Tuesday, November 28, 2006


In the past couple of months since I started getting proactive about my colony, I've noticed some changes.

Before, I gave them two stadium cups full of dry cat food a day. This was double amount I was giving when I found the initial litter of kittens way back in July of 2005. Every evening about five of them would come running to me when they heard me coming. Sometimes I'd find new ones and get a knot in my stomach thinking about the situation getting out of hand.

Now, I give them four stadium cups full and two cans of wet food. This was Heather's suggestion. I was a little hesitant at first. Do I really want to keep doubling the amount of food I'm giving? That would soon get expensive. But, with the two spay/neuter events I think I've gotten just under half the population. I have an appointment to bring four more in on December 10th and there's a slight chance I can bring in two for free this upcoming weekend. Transportation will be an issue. I'll keep you posted.

Anyway, I'm getting off track. Four cups dry food, two cans wet food and I have a permanent water dish back there that I rinse and refill every evening. Now, they don't come running. They wait (relatively) quietly back there for me. One still mews at me, but it's more of a greeting than a demand. We do have a pond at the complex and lots of puddles on a regular basis. But I learned to give them water to help keep them for scavenging around the complex too much. Kitties with full bellies and enough water have no reason to crawl under people's cars or howl outside people's windows. And largely, I haven't seen them out and about as much as I used too. But they're still all accounted for, I take attendance at dinner. Hopefully within a couple of months I can be confident the population won't grow anymore and I don't have to keep upping the food. And maybe, just maybe they'll stay away from the baby ducks.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

How Quickly We Forget

Thanksgiving I worked. Yesterday (Friday) I worked. I had my candidacy proposal due by midnight Friday/Saturday (after much negotiation with Dr. Hari). Admittedly I put it on the back burner a little bit. I had a lot of deadlines this past week and I knew I could talk Dr. Hari into just about anything. Still, I worked my booty off on Thanksgiving and that sucked. But I finished. Dr. Hari recommended a roughly 30 page candidacy proposal in which I write a brief summary of my masters' work, a moderately detailed summary of the work I've done since I was awarded my masters' degree and a detailed plan of what I wish to accomplish before I get my Ph.D. Last night at 10 pm I emailed him my 40(!) page document and then went to bed for 12 hours. Next Tuesday I have to present this work to my Ph.D. committe in an hour long closed-door presentation. At that point, I will no longer be a grad student. I will be a Ph.D. candidate. I'm excited and nervous. I'm nervous because I will be the one talking to six professors that know a lot more than I do. I'm excited because I love my reearch and always enjoy the opportunity to share it. I realize that makes me a big dork.

Friday I took a short break to get some materials from the lab and then go to Panera to bring home some lunch. I was expecting it to be pretty busy what with everyone being out and about. When I walked in I headed straight to the register (1/2 Fandago salad and a bowl of garden vegetable soup, I didn't need to look at the menu). There was one person working the register and one person placing an order. I stepped out of the way and patiently waited, pleasantly surprised at how slow it was. While I was waiting a woman got in line behind me with a little boy. I think the woman placing the order mucst have ordered something from the bakery as well. The cashier made eye contact with me, put up a finger signaling "Give me a minute" and I smiled and nodded. No problemo. The woman behind me, however, was quite upset by this development.

"Don't they know it's the day after Thanksgiving?!" she said loudly. I ignored her.

"Isn't there anyone else to work the register?!"

I turned and looked at her, noticing there were a couple more people in line. The little boy was getting antsy, tugging on her shirt and whining.

"She said she'd be right back." I said firmly in case the woman didn't understand what was going on.

"I don't care! There should someone else taking orders! Get the manager up here!"

At this time the initial cashier came back looking weary and gestured for me to approach the register. In the meantime, the woman behind me was still caryying on.

"I mean, geez! Aren't there more people here? It's the day after Thankgiving!"

The cashier turned to me and said under her breath, "And how quickly we forget to be thankful..."

I smiled knowlingly and apologized to her for having to deal with that crap. She thanked me and we proceeded to do business.

