Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy. Blessed. Whatever.

My body is as healthy as I am artistic. Not having such a good evening at all. Which means I will be sleeping fitfully when 2008 begins. But since I think of you even at my most miserable, I wanted you see my final diagram of 2007 and to wish you the very best - love, productivity, success, good shoes, pretty hair, accepted journal articles, published books, updated blogs to read, wonderful sales on whatever items you desire, surprisingly good books, catchy music, ample time to rest and play, laughter, happiness and health - tonight and always.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Use Feed Readers! They're Fantastic!

When Wayfarer Scientista said she lost some of her bookmarks, I couldn't resist piping in with my 'use a feed service!' comment. I used to go through lists of bookmarks to read blogs and couldn't believe how much easier and faster Bloglines made reading. I actually read more blogs now since I only look at pages that have been updated.

If you want my favorite reader, I still like Bloglines. I use Google Reader for a few blogs, but most sites I read are under bloglines and will likely stay there. I'm used to the interface and I tend to stay with what works. But as a side by side comparison, I like the easy ability to add and subtract from my list. I use the "Sub with Bloglines" button and when I visit someone new, I'll click it and add that person to my list while I decide if I want to keep reading. Then if someone starts to bug or bore me, the unsubscribe option is on the same page. It's harder (for me - I'm not sure if I'm just missing something or not) to manage the subscriptions with the Google service.

I also like to know how many people subscribe to a certain feed. I don't know why. But that information is more readily available on Bloglines.

Both are free. Easy enough to set up. And should save you tons of time.

To be fair, I think the Google site is prettier. And I should like that it links from the Gmail page since I am very pro-Gmail.

You can also set up feeds for lit searches! (See the end of that post for directions.) I've adored this feature since Friend taught me and keep up with major advances in the literature with it. People are generally quite impressed when I know about papers before they're officially published because the feeds update early.

Friend has used multiple feed readers and is much better versed in pros and cons (having abandoned both Bloglines and Google Reader). But I don't know what she's using now or why it's considerably better (though I'm sure she's right (she usually is) - I just like what I have).

Any comments on pros and cons of various feed readers I should try? Or advice for new users? Seriously - I say you should have one because I like you all. I'm very happy with mine and want you to share that efficiency (if reading blogs can fit into productivity, I suppose) and happiness.

ETA: Re: Online Lab Notebooks

When I spent time in a colleague's office, trying to figure out data analysis stuff, he kept pausing to tab over to a different page to type in notes.

"I decided," he told me, "to keep a notebook online. I tend to write things in random places, lose the papers, then make the same mistakes over and over or not remember where I put the code that solves a specific problem."

Steve wrote his own code and hosts his own site. I decided to start a private blog using Blogger and put notes there. So far, it works surprisingly well. First, I don't do bench work so I've never kept an official notebook. I do a lot of coding and data processing, which means I'm normally at some computer in some form. So I can log in on any computer, write my little notes that are then archived and label them appropriately. This allows me to have a searchable set of notes that are accessible from many locations and contain thoughts and lists on paper revisions or what's been done on certain projects.

The problem came when I forgot to make it private and included a ton of identifiable information (and journal reviews for which I'm not first author that definitely shouldn't be published online). So I had to fix that. But otherwise, I'm pleased to have found a system that I'll actually use and keep track of what I did and why I did it. (Those things often confuse me otherwise.)

New Year. New Meme.

Jane and the Mad Hatter both tagged me for the 2008 questions meme. I'm waiting for data to process as I rest from cleaning up and packing the car to head south again tomorrow, so answering questions seems about my speed this afternoon.

1. Will you be looking for a new job?

It is highly likely that I will. I hear back about the faculty position early in 2008 and will return to the job boards in earnest after that.

2. Will you be looking for a new relationship?
I will always and forever be looking for a relationship, I think. But am I actively dating and searching? No. Do I plan to? Not really.

3. New house?
I hope so. I don't know that I could happily tolerate an apartment again.

4. What will you do differently in 08?
I've long thought I should spend more time at the office. But I am productive at home. But should I take an industry or faculty job, more face time will be required. So perhaps I'll try a 4 days/week on campus plan.

5. New Years resolution?
I don't really do them in an official way.

6. What will you not be doing in 08?
I honestly have no idea what to say here. Kicking puppies? I'll never do that.

7. Any trips planned?
Of course. I'll return to my graduate campus in February for a seminar and visit. I want to make trips to see Carrie and M, though I haven't selected dates yet. Why? Would anyone like to invite me to visit?

8. Wedding plans?
Please. No.

9. Major thing on your calendar?
Everything is quite loose coming up here. I'm waiting to hear on journal articles and job prospects so I'm constantly at the ready for something big, but could see myself being happy if life stays quiet for the next couple months. (But not too long. Something needs to happen soon or I shall grow despondent.)

10. What can’t you wait for?
Good gracious, I suck at this meme. I don't know. I can't wait to know where I'll end up. I like to have clearer visions of my future than I currently can see.

11. What would you like to see happen differently?
I would like to have something exciting and happy to post for one of these questions if this meme is completed next December.

12. What about yourself will you be changing?
It depends on this next job step, I think. Could be very little, could be a tremendous amount, I suppose.

13. What happened in 07 that you didn’t think would ever happen?
I gave blood. Two times. Despite my abject fear of needles and hatred of blood.

14. Will you be nicer to the people you care about?
Honestly? Probably not. I'm evil when I'm stressed and this year looks to be moderately painful in that regard. I could try. Fine - I will try.

15. Will you dress differently this year than you did in 07?
No. I like gray pants and I will always like gray pants. I also love pajamas and can't see that changing when I'm around the house.

16. Will you start or quit drinking?
No. I like drinking but will continue to do so occasionally. Daiquiris are delicious. Riesling is delightful. Perhaps I will grow to like red wines more in 2008.

17. Will you better your relationship with your family?
My family is good. But I suppose we might be better after I move closer. The shorter distance will enable more frequent visits and closer contact. So, sure.

18. Will you do charity work?
I'd like to. I dropped the ball at my current location, but I'd like to get more involved again.

19. Will you go to bars?
It's not likely. I don't like bars or clubs - I get quite awkward and uncomfortable.

20. Will you be nice to people you don’t know?
If said unknown person is not in my way, then yes. Of course. If they or their car or cart or stuff is hindering my forward progress, I'll probably let them know it.

21. Do you expect 08 to be a good year for you?
I seem to grow continuously more pessimistic. I remember being profoundly depressed in 2006 and don't anticipate doing that again. 2007 was the year of Mom being sick and I pray we don't repeat that. I suppose I don't want to expect it to be good and be disappointed. I'll just wait and see. But you'll know through my updates how things are going. I do hope it's wonderful.

22. How much did you change from this time last year till now?
I'd have to re-read my blog entries. It doesn't seem like a lot, but it very well might be.

23. Do you plan on having a child?
No. The plan is to wait until my mid-30s and adopt. Unless a man comes along and loves me dearly, of course.

24. Will you still be friends with the same people you are friends with now?
I very much hope so. I know some amazing, wonderful, loving, brilliant, delightful people.

25. Major lifestyle changes?
I'm considering cutting soda and sweets for a couple months in an attempt to slim down. The very thought makes me twitchy though so it's still in the consideration phase.

26. Will you be moving?
Definitely. I don't know when, but it will happen in 2008.

27. What will you make sure doesn’t happen in 08 that happened in 07?
Seriously? I don't know. I tend to make the same mistakes over and over.

28. What are your New Years Eve plans?
I will be home. Alone. Likely doing the same data processing I'm doing right now in the background. Perhaps I'll watch DVDs since New Years television fails to please me.

29. Will you have someone to kiss at midnight?
This meme wants me to cry, doesn't it? No. I don't know that I've ever had someone to kiss at midnight. Thinking, thinking, thinking. Nope. Never. How heartbreaking is that?

30. One wish for 08?
I always wish for love. When throwing coins in fountains or wishing on stars, my thought is always for love. Though I'm always thinking of the romantic sense, the wishes have been granted by friends and family and colleagues and even people I meet through writing online. So more of that would be lovely. And I'm always wishing many good things for all of you.

If you decide to answer these questions and haven't already, please leave a comment and I'll update the post to do after-the-fact tags.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Rest in Joy and Peace

My grandmother's family was a bit odd. Her mother had four children and decided, upon her remarriage, to keep only the youngest. Grandma was raised by her Granny and her sister and brother went to other relatives. Those relatives had a daughter several years younger than Grandma's siblings. Her name, like Grandma's sister, was Betty. She died early on Christmas day.

Our family shared a uniform affection for Betty Lou. I remember her being funny and happy, blessed with an overwhelming friendliness that shone about her. She had her own family and her relation to us was distant at best. I was therefore saddened when Aunt called to tell us she'd lost her battle with cancer, but agreed to attend the funeral with my mother so she wouldn't have to battle the crowds and stairs alone with her recovering knees.

