Tuesday, December 23, 2008

sudden weaning + 'mama'

I finally kept water down last night, after getting a prescription by phone, so I didn't have to go get an IV. But the medicine was not good for breastfeeding, and I hadn't drank all day and didn't want to lose any more fluids, so we weaned. LP got warm cow's milk when he cried at night, and seemed alright. He is being clingy to both of us today, though. He finally started saying "mama" on Friday, but now he's calling both of us "mama" instead of "dada"! I think he just can't figure out why we should have different names. He does know the difference, though, if I say it to him. Whatever, I'm just glad he says "mama" ;)
Here is a sample conversation:
LP (reaching up to dada to be picked up): mama
TE: I'm dada
LP: mama
TE: I'll pick you up when you say 'dada'
LP: maaaamaaaaa
TE: da-da
LP: ma-ma
LP: ma ma?

Monday, December 22, 2008


I keep saying that at least I am not as sick this pregnancy as I was with LP's. That is no longer true. Maybe ELP is a boy after all. I haven't kept anything down today, not that I ate anything substantial, and I can't even keep water down. This post is the most productive thing I've done, besides briefly supervising LP (my plan was to yell for help if it looked like he was going to do something like start to walk down the stairs, because I didn't want to get up). I don't know how I'm supposed to feel better until I at least eat something, which will not be for awhile. Luckily, my mom is taking care of LP and TE is taking care of me (while trying to get work done, which I was supposed to be doing too). I'll have to develop a new "at least" phrase: perhaps "at least ants are not eating out my eyes". That has a nice ring to it.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


I got to hear ELP's heartbeat today, at 160 beats per minute!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Updates: emails and a bizarre conversation

First the big one: the boss continues to not be a jerk! I suspected as much, but am very relieved. He was supportive of my pregnancy, although sounded a bit surprised that it came so soon after the last one. He says money is not a problem if I need to take a bit longer to graduate: not sure if this is good or bad, as I had half expected him to say I should hurry up and graduate before the baby, however, that will be a couple months before he was thinking I would graduate. I don't think he meant to say that this will delay my graduation, only to say that it would be alright with him if I let it do so. (I don't think that will be necessary or a good idea.)

Second, the postdoc emails are rolling in, some later than others. I am feeling pretty good about repsonses, and have one seminar to give and someone to meet with at the upcoming March conference. One disconcerting thing is that ONE KNOWN EMAIL TO ME DID NOT COME TO MY INBOX. Luckily, a friend from that lab who was copied on the original, after I asked him about why I had not heard a reply, forwarded it to me. The email was from the top person on my list, so it was really important to me. I had a somewhat bizarre conversation with tech support regarding this problem, and I will paraphrase for you:

Setup: I have previously explained the loss of the email to a person on a lower rung of tech support, and now am talking with someone who has to decide whether to send it up for further review or close my case. My goal, as stated to tech support before, is to find out whether I have lost any other emails, but it was previously explained to me that that is likely not possible. So I really don't care where the conversation is headed. I would also like to point out that I am not angry with this person at all; I have a favorable impression of him generally.

Tech Support: So, I see that you lost an email, and . . . [details].

Tinkering Theorist: Yeah, I am on the job search so I wanted to know if there's a way to find out if I have lost any other emails. I guess I should have taken you seriously when you said not to do X [where X is thing with email programs which is known to cause email deletion in rare cases].

TS: So, this is a known problem?

TT: Well, you [tech support generally] sent out an alert about it months ago.

TS: So you do X and it can potentially cause emails to be deleted?

TT: That's what it said. But they also said that about [other email program which the last tech support person told me to switch to].

TS: (Explains that it would be hard to find out if I had missed other emails.)

TT: (Explaining that I really don't care that much anymore.)

TS: So, the problem is when you do X?

TT: That's what the alert said. I think I had done X around the time of the missing email. I guess I won't do that anymore!

TS: Alright, well since this is a known problem, I advise you not to do X.

TT: Alright. . . thanks.

TS: Thank you. Have a great day.

TT: You too.

