Thursday, December 29, 2005

Dressing and Packing (it's not what you think)

I should warn you that this post is going to get very long. I hope you are in a comfortable chair with a good beverage. Maybe don't be eating anything though, it's going to get gross.

I got to Minneapolis Wednesday afternoon and spent the afternoon with my dad and stepmom. When it came time to pick up my stepsister from school I went and surprised her. She introduced me to her HOT HOT HOT teacher and showed me her gingerbread house she made.

Thursday I went and visited my great grandma. She's a firecracker. That must be where I get it from. Then my mom, stepdad and I went to the Mall of America (aka the "Big Mall") to watch the last minute shoppers. We were all done with our shopping, but I'm used to taking walks everyday so the 1.5 total miles walking around each level provided me with my daily dose.

Thursday also was the day my stepmom got word that her dad was in his final days. He has been sick for some time, but it was obvious it was time to go say goodbye. She, Dad and my stepsister flew to New York to be with him Friday afternoon. I don't know when they'll be back or if I'll even be able to see them before I leave town on Saturday. That makes me pretty sad.

Friday I spent the day with Dean's mom and her sister, brother-in-law, neice and Dean's brother. We baked cookies and candy which has become a tradition for us over the past few years. Every year we get more elaborate with our recipes and presentation. The treats are my trademark gift for family so I don't have to shop and drag presents up here (except for close family) and everyone looks forward to them.

Saturday my mom, stepdad and me went to my aunt and uncle's house for a yummy Christmas Eve dinner. I got to see my grandma and grandpa along with my aunt and uncle and two cousins. It was a fun, relaxing time filled with the peace only felt when you are among family.

Christmas day I went and took some treats and some Chinese take-out to my dad's mom who has Alzheimer's. Dad was nervous about leaving her while he is in New York. I've been calling frequently and bringing her groceries to get her through til he comes home. My grandma is an amazing woman, who along with the other women in my family will get their own posts sometime soon. After visiting with my grandma we had my stepdad's parents, sister, brother-in-law and nephew over for Christmas. They are always a good time. We have a family tradition of sneaking over-the-top religious memorabelia into eachother's house. My cousin tried to plug in a Virgin Mary night light. My mom saw the night light in the spare bedroom, unplugged it and dropped it in my aunt's purse. As far as I know that's where it is now.

Now, onto the good stuff. First, let me fill you in on my problems from the beginning. About 6 weeks ago I noticed a lump under my arm. At first it didn't hurt but then it grew to about the size of a peanut m&m. Fearing armpit cancer, I went to the doctor who diagnosed me with a small infection and gave me some antibiotics. Okay, fast forward to last Monday when I started to get a similar lump on my waistline. It started very small and I figured it would go away on its own. If it hadn't gone away by the time I got back to Tampa, I would take the rest of the anibiotics and maybe see the doctor again. The peanut m&m stage came and went until it was a rather large red and purple bump with tendrils eminating from it. I didn't tell anyone about it until Christmas Eve day when I pulled down the waist of my pants for my mom and said, "Do you think I need to have this looked at?" She gasped, regained composure and said, "Yeah, we may want to get you to a doctor. It's not going to wait til you get back." Christmas day it really started to hurt bad and that night it ruptured. It was disgusting. Since my mom and stepdad both work for the Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) pharmacy we went to their urgent care clinic yesterday. The nurse took one look at my "wound" and sent me to the emergency room. The county ER is an interesting place. The hour or so I spent waiting was very entertaining. There were people moaning and screaming, most of whom my parents recognized as "frequent pharmacy visitors" who often "accidently drop their Vicadin down the toilet." One frequent visitor said he thought he had Menengitis. He was still waiting to be seen when I left. I watched the juvies pick up garbage outside until I got called back and put in a room. A nurse came in and interviewed me and gave me a gown to wear and some warm blankets. A doctor came in, looked at the damage and assigned a resident to me. The resident said he needed a wound culture. If anyone ever says they need to do this to you run away as fast as you can. Oh my God I've never experienced such pain. The nurse gave me a shot of painkiller that made my arm muscles spazz out. While I was observing this phenomenon, the resident drove a huge cotton swab into my sore and wiggled it around causing me to scream like a baby. They determined I had no strange diseases, just a boil. The resident came back in my room wheeling in a laceration cart. That scared the crap out of me and I said, "How bad is this going to hurt?" The resident said, "Not at all-if I do it right..." and laughed. He gave me a local anesthetic and cut out the infected tissue, leaving a large, deep gaping hole on my abdomen. That had to be packed with antiseptic gauze and dressed with more gauze and tape. I got sent away with two types of antibiotic and some Tylenol with codeine.

That night despite my "wound" which I took the liberty of upgrading to an "incision" my mom and stepdad and me went to the Timberwolves game where my poor Wolves got trampled by the Suns. Ugh.