I woke this morning to a beautiful snow. It fell fast and hard, coating the branches of trees and nestling thickly on the streets and sidewalks. Mom and I both dressed - I took a pair of grey pants of hers that I loved to match my soft, blue sweater. We drove through the snow to a lovely church in town. We parked and I helped Mom up the steps to a room in the split level structure where Betty rested in an open casket. I wrinkled my nose at the overwhelmingly floral scent and remembered the bouquet Mom had when she came home from a hospital stay.

"It's from the people at work." She told me and I nodded.

"It's very pretty." I told her. "But may I put it outside? It smells like death to me." She nodded and Dad sighed with relief. That smell - the flowers all clustered together - reminds me of visitations. Bodies whose souls have departed, surrounded by cut blooms that only look good from the front of the arrangement, waiting to wilt and die themselves. I don't like it and happily deposited Mom's check from the family in the box of donations to the church in lieu of flowers. On my way across the room alone - Mom was resting her knees in the corner - I stopped to look at the many pictures displayed along one wall. Betty at graduations, cuddling babies, smiling brightly at the camera aimed at her and groups of family and friends.

She had a full life, I thought. One very well lived, full of love and friendships and laughter.

I returned to Mom's side to see her speaking to Betty's younger sister. When Mom said she looked like her sister, she smiled.

"I know." She said, leaning into Mom for a moment. "And I always wanted to be the pretty one." We all laughed and I linked my fingers with Mom's as we watched Betty's sons greet guests who filed past the casket. Mom and I joined the line, shook hands and offered sympathies to men whose eyes filled with tears. We paused at the casket to look at Betty, beholding her peaceful expression and hands curled around a book a prayers, rested our hands on the fluffy white blanket that cushioned her body and prayed.

"She's in Heaven with Aunt Betty." Mom said softly of Grandma's sister who died upwards of 10 years ago, being separated from the woman with whom she shared her childhood. "They're having fun together."

We moved to the sanctuary, selecting a pew near the back of the church with Aunt and Uncle. We sat and talked while people filed in. When it was time, the closed casket was placed at the front of the church and her family filed in behind. They found their seats for a service that was lovely and heartfelt. I cried several times - I struggle to cope with the loss, even of people I don't know incredibly well. Plus, the obvious suffering and pain of her family tugged at my heart. They loved her, they prayed for her, laughed with her, worried over her, needed her. And now she's gone, departing in the early morning hours of December 25 as she was surrounded by people who loved her.

It was an odd thing, looking around the church that Betty had decorated for the holidays and seeing her funeral flowers mixed with the festive trees and leaves and lights. There were two felt decorations around the advent candles - they read Joy and Peace. As the pastor read letters from her sons while they wept in the front pews, as the church filled with voices lifted in song, as a church full of people missed a woman who was bright and funny and loving, I wiped away tears, unsure if I was aching for this particular loss or others remembered and anticipated.

Despite the prayers and readings, songs and memories shared, I left feeling heavy. The snow had ceased when we left the church to make our way home and the world was once again grey with thick clouds and white fluff that was rapidly becoming muddy slush.

"She has gone to a better place." The pastor said during the service. "One with utter joy and peace. We remain here, left to live and love as Betty did until our time comes to join her." Perhaps it is the emotional separation from God I feel of late. Perhaps it is my lack of plan - my inner feelings that are other than joyful or peaceful. I just don't know right now. And my heart remains heavy even as the snow outside melts away.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Disease, Messes and Journal Rejections

We watched the girls yesterday after Little One spent the night on Christmas. I spent 3 miserable hours on the couch, trying to find a way to sleep on my tummy with my arms arranged as I require them. Dad, bless him, went to work at 2:15 (yep, AM. No wonder I'm all weird.) and I quickly scampered to Mom and Dad's room to take over a real bed.

Brother called at 9 to inform me that he was bringing Smallest One over then.

"No." I said firmly. "Mom's still at therapy and Little One isn't feeling well either. I've tried three different breakfasts for her - none of which she's eaten - so now Chienne is full of breakfast casserole, scrambled egg and milk from cereal. Smallest One is miserable with her cold and I can't deal with them both at once on my own."

"You'll be fine." Brother said, eager to get to work.

"Really, really, really, really not." I informed him, lowering my voice to let him know I was serious. "You may come over and hang out, but you may not leave - under any circumstances - until Mom gets home."

She did arrive as scheduled, knees aching, but too busy with children to deal with it. We walked and sang and tried desperately to soothe Smallest One. The poor dear is so stuffy and coughs and sneezes and whimpers with pain. It's awful - absolutely hideous. Little One isn't quite so miserable, but she is cranky and out of sorts. We played games and watched movies and scattered new toys around the floor while I sleepily tried to organize into boxes and baggies.

Mom and I sat across the room from each other when Brother arrived yesterday evening to take them home.

"I'm so tired." She said.

"Me too." I sighed, flopping to the couch. "And it's such a mess in here."

"I know." She replied, leaning back to rest her head against the back of the chair.

Today I tried to get some work done. I made it partway through a spreadsheet I'm building and answered some neglected emails. I applied for the industry job I want and winced when Mom called and said I was to report to Brother's house. Little One wanted Aunt Katie and since she'd had to go to the doctor for medicine, she deserved what she wanted. So I put away my laptop and notes (I've finally started keeping my notebook online - it works delightfully well for me!) and drove over.

I returned home - several hours of fetching and carrying, singing and playing later - to get rejected from the journal I really thought would take the work. I was invited to resubmit the work and told it would be assigned new reviewers. I spent the evening rewriting certain sections - taking some text out, reorganizing others, adding to still others. I have one final point to address - one that will take some time and work - but I think it's still strong enough to publish. So I sent it to Boss tonight to ask for advice. We'll see what happens. Any ideas on this resubmit and start from the beginning stuff? I really think the journal choice is good so I hate to abandon it when I can make the paper stronger. But I'm unsure here.

So I'm tired. My throat is sore and I've almost certainly contracted the cold from hell. The clutter has begun to be cleared out - many trips to the garbage and much organizing later - and we had more leftovers for dinner tonight and are starting to see some room in the refrigerator. Tomorrow we have a funeral and more therapy to attend, so the Christmas stuff will have to come down this weekend. The plan is to drive home on Monday. But for now, Chienne is snoring on the couch next to me. I have completed some work, which makes me feel slightly more productive. I'm not overly exhausted right now, though I am looking forward to bedtime. The rejection is weighing me down, but it's not nearly as bad now as it was when this journal rejected my first paper from grad school. So perhaps that's progress. Or maybe a sign that I'd take the industry job and leave all of this behind. I can't quite figure it out right now.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Reflections

Mom truly thought she could die. I didn't realize she had been completely serious when she confessed those fears to me. But Chienne jumped on my parents' bed this morning, hurting Mom and waking all three of us. Dad soon came down the hall to make coffee and I glanced at the clock after scolding the dog who'd come to my room, head hanging with dismay. It was 3:30. I got up to brush my teeth and when I emerged from the only bathroom, Mom was on the couch and Dad was moving presents around. I sat on the floor and offered Chienne something to open - she loves to open presents - and Dad handed me a large, heavy box.

"I'm not sure you'll like it." Mom said. "But I wanted you to have it."

I tore the paper and pushed it aside to reveal an expensive, metallic chrome Kitchenaid mixer.

"I love it." I said, surprised and processing the information. "I wouldn't have bought one for myself - they're so expensive - but it's wonderful."

I looked over at her, surrounded by presents unopened and she smiled at me. "I went to Bed, Bath and Beyond by myself and hobbled to the mixers. I told them I wanted two - one for you and another for your brother - and gave them my coupons and credit card. Then I went to get the car and waited outside for them to bring them to me. I felt awful, but I wanted to get that done."

I nodded at her, keeping my right hand on the box that held my mixer.

"Grandma got me a mixer before she died." She told me.

"I remember." I offered simply and she nodded. My mother currently is cuddled with her eldest granddaughter down the hall. Little and Smallest Ones both have miserable colds and Little One demanded to stay with her grandma tonight after being here all day. Brother and his family arrived at a much more suitable hour - around 9:30, I think. I had already stowed my mixer and Tenderheart and a Bluetooth headseat for my phone. I also got clothes and cookie sheets (to go with the mixer to make it a tad less depressing), the requisite calendar (puppies and kittens this year), a couple of movies and my annual shampoo set. I don't know why Mom gets me shampoo every year - I can buy my own - but I always expect it, just as I expect shower gel and a poof from Aunt.

Little One started to open gifts around 10 and continued until nearly 1. She got a ridiculous amount of toys and I contributed about half of what my parents did in terms of number. There was a Dora cash register and 2 large Littlest Pet Shop items (the Round and Round Pet Town and Get Better Center). Then there were several smaller Littlest Pet sets from each of us. I think she ended up with 5 Barbies, one with a horse, another small one with an elephant. Stacks of movies and more of books. Balloons and bubble bath and bags of bath toys. There is a large tupperware in the corner that is full of the small pieces that each of us worked to remove from plastic - untwisting ties and picking at tape, pulling at plastic and working to remove those obnoxious plastic bands that are sort of like rubber, but less stretchy and many times more annoying.

