Thursday, December 20, 2007

One of These Days...

...I'll be a grown up and start doing mature things like sending out Christmas cards. Like I mentioned last year, I love getting them in the mail but just can't bring myself to fill them out and send them. This year amid finals, research deadlines, dissertation-writing and clinic visits I got the added bonus of trying to catch two litters of kittens and find foster homes for them (or in the case of Dixie, a permanent home!). So here is my Christmas card once again, sending you all holiday greeting and wishing you safe travels. This is an old picture, taken over the two day span once when we had a Christmas tree, before it was dragged all over the house by our ferocious hunter.

I'm leaving for Minneapolis today. Due to the crazies threatening to erupt over the prospect of my dissertation and job hunt, Dean and I have made the executive decision that I need to just leave my computer at home and have a real vacation. So I will visit you all and check email as time and opportunity permit, but be warned they may both be infrequent. In the meantime:


Merry Christmas!
from Deano, Natalie and the Monsters

Friday, December 14, 2007

I am Unremarkable

There doesn't seem to be anything seriously wrong with me. It seems one of my nasal passages is slightly obstructed by an enlarged bulla, but nothing impressive. Interestingly, I make thicker mucus on my left side than my right. I had never stopped to contemplate any deviation from complete mucus homogeneity, but now that is something else I know about myself. So my options are to keep taking the nasal inhaler the doctor gave me for awhile and see if it helps or consult an ENT about tuning my allergy medications more. I think I'll wait a little bit and see if I get better. If things are still the same after the holidays, I will call the ENT. Thankfully, I have awesome grown up insurance.

Check out the results (click to enlarge). I especially love the highlighted part.





Sunday, December 09, 2007

Update from the Land of Chaos

I don't have anything particularly interesting or important to share, I just wanted to let you all know what is going on in my hectic world.

Well, you may (correctly) guess that caring for a 2 1/2 month old kitten adds a certain element of chaos and stress to one's life. Yes, we've done this before taking in one adult cat and two kittens in the past five years. But Dixie has been a little different. At first I was completely stressed out that she wasn't ever going to be a "normal" kitten. I read several pages on the internet about socializing kittens and it seems that any kittens older that 6-8 weeks may or may not be socialized. I followed all the suggestions - unfortunately one suggestion is to keep them separated from siblings which we've done by being thus far unable to trap her sibling who is still somewhere out there. I kept her in the bathroom with a covered, warm bed and the radio on tuned to a talk station. I gradually let our kitties in to let her see how socialized cats behave and my kitties were embarrassingly misbehaved around her. For days she wouldn't come out of hiding unless dragged out. She'd enjoy being held but then run right back to her hiding spot once she was set down. I knew my mom would still take her and love her if she turned out to be socially dysfunctional (she kept me and loved me after all, haha!). But seeing her frightened and away from her mom and litter mate was distressing no matter how much in the long run she is better off. Then Friday night she did a complete 180 and just exploded, running all over the apartment, playing, pouncing, being a typical rambunctious kitten. And then this morning she found a hiding spot so tiny and so diabolical as to leave Dean and certain she was gone forever. I spent part of the morning in hysterics over the prospect of not finding her and having to explain to my mom how I lost her kitten. Then, over course she appeared innocent, curious and impossibly cute. I think in the past week this 1.5 pound critter has taken 10 years off of Dean's life and mine. Good luck, mom and Tom!

Speaking of cats, I'm getting a CT scan done tomorrow of my sinuses. Remember this whole episode? Well, I'm still not better. I've never been a sinus sufferer and my doctor is worried there is a blockage leading to reinfections after my last two rounds of antibiotics. Really, very fun stuff. I can't wait to hear if I have to have a "procedure" or just "stick it out." Neither prospect seems appealing.

This week will mark my very last final EVER. I'm so excited, you'd think I already took it! But I haven't. Fortunately it is to be taken online on my own time and can be repeated up to three times. It doesn't get much more reasonable, which is about all I can handle right now.

Oh yeah, and there's this thing called MY JOB which consists of a rapidly mounting pile of data that needs analyzing and my dissertation that isn't exactly writing itself right now. But fortunately I'll be able to devote more time to it this week, after my final is done and my nervous rest up a little bit.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Dixie

This is Dixie. She is nine weeks old and I'm working hard to socialize her. And in two and a half weeks I'll be bringing her to Minnesota with me so she can live with my mom and step dad. Turns out my mom was so utterly, completely in love with her picture that the only option was to keep her around. Which is just fine with me because she is a sweetheart. (See, Jeni, it doesn't matter if you're hundreds of miles away...) Unfortunately Dixie still has a sibling somewhere out there that we are trying to trap and get into foster. Worse still, we found Dixie and her sibling while trying to trap another litter of kittens. We are fairly certain there are only two unspayed females living back there, and they will both be targets for next weekend's Spay Day. There is a lot of work to do in the immediate future, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. And no matter what, thanks to little Dixie I'll be reminded of my efforts for many years to come.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Cuteness is Unbearable


Not mine. He's a rescue from this weekend that I'll be taking to foster either today or tomorrow. The whole story to follow once the kitten storm passes.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Restaurant Chicken

On Saturday Dean announced that we were going to Whistle Junction for dinner. Whistle Junction is a buffet-style restaurant just a couple miles from our home. Dean had been making noise about trying it, more for the redneck ambiance than the actual quality of food. With me graduating within six months (hopefully) we are on a quest to experience All Things Florida, which means the good, the bad and the ugly. But while we love "good" food (gourmet, authentic ethnic, etc) here's the dirty little secret: we also love bad food (White Castle, Waffle House, greasy pub food). So I wasn't completely opposed to a comfort food buffet, likely reminiscent of Old Country Buffet.

What I didn't realize after agreeing was that Dean didn't really want to go. He wanted to appear to want to go and try Whistle Junction, but he was scared to put his money where his mouth was, and was counting on me to veto the decision. What he didn't realize was that the adventurer in me was willing to try it, and was sick of vetoing suggestions just to hear about how mean and unfair I am. So what actually ensued was a game of restaurant chicken that played out to the grisly end.

We pulled into the parking lot of Whistle Junction to find it largely empty save for a handful of minivans taking up all the handicapped spaces and those closest to the entrance. I am not one to make fun of the truly disabled, but it became apparent that most of the patrons' "disabilities" were obesity induced, likely exacerbated by frequent trips to buffets like Whistle Junction.

"Well, here we are!" I said enthusiastically.

"Yep, he we are," said Dean with a hint of terror in his voice.

The inside of the restaurant smelled a lot like I remember our junior high cafeteria smelling. A distressing combination of canned vegetables simmering to the point of disintegration and grease. We bought our "tickets" at the "station" and tried to dig in.

Now I am tolerant to all sorts of questionable food from hospital cafeterias to airplane food, when they actually used to serve it, but this was too gross even for me. I found very little edible at the salad bar - the lettuce was brown, the cherry tomatoes were pockmarked, the cucumbers dried out (*shiver*). The main course tables consisted of unidentifiable meat, potatoes of various sorts and vegetables that were little more than bits floating in cloudy water. There was an intriguing "ethnic" table which consisted of pizza, fried rice, petrified stir fry and tacos. But, like so many of our experiences together, we took it in stride with a healthy sense of humor. I settled on some fried chicken (difficult to mess up too badly), and some mashed potatoes.

What amazed us were that handful of people there were eating this stuff up like it was their last meal. There was a birthday party in progress, another gathering of what appeared to be a large extended family and a few couples on "dates" like Dean and I. There were lots of cowboy hats and belt buckles. The guy sitting behind us was a particular gem, he complained about being able to play baseball with the biscuits. When the waitress apologized and suggested the rolls instead, he replied "I'm a hillbilly, we eat biscuits, not rolls." Priceless.

