Thursday, 6 December 2012

Making Good Time

We went to see the New Haven Christmas tree being lit up today. It looked amazing - it is a GIANT tree all covered with lights top to bottom. Very cool.

The ceremony, however... well, let's just say it was hosted by Ronald McDonald. Welcome to America, I guess.

They had a lot of stuff for kids, including rides on hilarious sort of giant stuffed animals on wheels (might post a pic later if I get around to it) and sleigh rides. The kids seemed to be loving it though. A lot of them looked like kids who might not get a lot of extras under normal circumstances so that was nice.

We then hit up the Yale Art Gallery, which has just reopened (and was promising refreshments, otherwise probably would have skipped!) Just sort of casually strewn with van Goghs and lots of other cool stuff - I will definitely have to go back when my blood sugar isn't so low.

Have been exhausted and burnt out all week, probably because of my slightly crazy weekend. Hired my car on Thursday morning and drove drove drove all the way up to Guelph (only stopped twice! Made good time!) which was about ten hours. Sort of forgot to eat though, so that was a bit bad at the end. Luckily Nicola is awesome and fed me delicious leek and potato soup before sorting me out a bed on her couch.

Spent Friday busily getting an international drivers license (so chintzy! It is just a square of cardboard with a photo of me with my eyes half-shut!) and two new bank accounts and meeting with my former supervisor and various people in the lab and generally running around like a mad thing. Then that night went out with some Nicola people and on Saturday emptied the storage unit and loaded up the car. I sold my futon to Nicola when I left and gave her everything else. It was very odd visiting a friend and recognizing the entire kitchen, the glasses, the kettle, the bathroom towels... and now of course I have to buy all new ones, but I couldn't take them back. Wish I'd known I was staying on the East Coast! oh well.

Anyway, Nicola suddenly decided she was going to buy a bed and asked if I wanted my futon back. I said, there is no way we are fitting a double-thick futon and frame in a Volkswagen Jetta. She said, sure, we can do it, come on! So we tried... we somehow managed to wedge the frame in diagonally behind the driver's seat across over into the front passenger's. There was no way the mattress would fit. I was going to give up but we somehow managed to tie it down with twine in quarters and shove it in the trunk (required jumping up and down on it a few times to get it to go in!) So now I had six or seven Rubbermaids and boxes that certainly wouldn't fit. So we unpacked them all, shoved everything in garbage bags and WEDGED it bodily in wherever it would fit. Then I went to the lab and got all the stuff I left there (two boxes, whoops) and tied everything down with twine. It was a sight to behold.

Nicola, bedless, ended up staying at her boyfriends for a few nights. Whoops. I am excited to have something to sit on, though.

Anyway, the drive was rainy (like sheets of water pouring down - luckily it wasn't below freezing or I would not have been going anywhere) and the border guard just waved me through (whew!) Unfortunately I had to wait in a queue for an hour because the guy on the way in had screwed up my paperwork, but should now be good. Everything was fine until I got to Connecticut, which was crazy as usual, and got a bit lost on the way into New Haven, then unpacked all my stuff and took Helena grocery shopping while we had the car. And was SO TIRED. But it is all done and slowly being unpacked (as best I can with very few shelves/hangers!) and I should get over this exhaustion soon...

Sunday, 25 November 2012

This one's for poor autobiographical memory

Well, I don't have much to say, but on the other hand I'm bored and I want to try and post more. I went to a talk at one point (by a real jerk of a speaker, I must say*) about autobiographical memory. There are people who are super-rememberers and can recall every day of their life with perfect accuracy. Then there are people like me, who can't re-experience life events in the first person. I didn't know ANYONE could do this but apparently they can. My memories are more like reading a book about someone else, and they fade FAST. Luckily I can hold onto stuff by way of photographs, blogging and making things into hilarious stories to tell at cocktail parties, so that works out okay. Still, it would probably be a good idea to try to commit things to writing as they happen, or I will wake up one day and have no idea what I did with my life.

(This can also be very awkward - it took me a long time to convince Del that I wasn't just forgetting things we did/that he said because I don't care. I just don't remember, but I don't remember anything else either...)

