Saturday, April 29, 2006

ABC's of MB

First, some acknowledgements:

I stole the idea for my new "library thing" widget on the side from LeftyGrrrl. I coveted hers for weeks and finally sat down and got my own this morning.

Thanks to Jackie for this fun ABC meme!

Accent: Minnesoooootan
Booze: Wine (red or white), Cape Cods, Margharitas
Chore I Hate: dusting (allergies)
Dog or Cat: Certified Crazy Cat Lady
Essential Electronics: laptop, MP3/radio
Favorite Cologne: Chanel No. 5
Gold or Silver: gold
Hometown: Minneapolis, MN
Insomnia: never
Job Title: Graduate Research Assistant
Kids: someday...
Living arrangements: living in sin with my boyfriend
Most Admirable Trait: sensitivity
Number of sexual partners: that's confidential information
Overnight hospital stays: only as a baby
Phobias: driving on the freeway
Quote: "The pursuit of truth is more precious than its possession."-A. Einstein
Religion: Agnostic
Siblings: one step sister
Time I wake up: 6:30 am weekdays, 10ish on weekends
Unusual talent or skill: remembering where everyone else put things they've lost.
Vegetable I love: broccoli
Worst habit: chewing on my hair while I'm concentrating
X-rays: teeth, chest
Yummy foods I make: spaghetti pomodoro, goulash, beef stroganoff
Zodiac sign: cancer

Friday, April 28, 2006


On Wednesday, a couple of us grad students along with Dr. B, the undergraduate advisor, went to Busch Gardens as part of Physics Day, 2006.

The three of us were we same three that judged the science fair a couple months ago. Physicist #3 was James, who since then has given me permission to use his real name on my blog because as he puts it, "I don't give a crap. " Physicist #2 is yours truly, and physicist #1 recently got his Ph.D. so I will refer to him as Dr. Badass because he is also huge and black and chiseled.

The fact that Dr. Badass is black is important to this story because for two outreach activities it has been us three. I remarked while waiting for Dr. B, "Do you think it's a coincidence that he always gets a white guy, a black guy and a woman to do this stuff?" Dr. Badass replied, "Not at all. Just call me token."

The four of us (the ultra diverse grad students and Dr. B) put on two physics shows at Busch Gardens demonstrating a variety of physics concepts which involved flinging eggs, beach balls and leaky bags of water. We let the kids glide on a hovercraft and propel themselves on a wagon via a fire extinguisher. They beat Dr. Badass at tug-o-war (he was on a frictionless surface so he couldn't "tug") and they beat him a throwing balls at a target (they threw tennis balls, he had to throw a beach ball). It was a good time had by all except James and me who ended up with egg on our faces. Literally. The kids loved Dr. Badass and several asked for his autograph after the show. When we wandered around Busch Gardens, I saw several of the kids point to him, whispering, "Hey! It's that guy!"

We also got a yummy free lunch and free admission to the park after the shows.

James bailed before lunch to meet up with a friend of his that is now a high school teacher who was there with his students. Dr. Badass and me ate lunch with the coordinator and then decided to ride Sheikra, the newest and most impressive roller coaster in Florida. Here are the stats:

Maximum Height: 200 ft.
Angle of 200 ft drop: 90°
Maximum Speed: 70 mph
Total Length of track: 3,188 ft.
Time spent in line: 40 min.
Total time on ride: 3 min

I had not rode a roller coaster in a few years and I felt my age getting off the thing. I was nauseous and my head was spinning. Dr. Badass said, "Boy, I'm getting too old for this." I agreed. Rather than running to get back in line, we got some water, sat down, and feared the day our kids made us ride on every roller coaster one right after the other.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Tell me...

How f-ing cute is this!?

Sunday, April 23, 2006

A Lot can Change in a Year

One year ago today Randy was diagnosed with Leukemia. And everything changed.

About a week before he had to go to the hospital, he took me to lunch at Taco Bell. I distinctly remember him complaining that his legs and hips hurt. I thought it was unusual that he was griping, it was quite out of character. But I dismissed it nonetheless, reassuring him that his sporatic workouts and helping runnergirl move into her new house was hard on his muscles. Soon after I got the call from the hospital.

