Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Bad Hair Day

I went to get a haircut today. Getting a haircut can be a traumatic experience for me for a couple of reasons.

1. My hair is halfway between curly and straight so if it is not cut properly it gets frizzy and I look like a mushroom head.

2. I really dislike making small talk with stylists. When they (inevitably) ask me what I do, they respond in one of two ways. Either utter discomfort at having no idea what a physicist actually does or asking completely arcane metaphysical questions because they have no idea what a physicist actually does.

The only person I've met in Florida who knows exactly how to cut my hair is Allie who is all the way in St. Petersburg, about an hour from my apartment. I simply haven't had the time to go all the way over there for a haircut, so the past two times I have experimented with different salons.

The last time I got my hair cut I went to a salon that I had visited shortly after moving down here. It wasn't fantastic, but I had had worse so I decided to give it another shot. In the three years since I had visited, the clientele had changed dramatically. Living in the South I have gotten used to situations in which I am in the racial minority. But I truly think that a salon has so much cultural association that some gaps just cannot be bridged. Quite bluntly, a nerdy White girl just shouldn't get her hair cut in a Black salon. Wanda was very nice and professional but she just didn't really know what to do with me.

Today I tried something new yet again. Thinking I had to be safe going to Regis, a chain that was still a step up from Great Clips, I made an appointment there. The woman who was assigned to cut my hair barely said hi to me. I took this as a sign that maybe she wasn't into smalltalk, which is more than okay with me. She completely abused my head. Scalding hot water, tugging at my curls, scraping my scalp with her needlelike comb. That wasn't the worst of it. Besides completely annihiliating any length I tried to grow over the last six months, she apparently also didn't hear me when I requested some texturing and shaping. When I was about ask her exactly why she seemed to hate people so much, she asked me a question.

"Are you humphphmph?"

"Um, sorry?"

"Are you a student?" She was extremely quiet and mumbled horribly.

"Oh. Um, yeah. I'm actually a grad student."


"Physics." I totally guessed at that one. It was the only logical follow up.

"Oh! Do you humphphph mumphphph?" I had no clue.

"Uhhhh, yeah."

"Really?!" Uh oh. "I don't know how you can even do that. I hated it in high school when they made us cut up frogs. They were so slimy and gross."

Oh my God. Did she really ask me if I cut up frogs at my job? I don't know anything about frogs. Cutting them up or otherwise and I'd probably vomit if I had to do it.

"Oh, it's really not that bad," I lied.

"I mean, why didn't they make us cut up chickens? At least I know how to cut up a chicken. And they're not as slimy as frogs. Cutting up frogs is just gross."

This bizarre conversation continued despite my agony until all my hair was cut way too short. I've been asked some weird questions about my work, but this takes the cake.

I'm thinking the hour drive to go see Allie is worth it.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Steak 'n' Shake

Dean and I have gotten in the habit of eating out on Thursday nights instead of Friday nights. It's a nice treat to not have to cook on Thursdays, and I am more relaxed to take my time and enjoy cooking a nice meal on Fridays.

Since it was Dean's turn to choose, we went to Steak 'n' Shake. After enjoying a low key meal, I got up to pay the bill. Why, you may ask, should I pay the bill when it was Dean's choice to go to Steak 'n' Shake? This is a very well-thought out clever plan. I generously insisted on treating Dean to dinner (~$15) and then when go to a nicer restaurant on Saturday (Carrabba's or Lai Thai) he will feel obligated to pay.

I got up to the register and that's when I saw him, working the grill flipping burgers. A student I had in the Physics II Lab course I taught last spring. A student I had to fail and I didn't even feel all that bad about it. He seemed bright enough, just not motivated. He had a couple unexcused absences, frequently turned in incomplete data sets and never turned in any homework. I recall him vaguely asking about extra credit. On the day it was due. Despite my reputation as an easy-going and at times lenient instructor, I had to draw the line somewhere. So he failed.

And on the way home Dean and I speculated on exactly what may have been in our food if he saw me sitting at the table.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

100 Juicy Details

It's my 100th post! Most of you have done something similar to this. I thought this would be a perfect time for me to do one as well. So I offer you 100 Juicy Details...

