie Mama

Being sensitive isn't easy. A few weeks back I noticed a hornets' nest being built on my hibiscus plant on the balcony. This troubled me because I don't like hornets, but I also hate killing things. I monitored the situation for a few days, and asked some people at work what I should do. At a normal job, every one would say kill the suckers. I don't have a normal job. The answers ranged from "live and let live" (from a Buddhist), to "oooh, let me come over with my potato gun!" (James). The one opinion in common was that watching hornets build their nest is kinda cool and they completely understood my hesitation at taking it down. Over the weeks I tried to ignore the situation and secretly hoped the hornets could sense my distress causing them to nicely pack up and go somewhere else. Much to my surprise, the situation has just gotten worse! As of this morning, there were three huge hornets' nests on the balcony. I woke up this morning feeling cranky and decided the hornets have overstayed their welcome. I still didn't really want to kill them, but their nests were coming down.
Dean, being the man of the house (and also sensitive), was enlisted to do the actual nest-destroying. Of course the cats got locked up immediately which greatly distressed Wrigley. He obviously doesn't remember last summer when he lost a fight with a hornet and ended up at the animal hospital. Dean told me to sit on the arm of the couch and be in charge of opening and closing the sliding door to the balcony. He disappeared into the bedroom and came out looking ready to wage war against the hornets. He was wearing sweat pants, a turtleneck, goggles from freshman chemistry lab, leather work gloves and wielding a broom. He came over to balcony door and instructed me to open the sliding door and close it when given the codeword, which would be "hoochie mama" (Seinfeld fans should be familiar with this reference). Sounds like a reasonable plan, right? Chaos ensued. He managed to piss off the hornets several times, each time followed by a panicked "Hoochie mama! Hoochie mama!" Each time he shouted this, Wrigley's howls from the spare bedroom got more intense. He wanted in on this! Finally, he manged to take down two of the three nests and we have plans to take down the third tonight, after things have calmed down out there. No hornets were harmed in the process. Deano, you're my hero!

Saturday, July 02, 2005

They are Waiting for Me

Since I found the litter of kittens behind the dumpster, I have been bringing them food everyday. JUST until they get a little older and can fend for themselves. Yesterday I went out at my normal time with a cup a food and there were two new black kittens. They had been waiting for me.