Thursday, May 27, 2010

Schedules and things I don’t want to do

In general, I’m pretty organized and disciplined. (Stop laughing, all of you…) I make schedules and to-do lists and put reminders into my phone. In spite of this, and perhaps, at least a little bit, because of it, I am also singularly good at putting off things I really don’t want to do.* Most of you, I’m sure, have to-do lists that look like mine and you know that there are always a million things to do. Usually 999,999 of them get completed within a reasonable time frame, but that last one can get dragged along for quite a long time before you realize that it is the one thing that you only really allotted 2 hours for each week, and then you somehow filled those up with other projects that really, truly, needed that extra 30 minutes each to stay on track.

I’ve realized that often this happens with projects that I’m not sure how best to get done, or where I need help but am hesitant to ask for it. Sometimes it happens when someone else has dropped the ball and I’m overwhelmed at the possibility of picking up all the slack. Sometimes it’s both of those things plus some other stuff. Whatever the situation is, it invariably leaves me feeling vaguely irritable. Sadly, there is no way to get rid of the irritable feeling without doing something. Generally that something is work… on the abandoned project… until it’s done…

Here it goes…

*I know that at least some of the commas in this sentence have to be wrong, but I don’t know which ones. To those of you who care, I am so sorry… And please, let this apology carry through the entirety of this post which is filled with a unique combination of appropriate and inappropriate commas.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The data arrived!

I think I’ve already told everyone I’ve talked to in the last 24 hours or so, but I’m still pretty excited. I mailed my completed application for the Add Health restricted data set in early February, with hopes that it would take 4-6 weeks to process, maybe 8 weeks if things got difficult. Instead, it took a solid 3.5 months, arriving yesterday afternoon. This, I have learned, is why we build time into dissertation schedules.

Now that it’s arrived, it’s time to really get to work. This is a little scary, as it seems like I’ve been working. I’ve been pushing my way through the programming for the computational model that comprises the final 1/3 of my dissertation, and have thankfully realized in the last few weeks that I’m actually almost done with it. There are still some parameters to set and experiments to run, but most of the really frustrating stuff is done. After a minor crisis of confidence as others in my program are publishing papers and moving along their paths, I realized that I’m moving along too! Fingers crossed, I will have a draft of (ironically, as it's likely to be the 1st one done) the 3rd paper of my dissertation within the next few weeks. And if all goes well with the data, the rest of it can a follow along soon.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Walter’s Day Out, or Gratuitous Dog Photos

Today was by far the warmest day so far this year – my computer still says it’s 79F and it’s 7:30pm. It was also sunny, making it the perfect day to meet up with Ashley and Ferdinand for a walk in the Arb. I was a littler nervous about how Walt would respond to Ferdinand, given his frequent difficulty with larger boy dogs, and Ferdinand is nothing if not a gigantic boy dog, but my fears proved unfounded and they got along swimmingly. We walked and had a lovely time, and when Walt got hot and a little tired, he just relaxed in the shade.

And then rolled in the grass trying to rid himself of the just-bathed smell he had from yesterday.

Back at Ashley’s, she pointed out the gigantic rawhide bone with which she simply couldn’t interest Ferdinand. After a few sniffs, Walter went to town on it. It was only slightly too big, having been intended for a dog slightly over 4 times his weight…

Here is Ferdinand after noticing that Walter is chewing his bone, perhaps realizing for the first that it is an exciting and delicious treat.

And then, here is Ferdinand enjoying his bone after Walter was distracted by a treat.

Thankfully it was time to head home, as Ferdinand growled a little at Walter and then Walt just sat and whined pathetically while he watched Ferdinand enjoy the bone… It was a great time, and I just might have to get Walt the most gigantic rawhide the world has ever seen…

Friday, May 21, 2010

Malawi gay couple get maximum sentence of 14 years

From the BBC :

A judge in Malawi has imposed a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison with hard labour on a gay couple convicted of gross indecency and unnatural acts.

The judge apparently wanted to make them an example after they were arrested for holding an engagement ceremony in their home.  This is terrifying, and falls closely on the heels of the proposed death sentence for homosexuality in Uganda.  

What I fail to see is how the two men were harming anyone by affirming their commitment to one another.  When I read these articles, I end up back in the same circle of logic and anger that the social conservatives in the US regularly provoke in me, wondering how a government (or anyone, really) who claims to have the best interest of it’s people at heart can truly believe that a) people will change their sexual orientation if they believe they will be harshly punished for it and b) that allowing people to live openly in consensual adult relationships will threaten the moral fabric of society. 