One of the things we had to get used to after the diagnosis was that Randy couldn't go out as much. One afternoon a couple of the boys and I collected stuff from our places that Randy could do while quarantined to his apartment. I brought him a Mickey Mouse mosaic puzzle I had bought during my internship in Oak Ridge. Randy liked to call and chat with me while I was in Oak Ridge and when I bought that puzzle I would work on it while talking to him on my cell phone. He would chuckle while I would periodically curse at that damned thing, sounding like a Tourettes patient. When he saw the puzzle in the bag, he laughed at the irony. I had bought it while confined to my apartment, now I was passing it along. The other item I brought him was a deck of canasta cards I had impulsively bought at Target a couple years earlier. It was one of those things I thought would be fun for Dean and me to learn to do. Dean thought otherwise. Anyway, I told Randy to study and learn the game and then teach me how to play. He ended up learning the game with his sister Anna, and they played often while he was stuck in the apartment and in the hospital.

There have been a few landmarks since Randy's passing that have been dificult: his 28th birthday, the one and two month milestones, walking in his memory in Miles for Moffitt. But this one is very tough. I expected my grief to improve linearly over time. I didn't anticipate such pain after feeling so good for awhile. Why is this so hard? Mostly because we were all so ignorant a year ago. We didn't think this might be our last year with Randy.

The weekend after his death, we all met at his apartment to help go through his things. It was there that his mom gave me his piano, one of the most beautiful gifts I've ever gotten. Shortly after this grand gesture, Anna approched me still timid from our not knowing each other very well. She asked to keep the canasta cards. It's funny how inanimate objects can take on such profound meaning.

Some where around these few days also marks four years since I met my friend Randy (read about it here). I also met runnergirl and Cheeshead. I was on a visit being recruited by the department. As I come back to my Minneapolis apartment to tell Dean about the people I met, I could have never imagined the impact they would all have on my life.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Nothing New

Maybe I shouldn't open a post with the fact that I really have nothing new to say. But it's true.

Sylvia was in town for the weekend and we had a wonderful time with her. It very laid back and her and Dean spent some much needed mother-son time. Easter was fabulous. We had a big mid-day meal at Carrabba's. Then Dean took a nap and Sylvia and I sat by the pool with Cokes and books relaxing and getting some sun. We moved to the shade after only a half hour but it was too late. I got burnt. Then we watched the Twins game. They didn't complete the sweep against the Evil Empire, but I'll take 2 of 3 any day.

Helium has been a beee-yotch this round. I had four types of samples to look at: (1) Some of my old samples I'm measuring with a different method to try to answer some questions raised to us by a referee from a prestigious journal. We submitted the paper about a six weeks ago and got the reviews back last week. Not being able to completely answer those questions shouldn't prevent us from getting the paper published, but it would put the last nail in the ref's metaphorical coffin. (2) The sample from the future Mr. Magnetbabe, my collaborator who I'm severely crushing on. (3) A sample with very little known about it. Positive results may lead to a high impact journal article. (4) More samples to round out a paper I am currently writing. I can finish writing the paper and get it submitted when I have results from these samples.

1. Inconclusive. I have no idea how to interpret the results.
2. Even worse. Cannot get reproducible results.
3. Negative results.
4. The samples haven't arrived yet. This measurement will have to wait til next helium cycle.


I got my truffles last week which has made me a very happy girl. Due to a minor mistake on my dad's part (which I won't repeat here since I promised him I wouldn't) I've gotten to try two new flavors besides the 99% double. I tried rum and port flavors. Both delectable. Sadly, I couldn't handle the 99%. It kicked my ass.

By the way, happy 23rd birthday Joe Mauer, Li'l Joe, Joe-Joe, Baby Jesus, whatever!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

A Night at the Trop

We have Dean's mom in town this weekend. I was able to get two precious days away from the Helium to spend some time with her. Getting Hindus and atheists to work on Easter weekend is actually quite easy. I'll be paying for it come tomorrow though.

Last night we went to see the Devil Rays take on the Royals at Tropicana field across the bay. Since the Rays have come under new ownership in the off season there have been $10 million dollars in renovations at the Trop with a promise of better fan relations and in time, better baseball. The Trop looked great. There was free parking in the huge lot. Before it was $10. And fans can now bring in outside food and beverages. This is all part of the owner's sympathizing that it is expensive to take your family to the baseball game.

