Vacation!

Jul. 29th, 2008 11:46 am
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Now that my summer course is done, I've decided to take a vacation. Actually, it will be mostly a "staycation," since I plan to spend much of it working on house projects and catching up on reading for fun and watching Dr Who, as well as visiting with family and friends. So far, I've gone to a birthday pool party, helped my brother take the kids to two kid birthday parties, seen Dark Knight (it was wonderful, but it did give me nightmares), played bridge, bought light sconces for the bathroom, mowed the lawn, noodled around on facebook, and played with the cats. I received a clean bill of health at my dental check up, and I got myself a haircut. My major house project will be finishing all the fine detail touch up painting in the upstairs bathroom. I do have a bit of work to do during my time off (final grades, getting pieces of a new grant together, writing some recommendation letters), but I can fit it in at my leisure. After lunch, I plan to do battle with the strangling clematis vine that is clinging to my lilac and butterfly bush. In the meantime, I am trying to remember what relaxing feels like.
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Today I received the wonderful news that my promotion has been approved by the Executive Faculty!!! It still has to be signed off on by the highers up, but my Chair assures me that that will be a formality. My official title is now Research Associate Professor and I am now considered Senior Faculty. This will come with a major salary increase (that will be backdated to the beginning of the year!). It feels so gratifying to know that all the hard work is paying off.

Work Party

Dec. 21st, 2007 04:39 pm
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After a morning of meetings, today was our annual holiday party for the Department. We had it in a large room in the new wing and it was amazingly decorated with all sorts of festive balloons and bunting. We had over 150 people attend and the catered lunch was quite good with a lovely selection of cakes for dessert. Being the science geeks that we are, one of the holiday festivities was a team Quizzo event that was graded! My lab calling ourselves "The Rat Pack" came in third (mainly due to our extensive knowledge of 80's movie trivia), but the Chair's lab, ironically calling themselves "Cheat to Win" took the prize of a future pizza party luncheon. Santa made an appearance with gifts for all the kids who were there, and that was fun and sweet for all. Clean up proceeded to bopping versions of traditional holiday music and that made it go quickly.

I gave out my traditional gift of fine chocolates to each of my students and staff. i received some very thoughtful gifts in return. I was given a Broadway Showtune Collection CD Set, a Bad Cat daily calendar, a cat mug and picture frame for the cats, a set of Simpsons pjs with the words, "I am so SMRT" on them, fine chocolate, a 12 pack of Diet Pepsi (it's what I always drink with lunch and they saw that I was out), a small popcorn popper for the lab, more chocolate, and a Tea is for Teacher tea bag packet with a lovely Teacher mug that reads, "As you foster the development of each one's unique talents, you make a contribution to our world - Thank you." I am very touched and thankful that I work with such fun loving people.
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My cute summer medical student, baked me a loaf of zucchini bread to thank me for giving him the opportunity to work in my lab over the summer. He's thinking of applying to the MD/PhD program as a result of his experience. He and his wife and baby are all super nice people and I definitely appreciate the gesture. The only problem is that he has not been around the lab long enough to hear the story of why I no longer eat zucchini. I thanked him for the gift, but what should I do when he asks me how I enjoyed it?


[Poll #1021088]
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I actually took two days off work this week and enjoyed a quick visit from [personal profile] moonpuppy61 (who I blame for bringing the snow on Wednesday on his way down from Boston :-) We went to the Flower Show and enjoyed it immensely. The theme this year was Ireland and my favorite display was the enormous entrance archway and wall covered with flowers. There was a recreation of an Irish cottage. There was a wishing tree and a faerie ring. There was a display of plants arranged to look like celtic knots. There was a cool display about the Alphabet of the Trees used by Druids featuring each symbol and the plant or tree that it represented. I didn't like the "When dinosaurs ruled Ireland" exhibit nor did I like the one with the lawn gnome leprechauns, not the one where everything was pink. We saw some lovely orchids and flower arrangements. I loved the intricate jewelry made from plants. Even though we went in the afternoon during the snowstorm, it was quite crowded and overstimulating. We could not get close enough to see the live Irish dance troupe and that was ok. We took a break and went to Chinatown for dinner and then returned to shop for a hanging plant for my bathroom. I settled on a hybrid fuschia called "Swingtime" that doesn't need much sun or water (so I have a small chance of keeping it alive).

