Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Images from a miserable (yet gorgeous) field trip

Yes, it rained all day except for the few moments when it was just dense fog.

helpful web-link

So I promise that I'll post more on life soon but I just found (while trying to grade a paper) an awesome file type converter online. It will take open office or works documents and convert them to word or something else that you can open. woohoo! http://media-convert.com/

Joshoween went well and Gavin is a very cute puppy who was great at the party! more later post grading.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Challenging End and Beginning

The first GBK Fitness Challenge ended yesterday. Report on your progress in the comments. If I owe you a prize, tell me what you've earned and I'll see what I can do.

The new, improved, for real for real, fitness challenge begins today (because, as we sadly learned from the Rockies, those with momentum need to keep it). If you're in, set your goals for the next six week, send TT five dollars and keep moving.

Look out other non-profits because America's Second Harvest or the Heifer Project or Oxfam is getting our money when I make my goals every week. [That was supposed to be first day of challenge trash talk, but it's really hard when I want everyone to succeed and I want all of these organizations to receive our money.]

I miss you guys

I am writing from a coffee shop on my way to work, since I overslept my alarm and decided to just wait out the morning rush-hour traffic. (I feel so devious!!) Reading all of the entries that I missed makes me wish I could check in more easily... but then I remembered, starting this Friday we will finally have wifi at our house! I am soooo excited :)
Yesterday was gorgeous here-- I spent the past couple of weekends planting the garden in the front of our house (after many other weekends of digging out sod and mixing in compost). The anemones are blooming, one of the camillias that I put in is blooming, and so far only a couple of the bulbs that I planted appear to have been dug out by squirrels. I also planted a few very exciting trees that are making me really happy-- a Magnolia grandiflora, with gorgeous, waxy, bowl-shaped white flowers, a Cornus florida with pretty red berries right now, and a weeping redbud with lovely pond-lilly shaped leaves that contrast with its very dark bark. It is fun to be back in acid soil of Virginia, and in a couple temperature zones different from Lawrence... I guess just fun to be made aware of regional differences and to celebrate them.
I spent the day yesterday at the museum, and am almost ready to resubmit my dissertation for publication. (Well, most of the day at the museum-- the morning was spent trying to recover from a halloween party at my house the night before, which included a karaoke machine and many guests who cannot get enough of singing 80's music... a dangerous combination). Grandma is adjusting really well to her retirement home, and we finally went to the library and checked out some of the books that we're going to start reading together. Lucy is pretty much housebroken and has graduated from her crate to my bedroom during the day. My sister is almost done with rugby season and, although she looks like a punching bag covered with bruises she hasn't yet broken anything, for which I'm grateful. My parents in SD still have a house and are doing fine... I guess those are the big updates. Oh, and I'm still walking twice a day, but have hardly run at all, to say nothing of crunches and everything else! I like Sp Sq's idea for the fitness challenge. And, I miss you guys... can't wait for Friday for the internet connection at home!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Fitness for the Hungry

I just came up with what I think is a brilliant prize for the fitness challenge (feel free to disagree) and was feeling bad that it was too late for our current fitness challenge when TT and Beth wanted to keep going with fitness challenge.
So, here's my adjusted good idea.
6 weeks of fitness (Monday until Dec. 9)
New goals (you should know by now what's reasonable for you)
$5 to participate (I nominate TT for treasurer)
$1 per week each week you do not make your weekly goal (so this could cost you up to $11)
Winner(s)- (those with the most week of meeting personal goal) chooses which hunger alleviation non-profit we donate the money to.

So we have new incentive to continue/improve our fitness regimen and we donate money to feed people who need extra food.


Gratitude For the Week

Here at WJ, every MWF we have the block of time from 10:15 - 11:15 with no scheduled classes. On Mondays, this time is reserved for committee and faculty meetings. Chapel is at this time on Wed. On Fridays we have what is called community time or Jewell time. All faculty, staff, and students are invited to come to the lobby of the union, drink coffee, and eat treats (today - brownies with mini MM's). There is usually some short program. Today the concert choir performed. This is one of the small niceties of Jewell and today I am grateful for it.

What are you grateful for today?

Thursday, October 25, 2007


An author (Laurell K. Hamilton) whose blog I read and who lives in St. Louis, MO, was bitten by a brown recluse. She's recovering nicely, but it makes me shudder when I think about how many recluses I had in my apartment in Lawrence.