Shortly after Dean and I moved down here, Dean got a job selling season tickets for the Rays and he hated it. On game days he worked 16 hour days and he had an hour long commute each way. With all that work we were still struggling to make ends meet. He stuck it out for a year before moving on. Since leaving he has seen the Rays front office undergo a complete change in the commission structure that would have almost doubled his salary and now the new owner overhauling the team again. He takes it all very well, but sometimes I think he wonders what it would have been like if he stayed.

When we walked through the gates, we were immediately spotted by one of Dean's old friends from when he worked there. Craig started at the same time as Dean and he has enjoyed enormous promotions along the way. Extremely, um, flamboyant and excitable he started working in the gift shop. Last night he informed us he was now Director of Fan Relations. As soon as he said that I was prepared to hear Dean's wrath about getting screwed over more after he left than while he was there. We congratulated him with genuine happiness. He deserves it.

What we didn't know about the position of Director of Fan Relations is that it also comes with the honorary title of "Mayor of Left Field Street". Our seats were in left field and as we were walking along the concourse loaded with Pepsis and hot dogs, we saw Craig again. This time he had on a tuxedo coat over his jersey and a top hat. He was at a podium addressing his masses. Which consisted of a boy and his dad.

Speaking of left field, our seats happened to be in the front row in left field. That was scary. At first we were excited to potentially catch a home run ball. The only ball that came close to us ended up bouncing off the fence only a foot or two away from us, leaving all three of us curled in a fetal position, screaming.

When we got home from the game we turned on our new beloved baseball package to catch the rest of the Twins vs. Yankees. The Twins had blown a four run lead and were trailing 5-4 in the 8th. In the bottom of the ninth, Miriano Rivera was pitching, the lead off hitter was walked. Joe Mauer, or Baby Jesus as Dean sarcastically calls him due to his savior image among Twins fans, hit a double. Second and third with nobody out. Rondell While and Torii Hunter both strike out. Then Justin Morneau hit a double scoring the tying and winning run. Suck it, Derek Cheater and PayRod and the rest of the Evil Empire!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Hell is Frozen Over (with Liquid Helium)

This week has been absolutely hellish. For those of you who like science, continue. For those who have no interest on my scientific endeavors, come back in a couple of days.

The time in the lab is divided into several phases with one complete cycle lasting roughly six weeks. Some of us who do materials synthesis (not so much me anymore now that I have my masters) make samples. Others communicate with collaborators to get samples sent to us. When we've amassed enough samples that we want to do magnetic measurements on, I call up my pal Kirby at the local gas and cryogenic liquid supply company and order enough liquid helium to cool our magnet for roughly 10-12 days. This is 200 liters that arrive in 100 liter dewars 5 days apart. I am the helium girl because Kirby used to yell at everyone, but likes to flirt with me. I endure shameless flirtation for several minutes before placing the order. Who says there's equality among the sexes in science?

When the liquid helium arrives, we transfer about 70-80 liters into our superconducting magnet and have about 20-30 liters left to top off the magnet over the next couple days. Then a few days later we'll get 100 more liters to top off the magnet several more times. When there is helium in the magnet, we are required to do experiments around the clock. Helium evaporates off night and day, so we musn't waste any of it. Luckily some of the experiments are automated so we can usually do overnight experiments from around 9 pm to 7 am or so.

After the 10 days we have helium are up, everyone takes a deep breath and starts processing and analyzing 10 days worth of data collection. We have to figure out what it all means. We interpret our results and if necessary contact our collaborators to discuss what we have found. At that point we decide what results are interesting enough to be published and start the long process of gathering literature and writing a paper. In the meantime, make samples, get samples, etc.

The problem with this routine is that we get helium infrequently enough that we never really get in a groove. We just kind of run around like chickens with our heads cut off. We're dropping stuff, accidently freezing equipment, screwing up our initial experiments and repeating them. It's pretty much utter choas for two weeks. The helium came yetserday and I think we were shorted by 10 or 20 liters. I say "I think" because helium measurement has been a sore spot for Kirby and me. He doesn't believe that our method for measuring the helium levels in the dewar is very accurate. I have come dangerously close to playing the graduate degree card on him, but I get too nervous.