I introduced [personal profile] moonpuppy61 to one of my favorite computer games, Heroes of Might and Magic III, which we played well into the night. Then on Thursday, [profile] puzzld1 brought new baby Eliza over to meet [personal profile] moonpuppy61 and my cats. She has grown even more cute over the last week! Baby Squeee!!! So this delightful break in my routine has finally succeeded in snapping me out of my funk from last week. I was able to go back to work on Friday to be very productive and to arrange the farewell party for my departing employee. I'm now actually looking forward to the start of teaching my class next week.
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In our infinite wisdom we had our Med Neuro students write 8 short essays and 1 long essay for their final exam. There are 60 students in the class, leaving us to grade 540 essays. These are more fact based than thought based essays, but there were many little details that we need to ensure the students knew. Well, we did it to ourselves. I have finally finished grading my half of them. It only took 3 weeks. Now to collate them all and total up the grades...
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I'm home today with a sinus headache and papers to grade. Grading Neuroscience essays from med students is not nearly as entertaining as some of the tidbits that [profile] goddess_of_art or [profile] bear_left have posted. Oh well, it still counts as a work day, even though I'm feeling a bit under the weather (Truly, I feel like the old man in the rocking chair on the porch observing that "a storm is a comin'...")
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So as I had said, I got up with the dawn and went to the conference only to discover that the main hall did not open until 1:00pm. So I sorted out my itinerary with the staff there and then went for a walk in Olympic Park and found my way to the Georgia Aquarium. That turned out to be a fun way to spend a few hours. One must pass through metal detectors in order to enter the Aquarium, which made me wonder what had gone on there to inspire such a level of security. Among the sights were sea dragons, jellies, sea otters, giant groupers, whale sharks and beluga whales! They had an unusual layout, with six different exhibits that branched off of the big open main space and funnelled you through a path to see the various tanks. Each exhibit was organized around a theme and if it hadn't been so crowded, it would have been much more enjoyable. As it was, I did get to see everything, but there were a lot of people jostling each other to get close. I could have watched the two sea otters all day! They are much bigger than river otters, but still incredibly cute. There were five beluga whales there as part of a breeding program (one was actually in the medical tank being treated for an illness) and they were very cool to see. The attendant warned us that since it was a breeding program that we might see some (ahem) breeding displays. None occurred while I was watching, except that the male had his nose against a rock and was casually flapping his tail to stay in place while the females all ignored him. It looked like typical human bar behavior and made me laugh.

I went back to the convention center and began looking at posters and running into people I knew (despite their being over 30,000 people here). I was glad to see one of our grad students who had defended yesterday and successfully passed (it was a close thing)! After several hours of hard core science, I took the shuttle bus back to the hotel to rest for a bit and then returned for my evening meeting. That was fun as we gave an award to the Editor in Chief of Science magazine for his efforts in promoting Neuroscience education. So now if I ever am successful enough to submit a paper there, he knows who I am! I then spoke to my three grad students to make plans for dinner. Well, it turned ou that their plane had been delayed and that they were very tired, so we agreed to fend for ourselves and I came back to my hotel. There had been enough of a spread at my evening event to count as dinner, so I got some dessert and here I am. So it's 8:30 on a Saturday night in a city I've never been to, and I'm going to soak my tired feet, read a book, and go to bed. The strange thing is - I'm actually happy with this decision, since I am pretty worn out from my busy day and it's all on again tomorrow.
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I've been taking a few days off this week in order to try to restore myself from all the energy drained out of me by dealing with the students and end of year decisions and appeals. Unfortunately, it cannot be a true vacation as I am preparing to administer the Qualifying exams on M and T. However, I have been doing some relaxing things. I started it off by getting a massage at Massageworks (thanks to [profile] jenn_girl and [profile] puzzld1 for the recommend. Not surprisingly, I had a whole lot of tension in my back and it was mostly beaten into submission. I was sore the next day, but it felt great! I made an apppointment to return next month and it definitely fits into my overall plan to be kinder to myself and to be on better terms with my body.

