Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Welcome to Academia

For those of you in academia, or who have had any kind of brush with the academy, you understand the mythical nature of funding. If you look at it too closely, it may disappear. If you keep your faith strong, and put that faith into action, you may be lucky enough to feed yourself, your family, and your research for another semester or so. For faculty (and graduate students), grant funding is like a magical beast: much sought after, exceedingly rare, and frustratingly elusive.

This week has truly been an initiation. After finding out (rather last minute) about a Request for Proposals that fit some of my research interests, Rachel and I decided to go for it and submit a letter of intent. Submitted at the eleventh hour, it did actually all work out, and now we’re working on the proposal. I never knew just how many offices and individuals had to look at/approve/sign/wave sages over and dance around proposals before they could be submitted. I’m somewhat convinced that there is a unique kind of mysticism that surrounds funding proposals for the following reasons:

1. The deadlines continually change. This can only be because some kind of spirit has shifted the ether slightly.

2. No one seems to really be sure what is required. This can only be because there are, in fact, no fixed requirements. The letters on the page swim, begging me to miss some size 6 font requirement.

3. Proposals seem to be due in threes. I suppose it is possible that this is only right now, but I don’t think so. I currently have three things due early next week. Rachel, my advisor, has two that overlap with mine, as well as one (much larger!) of her own. I think that this unsurprising coincidence suggests a much deeper superstitious reality.

Wish me luck!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Baby sweater

Here is my latest finished object… I finished it just in time for Caitlin’s baby shower last night (literally… I found the buttons yesterday afternoon). It is lavender and dark grey, though my camera made the colors a little off. I knit it from a corn fiber, which is lovely and machine washable, so I love it.

Many of you have been hearing about this baby sweater for Ash’s niece-to-be for quite some time. It took me a while, mostly because I measured the back incorrectly, and was then afraid that I wouldn’t know how to fix it with any kind of speed. But, I figured it out, and I’m pretty happy with how it all came together.

Here is the detail on the buttons:

And here is how the wraparound part of the sweater opens:

I found different (flat!) but still cute buttons to attach the inside wrap piece:

I don’t know how soon I’ll be doing another sweater, since I found the finishing on this one really frustrating. There were a lot of seams, and a lot of edging put on after the fact. That said, Ash made a really beautiful pullover sweater with a hood for the baby, so maybe I will just stick to things with fewer pieces and patterns that hide seams well…

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


We’re not quite to the official start of summer, but it’s clearly here in the School of Public Health. There’s almost no one in the offices, it’s almost eerily quiet, and my e-mail box is practically empty. I can see the wind blowing in the newly leafed trees out my window (which goes into my advisor’s office, but she also has a window, so I can see out). It’s taken a few weeks to ease into it, but I think my summer is officially going.

The semester always ends on a high note. With exams, papers, and all of the other work from the semester coming to a head, as well as the formation of plans for the summer, the end of the semester is a crazy time. It’s a frenzied few weeks of intense reading, writing, making notes of things to do once the reading and writing are done, and relatively little sleeping and eating compared with the rest of the semester. It’s an exciting time, with lots of work, lots of productivity, and a healthy dose of panic.

The intensity of those few weeks reminds everyone why they want to eventually graduate, and why summers are critical. At the end of those few weeks, no normal human being can return to function the following Monday. It requires much more than a weekend for the limping transporters of neurotransmitters to rest up and get ready to run again. Perhaps not coincidentally, most summer plans allow for a week or so of rest and relaxation. This, however, is not as easy as it sounds. Maybe it’s just me, but after a crazy few weeks of adrenaline fueled papers and exams, and a schedule that no one would envy, it’s really hard to give up a schedule entirely. After I started my relaxing week of semi-vacation (working 4-5 hours a day, but not much else) I stopped being able to sleep properly. I would have a difficult time falling asleep, and wake up at odd hours. After a few days and nights of listless wandering, Alicia, in her infinite wisdom, told me to make myself a schedule. I did, and it seemed to help. However, over the course of those few days, as well as the day I made the schedule, I somehow successfully transitioned into relaxation mode. This made it incredibly difficult to concentrate while working according to my new schedule.

Starting this week, however, I feel like a new person. Perhaps it was the jarring realization that I’d nearly missed a deadline (or rather, that I had missed it, but by some miracle the proposal was accepted anyway), or perhaps it was just reaching that moment where I was ready to work again. Either way, my brain is functioning again, and I love it. I worked with Ash yesterday (as she is visiting, but had work to do), and today I’ve been in my office for quite some time and am still being productive.

Maybe someday I’ll learn how to tell exactly how much downtime I need after a large deadline, and how structured that downtime should be. Maybe I won’t. Either way, many thanks to those who put up with me during that time (mostly Alicia, but also other friends), and apologies to those who didn’t have to put up with me because I neglected to contact you by any means during the last month. Keep your fingers crossed that I’m on the steep part of this learning curve (contrary to the popular expression, I hold that the steep part must be when you make the most progress per unit time, not the reverse).