Thursday, December 28, 2017
The picture shows my father cutting out my stack pipe. This vents the air in your drains into the great outdoors so that your drains whisk away the liquids quietly. When my house was built, 70 years ago, these pipes were made of cast iron, so cutting it up (twice, because it was too heavy and long to remove in one piece) was a huge ordeal. But it's gone and replaced with PVC, with a location to hook in the new bathroom drain now.
I signed up for a MOOC Spanish course. Not only is this useful for my language skills, but I also have a professional interest in MOOCs. They are all the rage in academia right now - will they destroy universities as we know them? Will they every make a dime in profit? It'll be interesting to experience it from the student perspective, and I'll do my best to make sure that I'm not part of the average 85% of enrollees that drop out before finishing.
Sunday, December 24, 2017
I managed to create a separate scavenger hunt for each kid, so that the gift under the tree was just the first clue to the hunt. Surely I must be nominated for an Aunt of the Year award for this.
Wednesday, December 06, 2017
My winter wardrobe is complete, though. I keep trying to maintain a minimalist wardrobe, which for me means about seven work outfits and two DIY (i.e. blue jeans and paint-splattered shirts) outfits, with everything else packed away in the basement. I made a wool skirt last year and I was so pleased with it that I made another one this year. I'm modeling it in this picture, which I can thank my Spanish tutor for. (When he's not helping me with his Spanish, he's working on his photography business.)
The other sign of the season is my Christmas party. As usual, I'm throwing a big, formal, dress-up party. This has involved two weeks of decorating and cooking, and it all culminates on Saturday. This time the wow-the-attendees menu item is samosas. I'm planning to fry them all in the morning and reheat right before serving. I might be a semi-professional hostess, but I draw the line at trying to deep-fry in a silk evening gown.
Monday, December 04, 2017
I got the push I needed when I went to a meetup and met someone who wasn't completely fluent in English. In Germany this is a thing: you find a "Tandem Partner" and meet to spend half the time working on their foreign language and half the time working on yours. I love this model, because you only need to feel stupid half the time. Luckily, when I proposed this to the person I had just met, he didn't think it was crazy.
Meeting weekly to work on a language is just enough to remind you how much you have to learn. But I've been newly inspired by an old college friend who reminded me what I good language student I had been. And I thought, "That's right, I'm someone who studies hard!" Index card flashcards and writing vocabulary words ten times each is now passe, but I'm loving all the language apps out there. I still feel like all I do is remember how much I have to learn, but I have high hopes of moving into the intermediate level during the coming year.
Friday, November 24, 2017
In the two years I've owned this house, I've gone back and forth on whether to add a second bathroom. Yes, it would be convenient. Yes, most people expect at least two in a house, and my realtor assured me that I'd recoup the money when selling. But the contractors I interviewed wanted to install something more expensive and fancier than the rest of my home, or they didn't think they could build it to code in the existing space, or I was worried that they wouldn't follow any codes. I eventually decided I'd rather let those tens of thousands of dollars continue doing their job for me in investments and I'd keep walking downstairs to the shared bathroom.
But then my father offered to help, and I figured I could be patient during the year it would take to build it. The costs will be extremely minimal compared to a contractor, and I really do have fun working with my father.
My parents came to visit for Thanksgiving, and in between eating pie and mashed potatoes, we started work. We've already considered about ten different layouts, which is nine more than I originally thought possible in such a tiny space. We debate soffits and drains, and today friends came over and we removed two dozen contractor bags of blown-in mineral wool insulation. I hadn't even heard of mineral wool (aka rock wool) until today, but now I know it as an itchy, heavy, but fairly effective and messy insulator. I have also learned that my friends L & S must be really good friends, or be really crazy, to spend hours in face masks and gloves removing it all from my attic.
Stay tuned for many future installments of bathroom excitement in the coming year...
Monday, November 13, 2017
Friday, November 10, 2017
Trips to see my brother and his family are the perfect pace for me. Since everyone works or goes to school, I can sight-see or read during the day and then hang out with the family in the evening. This is just the right amount of people time for me. On this trip, I have three goals*: spend time with family, study Spanish, and learn about the building code for plumbing work in my county. That's everyone's idea of a good time, right?