Smallest One grabbed one of the stacking cups I got her, stared at the blinking lights on one of the three large toys that sings songs and lights up and smiled and babbled a bit. She coughed and sneezed a good deal and cried pitifully several times. The poor darling is sick and I hate to see her so miserable. But we ate breakfast casserole and monkey bread in the mid-morning and put in ham and cheesy potatoes when the presents were mostly revealed from their bright paper. Dad took 3 huge garbage bags of paper and cardboard outside and Mom and Little One decided to watch a DVD in the back bedroom, while Brother's Wife and Smallest One napped in the master bedroom. Dad watched television and drank beer with Brother and I finished my thank you notes from my interview (finally). Each of us continued to stack items and pick up paper but we still struggled to find paths through the living room. But everything was colorful and happy - if terribly cluttered - and I decided this Christmas was rather good.

It was just immediate family - very casual and easy. I stayed in pajamas all day - sleepy pants and a black t-shirt with a cruise-in logo that Dad got me for Christmas. I rested on the couch for a little bit at one point and had no real idea what time it was unless someone asked. We went from coffee to water to beer and wine. We had dinner when Dad decided he was hungry - Brother and I moving to the kitchen to set the table and slice the ham and remove potato and green bean casseroles from the oven. We ate lightly as we had all snacked through most of the day - a tiny piece of casserole from breakfast or a cookie or two. Then we cleaned up as Brother, his wife and his youngest daughter prepared to head home.

It's now mostly quiet. Dad's gone to bed so he can rise early and head to work tomorrow. I can hear a Dora video from down the hall and Little One's voice as she plays Barbies with her grandmother. Neither of them feel great - Little One's is stuffy. I asked if she was OK earlier and she said she was "very cough-y." Mom has therapy in the morning - her knees continue to bother her. But we were together today - we laughed and squabbled and rested and talked. I believe - I fervently hope - that next year will be easier for us health-wise. But for this year, I feel pleasantly tired and exceptionally blessed.

I hope your holidays have left you in equal if not better spirits.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Home for the Holiday(s)

I've not been feeling particularly well, save for when Mom offers me a magical Vicodin. But I did arrive home safely on Saturday and we celebrated Christmas Eve a night early so that Older Cousin could travel today. I've been working and running errands and spending time with my parents.

I had just left on Saturday morning, informing my parents that though I wasn't feeling great, I was heading home.

"I need to talk to Aunt Katie." I heard Little One insist and Dad promptly handed her the phone.

"Are you bringing the Strawberry Shortcakes?" She asked me eagerly and I winced.

"I forgot them, sweetheart." I told her of the toys I used when I was little. "But I have a trunk full of presents for you." I listened to her wait in silence for a moment before asking if I should turn around and get the Strawberry stuff.

"Yes." She responded quickly, so we back-tracked and got the large plastic strawberries filled with dolls and shoes and plastic pets. I also had the Strawberry Trolley, a gazebo and some sort of spinning ride for the dolls. I'm an awesome aunt.

It was lovely last night - eating pizza and opening presents and nibbling on super-sweet sugar cookies frosted with even sweeter icing. I got sad near the end of the evening - I'd received presents, the only adult to do so. Aunt got me ornaments (handmade, and they're beautiful), Cousin bought toys and treats for Chienne and Sprout and Older Cousin bought very pretty knick knacks. Which was sweet, I suppose, but we're supposed to buy for the kids. I am not a child and I don't like that I'm so blatantly different because I don't have any of my own.

Even Mom forgot me. She named the couples who would be attending the evening's festivities and ended up with 10 adults.

"I'm right here!" I cried and she blinked at me before laughing.

"Eleven then." She said and shook her head at her mistake. I teased her about it and it wasn't a big deal, but I feel less because I'm unpaired and childless. They love me, but I felt heavy with the failure to create a family of my own last night.

But I feel better this morning - still with a tummyache but much less sad. It should be a relatively quiet day today. So there will be work and writing and rearranging presents under the tree. Then tomorrow there will be more food and gifts and family. And then Christmas - with all the joys and sadnesses around it - will be over for another year.

Friday, December 21, 2007

7 Irrelevant Things

Chris tagged me for a meme and since he is British and seems rather brilliant, I find I'm fond enough of him to participate. For a bonus item - since it's not really irrelevant and that is my theme - I'll note that Chris's blog is written at a post-graduate level. (I think I remember seeing that noted.) I checked mine around the same time - I write at the junior high level. So I decided not to post that bit of information, feeling rather embarrassed, but it does explain the interview concerns about my "technical depth." It's obvious to all that while I know (or should know) upper level information, I'd much rather tell stories. Sad, yes?

  1. My picture has been in the paper twice. Once in Kindergarten as we celebrated Johnny Appleseed. Then, years later, on the front page after I was named a National Merit Scholar.
    1. My hair was better in the second photo.
    2. But not by much.
    3. I didn't really learn to cope with the natural curls until college, so I had frizz issues.
  2. I have long-standing sleep issues. I used to take far too many drugs ending in "PM" but now use Friends. I pop in a DVD, turn the volume on low and rarely hear the end of an episode. I'm delighted and shocked that this works.
  3. I sometimes get sad that I don't get nicknames. I understand, of course. I'm too serious to allow for most people to call me by another other than my name.
    1. But I was Katie-did to some people growing up.
    2. Mom used to call me Princess, but now the title has gone (rightfully) to Little One. (But sometimes when Little One isn't around, I'm still Princess.) (In a nice way - not the 'you're so spoiled and awful' way.)
    3. I was Katie-cat to a single friend in high school.
    4. I can think of one guy who called me Kate, also in high school. I had a crush on him for more reasons than that, but it did play a role.
  4. I'm torn between Bloglines and Google Reader. I have accounts for both and different blogs in each. While I like certain features of Google Reader, I started the wonder of reading feeds in Bloglines so I like it too.
  5. I had an eye appointment a couple of weeks ago.
    1. That retinal imaging they do? Awesome.
    2. I don't travel to the UK to get my eyes checked. But the explanation and images in the link are good.
    3. I'm wearing contacts again after more than a year of nearly exclusive time in glasses. I despised the astigmatism-correcting contacts I had before - they hurt. I now have normal contacts again and adore how comfortable they are.
    4. But I still wear glasses a lot, especially if I'll be staring at a computer for a long time.
    5. Oh! And that 20 ft for 20 seconds trick to rest your eyes? It's magical. When I was pulling data on Tim's computer, I would rub my poor eyes, then stare across the hall and at the shelves on the far wall of Boss's office. It's more than 20 feet away, I think, but I counted seconds as I focused on the group picture that was taken when he won Mentor of the Year. I looked back at Tim's screen and my vision was crystal clear. Amazing!
  6. I do feel guilty when I forget to do memes. I always mean to! But then I can't think of what to say (which is why I often do these number of things ones - easy enough) or I need more time than I have at the moment I remember them. So if I've neglected a tag from you, I am sorry.
  7. I haven't put all my seminars on my CV. I didn't know one should do that and now I've given so many that I can't recall them all. Going through old calendars and emails an trying to recall all the big and little talks I've done? Seems hard. Is it really that impressive to list that stuff?
There you go - a junior-high level list of items for your amusement.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Charlie and the Pretty Picture

"Is that your background?" Tim asked when he walked into the large conference room at the end of the department's halls. I glanced at the screen and thought it odd that the projector had such control over my laptop. It scoots all the programs to the edge of the screen and displays the desktop picture until PowerPoint starts the presentation. I had movies within the talk I gave for my interview and was recycling slides (as requested) to give the talk at our group meeting. So I refused to use the conference room computer and had connected my laptop to the projector to ensure the proper display of my presentation.

"It is." I said, looking back to Tim. "Pretty, isn't it?"

"It's gorgeous." He said, still looking at the screen. "It looks almost like a Monet - only more vivid - when you're this close and it's that big." I turned to look at him again and noticed Boss and several other faculty had entered the room and were peering at the screen before offering their compliments on my choice of backgrounds.

"A friend painted it." I told them proudly, always eager to preen in the presence of praise now that I realized this would likely be the most impressive part of my presentation.

"You know a professional painter?" Boss asked and I grinned.

"Charlie," I told them, "has his doctorate in science. He is a professional, but not of the artistic variety. When we talk, I try to nudge him toward painting more. He has quite the talent."

"You should come back here to see it." Tim noted as he moved to the far end of the room where the pizza was located. "It's just stunning."

I watched with some amusement as the group of students and faculty that had gathered moved backward and forward - away from and toward the screen - so they could appreciate Charlie's work. Someone turned off the lights in the room - we leave them on while people gather pizza and drinks before the presentations begin - and a chorus of approving sounds were heard around the room. I laughed, delighted they enjoyed the art as much as I do.

As we settled in the darkened room, sipping soda and eating pizza, we didn't speak of my interview and how I thought it went. Instead, we talked about Charlie.

"Has he always painted? Or is this his early work? He could be a genius!" Jane said from across the table.