Besides displaying an utter lack of class, this woman in line reminded me of a vow I made about ten years ago. In high school and part of college I used to work at a garden center in suburban Minneapolis where I was verbally abused on a regular basis by retired people and housewives who felt they had nothing better to do than display their authority over high school students. I vowed that no matter if I was a stay at home mom, a doctor, a lawyer or the president of the United States I was going to treat people in the service industry with respect. I know what it's like to have a shitty job that doesn't pay well. I know what it's like to be on your feet between 8 and 12 hours in a day and get no appreciation. When it's busy and people are impatient and more than willing to take their frustrations out on the faceless person behind the register.

And it wasn't until the day AFTER thanksgiving this year until I remembered to stop and think about it. I was taking a break from a job I love. I was working from home with my own little cat family while my dear husband at work periodically sent me text messages reminding me how much I am loved. What did I do to desereve this?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


So even though my Boys got swept in the first round of the playoffs (which traumatized be to the point of not even being able to blog about it), I found comfort in the fact that players are not judged by their post season performance. Despite shitting a huge brick in the playoffs, the Twins had a phenomenal year culminating in one of the most dramatic final season days I have ever seen. These facts did not go unnoticed.

Exhibit A:

Baby Jesus Won the Batting Title.
Okay, people don't vote on this. But it was awesome he got it because he is the first AL catcher ever to get it and his performance was a big reason they did so well. Plus, I just can't resist posting a picture of him.

Exhibit B:

Johan Santana Won the AL Cy Young Award.
His second one in three years, he was voted the winner unanimously. He led the league in wins, strikeouts and ERA.

And now....

Exhibit C:

Justin Morneau Wins AL Most Valuable Player.
Totally made my day. Anytime a Twin beats out a Yankee is an exceptional piece of good news. He really deserved it, it was basically the first year in a very long time we had a legitimate power hitter. Good job Baby Harmon!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Baby Girls

Dean and I had a wonderful weekend. For the first time since we got married, we went on a date. Saturday afternoon we drove to Orlando for the Magic game. We had rented a room at the Sheraton so that we could enjoy some beers at the game and not have to worry about driving the 70 miles home late at night.

We checked in to the hotel and took advantage of the Starbucks in the lobby. We then walked the half mile to TD Waterhouse Centre because it was such a lovely afternoon. Dean likes to get to arenas early to watch batting practice/shoot around, etc. but we didn't realize that the Waterhouse opened an hour later than we had anticipated. We crossed the street to the Marriott and shared a bucket of beers to kill some time.

Our conversation took a random turn, as usual, and we started discussing baby names. First of all: NO NOT YET. I have plenty more I want to do and learn before I become responsible for another human being. But.... kids names are something I think about quite a bit. I mean, it's as close to defining your child as you can get in the first few moments of his/her life. I want to pick some names and roll them around for a few years to make sure I can live with one, let alone my poor child.

Anyway, I do have a particular name picked out for a daughter that I've liked for several years. Unfortunately, Dean doesn't like it as much as me. It's not that he doesn't like the name in general, but he can't see naming our daughter that name. Plus, it's also the name of a song.

Dean: "I think it's a really pretty name. But I can just see little --- in college getting lured into bed by some frat boy singing that song."

Me: "So? How do you know frat boys will be singing that song in 20 years?"

Dean: "Frat boys will always be singing that song."

Dean had been pushing for a name he thought up for a girl several days ago. I was hoping he would have forgotten about it by now.

Dean: "Oh, c'mon! It's so original! And unique!"

Me: "I don't like it. It's ghetto."

Dean: "No way! It's a lot better than anything you've thought up."

Me: "Yeah right. We can name our next cat that name, but not our daughter."

Dean: "I have an idea. Put both names up on your blog and have people vote on it. Let the people decide."

Me (knowing what y'all would think): "Gladly."

It seemed decided. We turned to watch the Ohio State Michigan game while we finished up our beers. A few minutes later, Dean tapped me nervously on the shoulder.

"Don't put the name on your blog. I don't want anyone stealing it. I can just see you holding the vote and all your friends liking it so much all their little daughters will be named ---. Then I'll really be disappointed."

Sorry guys. I guess you'll have to think up your own names.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Putting Bessie out to Pasture

We bought a new laptop this week and it came in yesterday. I have been scarce in the blogosphere because I have a lot going on at work and trying to set up a new computer has become a full time job in itself.

