Friday, November 25, 2005

Two VERY Long Years

This is Wrigley.

We got him two years ago today.

The morning after Thanksgiving, Wrigley literally walked into our lives. He woke us up with his crying. I opened the front door to see what the commotion was all about and there he was at the door. Roughly 10 weeks old and besides himself. We fed him, and let him hang out for a couple hours. We thought we'd use him as an experiment to see if Nellie would tolerate a kitten before his owner came looking for him.

After a while it was obvious no one was actively looking for him. And we were in love. We knocked on some doors, but everyone seemed to be gone for the long weekend. We both knew the right thing to do was try to find his owners. I made a sign and hung it up by the mailboxes. It said:

Kitten found. Please call 123-4567.

Night came and he slept on my chest while Dean slept on the couch, scared of crushing him. The next day, we took the sign down. He and Nellie seemed to be getting along and since we got Nellie as an adult I had completely forgotten what it was like to have a kitten around. For a full week he didn't have a name. Dean, being the eternal sports fan threw out tons of athletes' names, past and present. I objected to all of them. He objected to all of my ideas as well. Finally, he said, "I got it. His name will be Wrigley." Perfect.

Wrigley is an odd creature. I say creature because Dean and I often speculate that he's not even a cat. We joke he's half cat, half ferret (a "carrot") or any combination of obscure felines and primates. He bites, howls, fetches (yep, he fetches!), greets us at the door, keeps us awake all night. He clicks at things he sees outside, kills moths in the house by jumping up and clapping them. He splashes in the sink, walks along every surface in the house, steals balled up socks, spoons with us. He's neurotic about bathing himself and others but a messy eater. He chatters incessantly when he's bored and pitifully drags around a string for us in hopes we'll play with him. He's adorable, scary smart, infuriating, and I couldn't imagine my life without him.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Every Friday the department hosts a guest speaker. Through various connections to our faculty, it is usually someone doing work very similar to one group in the department. This person is flown in to Tampa, and on that Friday they spend the day touring the research labs, catching up with whomever brought them here, being treated to lunch and extensive butt-kissing. At 4 pm the department gathers in the lecture hall for coffee and cookies while the visitor gives his/her talk on his/her research. Of course, in the winter months the talk usually begins with, "Dr. So-and-so really twisted my arm to come to Florida in January!" We all chuckle and settle in for ten minutes of intense concentration followed by fifty minutes of total zoning out.

A couple of months ago, my advisor flew in a professor from the University of Minnesota, my alma mater. I didn't know Dr. L when I was there. He works in my field which wasn't my field until I moved down here. Anyway, when Dr. L walked into my lab, I was immediately struck by an intense attraction to him. This is rare among fellow physicists as they are usually not known for their prowess with the opposite sex. I was tongue-tied, blushing and besides myself. He had piercing blue eyes that paralyzed me beyond my capacity to function. All this at 9 am. What was it about this man that I found irresistible? He looked exactly like Dean. Exactly. But he was a physicist. Specializing in magnetic materials. And he had a British accent. Dr. Hari described a project we're working on involving chromium oxide, which has been my pet project for a year now. Dr. L seemed to find this particular project very interesting because it tied in closely with some of his work. That week, my usual zoning out during the presentation was replaced with elaborate fantasizing.

Anyway, in a lab meeting last week we discussed plans for the APS spring conference in Baltimore. Dr. Hari informed me that I would be presenting work from that project in a special focus section. Organized and chaired by Dr. L. I could barely speak one on one with this man, how am I going to be a presenter in his focus session? Oh the drama! To top it all off, I got an email from Dr. Hari this morning letting me know that Dr. L ("You remember Dr. L, right? From the University of Minnesota?" Ya think?!) would be co-chairing the session with Dr. S, my personal hero. If I am a Magnetbabe, she is the Magnet Goddess. Her magnetic materials textbook is my bible. I've read all her papers. I totally stalked her at last year's APS in Los Angeles, too nervous to actually introduce myself and tell her that I absolutely worship her. I am nervous already and the conference is four months away! What if she tells me I'm a hack and my research sucks? What if she tells me to give up and go work at McDonald's? I'm going to be a wreck.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Fried Toroids

Dear Friend who I ate lunch with today,
I am so happy to hear that you finally started reading my blog. I thought you would like it, but more importantly you can now read what everyone else is raving about (by "everyone" I mean the one other mutual friend of ours that reads this on a regular basis). Like I said, I mostly started this as a way to keep my "Nothern" friends and family updated, but it's also for Florida friends and now other friends I've met out in the blogosphere. But after talking to you today I realize there are things I may forget to tell you about Dean or the kitties or converstaions I had with my mom where she uses a bunch of graphic language (just teasing- I love you, Mom!). In that sense it is still a very useful means of communication between people who talk on a regular basis.
And, to answer your question, I believe once a physicist, always a physicist. We tend to be an accepting community (as we should be, have you seen some of our members?!) and once a member, you're in for life. Kinda like how I said that that even though I do not practice and want little to do with the Catholic church, I have been baptized, confirmed and given communion. I will (unfortunately) be a Catholic forever. As a consequence, the Exorcist will always scare the piss out of me. You know that big Masters' degree hanging in your house? That's your baptism into the church of physics. And even if some day you do have to get a job deep frying toroids of dough and sprinkling them with sugar, the fact that you know they are toroids will be enough to remind you of what you are.
Your friend,

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Street Credit

Our bed sits with my side directly beneath the window. For the most part, I like this arrangement because in the fall and winter months the night breeze comes through the window and blows across my face. The kitties really like sitting in the bedroom window, but to get to it they have to jump on the bed, which can be a little disruptive when we're sleeping. Usually the extent of the disruption comes with tails swishing in my face. A couple nights ago there was a cat fight outside our window, causing our cats to freak out. Wrigley came flying to the window, jumped, on the bed lost his footing and ended up puting two scratches on my face. The next morning I stumbled out of bed and walked in the living room to find Dean watching TV and drinking coffee.