What I think amazed me most about the whole experience was that as awful as the food was, it wasn't cheap. It was $10.50 per person, not counting drinks and a small tip. Didn't these people know that you could get a much better meal almost anywhere for less money? It had to have been the lure of a buffet. But still, a place like Denny's has a large menu, is inexpensive and if it's quantity of food you're looking for, I believe they have several "grand slam" type meals for still way under $10.

It was while I was pondering how a place like Whistle Junction got away with charging an arm and a leg that I witnessed something that helped to explain the combination of clientèle and buffet asking price. The unpleasant gentlemen that had previously complained about the biscuits called the waitress over once again and threw an absolute hissy about the fact that he had seen a small child take a cookie from the dessert table with her bare hands rather than using the cookie tongs. I realize that the buffet is an unspoken honor system in which patrons silently agree to use tongs whenever possible and any breach can be a little unappetizing. However, the skeptic in me sensed an ulterior motive and I was right when the man got his full money back over the incident. Recall, this was a incident witnessed over the dessert table, so he had already had his half dozen plates full of food.

So you may be wondering what, if any, is the redeeming part of this experience? When, technically Deano got what he asked for, we were entertained by the absurdity of the whole experience, and I get to choose next week's restaurant!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Two More Very Long Years

Two years ago, I told the story of how Wrigley found us the day after Thanksgiving. Well, it's now two years later and and Wrigley's fourth anniversary with us. It is commonly thought that at four years of age, a cat is completely grown and mature. Which means we're screwed. For years I had made excuses about Wrigley's behavior, that he was still a kitten and that he had yet to "grow" out of his misbehaving. Now there are no more excuses, we are just stuck with a wild, biting, howling, hyperactive cat. But I still adore him.

Let me go back once again to the beginning, namely the day he came to our door. This is him that very day (and yes, that is my thumb across his chest, I am holding him in my left hand at arm's length and snapping the picture with my right):



I hadn't had a kitten since my early childhood (we adopted Nellie full grown) so everyone (Nellie included) was taken aback by Wrigley's energy. I have a theory that the unbearable cuteness of kittens evolved simply to allow them to survive into adulthood. Nellie was a really good sport at first, taking him under her wing and tolerating his playfulness. And he followed her around relentlessly.



As the months went on and Wrigley got a little older, he sure didn't seem to be slowing down. AT. ALL. He exhausted all of us and was constantly underfoot and anywhere he wasn't supposed to be.



I often joke about how we adopted Allison under the influence. Despite the fact that we desperately wanted to save her from the shelter she was in, it wasn't lost on us that another kitten around the house could occupy Wrigley enough to let Dean, Nellie and myself relax a little. Another kitten was the only thing that could possibly match up to him energy wise. And even though Allie is the sweetest (and best behaved!) cat we have, she does her job perfectly and wears Wrigley out whenever she can.



But Wrigely is very much enamored with humans and still gives us a very tough time. He sleeps about half of what you would expect from a cat, wanders around howling when he is bored and bites you if you are sleeping and he thinks you shouldn't be. He is absolutely infuriating at times, yet completely irresistable. And we've finally accepted the fact that he will be so for as long as he's with us.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Top Ten Things I am Thankful For*

Not an original exercise, but one worth doing nonetheless.

  1. I am thankful that I have an amazing, loving husband who surprises me each day with his devotion and commitment to me and our life together. Not a day goes by without him both warming my heart and making me laugh.

  2. I am thankful all of my parents are still healthy and incredibly happy.

  3. I am thankful for my sanity (on most days).

  4. I am thankful my term paper was pushed back an extra week so I don't have to do it this weekend.

  5. I am thankful that even though I gripe about being a poor graduate student, I have health insurance, money to pay bills, and I can put food on the table and still treat myself once in awhile.

  6. I am thankful for the opportunities that have led me to where I am today.

  7. I am thankful that I drive a reliable car.

  8. I am thankful for my friends and their willing acceptance of my shortcomings.

  9. I am thankful I have two well-behaved kitties and one very entertaining one.

  10. I am thankful that I am a human and not a turkey.


Happy Thanksgiving, and safe travels this weekend!

*I know it should be "Top Ten Things for Which I am Thankful", but that just doesn't have the same ring.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

You're Welcome

To date, I have sterilized 25 cats. They don't all live in my colony, some of them were adopted out and some unfortunately have disappeared. Only two I know of have actually died and some I presume have wandered on to other feeding spots, much as new ones occasionally have wandered into mine. There are several feeding spots within a mile radius of mine, and most feeders don't mind new ones, especially if the new one has a clipped ear. A clipped left ear is the symbol of a sterilized feral cat.

Because black coloring is a dominant trait, roughly half of the cats I've spayed have been black (this is no doubt exacerbated by a small gene pool). The black ones are a little hard to tell apart, but I'm certain that like the others a few have wandered off.

I had noticed a couple of months ago a black cat sitting in the window along the sidewalk I take to the dumpster. I always get a warm spot when I see a black cat because I have always adored them. And this cat always seems engaging, walking along the window sill and wagging her tail when I walk by.

It was last week when I was watching her flirtatiousness that I took a closer look at her. Was I surprised when I noticed she had a clipped ear! Yes, folks, I spayed somebody's house cat. And after thinking some time, I think I remember doing it too. I believe she was a part of the first batch I did, who were all black. I supposed there is a chance that person took in one of the dumpster cats, but they are generally too feral even for the most devoted animal lovers. I'm fairly certain someone's unsuspecting indoor/outdoor cat got trapped with the others and was sterilized and vaccinated. If she was already spayed, they didn't tell me and each cat comes back with notes on their health. So, in short, you're welcome fellow apartment complex resident, for spaying your cat (even though she is now missing part of her ear).

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Overwhelmed

I figured I had better write something before you all give up on me and leave me for dead. The conference last week had some ups and downs but all in all was productive and I am pleased with the job leads I got. Since I am still lacking in free time, let me just give you some of my thoughts about the last week or so.

  • My left middle toe is still numb from having to wear heels for 5 consecutive days. I swear to God I don't know how some of you ladies do it. My two female lab mates and I were literally hobbling by Friday afternoon. No more heels. Until the March American Physical Society Meeting.

  • This meeting was pretty important for me as far as trying to figure out what I want to do after graduating in the spring. My best networking was done at my poster presentations. My worst was done at the designated "networking events". Can I just add that I hate hate hate networking?

  • The first networking event was a session chair's dinner that I attended with Dr. Hari, who was a session chair and his wife was working so I got to be his guest. The "dinner" consisted of finger food, very little of which I found edible. A lot of seafood stuff which I don't like. There were these little beef tenderloin pieces on toasted baguette slices with horseradish sauce that was quite good. I had about four of those, which wasn't enough to counter all the free wine I drank.

  • The free wine (and empty stomach) coupled with the guy I saw wearing a skin-tight (likely intended for women) Hooter's football jersey led to an out of control giggling fit later that night at the key note address. Not my fault, that is a totally inappropriate garment for a magnetism conference. Just saying.

  • The Women in Magnetism networking dinner was lame. Last year there were about 25 women and a couple men from industry who were looking at specifically hiring women to diversify their groups, which I found to be alright. This year there were about 50 women (which was good) but also lots of male graduate students. I'm sorry, but the Women in Magnetism dinner was supposed to be a place where we didn't need to compete with men for networking opportunities. Although I strongly believe the problem of women being under represented in physics needs to be addressed through communication between the sexes, a forum seems to be the better place to accomplish that. Include men in the Women in Magnetism networking dinner, and you just have a regular old networking dinner that doesn't specifically help women in the least. On top of that, there were a few people I wanted to speak with, but the conversation they were having was dominated by an overbearing professor from a university I had no intention of applying to who proceeded to grill me about my teaching experience. I stayed for appetizers and wine, then headed to Tijuana Flats with my lab mates.

  • I met e.b.'s friend. That rocked. She approached me, introduced herself and cryptically announced that we shared a mutual friend. The world truly is a small place.