"He's drawn and painted for a long time, I think." I told her. "He is rather brilliant though - incredibly smart, quite personable and friendly, and with this incredible artistic talent. But it's a hobby - one he rarely finds time for lately."

"He should paint more." Tim said seriously, still looking at the colors on screen.

"He used a photo of mine as a guide." I told him proudly and watched him look suitably impressed. "I took it on a hike when we were in the Poconos for that workshop." I glanced at Boss and he smiled at me.

What I did not say, but could have, was that the picture has meaning for me and has remained as my desktop background for a reason. I recall being in that valley, having hiked down the impressive hill. I was looking for the waterfall that I wouldn't find until the next day, having taken the wrong path. I wanted to at least make a loop - see different autumnal scenery - so I turned left and walked down a new path, enjoying the way the leaves crunched under my sneakers and glancing around at the new sights that surrounded me. I came to a stop when I approached a small building. The path went no farther and it was beyond my energies to wander through the forest on my own. So I lifted my camera and took a photo - a rather unimpressive one at that - and sighed heavily before turning around and retracing my steps back to the resort.

Life gets better, I could have told them. Sometimes the end isn't as disappointing as it seems. The journey - even if fruitless - is often worthwhile in and of itself. And in rare instances, you can meet someone exceptional who takes a moment you experienced and paints something beautiful from it. So when I think of that space in the valley, I now immediately think of Charlie's painting rather than how depressed I was, how hard everything seemed, and how I wondered if life would ever seem less suffocating. I can breathe now - quite easily most times - and as I face journal decisions and iffy job prospects, I need the reminder of unexpected beauty.

"Did you ask him to paint it?"

"No." I said to the professor sitting a few seats away. "I did ask if I could buy it, but he hasn't let me. Which is part of why he should paint more - build up some inventory so he'll sell me the one I want."

"You're lucky to know him." Tim stated and I nodded.

"Absolutely agreed."

I soon started my presentation, covering Charlie's picture with sciencey images and summary text. I talked for about 45 minutes, allowing interruptions and discussing a number of points with people in the room. When we finished, Boss approached me as several people stood around me, asking questions or offering advice.

"It's been a long time since I've heard a talk that good." He told me softly, bending to keep the comment private. "You do such a beautiful job - you have a command of the project as a whole, deal with questions wonderfully, make people feel they can talk to you and you'll be interested and graceful. I'm so proud of how well you speak."

"Thank you." I told him. "That's very kind."

"You impressed them at your visit." He said confidently, putting his arm around me to squeeze. I cuddled into his side for a moment, feeling a pang that I'd be leaving here at some point - having to depart the shelter and encouragement he's offered over the past years. "Whether you get it or not, I'm sure they were very impressed."

In that moment, I missed him already. All these people who gathered to hear me talk - who want to see me do well. But I quit PowerPoint and Charlie's picture appeared again and made me sigh. Paths end and people turn around or find different directions. If you're lucky, I suppose you meet good people and perhaps get a rather perfect desktop picture along the way. Which left me to grab a slice of cold pizza and return to transferring data that would take me 10 hours. But that's the bad and boring part of yesterday - I just told you the good parts so we'll leave it at that.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Give and Take

"My rule is," I said after nodding that I had read and understood the informational booklet and sitting down in the cardboard cubicle, "I'll come back if you don't hurt me. So don't hurt me."

Instead of asking why I volunteered to donate blood, the woman assigned to check me in smiled at me and nodded sympathetically. "The worst part is the finger stick and I have to do that to you." She said. "But I hate that part too, so I'm good at doing it to other people."

We chatted as she filled in the requisite screens, made easier by the handy donor card I brought with me. She stuck the middle finger of my left hand while I turned my head away. I glanced over and saw her sucking up drops of my blood into a tiny glass tube and swiftly faced the friendly cardboard wall again.

"Remember to give me someone good." I whispered as we entered the large room. I smiled at the nurse as I settled in the chair and obediently showed her both arms. I repeated the plan that I would continue to donate as long as the process wasn't overly painful.

"I get it." The nurse said, smiling at me. "You're out of here if it hurts. Don't blame you at all." She explained that the Red Cross had implemented a new protocol for our region and the set-up took a bit longer as they adjusted to the changes.

"Will it hurt more?" I asked and she laughed as she shook her head, scanning bar codes on baggies and vials. "I don't know if I want to do this now." I said, feeling my lip quiver as I turned my head away while she swabbed the inside of my right elbow.

"Little sting." She warned me after reminding me to relax my hand.

"Talk to me." I said, voice high and tight with anxiety. "Do you have children?"

"I do." She answered and I flinched at the sting from the needle and iodine. "Do you?"

"No, I don't." I said. "How many do you have?"

"Five." She said and I glanced over at her and blinked.

"Wow." I said. "Five. How old are they?" She told me ages and the discomfort subsided and we chatted pleasantly while she filled tubes first and kept me company while my baggie filled up. "You were wonderful." I told her as she finished up and removed the needle from my arm. "Thank you so much - you didn't hurt me much at all."

"So we'll see you in a couple months." She clarified and I nodded happily.

I dealt with Project A before going to my donation appointment and I was off and disorganized. I apologized to the very important MD and she waved it off. We've historically done very well together and it bugs me that her final impressions of me might be that of mild incompetence.

I returned to my office to read email that my submission for Rejected Paper had been received. Still no word on the evaluation of reviews - still feeling sick about that. And I uploaded a bunch of files - cover letter, suggested reviewers, figures, etc. - for Problematic Paper. It should go in after Boss's revisions are made tomorrow. That puts all three papers in play - this makes me feel good. I hate finding homes for publications. Revisions are fine - it's the outright rejections that really hurt me.

I found a job application online that interests me greatly. It turns out I applied for the same job after grad school so I found my handy file of emails and sent a note to the former leader of the group. He's since moved up, but responded to my friendly message with the new manager's contact information and asked the man to phone me soon to discuss opportunities. I sent a lengthy cover letter and a copy of my CV and hope to hear from him soon. Again, I like having possibilities out there. It helps deal with the rejection.

I left the donation site to walk across campus to my office immediately after grabbing some juice. I felt OK in the short-term last time and got woozy and tired a bit afterward. So I made use of my energy and stopped at the pharmacy. I've wondered lately if I'm ready to dial back the anti-depressants and handle life on 20mg instead of 40. But I found an open space at the counter and picked up a refill for the higher dose. It's still hard - the uncertainty on manuscripts and what comes next and having too much to start and finish and handle. If the little pills help me cope - deal with lengthy interviews and exhaustion, rejected papers and the need to rebound and try again, interview requests that may or may not pan out - then I'll take them.

So I came home - feeling a bit tired and loopy, but not nearly as intense as last time, had a snack and took a pill. It's an odd balance, perhaps, but it's one that's working for now.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Rejection - acutal and anticipated

It's lovely that I currently have a job where I can wake, realize that I remain tired and putter around the house, take the dog for a walk, then nap until mid-afternoon. I finally made it to campus in time for a meeting to discuss a new project.

I returned to my desk to find that Happily Revised Paper got Summarily Rejected from HighImpactFactor Journal. Good enough, I decided. I knew I aimed too high and only lost a week in doing so. Plus, they waited until after my interview to call me not important enough so that was nice of them.

Carrie and I discussed junior faculty positions extensively this weekend and I've been dwelling on parts of the interview (er, "visit") I'd do over if I could. I'm preparing for them to say no and that sucks. Interviewing in general is a bit demoralizing - I'm so great and you should want me! to Oh, crap. Another one didn't want me. It's hard for me.

I clicked over to Submitted Paper and felt sick when the status had changed. The editors are going over the reviews - I should know the results soon. And while I think the paper was good and well-placed, I'm worried. This part of the academic process is fraught with complaints and rejections and ick. So I put my head in my hands and spent long moments contemplating how it would feel to have another holiday spent feeling as if I was terrible at my job.

Instead, I composed a nice email to Leader that offered additional information and best wishes. I'll complete my thank you cards soon and send them to everyone with whom I met. I resubmitted Happy Paper - it's still iffy in terms of journal choice, but I'm hopeful. And, perhaps most brilliantly, I started calling people to escape the negativity in my own head. My parents, then Charlie, then darling Elle. So now I'm sleepy and not eager to deal with more work right now. So I'll rest and try again tomorrow.

Perhaps work - present and future - will look a bit brighter then.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Post-interview Relaxation

Carrie and I shopped yesterday, partaking of quaint boutiques in a bustling, little town. We wandered through one shop about an hour into our trip, still carrying our coffee cups and sipping mochas as we browsed.