I've been watching trash TV and catching up on the yard work and some reading. I'm currently reading an SF series by Karen Traviss, the first of which is called City of Pearl. We discussed it in my SF bookclub and it got mixed responses that averaged to a B+. It's her first novel, and it suffers a bit from some common first novel problems like too many coincidences and too many ideas. But the characters were fresh, well drawn, and emotionally real. It's about a mission to a lost human religious colony that turns into all kinds of first contact with aliens and political intrigue. The main aliens turn out to be ecology preservationists and so the novel talks a lot about environment, vegetarianism, biotechnology, and religious philosophy. I liked it enough to buy the two sequels and am reading them now. The second novel seems to be a bit more streamlined and picks up where the other left off.
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I'm still here at work, waiting for my grad students to finish their Med Neuro essay exam. I gave them a choice of answering 4 out of 7 questions and have set a limit of 4 hours for the exam, which I told them I expect should take 2 hours. It's 3 hours and counting and they are still at it... I will be grading their essays all next week - I can't wait. Meantime, I'm at my desk working on a manuscript that has been in progress for the last 4 years and trying to finesse my way around the various experimental design problems that I inherited as part of this experiment. So I'm suffering along with my students :-)

It's my 20th year college reunion weekend. I had stopped by last night and attended a lecture by my Chemistry professor, who had started the same year as I had. Now I finally understand what he's been doing all these years. I told him afterwards that I still admire his teaching style and that I have tried to incorporate elements of it into my own style. He was very pleased to hear that. Sitting in the lecture hall with several of my chemistry classmates really brought back memories. The outdoor gathering was driven indoors by the torrential rain. I hung out with a number of my classmates for the rest of evening and enjoyed catching up with folks. Several members of my class have died and we remembered them. Many of my classmates have kids, who were in attendance. Circle of life. I plan to return this evening for the class dinner and more festivities.
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I feel like I never quite woke up today. I came home early and took a nap (complete with purring cat on my chest) and that helped a bit. I had a nap yesterday, too. I almost never nap unless I'm sick. I don't feel sick, but my sinuses have been acting up, so maybe it's allergies. Or it's the stress from meeting all the deadlines at work. I've been teaching a lot this week. I have an early morning lecture tomorrow on a topic that I haven't quite figured out how to enjoy doing. Oh well, I'll work it out. I agreed to give a final exam on the next Saturday, rather than on the Monday, but I may rethink that depending on what I decide to do that weekend (20th College reunion? Wizard World? visit nephews?)

My typical day at work now has lines of students, staff, collaborators, etc trying to meet with me. It's gotten almost comical. I was called out of one meeting to address a problem down the hall and on my way back encountered three people that needed to see me and received a phone call from the office while I was telling them I couldn't talk just now. I told each of the people to come back at specific times, took a message, and returned to my original meeting. I'm taking multitasking to a new level and it is exhausting.

I did try to relax some at square dancing tonight. We had about 20 people there with good energy and good dancing so that worked out pretty well. I had fun, but was still tired, so I came home and watched American Idol. Since it was the final two, I decided to vote for the first time. I voted for Taylor, because I thought that he gave a much more polished set of performances. Any of the top four could have won this time around. I'm so pathetic. I'm actually looking forward to Idol's sister show, So You Think You Can Dance? (I know, I know. It's too late for me. Save yourselves from Reality TV!) I think I'll take some more allergy meds, read for a bit, and try to get some more sleep.
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I started the day by signing all the refinancing paperwork to extend my Home Equity line of credit so that I could pay for my new roof (and recent hot water heater). It's all good. I have a rate that is below prime and I can use my home equity to stabilize my financial situation, which is somewhat strapped. The roof is basically done and the hole in the ceiling is patched. They have to come back for a few finishing touches, but it looks good and withstood the rain. I still wish that I had something more visible to show off for all the money, but I do value the peace of mind.

I paid some bills and went grocery shopping. I stopped at CVS to buy my mother a birthday card.

I went to the gym and worked out for 45 min on the treadmill and elliptical. I stretched before and after which definitely helped reduce my piriformous (sp?) pain (I have been feeling a literal pain in my ass and hip on the left when I work out). Advil helps, too, but perhaps a visit to a massage therapist or a chiropractor would be a good idea. I'm still feeling frustrated that I am not reducing my weight despite working out 3-4 times a week, but I have to remember that I am also dealing with a lot of work stress this month and I should be good to myself. Exercise is definitely helping reduce stress.

My friends L & S stopped over this afternoon sans baby and were impressed at all the progress I've made on the house since they were last here (over six months ago). That perspective felt really good. We caught up on things and had a delicious dinner of authentic Philly cheese steaks (okay, okay, I do see the link between cheese steaks and lack of weight management, but I did have yogurt and granola for lunch). We had fun trying to identify which are flowers and which are weeds growing in my back yard. We found a large stalk of my bleeding heart broken off on the ground, so I brought it inside to try to get it to root. My cat came to see if the visitors would pet him and they did. Their visit interfered with his nap time, though, so he vanished after a bit.