  • Festivities went on until Friday night. Saturday I dozed all day and had to trap kitties for Sunday's Spay Day. I took a break last month after the shooting incident. I'm still troubled enough by it that I had a hard time with recovering the kitties since the one I lost was one I had just finished recovering. Turns out I trapped her brother who was just as docile as she was.

  • This week I am resuming experiments, following up with contacts I made at the conference and digging into the daunting task of beginning to write. Yep, it's the big one.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Here but Away

I am at a conference this week. It is here in Tampa, but I've asked Deano to pretend I'm traveling because my schedule will be hectic and I won't know day to day what I'm doing. It being local makes things difficult because I have to commute downtown and do extra chores like help out with the Women in Magnetism dinner. The up side is that without traveling I have my entire wardrobe and accessories available to me. If nothing else, I have style on my side. I will check in with your blogs as time permits, but don't worry if you don't see me until the weekend.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

I Heart Joel

A few months ago, Dean started hanging out with a guy from work named Joel. Due to various circumstances, I was always unable to join them. Either Joel had only one extra ticket to an event or I was too busy with work stuff. What I found hilarious though was the man-crush Dean had developed for Joel. Every time Dean would come home from one of their "dates", he'd rave about what a cool guy Joel is. Through Dean, I learned all about him and his wife. That he is a Cuban immigrant to the States via Spain, that he is a cyclist and that he and his wife at one time owned a small gym.

Dean and Joel finally planned an evening out with me and Joel's wife, who Dean had never met either. All four of us had to drive separately to the restaurant and unfortunately Joel's wife never made it due to prohibitive traffic, so it was just the three of us. Over dinner, I'm pretty sure I developed my own crush on Joel. He just has a way about him that makes him literally one of the most likable people I have ever met. He is extremely conscientious. The first thing he asked Dean when we sat down was how his day went. He asked me all sorts of questions about my work and then proceeded to tell me how great Dean is and how much he admires him. Not that I don't completely agree, but it's a pleasantly unusual thing to say. Then he told us about how he had his wife had dated for ten years before finally getting hitched in Vegas. Sound familiar? And since his wife was adopted, the two of them want to adopt children of their own because they understand that a loving family is the best gift you can give to a child who doesn't have one. I know, sounds almost sickening, but I assure you this man was completely genuine and I found myself in the same position as Dean - totally enamored. AND he does the Tampa-Orlando MS bike tour. We already have plans to meet Mrs. Joel and it couldn't come soon enough, though I'm pretty sure Dean and I are both a little jealous of her.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Friday Fun

How to Win a Fight With a Conservative is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Liberal Identity:

You are an Eco-Avenger, also known as an environmentalist or tree hugger. You believe in saving the planet from the clutches of air-fouling, oil-drilling, earth-raping conservative fossil fools.



Courtesy of dr. sardonicus. I had a really hard time answering some of these. The environmental stuff, even though I rate it high on the urgency list, isn't what I associate myself with most as a liberal. Besides, I think (maybe too optimistically) that saving the planet isn't a "liberal" cause anymore.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Beware of the Walk-In Clinic

I think I mentioned how last Monday I spent much of my morning in the walk-in clinic by my house. Let me first admit defeat and say: Mom and Deano, you were right. I should not have done that. They both told me to go see a general physician, which I ended up doing anyway. The reason I went to the clinic was because I knew I had a sinus infection. I didn't need a diagnosis as much as I just needed a qualified person to write me a prescription for an antibiotic. I understood Dean's concerns in light of his bad experiences with health care, but the two situations seemed like complete opposites to me. So anyway, I decided to just go to the walk-in clinic and it initially appeared to have been the right decision. I got a seven day supply of antibiotics, which lasted until Sunday evening. Of course I had felt better and more like my old self almost immediately after starting the course and so thought little of it when I took the final pill Sunday.

Then on Tuesday I awoke to more sinus pressure, dizziness and a constant flow of mucus down the back of my throat. I lived Tuesday in miserable denial that my sinus infection was back and yesterday I realized that I couldn't attend (and present at!) a week long conference not being in top condition. So I broke down and called my general physician and luckily they were able to fit me in yesterday afternoon. After a short wait to see her, our conversation went something like this:

Me: I went to the clinic last Monday for a sinus infection and the antibiotics didn't work.

Her: You mean you've been taking them for over a week now and they haven't helped.

Me: No, they helped when I took them. Then two days after I ran out, the infection came back.

She briefly counts off the days.

Her: You mean they only gave you a seven day course of this particular antibiotic?

Me: Yes.

Her: It should be taken for at least two weeks.

Okay, let me just say that I already knew this after I called my mom and stepdad yesterday complaining of my ailments. Stepdad (a pharmacist) told me the exact same thing. Apparently everyone knows that the antibiotic given to me should have come with a 14-day (not a 7-day) prescription. Everyone except the doctor at the walk0in clinic.

So now I get to start all over with a new antibiotic taken for 14 days. The good news is I am already feeling better than yesterday and despite losing another afternoon to doctors, pharmacies, etc. I think I will be in good shape pretty soon.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Boo!

The Allie Cat says:

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Pause

Do you ever have a list of things to do and find while trying to accomplish the things on this list that everything is taking waaaaay longer than it's supposed to? That's my life right now. One, prolonged, painful, stagnant list. Pretty much every day since last Thursday I've wanted to scream and pull my hair out while evaluating what I have to do weighed against what has already been done.

Last week I had a mid term in my one last final last class I have to take before graduating. The midterm was online and you could take it up to three times, and your final grade would be the best score out of the three attempts. I took it once and it took me an hour. After seeing my first score I decided I wanted to take it again knowing exactly the series of questions I missed. You see, the test questions weren't just on the lecture slides, they were also on the tidbits that were mentioned out loud and since I was too lazy to take notes the first time around, I listened to the streaming audio files of all the lectures on Saturday. Luckily class only meets weekly. And then I retook the test. Twice. I finally settled for a 95 (being somewhat of perfectionist, I didn't settle for the 90 I got after round two).

So I was expecting to maybe retake the test once on Saturday morning, but between re-listening to the lectures and taking the test twice, it wasn't until late Saturday night that I was able to close the books on this midterm. That meant losing all the alone time I had set aside for reading and relaxing while Deano was out with his friends that night.

Sunday had been reserved for working on my poster presentation for the conference coming up that Dr. Hari wanted to see on Tuesday morning. I thought I'd work on it a few hours Sunday and most the day Monday. I spent most the day on Sunday putzing with background, graphics, font, et cetera and then realized I know absolutely nothing about what I need to present. The presentation is based on work I did for a collaborator so it has nothing to do with my dissertation work. I have great results, but putting them into context with pre-existing knowledge within the community is an undertaking which I'd neglected to build into my planning.

On top of that, the dull headache I had for three weeks that I assumed was due to stress and allergies turned into room-spinning dizziness and intense throbbing. Rather than spending most the day Monday working on my poster presentation, I spent half the day at the freak show that is the walk-in clinic. It's embarrassing when your allergies are so prevalent and unpredictable that you don't realize when they've indeed morphed into a disgusting, festering sinus infection. And then you have to sit in a waiting room watching "Murder, She Wrote" reruns until it's your turn to spend 30 seconds with a doctor. I brought some literature so I could read up on what I'm supposed to present in two weeks, but little of it got read between the TV, the screaming kids and the "outdoor volume" cell phone conversations that were going on in the waiting room.

Needless to say my poster wasn't ready in time. It still isn't ready as every paper I read leads to more questions than answers. I also have the gargantuan task of updating my resume for this conference where I'm presenting and maybe buying something suitable to wear in front of potential employers. Sorry to have neglected you, dear blog buddies (not to mention my sad, attention starved husband). There will be a natural or self-imposed lull in the action eventually.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I'm Stressed- Make me Smile!