*Because even when I'm on holiday I have goals.
Thursday, November 02, 2017
My cousin recently wrote about imposter syndrome. This is something that comes up frequently in my work, particularly for scientists from underrepresented groups. I sometimes felt like an imposter while in graduate school, but now it's rare, and I'm really grateful for that change. I have a pretty decent sense of the parts of my job that I'm good at, and I've been lucky enough to have bosses and co-workers that give positive feedback. Instead, I find myself amazed that I can do my job. In this job, I have quite a bit of authority - I make recommendations about funding, I suggest how ideas should be presented, and I can be called on to represent the organization. People in the community ask my advice. When that happens, I (not infrequently) have something useful to tell them.
And that just keeps surprising me. It feels like it wasn't that long ago that I was paid to mop floors and clean toilets, and here I am, a physicist, giving advice that physicists listen to. I guess that's what it means to get an education and work experience, but still, isn't that a little bit amazing?
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Halloween was a success this year, primarily because I remembered to purchase candy. Last year I forgot, and remembered only on October 31st, as I was returning from a business trip at 8pm dragging my suitcase from the metro stop. I had to sneak in my back door because I didn't want kids to see me coming home and then have to admit that I had no candy.
My current roommate is from Thailand and this was his first Halloween. It's such an American holiday! He had fun passing out candy and complimenting all the little kids on their costumes. I taught him how to gently harass the teenagers who show up without costumes - but of course I give them candy anyway, after ribbing them a bit. I just want to reinforce the social contract: you show up at my door in a costume and say "trick or treat" and I give you a handful of nutritionally deficient food and tell you happy Halloween.
Wednesday, October 18, 2017
This was just the place for me to do a little refresher course based on the retreat I did last year. I walked, read books about philosophy, and took stock of the year. I checked in on my goals from last year (prognosis: some I had achieved and some I hadn't even remembered). It was a terrific break from life, and I might even try to do this every year.
I decided to do some hiking while I was there, and found a five-mile trail rated "moderate" which ran along a tiny portion of the Applachian trail. Alas, the rating turned out to be inaccurate. Up and down mountains, climbing over boulders, on a track so studded with rocks that my foot hardly ever landed on a flat surface. The five miles ended up taking me five hours. Ooof. At the end, having already fallen a few times, I took extra care, as I was starting to worry that either the dog or I would come out of the trip with a sprained ankle (if dogs even have ankles). I haven't done a hike like that since Ben Nevis in Scottland twenty years ago, and I think I can wait another ten or twenty years to repeat the experience.
I will say that the dog was a trooper. Mile one: lost of tail wagging and sniffing. Mile two: a bit more focused. Mile three and on: head down, still always ahead of me, but never a sideways sniff, as she seemed to figure out that we just needed to slog this out. The good attitude was in spite of her sad discovery that bees have stingers - for years, Ada has been snapping at bees. During the hike, she finally caught her first bee, but then immediately spit it out and pawed at her mouth for a couple of minutes. I felt bad, of course, but there's no other way for a creature with a one-ounce brain (that'd be the dog, not the bee) to learn. And this bigger-brained creature has learned her lesson: read the trail guides REALLY carefully.
Saturday, October 07, 2017
In other food news, my freezer is stuffed full and I noticed that some of the dry goods in my pantry came with me when I moved into the house two years ago. I think this calls for drastic action, so I decided to restrict my grocery budget until I've eaten through some of these stores. My regular budget is $50/week, but I'm aiming for $10/week until about Christmas. I've even roped in a few people to give me moral support. Another frugal friend is has a goal of $20 weekly grocery bill and my mother has vowed to not buy any meat until Thanksgiving, because she has so much pork and beef stashed in her freezer. I've managed to spend only $5 in two weeks, so I think this might actually work for me. But I'm just a single person, so I shall have to be diligent.
Tuesday, September 26, 2017
In other news, we celebrated my father's 70th birthday. There were appetizers, and three types types of meat. There was a big cake, 30 guests, and a toast. And, of course, funny hats.
It was a terrific weekend. I'm grateful that my dad's health is better than last year and that we could all spend time together.
Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Today, I am a bit more hopeful. She is willing to eat yogurt and a few bites of kibble. Her meows, which were faint yesterday, are more insistent and getting closer to the loud complaint that is a deaf cat's meow. If she continues on this path, she'll be just well enough to travel with me to Ohio this weekend. I was going to spare her the four-day trip, but since she still needs medicine every 12 hours, she'll have to suffer through.
Today was also the day my birthday present arrived. The picture just hints at the delights hidden in those boxes - 49 DVDs with every episode of the seven seasons of Deep Space Nine. They were shipped over from Europe, and I've been waiting for them for weeks. This is my favorite Star Trek series, and I want to watch it from start to finish, using the Spanish dubbed audio track. I used a similar trick in Germany, and it was a fun way to learn. The key is to choose a television show I already know quite well - otherwise I'm too frustrated by my novice language skills. Now I can look forward to months of television viewing which also count as homework.
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
You can imagine that Shawn the IT guy complained. He not only complained that he was suffering, but also that this was cruel and unusual punishment for my roommates, particularly my current roommate who occasionally games. In the end he wore me down, so I decided to get price quotes and let my roommate decide if he wanted to pay more.
My roommate thought the prices were reasonable, so I called to upgrade. Thus began my odyssey into a surreal Internet price-fixing world. Every time I called, from every department I talked to, I was quoted a different speed and different price. Sales people acknowledged that different departments could offer different prices and multiple times I was assured that the speed quoted before didn't exist. No one could ever connect me to anyone who could offer me a price and package that I had previously been offered.
Long ago, things like this drove me crazy. Now I have a more patience and perspective, so I just resigned myself to calling repeatedly. After about the sixth or seventh call, I was quoted a price I liked, so I signed up on the spot. My roommate will hopefully be pleased, but in any case I have earned his undying gratitude, because you can bet I made sure he knew how much I had to go through to make this happen.
So go ahead, friends, let's schedule a video call! I need to get my money's worth on this new package.
Sunday, August 27, 2017
On Saturday, we had crepes for breakfast, and Ada always gets the first pancake. We decided to go hiking at Harper's Ferry National Park, and of course the dog came along. (As an aside, the road to the park goes through three states in about five minutes, which kept Google Maps busy announcing what state we were entering.) My brother is way more active than me, so Ada not only got to hike, she regularly had to run to keep up with S. Then we went for burritos at an outdoor cafe where S shared bits of his chicken with her. Ada was so worn out on the trip home she didn't even have energy to bark.
Tuesday, August 22, 2017
In spite of regular application of anti-flea meds, they both have a few fleas. Again, the rain is probably at fault. So it's all vacuuming and flea combing around here, which stresses me out. In addition, Molly the cat is having some litter box issues (as in she can't seem to find it when she needs to go). This meant a trip to the vet where they couldn't really tell me anything. While we wait for the results of her blood work, she's been banished to the porch - wood floors have a very low tolerance for acidic liquids, I'm learning. I've penned her in with great walls of boxes to a small area with maximum litter box coverage. In fact, she has three types of litter in three boxes right now, because the vet said that giving them a choice helps sometimes. She's an easy going cat, though, and only complains of her hardship when she can see me. I take her out for lots of supervised socialization, but we'll both be glad when this is figured out.
Friday, August 18, 2017
In Minnesota, everyone spends their summer vacation by the lake. By this, they don't mean the same lake, of course - it can be any of the 10,000 lakes in the state. The important thing is to buy or rent a cabin and spend a week or two there, preferably with your entire extended family.
In this tradition, I stayed at Leech Lake* with my father's family. Ten families in five cabins and campers. There was swimming and boating and playing cards. I kayaked three times and read five books. I drank coffee every morning while listening to the waves. Including a visit to my mother's hometown, I visited fourteen aunts and uncles and numerous cousins. I ate jello only once, but was repeatedly reminded that vegetarianism is still a bit unusual in this neck of the woods.
I am blessed with a family that is less crazy than your average family, and I'm glad I got to see everyone. But I was surprised how overwhelming I find it to be around people every day. My Aunt G** pointed out that I didn't use to be as introverted as I have become in the past few years. This is true. I was a shy child, but liked playing with kids I knew. As an adult I have always wanted alone time, but this need has increased in recent years. In the future, I'd like to spend some time thinking about how this should affect how I plan vacations or spend my free time.