I also worry about the message this sends to LGBTQ youth around the world.  Thankfully, I’m not the only one worrying about this.  If you’re feeling a little down after reading this short post, check out this short PSA of Harry Potter telling queer kids to be proud of who they are

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Just embrace the nerdiness…

This summer I’m participating the Preparing Future Faculty Seminar run by the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching here on campus. It’s been great so far. We’ve discussed lots of different issues facing new faculty, particularly as they relating to teaching, and I’m really enjoying myself. In addition to having a little knitting time during the week (Yay for a foolproof method to stop fidgeting!), I’ve worked on my teaching philosophy statement and am starting to work on my very own course syllabus. As in, for a course I would teach by myself…

I don’t know if this happens to other people* but sometimes I just get overwhelmed with the sheer magnitude of my nerdiness and really have to revel in it (or get vaguely sad about the kinds of things I find exciting). This happened last week when I created the embedded poll about what I’ll be doing on my last few days in Vienna and the surrounds. It happened again this week when I started working on my course syllabus. I realized that I could design the course I’d always wished I could take. I know that ultimately there will be institutional barriers and instructional limitations, and that even tomorrow my feedback team might tell me that no human being could cover all of this in a single semester, but for now, I’m excited about it. It combines all of the exciting aspects of looking at a course catalogue without the limitations of what other people are interested in. I mean, I hope there will be enough students interested in complex systems (what I’d particularly like to teach) to support a class, but that doesn’t matter right now. All that matters is that I really wants to take my class!

*Actually, I know a few other people this happens to, I just don’t know how universal the experience really is…

Sunday, May 16, 2010

One Helluva Ride…

If you’ve met me even once, or read more than one post on this blog, I’m willing to bet that you know I work best when I have a goal. The more concrete, the better, and the more likely I can break it down into subgoals that I can cross off of a list as I accomplish them, even better yet. Those of you who have known me a little longer will know that I am a wee bit competitive. I have channeled this in recent years to be competitive with myself, rather than with others (mostly in order to stay sane – med school does not go well if you really try to compete with everyone), but I remain oddly intrinsically motivated to constantly one-up myself. Imagine my delight then, when, upon completion of ActiveU – the university’s valiant attempt to motivate students, staff, and faculty to move during the winter – I received my last reminder e-mail with links to various training calendars! If there is anything I love more than a goal, it is a calendar! I perused the list, drawn immediately to the walking and biking calendars. Having already trained for a walking event (The Breast Cancer 3 Day Walk with mom) once before, I thought I might give biking a chance. I printed off the beginning and intermediate calendars and headed home.

Looking at both of those training plans, I wasn’t quite sure where to start. I certainly felt up to biking more than 2-3 miles each day, but I have also never gone on a bike ride where my average speed was 20 miles per hour – the stated goal of the beginning calendar. I was more interested in the longer distances emphasized by the intermediate calendar than the faster speeds set forth as goals for the beginning calendar. Then, Alicia mentioned the possibility of training for The Ride Through Hell (, MI) – One Helluva Ride organized by the Ann Arbor Bicycle Touring Society. The ride is July 10, and offers routes that are 15, 30, 39, 64, 77, and 100 miles long. Alicia biked the 39 mile route last year, and I opted out (since the shorter routes had a different starting point and I wouldn’t have been able to ride with her at all). Looking at my calendars, I’ve decided to do either the 64 or 77 mile ride. In previous years, only the 77 and 100 mile rides actually went through Hell (the others only get sort of close), and I thought I’d kind of like to hit that mark if possible. However, this year apparently due to road conditions none of the routes will actually go through the town. Alicia has also just pointed out that we can register for the 77 mile ride, and, if necessary, on the day of the ride we can request the 64 mile map. This seems like a good plan, and I think that planning for the 77 mile ride will push my training that much more.

Things I have already done in preparation:

  • started increasing my mileage gradually from my usual commute
  • joined to track my rides
  • spent countless time trying to figure out how to create a widget that would put my mileage on the blog, to no avail*
  • ordered an awesome Helluva Ride jersey

*There seems to be consensus that this is not easy to do with Bike Journal. However, it is the most popular tracking site, apparently in part because they almost never change their format at all, so you can track for long periods of time without losing information or learning a new system every few months. Also, because so many people are on it, and they rank their riders based on distance, it fuels a little friendly competition/pride in increasing mileage. I'll keep trying...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Prague or Budapest?

I’m heading to Vienna in July for the International AIDS Conference and have arranged to get there a little early and stay a little late. Since the flight is so expensive, and the hostels are not, it seemed foolish to get there without doing a little traveling on my own. I’ll arrive July 16, and head straight to Salzburg. I’m anticipating getting there by early afternoon, staying the night, and see the sights on the 17th before heading back to Vienna that evening. The conference starts the morning of the 18th, and runs through the 23rd. I’m planning to see Vienna during times when there aren’t conference events, and I think that over the course of the five days, I should have plenty of time. Once the conference ends, the dilemma begins. Ruti said I must see Prague. Mom said that Budapest was one of the highlights of her travels. Both are within easy train rides of Vienna, though Budapest is slightly closer. Here’s your chance folks… Send me your vote!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

And then there was dumb… (or, an ode to the beauty and wonder that is AAA)

Last night had everything going for it.  I had plans to see a concert with Alicia and even though I didn’t know the band, she generally has good taste and I enjoy live shows.  I also had plans to meet Ferdinand, the newest member of a friend’s family, a 104 lbs Ridgeback/Mastiff mix.  A carefully choreographed drive around downtown allowed all of these things to happen, and they were lovely. 