Almost completely unrelated, I went blogsurfing and found the blog of cool geeky scientist/writer whose talents include knitting and juggling fire and knives. The connection is that the name of her blog is Loxosceles.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

digital camera suggestions

I'm ready to buy a digital camera to call my own. Any suggestions? Something kind of small, but doesn't take forever to shoot a picture. If you know how it survives super humid climates like a rainforest, that would be great to know too. The camera Irene gave me konked out, but had a good life.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Last week of fitness challenge

Make it a good one.

Growing up moment

I kicked a student out of lecture today (for texting in my view-- less than 5 minutes after I had given a prepared "no texting, primping or cheating message". Had she quit at first glare I wouldn't have done anything, but she was too busy staring at her thumbs to notice my glare). It was actual my first time. There was plenty of awkwardness but I'm very proud that I just did it between sentences in my talk on fungi and did not raise my voice or change pace much. While she did take her dear sweet time about collecting her belongings, she didn't sigh overly much, which is good, 'cause I might have lost it. Instead, I just went back to fungus.

How have you been a grown up recently? (Yes, Irene, I suppose that making a baby counts)

Maples and Mom in the Snow

This is why I miss Colorado so much (both the snow and my family). These were taken yesterday. By the way, does anyone know the species of maple? I asked mom for photos of silvers, which she also took, but I'm not sure about this one.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Maples of Exceptional Cuteness

Okay, so this is not what I'm looking for (my adorable nieces detract from the maple), but aren't they adorable? While I think I went through a cute phase (age 3-7), I'm pretty sure I was never this cute.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Call for maple photos

If you are out with a digital camera any time in the next week, could you take a picture of a maple for me?
My ecology class is going to be tracking fall phenology changes at different elevations on a field trip this week and I would particularly like them to be able to compare them to other latitudes or elevations.
Info needed: date, photo of tree, estimate of percent of leaves that have dropped, location and species of tree (take a close up of some leaves if you don't know.)
My students will be most grateful (well, not really, but I will be).

15 week ultrasound, lookin' good!

On Thursday we got another ultrasound, and I'm delighted to report that the baby is doing fine, growing right on target for the April 9th due date. It was indescribably cool to get to "peek in" at what's going on in there, but I will try to describe it anyway - details on my blog.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Good news below and attached

If you haven't visited in a while don't let my long rant in the post below keep you from scrolling down and reading Irene's and Cheryl's good news.
Today's gratitude box in the comments.

Bad experiences in the bank

As most of you know, I've been having a tough year. The wonderful bio prof I worked with last year left over the summer and the consequences continue to pile up. Not only did I end up with 18 hours to teach but I also lost my best friend in the area. That her replacement has been less than stellar has made it so that I advise all of the bio majors (who all need to spend substantial time with me every semester), that I will teach an overload again next semester, and that I spend a fair amount of time dealing with his issues or students who have issues with him, and that the toilet seat in the faculty bathroom is now left up. It will likely mean more committees and some real uncomfortableness as his "visiting" position becomes open to a full search. My fabulous teaching assistant (my other friend in the area, and the other person I could discuss biology with) just accepted a full time job and is leaving next week. As of now we have no-one to replace her and we're desperate. Meanwhile, two healthy 34-year-olds in among my friends have been diagnosed with agressive breast cancer in the last month. Ugh.

All of which makes me wonder about last year, which was really really super-hard and which I survived by thinking that no year (work wise) could be harder than my first year teaching 4 different classes I'd never taught before in a place where I knew no-one. But bam, I was wrong. This year is harder (although I am caring substantially less so I am getting considerably more sleep and exercise than I did last year).

But really, while work may be hard and frustrating, I can look back and think that it is nothing at all like the hardest recent year of my life-- the year I was 28 started with a badly broken ankle, included 2 surgeries, 4th of July spent in the hospital with an allegedly life-threatening blood clot, a move to Lawrence in 3 weeks of over 100 weather while wearing a cast, the sudden death of my uncle while running the Chicago marathon, my parents nearly splitting up while being spied upon in China, the people housesitting for my parents abandoning my parents cat and not forwarding bills so that I was being called to court on my parent's behalf, my grandmother dying of a broken heart and improperly cleared sores, and ended with the funeral of a friendly classmate who had been murdered in Costa Rica*.

As I was thinking about this, it occured to me that it was really good to have trying experiences in your past. A bank of bad experiences upon which one can think "I've seen worse." Having survived worse doesn't much make the present better (as my friend Happy Cricket in Ecuador writes about bus rides on her very funny blog.) but it does remind us that it is bearable.

