Friday, April 28, 2006

what i did at work

I've been spending way too much time in the lab recently. There's just so many experiments I want to get done, and I want to do them all at the same time, and there's a few deadlines to meet, so I really gotta work hard... I'm overworking. Here's are some symptoms:
  • 1. The majority of my daily liquid intake is coffee-based drinks.
  • 2. In the past week I have at least once consumed a sugar-filled drink and counted it as a meal. (And I'm not talking Slim-Fast.) On at least one occasion, this was a coffee-based drink.
  • 3. Another meal was a banana split and popcorn.
  • 4. The only way to differentiate between my clean clothing and my dirty clothing is that the dirty pile is separated from the floor by a laundry basket.
  • 5. In the refrigerator, my only belongings are: grapes, cold cuts, cheese, 2 ounces of Gatorade that I drank most of two weeks ago, and milk that expired on the 25th (note today's date...).
  • 6. The average number of hours spent at work or doing work at home per day is a two-digit number.
I recognize the dangers in these symptoms and am taking care to not stress out too much and to get a grip on reality - life will not end if I don't do that experiment tomorrow, I know. I realize it's really bad when the fact that I was doing three experiments at the same time the other day led to this:
yum, too?
In the picture you see the white top of a hot-plate, upon which the glass beaker on the right was sitting. I was attempting to make one of my favorite recipes - Quick Paraformaldehyde - which involves filling the beaker with water, sticking in a tube of paraformaldehyde powder mixed with high-pH water, and warming the water to conduct heat to the paraformaldehyde (PFA is really tough to get to dissolve - in one lab I worked, I actually spent an entire day making PFA solution. Like, seriously an entire day). After about 10 minutes a few shakes of the tube in the hot water to encourage interactions between paraformaldehyde and water molecules, and you get a nice, clear paraformaldehyde solution. If you're busy, like me, you can cheat on that 10 minutes and leave it there for a while, and when you come back it will all be dissolved for you.

I was quite surprised when I did just that yesterday and came back to find that all the water had boiled away, the plastic tube with the PFA solution had melted when it came in contact with the burning empty hot glass beaker bottom, the PFA solution had also evaporated (thank goodness I always make the PFA in the fume hood - PFA is terribly toxic!), and now the plastic was melting to the bottom of the beaker, which was on the verge of cracking under the heat. Some quick reflexes enabled me to process all of this in about half a millisecond. I grabbed the plastic tube - NOT the glass beaker, since my sister has informed me that hot glass looks just like cold glass, but they don't feel the asme - and managed to gently slide the beaker off of the hot plate, somehow managing to not break the beaker.

That wasn't really the end of the story, though, because now the hot beaker was sitting on the absorptive pad lining the inside of the fume hood. In the photograph you will notice a now-distored circle of white surrounded by brown. That would be where I put the beaker, which promptly melted first few layers of the pad. The disgusting brown in the bottom of the beaker represents the ashes of layers, fused securely to the bottom of the beaker. If you look closely, you can also see the remnants of the part of the tube that melted inside the beaker, which stuck to the upper part of the beaker as I used it to steer the beaker away from the hot plate.

Pretty cool, huh? That's what I do at work...

Fortunately (sort of), today my work has come to a grinding halt. I got to work at 7 to start preparing my experiment for tomorrow (yeah, I need to start it going at least 24 hours in advance!), but when I arrived I found that my cells had been contaminated and were now sporting great blobs that are colonies of bacteria. Great... There goes that experiment. Then I figured out that something is not working with a second project, and I'm going to have to take about 10 steps back to figure out what is going wrong. But it's not all that bad - I don't have to work so much on the weekend since the weekend project got destroyed by the bacteria! And, while talking to someone about the non-working project, I was given some pre-made PFA that requires absolutely no boiling.

Somebody is watching out for me and my sanity.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

why i read "moby dick"

Unlike many high school students, I was never required (nor encouraged, for that matter) to read Herman Melville's classic book Moby Dick. I decided to read it about three years ago, after noticing the following sign on the door of a bathroom stall in my building:
you can download these and other great reading materials from the allegheny county health department to decorate your own bathroom!