Why did we get a new laptop? Here are some good reasons. My old laptop (affectionately named Bessie) is 4 1/2 years old. She's already had a longer life than many laptops. Bessie and her accessories weigh in excess of 15 pounds. She earned her name at the last APS conference when I made the boys lug her around half the time. When I went to give my talk, I found out the hard way that Bessie no longer cared to speak with a projector. She also turns off periodically when she's feeling cranky. A couple weeks ago, the little latch that holds in various modules one can plug in (floppy drive, CD write drive, extra battery, etc) broke off, so if one wants to use any of these features, one must physically maintain electrical contact by firmly pressing in the drive. With Bessie letting me know that she wishes to enter into retirement and with some of our wedding money, we decided this was a smart purchase. Recently I'd been having nightmares of being hysterical while someone from the Geek Squad tries to recover bits and pieces of my Ph.D. dissertation from Bessie's hard drive. This way, Bessie is still completely functional but can pass away quietly knowing her job is done.

The biggest reason of all for getting a new laptop? So far the majority of our marital spats have consisted of who gets to surf on the internet while we are both watching TV. Apparently it is not enough to have the TV on and only one of us surfing the net. Dean needs to check basketball stats for his fantasy league while flipping between several games. I need to blog at the drop of a hat when inspiration strikes. Now, we are listening to the Magic game on TV, each sitting at a computer (me at the new one of course), occasionally exchanging a wink over the monitor.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Little Refugee

Spay Day went well. Something came up and Kris couldn't recover them after all, so I've had them since Sunday afternoon.

It turned out for the best that my foiler released the first ones I trapped. I ended up trapping a very little one. I couldn't see how young it was because it was dark when I trapped her and she was frightened so I shined the flashlight on her just long enough to see that her ear wasn't already clipped.

Kris drove the kitties to Spay Day in the morning and Heather's boyfriend Donald picked them up for me in his truck. He was grinning ear to ear when he informed me that the President of Cat Call, a local cat adoption service, wanted to take the little one and foster her until someone adopted her. I was thrilled! She also wants me to call her if I find any more roughly the same age. She was too busy to take her at Spay Day so I had to recover her for awhile. When I finally got a good look at the kitten, I was shocked at how young she was, and that ACT still spayed her. The Cat Call lady was disappointed she didn't get to the kitten in time so ACT still clipped her ear. 1/4" is not much on an adult, but it's pretty much half of an eight week old's ear! She said that if I catch anymore, don't take them to Spay Day, she'll handle the fixing and vaccinating so I don't have to pay for it and the kittens won't look so rough around the edges. Man oh man, this kitten was cute though. She was a little freaked out so her eyes were so big you could see the whites. She was a black little fluff ball, I think one of my long hairs must the mom. She is going to be gorgeous when she grows up and she'll make a nice pet for someone.

I met up with the woman yesterday evening to do the "hand off". I asked the woman if they would have a hard time adopting her out since her ear was pretty much chopped off. Her response was, "I don't think so. We'll tell them she got in a cat fight and someone chewed it off. People respond to that sort of thing." I was reminded of how we got Allie, and I agreed.

The other kitties are doing well. The three left over were two females and one male. The male was the troublesome little guy that got trapped twice and he pretty much ate me out of house and home. I let him go this morning and he didn't run very far before stopping and looking back at me. I don't think he'll be too hard to win over again.

The two girls will go tomorrow morning. I want to see one of them eat a little more. It was chilly last night so I draped fleece blankets over the cages. I checked on them in the middle of the night and each of them had pull their blankets in through the bars of the cage and were curled up in them. I would like to give the girls one more night of free food and a warm bed before turning them loose again to the world.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Tomorrow is Spay Day and trapping did not go nearly as smoothly as last month. Let me recount as best as I can the events of this frustrating experience.

8:30 a.m. Kris brought the traps over. I borrowed her personal traps so that I wouldn't have to pay the small rental fee. The small rental fee I saved was somewhat negated by the fact that I gave Kris a $25 gift card to WalMart. Actually, the gift card was from my mom, who is never lacking amazment when I tell her about all the things Kris does for her kitties, for me and thus for my kitties. The woman is a saint. She had volunteered once again to drive my kitties to Spay Day, pick them up and recover them for one or two nights. She started crying when she got the gift card. Personally, I think she's been a little hardened by the fact that there are a very few number of people who actually possess understanding and appreciation for this type of thing. Most of the time if you tell someone that you do this, they sort of look at you like, "Aren't there people you could be helping?" They have an excellent point, but a vast majority of the world's other volunteers help people. And frankly, I prefer cats to people.