Did you have to be on the phone to feel the strangeness, or is it apparent here? I explain problem X, state that I shouldn't have done X in the first place, and later comment that I won't do X anymore. He has clearly not heard of problem X, which he characterizes as a "known problem" anyway (well, I guess I knew about it) and asks for clarification at least twice. Then, he explains problem X back to me, and tells me not to do X, and that then everything should be fine. In his resolution email, it basically says that the resolution was, "I told her not to do X anymore".

I just wanted to say "What? I just told you about X! I had to explain it to you twice! It is not your idea that I not do X. Trust me, I do not plan on doing X anymore!"

Oh well. Hopefully I have not lost any more emails, or capella's metric that I not pursue any people who do not respond to my first email suddenly becomes hard to apply.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

waiting for emails

I sent out all my postdoc emails, but, as expected, people mostly won't know about funding until February. That is, those people who have replied--most have not.

The main email I am waiting for now is a reply from my boss. I just emailed him some updates about the postdoc emails and also said I was pregnant. He was great about it last time, but this time I am finishing my thesis and about to start a postdoc so I am worried that he will be concerned about that. Perhaps I shouldn't have told him so early, but I hate going to meetings with him and not saying anything, and I worry about it more because I don't know what he'll say about it. Hopefully he will come back with a supportive email soon so I can stop worrying. I mean, he's never been a jerk to me before but I can't help worrying that he could start any time, and I have very little control over my postdoc recommendation letters and even when I finish my thesis. Cross your fingers for me!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Now I am having trouble eating stuff and feeling sick, though at least it's not as bad as last time. TE says he finally believes I am pregnant. I am also tired because LP was up after he bit his tongue last night while trying to refuse my offer for a sippy cup (in lieu of nursing indefinitely), and I felt bad. He felt pretty bad too and got blood on his pacifier, the poor guy.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Heating a Trailer, Part 1

Electric Heating of a Bike Trailer for an Infant/Toddler, Part 1: Problem Setup

It is getting cold, and TE has built a suspended bike trailer with solid walls (as opposed to the fabric covered one we have now) which should be better for winter use. (I helped only a little, because he's been getting up at 4 AM every morning to work on it, but I need my sleep since I feed LP at night). It is well insulated, but LP is still very small, so there has been considerable discusson on how/whether to heat the trailer for the very coldest days. Of course, there is a safety issue either way: a heating system must be implemented cautiously to prevent burns, but if there is no heating system we are worried about frostbite. So far, we have been bundling up LP with multiple layers, including a hood and hat under his helmet, socks on his hands, and blankets on top. He knows how to take off the socks, though, and TE is concerned that if his fingers get cold he won't realize it because they will also get numb. I think he'll know if his fingers are too cold or too hot, but it's hard to tell the difference between the "I'm a bit cold" cry and the "I'm bored" cry. TE wants to buy a big battery anyway for eventual use with a motor as an assist when I am very pregnant this summer. (I don't think we need a motor since we didn't have that much trouble last pregnancy, but this time we have to pull a trailer and have less time on our hands to take the trip slowly.)

Problem Statement:
Before I talk about heaters, I want to find out the scale of the problem to zeroth order. Let's assume the trailer is an enclosed box (assume little leaking of air from outside for now) of dimension 25x25x30 inches. The majority of the box is 0.125 inch plywood with 0.5 inch foam insulation. There are also 6 windows of average size 6x18 inches made of 0.118 inch plexiglass. A small person is inside but may weigh anywhere from 8-50 lbs (we want the new baby to be able to use it too). If the outside temperature is 0 deg. F and wind speed relative to the trailer may be 10-30 mph, how much energy is needed to keep a constant steady-state inside temperature of 40 deg. F (he will still be wearing layers)?

Human Heat Output:
One could do a calculation based on the amount of heat lost to the environment, but I saw a Google Books result from Human Vitality and Efficiency Under Prolonged Restricted Diet, Francis Gano Benedict et al., which claims that under normal diet conditions the average heat output of their subjects was 25.2 calories/kg/(24 hours). From the text it is clear that they mean food Calories, or (25200 cal*4.18 cal/J)/kg/(24hr*60min/hr*60s/min)=1.21 W/kg. Babies are probably outputting more heat per kg than adults, so let's say the likely range of occupant wattage is 5-50 W.