Anyway, we are short helium, which is going to cut into our experiment time. I have one particular experiment that I am an expert at but happens to be quite tedious. I ran this experiment on one sample for 11 hours yesterday, which yielded inconclusive results. Today I ran the same experiment on 3 samples for one of my labmates. I decided that rather than trusting this person with my equipment, I would just do it myself. Okay, to all you perverts: that's a freebie for reading til the end.

Tomorrow will be more of the same.

Monday, April 10, 2006

How I Spent my Weekend

    Friday Evening

  • Grocery shopped with runner girl and Randy's sister, Anna, for a gathering at runner girl's house after Miles for Moffitt.

  • Read. I'm reading Under the Banner of Heaven for book club. It's fascinating. I'll write more on it when I'm done.

  • Saturday

  • Got up early and walked in Miles for Moffitt (with Deano! Yay!).

  • Went to runner girl's house for reception mentioned above.

  • Went to Target per Dean's request to get baseball cards and Game of Shadows.

  • Went home and refused to leave the house for the rest of the day.

  • Read my book some more while Dean read his book all the way up until dinner time.

  • Ordered pizza because neither of us would leave the house or cook dinner.

  • Read some more.

  • Went to bed early.

  • Sunday

  • Met and went to lunch with Dean's cousin and his wife.

  • Watched Twins lose their 5th game so far. Blegh.

  • Read.

  • Made dinner.

  • Caught up with both my parents on the phone.

  • Read.

  • Went to bed.

All in all, a perfect weekend.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Truffle Trafficking

When my dad came to visit me in February, he brought me a box of Legacy truffles as part of a belated Christmas gift. Here are my feelings about Legacy truffles. They are made by an old-fashioned choclatier and come in exotic, delictable flavors such as Sweet Bourbon and Chipotle. They come in different "strengths" to cater to different choclate tolerance levels. 58%, 72%, 85% and most recently 99% (I'm anxious to try it) cocoa. I'm not sure if this is by mass or volume. I should find out. Since they are almost pure cocoa, they are not loaded with sugar and whole milk so they are better for you than a Snickers bar. That's my excuse for eating one truffle almost everyday. And one is plenty.

I do not let Dean eat my truffles. He had one once and goofed by saying, "these aren't that great." When Dad brought me the box, I bought Dean a bag of "junk chocolate" to keep him satiated.

I have one lonely Merlot truffle left from that box Dad brought me. I have rationed them out as best I could. When I went online to secretly order some more I was willing to pay a ridilculous amount to have them shipped to Florida. I was not willing to settle for the flavors they offered in their "variety pack." Almond, mint, espresso, pecan and classic. Those are all delcious, but where was the Kahlua and Champagne? I finally talked my dad into going to the store itself after emailing him a list of my requested flavors (including this new 99% one I must try). I confessed to being a chocolate addict and he has since referred to himself as my enabler. He got my box of truffles ready and is still going to have Legacy send them to me to ensure they are properly packed and kept cool for their long trip. And I'm expecting a sizable bill. But money is no object when it comes to truffles.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Is that a "yes" or a "no"?

I just ran into a friend of mine outside who will be defending his doctoral dissertation on Thursday morning. He cracks me up.

Me: So are you nervous?!

Him: Are you kidding? Does a big black bear in the forest take a little white bunny rabbit by the ears and wipe his ass with it?

Me: Ummmm..... Is that a "yes" or a "no"?

Him: Hell yes!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Opening Day

We're gonna win, Twins!
We're gonna score!
We're gonna win, Twins!
Watch that baseball soar!
Knock out a homerun,
Shout a "Hip Hooray!"
Cheer for the Minnesota Twins to-day!

Opening day was officially yesterday, but the Twins don't play until tomorrow. We went to our last spring training game on Saturday and sent our boys home to Minnesota for the season. It is always sad to see them go and exciting to have the baseball season start. For Minnesotans, it signals an end to winter misery.

What was okay about the boys leaving was that this year we ordered the baseball package through our digital cable. It was a splurge but it will be worth it and we'll save money by not having to go to a sportsbar every fifth game to see Santana pitch. It'll will also severely cut into my reading time. And my work time.