  1. I hate carrots.

  2. I am an introvert.

  3. I have a tattoo of a lotus on my back.

  4. I have had three black cats.

  5. I have dated three men with the same first name.

  6. I have a phobia of driving on the freeway.

  7. I am a huge Prince fan.

  8. I've been known to drunk dial my own parents.

  9. I'm an NPR junkie.

  10. I must read magazines cover to cover.

  11. I'm against the death penalty.

  12. I've never had an ear infection.

  13. I have a mean Chapstick addiction.

  14. I wish I liked Virginia Woolf, but I don't.

  15. I spend too much money on my hair.

  16. I'm a little freaked out by monkeys.

  17. I collect antique tea cups.

  18. I've watched Ghostbusters over forty times.

  19. I will do anything Dr. Phil tells me to do.

  20. I like cats more than people.

  21. I used to play piano competitively.

  22. I've never read a Harry Potter book.

  23. I consider blogging to be free therapy.

  24. I'm agnostic.

  25. I always feel chilly.

  26. I hate confronting people.

  27. I'm a diehard Twins fan.

  28. I walk 2.5 miles (almost) each morning.

  29. I tell people that I am 5'6", when really I'm 5'5 1/2".

  30. I snore.

  31. I get very cranky when I'm hungry.

  32. I have a bladder the size of an acorn.

  33. I can sleep for twelve hours at a stretch.

  34. I hold grudges.

  35. I dislike it when people reverse into parking spaces.

  36. I have freckles.

  37. I think anyone wearing a Yankees "got rings?" t-shirt should be shot.

  38. I got a C in high school calculus.

  39. I took one ballet class when I was three.

  40. I refused to go back because they made me take my shoes off.

  41. I'm okay with taking my shoes off now, but I still can't do ballet.

  42. I press down really hard when I write.

  43. I'm a damn good cook.

  44. I am quiet which people often mistake for being shy.

  45. I used to sell software to pig farmers.

  46. I have two Honda Del Sols.

  47. I've never traveled overseas.

  48. I have horrible vision.

  49. I drink my recommended eight glasses of water a day.

  50. I like dipping McDonald's french fries in a chocolate shake.

  51. I'm known as "Queen Bee" in the lab.

  52. I have nightmares about my teeth falling out.

  53. I got a 29 on my ACTs.

  54. I'm from Minnesota.

  55. I've never been fishing.

  56. I didn't even try ice skating until I was 21.

  57. I always make Dean order the pizza.

  58. I installed my own car speakers.

  59. I'm a homebody.

  60. I worry too much.

  61. I can't sing worth a damn.

  62. I don't like surprises.

  63. I tend to leave long rambling messages on people's voicemail.

  64. I could eat Indian food for every meal the rest of my life.

  65. I feed stray cats.

  66. I love new notebooks, pens, mechanical pencils, etc.

  67. I have an herb garden on my balcony.

  68. I'm a hypochondriac.

  69. I wear Chanel No. 5.

  70. I kissed Dean at midnight on New Year's Eve six and a half years ago.

  71. I will have to stop plucking gray hairs soon and start coloring them.

  72. I am bad at letting go of work when I get home.

  73. I miss my family.

  74. I don't miss the cold weather.

  75. I'm a packrat.

  76. I don't like heart-shaped jewelry.

  77. I like grilled cheese sandwiches with Velveeta.

  78. I hate the post office.

  79. I love taking scalding hot baths.

  80. I don't eat seafood.

  81. I don't believe in the designated hitter.

  82. I'm German, Irish and Polish.

  83. I'm not very competitive (hence I stopped doing #21).

  84. I'm a thoughtful gift giver.

  85. I'm uncomfortbale making decisions.

  86. I know how to pick out wine.

  87. I've been to New York City and New Orleans twice each.

  88. I can't roll my tongue.

  89. I don't correct people when they mispronounce my last name.

  90. I'm a compulsive book buyer.

  91. I love sitting on my balconey during thunderstorms.

  92. I'm not good at playing sports, just watching.

  93. I think I have a great rack.

  94. I sometimes bite my nails.

  95. I don't want to graduate and get a real job.

  96. I'm a drama queen when I'm sick.

  97. I prefer to have few close friends than many superficial ones.

  98. I ask "What would Einstein do?" whenever I'm confused.

  99. I can't wait to be a mom someday.

  100. I wouldn't change anything about myself.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