This was miserable. People were everywhere in the aisles. I’m huge and my backpack was huge and I don’t have the Ecuadorian ability to squeeze myself into a manageable ferret-like shape. I kept thinking to myself, “this could be worse, but not by much.” I have had some horrific bus rides, which is kinda nice to have in your past. You think, well, at least I’m not throwing up out the window, or about to fall asleep standing up in the aisle on a night bus, or that they aren’t opening up the back windows to get more people to crawl in the back while I stand in the aisle over the someone who is wrongfully sitting in the seat in which I purchased the ticket. So you can be philosophical about it, thinking, yeah, this isn’t much. But sometimes, sometimes you want to think, “THIS IS TERRIBLE! IT CAN’T GET WORSE!” And then you realize, ahhh, yes, yes, yes it can and I don’t want that. So you’re stuck really. Your past hardship neutralizes the present suffering, yet you are suffering.

Then as I was thinking about bad experience banks, it suddenly dawned on me--- maybe that why we all need to be teenagers!

*Lots good happened that year also, most importantly I met Jennifer, Beth, Tim. TT, SS and many other dear friends.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I Don't Mind at All :)

I don't mind one bit - it is happy news after all :) Yep, it is SOOOO nice to have it done and overwith, I got to sleep in this morning and take it easy. It was really nice not having to study at all last night! and the best part is, I now get to focus on getting Stelios (and eventually myself) to Chattanooga!

Next week I get to meet Stelios in Chattanooga for the week where we will be looking for a place to live. We are very excited to be looking for our first place together! Although I think I will be doing a lot of the initial looking on my own as Stelios has to decide which book to use for his Invertebrate Zoology class next Spring (any suggestions from those of you who have taught this already?) and he hasn't had a chance to really look at any of the ones that he ordered. And we get to celebrate my birthday together! We haven't been able to do that for toooo long. So when we find our place, I will definitely let everyone know about it....

And congrats to Irene and Vlad! Very exciting news and I can't wait to hear all the updates about the little one.

Oh, BTW, the US Women's team got 3rd place. They lost to Brazil in the semi-finals, from what I saw on the website (unfortunately I didn't get a chance to watch any of the games) the US team fell apart and pretty much got schooled by the Brazilians. Oh well, can't win them all.

New Candidate in the Race

I hope Cheryl won't mind that I am spilling her news, but I just wanted to share with you all and publicly congratulate Cheryl on passing orals yesterday! Woohoo!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

New blog

I decided to start a blog of my own (Fractal Metamorphosis here on Blogger).

I'm not sure how often I'll actually write, but I wanted a spot that's my own. In general, I'd like to have sort of a virtual journal, partly for my friends but also just for myself. And I have to admit that right now, I want to ramble and rant at length about the ups and downs of the pregnant life, without worrying that it's "t.m.i." (too much information) for some of the knitters. This way, such ravings are not being forced on the unsuspecting captive audience!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

How I know I'm a biology teacher

I saw many many piles of scat on the trail last weekend (more about our trip on Sparkling Squirrel Blog) and after deciding that despite it's "plop" nature, it had to be bear (how many deer could have diarrhea at once on the same trail?), I did not think "Oh, the bear is going to get us," or "Oh, I should watch out so I don't walk in all this bear poo." Instead, I thought, "Oh goody, moldy bear scat! That will be a great addition to my fungus and decomposition lecture!"

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Best Excuse

So I've fallen off of the exercise bandwagon - haven't been wearing my pedometer, haven't been going to the gym, and generally haven't been more active than work and life require of me.

But I don't feel especially guilty, because I have The Best Excuse: all my energy resources are going to my uterus right now, and any exercise more strenuous than walking makes me dizzy. I just recently hit the end of the first trimester, and I'm due in early April.

I had always wondered, probably ever since I watched my mom go through the 2 pregnancies that brought my younger brothers, "What does it feel like to be pregnant?" Now I at least know what the first trimester feels like... and honestly, there are only two things I liked about it. On a conceptual level, it's really nifty that there is this little human developing in there, and it's indescribably amazing to actually see it with ultrasound, or hear the heartbeat by Doppler. And on a social level, it's fun to see how people around you react to the news. But the rest of it - the nausea, fatigue, sore breasts, mood swings, headaches, and the tummy that's just sticking out enough that my pants won't fit but not enough to really look "pregnant" yet - all that, I could do without.