Too much to do these next couple of days. I'm giving a seminar to the undergraduates today (such babies they are!). I also have some data to analyze, a poster to make for a conference next month, Dr. Hari wants a list of things I can put in my dissertation (a pre-outline if you will) and a midterm on Friday. Not much time for anything thoughtful. Today's challenge: tell me something funny about yourself so I can stop and smile a few times the next couple days!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Number 2



I've joked on here a couple of times that I go to a school many of you have never heard of. Well, if you follow college football, you've heard of us now. Yep, our Bulls have arrived. This is our 11th season playing football. We've had the same coach, Jim Leavitt, the whole time. Before this season, we had never been ranked. After beating the #17 Auburn we made our first AP Top 25 appearance at #23. The following week's win against UNC brought us up to #18. It was the stunning win against then-ranked #5 West Virginia that catapulted us up to #6. We won the next game against FAU, but more than that, several top ten upsets gave us the #5 spot. Then, yesterday, after trouncing our I-4 corridor rivals UCF 64-12 both #1 LSU and #2 California lost. And now we are #2 in for the Associated Press and BCS rankings. Un-freaking-believable. Watching the ESPN guys talk about our program and what an amazing journey this has been is completely surreal. Of course, this whole season has been a little different than most. But let's face it, if the national championship game were tomorrow- we'd be in it. Dean is kicking himself for quitting his job with the athletic department, but I keep telling him how stressed out he'd be having to work all the sold out games, not to mention hours and hours of overtime. Like most of the sports teams I've followed over the years, I keep waiting for them to disappoint me. However, the Bulls have yet to disappoint me. I've always been incredibly impressed with their strength and tenacity. Not to mention the success they've enjoyed during their short existence. I'm so thrilled right now I don't think I'd be upset if it all ended next week. They would still be one of the best stories in college football. It seems the biggest disappointment will be having to miss next season because by then we'll be on the next leg of our own journey.

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Girl Can Dream...


Today, the man who should have been (and many argue was) elected President in 2000 won the Nobel Peace Prize. This may serve as only small consolation seeing as though seven years later we find ourselves in an endless, poorly executed war. A war that has cost the tax payers hundreds of billions of dollars and has been orchestrated by our dim-witted hill billy President and the former CEO of Halliburton. The President, his administration and their war have spent such an unbelievable amount of money for their "crusade" (despite the fact that they are "conservatives") that us scientists are hardly getting any money to research alternative energy sources to wean ourselves off the Arabian oil teat. The same usual suspects along with their incompetent cohorts managed to botch the government response to the single most devastating natural disaster in the nation's history. The irony of this whole debacle would be delicious if it were in the pages of a Philip Roth novel rather the reality of 21st century America. It leaves a person to wonder what the world would have been like if an environmentalist would have become President.

Of course.... it isn't too late. Mr. Gore has said time and again that he isn't throwing his hat in the ring for another presidential bid. He seems so happy in his role as environmental activist, and more comfortable in that skin than when he was Vice President. His argument is that he thinks he is getting things done this way. Raising awareness. You know, getting people to use compact fluorescent light bulbs and recycle and keep their houses two degrees cooler in the summer. I believe in these things. I drive a fuel efficient car and take mass transportation to and from work.

But the problem of global warming is bigger than that. And the government has the power to change things. It has the power to invest in our future through science and education and to end the dependence on oil. Yes, oil is insanely profitable to the most influential people in our nation, but an administration with a conscience can cut the cord. And I think an environmentalist President could do that.

Okay, I'm a little drunk and still slightly giddy but think about this. A Gore-Obama ticket. So far the democrats' biggest complaint about Obama is his lack of experience (to clarify, it isn't my complaint, just people in general). A couple terms in the White House as Vice President and he'd be perfectly primed for his own presidency. He could still execute his vision of unifying the country through hope while working under the first President to be elected after winning a Nobel Prize (and an Oscar). The best part is, they'd be almost guaranteed to win. If everyone who voted for Gore in 2000 did so again and all the people who voted for W and later came to regret it, they could get nearly every vote in the country. It would be the greatest story of vindication ever told. Not likely, but a girl can dream.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Tagging and Bragging

I was tagged by fermicat for this SEO (Search Engine Optimization) meme. Basically it's one of those memes that is designed to help your blog gain exposure in the blogosphere. Rather than just creating a train of blog links all over the web, you advertise your "best" work so that readers can view a sort of cross-section of your writing. I copied the original instructions from fermi's site:

"This seo meme was conceived and designed by Bobby at Revellian .com. This is a new fun seo meme ride for us all. This is based on the seo theory that links to posts inside your blog are more important than links to your home page. I have selected three posts I want to promote along with my site’s name. You will do the same thing. Let’s keep it simple and spread our good work around to both share and build some ratings! Make sure you pick three posts that you feel are your best. You could also select 3 posts you simply want to promote. Your site name is listed with your 3 selected posts beneath. Once you have your post up: Add the sites and post links of the folks you tagged onto your post. Try to add the site and post links to anyone involved to maximize the effectiveness. Tag a minimum of 5 people. Try your best not to double tag people so it will spread better! Please actually read the posts from everyone so you can see some really good work from our beloved blogging friends! Make your title a little different from mine to avoid repetitive titles."

Okay, so here are the blogs that came before me, along with my blog and selected posts at the bottom.

Revellian dot com - SEO Keywords For Beginners, Content: The Kings Illegitimate Stepchild, Tales of Blogger-X Illusion

Mariuca - Wishing On A Falling Star - Love In Disarray, In Love With A Dream, The Good Client

Mariuca’s Perfume Gallery - Perfume Shopping Spree, Defining Beauty, In Full Splendour

Speedcat Hollydale Page - Rocket Boy in Hawaii - DC9, Speedcat’s Death Ride into Terror!, The Boy Inside All Men

Terri Terri Quite Contrary - Just How Immature Are We?, Finding a Voice, So Much More to See than the Game

Mahala- Uncle Huberts Custom Cows, Pray for the Child at Big Lots, The Legend of Saushie's Crotch

Tiff - How am I like Ron Weasley, A Social Experiment, Absolutely Boring Entry 101

Cosmic Cat - Just An Ordinary Thursday Night..., Not Gone With The Wind. Just Gone., The "Weekly Thoughtful Reminder" And Other Hazards Of Working

Field Lines - Even MIT Girls Get the Blues, Bye Bye, Friend, Bad Hair Day

I feel like I can't finish this post without justifying my answers. Too many college essay tests, I guess. First, I couldn't not post my tribute to Randy (Bye Bye, Friend), which to this day I still think is my best and most heartfelt post. I know it's a little depressing, but it is one of those rare times I feel like I actually captured the essence of a person and convinced you why he is missed. Even though it's my best post I put it second so as not to intimidate new readers and make them think this isn't a generally happy place, which it is. That's part of the reason I put Even MIT Girls Get the Blues first. I didn't think of it right away, but sifting through my 264(!) posts I found this gem again and decided it is an accurate representation of my writing style and feelings about being a physicist. And, well, if neither of those grab new readers there's Bad Hair Day one of my attempts at comic writing. I'm not sure it's my forte but it provides balance to the list. My mom has always stressed to me the importance of being a well-rounded individual.

As for the pesky tagging part. I'm going to kind of cop out with good reason. First, the readers I have that would actually be happy to participate in this have either already been tagged or not doing a lot of blogging as of late (ahem, Scott) . My other readers, well they are sort of blogging misfits who do what they please and would either politely participate cursing me all the while or completely ignore me. Please, blog buddies, prove me wrong! I'm not tagging you, but I'd love to see you all do this! If you want to participate leave me a comment so I can come see your favorite posts of your own and even discover some new bloggers!