Actually, I wonder too how much of this is due to re-imagining my life every few years. Really, in a way you're a different person every time you radically change your circumstances, and every time you make a big move it changes you too so that you're slightly different by the end. But I guess it's unsurprising that my autobiographical memory would be a bit disjointed when my past can be divided into phases that don't necessarily have much to do with each other, but that occasionally overlap.

So anyway, this week it was American Thanksgiving. I decided to work through since I have to go back to Guelph sometime (hopefully this week) to pick up the rest of my stuff. (DREADING this but unavoidable). However, my new supervisor kindly invited me to Thanksgiving dinner on the Thursday, so really I only worked a half day. They got their entire meal in a bag from Whole Foods, pre-cooked turkey and all! Impressive American efficiency (and, I must admit, delicious). They had also invited another family, and that is how I met my very first Tiger Mother. I actually assumed that Amy Chua had exaggerated this style of parenting a bit for effect, but nope, this T. M. was exactly as described. The kids are in music and dance lessons to the tune of $250 per week, she informed us, and in Chinese school on the weekends and being tutored the rest of the time, and they better do well because she wants a good return on her investment. I was astounded. These kids are being groomed for Harvard or Yale, and anything less than that is considered a failure.

I tell ya, it's a whole different world out here. One of the little boys carries around a socket wrench like it's his blankie - it was the cutest thing - and I said, "awww, maybe he'll be a mechanic!" I got a strange look and a "We're hoping he'll be a doctor" in return. However, ten minutes later when we heard the woeful saga of the new generator that can't be hooked up to the house because the house doesn't have a ground wire (?? maybe it's really old?), I thought to myself, this is why one wants an electrician or two in the family if possible. Not much use having nothing but doctors at a time like this!

Anyway, I had a nice time and it was sweet of them to invite me. So that's my first American Thanksgiving under my belt I suppose.

Other than that, mostly been laying low as I don't get paid until Friday and have been surviving on my first week's paycheque (get paid once a week on the last day of the month, so only a small one for October and nothing now until the end of Nov). Had a rough birthday this year - Helena and I had dinner plans at least, but then she got sick and had to cancel so I did nothing at all. Luckily a card and a parcel arrived from the people I can always count on, so that cheered me up somewhat. Then later in the week my friend Rebecca's grandma took a turn for the worse and died, and the funeral was actually ON her birthday. So now I feel bad for complaining. Poor Rebecca, she has had a rough year and I hope we can take her away for a girls weekend or something once I have some actual paycheque available to spend.

Hopefully this whole trip-to-Guelph thing works out for the end of the week. I really am not looking forward to the drives and the border (and Guelph) but it can't be helped. I will cough up extra for a GPS and hope the horrible Connecticut drivers are feeling kind...

*he called out a grad student halfway through the talk, loudly and at great length, for fiddling around on his phone -which granted isn't good form, but who HALTS HIS TALK TO YELL AT SOMEONE?! Especially since some people have note-taking apps etc on their phones.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Third Week Unlucky

Man, it's been kind of a rough week. After the craziness of the first week (i.e. trying to make sure I had somewhere to live and something to sleep on) and the unexpected hurrication the second week, this week it really felt like maybe things should be more sorted, and they totally weren't.

For one thing, although I got paid Nov 1st, the bank kindly put all my money except $100 on hold for a week and a half. This was unexpected because when I deposited it, the teller said it would be available in two days. So I therefore took out most of it and spent it on food and a couple of bits of furniture off Craigslist before discovering that I would then have an extra week to survive and $15 in my pocket. My credit card, of course, is still en route from the UK since I left it behind the bar at the Rusty Bike at my leaving do. Sigh. Anyway, it worked out fine (in part thanks to Rebecca treating Helena and I to a meal out). Bit awkward when people wanted to go for lunch etc, though. However, I made it work, and by the time my cash was released today I still had $3 in my pocket.

The not-too-bright dude at the gym also screwed up my membership, meaning that although I paid on Nov 1st, I didn't have access until yesterday after I had made about ten phone calls (he apparently doesn't answer his phone) and trudged over there during a Nor'easter (wind warnings! exciting weather lately) and stood in his office for 45 min waiting for him to get back. The office was open with a  sign saying "come in", with his keys and phone on his desk... apparently he was just bumming around upstairs. He's lucky I didn't rob him blind. Anyway, I was annoyed a). because I really could have used that money for something else this week, and b). exercise is my stress relief, and without it I started getting in quite a bad way. Blah, so unpleasant.