* Yes, it is named for the blood-sucking worms. A marketing firm is needed develop a rebranding campaign.
** My normal pseudonym methods fail me in this instance, as my paternal grandparents named all six of their children so they'd have the initials GGG.
Wednesday, August 09, 2017
One evening, my friend T, a fairly standard meat-and-potatoes kind of guy, gave me carte blanche to choose a restaurant. With his approval, I chose a nearby vegan, prix fixe restaurant. Since this was Vegas, there was a gimmick, and the gimmick was that you ate in the dark. Like really in the dark. After signing a waiver and leaving all your belongings in a locker, we were led by a waiter using night vision goggles to our table. He carefully seated us, guiding our hands to where our silverware and water was. We weren't told what we were eating, and this was supposed to focus our experience. It was fun to try and guess what we were eating - the strawberry and walnut salad was straightforward, but we never figured out what the three pureed soups were. They had done a good job lightproofing - I could see tiny light patches after a few hours, but never even glimpsed my table, food, or any diners. It's not something I'd do very often, but certainly resulted in a memorable meal.
Monday, August 07, 2017
T couldn't stop pointing out that we were the B- students. And it was true. I tend to think of myself as a diehard fan, because I've been in a Star Trek group for over a decade and am the kind of person that goes to conventions. But time and again, we were lost. Who was that guest actor? What alien are they referring to? Did Guinan really have no eyebrows? (Google to the rescue: she did not.)
The rest of this post will only interest those who enjoy a bit of Trek.
- Picardo thought that the role of the doctor was the worst on Voyager when auditioning - it was a cold and lifeless role, but would put his kids through college. During his audition, after he read the dialogue reminding someone to turn off his program, he improvised the line, "I'm a doctor, not a nightlight." He claims that he didn't know that was a McKoy trope.
- George Takei said that everyone on the set of TOS figured out that he was gay, even though he never said anything... except Shatner never noticed.
- Martok (or rather the actor who plays him) is running for Congress.
Wednesday, August 02, 2017
My vacation began not with a bang, but with a squelch. I could see the storm clouds approaching from my office window at work, but I wasn't able to outrun the rain. Shortly into my ride home, I hit a downpour and biked four miles in the driving rain. It was an uncomfortable and slow ride, knowing that even pedestrians on the path couldn't see me until I was a few feet from them. Luckily I ride on few roads, because I couldn't hear cars and I knew they wouldn't see me until they ran me over.
Once again, this rain invaded my basement. My basement floods two or three times a year, and my current strategy is to keep everything elevated off the floor and aim a fan at the puddles for a few days. I'm hoping that as long as I never smell mold, I can continue as is. I don't want to know how much it would cost to keep water out of my basement- I imagine one would need earth-moving equipment, which wouldn't be a DIY job.
Vegas, on the other hand, is on a desert, so I won't have to worry about rain. I switched to Celsius last year (an easy task now that most thermometers are digital and websites let you choose your units). I admit I blanched when I saw the weather forecast for Las Vegas. It was just a string of 40s, and I hadn't seen a number that high before. I guess I'll plan on walking very slowly everywhere.
Monday, July 31, 2017
On top of it all, work is extra challenging right now. The big news is that I got promoted! It's quite exciting, but comes with supervisory duties and I want to learn all I can about managing people so I can do it well. This new responsibility reminded me how much work it is to learn something new. I certainly don't think I was coasting in my job before, but I had figured out how to do my job reasonably well. Now I'm madly juggling new meetings and trying to figure out how to achieve everything I'm supposed to do. I'm sure I'll eventually figure it out, but I can tell I'm thinking about 25% more at work every day that I have been.
With all this extra thinking, my vacation this week couldn't be more welcome. I'll be attending a Star Trek convention (yup, I'm that nerdy) in Las Vegas. I attended this same convention eleven years ago, with my friend T and late husband A. T's wife forced him to take a vacation this summer, so he and I will be reprising the trip. I hope to pick up lots of awesome Star Trek swag. Right after I pick and freeze all those green beans in the garden, of course...