Monday, October 08, 2007

I'm a Schmoozer

I was pleasantly surprised this morning to find this waiting for me:


It's a schmoozing blogger award given to me by Jeni over at Downriver Drivel. I don't really consider myself a schmoozer. Actually, most of my readers have found me, and only on the rare occasion I find my comment section to be consistently underwhelming I grudgingly go out and "friend hunt." Yes folks, even physicists in cyberspace have a tough time being social. Anyway, the description for this particular award is as follows:

"Good schmoozers effortlessly weave their way in and out of the blogosphere, leaving friendly trails and smiles, happily making new friends along the way. They don’t limit their visits to only the rich and successful, but spend some time to say hello to new blogs as well. They are the ones who engage others in meaningful conversations, refusing to let it end at a mere hello - all the while fostering a sense of closeness and friendship."

Actually, the story I'm about to tell will make me sound like a schmoozer. But I assure you I'm not. Awhile back, dr. sardonicus had given me free advertising on his site, nicely including me in a list of blogs he thought others might should check out. dr. sardonicus is one of the few bloggers I sought out, after seeing his comments on more than one of the sites I regularly visit. Impressed simultaneously with his world view and extensive baseball knowledge, I started reading and commenting. It was through the aforementioned linkage that jeni found me and we started reading each other as well. I enjoy her blog because it has all my favorite elements: personal anecdotes, politics and sports.

Anyway, right around this same time, minnesotablue decided to start up her own little site. Some of you might recognize her screen name as a commenter here. What you might not have ever realized was that she is my grandma and I'm very proud of her for sitting down and putting some of her thoughts and experiences into words. I find her to be extremely enlightened and progressive and given that she naturally has had more life experience than me I think she has a little of interesting insights. I dearly wanted to share her new blog with you all when she started but she a little self conscious. She wanted to wait until she got a little steadier on her feet. Well I'm linking her here and now because she has gone out and done a little schmoozing herself and found a kindred spirit in Jeni. They seem to have hit it off quite well and not only am I happy Jeni found me, but I'm also a little proud of myself for being a blog matchmaker of sorts.

So thank you, Jeni for this award and for giving me something to blog about. Because otherwise I got nothing right now.

Monday, October 01, 2007

It's Going to be a Loooong Marriage

The witness that finally went to management about the kitty shooter wasn't who I thought it was. This is actually good, because that means that there are even more dumpster kitty advocates than I previously thought. I have even had open communication with management the last few days and much to my surprise, they are incredibly appreciative of what I've gotten done with them.

They guy who I originally thought was the witness was the guy I refer to as Grillman because I don't know his name and he always gives scraps from his grill to the kitties. I've found steaks, pork chops, shrimp, anything you can put on the grill. Saturday, Grillman outdid himself. He filleted a large fish and gave the carcass to the kitties. The sight of it scared the crap out of me when I went to feed. A few of my most feral kitties really enjoyed it. Surprisingly, my more tame ones stayed away. I think they are a little coddled. Anyway, last night I went to feed and brought Dean with me since it was dusk and I'm still a little on edge. I brought a garbage bag with me in case the fish was still there. It was and Dean was thoroughly grossed out.

"I think I should toss the fish in the dumpster. Otherwise it's gonna stink."

"Natalie, leave the fish. Don't touch it, it's gross."

"Dean, I brought a garbage bag. It's okay, I'll put it over my hands, pick up the fish and toss it out. No big deal."

"Please don't touch the fish. Seriously, I'm about to gag. Let maintenance deal with it."

I figured either maintenance would have to throw it away and then be irritated with the cats or they wouldn't pick it up and I'd have to deal with it at a later stage of decay. I put the garbage bag over my arm and walked towards the fish. Dean began to scream. In the parking lot.

"Natalie! I'm warning you! I will never have sex with you again if you touch that dead fish!"

I looked back and forth from him to the fish.

"Don't try me! I'll won't touch you if you touch the fish!" I tried to reason with him. Someone was going to get stuck with this fish. I walked up the the fish and crouched down.

"She's doing it!" Dean yelled from the parking lot. "She's giving up sex for the rest of her life! To touch a dead fish! I can't believe it!"

I'm sure people were staring but I didn't care. I was laughing too hard. I picked up the fish and hadn't realized how heavy it would be. I held onto the head through the garbage bag and let the body flop around. I couldn't drop the whole thing into the bag, it was just too heavy. Dean was yelping like a little girl. I ran full speed holding the fish head around the corner to the front of the dumpster.

"Oh God! Oh my God! That's so gross!" We were both alternately gagging and laughing. The kitties were watching from by their still empty food bowl. The next fifty years might be dull in the sack. But there is never a dull moment in the ghetto.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

CSI: Tampa Parking Lot

Thank you all for your support and concern regarding my last post. I understand where many of you are coming from. However, this is a very sensitive topic which requires making a decision after all angles have been thought of. Let me first clarify like I did through some emails and phone conversations that he was shooting with either a pellet or BB gun, not an actual firearm. If he were shooting a firearm in my apartment complex on at least two separate occasions, there is no doubt the cops would be called by several residents.

Still, this guy scares me. There are very few people in this world that the instant I see them give me the chills. He is one of those people. I am very hesitant to go to police on this matter because I don't know how likely it is he would actually be prosecuted for killing a stray cat. I'm worried it would make him just more angry and do more harm to the cats. I'm also worried that since he lives near where the cats live, he would know I am their primary caretaker and retaliate against me as well. Things might be different if either he or I lived in a different complex. But I think involving law enforcement without the guarantee of consequences is a large risk that I don't feel I am willing to take at this point. He was already confronted by the witness and threatened. If that doesn't keep him from hurting more cats, a "talking to" by police isn't going to stop him. It might make things worse.

Also, in order for charges to be filed the witness would need to talk to police. I don't know if he is willing to do that, given that the shooter could easily counter that the witness threatened him. Furthermore, the witness is his neighbor. If I feel weird about living in the same complex with this guy, imagine how the witness would feel if the case wasn't pursued. More than anything I would like to see this guy punished for killing one of the dumpster kitties, but the reality is that not everyone feels the same way about feral cats as me. I have heard of cases like this getting prosecuted simply because it has been shown that killing animals is a psychopathic behavior that is linked to a future of harming other living beings including people. To me, it seems like a long shot that would be the approach actually used. Given the odds, at this point it is more important to cover my own ass and the little kitty asses that live under my care. It might just be my cynicism of the legal system.

In my opinion, the fact that after this incident I saw him shooting bottles in the parking lot is a management problem. There are several families living in the complex and kids often ride bikes around the parking lot. I could easily imagine a situation where a kid could come out of no where while this guy is shooting stuff and get seriously injured. That's why I feel like it was my duty to at least let management know about this situation. Unfortunately, work has prevented me from being home during the hours where the leasing office is open. Luckily though, my crazy cat friend already told management the whole situation. I talked her out of immediately going to the police arguing that she doesn't live in my complex with the psycho guy like the witness and I have to. She went to management and told them everything I told her, which is what I told you.

Management said that simply shooting any kind of weapon on the premises is in direct violation of the lease and grounds for immediate eviction if they deem it appropriate after talking to him. They need a witness to him shooting bottles in the parking lot before the confront him. I plan to go to them and tell them that I can verify this. I plan to off the record tell them how sure I am that this guy killed the cat. If the witness' wife hadn't told Dean what she saw, and I would have seen the guy out there shooting anyway, I would have without a doubt known immediately what happened. They also said they would be willing to press charges for the cat shooting but only if the witness comes forward. If I see the witness, I will let him know where things stand and if he is willing to talk, management will go forward with charges. I don't plan to pressure him, simply inform him and let him make the call. He is the only one to have had direct contact with the guy and knowing him on a casual basis I trust his judgment.

So that is where things stand now. As I mentioned above, work has been crazy, this of all weeks is the week where I'm working 11 or 12 hour days so my time is already at a premium. The not so surprising part of all this is that when management heard the whole story, they knew exactly who the suspect was.