Equation for Heat Loss from Trailer Walls:
We have a total surface area of 3600 square inches of wall and 648 of window. Newton's law of cooling states Q=h*A*deltaT, where Q is the rate of heat transfer, h the heat transfer coefficient, A the area, and deltaT the temperature difference. We can write this equation for the inside and outside walls, and write the conduction equation Q=k/deltax*A*deltaT for the plywood, foam, and plexiglass, where deltax is the thickness and k the conductivity. Of course, then we have many different temperatures to solve for (for instance the deltaT across the plywood is the temperature difference between the outside 0 deg. F and inside of plywood, which unknown but a bit colder than the inside of the trailer). We can simplify by analogy to electrical circuits: each heat transfer coefficient or conductivity divided by thickness is a resistance to heat transfer, and they can be added up like electrical resistors. Then you can have an overall heat transfer coefficient U, for the equation Q=U*A*deltaT. In series are the heat transfer from plywood to outside hwo, plywood conductivity kw/deltaxw, foam conductivity kf/deltaxf, and heat transfer from foam to inside hfi, which will combine to make an overall heat transfer coefficient U1. In parallel to all that, and with a different area, so we'll make a separate overall heat transfer coefficient U2, is the heat transfer from plexiglass to outside hgo, heat transfer across plexiglass kg/deltaxg, and heat transfer to plexiglass from inside hgi. So we have
Q=(U1A1+U2A2)deltaT, where
1/U1=1/hwo+deltaxw/kw+deltaxf/kf+1/hfi and

Actually, there would be different heat transfer coefficients for the different walls, as some will be facing the wind more than others. I will neglect this, and assuming a worst case scenario of 30 mph wind on all walls. The heat transfer coefficients for either the wood or plexiglass in contact with 30 mph air should be similar since both are relatively smooth flat plates, so hgo=hwo and hgi=hwi.

(Sorry about the lack of pretty equations--perhaps I will fix them later, someday after I get a full night's sleep . . .)

Next steps:
Now all we need are to look up the constants, calculate, and compare to the heat output of various devices that are being considered: nothing, warm thermal masses (such as those that can be microwaved to keep food hot at potlucks), electric blankets, and other small electric heating devices, preferably those designed for human use in a related application.
The suspense is killing me but this post is becoming long and I must eat dinner!

Feel free to leave ideas on trailer heating or knowledge of any of the constants in the comments.

Monday, November 24, 2008

goodbye black background :(

Some people feel that it is hard to read the white text on the black background, so I am changing. I think the current template is maybe a bit cartoony, but if I tell myself the circles are really representations of spheres, I like it pretty well. Of course, I still think white text on black is easiest on my eyes, but I've kind of given up on it in general, so I may as well go with a black text blog. When I have tried to change my computer settings to white on black I become more annoyed because only some programs, such as word processors, will understand, while others will never work right as white on black and just seem even worse when you have to flip to them from a white on black screen.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

go science!

I just went to an amazing thesis defense, and learned a lot. I was annoyed that I didn't have time to read the thesis ahead of time, but now I'm glad because I don't think I would have understood it as well the other way around. Now I have to read the thesis before I forget everything I learned (or lose motivation)! Also, there were good snacks, coffee (and I brought my own mug) and the presenter's new baby there. The baby did not stay for the whole thing, but was making adorable baby noises :)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

"real world problems"

Here is a (slightly paraphrased) snippet from my application essay to grad school, which I am reading now due to a sequence of events that started with a dying computer 3 years ago. (It's a long story that I could summarize, but I'm not in the mood.)

"I chose to pursue a doctorate in this field to apply my basic science knowledge to solve real world problems".


2 lines!

I finally took the test this morning, and I am pregnant! I hope everything is going alright, because I don't feel sick at all. It is nice to be able to eat at will, though. I wonder why this one is so different? Maybe it's a girl.