I finished grading essay exams for my Neuroscience grad students and I was overall disappointed with their work. Many of them included irrelevant details or failed to answer all parts of the question. I gave them unlimited time on this closed book exam and I expected better. I will have to have a little chat with them. Of course, this result may serve to make my job easier as we decide who gets to stay in the program and who will be dismissed. Two more weeks of class and another week of grading essays to go!

I'm going to veg out with a book for the rest of the evening. I'm in the midst of reading George RR Martin's A Feast For Crows. It's hard to read too much of it at once, since there are literally hundreds of characters to keep track of, but I love the richness of his world.

So that's my day.

Monday

May. 15th, 2006 07:39 am
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It's raining. It's Monday. I'm up at an unjedly hour so that I can give an exam. This afternoon I have a meeting where we will discuss dismissing students from med school. Plus, I have to meet with many people to finalize our 6-8 abstracts for the Neuroscience meeting, which must be electronically submitted by 5:00 pm today. Ugh.

My favorite contestant did not win Survivor last night, but she was given a car due to her enormous popularity. Sure, it's not exactly fair for the contest, but it was very satisfying.
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I've opened a window to enjoy the fresh air and am sipping coffee in preparation for going to the gym. My new kitty, Sawyer, felt comfortable enough to perch on my bed this morning and enjoy the sunbeams. Stayed up way too late last night rewatching Rent and then the Making of Featurette, which turned out to be longer than the movie! I had a good week and am looking forward to a relaxing weekend before my Med Neuro class starts on Monday.

I feel like an evil genius! I negotiated a particularly difficult political battle yesterday to help rework how we propose grad student applicants for acceptance into the program. I have strong diplomatic skills and am not afraid to use them. I also discovered that my four year service was up on one of my committees, and my Chair will let me rotate off so that I have more time for my other responsibilities. I am submitting my third grant this weekend. All this productivity helps balance out the disappointment of having had a paper rejected (mainly because the journal that we sent it to thought that it should be published elsewhere). It's amazing how a little sunshine makes everything seem so positive even after a mild winter!
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I've worked hard all week on my grant that is due on Wed and spent most of today at work with my grad students slaving over it. I managed to pound it into a semi-coherent form so that I was not embarrassed to send it to several of my colleagues for feedback on the full draft. I'm definitely progressing from the "everything I write is crap" phase to the "I must reward myself with an expensive toy" phase. I'm thinking it might be time to buy a Tivo. The next phase is "I am God's gift to grant writing and how dare they not fund me!" I look forward to reaching that phase :-)

I also called in a favor to ask one of my colleagues to give my evening Board review lecture the night before my grant was due. And I managed to sweet talk the Office into giving me an extension on grading the essay exams from the 50 med students that were due this week. It looks like my second grant due in mid Feb will be a lot easier to write, since it will be education focused rather than research focused.


So any advice on Tivo models or service, if I do go ahead with my phase 2 reward???
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I got some good work done on my grant this week; enough so that I can start sending some pages out for internal review. I was on a roll last night, so I stayed at work until 8:00pm being interrupted every 5-10 min by med students frantically preparing for their exams today. I kept handing them refs to copy and that worked well. One of our manuscripts was accepted for publication (after several years of effort) and that felt good. I'm preparing for administering the grad student Prelim exams next week and talking several students off the ledge. Whew, they do keep me busy at work. I have one grant due Feb 1st and the next due Feb 16th. I will be very pleased when they are sent off (and even more pleased if they get funded!). I got great reviews for my Med Neuro course! So it's been extremely busy, but basically going well. More work on the grant is planned for the weekend...

Still here

Jan. 8th, 2006 09:33 am
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I haven't felt much like posting recently and I realized that it's because I seem to have a limit on how much creative expression I can manage. What with all the teaching, manuscript writing, and grant writing I'm doing this month, posting on LJ feels more like a chore than a fun thing. Never fear, I'm still reading it, though. I'm going to have brunch with my parents today, then exchange the Full Screen version of Serentity DVD that I accidentally bought for the widescreen version, then work on my grant and maybe go to the gym. Life is good, just being very busy.

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