I think I will stop here and tell the rest of my so-called "vacation" next time.

As a preview- let me just say I was back in the ER this morning. Poor me!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Thank you, Judge Jones

"To be sure, Darwin's theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions."
-U.S. District Judge John Jones in his ruling
against the teaching of Intelligent Design
in Pennsylvania public classrooms

It's Christmas Time in the Lab

Today is my last day at work for two weeks. I need to get stuff done before I can leave but distractions are abounding. We have Christmas music blaring (Harry Connick Jr.), we're drinking coffee and eating Christmas cookies and the worst distraction of all: the cutest twelve year old girl ever. My undergraduate student has been bringing her in since school is out and she wants to be a physicist when she grows up like her mom. Rock on! Instead of doing paperwork and working on my resume we are having fun with magnets making field lines with iron filings and playing with ferrofluids. She is not helping to supress the maternal instincts that have been kicking in the last six months or so.
I'm almost ready for trip to the great North tomorrow. A 10 day whirlwind tour of family and friends. Like many children of my generation, I have parents, step-parents, grandparents, step-grandparents, aunts, uncles and step aunts and step-uncles and cousins and step-cousins. I've always had the opinion that I'm lucky to have so many people caring for me, my family is really twice as big. But it also makes for complicated holidays, lots of shuffling back and forth which is compounded by the fact that I don't hacve a car of my own when I go up there. Even if I did, I haven't driven in snow and ice for 3 years which would make me hesitant.
I also must build in time for my three bestest friends- my girls from college. Every time I am in town it is a party of epic proportions starting with catching up, then reminiscing then devolving into utter silliness and resulting in a puppy-pile of passed out girls. Unfortunately as the years pass, the silliness lasts not as long and the passing out comes much earlier. Sometime I will have to write about our crazier experiences, though not our craziest ones: those are locked in the vault.
I must get back to work. I will try to write from my igloo!

Saturday, December 17, 2005


Dean has a bad cold. I felt bad for him at first. Now I want to shove a balled up sock in his mouth the next time he asks me to go get something for him. The last time he said, "Frey, I'm sick!" I said, "Dean, I'm well aware of that!" And he countered with "My mom doesn't crab at me when I'm sick." It's going to be a loooong weekend.

There are two sort of good things about him being sick. One is that when he is sick he sleeps as much as I do when I'm healthy. The house was silent for twelve hours last night while he, the kitties and I slept the sleep of the sick, the feline and sleep-lover. The other thing that's sort of good about the Sick One is that he requested Panera for dinner last night AND lunch today. I loooooove Panera. I could eat a 1/2 Fandango salad, bowl Garden Vegetable soup, and a sourdough roll with a glass of iced green tea for every meal of my life.

Unfortunately I will be dateless to Dr. Hari's holiday party tonight. Every year my advisor has a holiday party where his wife cooks an enormous Indian feast and there is no "shop talk" allowed. He, the post doc and one of the graduated students all have little kids so its always fun to have them running around while we talk sports, politics, culture and everything else except physics. Last year Dr. Hari and Dean got sloppy drunk and bonded when Dr. Hari confessed that I'm his favorite. But that's just between you and me.

Well, I am off to the Depths of Hell, a.k.a. the Ghetto Mall to do some Christmas shopping. I need to get out of this plague-ridden house to keep my health and my sanity for next week's trip.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

This n That

I'm all done with finals! Yay! No more tests or homework EVER!

I posted that quote on Sunday to let people ponder the notion of collectivism and I was overwhelmed by the discussion that has ensued. Everyone interprets things in different ways, and I posted it because I was struck at how much the quote could apply to today's society. The lack of drive to keep up with current events was what I was referring to, though the discussion veered off course. The fact that people were willing to engage in such a discussion obviously proves me wrong. I now believe that we are in no danger of becoming a collectivist society as long as there are people like Scott, lefty_grrl and my dad out there. Thank you guys! As a footnote, I got the quote from the introduction that Ayn Rand wrote to her book, Anthem, which was our book club selection for this month. Ayn Rand's philosophy of objectivism is not political and she shunned governemt of any form. The quote and her philosophy refers to objectivism on a more rudamentary level. Wikipedia defines it as being characterized as such:

1. That man must choose his values and actions by reason;
2. That the individual has a right to exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing self to others nor others to self; and
3. That no one has the right to seek values from others by physical force, or impose ideas on others by physical force.

Anyway, those of you who wish to continue the thread politically or otherwise are more than welcome to do so. However, at the risk of alienating some of my readers, I thought I had better take this opportunity to present something not as, well, heavy.

