Friday, January 29, 2010

What a week…

I think I’m heading out a little early today.  This week has been crazy, and has involved things like a crazy disrupted bus schedule, avoiding huge layoffs for Alicia, and the car battery dying.  It has also included Alicia’s birthday and lots of productive work time, but those were each overlaid by a substantial level of stress…  Hoping for a happy and strong finish.  Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Prospectus/Dissertation Support Group

Or, the importance of setting goals.

In a true stroke of genius, one of my cohort-mates (are they just called cohorts?) suggested reforming our prelim-prep group (with a few additions and one out on maternity leave) in service of completing prospectuses/dissertations in proper timeframes.  This was brilliant, and I will be forever in debt to her. 

As you all know, I am not afraid of structure in my life.  I’m generally quite happy to create it myself, and will occasionally go completely overboard, resulting in days that are scheduled hourly in order to get everything done.  In spite of this, planning such a huge project as a dissertation can be really overwhelming.  Though I had already made a lovely month-by-month schedule for myself, outlining an optimistic schedule to dissertation success, and a weekly breakdown of what projects/subsections I should work on each day, I was constantly consumed by the sheer volume of stuff I needed to complete.  Enter the prospectus/dissertation support group.  In addition to discussing what’s going on with our projects, getting feedback about various aspects of the process, and generally having a nice lunch time, we set goals to be met by the next meeting (generally in two weeks).  It’s amazing how life can be so structured already and yet the critical level of structure is missing.  I now have three scales of calendar posted on in my cube, and it makes me feel so calm and in control – something I’m trying to hold on to more as everything else speeds up. 

The lesson here is nothing new: When you are overwhelmed by a big project, break it into small enough chunks that you have manageable goals, but not so small that you can’t see the big picture.  I find that that the breakthrough moments in my life are rarely truly new.  Rather, they are subtle (and sometimes less so) reiterations of things I’ve already learned and tried to apply in my life.  I suppose, then, the only real lesson is to keep trying until it works…

PS. My IRB was approved!  Now I just have to get my data contract approved and I’ll be on my way.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The internet is working so…

I present you with gratuitous Walter photos.

Did the dog leave his legs on the couch?

No… he’s under there too!

Saturday, January 23, 2010


During my prelim last summer, I had a lot more free time than you might have imagined. I had eliminated all commitments other than the prelim, and no one expected me to work on anything else. This, combined with the fact that I could really only write productively for 6-7 hours (at most) each day, meant that I had a lot of free evenings, and even some free afternoons. Just a week or so before prelims, I’d remembered a Christmas gift from my brother – an herb container garden – and wanted to get it started. Despite some initial complications that cost me most of the marjoram and parsley and nearly all of the cilantro, I had a healthy crop of basil seedlings and a few other miscellaneous plants. With all of this free time, I decided to start transplanting the little plants into larger containers so that they would stop fighting over the limited resources in their small pots. Though there was substantial attrition through this transition, many of the little seedlings grew into happy plants and are still flourishing now… As I’ve been limited to taking photos mostly in the house (since it’s been dark outside any time I’ve wanted to play with the camera), the basil has been my primary subject.
Isn’t it pretty?

In addition to photographing the basil, I’ve been cooking with it and have been considering trying my hand at a few other container crops. (After my prospectus defense I realized that I’d forgotten to water things for a while and was left with a few more empty pots.) Here is a picture of the potato soup I made last night, made tastier by some pesto cubes from the freezer and fresh basil from the window.

As an aside, these photos are compressed to deal with my tragic internet situation... It should be fixed on Monday (fingers crossed).

Friday, January 22, 2010


Inspired by one of the blogs I read, I thought I'd take a few self-portraits that were also portraits of the new camera. Not having a nice white wall facing a mirror, you get the next best thing: the bathroom!

Look, it's a camera!And I am so focused on holding it still, that I cannot even smile...I figured out how to do both at once.And the flash works - though it's not ideal for pictures of yourself in the mirror...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Knitting for babies…

This is one of the lovely cupcakes from the surprise baby shower for Ebony... (Taken with the new camera!!!)

I love knitting for babies. They are small making all of their garments both cute and relatively fast to knit. I like green and blue, which are appropriate colors for any baby, and I have found a variety of machine-washable yarns I really like. That said, my friends, you need to space your babies better. I don’t mean the time between your first and second child. I couldn’t care less how you space them. I mean the time between your baby and the baby of my other friends. This month alone I have 3 friends’ babies being born. This combined with a rather superstitious unwillingness to knit before about the 8th or 9th month of pregnancy, and the fact that Christmas was only a month ago, means that I currently have 3 baby projects I mind. The next one isn’t due until June. Couldn’t someone have gotten pregnant a month later?

First, a picture of the sleep-sack in progress for Ebony's baby (due in a few weeks). It still needs a hood, but it's already so cute...