UPDATE: I spoke with management. I was scared I had waited too long. As it turns out, one of the witnesses spoke up on their own just this afternoon. Kelly, the assistant manager said she was serving him an eviction notice tomorrow and would contact their lawyer to see if it makes sense to prosecute. I'm so relieved that the witness did the right thing. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off of me. I almost cried out of relief and out of sadness at the reminder of what brought this all about. Of course, I'll post any more updates.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Hug your Kitties

I had a sad weekend. One of the dumpster kitties died. She was hit by a car and I found her Saturday morning on my way to give them breakfast. It was especially difficult because she was one of the five I spayed and recovered just two weeks ago. She was very sweet and adorable, only about six months old.

I am not quite as sad as I was this weekend, but am still very angry that this happened. Once in a while cats will wander onto the busy streets and be hit. It is tragic but often unavoidable as the speed limits around here are 45 miles per hour, and people usually drive at least 50-55. What I am still trying to understand is how fast you have to be going in a residential parking lot to hit a cat. It makes me fear for the other ferals, not to mention the many kids who also live here. That driver was careless and stupid. God, I hate people sometimes.

Anytime I hear about, or worse experience, something like this it makes me want to go give our house kitties a tight squeeze and thank heavens they are healthy and under our care. You ought to do the same.

UPDATE: I learned when I got home from work that the kitty wasn't hit by a car after all. Turns out she was shot by some fucking psychopath that lives in my complex. Yep. Dean does the morning feedings and one of our acquaintances said her husband witnessed one of their neighbors shoot the cat and another one from his balcony. She was shaken up about it as well but she said her husband confronted the guy about it and threatened him with violence if he ever caught the guy doing that again. Dean came with me to feed the kitties after work and we saw the psycho shooting bottles in the parking lot. He looked very scary. I didn't confront him, thankfully my neighbor already did that for me. And my neighbor is a big guy who watches out for the kitties. I don't know if the psycho hit the other cat he shot at or if it's okay. I'm scared though.

Friday, September 21, 2007

"Hey Chicago, What do you Say?

The Cubs are gonna win to-day!"

We had a really fun time in Chicago. It's Dean's favorite town, having grown up visiting it frequently and I've thoroughly enjoyed it both times I've gone. The first time we went was six and a half years ago, we had been together a little over a year and it was our first trip together. I remember it being a magical time for us. This time, things were a little different since we didn't go alone. But it was still a blast.

Dean's best friend, "Skinny" and his wife went along with her two brothers. Skinny's brothers-in-law know Dean well. They all hung out some in college and since Dean was the best man at Skinny's wedding, there was much male-type bonding during the bachelor party which consisted of a weekend long trip to Kansas City.

Looking back it seems obvious that when you travel with your spouse AND other people, it can get strange. I'm used to traveling with my labmates and I'm used to traveling with Dean. Of course Dean and I have a certain way of doing things but traveling with others requires you to be flexible or be miserable. I think there were definitely some things Dean and I would have done differently but the trade off for not doing those things was basically being at a four day long party. Dean and I are all about eating when we travel. As my mother-in-law aptly pointed out, we like to take in the local cuisine, try the nice restaurants, and discover the hidden hole-in-the-wall joints. Unfortunately our traveling companions had more of a utilitarian style of eating, so were confined to whatever was close, cheap and convenient. Of course saving money on food meant more cash for beer. There was certainly plenty of that.

One place we did end up eating was the original Billy Goat Tavern. You may guess by the name that it was somehow involved in the curse of the billy goat. It was the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern that cursed the Cubs after his goat was turned away for game four of the 1945 World Series. The Cubs lost the series (despite their 2-1 series lead over the Tigers) and haven't been back to the World Series since. Interestingly, the restaurant has another place in history: it was the basis of the Saturday Night Live "Cheeseburger! Cheeseburger! No Pepsi, Coke!" skits. Yes, they really do talk that way even though I'm sure it was a put on. It was a convincing one though. It was very entertaining, the burgers were amazing (the double really is the best!) and still very inexpensive. I would recommend even non-sports fans visiting if you get the chance for both the food and the atmosphere.

We also had cocktails at the top of the John Hancock building, 96 floors up. The view of the city was stunning. From where we sat we could see Navy Pier and Soldier Field lit up. It was late when we pulled ourselves away from the view and wandered over to Pizzeria Due (sister to Pizzeria Uno, the original "Uno Chicago Grill").

Wrigley Field left me in awe. I have always felt like kind of an unworthy baseball fan since I prefer watching Twins games on TV rather than at the Metrodome. Now I know that it's just because the Metrodome is a steaming pile of shit, and baseball games should be watched in places like Wrigley field. Places like that are where tradition and pride is born. The Cubs haven't won a championship in 99 years, but the place is always packed because it is truly a great place to go and watch a game. Dean had been to Wrigley several times, but this was the first time I ever went. For my first Wrigley experience, we were in the bleachers- which turns out to be nearly equal in roughness to the south side of Chicago. There were fights, profanity, beer all over everything, not to mention constant harassment of the visiting team, and even harassment of Carlos Zambrano who looked less than stellar Tuesday night. Both nights, we stood in line to get seats in left field. During batting practice, Dean and both discovered that we are much too cowardly to actually try to catch the ball and much prefer scavenging, though even that tactic didn't get us anywhere. At Monday night's game we drank an obscene amount of beer. I tried a Chicago-style hot dog which nearly burned a hole through my intestines. We also discovered that in complete contrast to our original impressions, Alfonso Soriano is an awesome guy. He was always interacting with the fans, getting us riled up, throwing balls in the stands to whoever screamed loudest (or had the cutest kid which is understandable). Monday night was awesome because the Cubs had a dramatic bottom of the ninth win. The crowd was out of control, screaming, singing, chanting out onto the streets. We hit the bars around the stadium (notably the famous Cubby Bear, and Sluggers which combined a bar and batting cages- a brilliant money-making venture). The was even more drinking, and celebrating into the wee hours of the morning.

Needless to say, Tuesday we were moving a little slow. We got up and out late and spent the afternoon wandering around Boystown. We were curious to see Chicago's gay area mostly because Tampa doesn't have one and we didn't actually know what might be in a gay neighborhood. We window shopped a little (the bars weren't open), admired the rainbow flags hanging from every street light and even saw a Green Machine, which means that Dean will probably never drive ours again lest his sexuality be brought into question.

The game Tuesday wasn't quite as good even though the side show entertainment was still impressive. Most notably being reprimanded by the Chicago PD for public drinking while waiting in line to get in (oops) and the shirtless, chest painted C-U-B-S guys who violently threw back onto the field even the batting practice home runs they caught from the Reds. They even had the Reds outfielders laughing at their colorful insults making me feel relieved that no one brought their kids into the bleacher seats. The Cubbies lost though and the mood wasn't quite as electric as the night before. And to address lefty's comments, we did see some hating on the Cardinals (mostly her beloved "El Hombre"), but not nearly as much as on the White Sox. I really don't understand that rivalry though. The Cubs and Cardinals have routinely played each other since the early days of the National League, whereas until interleague play, the Cubs and White Sox hadn't played an official game since the 1906 World Series. Maybe a Chicagoan can explain it to me.

So there you have it. Four days of beer and baseball and good company with old friends. I couldn't have asked for a much better time.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Windy City

Dean and I are going to Chicago tomorrow until Wednesday. We are going with Dean's best friend and his wife for the occasion of his (the friend's, not Dean's) thirtieth birthday. We are also using it as an excuse to belatedly celebrate our anniversary.

I'm a little nervous. I've known this couple for nine years now (since before Dean and I were a couple!), so that's not a problem. I feel weird because Dean and I aren't really one of "those couples". You know what I mean, the couple that vacations with other couples. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, it's just that, well, we sort of keep to ourselves. I hope we can pull this off.