After reading this a number of times, I really wondered how much of it was actually in the book. I wondered so much that I went to the library and found the book. I didn't see much of the exact wording on the first page, but I realized...maybe it was tucked away somewhere in the rest of the book. So I read the whole thing.

If you've never read Moby Dick and would like to know the feeling you have once you've finished reading the epilogue, I would liken it to the feeling you're left with after watching the original Ocean's Eleven movie with the Sinatra-Martin-Davis Jr.-Lawford-Bishop Rat Pack. It's highly ironic and semi-unbelievable. I was not impressed. (It was funny with the movie, which I recommend - I laughed for ten minutes straight after the movie ended - but not with the extremely long book.)

And, to spare you the pain and suffering, I will let you know that approximately the only words that are really in Moby Dick out of all of them in that adapted passage are "Call me Ishmael."

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

no clothes make the man?

It's amazing to me that one of the world's largest clothing retailers is capable of selling their product with advertisements that contain zero clothing.

I suppose a lot of people have their own personal rants about Abercrombie & Fitch - whether it's about discrimination towards employees, racist messages printed on their clothing, or demeaning females (especially young ones) and probably males. This one by me isn't to jump on the bandwagon by any means. From the moment the store came to exist in my hometown when I was in high school until this very day, I have not once set foot inside the store, nor do I intend to ever. Originally my choice was because friends of mine were asked to leave the store when they entered and weren't wearing the "right" clothes (...wouldn't that be why you go into a store that sells buy the clothing they think is best since they're selling it...?), but a lot has changed since then, so the justification list is now quite long. I know lots of people who have been happily employed by the store, many who gladly purchase their clothing, and even a couple who have modeled for them - obviously somebody likes the company, because last year Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (which, in case you weren't aware, consists of the stores/brands Abercrombie & Fitch, abercrombie, Hollister, and RUEHL - click at your own risk) reported $2.785 billion in net sales. It's a good business, I have to give them credit for that. They're doing what they need to do to get people to spend their money on their products. However, I utterly dislike the way in which they do so.

Sex sells. That should not come as any surprise. I am reminded of this every time I go to church, because on the expressway on the way to church (ironically), I am stared down by an Abercrombie guy. I think A&F has some sort of claim on this one particular building, because for as long as I've driven that way in Pittsburgh (three years), there's been some sort of A&F ad on the billboard affixed to the building's west face. The amazing thing is that in none of these ads - there have been three separate ones - have the models (who are all males) adorned any clothing on their upper body, and the lower body is depicted on only about one-sixteenth of the billboard, if at all. In one there was also a football.

It makes one wonder...what is A&F attempting to sell? I certainly don't sit up in the car and say, "Hey, I ought to go buy a guy I know a shirt, because I don't want him to be like this poor dude on the billboard who is too poor to buy a shirt!" I don't feel motivated to go check out the A&F jeans selection, in case that's what I'm supposed to be awed by in the photographs. Surely, if A&F is attempting to show off their clothing, they are doing a terrible job.

But that's just it - I really don't think that's what they're trying to sell. I don't know anyone who works for Abercrombie & Fitch Co., but I do know someone who works at a similar clothing store, which targets basically the same audience. He is a buyer for the men's clothing, and he tells me that it's not the clothing that is the focus of the product development. Instead, there's an image of a person the company wants to create their product for - this made up guy (who has a name, actually...sort of scary) who has a particular personality and certain types of goals and specific likes and dislikes. And thus, in the development of the product, the buyers and marketers are actually creating an image they are hoping consumers will buy into.

Is that wrong? Not my place to judge, but I know that for me personally I'd rather have my image be based on something or Someone a bit more...reliable and loving than that.