I haven't posted about the dumpster kitties for awhile. No, I haven't stopped feeding them. It's been almost a year and the population has become embarrassingly large. What started as a mama kitty and four kittens (one who unfortunately has since passed on) is now somewhere around a dozen cats. I think originally there were two litters out there: the "gray patterned ones" are the original dumpster kittens and the "black ones" were the hypthesized second litter. (The "gray patterned ones" consisted of gray ones, two of which had black stripes, one is kindof light gray-frosted looking and my favorite is white with gray hooding with black swirls on the hooding. A few weeks after I started feeding the gray ones, I started seeing (I think) three black kittens. I say "I think" because they all looked alike, but the most I ever saw at one time was three.)

A couple of strays latched on to the food shortly after that and a few months ago that same mama had another litter of I think 6 kittens. They are sooooo cute. Three of them are tuxedo kittens, one is all black and two are torties that look a lot like Nellie. I know it was that same mama because one of the tuxedos is not black and white, but brown and white and the brown is more like a tortoiseshell. That's exactly what the mama looks like. One of the "little Nellies" runs at me crying every time I go back there. NONE of them let me touch them which is probably best for everyone involved, including my own three cats at home.

Anyway, as my mom and close friends know, I have very mixed feelings about the dumpster kitties. You may laugh and think I'm just another crazy cat lady, but us crazy cat ladies have extremely complex emotions. I know I won't live here forever and I hate to let them depend on getting food from me. At the same time, I don't feed them nearly enough to sustain them, so they must do just fine on their own. Indeed, I often see them dragging bones and scraps from the dumpster and sometimes I even see them carrying around mice and lizards. Part of me gets so angry that no one else seems to care about them. Then sometimes I see little dishes of catfood left by other people and I start feeling a little possessive. Sometimes I think I really care about them and will miss them when I leave. Other times, like when I see ducklings slowly disappear from our pond I hate them for their natural predatory instincts. Mostly, I feel a little overwhelmed because I know that as long as they stay healthy, they will experience an exponential increase in population. And I will be partly responsible.

I'm fairly certain that the only one having babies though is that same mama that's already had at least two litters. I say "at least" because the original dumpster kittens look eerily like Wrigley, who was also a stray in our complex. Sometimes I wonder about that, too.

The other night I had to pick up a friend from work at about nine. As I was leaving I realized I hadn't fed them yet so I took a plastic bag full of food and drove by the dumpster on the way home. I fed the cats and then got back in the car and shined my headlights on them to watch them eat for a couple minutes. They weren't as skittish when I wasn't standing right there so I got a good look at a couple of them. Then, right in front of my car waddled the mama kitty, her bulbous stomach swaying back and forth. Damn! She's pregnant again!

A couple of them I have secretly given names to. Nothing serious, just verbalizing how I recognize them. My favorite, with the swirls I call Swirley and one of the tuxedos that has white on its face except for a black dot on its nose I call Smudge. The mother of most of them I used to call Mama. Now I just call her Whore.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


I know exactly what you are thinking.

Damn! MB looks sexy with that red dot on her forehead.

That's not what you were thinking? Oh. That red dot is a tilaka and it means I worshipped in a Hindu temple. I went with our post doc and his family and James and Cheesehead. The temple was beautiful and the priest was welcoming. He took our names and said Sanskrit prayers for us to Mahalakshmi, who is the goddess of wealth and wisdom. The priest then annointed us with coconut water and gave us fruit. It was the most enjoyable religious experience I think I've ever had.

I learned a lot about Hinduism that day and one thing I found striking is the way God is protrayed. He isn't a white guy with a long beard. He doesn't throw fire and brimstone when you mess up. He isn't even a he. God takes whatever form brings you peace and spiritual enlightenment.

