Thursday, August 30, 2007


"Tell her." I heard Mom say after I missed a call - being in bed when the phone rang in the living room - and called her back.

Little One's voice came through, though I smiled upon guessing what she was to tell me.

"I have a new sister!" She said in her sweet voice.

"Well." I said, blinking against tears when remembering how small and lovely she was after being born. I was terrified of her, frankly, and would only hold her when I was safely seated and someone would place her tiny body in my arms where I would tuck her close and rock in the chair. "Good for you! Congratulations!"

"Tell her you'll see her tomorrow." Mom instructed.

"I'll see you tomorrow!" She said and I smiled.

"No," her grandmother correctly gently. "Aunt Katie will be home in a few days. We'll go meet your little sister tomorrow."

After talking to Mom for a moment, I picked up the computer to make a note of how I learned of Smallest One's arrival. She and her mother are doing well, though Brother has yet to inform us of her weight and height. August 30, though. Seems a good day for a birthday.

Now I update (not in numerical order)

Awwww (6) DaybyDay wrote a post. It was for me. I was filled with affection and appreciation because of the gesture - I thought it was sweet and lovely and wonderful. And given that I'm currently trying to figure out what to do with myself from here (if my ankle survives, of course), I found it interesting and useful.

Sigh (1)
Industry Giant called. We talked for 30 minutes and I hung up, realized I was sweating and sighed with exhaustion. Then I tried to prepare myself because he was calling to finish up later on. After about an hour of conversation, he finally called it good and told me he'd pass the information along to his manager. So I'm waiting again and am not completely convinced this is the job for me. But I'm too tired for in-depth analysis.

yay, tentatively (8) I worked on my talk while waiting for both parts of the interview. It's not bad at all. I just need to talk through it more and decide where I'm struggling. So that's coming along.

Ow. Ow ow ow ow ow (2) Ankle continues to hurt. I believe it is dying. It pretends to be reasonably functional then throbs like crazy. This pattern is not cool. Also, the bruising is extensive and hideous.

Good (3) Mom called the nurse at her knee surgeon's office. They don't know details of this procedure he proposed, but Mom seems driven to work hard in therapy and avoid going back to the hospital.

Also good (4) She also sounds stronger and more stable. Stupid doctor shouldn't have made her feel badly about herself and I will attack if necessary at her next appointment. (I have a giant boot.) But for now, all is well.

Ew. Still. (7) Dog's ear is still puffy. But she seems fine. She does, however, miss her favorite friend. She pines when Friend is away - waits in the office, cries at the door and is beside herself with painful (for Friend, who must fend off lunges and kisses) joy when Friend comes back.

Nooooo. Still. (5) I didn't go to work today, so I still have to deal with Henry tomorrow. Luckily, I still have my boot.

Now I should shower and rest. And prepare to complain more later.

Edited to add: We all knew this day would come, though I tried to shield you from it for as long as possible. But I must display the horror of my bruises and the continued swelling of the ankle that refused to heal. I'm sorry. But look how icky! Don't you feel awful for me? I feel awful for myself.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Now I whine

Nooooo (1) Industry Giant person didn't call. Now I have to do the waiting thing all day tomorrow again. And I get nervous! It's not fair!

Nooooo (2) My ankle still hurts. I'm tired of this! I want it to function again! And this sort-of/kind-of thing that it's doing (wherein it doesn't hurt, then I try to walk normally and it threatens to collapse) isn't cool!

Nooooo (3) Mom went to see the knee moron (oops - doctor) and he wants to put her under again, force them flat then inject cortizone. She doesn't want to do that, but said he left before she could ask any questions.

Nooooo (4) Since she was sad she went alone, I apparently am going to delay my return after the conference to go to the next appointment with her. This is why it's too hard to live far away!

Nooooo (5) Boss gave my grant (that we finally agreed not to resubmit, I thought) to Henry. Now they went to meet tomorrow. For what?! Henry is annoyingly critical and in my current mood, I'm likely to just yell at him or kick him with my gigantic boot.

Nooooo (6) There's nothing on TV. And books bore me. And you people won't write on your blogs!

Nooooo (7) Chienne has another aural hematoma. She's had a drain before and hated it with a passion, so I'm going to try to let this resolve on its own. But I hate that her ear is all puffy. Though she doesn't seem to mind much at all.

Nooooo (8) I've looked at the program for the upcoming conference and I'm outclassed. By a lot. This talk should be awesome and I think it's just good.
That's all I can think of for now. I'll probably update later.

Interview 1

My first interview out of grad school was at Industry Giant. Their headquarters - or rather the one that was relevant to my field of study - was located within easy driving distance from my graduate city. So I applied and when someone called within days, I nervously agreed to head a bit east and deliver my first interview talk.

It went well, I thought of the 45 minute presentation delivered in a small conference room with about 10 people in attendance. They asked easy questions, then started to speak with me individually according to the schedule I'd been given.

I remember how nervous I was, trying frantically to stay professional and focused. I crashed at lunch though. The exhaustion hit me and I went under without a fight. I wasn't able to answer the questions lobbed at me from across the table. I felt under-qualified and stupid and immature.

"You'll call us before you take any other job." The director ordered before I shook his hand and left later that afternoon. But I knew my performance had been sub-par - I interviewed much better at other places, learning to drink coffee early and fight the inevitable desire for rest really hard. I took my current position after much deliberation and out of a desperate desire to leave grad school. I didn't hear from Industry Giant and after two calls that went unanswered, I decided to write them off with my best wishes.

The hell of it is that I wanted that job. I would have been good at it, the location was optimal in terms of being near my family, and they actually have winter there. So I sighed and wished things had gone differently.

The job I mentioned earlier - the one I really want - is again at Industry Giant. So I sent my CV last week along with a delightful email and was disappointed when I didn't hear anything. That's fine though, I thought. I'm not quite ready to leave here. I haven't interviewed in a long time and would likely flub up this first one.

Of course, someone sent email this morning asking after my availability for a phone interview today or tomorrow.

"Oh, crap." I whispered, stomach clenching. All those job-seeking worries hit me hard and their familiarity was stunning. I remember exactly how this goes. The process is hard, at least for me. I get very nervous and fight headaches and tummy troubles. I try frantically to over-prepare but the first one is always messy. That's why I lined up interviews back to back as much as possible. I needed the practice and once I got going, things tended to smooth out. So Industry Giant is once again getting an unpracticed, unpolished version of me. But this time I have no doubts about industry vs. academia. If I can get them to offer me something, I'll take it.

Now I need to review notes on how to interview. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Practicing nostalgia

Whatever will I blog about today, I thought as I woke up from nap number 2 and moaned from a mixture of discomfort and pure boredom. I can't focus on work, nor do I have the USB drive that contains the projects I'd want to consider. I don't want to read my book and after trying two other stories, decided I don't want to read much of anything. I want, of course, to bounce on my trampoline or take a walk. But I can't. Because I'm injured.

Instead, I decided to practice an older version of my talk. Luckily, I had an audience for the event.

They said I was very good - that my speaking skills had improved considerably since we last played school when I was a bit younger. I used to lecture them on the alphabet or work on addition skills with flashcards my parents purchased. I would scold my students who refused to be attentive and focused, and praise the ones who tried particularly hard. I obviously loved Tenderheart most of all, so he always sat in the front. I didn't really consider it today, but subconsciously placed his brown body aside as I arranged everyone else, then nestled him into the carpet in the first row.

For those of you concerned over my mental state, I shall explain. I was petting Sprout while complaining of my physical malady when he sprinted down the hall upon hearing the phone ring.

"Hi, Mom." I answered, seeing her name on the outside of my new phone that has exquisite voice quality. I had to threaten to leave Verizon by canceling my contract before they offered me this phone for $50. They had wanted me to pay retail and I grew annoyed.

"It's Dad." The gruff voice answered me and I told him he should use his own phone. "Hey," he said, "do you remember those little Care Bears you had? The plastic ones?"

I scrunched my face in thought, could vaguely recall a cloud-car that held the multi-colored figures, and said I did remember them.

"Well, I was asking Little One what she wanted for her birthday and she said Care Bears."

"I know. Mom told me. I have two of them for her - a yellow one and a turquoise one. With stars and rainbows on their tummies."

"Well, I told her that she already had some of them and she said she wanted some to play with. In her dollhouse. So I stopped at the store today and asked for them - because I remembered playing with yours when you were little, but they said they didn't have them. Your mom looked online and couldn't find them either. But she thought she packed yours with the big Care Bears and I wondered if you'd seen them."

"They're in the attic." I reported. "I haven't opened that bag since I moved. But I could go look."

"No." He refused, sounding disappointed. "I don't want you to hurt yourself."

"I'll put on my stabilizing boot and go look. But there's no light up there so I need to go before it gets dark outside."

So I strapped my grotesque foot into my gigantic boot, velcroing everything together, then made my way up the narrow staircase that leads to the unfinished attic. It was hot - the area isn't climate controlled and I wrinkled my nose at the temperature up there. But I continued on, clinging to beams and trying to place my feet properly so I didn't fall down and hurt myself even more. I found the black garbage bag, then a smaller one next to it, that contained my precious collection of stuffed bears. I tossed them across the room, made my way carefully across the boards on the floor, then walked painstakingly down the stairs.

Breathing quickly with effort and a bit of delayed fear over falling, I flopped on my ottoman and began tossing softly colored bodies across the floor. When I reached the bottom, I called Dad back.