And besides that, I don't highly appreciate being duped into buying something because it's what a stranger strategically convinces me I should buy in order to be who I'm supposed to be. They can't fool me, but it's infuriating to me that the target audience of these advertisers isn't so much me but instead malleable teenagers who are seeking to decipher who they are and what they believe and why their existence matters.
currently on the billboard, although with less of the legs
So, what do I conclude as I turn off of the Boulevard of the Allies and onto the Veteran's Bridge with three bare chests (no heads...interesting) bearing down on me? I guess all I can figure is that clothes don't make the man, because these men sure don't have any on, and I can still tell exactly what type of men they are. (That sounds really judgmental - sorry.)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

goodbye, old friend (hooray!)

It was with mixed feelings that I walked out of Pittsburgh Knit & Bead on Sunday afternoon. This is the only place I've ever bought yarn other than at craft stores (oh, and online once), and nearly all of my double pointed needles originate from this store. It's the store I ran to when I thought my socks had horrid heels, and the shop owner has always been of utmost aid when I needed thoughts on things I don't artistically understand, like colors and beads.

As I left on Sunday with a hand-made stitch marker and hand-painted locally made yarn (both to be added surprises for my case Sockpal doesn't like the socks I made, Sockpal can make some with this yarn!), I was glad that I had managed to purchase both items at a sale price. However, I was sad that the reason these and every other item in the store was on sale is that the store is closing.

On the one hand, it's exciting because all the yarn will continue to get marked down until the store shuts its doors forever in June-ish. On the other hand, where am I going to go for knitting stuff? There's the other yarn store that opened up on the other side of the neighborhood, but they're rarely open past 5 o' clock, and I don't usually get home from work until after 6 when I leave work "on time". Plus, that other store is big, and for whatever reason it makes me feel like I can't just run in and shriek, "This heel looks awful - HELP!" Plus, the other store has...well...different yarn. Not the same style as PK&B. Not bad, just not precisely my type.

And...besides all that, couldn't the store have decided to close after I buy that sofa...? Now I have to make the decision of what to do with the opportunity to stock up on yarn at discounted prices... Life is full of difficult choices, eh?

Anyhow, it occurred to me that I have not shown a picture of the Wave Skirt! So, here it is, with only about 10 more rounds to knit and then the edging to finish!
also starring in this photo: my shoes and a bag containing the yarn from pk&b

Friday, April 21, 2006

a learning experience

What in the world was I doing up at 1:08a.m. this morning, anyhow?

Do you know what I love about life? Learning. That moment when all of a sudden things begin to click and one can step back and say "A-HA! Now I get it." It's also the most frustrating thing, because usually when you learn something, you realize that you've spent a lot of effort, time, and/or money on other ideas, concepts, or assumptions that turned out to be not accurate or true.

What I mean to say, as I randomly throw out words that jump in my exhausted mind, is that I've been trying and trying to get some things to work here in the lab. I used every resource I could think of. I followed all the steps I knew to be necessary. Yet still no luck. And then...I was informed of one secret ingredient that changes EVERYTHING. I still have to test that secret ingredient myself, but I am quite sure that it will significantly improve not only the quality but also the ease of my current experiment set. All very good things when one has spent multiple double-digit-hour days in the lab.

Of course, the down side is now I see that the efforts I've been putting forth the past three weeks were rather wasteful. I could have made so much more progress had I just known then what I know now. Plus, it would have used far fewer reagents and, thus, money. It's frustrating, too, that I didn't have the information I needed when I first needed it. And it makes me wonder if that's my responsibility - I tend to think it is, and even that fact can be really frustrating, because it means I would need to know that I need to know more than I know when I don't know something. Now that's a profound statement. Seriously, though - how and I supposed to know that I'm knowledge-less??? Perhaps I'm just so conceited and think I know everything already, that I never consider the fact that the aid of another, experienced person would be of any use.


At any rate, it's a happy thought that I have finally found some promising leads to improve my research.'s also great that, on a FRIDAY!!!, I have some wonderful results that I've been trying to get for quite some time.

If only my head would stop pounding from lack of sleep, I would be a majority of contented.