2:30 p.m. I set up the traps. I didn't want to start too early because they sleep all day anyway. Dean helped me set them up. He was much more involved this time. I think he was feeling more curageous.

3:30 I went to go check on the traps. Traps 1, 2, and 4 were full. Trap 1 had the stinker that sniped all the food last month without actually getting trapped. Ha ha. Trap 2 had a beautiful tabby I'd never seen before. I'll take what I can get. Trap 4 had a repeat customer from last month. I had to let her go. Fortunately she didn't eat much tuna so I kept the same can and went back inside.

4:00 Traps 1, 2, 3 , and 4 were full. Trap 3 had a big tuxedo cat in it. A tomcat, and he was pissed. Again trap 4 had a repeater eater. This one ate all the tuna from the can and was dozing lazily in the trap. I had to open the door and tip the trap upside down to get her out. She didn't go very far before stopping for a bath and then a subsequent roll in the grass. Little bitch. I only had one can of tuna left (I started with six) and I used it to reset the trap.

4:45 Trap 4 was full again. This time with one of two torties I've been wanting to trap. You see, I'm mostly concerned with getting the females and over 99% of torties are females so I felt satisfied.

5:30 Traps 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 were empty. Someone realeased them all. I felt like crying. Kris was going to want to come get them soon. I had already paid $125 to have 5 cats fixed. I had a mixture of fully fed cats, half fed cats, cats who were fixed but obviously willing to roam into traps, there were mostly eaten cans of tuna everywhere and not a cat in sight. I called Kris and she told me to take my time. She wasn't doing anything and she could come pick up the kitties whenever. I took the last two cans with enough tuna in them and reset two of the traps (4 and 5). I hopped in the car, went to Publix to restock my tuna supply and figured the best I could do was try.

6:00 I got home to reset the rest of the traps, and the two I had left were already full. One with this littl girl from last month. Shoot. I let her go and reset the four remaining traps. I decided to stand out there and wait til they were filled so I could catch anybody sneaking out there to release them.

6:30 It was getting dark so Dean came out to the dumpster to keep me company. We talked about sports, the future, having kids, where we wouldn't mind living, what types of things we should save up to buy. In the meantime, traps 1, 2 and 5 filled up. With new kitties. It was starting to turn around.

8:00 Four of the five traps had kitties in them. Trap 1 had the same one I had caught earlier, the greedy one who stole the food last month. Ha ha. Trap 3 was still empty. I called Kris to ask her what I should do. She said she'd head over and hopefully by that time the last trap would be full. It wasn't. I tried a bunch of things including moving all the trapped kitties onto the lawn across the parking lot to keep them from distracting the ones who might want to eat.

8:30 Kris came, loaded up my four and offered to come back in an hour. With my kitties safe and gone, I could go inside for awhile to leave the remaining trap alone. I was certain this plan would work.

9:15 I went back out there and the trap was still empty. But the door was closed. I think my foiler was back. Next time, I will definitely tape signs to the traps informing I am trapping to spay/neuter and safely release. Maybe then the good samaritans will leave me be. Kris also said that if you don't bring in as many kitties as you say you will, you will not be refunded, but you will get a credit for next time. No big loss, I guess. 4 out of 5 ain't bad.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

To Do...

  • Analyze susceptibility data pending from last helium run by tomorrow

  • Review 5 proposals for MEMS class by Thursday

  • Get battery changed in Green Machine (ASAP!)

  • Meet with Ph.D. co-advisors before writing candidacy proposal I'm probably not going to do this

  • Book plane ticket home for Christmas

  • Write rough draft of candidacy proposal by November 15th or so (per Dr. Hari) Deadline from Dr. Hari has been extended to November 24th

  • Write extra credit research paper (due November 20th) for MEMS so I can slack off on final which is the same day as my candidacy defense

  • Get dress altered for friend's wedding

  • Review paper for MMM conference proceedings

  • Finish The Poisonwood Bible for book club next Tuesday

  • Grocery store

  • PetSMART for supplies for Spay Day this weekend

Monday, November 06, 2006

Exit Strategy

There is an exit strategy for this congress. There is an exit stratgy for this senate. We can change things. We can make a difference. We do not have to settle for the way things are. We can do better. We deserve better. But we have to make it happen. We have to step up and make ourselves be heard.