"I found them!" I exclaimed. "There's Cheer Bear and Birthday Bear and Funshine Bear." I recited from memory. "Grumpy Bear and Wish Bear. Share Bear and Loves-A-Lot Bear. Is that right? I never loved the pink bears all that much. Good Luck Bear and Tenderheart! I have nine of them." I placed them neatly on my coffee table and told him I'd bring them for Little One.

He was pleased and handed the phone to Mom when she reminded him he hadn't looked at the pictures of my ankle I'd sent. We talked for several minutes - she's in pain and discouraged and tired of dealing with her knees, poor thing. Then we hung up and I looked at the stuffed animals littering the floor. Then I smiled and decided to arrange them on one side of the room.

I remembered doing the same thing when I was little. Pushing them firmly into place so they'd sit up. Their darn heads are so big that they're prone to toppling over. I retrieved the two new bears I purchased for Little One's upcoming birthday so they could join the party. I allowed Sleepy Bear to rest during my presentation - it's good to realize some people will be bored. I put the Cousins around the schefflara because they were particularly stubborn about being upright. But I smiled and touched heart-shaped noses, simultaneously wishing I was little again and being glad that's all over.

They're currently making me quite happy. And anticipating Friend's expression when she sees them brings no small amount of joy either. I told Mom they're all facing the loveseat where Friend sits now that I have claimed the couch in the name of injured ankles.

"Remember what they'd do when they encountered someone sad or angry or mean?" I asked Mom after I called to tell her to look at Care Bear pictures I'd sent.

"The Care Bear Stare!" We said together.

Friend doesn't stand a chance.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Ankle update

The foot is very swollen - it's ugly and puffy and gross. But people at work were impressed and sympathetic. Which is good, I suppose.

"Ken?" I asked. "If I take off my uncomfortable boot, would you mind getting my ice pack out of the freezer?"

"Friend?" I wrote later. "I'm kind of queasy and didn't bring any lunch. Are you going to eat? Would you get me something too? Oh, and bring it here to me? Please and thank you."

When Boss looked on in concern, Jill said, "Well, bless your heart. What can we do?"

I told them Friend had driven me in, but I would likely work from home a couple days this week. They said that was fine, but I could call if I wanted a ride anywhere. I thought that was nice.

After Friend had brought lunch and stayed to keep me company (while I printed out nearly 200 pages of part 2 of my book - some of that text has to go.), I started to count minutes until I could have more Advil. I couldn't tuck my feet under my chair - as is my habit - and I grew uncomfortable, shifting from side to side and feeling my back and shoulders ache. I did get quite a bit done. I was uncomfortable so I worked steadily for distraction more than anything else. I solved a long-standing software problem, tackled a hypothesis that seemed too complex for my mental state (though I did finish it), then finally sent Friend an email saying that I wasn't doing well at all.

"[Department]. This is Katie." I chirped when my phone rang.

"Not feeling great?" Friend asked and I sagged and allowed my voice to reflect my misery.

"I'm OK." I said, hoping my discomfort was evident in my tone. "But I'm starting to hurt. And 6:00 seems very far away. But I'll be OK."

"We could leave earlier. Maybe 30 minutes?" I accepted gratefully but told her to take her time.

"Ken?" I said when he came back - it was almost like he was avoiding me or something. "Would you get me some water? In my mug? So I can take more pills?"

He returned with ice water and offered to fetch some fruit and cookies from the break room. I thanked him, but refused, then tried to finish the task I was tackling.

When Friend came, I quickly struggled into my boot and stood to leave. I forgot the USB drive that helpfully contained much of the data I need to work from home. Poor, long-suffering Friend said she would retrieve it tomorrow. But she will be rid of me for a couple of days. I have food, the ability to walk around my small home and, hopefully, enough distractions so that I don't go insane from boredom. If you people could write posts on your blogs or send me interesting email, that would help considerably. My terribly bruised ankle, ugly swollen foot and very awkward way of walking would appreciate the help.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

ER. Fine.

"I think they're leaving the car there." I noted of the large blue vehicle that had parked right in the way of the ER driveway. "So you could just pull around."

"There's no room." Friend said, having coped admirably with my constant chatter then oppressive silence after I sighed and said that I couldn't walk (though I could hop) and if she thought a trip to the hospital was in order, I would go. She waited until the valet waved her around and I scowled.

"I told you there was room." I muttered. "If you'd have just pulled around like I said, it would have been fine. But no. Nobody ever listens to what I say."

"Um." I said later, having been placed on a cart/wheelchair device that Friend had to push into the door and past security. "I appear to be in the doorway. Friend! The doors are closing on me! You need to move me!" I batted at the glass doors as they clunked at my chair a few times.

She said something about positioning me so they'd close on my head but moved me forward. "This thing is like a lawnmower." She commented as I waved my hand regally to where a woman waited to take my information so that I could be moved in that direction. "If you don't push these things down, you can't go anywhere." We jerked to an abrupt stop and I steadied myself on the desk to my side, wishing my shoe didn't feel quite so tight.

I altered my tone completely when I addressed the woman at the desk. "Hello." I said sweetly. "I hurt my ankle. I think it's fine, but she" I motioned behind me to an ever-patient Friend, "said I should come. But I think it's fine."

"Left or right?" The woman asked.

"Right." I answered, then thanked her when Friend moved me toward the waiting room. The ride was less than smooth. She apparently kept trying to push with her left knee which was recently dislocated. We're kind of falling apart down here.

We were soon greeted by the triage nurse, who told Friend she could come along or wait in the chairs.

"She's coming." I said, glancing over my shoulder in momentary panic. I didn't want to be alone.

She followed along and I relaxed and turned into obedient and lovely Katie while the nurse asked questions. She filled in forms and praised the ice pack I wore. She clucked over the injury and backed up when Friend mentioned I actually fell yesterday and wouldn't come.

"Oh." I said, frowning. "Yes. That's true."

The lovely triage nurse moved me toward the exam rooms after selecting the proper one on her computer. I looked around, curious but tense, and smiled at Donna, who was to be my nurse.

"Bless your heart." She said as I stepped out of the chair and onto the soft cart/bed covered in a sheet and with a single pillow. "Can I get you girls anything to drink?"

I asked for water and Friend - having had no coffee since waking at 10 - had a Coke. Donna returned quickly with both, removed my sock and shook her head over the swelling. "You were right to ice it." She said. "The doctors have been very quick today so someone will be in soon. Can I get you anything for the pain?"

I again mentioned it was only a 2 on a scale of 1-10 and said I'd be fine. She nodded kindly and told me to let her know if I needed her. I thanked her and she left. A woman arrived almost immediately to see if I would complete a survey for her research. I nodded and confided that I did research there too, thinking it was odd to be treated at my own institution but I was rather impressed so far. She didn't make it through the consent form before a faculty member entered.

She left us alone while he looked, prodding gently up to my knee, checking muscles and asking if there was pain.

"No." I answered. "No. Not there either. No."

"Good." He decided, then touched around the swelling.

"It's not hurting." I told him because it wasn't. The pressure he used wasn't causing discomfort and I appreciated his care. He decided he wanted x-rays of the ankle and foot since the swelling was so extensive and I nodded.

Survey woman came and went again. As soon as she left, an intern entered and asked the same questions I'd answered several times already. He listened to me breathe and looked at the ankle.

"I won't manipulate it." He said, but continued to stare.

"It didn't hurt when the doctor touched it." I said, not bothered by the attention. It did look ugly - dark purple bruises on the inside, swelling that had puffed both medially and laterally. "You can prod at it if you'd like."

He nodded and started to push, checking the same muscles the doctor had tried, but pressing too hard. I frowned, and jumped as he started to hurt the ankle with what I decided was excessive pressure. I was saved, however, by the kind x-ray tech who brought the machine to me.

Friend went to stand in the hall while I had to flex my foot while the tech moved the box and took the pictures. We did three ankle and 3 of the foot and he was very gentle. I thanked him and he went away, leaving Friend to return. We talked for a few minutes and I dug some papers out of the bag that contained my laptop, power cord, a file of journal articles, a book, a memory stick so I could send Friend to print my book if I got bored, some Advil, and ice pack, my broken phone, lipgloss, pens and pencils, checkbook and wallet. I came prepared, but things were moving surprisingly quickly.

I had just started to type an idea from an article into the discussion section when Intern returned.

"I didn't get to finish examining it." He explained and I nodded.

"OK, it's hurting when you press that hard." I told him. He left soon enough and we began the wait that I had expected all along. Intern checked in to say that nothing was broken, but they were waiting for the official opinion when Radiology read the films. I nodded. He came back again to ask if I wanted a full leg brace and crutches or a boot. I chose the latter.

"Could I have picked neither?" I asked Friend when he left. She didn't think that was one of the options. "It's not going to help. I still won't be able to walk." I pouted.

"The point is that those things make it easier and safer to walk." She said mildly and I blinked, then nodded.

Donna returned with a large boot-like device that she velcro-ed me into. "Is it uncomfortable," I asked, "because it's pushing my foot when it wants to be flatter?"

"Yes." She said sympathetically. "Bless your heart."

"It's cumbersome." I offered as she continued to secure straps. She nodded and clipped the ends of the longest straps. "Thank you." I said when she was done. "You've been wonderful."

"I have my moments." She smiled and moved back out to the hall.

We waited some more and I grew uncomfortable as the brace pushed at my swollen ankle and insisted on a position I was growing to hate.

"It hurts." I told Friend and she nodded.

"You might ask the nurse how to fix that." She suggested. "Or loosen the strap that's too tight."