I very much remember learning the word "procrastination." It was either in sixth or seventh grade, and it was in Life Skills class, which is sort of like home economics, except I guess the school people thought it needed a new name and that in addition to cooking and sewing students should learn things like how to keep a schedule and other stuff that would be handy to know even if you didn't spend most of your time at a home. What I learned was following a recipe doesn't always work, cooking goes a lot better when there aren't four of you trying to make the same thing in the same bowl at the same time, and the definition of two words - "commute" and "procrastination."

"Commute" came up when we had to write down what we did all day and how long it took. Wake breakfast...get ready for school...commute to school on the school bus. My mom told me that riding the school bus wasn't what constituted commuting, and I later learned she was correct.

"Procrastination" was actually in our text book in bold text, which probably means it was also on a quiz or test at some point. I recall that not long after the word was introduced in Life Skills, I added it to my dictionary for Communications class - we had to add 10 words per week with definitions and etymologies. It kept popping up in other aspects of school, too, and pretty soon it was everyone's favorite word because it so exquisitely described something we were all quite familiar with - putting off whatever we possibly could until we no longer could manage.

I believe I had learned this word very well. I am an expert at procrastinating! I have managed to bring myself, at the present moment, to the point where I have a presentation to make for Monday, a paper I really should write and sort of was supposed to be turned in tomorrow (but it's for a class in which I'm not enrolled, so technically I needn't bother at all), and a symposium I'm in charge of in a month's time that still needs a load of things done for it. This is in addition to the normal demands of work, church, friends, and other aspects of life. Eeks. How did I do this to myself? was easy. Took no effort at all.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

sockapaloooza countdown

I'm all done with my sock for sockapaloooza, so I'm eagerly awaiting the arrival of the address to which the socks are to be sent. My sockapaloooza pal doesn't have a website, so I decided long ago that I was not going to find out more about him/her via the internet. However, today I realized that I know the person's name, I know the general vicinity of where the person lives, and I know how to use Google. And thus, with a few clicks of buttons, I found my person! I didn't learn much except that this person works in the same sort of field as my dad. If only I'd have known. Then I would have asked Daddy for some suggestions. ...Well, maybe not. But I do think I've made a good choice for the recipient. Perhaps I'll find a little something more to send along in the package, now that I know what career the sockapaloooza pal has.

In other knitting news, the Wave Skirt continues to get longer. I made the huge mistake last week of not weaving in the end of one strand of yarn for very long - on the next round, one of the stitches disappeared because I had managed to pull the woven-in yarn back so much!! Yikes. I made some creative adjustments, and I think it's okay now. The whole thing hasn't fallen apart yet, so I guess that means it's alright.

Monday, April 17, 2006

needed: fashion advice

Something is quite wrong with me. If you know me at all, your first reaction to my upcoming announcement should be to check my forehead for a fever. Certainly I am going to say something highly uncharacteristic of myself. Here goes...

I have decided that I'd like to dress in more business-y clothes. (How profound - "business-y." That's super mature speaking right there.) The completely-acceptable attire for the lab is jeans and a t-shirt, and that is what I'm quite comfortable in. Always have been. But...something over the past couple weeks has prompted me to venture for a slight change. Maybe it's to prove to myself that I'm actually capable of wearing "nice" clothing. Haha. Maybe dressing differently at work than I would at home will make work more distinct from home (and maybe when I do work at home I'll have to force myself to change out of my I don't know, but I'm willing to give it a shot. At least then I'd have more nice clothes, right?

And there's part one of my problem: I don't really HAVE nice clothes. Since the "uniform" at work is jeans and whatever...that's what I have. So I need a few tips from all you wonderful readers out there (there's a ton, I know) about some key elements of nice-style that I should add to my wardrobe. I'm on a tight budget here, folks, so you can't suggest that a mink coat will solve all my troubles. The other thing is, whatever clothing I need to acquire has to adhere to laboratory safety rules, which means my legs have to be covered (obviously so does my torso, but the point is no skirts). I'm also highly lacking in any wisdom about what approrpiately nice tops are. I have a dresser and a box under my bed spilling over with t-shirts, and I know that's not quite right, but what is?