Ferdinand was, as promised, the most loveable 104 lbs you can possibly imagine.  The best adjective I can think of to describe him is lumbering, but will post pictures at some point so that you can judge for yourselves how gigantic and mellow this dog is. 

The concert was also great.  It was a little late for me, but that is sort of par for the course at this point for most things that don’t also cater to little kids or the elderly.  The opener was pretty good, which I consider to be nothing short of a miracle, and the band itself was a lot of fun.  I’d never heard of the Local Natives until the day before the show, but they had some good songs and the crazy hipster clothes (including a huge sweatshirt-material poncho) were fabulous.

And then there was dumb…  I feel a little like I was misled, as I did, in fact, click the lights in the car from completely on to not-entirely-on, but also did not click them to not-entirely-off.  For those of you who have known me for a long time, you may recognize that this feels a bit like a regression to my younger days of locking my keys in the car with the radio on, simultaneously killing the battery and preventing me from getting into the car.  Even for those of you who haven’t, you will recognize this as a departure from my usual responsible self, and understand the outrage I experience when I realize I’ve done something like this, particularly at 11:30pm on a weekday.  After the amazing Ruti came downtown and we attempted to jump my car, we concluded that my jumper cables are not heavy-duty enough for my weak old battery.  We definitely charged the battery a little, but not enough to start the car.  I called AAA around midnight, and by 12:20, there was the happy Brewer’s Towing truck with the crazy jumper cables that could probably be used as a defibrillator, and we were set. 

What a night…

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Happy Mother’s Day!

In an homage to mother’s day cards of yesteryear, I offer this message:

Dear mom,

Thanks for being the best mom I ever had.


Andrea K. K. (in case you weren’t sure which one I was)

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


Nothing says spring/summer to me like freckles. Being ever so slightly fair of skin, the first sunny day of the year invariably leaves me looking a little pink all over, and with the same distinct freckles that come back every year. Last week, when we had the freakishly warm 80F day, I sat outside for a while. It was lovely, though I got a slight sunburn on my arms and some early seasonal freckles on my face. Welcome spring!

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Spring Commencement 2010

I set the alarm for 5:45am this morning, even though it’s Saturday. I knew I would need to take care of the dog, take a quick shower, and get ready to bike down to the stadium this morning to hear the President of the United States give the commencement address I didn’t get when I actually graduated 5 years ago. Unfortunately, as I walked the dog, the lightening and thunder began, and biking seemed like an increasingly less tenable option. A quick text to Ashley, in whose apartment we were planning to leave our bikes, and I confirmed that we could also park the car there and put off braving the rain a bit longer. After some tea and banana bread at Ashley’s (you are amazing Ashley!), we headed out to stand in line to get into Michigan Stadium.

Though I was expecting a TSA-like security nightmare, the lines moved quickly and the Secret Service Police were nice – quick, efficient, and didn’t say much, but nice.

Once through security, we headed toward our seats. Our tickets were for Section 30, Rows 21-68, and we had no idea what to expect inside. Thankfully (as it was still a little before 8am, with commencement starting at 11am), we were able to get great seats in Row 23, which offered a nice view of everything that was going on. In order to entertain the early arrivers, there were a variety of musical acts (of varying quality), pop music over the loud speakers, and puppets making their way around the stadium.

Somehow it didn’t feel like 3 hours just sitting there. (I did get up once to go to the bathroom, which was also a surprisingly quick and easy endeavor.)

While we sat, we noticed the snipers. This gave me an opportunity to use, for what I think was the first time, the full capacity of the zoom lens I have on my camera. There were two teams of them, one on top of each side of the stadium. I couldn’t decide whether they made me feel safer or not.

Once the ceremony got started, it was pretty exciting. I adore Mary Sue Coleman, our esteemed president, and was excited that Jennifer Granholm would also speak. Unfortunately, I felt like she veered more toward the partisan and political, and spent most of her speech praising President Obama rather than inspiring the new graduates. I agreed with the things she said, but was hoping for more reflection than I heard. Then came President Obama…

When I was at the inauguration I could see a long series of jumbotrons, but not the president himself. (There were also jumbotrons in the stadium...)

I also found his speech to be an odd choice for a commencement address (text here), but his message to be kind to others, to seek information and learning rather than jumping to insult the other side, and to consider the middle ground was a good one. When all was said and done, I was glad to have attended, and am hoping that someone as interesting will speak at my graduation in a few years.

You can watch the full ceremony here.