Oh yeah, also my heating wasn't working, and due to said Nor'easter/wind warnings it was COLD. Which, along with stress and no exercise, made it hard to fall asleep. Double blah.

However, things are looking up: the bank released my funds; the maintenance dude, who is probably getting sick of my place, sorted out the heating; and I found the email address of someone who could actually fix the gym fiasco and am (apparently) getting a free month in return for all the nonsense. (As the same dude is the one in charge of this, I am skeptical though).

So yes, things looking up. Tomorrow I can finally afford to get some curtain rods!

Work is also going a little better, I think - I have been having a lot of trouble focussing lately but I've now been introduced to a bunch of different pieces of software that I can use for data analysis, and have a much clearer idea of what it is that I'm expected to do. Now I'm actually quite excited to dig my teeth into this data and see what I can find. I am waiting on new computers (one Mac, one PC, lucky me!) and some software, which I'm sure will bring its own series of frustrations, but once I'm set up at least I sort of know what to do.

So here's to a better 4th week... if nothing else I am going for a birthday dinner at a restaurant that serves nothing but cheese!

Sunday, 28 October 2012


Okay, I am feeling distinctly uneasy. Why? Because I just checked my Yale mail and in part it read:

"STAFF - ONLY ESSENTIAL STAFF ARE REQUIRED TO COME TO WORK ON MONDAY. We all owe a great debt to the hundreds of essential staff who have already made plans to be on campus starting tonight and/or tomorrow to care for the campus and undertake essential services ranging from dining to health services to utilities, police/security and grounds—and many others. If you have any doubt about whether you are considered an essential service provider, please contact your supervisor immediately.
NOTE: Those staff with clinical responsibilities for patients at Yale Medical Group or the Hospital will receive a special email from the Medical School tonight to outline which staff will be needed to report to work since some patients will be seen tomorrow.
For all staff who do not provide essential services, your work is cancelled for Monday and you should not report to work. Because the University is undertaking the almost unprecedented action of cancelling classes and closing offices on Monday, you will receive your regular pay and not be asked to use vacation/sick time. We will make the decision about Tuesday work requirements by Monday early evening.
YALE HEALTH – Urgent Care will continue to operate throughout the storm. All non-emergency appointments for Monday will need to be rescheduled. Please call to reschedule once the storm has passed.
OFFICES ARE CLOSED for Monday except for essential services. This means that all of the libraries, the Payne Whitney Gym, and regular student support services will not be available. As noted above, the Medical School will be making its own decisions about the clinical practices for patients.
ALL EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES ARE CANCELLED FOR MONDAY. This includes rehearsals, performances, varsity, club, and intramural sports practices and contests, and the like.
TRANSPORTATION - The fixed-route Yale Shuttle System will not be operating after Midnight tonight. The door-to-door Safe Rides will also stop operations at midnight; if you have a true transportation emergency, please call 203-785-5555. We will post when Yale Transportation Services resume on"

EEK. They are taking this hurricane business super seriously and now I am slightly regretting moving into a studio that consists of one room with four giant windows (plus bathroom, also with giant window). Hurricane safety 101 says get into a room with no windows. Not gonna work in this place.

I have some bottled water and food in case the power goes out (nothing exciting - Powerbar type stuff and cereal and hummus and almonds) but no flashlight or anything of the sort due to (SIGH) having $9 in cash to last the week and no access to my credit card because I left it at the Rusty Bike in Oxford at my leaving do... Great timing as per usual.

At the moment it's just windy and nothing too crazy going down, but feeling uneasy in that herd mentality kind of way. Tornadoes I know how to do; hurricanes are a new one on this Alberta girl.

Maybe the whole thing will be an anticlimax?...

Thursday, 25 October 2012

The Medical Library

Started my new gig on Monday (and the backstory to that is a whole other long story...) We will be looking at data from kids with Tourettes, so I figured I better do some background reading so I know what to expect/what everyone is talking about.

So, I went to the medical library and got my little slip of paper with the Dewey number on it and asked the lady at the desk where the book would be. Her eyes got wide and she said, "Oooh, I'm really not supposed to let you down there, but I suppose you can get your book if you're really careful."

Which was a first for me in terms of conversations with librarians.