We finally got discharge paperwork - a little more than 2 hours after we arrived - and Donna told me about the boot, the sports medicine follow up appointment. She gave me 4 Vicodin and a prescription for 800 mg ibuprofen. I also got a note from the doctor in case I wanted to take time off this week, then she escorted me to where I handed over my co-pay. I think I also pay some percentage, but I assume they send that bill.

We moved out to get the car and my ankle is much more stable in the boot. It hurt, but I could walk much easier. I arranged myself in the passenger seat and later made my way down those evil steps to Friend's apartment. I called her a name when she reminded me to actually use the final step and said I was glad she'd offered to go grocery shopping for me and had to face that errand.

She settled me on the couch and her felines (3 of the 4) arrived for pets. She handed me the remote and water to take a pill and I reclined, the three cats arraging themselves atop me and watched SpongeBob while she ran to Krogers. She returned and we moved back to the car, stopping at Krispy Kreme for donuts then moved toward home.

"The Vicodin are making me loopy." I commented. "I'm overwhelmed with this appreciation for you. You're so nice. And wonderful. You took me to the hospital and went grocery shopping and got me donuts. I like you a lot. You're smart and wonderful and very nice."

"OK." She said. "I'm sure I'll get back to being mean soon enough."

"No." I said. "You're not mean! You're good and kind and nice."

"Uh huh." She noted as I continued to compliment her.

"Should we get Arby's or something from home?" I asked as I realized I was still hungry after the glazed donut I had already.

"What do you want?"

"I don't know." I said, feeling immediately confused. So I started to sing the SpongeBob song, but realized I didn't know many of the words. "I think I want Arby's." I finally decided.

"Then we'll drive through." She nodded and I again told her she was the best, most wonderful friend ever.

"You get me Arby's and drive me around and wait with me in the emergency room." I said, filled with love.

"OK." She said again, handing me the food and driving toward my house.

I got home, had lunch, then slept. I still feel a bit funny, but taking off the boot helped the ankle pain a lot. It's now wrapped (courtesy of Friend) and we're going to get a new phone for me in the morning. I took Advil instead of more loopiness-inducing drugs and while I'm uncomfortable (a 3 on a scale of 1-10, 1 being no pain at all and 10 being the worst pain I can imagine.), I'm hanging in.

I was right - it would have healed itself. But the ER was impressive and, while it's going to be expensive, I think, I now know there's no evidence of lasting damage at this time. If I still struggle after the swelling goes down (7-10 days, they think), I'm to see someone else. But, for now, I'm injured but OK.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

ER? No.

I was carrying a large stack of flattened boxes down the concrete stairs to Friend's apartment door. I apparently didn't peek around the boxes well enough because I missed the last step and I came tumbling down amidst a large flurry of cardboard. I find this rather unfortunate.

First, it hurt. Friend's neighbor came out of her apartment and said, "Oh, no. Are you OK?"

"Um," I said, for I make no sound upon injuring myself, "I don't know. I think so. I can get out of your way though." And I politely tried to drag my body out of the way of the stairs.

"No, you're fine there. But can I help you? Or call someone?"

"I think I'm OK." I said. "My friend should be along soon and once I settle for a minute, I think I can get up." Then I realized that last statement - if the screaming pain in my right ankle was any indication - might be very false.

But I did pull myself to my feet, took a moment to bitterly regret that I'd tucked my large soda in my purse to leave both hands free for boxes, then unlocked Friend's door and went inside.

"What happened?" She asked. "Are you hurt?"

"Um, yes. I think so." I offered. I was pouring liquid out of my purse and sighed when seeing my cell phone floating in the dark cola. "Hell." I said, and hoped it would function when it dried. It does not.

I made my way over to the sofa and sat, placing my ankle up on a TV tray and realizing it wasn't hurting all that much at all.

"You could look at it." I told her, confident in her medical ability.

"Oh." She said, when I removed my sock. "That's the wrong shape. Well, let me see the other ankle." I propped it up next to the hurting one. "Oh, no." She said. "Definitely not the right shape. What's the plan?"

"What do you mean?" I asked, frowning at the huge, swollen lump on the outside of my right leg.

"Are we doing to the hospital now?"

"No. I don't go to hospitals. What do you think is wrong with it?" I continued to stare, wiggling my toes to prove I was perfectly fine.

"If my foot looked like that, I'd go to the hospital to let them x-ray it and tell me what was wrong." She advised.

"No." I said again. "I don't do that. It will get better."

So I told her to go pack boxes while I placed the ice she gave me around it. I wrote down title and author for stacks of books she gave me that she wants to be rid of. Then I laid down and winced when I realized the Advil wasn't quite killing the pain.

"I want to go home." I called down the hall where she was packing.

"You want to go the hospital?" She clarified.

"No." I repeated. "I want to go home. But you'll have to drive - I don't know that I can. Oh, and can you also go in CVS and buy me ice packs? And a new Ace bandage?"

She shook her head at my foolishness, but agreed.

"The human body is quite resilient." I told her as we made our way out to my house.

"Yes." She said mildly. "When it's young and not terribly injured."

"I'll have you know it's not even hurting now." I informed her, offended. "And I'm younger than you are! By like 6 years!" 34-28=6, I told myself with a nod, pleased I was right. Then I sent mental energy to my ankle insisting that it make itself well.

"I guess we can go to the hospital tomorrow." I sighed after making my way painfully down my short hallway.

"Go to the hospital tonight?" She clarified and I shook my head.

"I don't want to go now. I must give it time to heal itself. But I would like to walk again at some point. So I'll let them poke and wrench at it if it's not any better tomorrow."

So I am now rather comfortably settled on the couch with my feet on an ottoman. I moved my laptop charger over from its usual spot by the loveseat and asked Friend for some water and the baklava we got to go after our Greek lunch. My ankle is swollen terribly, but it doesn't hurt when I keep it still. So I'm going to try to get up again soon. Just to see if my youthful body has magically been made better from when I fell down and bruised the entire side of my ankle.

"Definitely not the right color or shape." Friend pronounced when I asked her to wrap it for me.

I think it'll be fine. Or I'll let you know how my trip to the ER goes. One or the other.

Friday, August 24, 2007


I was going for 'end' but now I have goldfish swimming through my imagination. I fear I'll never be hip.

I think my book is written. There are massive amounts of editing to be done (Friend said this morning that she read part 1 to put herself to sleep (and that it worked well) and asked if she could one day see me park my garage in my car. Friend is mean.), but I wrote words for each chapter I outlined! I think I said what I wanted to say. The second part is terribly long and made me cry in several parts, and I don't know that I feel better about that year having written it down. But I'm oddly proud that I didn't abandon the project. I will finish. I really didn't anticipate that happening.

My confidence - professionally speaking - has taken some hits this week. I was nervous about presenting my upcoming work and almost didn't go to campus the day I had my group meeting, but I fully appreciate that peer review makes work better. It's demoralizing and sucky and exhausting sometimes, but the result justifies the process, I think.

So when attempting to present to an unfamiliar audience, it was undoubtedly wise to have my department pick apart everything I was going to say. But it still sucked. I walked out feeling as though my pretty slides and my poor ego had been thoroughly attacked. Each figure that I remake reminds me that I did it wrong the first time. But I think I've completed the necessary revisions and I readily admit it's much better now than it was before. I won't hear those particular questions, which leaves the door open for new critiques I can use to make the work better still. But it leaves me feeling sad that I didn't do better on my own.

The paper I worked and worked and worked on was mentioned when I spoke to Dr. Icing today. "Is it..." He trailed off and I braced myself. "Do you think it overlaps with what you gave Penguin?"

"I don't." I offered. There is one paragraph in common and it's based upon the results I didn't create. Otherwise, it's refocused and reformatted, much more intensive in my area and quite lovely. But, upon closer examination, the results are sort of the same in one aspect, though there are 3 more novel pieces of information. I think it's different. But I also want to think it's different. So I'll speak to Boss about it and, if need be, address Dr. Icing's concerns more aggressively. Given that the man recruited me with the promise of patients and has provided one (1, uno, a single, solitary human being!) over the span of two years, I find myself less than eager to please.

"Why do you lie?" I was tempted to ask when he noted that my projects were a priority for him and his team. "They obviously are not as you ignore the many emails I send. Which is OK - they don't have to be a priority. I know you're very busy and do important stuff. I respect that. But don't say crap you don't mean! I hate it when men say things they know are false and expect that because they're important and charming that I'll just buy it! I wrote a book about this very problem and I'm done dealing with you people and your promises that don't pan out!"

I obviously did not say anything other than "yes." and "of course." I require my salary and I like my job and I'm fond of Dr. Icing. I just don't trust him anymore. Which is a good way to know that it's time to leave an institution.

In my quest to do just that, I have applied for two jobs thus far based on location. I didn't really expect to hear about the first. I currently make more money in an area with a considerably lower cost of living. So I was OK with not being invited to interview. But this most recent job... Oh, I want it. I want that location, I want that place in industry, I want to learn some of the work. And I am - in some respects - very qualified. Yet there is one area in which I'm iffy and that's fair to point out. But I still wanted to hear something this week. Having applied on Wednesday, I wanted them to pounce on my CV and beg me to work for them. I would graciously accept, of course, and all would be well.

So while taken individually, the small hits would be tolerable. But the talk and the poster and the paper and the job... I'm feeling a bit down. And I vividly remember the feeling from interviewing before. Sighing with sadness that I wasn't good enough for some position I wanted. Feeling wounded from members of my own group making detailed suggestions on my interview talk, though they were picky because they wanted me to do well.