Lemme know! Thanks.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

fearing for the future

With the thought that I can likely "soon" graduate (estimated August 2007, which yes, is "soon"!), according to my advisor and thesis committee, I've been thinking a lot about my future these past couple weeks. What do I want to do when I grow up? Where do I want to be? These thoughts have taken me a few very intriguing places.

I love Grand Rapids, Michigan, near the suburb where I grew up. I would adore to return there for good to live and work. I like the schools, I appreciate the surrounding natural beauty, and I long to again be close to Lake Michigan. There's a splendid new cancer research center in Grand Rapids, multiple science-inclusive universities and colleges, and a soon-to-be-launched medical school. I would be happy to be a part of any of those organizations - or something else that I haven't even thought of. And I think that with a little bit of effort, I could achieve that dream. How? The plan: get a good post-doctoral position for a year or a few. Something that would make me highly attractive to cancer researchers or teacher-seeking schools. Perhaps pursue a teaching-oriented post-doctoral fellowship following that first post-doc. Then, move on over to Grand Rapids with my sought-after career secured.

But then I started thinking about how long that would take. Let's say I do the first post-doc for only a year. That's nearly 2009. Then the teaching post-doc...the one I'm looking at down at UNC Chapel Hill is a three-year program! That puts me at not arriving back in Grand Rapids until 2012! Oh my goodness! That's scary. It would be nice to be married by then -

- Wait, married?! And where do I suppose the person I married will fit into this whole picture? Is he magically going to follow me around as I move from place to place? What a drag! Plus, once I get married, I intend to wait not terribly long to have kids, at which point I'll quit whatever career I'm in, and doesn't matter! ...And I might never make it back to Grand Rapids. it even worth looking for a guy here in Pittsburgh? If I want to be in Grand Rapids, should I make a big effort to seek out guys there (that's rather humorous, because I never have "made a big effort" to "seek out" guys ANYWHERE)?

And hold on a minute - isn't this all just a tad bit presumptive? Stuff is going to have to work out very well in order for this life I've got planned for myself to really work out.

Thus...where I'm at now is I have no idea what I want to do, where I want to go, whether I care about guys or not. I'm all confuzzled about what's important and what feasible options are, and I wish I had a few more answers RIGHT NOW about little things like with whom I'm going to spend the rest of my life. Because...if that were set, then a lot of the questions about the other issues would be answered. At least...I wouldn't have to be making all the decisions. I could leave that up to my husband, who's supposed to be a decision-making person, after all, right?

Oh, My Future, I do hope you work out okay. I hope I like you and don't mess you up too much by planning for you now.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

the story of last weekend

I'm a little behind on the events of my life... Here's the big news items from the past 8 days:

1. My roommate Ren got engaged!!!!!! Her fiance Matt flew in from Boston and surprised her. It was so sweet. There was a fun party to celebrate. Now it's invitation-preparation time...! (I absolutely love doing things like sticking stamps on envelopes and folding inserts. Very seriously. I'm happy to have a reason to do so. Hooray!!!)

2. My hockey team won the POWHA league championships. You can see a fun Flash video thing about it on their website. I even get special mention because I somehow won the "Outstanding Goalie" award for the season due to having the highest save percentage. Wow - surprise to me! It was very fun to play with this group of gals this season, and I hope to do so again next season. We certainly worked hard to get where we got. Also nice about the tournament this season is that it was in Columbus, so I got to see my brother who goes to school there. Good times.

Friday, April 14, 2006

and...let me also just say

Being that it's Easter weekend and all, I must share a couple of my favorite websites that are associated with this season. One is highly not religious, the other is.

This one is: The Brick Testament's pictoral account of Jesus's resurrection on Easter morning

This one isn't: Peep Research
This is my favorite part of that website: The effects of alcohol and cigarette smoking

those who can't knit...