"I like the milk one." I decided, wrinkling my nose after sniffing soap with a tar-like scent. The white bar I favored was rich and creamy and I selected a small bar wrapped in white paper that was perched atop a huge block of soap from which bars were cut to order. Carrie chose a a green bar that smelled of the ocean and a lavender soap as well. As we wandered the rest of the small shop, I found myself by the bath fizzies. Staring at the large balls in soft colors, I picked one up, hearing the plastic package crinkle and brushing aside the white ribbon that held the plastic closed to read that the pink ball smelled of roses. I kept it in my hand, selected a smaller white fizzie as well then went to complete my purchase, smiling when my three items were tucked in a white bag and finished off with green tissue paper. We found other items - a Christmas decoration for Carrie, some small watercolors by a local artist for me, lip scrub for Carrie, pretty file folders and a lovely memo-mousepad for me.

Today found us doing more location-specific touristy activities, which were wonderful as they were exhausting. I dropped her off at the airport with a lengthy and tight hug and came home, achy and exhausted and a little sad. I'm not overly hopeful about the faculty job. I like having friends around and miss the company when they're gone. I believe I'm starting with a cold - the requisite sore throat and stuffy nose - and it's making me a bit cranky and more tired than normal.

I noticed the inviting white bag upon arriving home and greeting my happy dog. I flopped on the loveseat and called home to touch base. Perhaps, I thought as I remembered Brazen Hussy's post, I could take a bath. I'm not really a bath person, but perhaps if I tried very hard, it would be relaxing and lovely. So I went to the master bath - it holds the garden tub - and turned on the closet light. It illuminated the room in a soft glow as it is located at the far end of my lengthy bathroom. I waited until the water from the tap ran hot, then closed the drain and waited for the tub to fill. I put my new bar of soap and both bath fizzies on the edge of the tub and sat down on the floor, feeling myself grow sleepy as the water ran. When I felt it was reasonably full, I stepped in and hissed a bit at the heat. I finally settled myself in the water and glanced over to find the dog and cat regarding me with some confusion. I shrugged at them and untied the white ribbon from its pretty bow and dropped in the pink ball.

Sprout's ears perked when he heard the sound it made and Chienne turned and went outside. I closed my eyes - exhaustion helped - and relaxed. I waved my hand through the water and noticed it felt silky. I made a face of approval, but kept my eyes closed as I relaxed. I have taken a single bath since moving here and it was so I could do a perfect job on shaving my legs. But this was to relax and I spent long moments enjoying the heat and water and smell. Then I blinked my eyes open to see the dog had returned, joining the cat by the tub to continue staring at me in confusion.

"It is rather nice." I told them. "I like the smell and I'm all warm."

But adjusting into baths isn't an overnight thing. So I got out, fetched my razor and a pumice stone. I flipped on the lights nearest the bathtub and smiled with pleasure at the pale pink water. It was pretty and I happily climbed back in and settled into the silky texture. But I did a good job shaving my legs and scrubbed at the skin on my heels that was dry and dead. Then I got out of the tub and put on lotion that Carrie brought me for my month-away birthday.

I do feel better - relaxed and mellow and very sleepy. I smell of bath fizzie and milk soap (which was rich and creamy and wonderful) and the special foot and hand creams I have. Chienne is asleep behind my knees. Sprout, I think, continues to explore the bathroom in an attempt to understand why the tub that sometimes houses cat playtime became filled with water. I plan to remove my contacts, finish the cookie I bought today and sleep.

I hope you're all feeling as relaxed (if a bit more awake and aware) as I am.

Friday, December 14, 2007

I did it.

I replied to some email when I had a short break this afternoon. Boss requested a meeting for next week and said he hoped we could discuss how my visit had gone in addition to Problematic Paper and giving a talk to the group.

The visit is going well so far - I felt very good about the talk and it stimulated a good deal of discussion which I always take as a good sign. I'm exhausted, honestly, and have 3 more meetings left. But while my talk ran long - over an hour and another 20 minutes of discussion - lunch was short. So I have a bit of time to relax before my next set of meetings. But it's been lovely - everyone's very friendly and has offered feedback or ideas or information about what they study. So I've enjoyed myself tremendously.

To provide a bit more detail, I can say that I slept reasonably well, but felt slow. But I drank coffee and nibbled on toast and powered through. I had three meetings before my talk and left the third a bit early to make sure I had ample time to set up. Everything was plugged in and displaying properly, so I decided to connect to the wireless network and check my email.
As people started to filter in, I introduced myself and made small talk. I felt I was rather charming and funny throughout the experience - I felt comfortable and relaxed, which speaks highly of their environment. It's a lovely place.

Leader introduced me very well, not glancing at the notes he'd made on my background as he listed institutions I've attended and degrees I've earned. I glanced around at the relatively small auditorium, standing as I was on the small elevated area in the front, and smiled when I noticed that though it was standing room only, I felt fine about telling them what I knew.

The talk, I think, was excellent. The data, however, are sketchy. But the story was told well, I was open about problems and focused on strengths. I stumbled once when one man leaned over to another and began to talk. I almost asked if he had something to share with the group - but the thought amused me - so it took me a moment to regain my balance. The next stumble came when I glanced at the large screen next to me and saw the black box in the corner that told me I had new mail. So leaving the Gmail notifier on while giving a talk is a bad idea. Being logged into your blog email account while doing that is even worse. Yet nobody from that location has shown up on site stats, so we'll continue on. (And it happened twice - I got 2 blog emails during the talk and I know this because I had to click on the Gmail notifier, say "Well, that's not good." and try to regain my balance and keep talking. It strikes me as funny now, but honestly. I don't normally do idiotic crap like that in public.)

The questions were good and I felt great about my responses. I argued a couple points, conceded some others, and offered advice on things I knew but hadn't directly done to other people. And I enjoyed it. I felt confident and smart and though I'm pretty sure some of the audience members would have argued that last part, that's OK. It's also OK that I felt like I was being politely brushed off at the final meeting with Leader. He'll call in the new year but they're looking at a range of candidates with many levels of experience and different interests.

"We need to figure out our priorities." He told me. "I think your background and skills and interests fit in and complement our goals very well. But it's a matter of finding out what we need most and who brings that most effectively."

I agreed. I liked the group very much and want them to take the necessary steps to succeed. I also want them to like me. We'll see if the two coincide, but my feeling at this point is that they probably won't. Which is fair - it'd be a tough job with high expectations and I'm honestly not sure one person could do everything they want. I'm also not completely confident that I want that lifestyle. But I would like an offer and expressed my strong interest in working with them.

I was upset on the way home - the mixture of a realistic ending to the days of meetings, wondering if I just thought I was all lovely and they thought I was icky, being absolutely exhausted and out of resources and facing a lengthy drive south - but gathered my composure. I talked to Friend, which helped, and had dinner with Carrie after she asked me to come fetch her a bit early. We ate and talked and I dropped her off at her hotel again - I'll pick her up tomorrow morning, but she wanted to sleep there and enjoy the amenities. I returned home to a very happy, cuddly dog and a "can we play dot now?" cat. I put my suitcase in my room and plugged in my laptop to check my email.

I blinked to prevent tears but wasn't completely successful. Boss had replied to my update quite simply.

"Wonderful." He wrote. "I'm very proud of you."

It reminded me of all the people in my life that I love. My parents - we talked several times over the weekend, Little One (who told me about french fries when Mom called on my drive south), Friend and Carrie and friends who send supportive comments on my blog. If these people have some affection for me - if they feel proud of me - then I'm doing something right. For tonight - and hopefully for the next few weeks while I wait and think and enjoy the holidays - that's more than enough.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I am doing this.

I slept poorly after the first two hours, waking nearly every 15 minutes to look at the clock. I was unbearably sleepy when it was time to get up but I put on my brown pants and pink sweater and began to curl my hair as I had planned. I met Leader for breakfast and enjoyed talking to him, though I struggled to find my interview legs. We moved to the offices and began my day of talking to people. And more people. And some more people.

It was - for the most part - very friendly and informative. There were a couple tough questions and one particular man who I didn't like.

"Meanie wasn't impressed." I told Leader and Other Dining Companion. They both asked why and I offered an explanation. "He wanted the novel thing I was bringing to the table. And I couldn't think of anything unique and important." I shook my head in dismay and paused when they both began to laugh.

"He's struggled a bit." Leader said of Meanie. "So he's always wanting people to give him ideas and areas for funding. I'm sure you did well."

We talked and laughed and enjoyed glasses of wine. Then I asked the question that had bothered me a bit all day.

"So Chair said this was a visit and not an interview. Which is fine." I offered, looking at Leader. "But what's the difference? And what comes next?"

Other Dining Companion rolled her eyes. "There's no difference." She offered across the table.

"We call the initial time here a visit - it works better to recruit senior people to do it more covertly, I think. So it's a friendly, casual visit."

"So what's the interview?" Other Dining Companion asked. "Because my visit included 2 days of back to back meetings and I was hired afterward."

Leader shrugged.

"Is it you guys, only meaner?" I asked and was rewarded by laughter. "So," I returned to my point, "what comes next? You all meet to talk about me?"

"I get feedback." Leader confirmed. I nodded and we talked some more.

I have my talk tomorrow. More meetings before and after. Then I get to go home and spend the weekend with Carrie. See my puppy. I'm ready for this to be over. I think I still want them to like me - to want me for this tenure-track faculty position with a bit of teaching and mentoring students and getting funding. But I'm rather tired and if I think too hard about certain slides, I get nervous.