Later we toured the outside of the temple where post doc insisted upon taking my picture next to this statue of Vishnu and his two extremely well-endowed wives.

Before we left we stopped by the canteen for an Indian treat. Post doc bought us these things that were like donuts drenched in maple syrup. I think it gave me a cavity. But it was worth it.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Getting Drunk and Eating Ice Cream

On Thursday morning, the helium finally dried up and life was able to slow down ever so slightly. I got some samples in on Wednesday morning when I knew it was going to be the last day for measurements so I worked on them for 14 hours. Finally, at 11:00 pm I started an overnight measurement that I calculated would run to about 9:00 or 9:30 in the morning and then I crashed. I slept in two hours late on Thursday, skipping my walk and strolling in to work at 10:00, an hour later than usual. At 9:00 I'm usually the only person there. At 10:00 on Thursday the lab was abuzz with excitement. Dr. Hari pinned me before I could even set my computer down and put my lunch in the fridge. "Have you looked at the data from overnight?! It's beautiful! I think this could be big." He pointed to several places on the graph and he was right. It looked pretty amazing. I spent most of Thursday and Friday analyzing the data I collected all day Wednesday and sent Dr. Hari a powerpoint presentation of the major results. It's now up to him to talk to our collaborators about the next move.

To celebrate the end of this epic, record-setting helium run and potentially exciting last day of the run, Dean took me to Chili's Thursday night. Let me just detour for a moment and say that I am not a big drinker. In my college days I drank as much as any other typical coed but in the last couple of years I have slowed down considerably. As a result my tolerance has plummeted. So at Chili's when I decided to let loose a little and order an El Presidente margarita, I should have known it would be trouble. It made me completely loopy. After finishing my buffalo chicken sandwich that I had been craving intensely I talked Dean into walking across the parking lot to Cold Stone Creamery. In short, Thursday night I got drunk and ate ice cream. It was everything I thought it could be and more. I had the Mint Mint Chocolate Chocolate Chip combo which consisted of mint ice cream with a brownie, chocolate chips and fudge mixed in with it. Since I am not the young chick I used to be, my tummy suffered greatly on Friday from the buffalo chicken-tequila-ice cream combination I had subjected it to the night before.

So what did I learn from that experience? Apparently nothing. Because I did it again last night. Dean took me to the Devil Rays game for Carl Crawford figurine night. We got there right when the gates opened so to kill time we went to the restaurant inside Tropicana Field for something to eat. Again, since I'm on a buffalo chicken kick right now, I ordered the "Buffalo Caesar" which is a Caesar salad with buffalo chicken strips on top. Why haven't more restaurants offered this delectable combination? The spicy chicken mixed with the cool dressing and crunchy lettuce was fantastic. And as far as I know it is only offered at the Budweiser Brewhouse at Tropicana field. I'm sure that's not true, so keep your eyes open for it. Since we were at the Brewhouse, I couldn't not have a Budweiser, so I did. It was one of the stadium cups. Then I had another at the pub in left field. And another during the game. I was wrecked. Dean had to pour me into the car after the sixth inning because he wanted to get home to watch the rest of the Twins game. I made him stop at Wendy's for a Frosty and French fries first. Again, the buffalo-beer-dairy combo didn't work out so well for me and I am a sickly lump of hungover laziness today.

Moral of the story: try a buffalo Caesar if you see one offered. Don't try it with too much liquor and ice cream. Go to Cold Stone Creamery. It's yummy. But only go if you are sober.

Monday, May 08, 2006


The kitties are in the dog house. At around 3:00 a.m. this morning Dean and I were awakened by the sound of our dressers being completely cleared of whatever was on their surfaces. A moth had gotten into the apartment and both Allison and Wrigley were trying to get at it. All my perfume, lotions and whatever miscellaneous items that shouldn't have been on my dresser in the first place were pushed to the ground as Wrigley slid across the varnished finish. Allison had more of a graceful landing on Dean's dresser but still managed to knock over his Tino Martinez mini bobble head.