The countdown is on to my trip up to the frozen tundra. One week from today. I am so excited to see my family and friends. But I hate the cold. My God do I hate the cold. I am ready to be spoiled by my family and Dean's family, eat yummy food (without actaully having to cook it OR pay for it), drink yummier wine, see how my stepsister and cousins have grown, catch up with the three classiest broads I know, go see the Timberwolves (and my boyfriend, KG) and forget about work!
But going home always brings me mixed feelings. Moving away from my family was so painful for me. People sometimes assume that only people who aren't strongly tied to their families move away, but that isn't true. I am just as close if not closer to my family than anyone I know and every time I leave Minneapolis I am confronted with the same pain all over again. The pain of knowing how much time must pass before I can see these people again. Knowing that in the meantime things might change. But at the same time, I am so happy to be living down here. Experiencing a new part of the country, a part of the country that doesn't make me suicidal for 4 months of the year. I know we won't be down here forever, and I think it will be neat to describe this life to our kids one day. They'll learn that their mom and dad struck out on their own and had an adventure- a four or five year adventure- and hopefully they'll do the same.

Okay, enough rambling. Time to start catching up on work I've pushed aside the last few days.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Something for you to Chew on While I'm Studying for Finals

"The greatest guilt today is that of people who accept collectivism by moral default; the people who seek protection from the necessity of taking a stand, by refusing to admit to themselves the nature of that which they are accepting; the people who support plans specifically designed to achieve serfdom, but hide behind the empty assertion that they are lovers of freedom, with no concrete meaning attached to the word; the people who believe that the content of ideas need not be examined, that principles need not be defined, and that facts can be eliminated by keeping one's eyes shut."

-Ayn Rand, 1946

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

blegh (or End of Semester Blues/Crazies/Funk)

I feel like a whale.
I can't seem to get enough sleep.
I'm sick of thinking about superconductivity.
I want to read a novel.
I need a haircut.
The counter top is a mess.
My research isn't going the way I want it to.
I miss my parents.
I haven't started my Christmas shopping yet.
There's nothing in the fridge.
I hate cheerleaders.
I think there's a leak in my front tire.
I'm worried I'll get sick for finals next week. I didn't get a flu shot.
I'm sick of cleaning out the litter boxes.
I miss baseball.
I haven't read a Frank Rich column in two weeks.
I lost an earring.
I want to scream.

Thanks for listening.
I'll be me again in a week.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Dysfunctional Materials

A couple of months ago, Dr. Hari officially changed the name of our research lab from the Materials Physics Laboratory to the Functional Materials Laboratory, as "functional materials" is the new term for "applied materials" and the buzzword for getting funding.
Well, as you may guess it was a very short leap to Dysfunctional Materials Lab which is fitting. Us grad students spend 9-10 hours a day in very close quarters. We travel together and go through very stressful times together. We are protective of each other and are unable to hide anything from each other. In short we are very much like a family, and like most families we consider ourselves to be slightly dysfunctional.

Take for instance yesterday, when one of my labmates-we'll call him Cheesehead to protect his privacy- came to the lab proudly showing off his new tackle box that he bought to hold his sample preparation tools. Since he makes samples in the next building over, I admit this was a good idea. It was the execution of the idea that created issues.

He spent the better part of an hour loading up his tackle box with things from around the lab. When he called me over to check it out, I took issue with his blatant monopolizing of two pairs of tweezers.

Me: Cool, Cheesehead. Are you going to leave those tweezers in there or are you going right now to make a sample?

Cheesehead: I thought I'd leave them in here so I don't forget them whenever I go over to NNRC.

MB: But that pair right there is my favorite pair of tweezers.

CH: Well, when you need them they're in the box on my desk. Help yourself.

MB: Why can't you just leave them in the community drawer with the others and take them when you need them?

CH: Why can't we leave them in my tackle box and you can take them when you need them?


Five minutes later-

MB: You know, Cheesehead, it's really giving me anxiety that you are planning on keeping my favorite tweezers in your tackle box. You lose everything.

CH: Really? It's driving you nuts? Good. Here. How about this?

He storms into the other room and opens the drawer full of the remaining tweezers, grabs a handful and puts them in his tackle box.

CH: And while I'm at it, I'm taking a ceramic boat too.

He never uses the ceramic boats. They're mostly for my stuff to sit in while they're being cooked at 900 degrees Celsius.

MB: Cheesehead, you jerk! Put that back! You don't even use that!

CH: I'm taking your diamond scribe too.

MB: Oh, no. You DIDN'T just take my diamond scribe. I swear to God, Cheesehead. I will beat your ass.

CH: Try it.

Well, Cheesehead is about 6'3" and 220 lbs so I new very well I couldn't actually beat his ass. I settled for feebly slapping his arm and stomping back to my desk. I also threw in a "I'm telling Dr. Hari you took my diamond scribe. "

This morning when I came into work the ceramic boat, the diamond scribe and most of the tweezers were back where they belong. My favorite pair however is still in the tackle box.