I have not done any knitting over the past week, which explains the lack of a post about knitting on Tuesday. I haven't even run the yarn through those 8 stitches on the mitten to finish it! Why? I don't know exactly, but I haven't felt like it, and I've had a lot of things to do for work, and I had a hockey tournament over the weekend, and I was busy. (I did, however, finally pick up some knitting this morning on the bus - more of the Wave Skirt. I'm liking it, but I should have chosen different colors.)

I have, however, been doing something else that I think is productive in my spare time: writing. You may not have picked up on this, but I really enjoy writing. I always have. One of my childhood friends and I wrote little books instead of playing with Barbies and the like. I believe I began writing my first novel when I was 9. It was a terrible story idea, I didn't get more than the equivalent of a chapter finished, but I had pages upon pages of plans for that book! The planning has always been my favorite part. In middle school I had in fact created an entire series of books, none of which were really ever written (and none of which had much of a plot, as I recall). And so it is today.

The piece I started working on again last week is installment 12 of 15ish in a series of "short" stories (they range from a handful of typewritten pages to 40 pages each) that I first started writing about 10 years ago. It is also one of many plans for the cast of characters I have since fallen in love with (I know where they all go to college, what their jobs are, who they marry, how many kids they have...and the characters are only 15 years old in the stories thus far). It all began back in high school...

I was doing my brother's paper route one afternoon. Delivering newspapers in a suburban neighborhood requires a good set of legs to carry you and a map telling you which few houses don't get the paper. It gives one a long time to think as she tramps across lawns. Somewhere towards the final quarter of the route, I was struck with this idea of a shy girl (...not entirely unlike myself) getting up the guts to talk with a cool guy (...not entirely unlike the guy I had a crush on, who lived at the end of the street I was walking along) and then having something unexpected happen. Not the world's most novel idea, but I went with it. Thus began the world of two best friends in high school, Anna and Tasha, and this guy Chris, whom Anna sets out to change for the better, but who ends up changing her in the end. How dramatic!

It's perhaps not surprising that after having worked on these pieces for 10 years, it's the most developed work-of-fiction concept I have had (also the fact that I was older than 12 when it all started probably helped). But what I didn't mention was that I wrote 3 novel-length collections of stories about these people before I graduated high school. My friends and my mom told me I should try to publish. I needed to put some more work into the stories; I wasn't satisfied with them. Then came college...and the dark abyss of writing creativly. I wrote about proteins and Bosnian history and viruses that infect bacteria and how Schubert spent his last years and why my unknown compound disappeared in organic chemistry lab (although...if that's not creative writing, what is?), but no stories.

Finally, for some unknown reason, I dug up the old stories. I remember very vividly thinking, "These have potential, but...they could be a lot better!" So I began to rewrite the summer after I graduated from college. I got pretty far that summer, and then...I stopped again. I somehow got to part 12, and when I pulled it out again last week realized that I had began part 12 in...2004!! That is really sad. My poor characters are stuck in some pretty desperate situations - one's brother is in the hospital, the other's grandma is dying, one of the boys has a bad reputation to counter-act, and one of the girls is recovering from being the victim of the bad reputation. Plus there's all the other everyday concerns of high school, and the fact that the main characters are trying to live Christian lives in a very non-Christian environment (did anyone else go to a high school like that? Didn't think so). I need to write them out of those spots!!! They're depending on me!!

...And then when I'm done, I've got to go back and revise all those rewritten stories again, because, reading them now, they have potential, but...they could be a lot better!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

two pair

The long-awaited picture of my Sockapaloooza socks is here:And I also quickly knit up the second of the Hermione mittens while I was riding around in Colorado and flying back (and then watching the Chamber of Secrets DVD after I arrived back in Pittsburgh).
okay, so I need to pull that yarn through the top stitches of the mitten and weave in the ends, but they're mostly finished!!
Hooray!! Two pairs of things are completed.