Anyway, we'll be going to two Cubs games. I've never been to Wrigley field despite it being my cat's namesake. We'll be eating indulgently fatty Chicago food and probably spending too much money on Michigan Ave. I'll tell you all about it when I return.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Neuter Scooter

This past weekend was Spay Day. I was able to procure a reservation to bring in five ferals. However my normal transportation hook ups (the "Neuter Scooters") were either out of town or not able to help me. I have been desperate to do another Spay Day since a litter was born while I was in Minnesota and things can spiral out of control so fast. But I can literally only fit one cat in my Honda del Sol and it's hardly worth it to do a Spay Day for only one. So I took matters into my own hands and rented a makeshift Neuter Scooter.

Since Dean is an insurance adjuster, he gets a big discount on rental cars. The vehicle I chose to rent for shuttling stray cats all over Tampa* was a sport utility vehicle. A huge, gas guzzling, American-made monstrosity that screamed "Fuck you!" to the environment and everyone with which it shared the road**. Even though I decided against the optional "Support our Troops" magnetic ribbon and the Jesus fish, I felt dirty driving this thing home from the rental place.

However it was the next day, when I loaded up the trapped kitties and found that I had so much space, I could fit so many cats in here(!) that I began to see how soccer moms began their love affair with the SUV. The extra space was phenomenal, but more than that I could see beyond the back windshield of the car ahead of me! Not to mention the thing accelerated like a dream. I began to scan my brain for things I needed (more like wanted) to do that required 395 horsepower and 400 lb.-ft. of torque. Wasn't there a huge mess of chopped up wood somewhere I needed to haul? How about towing a smaller, inferior car? Unfortunately I couldn't think of a single thing.

But that afternoon after I picked up the kitties and drove back home, realizing that I had used up 1/3 of a tank of gas driving a total of 50 miles I was jolted back to reality. Someday I may want to cart around kids, and pets and sporting equipment and groceries and a bunch of chopped up wood. But not in today's world.

* I may or may not legally be allowed to do this. The contract I signed included a clause that said I wouldn't let pets ride in the car. But by definition, feral cats aren't pets.

**I don't hate all SUVs, just the overly obnoxious ones. My mom and step dad have a Honda Highlander that gets 27 miles to the gallon. And it's not overwhelmingly big. But still big enough so that they can haul a bunch of cats around.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Bor-ing

My life has been pretty mundane since I returned and while I am more than happy to be a lazy homebody with my husband and kitties, there isn't a whole lot to discuss. Work has been slooooow. One thing I miss a little but about my internship was the constant pace. I had enough work to fill a nine hour day but not so much that I lost sleep over getting it done. Here in the lab, the workload is feast or famine. It's either twelve hours a day of experiments, or six hours a day of browsing the web until I feel justified going home to get housework done. Usually when we're in a slow period I am a prolific blogger but I haven't done anything "blog worthy". As proof, I will now update you on my goings on. I hope you are drinking a cup of coffee, otherwise you will fall asleep.
  • I have been actively avoiding watching the Twins games. I usually despise fair weather fans, but there is a difference between watching a decent team not in contention (like the Devil Rays) and watching a talented team spiral into self-destruction and end the season in a big fiery ball of sucktitude.

  • Since we haven't been watching the Twins games, we've been watching a lot of TV on DVD. Together we've been re-watching (for the zillionth time) Arrested Development, the funniest show to be prematurely taken off the air. Alone I've been watching Deadwood because I read the book over the summer. The show is disgusting and raw and graphic with unlikable characters who possess no redeeming qualities. But I'm strangely addicted, I can't seem to get enough of it.

  • Cleaning. The apartment wasn't in total disarray when I got back. Dean did a good job either keeping it under control or presenting an illusion that it had been picked up the whole time (the more likely scenario). But I have had to put some time into getting things back to my level of satisfaction (e.g. scrubbing corners, dusting bookshelves, rearranging cupboards, etc.).

  • Getting stuff done. Time consuming putzy things like getting my eyes checked and my teeth cleaned. Granted, neither of those things have actually gotten done yet, I've just spent a lot of time thinking about it. The Green Machine needs to get new tires. Oh, and Allison and Wrigley need their vaccinations.

  • Speaking of house kitties, I've been playing with their food to get them onto a mostly canned food diet. I read several articles over the summer about the reasons why cats should eat high-quality canned food and how the pet food industry keeps pushing dry food because it's so much cheaper to produce. I'm hoping that a high protein, high moisture diet will get poor Nellie to finally lose some weight, rather than the empty-calorie, mostly filler, "diet" dry food we've been naively feeding her.

  • This upcoming weekend is our first wedding anniversary. Dean bought a box of premium baseball cards and I bought an iPod sound dock and those are our gifts to ourselves each other because that's how we roll. He is going to the Rays game with some people from work. I asked him to do something fun because I'm doing Spay Day on Sunday.

  • While I was away, the dumpster kitties did a little playing. There were three litters born, two of which were rescued by my crazy cat friend and currently in foster. The first litter was born amongst some friction and nothing ever got done. So there are five juveniles and two moms slutting it up who are in desperate need of fixing. I secured five appointments for this month's designated Spay Day, which is unfortunately our anniversary.

  • It is sad that grown up life is intruding upon our anniversary weekend. However, the following weekend we are going to Chicago for a getaway. It won't be totally romantic since we are going with another couple, but it should be a blast. Hopefully it will give me something more interesting to write about.

Friday, August 31, 2007

One Thing Meme

Beth made her own meme! Because she made it herself, she is kickass and I'm going to participate. Also, she didn't tag anyone and like her, I'm just going to invite you to do it on your own blog or leave any of your answers in the comment section. Okay, here goes...

1. If you could recommend only one book for others to read, what would it be and why?
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Something about this book just really resonated with me. It was completely original. It was the perfect blend of being exceptionally written with an addictive plot. I'm not into science fiction really but the way the author played with the concept of time and perspective amazed me.

2. What is your one favorite song? Why?
This is tough because I like so many genres that I can hardly say one rock song is better than one classical song or whatever. Right this moment, my favorite song is Heart of Life off of John Mayer's Continuum. It is simple and melodic and beautiful and says what it needs to just perfectly.

Pain throws your heart to the ground
Love turns the whole thing around
No, it won't all go the way it should
But I know the heart of life is good.

3. What is the one thing that is the biggest time saver in your life?
Brushing my teeth and peeing at the same time. That's all I could come up with.

4. What is one gadget you couldn't live without and why?
I've only had it for two months, but I already couldn't imagine life without my iPod!

5. If you could recommend one film for others to see, what would it be and why?
An Inconvenient Truth. It should be required viewing for everybody. If everyone saw it, maybe people would finally get serious about making sacrifices to save the planet.

6. What is the one cure or preventative measure you believe in and for what ailment?
Curing the hiccups: fill a glass of water, bend over and drink out of the glass from the side furthest from you, tipping the glass away from you to let the water flow over roof of your mouth before swallowing. I don't know why it works, but it works. Every. Single. Time.

7. What is the best advice you've ever received and from whom?
From my mom: don't engage in any sort of relationship with toxic people. This minimizes drama and stress and lets you focus on what is really important. It seems so simple, yet time and again I see other people making this mistake.

8. If you could introduce the entire world to just one band/musical artist, who would it be and why?
The Bad Plus. I see them live every year when I go home for Christmas. They are all Minnesota/Wisconsin boys and play shows locally when they go home to visit their families for the holidays. They are really well known in the jazz community, but I truly think people who aren't jazz fans would find their musics infectious.

9. If you could convince others you meet or know of one thing, what would it be?
Question everything. Be a skeptic. Now more than ever this country is rampant with liars and selfish people claiming to be sticking up for your interests. Before you believe anything anybody says, do your own independent research.