So I filled out my breakfast menu and put it on my doorknob. I took a shower and packed most of my things to check out in the morning. And soon I will likely crash and go to sleep. But it's happening, which is a good thing. And soon it will be done. In the meantime, I'm so very tired.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I can do this.

I drove north, found the hotel (Well, after I got lost near campus. Freaking one way streets and wrong addresses.), checked in, parked the car, unpacked and finished one of the two last slides. I had dinner with Dave - which was delightful and distracting - then came back to the hotel to finish the last slide and shower.

I'm sleepy, so I'm going to rest. I've decided on which of the 4 outfit choices I brought will be worn tomorrow. I will wear contacts and curl my hair. The talk is done and I feel good about it. Tomorrow is full of meetings, and I can handle people one on one without freaking out.

I feel - strangely enough - calm and focused and confident. So keep thinking good thoughts (or doing whatever it is you're doing). I do believe it's working.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Oh, crap.

  • Feeling sick. Headache, stomachache, feeling twitchy with nerves.
  • I needed three things from CVS. When I couldn't remember the third, I bought chocolate instead.
    • Chocolate - though nice - was not the third thing I needed.
  • The house is clean.
    • Well, basically clean.
    • I love my new vacuum. My carpet looks delightfully clean!
  • $220 later, the car is fixed.
  • My bags are packed.
    • Why is it that I can find a deck of cards I bought years ago in Vegas, my girl scout sash and my tooth fairy pillow, and have no idea where any number of glasses cases are?
    • Chienne brought a squeaky toy in the room as I was tossing things in the suitcase. She placed the toy in the bag. I felt awful since I'm not taking her with me, gave her kisses and tossed the ball down the hall. She chased it down and returned to replace it in the suitcase. It's as if she's telling me she'd like to take that toy on her upcoming trip. Guilt overwhelms me.
  • Mom has another knee manipulation scheduled for Thursday.
    • More guilt overwhelms me here. I want to be there.
    • She's doing the procedure as an outpatient this time.
    • Her surgeon has never performed 2 manipulations on one person. Hell.
    • Dad will be with her.
  • It's just a full day of meetings on Thursday - I'll have every meal with people who want to ask me questions.
  • My talk is on Friday. I still have 2 slides to finish, but I'm otherwise very pleased with how it flows and looks.
    • I still need to practice a bit.
  • I think I can sleep tonight - my eyelids feel heavy as I type. I hope the same holds true for tomorrow night.
  • The hotel has free wireless (so says their website) so I'll certainly find energy to let you know how things are going.
  • In the meantime, I hope you're all happy, healthy and guilt-free.

That's not on the list.

I couldn't sleep last night, waking at 12:30 and being unable to get back to sleep until nearly 4. But I woke with a heartfelt groan at 6:30 and rolled out of bed to a sunny morning. I was anxious and sleepy so I began making a list of all the things left to do before leaving tomorrow for my interview. Printing literature, revising Problematic Paper, canceling my appointment tomorrow morning (I can't handle extra stress right now), packing, laundry, cleaning, wrapping the last few Christmas gifts, finding brown pants to wear with my pink sweater on Thursday and making sure I have stockings that are without runs. I'd like to pick up snacks for Friend and make sure the bedding is all freshly laundered. Oh, and I needed to get my oil changed. I'm nearly 2,000 miles over and that's rare for me.

I have a garage I like that's close to my house - they've taken care of tires and oil and general car-related stuff I pay only vague attention to. I rather like waving my hand regally when presented with estimates for the rare extra work, telling them to do what they must. I should have known something was wrong when my oil change stretched close to an hour, but I continued to flip through the paper, contenting myself with an ad when I was finished with the news, thinking I would use the coupon Friend offered when I found brown pants.

"Kathryn?" The car guy said, approaching me with a printed sheet. I don't know why I give people my full name - sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. "You have a coolant leak. [Something about car parts and how fast the leak was - I don't know.] You don't have to fix it immediately, but it should be done soon."

"I'm driving to an interview." I said, thinking nervously about my list. "Can it make it north and back?"

"Oh, I wouldn't." He said. "It's a pretty good leak." So instead of an careless wave of my hand, I nodded with wide eyes. Then I thought frantically about the list that rested neatly in my purse and how I could accomplish none of the tasks by sitting in this waiting room without my laptop or transportation.

"Um, how long will this take?" I called as he went behind the counter.

"An hour and a half?" He guessed and I nodded.

"Could someone maybe take me home?" I asked, thoughts of laundry and cleaning and papers and revisions and my list running through my head.

"Sure." He said easily and I felt a moment of regret for inconveniencing them.

"Thank you." I said after car guy told me that they wouldn't get the part until after lunch and waved me toward a truck out front. "I'm sorry you have to do this - I didn't know I had a problem or I would have arranged for a ride." I told car girl who was driving me home. Then I frowned - Friend has her own car problems and I didn't know who else would fetch me. "Wait!" I said before she pulled into traffic. "I need my garage door opener or I can't get inside." So I scampered back to the building and returned to climb in the cab with my small device in hand. She dropped me off and complimented my cute house and promised to return for me later.

It's almost a relief to be trapped here - to do what I can (and there's a lot) from here and worry about shopping later tonight. But, still. I don't like it when the list goes awry. But I at least feel awake and productive - perhaps there's hope for a modified form of the list.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Out of Sorts

It is hot here. Humid and oppressively warm. In December. And as so many of my neighbors and colleagues bask in the heat (though it is gloomy), I frown darkly and wonder why it can't get cold again. Dammit.

I am nervous about the upcoming interview. I want out of here and back to a more northern state that has winter. People at work are wearing on my nerves, asking for help I don't particularly want to give, making demands that wouldn't have bothered me before but leave me scowling now. The time has come to take my leave of this place as I've already become emotionally distant. But I have one opportunity in the works.

I applied to a single undergraduate institution. Two grad schools, though there was never any question of where I'd pick. I applied far and wide for post-docs and wasn't certain that any was just right. I want this next job to be right. For it to be straightforward and glowing with promise. So I'm placing all my eggs in this basket and will, quite frankly, be crushed if it doesn't work out. It doesn't have to be faculty - it just has to be something.

I've been practicing my talk which leads to a seemingly unending shuffling of slides. I like the transitions to be perfect - for the flow to make absolute sense so there's no staring at slides and saying, "Now for something completely different!" So I tweak and move figures and frown over the text I've drafted to place in the notes section of my PowerPoint file. And I continue to freak out. I'm sleeping far too much and feeling much more tired than normal. My patience is thin and my desire to avoid people is nearly overwhelming.

So I'm going to huff and sigh over the heat and my mood and this interview that must go well. At least it'll all be over soon. A cold front will push in. I'll stop being evil. And I'll talk to people and give my seminar and see what they think.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Extended break - no real reason

Nothing since Wednesday? How unusual for me.

When I read Choke (the movie is coming out in November, 2008. Palahniuk can write.), I liked the main character's friend. I struggle to remember names in audiobooks - I must encode into memory far easier with visual stimuli. He has an addictive personality, this fictional friend, and instead of indulging in sexual pursuits, he begins to collect rocks. He says something about how it's a measure of each day - how he wants to do something good rather than just avoid doing something bad, how he wants to look back and realize the time he spent was spent building something. This blog, of course, is my pile of rocks. Some are little and utterly meaningless. Others are huge and important - when I need to remember how lovely it was to have one of my images put on the cover of a journal, I can find that post. When I think that heartbreak may not have been so bad, I need only to glance at certain weeks of words to recall that it was absolutely crushing. I wrote when Smallest One was born. I typed words and published a post in the mere hours I left Mom at the hospital. So while I don't particularly feel like writing - don't, in all honestly, feel like doing much of anything at all - the overly-long sentences and written-in-circles paragraphs must be recorded. Perhaps I have a bit of an addictive personality myself.

I think I worked from home on Thursday. Took a long nap. Worked more on my talk. Friday found me at the office early for a meeting with Boss. I was disappointed that he hadn't read the paper I'd sent 10 days ago and hounded him politely for the rest of the day. He started to hand me single pages as he worked through them, poor guy. So that draft waits, though I did fill out a lot of the online sections at the submission website. It's going to ImpactFactor14Journal. It's overly ambitious, I know, but I feel compelled to try.

Yesterday I went to Cousin's house. I composed posts in my head while I was there and while I was driving home. Good things happen at Cousin's.

"I feel relaxed here." I told her as we mixed dough and rolled it into balls, transferred cooling cookies to the table from sheets we needed to bake the next batch. "It's like the house of happiness."

She laughed and glanced around.

"Honestly." I insisted. "You have Little Cousin and cookies and cheesy lunches. And puppies!"

"It would be hard to get depressed here." She admitted, glancing around the warm kitchen that was lit against the gloomy day, breathing in the smell of sugar and spice and vanilla and chocolate, and glancing over at the two chubby, baby canines sleeping on a towel in the corner of the kitchen by the dishwasher.