Go Out and Vote!!!!!

(ps- don't vote for the scary tan guy running for governor)

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Plan B

I was up late last night looking for a new template for my blog. Exciting Friday night, huh? I was sick and tired of the old one and everyone else seems to be changing theirs, so I figured it's time. I have long wanted something either science themed or cat themed. I felt like all the templates I found weren't "me" enough. Then I found a really neat one, but it cost $50. It was a black background and the header was the face of a black cat, it's eyes really being all that stuck out. It was plain, not too distracting, not too cuddly (all the other cat ones were too cuddly), it was perfect. I thought about buying it and then I thougt, "What am I doing? I have a black cat, I'm somewhat tech-savvy, I can easily make this!"

This morning I got up and started my project. Yes, I have a black cat. But I couldn't for the life of me get her to look in the camera while I took a picture. Here are some of my utter failures:

Watching me attempt to execute my creative project for the weekend was Nellie. And she seemed to be mocking me. So she became my subject. She has a knack for looking straight at the camera when I want her picture. Thus, she is my header. I changed the background to go with her coloring a bit more.

So? Whaddya think?

Friday, November 03, 2006

When I Win My Nobel...

This is a Buckminsterfullerene, or a Buckyball. It is composed of 60 Carbon atoms bound into the exact configuration as the vertices on a soccer ball. It was named Buckminsterfullerene after Richard Buckminster Fuller, a noted architect who popularized the geodesic dome. The discover (and namer) of the Buckminsterfullerene visited my University yesterday and gave two lectures. He shared the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for this discovery which was a catalyst for the discoveries of many new carbon structures including the carbon nanotube.

Dr. Sir Harold Kroto gave two very good talks. The first, a seminar in the Chemistry department was about his discovery of the Buckyball and his other scientific projects, which include spectroscopy of large organic molecules in space. The second talk, which was open to the public, was much more what I am used to hearing from a Nobelaureate. He touched on a myriad of subjects from scientific education and funding to his humanitarian efforts to unite classically embattled cultures as well as the challenegs of moving away from a fossil fuel dependent society.

These types of messages from Nobelaureates to the general public are quite common. They are the rock stars of science and use their unique position to promote their pet causes. I'm undecided regarding how I feel about this. On the one hand, I applaud them for becoming ambassadors of the scientific community to humanity. Winning such a distinction gives them a platform for bettering society. I like that idea. Unfortunately, pointing out things like the harm of continuing a dependence on fossil fuels and Trent Lott's blatant disregard for the value of science to our youth is the epitome of preaching to the choir and is ultimately a waste of time. Us scientists are well aware of the need to develop alternative energy resources. And you can bet on most of us being skeptical of anything the political heavy hitters have to say. Even the laypeople in the audience without any formal scientific training probably read Scientific American, which frequently devotes entire issues to such topics.

This got me thinking. When I win my Nobel Prize I think I will absolutely use my position to educate people on things their demographic is not likely to already feel passionate about. Like...ohh...I don't know... controlling the feral cat population. Could you imagine me standing in a business suit before a group of scientists and showing them slides of Spay Day? They'd think I was a total crackhead, but that's okay. I'm a scientist.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Are you Even?

I went out to lunch today with two people in my lab. It was one woman's last day so it was her, me and a new grad student whom I'll call Newbie. We were walking back to the lab from the cafeteria and I noticed Newbie next to me lose his footing resulting in kind of a skuffling of his foot against the pavement. I said nothing but kept walking. Then, it happened again.

"Jeez, Newbie," I said, "can you walk today?"

He laughed a little sheepishly. "The first one was my left foot. It was an accident. Then I had to do it to my right foot to make it even."

I replied, "You know, I totally get that."

The other woman looked surprised. "Yeah! Me too!"

So then Newbie said, "So if you are walking along and you notice your heel hit the pavement crack, do you have to time it so that the heel of your other foot hits a pavement crack too?"

"Yes!" We said.

This made perfect sense, though I've never verbalized that I do this. And apparently I'm not the only one. So I wondered how normal this is. I mean, let's face it. Three physics grad students do not represent a true cross-section of humanity. So help me out guys. Are any of you like this? Do you know someone who is?

Newbie said he's also funny about colored tile. If he steps on a certain number of one color, he must step on an equal number of that same color with the other foot. Now that's just weird, if you ask me.