10. What do you believe is one of the greatest ways of wasting money and how do you combat it?
Without a doubt paying interest is the biggest waste of money ever. It is unavoidable and I am still paying off credit cards from when I was young and stupid even though I haven't actually charged anything to them in close to two years. But the best way to minimize paying interest is to simply live within your means. Don't buy a car or home without actually saving up a sizable down payment. Avoid financing appliances, furniture and electronics unless absolutely necessary.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Readjusting

I am back in a life I am a little more used to. For fifteen weeks I thought everyday of sleeping next to my husband, snuggling my kitties, going to work with people who felt more like siblings than coworkers. And yet, now that I have these things once again I still feel unsettled. It could just be my tentative nature. But as much as I recognize how wonderful it is to be home, I still feel like something is not quite right. There’s a little knot in my tummy and my sleeping has not been sound. The sleeping thing is exacerbated by the fact that I actually got used to sleeping alone. Suddenly sharing a bed with another person AND three not-so-small cats isn’t a natural feeling. Add to it that one of the cats likes to bite in the middle of the night and that quiet bed in my dad’s basement doesn’t seem so bad.

Oddly enough, part of my brewing anxiety comes from still not having seen all of my dumpster kitties. Their schedule was pretty upended the last days I was gone with one of my friends catching a couple litters of kittens that had popped up just recently. As a result, I think they are keeping scarce and their feeding schedule has been thrown off by all the trapping. I'll be happier when the dinner attendance is a little more consistent.

My last week at my internship was good. I presented my main results to the group and it was a success. I met with my manager the last day. He complimented me and seemed to understand everything that I couldn’t say. After three months of feeling like no one was communicating with me, he said he thought I did a great job. He said he didn’t know what the group would be like when I was ready to graduate, or even if I was would be interested, but that he would be more than happy to write me an excellent recommendation letter to any other research group in the company if I wanted. This seems like the perfect solution and all indications I received throughout the summer were that my manager was a guy who would be listened to.

Yesterday I got back into the lab and it felt good to be out of the cubes and into an open space. Unfortunately all my pens and post-it notes are missing but like I said, we’re basically a family. What’s mine is yours, whether I like it or not. Now I have to get my paperwork in order, re-establish contact with collaborators (and friends), and try to figure out exactly what I was doing before I left.

I just wanted to check in and let you all know I arrived safely and am back in the lab. More later when I find my groove.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Girlfriends

My college roommate, Amanda, found this gem of a picture the other day and sent it out asking, "I have no idea where this is from. Any ideas?"


It's hard to tell exactly because the four of us in the photo have been friends for close to ten years. They are my girls. We don't talk every day or every week but when we get together it is as if no time had passed. Maybe it's because we know what's important and what's not. We are a support network who have been there through bad boyfriends and worse break ups. Through losing loved ones and at times our own minds. We come from different backgrounds and went into different careers, but after all these years we still know how to have a good time.




Even if a good time is a little more painful than it used to be.

The general consensus was that the first picture was taken about five years ago. We were experimenting with the auto-picture feature which explains the funny alignment. The "shot" sequence was taken last month during Girls Night, Summer 2007. For the record, I woke up drunk the following morning. Ouch.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Reunion Weekend

My last weekend in Minneapolis was pretty fun. I spent the whole time with my mom and step dad. Saturday morning I tagged along while they ran errands. I helped them pick out a new stove while I drooled over all the kitchen appliances I still have to wait for until we move on up outta the ghetto. We had tickets to the Twins game so we tried to get a late lunch/early dinner at Gluek’s (sounds like “Glick’s”) because I haven’t eaten there since we moved. They were closed until later that evening for a private party. I was sorely disappointed and since it was raining and a little chilly we just crossed to street and ate at NBA City inside the Target Center. My parents are Timberwolves season ticket holders and they said NBA City was pretty good. But they will be the first to admit that their palettes are aligned more with pub food than fine dining. I was shocked. It was really very good. I had the pot roast, one of their signature dishes and I was very pleased. The service was phenomenal (it helped that we were one of maybe a half dozen occupied tables) and the waiter obviously knew much more about food than sports. When I called Dean that night for my nightly “check in” I had totally forgotten that he had eaten at the NBA City in Orlando several weeks back and had the same impression. He said he had thoroughly enjoyed the bleu cheese pasta- another of their specialties.

After dinner we went to the Twins game. This year is the 20th anniversary of the 1987 World Series win and they chose this weekend for the reunion weekend. Other than the actual game (which they lost- offense was deplorable as usual) it was very fun. They handed out 20th Anniversary Homer Hankies to all the fans to wave during the reunion parade. They got the 1987 team together, save for a few guys, and had a parade inside the Metrodome. Pickup trucks drove around carrying a couple guys in each and they threw balls into the stands while having their personal feats announced by Dick Bremer. They also played highlight reels of the post season games and celebration. Of course there wasn’t a dry eye in the house during the Kirby Puckett tribute and while the pickup truck meant for him drove by carrying his two kids instead. All in all it was so much fun going back to that time. 1987 wasn’t nearly their best season, but those scrappy guys made it to the playoffs and fought tooth and nail for each win. What I remember most about that season (I actually remember 1991 much better, I was 12 years old, versus a mere 8 years old in 1987) was the Homer Hanky. I wore that thing everyday and in every way. Tied in my ponytail, around my neck, around my head or through a belt loop. So waving mine at the pot-bellied, gray-haired Twins that brought us those thrilling moments 20 years ago was a joy.

Yesterday was rainy again so we just went to the Mall of America and did some shopping. Seems everyone had the same idea as it was packed more similar to the holiday season than the dog days of summer. But it was still a fun time. I got a shirt, some funky new tennis shoes and these from Williams-Sonoma. So excited to try them when I get back.

Speaking of getting back, only 5 days left. I'm so wound up I can hardly stand it! Usually I have such mixed feelings about leaving Minneapolis. I always feel like I don’t have enough time. This time, I think three and half months was long enough.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Finishing Up

Well, it's really almost over. A week from tomorrow is my last day here, and I'll actually be sad to go. It seems like with temporary situations they end just as you are growing comfortable. My first few weeks here were filled with such anxiety, such upheaval that I never thought I'd get through it. The culture was so different but now I'm a part of it. And yes, to answer your question (and my manager's) I will be submitting my application for employment when the time comes. It remains to be seen whether I will be hired, to which department or even if I would accept. But I would be an idiot not to at least apply.

For three months I felt like I didn't really fit in and that I was in way over my head. Then last week, my manager's manager (a very important lady) asked if I was planning to apply after I graduate. My mentor (who I have a difficult time getting a read on) went a step further and asked if I was going to apply to our group. I was surprised at this development. But I will likely take the diplomatic approach of applying through HR to see what's available.

Yesterday, we had our quarterly departmental meeting where I got an award for teamwork. My manager read a short speech how I started out knowing nothing about disk drives and am now regularly contributing to the group's progress. I got a fake Oscar with Teamwork on it, but more importantly I will be receiving a monetary award in my next paycheck. I was very touched and again surprised. Yay me.

It is possible that I have misread the attitude towards me and my work. One thing (and maybe the most important thing) I have learned this summer is not to measure a private company with an academic yardstick. No, they are not there to coddle me or make sure I have the best experiences possible. This is a business and I was hired to do a specific job. I did that job to the best of my ability and it seems like it was good enough to gain a little recognition. Not all my bosses are going to be like my advisor, Dr. Hari. In fact none of them probably will be. The sooner I learn that the better.

Today was Intern Day, and I had to present my main results from this summer in front of the other interns and all the managers. I was pretty nervous about it, and the subject matter was still new enough so that I felt a little uneasy teaching it to others. Even though it wasn't my best presentation, I think I still have many of the more socially challenged physicists beat. For "graduating" from the intern program, I was then given a 6GB pocket hard drive. I'm cleaning up this week.

The best part though was that my manager and mentor were invited to all the Intern Day activities including free lunch and cake. Yesterday when I handed the agenda to my mentor, he read it out loud.

"8:30 to 8:45- mingle. Mingle? I don't think so." Typical physicist.