Poor me, right? So I'll edit my book and help Friend pack up all her belongings to move across town and try to fix my problems again next week.

And maybe I should get a couple goldfish... Would Sprout attack the tank?

Thursday, August 23, 2007


I am, no surprise, writing my book and editing my poster and talk. The book because the poster and talk are bumming me out and I'm nearly finished drafting the book chapters! I have maybe 3 left to write before I start to edit and see if anything makes sense.

I spent 80 minutes or so presenting the poster and talk to my group while they ate pizza and ripped all that I know to shreds. I was a sad plankton and due to Friend's penchant for SpongeBob, I told her today that I belonged in a crabby patty where I couldn't hurt anyone with my mistaken belief that I can actually do science.

"Has the poster been printed yet?" Someone asked after everyone had viewed its projection on the large screen for a moment.

"Nope." I said. "If you see anything that needs to be changed, go ahead." I turned over the sheet of paper - the first of 3 that I'd use - after 15 minutes of 'change this,' 'that's not right,' 'that sounds weird,' and 'that looks funny.' It's not even that big a poster! I can't remember anything that those feeder fish left alone!

It took 30 minutes and 3 tries for me to close that window. Then I started on my talk - 12 slides. I think the first 2 made it without being attacked. Maybe my group was tired after the poster? But the rest of the talk was summarily critiqued as I wrote down corrections as fast as I could take notes. I'm re-doing nearly all the figures. And text. And legends. It turns out that the slides I'd spent weeks making were, how shall I say it, not so good.

So I'm busy doing that as well as summarizing into pseudo-fictional chapters my decent into depression. It's super fun.

But it is nearly complete. So there's hope that tomorrow will be better.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What I would have done differently

An essay by Katie, a post-doc in beginning her third year of a three year fellowship

When finding myself in a hole, I chose not to climb out and run away, but to dig deeper. After the debacle of my defense experience, I was desperate to leave grad school, sans diploma that currently resides in a silver frame on my mantle, and go somewhere to prove that I was worthwhile and smart and useful. The driving force in my life was twofold.

I wanted a house and a salary that meant I could afford one. And I wanted, craved, coveted publications.

Tired of mentoring projects and doing science that didn’t work well enough to be written up, I wanted certainty in results so that I could write words, check references and put lines on my CV. If papers were the way to measure my worth as a scientist, I would have as many as I could grab with my greedy little hands.

I therefore am doing a post-doc in the field which occupied my graduate study. I was familiar with the literature and it was straightforward to add new lines of research to the ones I already knew. The project for Quiet Mentor on which I’m giving a talk is based upon pieces of work I’d done in grad school. They’re melded differently and are done in a new population, but I didn’t feel overwhelmed by setting it up or making it work. The techniques and methods were not new so I was just doing my job. (For how I deal with novel work, recall how I panicked over writing my book chapter. That was not good.)

In terms of wishing I’d done something new and different, diverging from this particular path of study, I don’t know that I regret my choices. Certainly there are benefits to going that route, but I have learned and accomplished enough to be pleased with what I’ve done so far.

When I look back and sigh, therefore, it’s over all the time I wasted rather than all the decisions I made.

When working in a large institution doing a highly collaborative project, there have been delays. Weeks turn to months where I wait for IRB approval, hope for patients to be recruited, worry over supplies that have not been delivered. In grad school, all of this was taken care of. Advisor handled the details so we could focus on work. Computer problems, scheduling errors, patient recruitment? We had people who did that and a quick email to the appropriate resource would usually lead to some solution. I learned that these people were sometimes busy and that to bother them was to annoy them, so I waited patiently until they had time to deal with me.

Here, I am part of a bustling department that has a huge focus on writing grants. Everyone is writing something or meeting to plan the next submission. I don’t begrudge them this effort and, in truth, if I were to list a skill I’ve developed since arriving here, I’d say my writing has improved tremendously. I finished documents from my graduate work, publishing everything I had to offer. Something clicked and I’m now able to organize and explain where before I would flounder and become unbearably wordy and dense. But the writing process - for grants or papers - can be a slow one. Putting text on screens, printing a document, handing it over and waiting for someone to tell you what he thinks.

I have likely spent more time waiting than I have working, which explains my bipolar habits. When there is stuff to do, I do it to the exclusion of all else. When there is nothing, I now have data with which to play, but in the beginning, there was nothing to do. I was painfully bored and instead of insisting someone give me work, I escaped into blogs. I read and I wrote, spending hours of each day putting words together to tell some random story that I wanted to remember for some reason. The problem is that I don’t think I could even make my way through my archives. There’s simply too much text describing the tiny triumphs and crushing disappointments that somehow accumulate over years.

If I had exhibited a bit of the dedication I have for this endeavor to the work I’m here to do, I think I would have pushed documents through the processes faster. Insisted upon meetings, wheedled for resources, learned more.

There’s a line, of course, that varies across institutions and departments. How hard one should push depends on a number of factors, not the least of which is that I’m a young woman in a department of older men. I often come across as whiny or shrill when I’m simply trying to obtain what I need. I have no idea how to avoid this perception and am unsure if it's me or the department, though I think it's a mixture of the two.

“Jill,” I wrote the other day, “I can’t get access to the patient database and people have stopped answering email and returning calls.” (Lesson 1: Call. It appears to be harder to ignore voice mail that the electronic variety. But it wasn't working for me here.) “Is there any chance you can find me another route to get this problem solved?”

I know she’s busy, but I need help and she has access to resources of which I’m unfamiliar. My innate hesitation to bother people has lost hours of productivity though, so I’m now more likely to sic Jill on those who ignore me rather than waiting in endless patience and whining about it on my blog.

I made an apologetic face when I peeked in Tim’s door and found him on the phone. I went back to my office and knew he’d find me when he finished.

“You rang?” He asked, poking his head in moments later.

“I need your computer to pull some files.” I informed him.

“Sure.” He said easily. I like Tim a lot. But then he went to leave. And so I would have been lost as to when this was supposed to happen. In the past, I would have remained quiet, wondering what I missed and how I should know the expected time of my arrival. I would have gone home early, feeling inadequate and stupid for not being able to do a simple task.

“Tim?” I called this time. “When?” He shrugged in response, so I asked if now would work.

“Don’t you want to each lunch?” He asked, glancing at his watch.

“Nope.” I replied. “I want those files.” I grinned at him and he said he’d be 15 minutes on his system, then would go to lunch himself.

For me, the regret is that I didn’t learn one lesson better and faster.

If I don’t know the next step, I need to ask.

If I’m walking out of a meeting without any idea as to what to do next, I need to pause before rising from my chair and say something like, “So where do we go from here? Not in general terms, but specifically. What needs to happen today?”

I now make lists, clearly map the path from one task to the next. How to collect data, how to find money, who to call for this problem, what form to fill out for this access. I’ve found there isn’t a magical way to look knowledgeable and capable in these situations. I just have to ask.

Post-docs are a renewable resource here. A sea of plankton that are noticed only when one becomes particularly tasty from good results or excellent background. So as I’m swimming around, bumping into other plankton and trying to fight the strong currents that urge me to nap more and worry less, I try to be a bit noisy.

“I need help.” I say in my tiny plankton voice, crossing my arms and being a presence for people to notice.

My confidence took a severe hit with my defense experience. It has taken time to recover. It also takes time for committees to meet or for ideas to develop. It will never be quick and easy with me, I fear. Yet what I tell grad students is to know the next step. If you don’t know where to focus your immediate energy, find someone who can tell you. The identification of resources and their subsequent utilization has been a continuing source of awe for me. I regret that I didn’t do that sooner.

The papers I so wanted have yet to get written, though I have made small strides at adding to my CV. We’ll see if I can figure something out in the next year. If not, the hope is that I can do better the next time around.

Monday, August 20, 2007

So Very Tired

My heels are smooth! I purchased a heel-pumicey device from Bath and Body Works in a state of utter exhaustion this afternoon. I love their hand soap and wanted to take advantage of the continuing sale. Since my feet are in terrible shape, I decided I would try to remove a bit of the dead skin from them. It worked beautifully and I'm quite pleased. The rest of the day was, however, hit or miss.

"I have decided," I told Friend this morning, "that I wish to move the armchair out of the living room and put the schefflara in that window. Since it decided it was a tree, it has become too large for its spot in the kitchen."

"Well, that won't fit." I declared after trying to shove the chair down the hall and seeing parts of it hit both walls. I drug the heavy piece toward the front door and attempted to shove it out in the hot morning, but it wouldn't fit there either.

"You're going to have to help." I told Friend.

"I'm drinking coffee." She groused. "And I don't have on pants." I glanced at her nightshirt and deemed her decent enough to move furniture and insisted she rise from my couch - now on a different wall than it was the day before - and help me lift and move the chair out of my home. She pointed and gestured and lifted, returning to the living room after we deposited the chair outside the garage. I later made her return to help me get it inside the garage. I was wrong when I thought I could do it alone.

Pro: I love the new living room layout. It was time for a change and I'm pleased.
Con: "Thanks for helping me move that chair! I owe you."

She mistakenly interpreted my desire to avoid campus for another day as a wish to run errands all over hell and back in search of items she required. This interpretation was incorrect. Yet I recalled making her lift heavy items before she was completely awake and acquiesced to a trip to Kohl's to purchase jeans and towels, neither of which I wanted. I did find a couple of tops in the clearance section, and a skirt and watch on sale. But I soon ran out of patience with her multiple trips to the dressing room and countless pairs of jeans, announced my boredom and sighed until we were finally able to leave.