Sunday, July 16, 2017
I am organizing my family reunion this year. Once every three years, my father's siblings and many of their children get together for a week, usually in Minnesota. In the past, organizing was a tremendous job, because you called all six siblings, the siblings consulted with their off spring, then you called them again. This happened repeatedly, as you decided the location, the timing, the activities. When I took over, I decided to use all my event planning skills from work. After all, I herd (busy, over-booked) physics professors. Can that be that different than organizing (busy, over-booked) family members?
It's turned out that my skills are pretty transferable. I have a timeline and time estimates to complete my tasks. I use surveys and pilot-test my informational emails with my parents before sending them out. Most of all, I'm trying to stay out of any drama. Of course, feelings are part of any family, but if I can keep them out of my planning, then the job stays straightforward. In fact, I'm thinking about volunteering to run it again next time. Maybe I shouldn't admit that yet, though... I will find out in a few weeks whether everyone else is as pleased with my organizing as I have been.
Saturday, July 08, 2017
It's 7am and I'm sitting outside with a cup of coffee. The heat of the day hadn't hit yet. I can hear a dove cooing, crickets chirping, and all kinds of cheerful birds tweeting. The bees are busy in the squash blossoms. The dog is relaxed, nearby, but ready to spring up the moment I start to indicate it's time for our walk.
In a few minutes, I'll go finish making my picnic lunch, because my friend E, her kids, and I are headed to the beach today.
It's the best part of summer.
Monday, July 03, 2017
My new computer arrived, which was great until the fan quit working. Computers are designed to shut down if they're going to overheat (a wise engineering decision!). So I sent my non-working computer back for a replacement. Alas, the company that was so prompt to fill my order is not so motivated to process returns quickly. I've been limping along with my not-quite-completely-broken laptop from four years ago, and I have high hopes that it will be resolved soon.
I'm chicken-sitting this weekend, something I enjoy doing for my friends N and S when they travel. (They pay in eggs!) The first day I arrived, though, the key was not in its usual hiding space and no amount of careful searching could unearth it. By phone, N and S decided that the best thing was for me to break in, and I requested a discreet ground-floor burglary. I hoped to pry a porch window open, but it turns out that the glass gave way before the frame did. I sealed up the window with heavy duty plastic, fed the animals, and counted my lucky stars that no neighbors called the police. I have only broken two windows in my entire life, and both of them have been on N and S's house. Sorry, guys!
Sunday, June 25, 2017
1. I threw out my back on Monday. I laid down pretty much all the time I wasn't at work for the next two days, and took a lot of ibuprofen. Lo and behold, I got better! Lesson (perhaps) learned: don't pick up air conditioners in small confined places and don't try to slide a barrel with 50 gallons of water in it. (Spoiler: you can't move it.)
2. Someone rear-ended me yesterday. But she was going really slowly, perhaps 5 mph. When I got out and looked at my bumper, it sported two tiny new scratches, but no crumpling. I told the other driver we could just forget about it. My car is certainly old enough that I won't notice scratches, and I don't think any structural damage was sustained.
3. My washing machine broke last night. I siphoned out the water, and after several hours of consultation, I have partially disassembled it. My father and I haven't diagnosed it yet, but fixing washing machines seems so far above my ability level that I don't mind if I can't fix it. I will feel sufficiently accomplished if I simply attempt it. You should have seen the my celebrations when I simply figured out how to remove the case.
Sunday, June 18, 2017
Saturday, June 17, 2017
I've never really understood why French baked goods are so popular in the US, but German breads are completely absent from the country. With some hunting, I can find excellent French bakeries in DC, and Latin American bakeries are everywhere around here. But the chewy rye and wheat breads I love from Germany are rare. I know I've mentioned in the past that I drive to Virginia every few months to stock up on pounds and pounds of dark bread. Unfortunately, that bakery doesn't make rolls (aka Brötchen) so I need to figure those out on my own.