So here was the route to the books on Tourettes:

Down the stairs

Past the grinning skeleton

Past the room full of brains in jars

Through the darkened room of empty shelves lit by a ghostly glow

Through the Do Not Enter tape

And into the creepy little room of flickering lights.

That said, the book was exactly where the Dewey number said it would be!

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

I love living in Oxford

Bank holiday this weekend and Del's friend Ciara was visiting. Went to Oxfork for breakfast, an art exhibit and a food festival on Sunday, and yesterday were supposed to go punting, but it was raining so instead we ate at the Eagle and Child before having a swift pint at the White Horse, dropping Ciara at the train station and then having a lovely huge cream tea at the Grand on the way home.

Man, this is the life.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Got my paper in! Only four-ish days after we were aiming for. Not bad considering. Fingers crossed for kind reviewers! I could use a little CV boost...

In other news my brain is in lockdown mode. I've got this weird hyperfocus on work stuff going on right now (which is quite useful for getting things done) but everything else is falling by the wayside because in true focus-of-attention style, it doesn't exist for me right now. (Also I've been having trouble with time lately, where I keep getting confused about how much time has passed... days seem weeks long but the month is racing by). I assume most of this is a byproduct of the weird situation I find myself in. Hopefully I don't drop too many balls while trying to get through. It's really odd how everything seems out of focus except my immediate work goals though.

In other news, off to Kingston tomorrow to a conference. I hear it's a nice town and the food is great. The postdoc has friends for us to crash with and some sort of master plan involving a beach, so that is exciting. A bit nervous about the talk, but it's a really cool project (an internship project and an Honours thesis that sort of interlock theoretically, both supervised by me) so it will be fun to disseminate it.

Anyway, we are leaving tomorrow morning and I haven't packed... argh, better get on that.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Things are busy busy. This month is going to be insane.

I am going to write another list: everything has changed since last post, and anyway I find it sort of calming.

1. Get paper submitted (tomorrow)
2. Kingston for 4 days to give a talk at a conference (June 7-11)
3. Kinda sorta triple booked (Stag and Doe {weird Ontario thing to make your friends pay for your wedding}, gig in Toronto, beach with Sandeep and Christine... not sure how that will all pan out) (June 16)
4. Defend :/ (June 22) (Date got changed due to committee availability)
5. Post-defense party! (ditto)
6. Immediately leave for portaging trip (June 24-28)
7. somehow get moved out (stuff shipped or stored) (June 30)
8. Melissa's birthday party in TO (June 30)
9. Canada Day Hip/New Pornographers gig (July 1)
10. Interview (July 2)
11. Leave for UK (July 7)

I also have to get everything sorted for leaving, get a few more manuscripts on their way, get a bit more data collected, make sure my projects are finished or someone else can keep them going.... it will probably all work out fine but right now it is looking pretty scary.

That said, my supervisor suddenly has nothing but time for me and is prioritizing submitting all my stuff that's been languishing forever (!) so I will take it! It would be great to have a couple more things on my CV for postdoc application purposes. Extra effort now will hopefully pay big dividends.

HOWEVER, I did get to go to Alberta for a week after a very burnout-inducing few months and it was awesome!! Lovely Lana and Paul wedding, saw lots of people I haven't seen for ages (even if half of them didn't recognize me until I started laughing), hung out with Steph and the Remkes Family and spent a couple of days in Rocky. It was extremely hard to drag myself away. Good thing dad drove me to the airport or I might have "accidentally" missed the bus.

BUT, for the first time ever, I had someone to pick me up from the airport at the other end! Sandeep not only came to pick me up but then brought me back to their place for dinner and booze. It is the first time I have ever returned to Guelph and not been 100% depressed for at least a week. Having a friend or two makes a huge difference. I don't know why it was practically nothing but toads for the first three years (with a few notable exceptions) but now the awesome people are coming out of the woodwork, but I will certainly take it.

Oooh, also - got my knee MRI. It was at 9pm at night and was kinda weird. A). I had to stick the wrong end in the scanner! Never had a scan that didn't involve my brain. B). They made me undress! Had to wear an open-backed hospital gown. WEIRD. But anyway, I guess the results take about a week so hopefully I will soon have some idea what the problem is. Unfortunately the outcome will likely be that nothing much will help, but I just want to know what is going on.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

WELL! Exciting news all around.

