Thursday, October 19, 2006

Waking to the smell of fresh coffee

I am now officially spoiled rotten. A few months after Andrew and I started dating, we ended up spending every night together, either at his house or mine. At first, we'd take turns making coffee. But now it has somehow come about that every morning the alarm goes off, Andrew gets up, feeds the cat, and makes coffee. Then he brings it to me in bed, allowing me another fifteen minutes of sleep. This is wonderful, and I am properly grateful about this turn of events.

It does mean, however, that on the days when he must go in much earlier than me, that there is no one to make coffee. And I find that I'm just sort of out of the habit, and what happens is that instead of making it myself, I stumble blearily into school, remaining sleepy and grumpy, until I finally relent, walk up the hill to the student union, and buy coffee. Today I made it until noon, but by then I was rather unpleasant.

I think I need one of those coffee pots with a clock, that can be set to start brewing right as you wake up. Unfortunately, though, I think they don't come in a french press style, and drip coffee won't cut it. It's not chewy enough.

Her Royal Blueness

Renee Michelle passed a big milestone in her life- she passed her qualifying exams.  She was so happy, her hair turned blue!  The style guru gives tips on how to achieve blue-ness in an easier manner than to have to go through physics qualifying exams. 


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Out of the closet

An incident from our weekend vacation that I forgot to mention... I declared that there would be no discussion of physics, and no doing homework while on vacation, because I just really wanted to forget about it all. At one point, I came into our room, and Andrew was standing in the closet reading his gravity textbook. He claims that his gravity class is fun, and reading his textbook should count as pleasure reading, but that's just sad...

Monday, October 16, 2006

A weekend with no physics

This weekend was our getaway weekend - designed either to allow Andrew and I to celebrate in style, or to run from the crowd so I could cry in peace, depending on the results of the oral exam. As you all know, the oral went great, so we were celebrating.

I made all the plans, and surprised Andrew. He knew that we were going to Virginia, but not more than that. I dropped numerous, but hopefully confusing hints, just to keep him interested. And I made him stay blindfolded for the last hour of the trip. (A friend of ours pointed out that before this, he'd never heard of a sitatuion involving a blindfolded person in a car that didn't end badly :)

I got us reservations at a bed and breakfast in Winchester, Virginia, which is at the northwestern tip of Virginia. The apple capital of the world, they claimed. We did, in fact, see a fair number of apple orchards, but not once did we see somewhere to buy apples, which was a bit disappointing.

On Saturday we wandered around the historic part of the town. I dragged Andrew into about a dozen kitchy giftshops - the kind filled with figurines, scented soap, and plaques with sickeningly sweet sayings. Normally, I, too, hate these shops, but the cool, crisp weather put me in mind of the approaching holiday season and I was looking for gifts. Although, come to think of it, I don't have any friends who appreciate plaques with cute sayings.

We had a terrific meal in the evening, which I will detail in the next (foodie) blog post, and on Sunday we went canoeing on the Shenandoah. All the posted pictures are from that. The weather was just picture perfect: a clear, brilliantly blue sky and hills covered with trees that are just starting to show their color. It was a very easy canoe trip, as they had allotted us far too much time between drop off and pick up, so we stretched it out by drifting for long periods of time. We also found that Andrew can propel and steer a canoe on his own, leaving me in the front to read the Sunday paper. This is the perfect outdoor activity for us: unlike hiking, I don't have to exert any physical effort, we can both enjoy the scenery, and Andrew is happy that I'm doing something outdoors with him. He did point out that it would be easier to just get a rowboat next time, if he's going to do all the rowing himself.

I've only stayed in a bed and breakfast once, and I was keen to do it again. They cost a fair bit more than a hotel, but you feel so pampered. The house was large and there was lots to do right there, including wandering the grounds with their resident cat (who Andrew instantly fell in love with), a cozy library, a rec room with a variety of movies and a pinball machine, and a jacuzzi that we never even found time to use. We were also served a three course breakfast each morning. And let me tell you, three courses is a lot to face at nine in the morning. Still, we did our best, and soaked up as much enjoyment as we could in two days.

So, now I return to my work rested, relaxed, and hopefully ready to research. (How's that for an alliterative sentence?)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Physics Car

Watch the video
With the help of some friends, Renee Michelle adds a little style to her car.

Monday, October 09, 2006

I passed!

I don't know how to express it otherwise, but Woo-hoo! Of course, everything comes with a caveat, which in this case is that the examining committee "recommends that Renee Michelle pass." However, I've never heard of a case where the graduate committee ignores the examining committee's recommendation, so we'll hope (in this case, unlike before) that I am just like everybody else.

I was quite nervous this morning, beforehand. But I walked into the room in front of three honest-to-god physicists and, using only a whiteboard and markers, showed that I knew quantum mechanics like they could only dream of knowing it. Okay, maybe not quite like that, but it went really smoothly. The three profs (my advisor plus two) were friendly - they acted like they wanted to know what I thought, not like they were trying to prove that I shouldn't be allowed to be a physicist.

I answered questions for about an hour and fifteen minutes. At the end, I wanted to say, "Wait! Ask me about Green's functions! Ask me about unitary operators! Ask me about coherent states! I know so much more, and I learned it all just for you!" But, thankfully, the thing was over. I had to leave the room while they talked, so I stood out in the hall with Andrew (who had sat out in the hall the whole time, just to give me moral support. Then I was called in and told that they recommended a pass. The best part was the comments. My advisor said that it was the best oral he's ever given, and that I didn't seem nervous at all. And one of the other professors said, "She will be a good physicist." I will treasure that comment for years to come, I think.

So, right now I'd like to thank my agent, my mother, God, and all the little people... Oh, wait, it's just a test on the way to getting my PhD. Sure feels like the Oscars. So, thank you to everyone who sent out good wishes and prayers. Right now I salute you and send thanks.

You can safely assume that coming posts will detail my many celebrations...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

No one spoils better than a mother

For the past four days, my mother has been spoiling me. And it has been beautiful.

She came out to Maryland to help me survive the last week before my oral exam. In the not quite four days she stayed with me, here's what she did: made double batches of four meals (so that we could both eat well now and freeze some to eat well later in the week), washed my laundry, trimmed all the shrubs in my yard, went grocery shopping every single day, baked brownies and banana nut muffins, vacuumed my floors, and washed about a hundred sinks of dishes (from all that cooking). On top of that, she gave hugs, made me tea, served me ice cream, and generally made me feel well-loved. You can't ask for anything better in life.

On an additional note, I have loads of people cheering for me. One friend even wrote to say, "I am coming as close as an atheist can to praying for you." I just loved that. I'm grateful for all the support my friends have given me, and equally grateful to all my coworkers who have allowed me to let all my other work slide until next week.

Only six days left to go... I'll be sure to post the results on Monday once I know them.