Today was my fourth attempt. One of the difficulties is that no one in Germany would every make Brötchen, because they're available everywhere, so there's not much information publicly available. Then, the varieties vary by region, and I have a particular, whole grain type in mind. I don't know if I should be using just whole wheat, or some white flour, or maybe rye. Are eggs or yogurt/quark used? An egg glaze? What about the fact that American flours have more protein than European ones? I am definitely baking blindly.
In the end, I think this will be a rather expensive endeavor, because the only way I can see to truly verify the authenticity of my final result is to fly back to Germany and eat a lot of bread. That's worth it, right?
Sunday, June 04, 2017
I have a good track record with roommate selection so far. Since I prefer short-term roommates, I'm already on the fourth since I bought the house. I have a finely crafted ad, a set of questions that I ask during the meeting, and a set of expectations that I share with them. Then there's the application and credit check, which are just enough hassle that the not-seriously-interested don't continue. I seem to do a good job of conveying what living with me is like, and finding people who will like my house and me (i.e. they will not mind I don't talk to them a great deal), because everyone involved has seemed pretty happy.
Tomorrow the interns start and my newest roommate moves in, and I can find out if my selection processes were successful again.
Saturday, June 03, 2017
My brother the IT whiz is willing to advise and vet my semifinal choices, but not to do the shopping for me. He asks me useful questions like whether I travel with it and how I use my home computer. But I think my answers are probably not useful - it never leaves my house, I don't care how heavy it is or how bad the battery, and because of Google services the only software I use is a browser and a generic video player. I am fairly close to using the shopping strategy of searching on Amazon for the right price range and letting a random number generator to choose my purchase.
Thursday, June 01, 2017
One thing that didn't change is keeping the place tidy. It will probably not come as a surprise that I am a tidy person, but this has intensified in recent years. Dirty dishes always live in the dishwasher, or are washed immediately (usually before I eat). The book bag has a home on a specific shelf in the closet, and keys live in the decorative bowl by the door. When I have a roommate, I am vigilant about being tidy to set a good example. But it turns out when I'm alone, it's now a habit I don't want to change, because I enjoy have a clean, organized, visually peaceful place to live in.
Thursday, May 25, 2017
The Ugly: The ticks were awful. We camp on the east coast of the U.S., so regular tick checks, and removing the occasional bloodsucker, are (unfortunately) par for the course. But I must have wandered into a tick playground, and the number of creatures that had to be removed from me was in the double digits. This is (a) disgusting, (b) worrisome, because a small proportion carry diseases, and (c) a total pain because I appear to be fairly allergic and had to dope myself up on Benadryl all week. While I use bug spray religiously, I'll be adding a second chemical to the mix during the next camping trip. In the meantime, I've been extra appreciative of the relatively bug-free city life this week.
Monday, May 15, 2017
I even had enough left fabric left over to make pajama pants. They're super comfy but not particularly photogenic, so you'll have to take my word for it.
I put the finishing touches on my second Adirondack chair, pictured on the right here. As you may recall, we assembled and painted this in my basement. Yesterday, when I tried to carry it outside, I discovered that the chair is a 1/2" wider than my basement door. My lack of planning provoked both laughter and dismay. Luckily, my friend N stopped by today and together we figured out how to twist it out of the house.
Thursday, May 04, 2017
Sunday, April 30, 2017
Alas, I am already off to a mediocre start. I planted at the regular times, but it got really warm, really fast this in March. I should have peas by now, but instead I have 6" tall plants, which will soon die from the heat. So I've said goodbye to my hoped-for broccoli, peas, and spinach, and moved right to hot-weather crops.
Like last year, the garlic and herbs look great. I planted 11 tomato seedlings today, which were carefully nurtured under my basement grow light, and I'm just plowing ahead (yes, that's a gardening pun, thank you) with all the other summer planting. According to my spreadsheet, I'm two weeks ahead, but the soil and air temperatures seem okay for what I'd call "tropical" plants like tomatoes and eggplant.
I know that gardening, like farming, is somewhat dependent on luck. My spreadsheet has almost 40 different edibles because I know that one-third of them won't thrive in any given year. It keeps me, the gardener, humble, and and also makes me extremely grateful for grocery stores. Unlike farming, if my crops fail, I still eat.