First: my supervisor tracked down my prodigal committee member after I mentioned it had been about six weeks since I sent the stupid thesis out (he eventually called her department chair to ensure she was still alive). Once back in touch, she turned around my thesis in a week and gave me excellent comments. To be honest, neither committee member had much bad to say and there were just a few major comments to address. This is a huge relief - when people don't give me feedback, I tend to assume it's because they're ignoring me again/didn't actually read the thing. But no, she clearly read it (lots of minor nitpicks of typos) - she just thought it was good!


So, got the comments back Tuesday, been working like crazy since then, will have draft to supervisor tonight, getting Steph and Del to nitpick stupid details for me (spelling, grammar, format) over the weekend, and - hopefully off to the external by next Tuesday.

So second: just got this email from supervisor:

Hi all,

Just a quick note to let you know that we have a tentative date/time for Anne's final examination:
- June 20, 1-4:30pm.

The grad secretary will likely be in touch again before long with official confirmation, but thought you might like some advance warning in case it's helpful for managing schedules.


Summer solstice!

This HAS to be a good omen, right?

So this is my next two months:

May 15- thesis sent to external and whoever the heck else
May 23 - Edmonton, woo hoo!
May 25 - wedding fun-ness
May 30 - back to Guelph, back to work, get some freaking papers submitted (there are two right now basically lying on peoples' desks waiting for feedback)
June 7-10 - CSBBCS conference, Kingston (giving a talk)
Sometime in June probably: MRI of knee to figure out what is going on once and for all (physio says what we are doing is not helping and she needs to know what is going on via imaging).
June 20, 1pm - let's not think about that
June 20, 6pm - PARTYYYYYYYYY
June 25-29 - Escape from Guelph, portaging trip in Algonquin!
end of June: pack stuff, move stuff, give stuff away, dispose of six tons of paper from work desk, etc etc
July ? - off to the unknown....

Saturday, 14 April 2012

So I finally went to the doctor...

He thinks I have a torn meniscus (cartilage) in my knee. Awesome. However, that explains the pain, popping noises, stiffness etc. He says it's not a bad case (no swelling or locking) but I have to go to physio anyway. Annoying because you have to pay up front, although at least it will be reimbursed 80%...

Other than that, just bemoaning my lack of a social life/social support in Guelph and waiting for something good to maybe eventually happen.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The dog ate it!

Two posts in one day (unheard of!) but this was too hilarious not to share...

So am TAing two courses this semester, and the one prof makes us mark six long answer questions from many hundred students, three times a semester (hence all the whining from me). Much as I might sigh about that, he is a great guy and this email totally made my day:

The return of exam two went well except for one thing: my dog ate three of
the exam booklets. I was in a hurry to leave on Thursday and left the exam
booklets near my front door. Tessa loves to eat paper and this was a golden
opportunity for her. Ten minutes later a number of the exams were spread
across my backyard and she was racing around in joyous frenzy with an exam
in her mouth! She completely destroyed one exam and damaged two others;
about five exams had mud on them. Fortunately, I had checked all of the
exams and was able to identify the students who wrote the damaged exams.
The students took the incident in good humor and I expect it will be the
only thing they remember about the course in a few years.

The Slog

I am so tired these days. It feels like I'm running a marathon (except without the health benefits). Spending all my time in the lab, but it ain't that productive... and when I do go out it's usually to sleep on Sandeep's couch while other people play board games. Now he and Christine are in Alberta for a few weeks, so no more social life... although Nicola does want to go to TO on the weekend, so I suppose there's that.

But yeah, super run down, man. My HPA axis has been overloaded by chronic stress for too long and it's bottoming out. (Would this be any easier if I didn't know exactly what my brain is up to?) At least the marking is out of the way for another week, and we managed to submit my Hot or Not paper (second chunk of my thesis) on Monday. To a journal with an 83% rejection rate (aim high!) so everyone please cross their fingers. Still, it's a good bit of work and it will get published somewhere.

Got two conference deadlines coming up and piles of data that may or may not hold anything useful. STRESSFUL! Yesterday was Guelph Neuroscience Day and I tried to do some data analysis after, but was just too exhausted. Public speaking/interacting with people burns me out. Talk went pretty well though. My entire thesis in an eight-minute talk! There were no questions: I think I stunned people into silence with the flood of information.