I believe I feel about puppies the way some women feel about babies. I am overwhelmed with love at the sight of a puppy. I found my eyes going to their corner every time I tried to help Cousin with baking. When I was waiting for cookies to bake, I'd find myself lying on my stomach on the floor. I'd admire tiny black noses and rub little bellies that were exposed. I'd coo and cuddle and breathe in the sharp puppy smell that should be unpleasant but isn't. When Yellow peed on the floor, I happily found a towel to mop up the mess, not for a moment thinking it was icky. When Grey finished pooing in the yard as we walked around, I clapped and told her she was such a good girl, then scooped her up - muddy paws and damp fur - and cuddled her into my chest. I kissed their soft coats - Grey has a bit more terrier in her and has a wirey texture. Yellow is pure downy softness. Both still have that puppy fuzziness that I so adore. I giggled when puppy kisses on my chin moved to nibbles on my ears, nuzzling eagerly and offering them kisses in return.

"I love them so much." I sighed to Cousin multiple times - sitting on the floor with Yellow a warm weight in my lap, smiling outside when they would hop/run toward me when I called them, sighing with wonder at how absolutely cute they were as they sprawled in yet another nap.

We went for dinner when it grew dark outside and Cousin and I had enough of baking. On the way home, we drove around to look at Christmas lights. If the puppies had been along to join Little Cousin and I in the back, it would have been perfection. As it was, I missed them terribly, but kissed everyone good-bye to return to my own faithful dog. (I kissed the dogs more than the people. I really do think my brain glitched somewhere and feels for baby dogs what I should feel for baby humans.) As exhausted as I felt - "Happiness wears you out." Cousin noted - I didn't sleep well at all last night. Instead, I returned to work on a tedious task that has consumed several hours for the past few days. I finally emailed results to my collaborator and need to check one more thing before calling it done.

But I spent today sleeping and reading and procrastinating on practicing my talk to dealing with tedious task. I'm nearly done with my fourth book in as many days and I need to pick up clutter and water plants. I just needed to put another rock on my pile before taking care of those things.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

That Which Embarrasses

“Did I send what you needed?” I asked Chris after our group meeting. He’d sent two emails yesterday saying he “really, really” needed part of my experimental design. He wrote in the afternoon and said that Joe was looking for the information “right now” and “couldn’t find it.”

“So,” I wrote last night after another terse email from Chris as I’d ignored Joe’s two pages yesterday afternoon, “do you still need it or are you starting from scratch?”

He wrote this morning that they still needed it and I walked over, copied the experiment and walked back to write an email attaching the file and a document containing relevant instructions.

“I emailed it to Joe.” He answered me, avoiding eye contact. “He’d know more than I would if it’s right or not.”

The embarrassing part - which is more annoying than embarrassing, I suppose - is that Chris has obviously been appointed as go-between for me and Joe. Given that Jane was assigned the task of dealing with the difficult Anti-Friend for a different project, I winced at the idea that Joe won’t write to me directly. Then again, I despise him. A lot.

Several weeks ago, Marlie selected our seats for a seminar and I frowned when I noticed that Joe was seated behind us. After the speaker was finished, he started to ask a question. He first made some sort of joke and when he glanced at me and blinked in surprise, I realized I was looking at him with an odd expression. It was rather like I imagine I’d look at a slug. A certain bemused distaste that says I’ve no idea why such a creature must exist at all. But given that it does, I’d really rather it stay as far from me as possible. I tried to relax my facial muscles when I noticed his startled glance at me - attempted to unwrinkled my nose and uncurl my lip, open my eyes wider than the squinted glare I’d adopted.

There are reasons I hate him - he’s created a cliquey, exclusive group and those of us outside it have no access to resources, he thinks he’s ever so charming and funny, he demands constant attention and adoration, he doesn’t think much of me - but being so obvious has obviously made him decide to avoid dealing with me. That’s great, but I dislike that he’s now using someone I rather liked to get information from me.


I walked briskly to the hospital to find the experimental equipment we sometimes use in order to load that file onto a USB drive. When I arrived, people were already using the equipment. Rick noticed me move through the entrance and smiled while waving me over.

“You can plug your drive in on the monitor.” He offered and the woman seated at the computer scooted aside.

“I’m sorry.” I said to all of them. “It’s annoying to be interrupted, I know.” They politely waved off my apology and waited while I looked exactly where I told Chris the experiment was and rolled my eyes with renewed irritation at Joe. There’s no way he looked. But I obediently waited while Rick pushed a few buttons.

“What’s your drive called?” The woman at the computer asked, squinting at the screen. “The Toshiba drive is mine, but I don’t see yours. Does it have a name?”

“Um…” I trailed off, feeling my cheeks heat, hoping desperately that the name didn’t show up.

“Meanie?” She asked, glancing up at me as I turned increasingly red. “Is that yours?”

“Yes.” I nodded. “It’s embarrassing, but yes. I have Eenie, Meanie, Minie and Moe. This one is Meanie.”

“Aren’t you adorable?” She said, grinning widely and shaking her head at me while the men in the room looked rather confused.

“Adorable. Ridiculous. Either way.” I murmured and she laughed as she ejected little Meanie (he wears the green ribbon. Eenie has a blue ribbon and Minie is pink. Moe, if you’re curious, is on a black lanyard.) and handed him back to me. I thanked her, apologized again for interrupting and walked back outside, letting the increasingly cold breeze cool my face.


“What are you listening to?” Ken asked after he walked in the office. He’d gone to get new glasses and returned when I was completing a survey.

“The sound on cards.” I offered before I turned. “Very nice.” I complimented the glasses and he reached to touch them. “Classic. Well done.”

“You don’t think they’re too trendy?” He asked and I shook my head firmly. Then he raised his eyes at the animation on my screen.

“I signed up to take e-surveys and I’m always too late to sign up. So this time I made it in before too many people enrolled and I get to answer questions about greeting cards.”

“With chickens on them?” He asked.

“Yes. It was something about chicken wings and you opened it and it played the Chicken Dance when you opened it. I thought it rather cute, but I wouldn’t buy it.”

“You’re doing this for fun?” He asked.

“Oh, no. If I complete the survey, I get $5.”

“In cash?”

“Well, no.” I said, turning back to my monitor.

“So it’s like Monopoly money.” He decided and I could hear the amusement in his voice. “I can give you $10 and you can just buy the whole game.”

“Hush.” I admonished, though I felt myself smile.

I repeated that same statement when he came to get something from the printer the separates our desks about 20 minutes later. “I’m very busy!” I scolded him as he started to chuckle.

“Busy with what now?” He asked, leaning down to examine my screen over my shoulder.

“I’m playing a game.” I mumbled and he rubbed my back while he laughed heartily at me. “Now I’m embarrassed.” I told him, feeling my cheeks warm again before he walked back to his desk, still laughing.

“Why’d you do it if you’re embarrassed by it?” He asked.

“I didn’t think you’d look!” I explained of my decision to play Diner Dash 2.

“How could I not look? I’m right here!” He teased.

“Well, if you would have stayed over there, you wouldn’t have seen.” I pouted. “Stupid printer.”

“So what’s the game?” He asked, rolling his chair back from his desk again.

“You stay over there.” I demanded, but he ignored me to come bend over my desk again.

“So you’re waiting on the little cartoon people?” He clarified. “When they raise their hands, they’re ready to order? Then you bring them food and clear the tables. I get it. Did you write your name in as Katie, PhD? Is this going in your interview talk?”

“Hush.” I said again, still blushing. “I'm really too busy to have this conversation.” He shook his head, smiled and muttered something about doing complicated homework while I was playing games over in my corner. I glanced over after I finished the level and he looked over at me and shook his head.


After work, I went to have a laser treatment (still embarrassing, but rather effective) and went grocery shopping. Nothing humiliating happened while I was at Publix - I adore Publix as much as I hate Joe. I decided on a loaf of artisan bread and got meat and cheese at the deli. There’s something lovely about nibbling on cheese or roasted chicken while a nice lady slices more for me to take home. Then I found chips and bagels and cream cheese.

I plan to spend the evening making a few more slides, nibbling on wonderfully fresh, little sandwiches and deciding what to do with myself tomorrow. I do hope I start looking better in front of people though.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


"She might be excited to see you." Cousin said when I told her I'd arrive pre-naptime on Sunday so Little Cousin could be dismayed at a visitor then wake with some acceptance of my presence. "She likes to show people her new puppies."

"Stuffed animals?" I asked. "Or real, live puppies?"

"Real puppies." Cousin laughed. "We have two of them, which brings the total to three dogs and two cats."

"Well, I would have come to just bake cookies, but now that I know there are puppies, I'm super-excited!" I cried. "I love puppies!"

So in lieu of a real post - because there's not a lot to say, honestly - I thought I'd do a post by numbers.

3 = Times I yelled at Sprout for lying under the tree and batting at ornaments until the tree leaned.

1 = Time I used his full name when shouting. (It's Sprout George. Dad calls him George, so I just incorporated it into the full name.)