Then we went to WalMart, where I thought we would stay until the end of time. I'm lucky to have escaped alive. I don't even remember what I bought.

I demanded lunch at that point. I was very cranky and needed sweet tea. I was driving so turned in a parking lot and we found sandwiches, salads and drinks. Then we went to Bed, Bath and Beyond in a continuing quest for a waterproof mattress pad. (Something about cats and vomit and protecting the bed. I don't know.) I found DVDs that I wanted - one shows a beach and makes wave sounds. I want to see if it helps me sleep. I'll let you know. But I was thwarted in my search for the sights and sounds of water on a disc and became despondent when I wandered the brightly lit aisles, finding nothing on which to use my coupons. I rallied when I found the rack of DVDs, but the energy failed me when Friend insisted we go to the mall to look at more bedding.

"No." I said firmly. "I'm tired and cranky and my head hurts. No more shopping."

"But we're here!" She insisted. "The mall is right over there and I'll only have to look in Macy's. Maybe Dillards. And you could get your hand soap!"

"You hate me." I muttered as I followed her into Macy's a few moments later. "You hate me and you hate icing - it's melting on my WalMart cupcakes as we shop. What kind of monster hates me and icing?!"

She laughed and continued on, frowning over the small selection and deeming Dillards necessary. "I'm going to kill you." I threatened. "Perhaps stab you with a plastic fork. I can't believe you're making me walk more." The place where the straps of my flip flops attached to the bottom was rubbing a raw spot on each foot. My legs were achy from the walking and carrying. I wanted a nap. I missed home. I wanted to check my email.

I met the news that they had nothing of interest at Dillards with a glare. I picked out soap on sale and grabbed a scrapey-foot device because I was too tired to debate whether it would work well or not.

Perhaps moved by pity - but more likely deciding it was the best deal - Friend deigned to purchase her mattress pad at Macy's.

"You won't believe it." She said and I closed my eyes upon realizing they didn't have the right size.

"It's like a nightmare." I moaned. "And I can't wake up. I just want to go home."

"We could try Target." She mused once we were back in the car loaded with items, but still missing one thing on her list. I passed the parking lot without even considering pulling in.

"There's another Macy's on the way home." I sighed. "I must be an idiot, but I'll take you there. Then I'm going home."

"If we're there," she nodded, "then we might as well go to Verizon across the street!"

I ignored her then and did it again when we emerged with a mattress pad. Happily skipping Verizon, I did stop to replenish the alcohol supply. I need peach schnapps and triple sec to go with my mango soda. Pleased that I rarely buy alcohol - it's rather expensive - we came home to unload all that stuff while Friend did laundry since her water is off indefinitely while they fix a water main.

I am the beaten shell of a shopper. My stamina was crushed and I wanted nothing more than to rest. Work is much easier, frankly, and I look forward to sitting in my office - perhaps in my pretty new outfit - tomorrow.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Notes: Car, Carpet and Other Things

"We'll come up with a good number." Butch said before he disappeared into his general manager office with the child salesguy and his mentor salesguy, who may or may not have been the one who left the note on my car. I didn't really catch his name for sure. "Then you can sign a deal or we'll walk away as friends."

I turned to Friend in the moment when they left us alone. I had the bad habit of saying, "We've been talking and I don't think..." when the salesmen returned to the table and they had quickly decided to try to keep Friend's unimpressed influence to a minimum. She was very quiet through the process, sitting unsmiling while I made friends with the young man they gave me to start.

"I hate that." She said at one point when he left. "Let's build a relationship! Since we have so much in common! 'I have a gmail account too,' he says. 'My mom does that. My wife has one of those. I feel the same way.'" She shook her head.

"Oh, am I supposed to feel a bond with him now?" She nodded in response.

"I don't feel badly for you." I informed him when he returned. "Young salespeople who work in the heat ended up in a gnat infestation the last time I fell for it. So I'm getting better at saying no."

Some two hours after we arrived, they came back with numbers. $10,995 difference and I quickly shook my head. "Look," I said, "I understand your position. My car is a 2001 with nearly 94,000 miles. The only car I'm even vaguely interested in is a 2006 with less than 10,000 miles. But my car's accessories are far better and I don't have problems with it. I haven't ever had a car payment and am not eager to experience that unless I really love the car. And I don't love the car nearly that much."

They kept pressuring me to name a number, name a monthly payment, write something down, sign here dammit! I continued to shrug and started feeling as unimpressed as Friend.

"We have a buyer for your car so we're willing to give you an excellent deal. $3000 is probably more than it's worth."

"Probably." I agreed easily.

"What did you say it blue book was?" Friend prodded, attempting to speed the process along as she kept an eye out the window to keep track of my car so we could escape. I'd given them the spare keys and felt good about leaving anytime.

"Over 5." I said. "Private seller." The salesmen shook their heads.

Butch returned with a final offer of $199.70/month for 75 months. "That's a lot of months." Friend offered, then lapsed into silence while I frowned at the paper.

"I don't like the car that much." I said. "But I'll call my dad just in case."

"No." He said immediately. "They had that car for $12,500 online and it wasn't really worth that. Marking it up to $14 is ridiculous. Walk away. They're trying to, rip you off."

I thanked him and smiled when Butch returned from his office.

"We're done." I chirped after shaking my head at young salesguy. He smiled and nodded.

"Wonderful!" Butch said, chest puffing out in his pale peach polo shirt. "We have a deal!"

"We're walking away friends." I corrected him and he scowled at me. As Friend and I finally drove out of the parking lot, she told me I wasn't getting invited to the barbeque at Butch's house this weekend.

"I don't think he meant it about being friends." She said and I nodded with relief and not having done something I'd regret. So my car sits in its garage, washed, vacuumed and with no problems at all.


"I don't feel like this is working!" I complained to Friend as I went to steam the carpet with Cousin's cleaner. "Nothing gets hot or wet, so the steam part appears to be broken!" She moved down the hall to help and pressed the trigger located on the handle.

"Water's coming out." I announced, bemused.

"So what was wrong?" She asked, not comprehending my confusion.

"No water came out before." I told her, sheepish.

"Did you turn it on?" She asked and I was momentarily offended.

"Of course I turned it on! I just...didn't know you had to use the trigger. I thought the machine just knew I wanted water."

She shook her head, sighed and returned to her work. I happily cleaned carpet, exclaiming over the dirty water I flushed as I moved through the house, picking up stray clumps of pet hair the cleaner left in small patches. It's quite fun, but I got tired. I'll do more tomorrow now that I know how to work the carpet cleaner.


I finished my slides for my upcoming talk. I also made plane reservations. I am not yet nervous and hope that lasts. The talk is quite pretty.

There's a party across the street. It's very loud and Chienne is tempted to bark at them for a really long time. It does not help. We're not really a party neighborhood. They moved in recently and I hope they shut up soon.

Regina Spektor was recently added to my iPod, based upon Carrie's recommendation. I love that album (Begin to Hope). Highly recommend it.


I went to bed last night in a mango soda/peach schnapps fog. While I was drifting to sleep, I thought of three things I wanted to fix in my book. I vividly remember thinking 2 things: 1) They were good ideas and would help the flow considerably. 2) I was highly unlikely to remember what they were.

I woke up last night around 3, unable to sleep. But I decided to read blogs instead of writing anything myself. I showered and went back to bed around 4. When 8:30 this morning found me putting in a load of laundry and picking up clutter while coffee brewed, I tried to jog my memory for even one of those ideas I had.

In college, I had an unfortunate habit of being almost asleep then rising with the certainty that the solution to a physics problem had magically come to me. I was never right. I would get up and write down some nonsense, stare at it with bewilderment, then try to relax back into sleep. So I stopped getting up to act on my strokes of sleepy genius.

But I did remember one thing I wanted to change and quickly added the appropriate paragraphs where I thought they should go. I nodded in satisfaction as I read it back - it worked well. So I struggled to remember my last 2 ideas, realized one of them would work, but not how I thought and still can't get the third back. I'm working under the assumption that it wasn't worthwhile.

In the event that it was something cool, I'm getting sleepy again. Perhaps it will come back to me tonight.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Letters work.

The president and service manager of my pest control company arrived yesterday while I was at work. They believe the gnat infestation was unrelated to their products, but "wanted to keep me as a customer not because I was contractually obligated but because they provided excellent services." After a considerable amount of talking (and once when I interrupted him because he was "irritating me by being condescending"), I told them I'd leave the back door unlocked and treats for Chienne on the table so they could come look around.

"We're 99% sure the gnats are coming from your potted plants." He told me yesterday when he and the service manager left the house. "We set off some small fogging treatments that wouldn't hurt the dog to knock down the population, but the eggs could still be in the soil. I'd like you to repot those plants and call is in a week if you still see bugs. We can have you all leave the house and do a more intensive treatment then."

So I thanked him, not mentioning that I thought this should have happened weeks ago and without many rounds of phone tag and a letter to cancel service, and went to Target to obtain, among other things, potting soil. As I was putting it in my cart, I killed one of the swarm of gnats flying around it. So I placed it back on the shelf and purchased two bottles of insect killer for potted plants instead. After a liberal application last night, I hope the problem is solved.

I have yet to see a single gnat. None greeted me when I made morning coffee. I didn't slap my hands together at all when working at the laptop last night. Oh, I hope they're gone. I really, really, really hope they're gone.