Steph called last night and ordered me to take two days off in a row. I don't think I've done that since.... probably my trip to Windsor/Detroit. (Which was awesome, BTW - saw MuteMath, who totally rocked, and convinced Sandeep to take us on a driving tour of the urban prairies. His risk-averseness kicked in and he wouldn't stop the car at ALL in Detroit, but it was still fascinating in a post-apocalypic kind of way). Anyway, that was months ago and maybe she's right. Easter coming up, I suppose. Sounds like a good reason.

Things going downhill at the dept. Definitely time to finish and move on... one of the girls who defended in the Fall says you hit a point when you don't even care about your defense any more because there is too much other stress. She said after that it's easy. So, given that I don't have a postdoc or job lined up, I should be right in line to hit that point very soon...

Saturday, 24 March 2012

one step forward!

HANDED MY THESIS IN TO COMMITTEE, BABY! I am sure there will be revisions galore (my supervisor "has not carefully read through the entire thesis, but instead focused on hot spots"), but this is the step that gets everything moving re: paperwork and moving toward a date being set - as far as I can tell. Never mind that this three months later than I hoped... sorta expected that. At least I got there in the end. (And got permission to send it to committee... a good bit of that time has felt like it involved waiting for supervisor to have time to look at one thing or another).

Also got a paper sent out to a journal. Two things in one week... pretty much unprecedented!

Thursday, 8 March 2012


...everything kinda sucks right now. Caught whatever dread disease has been going around, my life is fraught with whiny undergrads and marking, and a thesis and two papers are looming threateningly over my head. Also looming threateningly over my head is the giant pile of boxes my room has become - although that is actually a good thing, as I FINALLY managed to get everything out of storage with the help of the postdoc. I think it's screwing up my feng shui, though! Going to bring all my old clothes into the lab and attempt to fob them off on Nicola the Kiwi or alternatively any other girls I can think of.

Had a great visit with Del over Reading Week. Too busy, as usual. We spent the first weekend in TO, where my friend Melissa gave us the grand tour. 2 x brunch (the second in a metal-bar-turned-brunch-place... quite the ambience, with the massive bald, pierced, tattooed waiter and the murals on the walls), 2 x local showcase gigs, wandering around the neighbourhoods and a trip out to the Distillery. (Which has a sake distillery in it, who knew?!) (Also SOMA chocolate... SO GOOD!) Then in Guelph for one night before haring off to Ottawa on a roadtrip with Kiwi Nicola. Ended up eating stew with her mates (Metis dude, Kiwi girl, giant baby apparently called Taane - TAW-nay) and also eating goose burgers for lunch at theirs the day before we headed out. Never would have occurred to me to make burgers out of geese, but there you go.

We stayed in a jail... Del always works hard to find the most random places to stay. Did not top the boat in Barcelona Harbour, but it was a good effort. Room was gorgeous, and after a few drinks (for me) with Nicola's mates and a long trip in the wrong direction due to being told the wrong way to turn out of their cul-de-sac, going round most of Ottawa's one-way streets at least six times and being honked at by multiple cabs, a lie-down was well deserved. Turns out the whole time we were basically one street over from the hostel, but due to the one-way system (ARGH) and the way the roads are labelled, we had no idea... sigh.

Anyway, managed to make it in the end (I was pretty happy Del is calm about this sort of thing) and spent the next day eating beavertails, walking around and checking out the Museum of Civilization. The drive back was horrific, including as it did the 401 through Toronto in the afternoon. Thus, we took it pretty easy the rest of the week and just went into the lab to work. (Woo-hoo! Lucky Del!)

So yup, now life is flat, stale and unprofitable. Nothing but endless writing/marking/teaching/answering seven million questions until I somehow manage to make a supreme effort and get everything ready for defense... which is looking further and further away. Blah.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Sunny day, sweeping the clouds away

Had a nice day today, even though it involved about six hours of marking exams. My housemates took me to St. Jacob's Market (which is largely Mennonite, hence the horses and buggies on the road). I bought super garlicky hummus and red pepper jelly and lots of berries. Then we had apple fritters and coffee, and they took me to buy groceries (no hauling them home on foot!) So nice to get out of Guelph, even for a few hours... it was cold but sunny and I was so happy to get some fresh air. I don't even notice that I spend all my time in my room or at the lab until I finally get to do something else.