10 = Time when I decided I was officially working from home.

2 = Pages from Joe I ignored because I don't like him and if he needs my help, he can do so at my convenience, not his.

1 = Naps I took.

90 = Length in minutes of said nap.

19 = Number of slides I had on Saturday for my interview talk.

50 = Number of slides desired for said talk and now created in a PowerPoint file.

6 = Number of slides that remain on the list that still need some work.

5 = Number of list items I crossed off today.

2 = Papers that are out to co-authors.

0 = Number of comments I've received from said co-authors this week.

3 = Number of papers I've decided to send to the professor who invited me to interview. I'm not sure they were all on my CV when I sent it (I really am anti-padding when it comes to CVs) so I'd like him to have a chance to read what I have.

0 = Number of papers I've already sent. I'm wondering if the potential for greatness would better serve me than a dose of reality in the form of un-peer-reviewed work. Opinions?

2 = Number of emails from Anti-Friend that I've ignored stating how unfair it is that nobody wanted her late and exceedingly carefully done work.

1 = Emails I demanded Carrie send letting Anti-Friend know that her tone was grossly inappropriate.

11 = Age I feel in that whole situation.

0 = Posts in my new blog that will serve as a lab notebook. But I love the idea of having a searchable index of work I've done. And we don't keep and turn in lab notebooks so my habit of keeping notes on scrap paper or in various notebooks that might be handy is less than ideal. I've started keeping email folders on my work computer - sending how-to text to myself or filing notes from others - but I don't like not having access to it at home.

8 = Months remaining on my fellowship.

1-2 = Months I hope to remain here. I'm completely focused on finishing up and writing things down. I'm already visualizing my possessions in boxes and planning what to take and what to give away or trash. I want out. I'm ready. So I'll return to my slides again and hope I can make a good enough impression to get out.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Between six and eight

Rebecca tagged me for the seven things meme and it's one I can do. Much as I like being tagged, I'm a bad bet for these things overall. I'll either forget or think it's too hard of come up with some story I'd like to tell instead. But I liked that Rebecca moved the rules to the end and her blog was new to me, so let's give this a shot.

  1. I rarely rise above my inclinations. If I feel lazy, I'm generally useless. If I feel productive, I'm generally insanely busy. Yet I did battle past the apathy yesterday - I sent out a refocused Problematic Paper to co-authors, I made notes on the fellowship application, I took a walk, shopped with Friend and cleaned a bit.
  2. I can achieve ridiculous amounts of pleasure out of random things. Case in point - my old vacuum wasn't working well at all. Friend said she didn't like Dirt Devils and suggested a buy a Bissell. Friend knows random stuff like that so I placed the bulky box in one of our two Target carts. I came home, asked for a bit of help putting the handle on, then vacuumed. I continued to exclaim over how clean my floors were. It's delightful! When I woke this morning, I shuffled down the hall slowly until I noticed how dirt-free my carpet is and grinned widely.
  3. Between Friend and me, $500 was spent at Target last night. It would have been $55o were it not for my 10% coupon I get for using my pretty, shiny Target credit card. "Wow." I said as we each pushed a full cart toward my car. "I'm glad I didn't calculate that as we were going along." She nodded in agreement and I decided I'd simply think she spent $400 or so until I calculated the totals and found otherwise.
  4. Apart from my previous and much beloved new vacuum, I purchased Rice Krispie Treats for myself. I should just make them, but I don't have a nonstick pan big enough to melt marshmallows. Maybe I could ask for one for Christmas... I did get many gifts for four children - the two cousins and the two nieces. I think I'm basically done.
  5. Sprout is a real cat. He sometimes thinks himself a dog, but his true feline nature shines through. "This is what I mean." I said, not glancing up from wrapping presents at my kitchen table as Friend walked in to get more vodka. "Always with the noise. He's into everything all the time!" I said of my stripey pet. I glanced down and smiled without meaning to. "Is he all the way in the bag?" Friend replied that of course he was - he is a cat. And I saw a little face with pointy ears poking out of an Old Navy shopping bag full of Sprout the cat. He's a sweet little guy sometimes.
  6. I prefer clouds to sunshine on most days. I'm therefore pleased with the weather this morning. I think it's because my pupils are abnormally large and the sun hurts my eyes. Now that I wear glasses 99% of the time, I'm not able to shield my abnormal eyes against the sun, so I don't like it. (I do not have prescription sunglasses. I am considering a new contact prescription so I can wear them more often though.)
  7. I should do at least one random item since I really played fast and loose with the rules of this meme. Um...I have many, many, many bags. Purses and totes and laptop carriers and backpacks and overnight bags. I can see two in the living room, there are two in the kitchen and another three in my bedroom. My closet holds at least 10 more, but the seven that are out are ones I use often enough. I'll often decide on an outfit based on what bag currently holds most of my stuff. I received a free brown tote in quilted material from Dove, I think, and rather like it. So I've been wearing a lot of brown lately so I can carry it to work.
Who shall I tag?
Friend - who will in all likelihood ignore me since she's buried in work lately. I was lucky to see her at all yesterday and had to schedule in advance.
Charlie - who will in all likelihood ignore me since he's also buried in work lately. His voice brightened when I identified myself on the phone last week - I'm not sure if he was pleased to hear from me or if he was just grateful I wasn't the colleague he expected to call at 8PM or so.
DocInTraining - who is smart and thoughtful and sent me a much-too-generous gift certificate in response to my sending her used books.
PPB - Her writing is so utterly exquisite sometimes that it makes me cry. Here's a recent example.
Lucy - When I started reading Lucy, I was afraid she'd think I was stalking her since I made my way through so many archived posts one night. She's terribly sweet and funny and sincere and was always kind when I asked her to read the book I wrote.
Cee - Who also read my book, bless her heart, and had the most wonderful post of Christmas ideas recently.
And JustMe - She actually does the memes with which she's tagged - at least much more reliably than I do. I find her bright and adorable and very much hope her December goes quite well.
(And if you want to play and I didn't tag you, please leave a comment and I'll add you to my list. I don't think very many of my tags will stick, quite frankly.)

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Note to Self

I'm sorry you're feeling unmotivated and therefore overwhelmed. That's very sad for you. In an attempt to ease some of the stress so you can stop being all twitchy, I have some reminders.

  • Cleaning is good. Congratulations on picking up the house this morning! You should continue to work on that - vacuum, work on the kitchen, clean the mirrors in the bathrooms. This makes you feel more calm and centered for some reason, so go with it.
  • Take a walk. The dog enjoys it and it clears your head more often than not. It's all sunshiney outside (which I know is annoying when you wished for rain - sometimes life isn't fair) and it might give you a sense of accomplishment.
  • Use the mornings. It's rather silly not to abide by this simple rule since you know the first two hours you're awake will dictate the rest of your day. No reading for fun or playing computer games or sending fun email first thing. There must be coffee and putting dishes in the dishwasher and doing some professional writing. Then the list of things to do is already started and seems much easier to tackle.
  • Turn on ESPN. Sports bore you enough that you'll do work while they're on. It also gives you a superior feeling to know that you're being productive while those thousands of people are out there having frivolous fun. This makes you a bit of a loser, but, well, the truth sometimes hurts.
  • I know this is difficult, but you're not writing a dissertation anymore. There is no huge document where you can deposit all your knowledge on a given topic. It's good that you've read a lot of papers! Good work! But summarizing all of them just makes telling your story more complicated. I know that paragraph is relevant, but it's not essential. Take it out. I know that analysis and figure took 20 hours to create. It still doesn't belong, so hit delete.
  • You're still aching over removing all that text you liked so much, aren't you? Perhaps you can put it in the talk you're giving. They will allow you to speak for 50 minutes on all the new information you've tucked in your pretty brain. Go ahead and move all that text into the PowerPoint document and knock yourself out listing papers and references and all this peripheral crap. Maybe someone will be impressed.
  • You must go over the grant application today. Forgot it at work, did you? The science takes 5 flipping pages, Katie. Print it again and make your notes.
  • Oh, and turn off the Christmas lights out front. I know you often forget to plug them back in at night, but that doesn't mean it's reasonable to just leave them on all day. If it means that much to you, you may leave on the multi-colored lights on the tree inside while you're at home. And you should pick up the ornaments Sprout batted off the tree.
  • I see you put away the boxes of Christmas cards. Good work, that. It's frustrating to get halfway through writing them every year and not sending any, isn't it? Save yourself some energy and accept you're not a Christmas card person. Perhaps you could send a Christmas email instead! Think about selecting a picture and writing a note to friends and family.
  • Remember to pray for Jill. She has surgery on Monday and she's scared. This means you will go to church tomorrow and ask for their prayers as well. I think you fill out a little card and put it in a basket during the first hymn. It can't be that hard - just remember to sit by the aisle.
  • I appreciate that you want to vacation - find a beach and a book and watch the ocean over the top of the pages while wiggling your toes in the sand. Eventually, you may do that. But not now. Instead, you can put on your shoes and socks and go see the lake.
Much love,