Dean knew one of his mini bobble heads was knocked over, but when he went to retrieve it this morning he couldn't find it. He deduced it was Tino but neither of us could find him. Perplexing. The only thin I can think of is that one of the kitties ran off with poor Tino and he could turn up anywhere.

This isn't the first time something like this has happened. One of the kitties knocked over Dean's Yao Ming MacFarlane figurine. We found Yao later that evening in the litter box.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Some Cinco de Mayo Humor

Dean and I were listening to a little Jimmy Buffet the other day while we were cleaning. We were loudly singing along.

Me: Blew out a flip flop!

I handed the air mic to Deano: Stepped on pop tart!

Me: Huh? I think it's "pop top".

Deano: No way!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

At Wits' End

I am cranky and frustrated and PMSing. Aren't you glad you stopped by?

First of all, what the heck is that little wheelchair symbol thing on the comments page?!

We still have helium. The nightmare just won't end. Dr. Hari found some money in some grant account that he has to spend before the semester ends so I had to order 200 more liters. My heart dropped when he told me to order more.

So after I ordered the helium we realized we may not have enough samples to run to use up all that helium. I had an idea for a project involving my collaboration with the medical school. Because I know they are not physicists over there, I sent them a paper that a guy from my lab published awhile back outlining an analogous experiment to the one I had in mind. Because one of the guys in the lab I'm collaborating with makes magnetic nanoparticles, I thought this project would be perfect. Briefly, the previous paper studied the differences in properties of magnetic nanoparticles coated with different chemicals using our signature experiment. I figured if my collaborators coated magnetic nanoparticles with different biological molecules and I performed this signature experiment on them it would be a project absolutely no one else has done. My co-advisor in medicine thought this was a great idea and told me to come over and pick up four samples! Four samples is a physicist's dream. That's roughly four days of experiments, the electronic equivalent of reams of data, and hopefully a publication.

I went over there to pick up my stash, and noticed that the vials were full of white powder, unlike the dark brown or black samples I am accustomed to.

"Um, may I ask exactly what these sample are?"

He looked at me as if I were a moron.

"They are polymer nanoparticles."

For those of you who don't know materials, "polymer" is basically a fancy word for plastic. Is plastic magnetic? No. Thus, can I perform any meaningful measurements upon said materials? Hell no.

Me being the absolute coward that I am did not argue with my co-advisor. I just took the samples and left. I have no freaking clue what to do with them.

That was Thursday. Things have gone further downhill from there. I measured four samples over the weekend for a lab mate of mine who is very sweet but not always very competent with our $300,000 machine. Normally our post doc would do the measurements for her but he was out of town. I was oddly flattered that he asked me to do all the measurements. He apparently thinks I am at least marginally more competent than the other girl. He may now have his doubts. It was pointed out to me today that I screwed up ONE LINE OF COMPUTER CODE and lost a third of the data. I think I'm more upset that it's not even my data so I can't really just shrug it off and say "live and learn". I have to answer to the post doc and my incompetent lab mate who technically should have been doing her own experiments. I'm not trying to push the blame off of me. Maybe I'm just not ready to be responsible for other people's stuff.

And lastly, Professor Hottie's sample. Our experiment measures frequencies at 12 megahertz with a sensitivity of only a few Hertz. That's one part in a million. We usually run a sample twice to make sure nothing is amiss and then talk our results over with our collaborator that provided the sample. I have measured this freaking sample SEVEN TIMES. SEVEN TIMES, and I can't get reproducible results. I'm am terrified I'll have call this guy up and say, "Hello, I'm a retard. And by the way, I totally have the hots for you." I have a theory about what's up with this sample, but when I asked Prof. Hottie after the second time if the measurement should be angle dependent, he said no. I think either he has to be wrong, or I can't tell my rear end from a hole in the ground. Which is also very likely.

And I'm almost out of f*cking truffles.

Faithful readers, if you have read this scientific rant, you are the best family, friends, blog buddies, and lurkers an over emotional female physicist could ask for.