"I wanted to tell you," VIMD noted as she pulled the first set of data up to analyze, "that I'd make sure your name was on any future papers or abstracts from this work."

I blinked at her in surprise and stuttered some response about how I had learned and appreciated working with her and that I knew she'd tried before to have my name added to an author list. I finished by saying I didn't know how much control she'd have over these situations. She just gave me a look in response.

"I hadn't thought about it much, but I realized this wasn't a summer job for you. We're not paying you anything like we were that guy before you - what was his name again?" I told her and she nodded. "So if you're not getting financial credit, you absolutely need to get scientific credit. That's just ridiculous otherwise. If they don't have room for two names on something, they can take mine off and add yours instead."

I blinked in surprise again. Boss must have spoken to her, I decided, which was not my intention. I also have a way of dealing with VIMD that has developed over time. I'm less accommodating than I can be, which had oddly brought about a greater respect on her part. Since I hadn't been receiving any credit for this work, I guarded my time. I worked around her schedule, of course, but didn't mind vetoing meeting times that would inconvenience me. She sometimes waited a day to get a response to email. All of this benefited our relationship, I think, but is something I never would have done had I known she'd fight an authorship battle for me.

So I stumbled yesterday, shoved out of my normal comfort zone with her by this shift in how I viewed the situation. This is a large clinical trial in a drug development study. A paper, if and when they publish it, would be huge on my CV. A reason to work at an institution such as my current one, populated by leaders in the field such as VIMD. I still don't know that it will work out - the company hedged when she requested it, saying "She'd try her best." But I hope that VIMD throws her weight around enough to get my name on it. The thought that she knows it would be the right thing to do soothes me regardless.

Boss also sent an email noting he was thinking of submitting an R01 in the near future on his pet project. He'd like me to take a lead role in collaborating with him and to first author the publications resulting from the preliminary data. It will be a huge amount of work, but I'm rather excited about it. Yay for being honest with people!

Oh, and as a note to the dear commenters on the last post - each of which I appreciated a lot when I was still shaky with nerves yesterday, I don't think it was particularly brave, much as I'm flattered at the thought. Boss continued to nudge me on the K99 and I knew I'd either have to build an invisibility cloak to move about the hallways, actually write the thing I didn't want to write or tell him something. The truth, once I started the email, just kind of came out. And I knew he'd be OK with it - discomfort was the worst case scenario. He really is a dear man.


The last letter worked for someone else and against me, I fear, but I'll mention it regardless. On Tuesday, I think, I started my car in the insane heat and frowned when I saw a note tucked under a windshield wiper. Written on a neatly torn corner of a brown paper lunchbag, it said, "I NEED THIS CAR. Please call me A.S.A.P." Then it listed a name and phone number written in neat print. Since I do not drive a car people want, let alone need, and said car was dirty inside and out and approaching 100,000 miles, I was more than a bit confused. I decided he was joking and didn't call back.

Yet I was curious, as was Dad when I told him, so I was ordered to call him from work so he didn't have my cell phone number. "Don't tell him where you live." Dad insisted and I rolled my eyes.

I left a message for Trey - that's his name - yesterday morning and happened to be at my desk when he called back. He works at a dealership downtown and there's a newer model of my car in stock that someone wants but can't afford and there's some complicated plan that Trey has worked out to use my car in a scheme to get this guy the car he really wants. I didn't follow it at all.

"I can," he concluded, "give you more than you'd ever get for it otherwise." And so - since I really don't like my car at all - I agreed to meet him this morning to talk. I don't have a car payment now and it's a long walk to work. I don't know that I could do it in a day - it would take several hours at least. And it's very hot outside. Yet I called Dad and we both looked at the selection of cars they had online and he told me what I was looking for in terms of value from my current car.

"I wouldn't be sad to see you get rid of it." He began. "It's getting old and something could go wrong with it soon."

"But," he decided quickly afterward, "it runs fine and you don't have a car payment now. There's nothing wrong with that car."

"I know, Dad." I said, sweating profusely having just carted all the papers and water bottles from the car and vacuuming the front seats after Friend did the back.

He continued to debate with himself while he enjoyed his ability to look at the cars online. He selected the only one that had looked interesting to me and listed the features he noted. I nodded and said I'd call him tomorrow when he got off work. So I soon get to go wash my car before going to show it off to the car dealer. It's an odd position to have been recruited in this way - Friend says it's nearly disturbing - in that I don't really need to get rid of my car, nor am I in love with any of the vehicles they have on the lot.

So we'll see what happens.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Written and sent this morning in response to another of Boss's requests for the most recent draft of my K99 application he wants to put in again in November. And now I feel sick and will likely continue to avoid poor Boss.


I don't want to resubmit it. I know we've talked about this before and I do understand your points, but I want to find another job and leave by next August. I think that will allow time to wrap up the projects that can be completed and to put things in a position for someone else to take over.

From a personal standpoint, as my parents get older and my brother and his wife are getting ready for their second daughter, I feel the need to be closer to my family. It wasn't possible to be there for Mom's surgery and while I was profoundly grateful to take the time and visit during her recovery, I hate not being able to pop in for a weekend visit without pretty extensive petsitting and driving plans. I haven't made many friends here, nor am I overly involved with my church. I just can't seem to settle in, so I feel it's time to take steps to move on.

I think Joe's leadership in [field] is strong, but we don't get along well. It's understandable after my quitting his project when I decided didn't like small animal work, but I still feel tense when I'm around him. The [Joe's] group is wonderful and I applaud his building an atmosphere of collaboration, but I feel increasingly isolated within that group. Apart from Joe, I'm doing the only clinical projects and feel the interest in them is marginal at best. I don't like asking SPB for equipment time - I know it's my perception, but it feels demoralizing. Though I realize the grant would provide support for my salary in the mentored phase, there would not be funding for experiment time, which means I'd be facing the same problems with lack of resources for 2 more years. As the den of polar bears moves increasingly to a pay-as-you-go system - with regards to equipment time as well as the computer lab they're building - I just don't feel comfortable doing work here without a bunch of money to pay for what I need. In addition, even for projects that Quiet Mentor will fund, Calendar Queen is openly hostile when I request time or need to accommodate patient preferences in scheduling. I spent the weekend feeling sick because I couldn't figure out what to tell my patient on Monday because Calendar Queen stopped responding to my email. In addition, despite considerable prodding, Dr. Icing isn't recruiting patients. So I have decreasing hope that I'll be able to do much with the icing project. While these certainly aren't insurmountable hurdles for some, they're not ones I have been able to tackle thus far and I don't want to keep feeling inferior because my progress has been slow.

From a scientific standpoint, [reasons I've recently learned that indicate our methods might work, but applied to a different different goal. And I'm not sure how exactly to do that.] So I'm not sure the grant should be funded, though the training component is impressive and could be done exquisitely well here. I just don't think it's right for me. And I don't want to ask people to contribute to something I'd likely turn down even if it got funded.

I would rather focus my efforts on publications and talks to build my CV. The work with VIMD is unlikely to result in any recognition for me, which is truly disappointing when considering the time I've spent on it, but I can do it for another year. I mentioned I'm worried about patient recruitment from Dr. Icing though I'm hopeful that a publication can result from the work I've done in Quiet Mentor's patients. I'd love to get the [Boss's pet project] work up and running on the new system, but have yet to hear about development time we might receive. In short, I think [current institution] is a tremendous learning environment and do enjoy being here a great deal, despite some problems I mentioned. I'm happy with my office and working with Ken. I love and deeply respect the [department] faculty members and feel completely comfortable asking questions and taking suggestions from all of you. I'm looking forward to the next year and hope we can do some important work. But I don't plan to be here past that and don't want to take time that could be devoted to someone who will continue to build the program after I leave.

We can definitely talk if you'd like, but I found I wasn't eager to say all of this out loud.

Thanks, Katie

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

My Report

Today on my job shadowing assignment, I was in a lab with Friend. I received strange looks while walking across campus to help her because I was holding a sweatshirt in 100 degree weather. I wanted to tell them I was going to a place called a “cold room” where I would “break cells” or some such thing. But I did not.

Once I arrived, her labmate said I was crazy. He looked nice, so I decided to agree with his assessment. I was then told I could help “thaw cells” by holding 8 plastic tubes with blue lids in a pretty red bowl with water running in it. Friend adjusted the temperature and instructed me to keep the bottom parts submerged. Since they were mostly filled with air, they did not want to stay submerged.

While attempting to keep things from floating, I examined myself in the reflective surface of the paper towel holder. I felt my glasses slip down my nose. I bent down to rest my elbows on the sink to try to be more comfortable. I switched my weight from foot to foot. While doing that, one of the tubes broke free of my grip and floated away on a sea of tap water. When the running water hit it, some splashed on my glasses. Then I had to put 4 tubes back in the Styrofoam holder so I could capture the escaped one. After this happened, I learned I should pay more attention to my work.

I also learned the cold room is, in fact, pretty cold. Especially when working with ice and water. I learned how to set a timer and how to turn on blender-looking devices. Though I made some mistakes, Friend never yelled at me. I was tired when I left two hours after I arrived but Friend said something about “step 1 of 12” and “16 hour day.” So I also learned I do not want Friend’s job.