Second, the first of two (thumbless) mittens for Ken's baby, born already but not quite ready for mittens.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Internet, O internet…

Or, AT&T, you vile temptress…

The lack of recent blog posts, contrary to what you may have been thinking, is not, in fact, due to lack of available time on my part.  I am busy, and the semester is off to a rapid start.  What has keep me from posting is the cruel lack of internet at home right now.  We used to share with our neighbor.  This was not an illegal stealing of a network signal, but rather a cost-sharing move that everyone liked.  When Jing moved rather abruptly, our internet access ended.  We were fine for a few days, and decided to wait until after the holidays to deal with it – after all, it seemed unlikely that anything would be accomplished over Christmas.  I called AT&T (after determining that their internet was a better deal than Comcast) the Monday after Christmas and was told that our internet would be activated and that we would have our equipment by December 31, 2009.  It seemed a little unlikely that the mail would move that quickly, but we waited until January 4 to call and complain.  When I called again they told me that my order had never been completed.  Something is clearly not straightforward about our address (unclear as to why, but there it is), and it didn’t go through the first time.  A nice representative started a new order and promised that this one would be completed (and to their credit the AT&T people have been very friendly, if not incredibly good at transferring me to the correct person on the first try – I talked to at least 4 other people before speaking with this woman) .  We received the equipment on the promised date and I attached everything very carefully.  I was so hopeful, and my spirit was crushed when I saw the blinking red lights.  Anyone who has ever tried to deal with anything electronic can tell you that flashing red lights are bad, particularly when you have clear documentation stating that they should be solid green lights.  I called again, and was told that there was a problem with my order and that a specialist would have to call me back.  All I want is internet – is that so hard?!?!?  A specialist called me back, and said that they were still trying to connect my service (still unclear why it is so complicated) and that someone would contact me when it was ready.  He couldn’t give me an exact date (red flag!!!), but said he hoped it would be by the end of the week.  That was last week.  I think I’m going to need to call again today, but I hardly have the strength…  Send happy internet-activating wishes my way (as your IRB wishes are working well so far – relatively few corrections and I think it’s on it’s way now), and hopefully the post frequency will be back up shortly…

Thursday, January 14, 2010

It arrived…

and I was too tired/busy to play with it…  The camera travelled in record time (ordered Sunday night, shipped Monday, arrived Wednesday afternoon) but I haven’t gotten any farther along than opening the box, giving a quick visual appraisal, and looking through the first few pages of the owner’s manual.  It gives lots of helpful advice like “Batteries other than those listed for use with this device may cause an explosion” and “If the view screen breaks, be careful of broken glass.”  I hope not to need most of this advice, but I suppose it’s helpful.  I’m almost to the page that tells me how to turn on the camera and take a picture, so maybe I’ll get there tonight… 

In other news, I have submitted the IRB approval for access to my dissertation data set.  Please send happy thoughts to the committee so that they love it, and approve it rapidly.  Also please send happy thoughts to me in Java, as I will be programming like crazy while I’m waiting on the data.  Oh Java, how do I love thee…  let me count the ways:

public int countTheWays() {

theWays = 0;

for (Program program: andreasProject){

     if (screwUp = true) { theWays --; }


               theWays ++;


return theWays;


Please just don’t tell me if you find a coding error in this, the most nerdy joke I have ever made…

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The details

For the curious among you, I decided to get a Pentax K-x.  It’s a nice, light/small, entry-level camera, and as a special bonus also takes high definition video.  I just got an automated phone call (so fancy) that my camera will be delivered tomorrow, which is even earlier than I anticipated.  Such excitement!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Camera: en route

I did it.  I ordered my first digital SLR and I’m super excited.  Now I can use a high(er)-end piece of equipment to photograph the dog sleeping and my knitting.  :)

It should be here Thursday, so watch for newly creative and expertly captured photos to accompany my posts. 


Friday, January 08, 2010

Back in School

The semester has officially started, and it’s kind of amazing.  I’m not teaching this semester, and I only have one class.  It was beautiful to make up my daily/weekly schedule (a one sheet guide for myself I’ve been making every term for the last 9 years) and see that really, the vast majority of my time is spent in my office doing my work. 

This is not to suggest that I will be taking it easy.  I’ve made a totally unintimidating (ha!) calendar of what I need to get done on each of my major projects between now and April in order to make sure I have direction and structure in my life even in the absence of coursework…

My class also seems promising, as it’s a seminar with John Holland, an inspiring professor affiliated with the Center for the Study of Complex Systems.  He also mentioned that his daughters knit, so he doesn’t mind if I knit in class. 

It begins…

Tuesday, January 05, 2010


Startitis: n. Inflammation of the starting.

Symptoms: Not wanting to work on anything that’s already been started, and wanting to start new things. This may apply across life domains, or may be limited to a single aspect. It is not generally considered a disorder if the results are productive, such as when the patient is excited to work on the IRB application for a dissertation data set, and is ready to jump back into programming after “a little while” of not doing it. It can cause problems, as well as generate a large volume of materials when all of the patient’s current knitting (and other craft) projects seem relatively uninteresting and so she starts a new sweater for the dog. He will undoubtedly appreciate it, but he probably could have waited until the mittens, scarf, and shawl were at least a little further along. Or the quilt that has been waiting in pieces for the patient since at least last Spring Break.

Cure: A schedule. A plan. Even a vague commitment to finish off a few things. Tomorrow…

Monday, January 04, 2010

Happy New Year!

I know it’s a few days late, but the internet has been a bit spotty around here since our neighbor, with whom we were legitimately and legally sharing the internet, moved precipitously.  The blog just wasn’t a top priority whenever I could get to a coffee shop or some other source of sporadic internet access. 

In any case, I’m wishing all of you a happy and reflective new year.  I always enjoy the clean slate the new year brings, and am looking forward to planning out my semester (without teaching, and with only a single class) of work toward my dissertation.  I’m also planning on continuing to knit a bunch, and have added a yearly tracker for my knitting to the side bar, since now I will actually have a full year to track! 

All the best for 2010!