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
On Saturday morning, we got up bright and early and headed to the headquarters of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, where my company was hosting a breakfast. After picking up our free shirts, free hats, and free granola (it was uncommonly good swag!), we started walking to the Mall. There was a steady stream of people going the same direction, and it was nice to hear some of their stories and why they had decided to come to the march.
If you've never done something like this, the picture below sums it up. You stand on a flat patch of grass with 40,000 people and listen to many, many people give short testimonials, which was interspersed with surprisingly good live jazz music. I will note that the organizers had great diversity in speakers, and not just race, age, ethnicity and physical abilities. They included science diversity, too - I have to admit that I wasn't even aware of firefighter research.
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Her daughter J is now five years old and she fell in love with Molly the cat. This suited Molly just fine, as there is nothing she wants more than to have someone pet her continuously and remark on her every meow. I hope to use Molly as bait to lure them both back for a future visit.
Unfortunately, I was under the weather at the end of their visit, and still haven't recovered. I feel exhausted, but not quite sick enough to need to stay home in bed. I was just tired enough that I forgot to smile all day Sunday, which probably wasn't pleasant for my house guests. Now I'm just wading through a week with twenty-two hours of scheduled meetings. (I counted.) I normally have a lot of meetings, but this is an especially dense distribution, and it's probably not helping my energy levels.
Friday, April 14, 2017
My parents' visit was all about the project, of course. I made a (huge) master list of everything that needs to be repaired in my house or vehicles, then narrowed it down to the top ten things I was stuck on. We decided to be official and have people sign off on the completed projects.
The motor is designed to give you a boost when you're already pedaling (this its name Hilltopper) and it's just what I need. Roundtrip, I have a ten-mile, somewhat hilly ride, but now it feels like a six-mile, flat ride. I'm hoping the result is that I ride even more often to work, and I will be especially grateful to avoid the strenuous rides as the summer heat and humidity approaches. Stay tuned for updates.
Monday, April 03, 2017
In the picture, you can see my advisor (I actually had two PhD advisors, but that ruins that narrative) seated in front, with all of the students and postdocs who studied with him. Some of the people who were getting their PhDs at the same time as me stayed in research, so I regularly see them at conferences. But others decided to teach, or to become lawyers or make policy, so I hadn't talked to many in years. It was simply delightful to find out how many kids they now had, or what kind of awesome job they had.
It was also heartwarming to hear all the great stories about my advisor. I have fond memories of him because he had faith in me for years, even when I kept failing my qualifying exams. But I am just one of many people who had positive memories of his intellectual curiosity and his unwavering support of his students. As a result, I left resolving to myself to be a better mentor to others.
Sunday, March 26, 2017
I'm delighted to see them all, but I purposefully kept March as low-social-event month so I could build up some socializing reserve. Instead, I caught up on projects, since I won't have much spare time in April. My mother made me a dressing gown from a vintage 1940's pattern, and I had to finish the hand-sewing on it. I am expanding the gardens in the back yard by five square meters, and I hauled in extra dirt and compost for them. I replaced two switches to my hallway light (which took me four tries, two calls with my dad, and the help of my friend N). I replaced my kitchen light. I snaked my drains which is most definitely the most disgusting homeowner job I've done so far (from now on, I will be seeking only roommates who are bald).
And the guest room is ready: I added bedding, extra shelves, a luggage stand, and a reading light. Bring on the people!
Thursday, March 16, 2017
The good part was that shoveling frozen compost meant it wasn't too muddy, but hauling the wheelbarrow across the snow was difficult. It's a bit jarring to see the fresh brown compost laying on top of the snow, but I figure that in a few days it will warm up, the snow will melt, and the compost will be right on top of the beds where I want it.
My basement is filled with tiny pots of soil under the grow lights, where I soon expect to see tomato and eggplant seedlings. Today didn't feel like spring, but it's tantalizingly close.
Tuesday, February 28, 2017
I love making jam, but I only eat about two pints per year. In physics terms, this would result in a net positive flux of jam, except that it turns out that homemade jam makes a great hostess gift.
This year I made cherry, apple butter, and, just this weekend, blood orange marmalade. I'll be having the marmalade for dinner tonight, since it is Pancake Day. But there will still be plenty left in my larder. And if you'd like some, now you know what to do- just invite me over for dinner.