When I got back to my desk, I pushed buttons and typed words, which is really much easier (and can be performed in comfortable temperatures). Then I left early to get a massage. I have a new appreciation of my life.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

To Do

Data takes a long time to process and often requires a ride on the USB drive to use different programs on separate machines. While files were moving or slowly evolving into a more useful form, I decided to solve some problems. Several emails I've sent multiple times are repeatedly ignored. Yet when I recall said problems in the middle of the night and worry, I send email. Then forget about it until the next time I'm trying to fall asleep and sit up to fret again.

I need access to a database. I finally finagled the right person and got the appropriate permissions and signed the form someone sent. Someone has ignored all communication since then. I now have a signed form and no access to the database. Not much progress. Yet other than wandering the halls, yelling "Does anyone want this form? Hello? I'll trade you a form for a password! Please?" I don't know what to do from here. So I called someone again and left a voice mail. Problem duration: 6 months +. Solution thus far: Unsatisfactory. Proposed Fix: Call again Thursday. And every other day until someone gives me what I want.

I have a project - my favorite - that is sorely neglected. I have enrolled very few patients so each is precious to me. Therefore, when I realized today that I likely missed a follow-up opportunity because someone else ignored many of my emails for the past weeks. I realized I could use a different source, and he confirmed the patient had returned last week. Due to long commute times and a poor prognosis, I'm unsure as to whether said patient would return to see me. I'm annoyed and disappointed. Problem duration: 6 weeks. Solution thus far: Bad, bad, bad. Someone else ignored me and will now ruin this patient in terms of my study or inconvenience him if he returns. Proposed fix: I called and left a message requesting the patient call me and I have an idea on how to make this work if he'll return. If not, I'll deal.

I required a certain kit and asked Jill to place an order long ago. I don't often order supplies, so I wasn't sure how long this would take. Plus, I kept forgetting about it. I finally remembered to ask Jill today and she wanted an email to remind her. She found me this afternoon and announced they hadn't put a name or department on the address label so it was returned once delivered. She was "livid and gave those people a good talking to." Problem duration: 2 months. Solution thus far: Lovely. Don't cross Jill. The kit should be here in 7 days and I am to notify her if it does not so she can call and scold them sternly again.

I have several information and disclosure forms to fax for an upcoming conference at which I will present. I obtained the long distance code, proceeded to the fax and tried to send my pages. I failed - I'm never good with fax machines. I asked someone for help and tried their suggestions. Failed again. Problem duration: More minutes than I will admit. Solution so far: No faxing for me. Proposed solution: Feeling stupid and a bit sad, I decided to scan them in at home and email a pdf. I'll go do that momentarily.

My cell phone doesn't work right. I can't use any headsets and expect anything better than a vague idea that someone might be at the other end of the line. I can only talk with my left ear unless I want to hear a disconcerting echo. I don't have a land line. I don't like talking on the phone but it'd be nice to have some decent way of doing so. Problem duration: 2 months+. Solution thus far: Talk with phone exclusively on the left side. Be irritated. Proposed solution: Visit Verizon store and have them fix my problem somehow.

The gnats appear to be bigger in size but smaller in number. I hope they have stopped reproducing. I have not yet heard from the pest people. Problem duration: 1 month. Solution thus far: Multiple phone calls, letter demanding refund. Proposed solution: Wait, then attack again.

Chienne and Sprout both need physicals. I need to schedule those. I should get my eyes checked. I despise the Focus contacts for astigmatism. Evil, uncomfortable suckers. I need to weed my flowerbeds, but it's so darn hot all the time. I also have been avoiding discussing something with Boss about my leaving. He wants to resubmit the grant and I will refuse - I just don't want to be here anymore. Which means I need to start contacting folks in industry that I know. I also want to steam clean my carpets. I have a device that does it - I just need to refill it and push it around. Yet I avoid doing so like the plague.

I obviously avoid a lot of problems, which is why my list could be much longer. But I am sleepy and have promised Friend to help her with some experiment tomorrow morning between running more code in my office. So I'll rest and see if I can come up with something less whiny tomorrow.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Queen and I

“Thank you.” A woman with whom I spent a couple of hours this afternoon said when I left her to wait for the valets to fetch her car. “You’ve been very kind.”

Data collection events are a big deal for me. I can analyze for months based upon an hour-long experiment. For what I do - and for various reasons - data collection events are few and far between. While painless, it is inconvenient for patients to participate in my studies. The results are not particularly helpful for my subjects, so I try to make the experience as easy as possible for them.

When attempting to abide by any and all scheduling wishes my subjects might have, I could be a bit annoying to Calendar Queen. Instead of an open calendar placed online for all to update and use, there is a website containing some semblance of dates and times when the equipment might be in use. A single person controls the system - she is the queen - and all who want the equipment must go through her, bowing and scraping to remain in her good graces.

This is difficult.

I am not, however, a difficult person. Well, I can be, actually, but I try to be polite and sweet and accommodating in my professional life. If I need something that is difficult, I take care to explain the reasons for why my request is late or unusual. Plus, I have spent a great deal of time and energy obtaining funding for the time to use said equipment. I’m not asking for favors. I want to use the money I have so I can get data. And I need to reserve times that work for my patients, though they don’t come along all that often.

Two weeks ago, I reserved a time for a data collection event. It was to be tomorrow.

When I called to confirm, the patient asked - for various valid reasons - if we could move the time. Having failed in my attempts to meet with this person for more than a month, I said I would absolutely work something out.

At which time, I twisted my face in expected displeasure and wrote to Calendar Queen.

Your Highness, I typed, I noticed that the calendar is free for several time slots next week. My patient - scheduled on Tuesday morning - requested a different time. Before I offered her the options, I wanted to check with you to see if the calendar is up to date and to see if you had any times that you thought would work particularly well.

With a final thank you, I closed the email and waited. And waited. And waited.

She finally responded and noted that my study “frustrates her greatly” and that she’d rather not be involved at all. Therefore, she could move the experiment - only to this new time she selected.

I sighed. I know my study frustrates her greatly. My life is appropriately miserable when I have to deal with her because of this. I don’t understand the problem though! I was told to use this specific equipment. I obtained money and authorization and jumped through all the right hoops. I can’t figure out exactly how I offended her, but I did. And now I must suffer.

I obediently called my patient and tried to gently nudge her toward the time the queen had allowed us. She requested a time this afternoon instead, and noting that it remained open on the online calendar - which may or may not be correct - I said that I would ask and we made tentative plans to meet.

I braced myself once again and sent another email to the queen. I again explained the situation - schedule restraints, treatment protocols, patient preference and the likelihood that I would end up missing this data completely if I didn’t get it soon - and reminded her that the study was fully funded.

Repeat waiting process.

After I’d left for the weekend - unsure as to whether she’d reply or not - I arrived home to a terse email refusing my request.

I frowned and immediately replied - just before 5 on a Friday afternoon - that I didn’t understand the reasons behind my plan being rejected and I rather needed an alternate solution.

Last night, I was very anxious over the fact that I had no plan for this week. I was afraid to watch the precious data slip away in a wind of Queen’s whims to screw with my head. After much whining to Friend about how I didn’t know what to tell my patient or how to prepare or what might need to be done tomorrow or Tuesday or later this week or never, I was a touch upset.

Before I went to sleep, I wrote email.

Hi again, Queen, I wrote, gritting my teeth with the effort of being polite. I have considered it more carefully and have decided that I need this data as part of the follow-up study I’m proposing. Therefore, if I do not obtain this data, the initial information is rather useless. I hate to let Important Scientist know that I was unable to complete the project as he requested when providing funding. For reasons previously outlined, it is vital that we collect data this week. I have spoken at length to the patient and she can make time to meet me tomorrow (Monday) afternoon or Wednesday in the late afternoon. I therefore require the slot that appears to be free on the calendar or will need someone to offer a later experiment than is normally offered.

I am, I concluded, very aware this study frustrates you greatly and wish that were different. However, it doesn’t change what I’m trying to do here.

This morning she replied that I could perform my data collection event today.

So my day was spent in a bundle of nerves, trying frantically to prepare and feeling my mind spin worries and scenarios and ways I could screw this up. I was also very aware that I had worsened what was already an uncomfortable situation.

Everything went well. My patient did beautifully and I was thrilled with the quality of data, though I’ll look more closely tomorrow as I start to figure out how to organize it and mine information.

But I hate that it’s so hard to organize. That instead of feeling supported and able to excel, I feel squashed and at the mercy of people who are profoundly unhappy anyway. The spreading of misery appears to be an epidemic and for every three people I pass who make me smile without thinking - they’re smart and lovely and I enjoy seeing them - there is one for whom I must withhold a scowl until they pass me and my face can assume the expression of annoyance it so desperately wants to make. (My fraction could be off. I'm a bit tipsy.)

Calendar Queen is actually a valuable resource. She’s incredibly knowledgeable. But unless I am one of the favored few - which I am decidedly not - I have no access to her expertise or the equipment. And that makes my job nearly impossible at times. The stress I feel in response to this situation - I am a planner! I need to plan! - means that my fit here is not good.

That Boss’s solution is “to make better friends” with Calendar Queen frustrates me even more.
But. I have lived to fight another day. There are mango drinks with vodka tonight and I grow sleepy as I care less and less of how anxious I was last night. My stomach will clench the next time I need to reserve time to collect data, but I will remind myself that I’m already watching job boards. And when I look at data and provide comparisons and give my talk, I’m sure I’ll think this all worthwhile.

But for tonight, the vodka really does help.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


I am sorry to report that the plan has failed in spectacular fashion.

Well, I did put part 1 away upon its completion. Mostly. I reread a couple of sections and am still picking up typos and while I didn't completely agree with the only notes I have received so far, the main point is likely correct. So I'll be rewriting some sections eventually. The solution to the problem isn't immediately appealing though, so I'll leave it for later.