On the other hand, there's a lot to look forward to: during the second trimester, energy usually makes a comeback, and the mood swings level out. Next week I have a high-resolution ultrasound appointment, so I get to see how the baby is doing. And the next one, around week 20, will probably tell us whether it will be a boy or a girl. Also around the same time, I should be able to feel it moving.

Now that my news is out, hopefully I'll do more posting here as I give updates on how things are going.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Probably the last rattler of the season

This beauty and another one just like it were in the trail as I hiked back to my car on Wednesday. Blacktail rattlesnake. The other one kept advancing toward me (very unsettling and very un-rattlesnake-like behavior). I couldn't get around it and we did this little dance for 15 minutes before it finally retreated very unhurridly. Now it's cooling off so they're probably thinking about burrows.

How's the fitness challenge going?

Hi all,

We've completed 5 weeks of out 8 week challenge and I'm here to ask you how you are doing...
Have you been swimmingsteppingjogging(buttearly)pedaling? Fall is really nice here and making it a joy to get out and exercise. I hope fall is helping you get out and stay healthy! Let us know how you're doing!

Mossy Oak Cammo Day is Making My Day

. . . and its not until tomorrow!

So, its homecoming week at the place where I work. The theme this year is "The Year of The Greek Games", so today, "Luau Day," there are going to be chariot races in the tennis courts (No, I can't explain the connection, I do not get it at all). Tomorrow is "Mossy Oak Cammo Day". Where else could you show your school spirit by wearing a specific type of cammo for homecoming?

My list of joys also includes a new routine of the Mister's. While hiking with the Mister in the mountains this weekend, he started bopping me over the head (officially clubbing me) every time he sees a club moss. While it has the potential of great annoyance (like poking me every time we see a poke plant), it makes me so very very happy to have a goofy person to spend time with who notices things like the club moss. And there was lots and lots of club moss (locally "ground pine") which makes me happy even if I didn't have someone cool to share it with.

Is there a Mossy Oak Cammo Day where you are at?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Gratitude Box for Oct. 4

1. Anne, the woman I teach labs with, brought me chocolate chip cookies today. Yummmm.

2. Our lab room was full of students today, working independently (i.e. without me telling them what to do) on their group projects.

3. Student's carrying array of sunflowers down the hall. They are testing the effect of floral display on visitation rates. Even more gratifying, their first day's results meet with what we expected.

4. That Sparkling Squirrel has so many great ideas that facilitates our discussions on this blog.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Afternoon Gratitude Box

Having noticed several things recently:

  1. I am not the only one who becomes fed up with her job/body/computer/life mid-afternoon many days.
  2. Study after study are reporting that people who take time to think of the good things in their life, and write them down, are not only happier, healthier, more socially adjusted, etc., but also have more energy.
  3. Energy is in short supply among many of us.
  4. At least some of the studies referred to in #2 suggest that this is causal, not just correlative (Writing blessings makes people happier, not just that happy people are more likely to write blessing).
  5. I check the blog most every afternoon as a post-class pre-grading escape.
  6. Things that make my friends happy make me happy (somehow Irene in her purple gloves and Jennifer with her hole-punched paper just make me smile.

Having made these observations, I am going to make a gratitude box. Feel free to stop by any or every afternoon (or morning or evening) and write something that gives you joy. Even when you don't feel joyful.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

My perhaps not-so-irrational fear is that I will NEVER be done with the manuscript of my dissertation. That, and that I will spend the rest of my life feeling guilty that I haven't yet returned my specimen loans. And that everytime I move to a new place I will be forced to carry thousands of bees that belong to someone else with me. That, and that I will NEVER have another publication again because I will be stuck making minute word changes that the editor wants on my manuscript, each of which seems to be taking an hour to change throughout the entire ms.

Ok, I'm done whining. (For today)

Monday, October 1, 2007

Weekly fitness update

Hello! I hope everyone is doing well.
How are your fitness goals coming? Did you make your goals for last week?

I'm behind with posting my own GBK fitness challenge updates, and will now post a full update in order to alleviate my guilt:
In general having a pedometer has helped me to realize how I am most active. On days that I teach it is easy to meet my step goals, but I now know just how sedentary I am on other days (sigh). On days I walk less I try to ride my bike more, but this week I had trouble meeting my daily goals early in the week due to rainy weather that kept me off my bike. I did some canoeing this weekend and so felt a bit better about the week after that. This coming week, inspired by SpSq, I'd like to add some daily crunches. I'd also like to find a way to compare the distance I travel on my bike to numbers of steps--does anyone have any suggestions?