I'm halfway through long answer question 3 out of 6 - still hoping to have this all (or mostly all) out of the way by Reading Week so I can take the week off from TAing at least.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

In which I am not quite THAT youthful

Two people in the last week told me they thought I was 25. I'll take it, I guess! It weirds me out a bit though. When I actually was 25, I was in Scotland, living an entirely different life - in some ways, I feel like I was an entirely different person. Odd how that goes. Never mind, it's been a fun ride one way or another.... even if the (cute) new departmental hire is a mere year older than me, with a solid academic job and a star-studded career.

The new post-doc, on the other hand, is 26 freakin' years old and gunning hard for a tenure-track position ASAP. He might do it, too. He has four times my paper count and a million NSERCs and whatnot on his record. He is hard-core.

Somebody remind me that it's not about competition and that I'm pretty freakin' lucky to have the most fun job in the world... even if it means living below the poverty line (at my age!)

That said, having a pretty fun semester so far. The big news (to me at least) is that I handed in a thesis draft last week. I was mad because it was a month later than I had hoped, but it is a huge weight off. Of course, this is only the start of the process - first my supervisor will make me change it all, and then we will send it to my committee and they will make me change it still further. Then the external examiner will tear it to shreds and then I will have to (gulp) defend it. But for the moment, it is Not My Problem until Mark sends it back. Hallelujah!

In the meantime, I am keeping myself busy with five piles of marking, four students to supervise, three side projects, two seminars to teach (and a partridge in a pear tree). I have an honours student and two internship students whose projects I'm responsible for, and one of the volunteer RAs just expressed an interest, so I've designed one for her as well. The more the merrier! I am still collaborating with Yale on a couple of things, and my labmate Tyler and I have a side project on the go that is looking really good right now. I looked at the pilot data today and am quite excited, so full speed ahead with data collection and we will see what we get.

Teaching is going pretty well too. I have two seminars and don't hate teaching them as much as I feared. They all just stare at me blankly the entire time, of course, but they do seem to be paying attention and I've just finished all the marking of that first assignment. It was kind of fun teaching them experiment design, since it's pretty much my favorite topic right now.

In other news, the new postdoc (despite inciting extreme CV-related jealousy) is totally awesome. He has single-handedly instituted Thursday/Friday Pub Night every week and for the first time in three years, I have actually met some people in the department who are not in my area. I had literally never seen these people before - sad. He also keeps inviting me round for games nights and dinner and this and that. It is glorious. On Tuesday I was at the grocery store when I ran into him and his wife, who scooped me up, bought me fried chicken and cider and entertained me until midnight before giving me and my groceries a ride home. Amazing how having ONE PERSON (okay, technically two people) in this stupid town who appear to enjoy my company and will actually go out of their way to hang out with me can have such a huge effect on my quality of life.

And the best part? One week till Reading Week, mega Del time and roadtrips! Cannot wait. I'm going to push through and work the weekend, in the hopes that by the time Del-time rolls around, I can actually take the week mostly off. Glorious!

Sunday, 22 January 2012


There is a magnet on the fridge at the new house that reads:

Having someplace to go is HOME
Having someone to love is FAMILY
Having both is a BLESSING

(I'm sure you can picture the cutesy font and floral background).

It is taking all the self-control I have not to add an extra line underneath:

Having none of the above is GUELPH

Never mind! I will just have to make sure that I do what I have to go to get out fast...

New Year, New House, New Students... New Thesis Draft?

So, new house. I moved in straight off the plane from Alberta, at about midnight on a Monday. It took me two days to meet any housemates, so that was deeply weird. Luckily there is a super chatty one called Kate who caught me leaving on the third day and gave me the lowdown.

New House Pros:
- SO CLOSE TO WORK. I am still excited about this. I used to walk past this place every day and then keep walking for 40 minutes until I got to 127. Now, if I forget something at home/school, it's no big deal! I could even COME HOME FOR LUNCH! (not that I ever do).
- Someone is designated to clean! That person does not require nagging! The bins even get taken out and the toilet paper replaced. Heaven.
- If something is broken, in theory someone will come fix it. About to test this out with a burnt-out lightbulb, as soon as my room is in a state that I'm not embarrassed to let the landlord in :/
- Big huge window. Natural light rather than a view of next-door's hallway: bliss!
- Never see housemates unless I want to, and way less kitchen and bathroom crowding than you would expect.

