Friday, May 29, 2009


We are packing up for a weekend camping trip and it is pouring down rain. This isn't quite as foreboding as getting to the airport and hearing the words "indefinite delay," but it's not good.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


I've exercised regularly since I started graduate school. (That makes six years of consistent exercise, for those of you counting. Um, and six years of being a graduate student. Let's not think about that second part too much.) One of the best moves I made was to find exercise buddies. Knowing that I'll let someone else down if I cancel gets me out of bed in the morning. This past year I've been in dire straights, as my previous exercise partners had all moved away. I've been exercising, but not quite as regularly as I'd like.

Recently I've found a terrific replacement. Andrew and I have started working out at the same time, which helps, but it's still too easy to cancel on someone if they're at the breakfast table with you. However, we have made a bet with another couple: whoever skips their gym appointments first has to treat the other couple to a movie. This requires more effort than it might appear, because we live about two hours apart so the losers will have to travel in order to pay their dues. So far it's working brilliantly and keeping four people in shape. I am bound and determined to be the one that wins!

Monday, May 25, 2009

The beginning of summer

Friday I FINALLY went to see the new Star Trek movie. It was very good, as everyone had promised. I am sorry that it had so many sad events in it (that's as specific as I get, I promise) because when sad things happen, I cry, in life as well as the movies. So there were tears shed, but all for a good cause, I suppose.
We (that is, the entire Star Trek group) went to see the movie at an IMAX. You really are immersed when you watch a movie on a screen that big. Unfortunately, they apparently set the volume for younger ears, so most of the group found it uncomfortably loud. (I guess our group of mainly twenty-somethings was older than the target audience?)
On Saturday we went to see Garrison Keillor do his Prairie Home Companion Show at an outdoor theater in Virginia. This is turning into an annual event, and I hope it will be one I can continue wherever we move next. Even if PHC isn't your cup of tea (you've got to appreciate homespun, slightly musty stories from the heartland), it can be a joy to watch Garrison Keillor. He is a man who obviously loves his job - he has been hosting the weekly show for over thirty years, writing songs, skits, and a monologue for every one. I hope I'll enjoy my work that much in three decades.
Yesterday we went to the beach. We had debated whether to make the trip, because there were predictions of rain. But it was our only chance to go during the entire month of May, so we decide to leave early and get there before the rain clouds. I had resigned myself to cloudy skies and figured that they would be a small price to pay for a relaxing day out. Unfortunately, we hadn't considered the wind, and after a few hours huddling under towels to keep warm, we packed up. Lesson learned: don't just look at the temperature and rain forecast - windchill matters in the summer too.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Six across

I just spent part of my morning watching a video of four people completing a crossword. It was supposed to be a video of four students working on physics, but alas, they weren't so interested in their work on that day. I still needed to watch the video, even though the students were off task, in case anything interesting happened. So what brilliant insights has my research produced today? Well, an ocean fish is a T-U-N-A.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

How research gets delivered to the public

I read an online comic called PhD (Piled higher and Deeper). Most of the humor would only be enjoyed by those who are firmly entrenched in academia. But today's comic might be amusing to anyone surrounded by media. Check out the Science New Cycle.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Firmly planted

I visited our local farmer's market this morning, which was the first time this year. I enjoyed getting some local strawberries and picking out flowers other than those supermarket standards, lilies and carnations, which have to suffice during the long winter months. But the best part was seeing people - the farmer who always calls me the best-dressed of his customers, and the flower lady who sold us flowers for our wedding.
You might not think there are any advantages to the length it takes to complete a doctoral degree - in my case, it will probably be seven years. But getting my degree has forced me to live in one location for a long time, longer than I've lived anywhere as an adult. And so I run into acquaintances at the market, and physicists at the grocery store. I've put down roots and that feels pretty terrific.

Friday, May 15, 2009


I don't know what to tell you. It looks like working on one's dissertation is deadly to the blogging life.

I went to Philly again last weekend, for another writing retreat. I don't know what I'll do when my writing partner finishes, as she is sure to do in the next few months. I like to think that I'm quite an efficient worker. I get more done when I work at home than when I go to school, which shows some amount of discipline. But it just doesn't compare to having someone else in the room, working every minute you do. If I goof off, she'll catch me. I always feel exhausted at the end of two days of heavy-duty writing, but the results are worth it.

I've also been working on my Very Last Class paper. Ever. As I think I've already mentioned, this semester I've been taking my last required class, and now all that is left is the final paper. Writing it has been excruciating, as it makes me realize how little I understand about the subject. (Which is to be expected, of course, as this is the only class I've ever taken in philosophy.) But I must say that I'm starting to have sympathy for the physicists and philosophers who argue that we shouldn't try to make sense of quantum mechanics, because it just can't be done. I don't think my professor will accept that as the thesis of my paper, but the quantum world is just so different than the regular (classical) world that it's frightfully hard to come to terms with it.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Midwest travels

We took a fast weekend trip to Ohio. (Pictures here and here) Since I have the laptop (and Andrew never wants to share the driving anyway) I worked the whole way there. If you had passed us headed west on I-70, you would have seen me sitting in the passenger seat of the station wagon, a coat draped over my head and a laptop. (It was the only way I could watch video while sitting in a bright car.)

We spent the weekend with my brother, who has a brand new little boy. He's one of the easiest babies I've ever seen. He only cries if he's hungry. After he gulps down a bottle (I forsee a future as a competitive eater) you can just set him back down and he's asleep.

My three year old niece already knows more lyrics to ABBA songs than I do. I will brushing up on them before I go next time so we can have a proper sing-a-long.