The real snag is that the end is absolutely clear in my mind. To the point where I can't nap for composing paragraphs or outlining chapter order. Which is ridiculous, obviously, but once started, I feel this craving to finish.

The only cause for concern is that there are some chapters that are troublesome. I'm not sure if people noticed, but I was a little crazy at this point last year. And while thinking about myself as this bright, hopeful, giddy twit that my character plays in the beginning did induce many, many cringes of embarrassment and horror ("Oh, stop talking!" I beg my heroine. "You're so incredibly silly. Please just stop!"), some of the ending chapters make me blink in worry that I was that disconnected from reality. And so some chapters make me cry a bit. I try to shy away from the emotional excesses my character seeks, so it feels weird to weep over my laptop.

Yet as I try to decide if Poppy (that's her name) is stupid or naive or deeply disturbed, I find her interesting. She's very intense and dramatic and has interesting thoughts and problems. She's completely in love and she's going to be completely crushed and she has all these valuable conversations (some of them are even with other people!). I don't always like her, but I do enjoy writing her.

I, on the other hand, am more settled. Especially when writing about my first year at work, I'm stunningly grateful that I have since figured out pieces of my career. I no longer feel lost and useless and working on some additional analysis Boss requested for the paper last night was soothing. And when the sirens outside distracted me from my book at midnight, I sat on the floor and watched a girl sit on the ground in handcuffs while the police searched her car. Adjusting the blinds so that the brightest of the flashing lights couldn't directly meet my eyes, Sprout and I peered out the side window and decided that being boring had its perks. No sitting on the ground in the hot summer with your hands chained behind your back. Nice.

So the boredom on this blog should continue here for a while. Sometimes things don't work out like I want them to.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Family update

The phone rang this morning – just 10 minutes before 8 – and I groaned as I rolled over. I woke at 4:00 and tried to read a bit. I was unable to focus and welcomed Sprout as he hopped on my lap. He purred while I petted soft, stripey fur. Lifted his chin and allowed his eyes to drift closed. For some unknown reason, he decided to escape so I walked back down the hall to bed. Chienne took her turn at cuddles and after much tossing and turning, I went back to sleep.

I allowed the call to go to voice mail and I stretched and yawned, then thought about having coffee in a new mug and sesame seed bagels with honey nut cream cheese. I like food very much.

As I started the short trip down the hall, I suddenly quickened my steps as I remembered some details. Possible callers?

1. Pest People – The gnats are never far from my thoughts, and I wondered if the letter I mailed yesterday had reached them already.
2. Friend – She has been working at incredible length of late and a draft of her paper is due to her boss today. Her car almost failed to start at 1:30 this morning when she headed home and I wondered if she was returning to campus uncharacteristically early to finish something up. If her car was uncooperative, she might need a ride.
3. Mom – Though she is much more independent and healing nicely, I still worry something will go wrong.
4. Mom, 2 – My brain finally landed on the likely correct reason. Brother had dropped Little One off last night when he and his wife went to the hospital. Baby-To-Be apparently belongs in our always early family and is seeking to be early for her arrival. I assumed Brother’s Wife was being silly when Mom called last night, but she remains in the hospital this morning.

“Little One is here and she wouldn’t sleep last night.” Mom reported grumpily. “She asked for another movie at 10:30 and I listed all the movies she’d watched so far and told her that Grandma’s knees hurt every time I had to switch DVDs and we needed to go to sleep.”

“Oh, no.” I said, sympathetic.

“I thought your dad was asleep, but he came down the hall, picked her up and found a new movie she wanted. I told her I was sorry for being mean and she cuddled with me and went to sleep.”

“Hard not to be grumpy when you’re hurting.” I said.

“Tired, Katie. I’m very tired.”

“More juice, Grandma.” I heard Little One say in the background. I smiled at the sound of her little voice and laughed when she added a “Please. Now.”

“Hold on.” Mom told both of us and she put the phone down while she stood up.

“Apple.” Little One requested. “Please.”

“I don’t have apple.” Mom told her. “Just orange and grape.”

“Grape, please.” She decided and Mom told me she was eating cashews for breakfast. I nodded and decided that would probably be fine. Then I remembered the cashew chicken take-out that is still in my fridge.

They went through the sippy cup selection procedure (the colors are important and Little One must select the right one unless you want a repeat trip to switch the cups when her little face crumples in disappointment) and I heard the word apple again.

“I don’t have apple.” Mom said with an edge in her voice. “Orange or grape.”

I allowed her to finish before asking after Brother.

“Brother’s Wife should go home today. They’re putting her on pills to stop the contractions and bed rest for the next two weeks. They’ll deliver after that but they don’t want Baby-To-Be to be a preemie. Something about the Neonatal Intensive – What, Little One?”

They had a brief discussion about television programs before Mom returned to the call.

“What was I saying?” She asked.

“Brother’s Wife goes home tomorrow?” I offered. “How is she doing? Emotionally?”

“I haven’t talked to her.” Mom noted. “Brother called this morning.”

“How is he?”

“Tired. He’s going to be busy these next few weeks. He’ll do everything for Little One and take care of the house and his wife, plus he’s switching jobs at work so he’s overwhelmed doing two jobs during the transition into his promotion.”

“Wow.” I sighed, rethinking my late night thoughts about how much I wished for a partner.

“So he slept at the hospital, then went home to shower. He’ll go to work for a couple hours to take care of the most urgent tasks, then get back to the hospital. Little One is with me for the day.” Here I worried – the last time they stayed alone together, Mom ended up exhausted and pained. “Your dad will be home around noon, I think, then I’ll have help. But your brother is going to struggle.”

I believe Baby-To-Be will be fine and Brother – though certainly stressed – will come through brilliantly. I’m not a big fan of his wife, but she is a good mother. They’ll be OK. But as I look around my home – the one I thought just hours ago as being lonely, wishing fruitlessly that someone other than a dog waited for me in bed – it suddenly seems peaceful. Full of time I use selfishly, a schedule that flexes according to my whim, and time to sip coffee and write a blog post while those folks who look remarkably like me scurry around at home.

I wish I were closer. I do want to help. But I suppose there are benefits to being far away. And now I’m going to toast my bagel.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Me vs. Gnats, round many

Score: I don't know. But I fear the gnats are winning. Ergo, a letter to my "pest control" company. Notes to you are italics.

Regarding: Cancellation of contract

To Whom It May Concern:

Motivated by pity for the poor kid selling pest control door to door in the heat, I decided that it would be worthwhile to purchase your services as a preventative measure. I hadn’t experienced pest problems to a great degree, which is what I told Eric. A roach here or there, a couple of spiders, two mice each winter. But spraying myself with items I picked up at Lowe’s didn’t seem overly impressive as I’m preparing to move in about a year when my fellowship at [current institution] ends. So it seemed a good decision to work with a reputable company and not have to worry about pest control at all.

I was very impressed with the young man who did the initial treatment. In fact, everyone with whom I’ve spoken has been polite and helpful, which is what I’ve come to expect from the time I’ve spent in and around [current city]. (See how I try to be polite?)

Yet just days after the treatment, I noticed there were gnats flying about. Many gnats. I hadn’t ever had a gnat problem before, so I thought perhaps the spiders had been keeping the flying insects in check and that everything would resolve itself in a couple of days. It has now been weeks and I’m living in gnat hell.

I spent last weekend bleaching my kitchen in hopes of finding a nest, though I’m not sure if gnats have nests. I’m allowing my houseplants to begin to die because I read that watering them allows gnats to live in the wet soil. My dog, Chienne, (I'm not sure why I told them her name.) doesn’t get a bowl of water because I woke each morning to find twenty or so gnats floating in the bowl. (Isn't that sad? I think that's sad.) I now wake to find more gnats than I’d care to count lying dead around my sink or on my stove (I have pictures. I can send them if you like.) (You people read my blog - you have to see the pictures regardless). I don’t leave dishes out, nor can I leave food on the counters. After cooking dinner, everything is quickly covered. I’m getting very skilled at slapping my hands together as I work on my laptop to kill the bug that flits around.

While Craig (service manager man) and I have been playing phone tag for nearly a week now, I have been told by several people at PayUsToGiveYouGnats that your ability to control flying pests is limited. Given that you can’t help with the gnats, I very much want to cancel my contract without penalty, and pray the spiders return soon.

I completely understand that you have provided the services Eric told me about. But I didn’t have a pest problem. $445 later – paid in advance for a year of service – I have a huge pest problem that is severely degrading my quality of life. I therefore feel I paid a considerable amount of money to get pests. I’d like that money back in hopes that I can return to my formerly gnat-free and lovely lifestyle.

I am happy to pay the $95 for the initial treatment. I asked several times that the second visit not occur, intercepting someone when I saw the truck in my driveway. I talked to two women at the front desk, explained the gnat problem and indicated my preference for the spiders to repopulate. I was therefore not pleased to find the statement hanging on my doorknob that someone had been out to spray again. In addition, I was not told of their arrival despite my giving my mobile, work and pager numbers.

I therefore would like $350 refunded to me. I feel the 60% penalty is grossly inappropriate in this case as I am deciding to cancel the contract under duress of swarms of gnats. If you have questions or feel it absolutely necessary to instate some lower penalty, please be in touch.

Thank you,

I hate the gnats so very much. Does anyone know of a way to infest a pest company with gnats if they refuse to refund my money? Anybody?