New House Cons:
- That one weird dude who told me he's been "watching my room to see when my light would come on" right after I moved in. (Have avoided the heck out of him since). Creepy, or just slightly socially awkward? I don't necessarily care to find out. Luckily, as above, you pretty much never see anyone if you don't want to.
- Small room, right next to the bathroom. Awesome.
- Coin laundry.
- People who beep the microwave a million times at 6am. Although lately it seems I'm able to sleep through this, so dropping down on the cons list. In general people are pretty good about not making noise in the common areas.
- For some reason, all the S1 shelves (my room's name) are the highest ones, so I can't actually reach anything without climbing on chairs.

The setup is basically a big house that's been made into a sort of boarding house. It's like if you lived in a hostel for months on end, but with fewer Australians. When I come upstairs it's just a hallway full of closed doors, unless someone is cooking (rare). Mind you, I'm generally in the lab from 9 until 8 or 9 or 10, so maybe I'm just missing the majority of activity. Everything is hilariously labelled ("Put shower mat HERE." "Do not use this soap dish." "Men: please consider sitting down for all your toilet activities" "Only two pairs of shoes per person in front hall please.") including all the shelves in the kitchen, so there is no question where your stuff goes. It's going to be a tight squeeze once I get my stuff back, but I will manage...

Anyway, at this stage it suits me fine. So nice not to have the drama (or the sullen boyfriend spending weeks on end sleeping in till noon at our place and then using our shower).

Work-wise, it's going to be a crazy semester. I'm wrestling with my thesis because I REALLY want to have a draft to my supervisor by tomorrow, and let's just say there's a way to go. I just want to be done with it for a while, though, so probably worth pushing hard now. Today won't be fun, though. I've promised myself all the caffeine and chocolate I want today in return for exerting some self-regulation in thesis-related areas.

Apart from that, I'm teaching two seminars and TAing/marking for two classes. I've acquired another student, meaning I'm supervising three projects this semester plus keeping an eye on Asma's students (as she's in Bangor learning to do fMRI, lucky toad). I also am collecting data on two other projects since I keep thinking this might be my last chance for a while.

So in theory I should also be freaking out about postdocs and What Do I Do After? - but I find I just don't have time. I will have to assume something will sort itself out. Will start applying again after thesis draft is done, I suppose...

We were on Korean TV this week! Mostly my supervisor, of course, but I starred as "Girl in Fake fMRI Scanner". I'm sure it is merely a small step to superstardom in Korea. The program, by the way, was called "Brain Garden" (as far as I can tell) and featured a flower garden in the shape of a brain!

Wednesday, 4 January 2012


I have high hopes for this year. We will see how it goes.

If I had a ridiculous run of good luck, my semester could look like this:

Jan 31: Thesis totally approved by supervisor and sent to committee (who have never even met with me and have not heard from me since my thesis proposal - not that they seem to mind).

Feb 29: Committee approves draft.

March 31: Changes suggested by committee made and everything fixed up. Draft sent to external

April sometime: Defend

Since everything seems to take at least three months as long as it should, though, I ain't holding my breath.

Plus, after that comes this part:

Summer 2012: No job, no plan, no idea.

But hey! It should be interesting.

In the meantime, in honour of the New Year, here are some things I did for the first time last year:

- Lived in America, Social Security number and all
- learned how to collected EEG data (i.e. wrestle a wet, soapy net onto the head of a recalcitrant teenager and try desperately to get the impedances down)
- learned how to analyze EEG data - sort of. Require heavy supervision with this one.
- Moved to Connecticut, met some cool psychiatrists, did a lot of clothes shopping
- Went to an amazing Catalan wedding and learned to say "fantàstic!" and dance some random Catalan folk dances
- Discovered and semi-stalked Josh Ritter
- Drank a Dunkin' Donuts latte, and then about another three a week depending on Helena's level of sleep deprivation
- Got two papers in press, woo hoo! (One, we just found out, has just been for real published)
- Was on Korean TV (this I assume is true, although I have not seen the evidence) and did a photoshoot in a fake MRI scanner