Thursday, February 23, 2017
- I have a job that makes the world a better place. Like everyone else, my job has ups and downs and sometimes all I do is write email all day long. But there are people out there who have studied physics, become teachers, and discovered that people just like them can be scientists because of the programs I help run. This is immensely rewarding.
- Having a cat again, especially one that would prefer to sit in my lap all day long.
- A work friend who carefully noted the date of Andrew's birthday, and then, a year later, brought me a plant and a card to cheer me up on that always-bleak day.
- Living now, in the era of anesthesia for operations, safe drinking water, and wonderfully insulated homes.
- My brand-new currant bush, a Christmas gift from my in-laws, that I planted this morning. I am crossing my fingers and hoping that I'll have at least a bite or two of fruit this year.
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Meet Mollie the cat. She had lived the last ten years in my parents' shop, venturing out to decimate the local mouse population. We think she is now about fourteen years old, and she will be spending her final retirement years at my house. She is named for molybdenum, which is an element used to strengthen steel, and particularly appreciated by my father for its use in motorcycle frames.
She is tiny, completely deaf, and seems to love every person that she meets, but she is deeply and profoundly suspicious of the dog. Ada mainly ignores her, so I think in time they'll get along fine. Mollie lived on a farm up to this point, and there really were plenty of creatures (such as hawks and coyotes) that would have been happy to eat her, so this paranoia is somewhat reasonable.
Wednesday, February 01, 2017
And as a reward, I am going to Ohio today, and when I come back I'll bring both Ada and Molly the (new-to-me) cat.
Sunday, January 29, 2017
Thursday, January 26, 2017
Each weekday, my dad goes for treatment.. The hospital is 60 miles away, so the entire trip takes at least four hours each day. Most days, someone goes with him, mainly to keep him company on the trip. My father still has lots of energy, so after the two visits I went on, he headed out to a class or meet-up. I was exhausted from all the socializing he does, although I'm pretty he sure he thrives on it.
So how does my family spend time together? We diagnosed and fixed another problem on my car (bad wheel bearings), argued about the state of modern science and medicine, started cutting out pieces for a vintage bathrobe, and did a marinara sauce tasting. That last one was my idea - my father had purchased different sauces so he could figure out whether the "expensive" sauces were worth it. I was convinced he wouldn't be able to spot the differences if he ate them over the course of several months, so I arranged a blind tasting. My parents agreed on which two were there favorites, and as payment I took home the two jars they liked the least. For my American readers, Classico Tomato Basil, the mid-priced contestant, was the winner,
Monday, January 16, 2017
Today I flew home and tried to make myself rest by not working on any house projects. Instead, I decided to take a trip to the wine superstore. It takes about 45 minutes to get there, so when I go, I stock up on a six-month supply. Alas, the two-hour errand turned into three when I remembered that I had left my wallet in my other coat, which was still hanging on the coat tree at home. I will not let a mere trifle like that come between me and my wine, so I drive home, fetched the wallet, and then drove back to complete the purchase. Those of you who visit me between now and July can appreciate my efforts when sharing a glass with me
Friday, January 13, 2017
Friday, January 06, 2017
The car, on the other hand, has been a drag on my happiness level. After many phone calls with my father, extensive consultations with online tire suppliers, calls to local junkyards and mechanics, I think I have a solution to my busted wheels. I first had to learn the difference between a wheel and a tire. Then I had to learn what size tire I had. (Do you know how to read the gibberish 180/ 60-R 15? Because now I can decipher that.) Then I had to figure out if anything could be repaired rather than replaced (Answer: the front wheel and tire need to be replaced but the back wheel and tire may be partially salvageable. I had to determine what kind of wheel I had (Answer: steel.) and what kinds they sold (Answer: mainly aluminum.) and learn about why no one would sell me a steel wheel, and also why I wasn't allowed to have both steel and aluminum wheels on my car at the same time, although I can choose either one as long as all four wheels match. Actually, I'm still not clear on that last one: the physics-y answer is that the moment of inertia of steel and aluminum are different, but I don't really understand how and when the differing moments of inertia will become a serious problem in car handling.