"Nice scratches."

"Ugh. Wrigley."

"Does that mean you have street credit with the other crazy cat ladies?"

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Week in Review

There were some little things that happened this week, some of which I meant to blog about but I never actually sat down and wrote anything out. Soooo, here are some highlights of my week:

I got a 35/36 on my magnetism test. I'm not one to brag and I find it unattractive when other people do so. But I just can't help myself because this class is really hard and I'm the only girl, thus making it imperative for me to stress how very awesome I am.

I went to the gym Monday morning and outside the gym a guy wearing a surgical mask was preaching at the few people out and about at 6:30 on a Monday. He was yelling his opinions very aggressively so I decided to just ignore him. At some point I was pretty sure he was trying to directly address me and when I still ignored him he called me a "weak-ass atheist bitch." That was definitely a first for me.

Tuesday I finished Interpreter of Maladies for book club later that night. All I have to say about that book is IF YOU HAVEN'T READ IT DO YOURSELF A FAVOR AND READ IT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. It was beautiful. It's a collection of short stories each about different characters but there is such a tangible thread running through it that it read like a novel. I have long had an interest in India and Indian culture, even more so since I now work with so many Indian scientists. I also read a lot of books by Indian authors mostly because in general I find their type of prose very lyrical and wonderful to read. The stories in Interpreter of Maladies were about the Indian-American condition. There was a symmetry to it so that I felt like by the end of the book the theme was thoroughly explored. There were stories about Indians in America, Americans in India, American women in love with Indian men (and vice versa) along with young American children's' exposure to Indian culture and any other combinations I haven't mentioned. And every story was a gem.

Tuesday night we had our first meeting at the library in a local temple. I couldn't find the temple so at 7:35 I called a Jewish girlfriend of mine to ask her where the heck I was going. I began the conversation by saying, "You're Jewish, where's the ____ library?!" She didn't know the exact intersection but she narrowed it down. I thought I found it then asked, "Wait. Do you guys have steeples?" To which she patiently replied, "No, we don't. You must be at ______ Church. Turn around and go East about a block." Thanks, friend, for your patience towards this ex-Catholic-turned agnostic confused girl.

When I got there, our leader informed us that she called Borders to let them know that we wouldn't be using their cafe to have our club and that we were not coming back until at least after the holiday season. The district manager politely informed her that we were not welcomed back as Borders was a retail-oriented chain in the business of making money, not hosting local meetings. "A small, privately-owned bookstore or coffee house would be more than happy to accommodate you." Too bad Tampa doesn't have those. Corporate bastards!

Wednesday one of the dumpster kitties died. I still don't know exactly what happened. I did my best and I hope it enjoyed its short time on this Earth.

Thursday Dr. Hari agreed to buy me a $15,000 toy for my research. I have the best advisor ever!

Thursday I also got it in my head that I needed new glasses. I mostly wear contacts but about once every two weeks I wear my glasses and the boys in my lab go nuts. Apparently I am wildly attractive when I wear my glasses. Not that I care all that much how attractive I am to the dorky boys in my lab (sorry, guys!) but I figured, why not wear my glasses more often if I'm more comfortable in them and people think I look good in them? But I can't see well out of my glasses anymore so I decided to just get new, trendy fun glasses (and sunglasses) and give my eyes a rest. So, as it happens whenever I get something stuck in my head I had to get new glasses right away or I would just die. So I got an appointment with the eye doctor today. It turns out I really needed new glasses and I picked out really cute Anne Klein frames and Ray Ban Rx sunglasses. However, it seems that Lens Crafters claim of new glasses in about an hour does not apply if you are blind as a bat. So I have to wait 7-10 days for my new glasses.

Now you are all caught up. Now all I have to do is get caught up on what everyone else has been up to...

Sunday, November 06, 2005

A Word About Plato

When I was a freshman at the University of Minnesota many years ago, I took a class on Greek and Roman mythology to satisfy one of my history requirements. I was very interested in the course at the time and had a huge crush on the TA who was a rugged, punk, intellectual type that was way too interested in his female students. Anyway, I don’t use what I learned in that class on a regular basis, but I remember the material surprisingly well. One thing in particular that I often find myself thinking about is an essay written by Plato, outlining his idea of what happens to us before we are born. Plato thought that all the unborn souls live in some other place (I’ll call it Heaven even though I don’t think he did) waiting to be born. They decide on the human form they will take by being shown a series of images of lives they can lead from which they choose the life they like best. The souls are only shown a glimpse of these lives so they are not aware of the hardships that inevitably accompany each life. When they catch a glimpse of who they want to be, they pick that life and are born into it.

As a freshman in college I initially underestimated Plato’s theory. I thought, “Okay, but what about people that are disfigured? Mentally challenged? All-around miserable? Isn’t it an affront to them to presume their souls chose this life?” The beauty of the theory is that there are fleeting moments either in the past or in the future where their souls are happy, at peace, in a life someone might choose if only for a moment. I am not religious. I can’t even really pretend to be very spiritual as I have no answers to why we are greater than the sum of our parts. But for some reason, I really like Plato’s theory. And I still think about it a lot.

The other night I was driving home from a satisfying day at work. I had the windows down, letting the warm, November breeze of Florida blow through my hair. To my left the sun was setting causing streaks of pink and purple to ribbon through the sky. I was excited to go home and see the love of my life, and our little cat family in our quaint apartment. It’s moments like this I think of Plato’s essay and think, “this must have been what I saw when I was still in Heaven.”

And to those of you who want to put something clever in the comments: No, I am not high. Just happy.