Now . . . when to tell the adviser?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Several interesting things at LP's checkup today:

1) I was lollygagging this morning, not realizing the time, and TE was playing with LP, so we didn't get going to the appointment on time . . . we started about 10 minutes late. We had planned a 40 min commute (the doctor recently moved far away), which would have been barely possible with the tandem, but today we needed separate bikes. I was happy to take out my recumbent, as it has been sitting unused for awhile. It's really nice how fast it accelerates in response to my pedaling versus a huge tandem recumbent with trailer. TE took the trailer today, and since it was also windy, for the first time I got to be faster than him--I was enjoying it. Even though we were sprinting to get there in time, we got further behind schedule due to wind and rain. When we got there, I was soaking wet with sweat (I wore one too many layers!) and we were 15 minutes late. The doctor was not ready yet anyway, though.

2) You know how you can be somewhat oblivious to something that is culturally or socially supposed to bother you, but then when people keep pointing it out it can start to bother you? LP has been saying "dada" for months now, but still does not say "mama". Recently, he started saying "mo" or "ma" to mean "more", to rub it in that he can pronounce the "ma", but I still didn't really care. Today, though, the doctor was trying be nice to me and told LP he needs to start saying "mama", and pointed to me. Then, ScienceWoman wrote that her daughter, Minnow, said "I wuv do Mommy" and apparently it was really heartwarming. (Of course, Minnow is a bit older than LP.) Now I am a little (just a little bit) sad now that LP does not say "mama". He does sort of think I'm "dada", but he knows TE is the real "dada" and seems to suspect I'm some other type of "dada". I guess it will come eventually.

3) LP is developing fine.

4) LP has gained only an ounce since last time. Actually, I think he weighed in more during the finger incident doctor's appointments than he did today. No wonder he's been so hungry recently--he must be growing very fast and burning lots of calories running around like a crazy person. The doctor was not concerned, though, and neither am I since he still looks to be well within the normal range in his daycare cohort.

5) When we dropped LP off at daycare, it was later than usual, so breakfast was over. It was STORYTIME! They were all (technically, most) sitting in the story area and watching the teacher read a book. It makes it seem like LP is a real kid now! I wish I had storytime. I think he will learn a lot really fast now that he's moved up to the new room at daycare. He already uses a spoon better. They say he is doing very well there. Now that there are all these activities and different things to see him play with, watching the webcam is a lot more fun. Yesterday he was playing on a baby sized set of stairs, and bumping butts with another kid, who then decided to go down the stairs on his back and head first. (I was glad LP didn't try that, because I wouldn't want him doing it on real stairs!) Today I got to see TE pick him up, as I was still here in the office.

Friday, November 7, 2008

I don't even want to take the test now

We may have ruined our perfect record, because I think I am not pregnant. My cold is getting better and I still don't feel pregnant. I looked at my notes from LP's pregnancy and I felt pregnant by this time. Maybe I am just missing it because I am sick and still nursing.
Not that it is a big problem as compared to other peoples' problems, but I am bummed and I don't want to take the test now because I don't think I will get the desired result and it seems like a waste of resources. The tests come free from the health center in packs of 2, and the one I have now is the second one from when LP was getting started.
I just thought of something hopeful, though! Maybe I'm pregnant but it is different than last time because this one is going to be calmer than the LP, either because it is a girl or because of the nursing evening out the hormones (or some other reason). That would be nice, to be able to actually eat what I want (without throwing up) as a hungry pregnant person. Maybe I should take the test.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

getting sick, and voting

The LP has been cranky for a couple of days at night, and has a runny nose, so I suspected for several days that he was getting sick. I should have known that there was impending doom for me (and probably TE), but I guess it's better that I didn't realize what was coming until I actually started feeling crappy yesterday. Maybe I can be sick twice as much later this week if there is an ELP on the way . . . with LP the sickest I got the whole pregnancy was the day I found out for sure he was there. Hopefully I'm not messing up the ELP with the cold medicine. . . I took some last night to try to breathe better in my sleep after being up late with LP because he couldn't get to sleep. At least we got to watch McCain's speech and part of Obama's between crying bouts.
Speaking of the election, I stood in line to vote for the first time (the line was a first, I mean) yesterday. Despite leaving the house more than an hour earlier than usual so that we could vote on the way to daycare, we were later than usual dropping LP off. I spent somewhat over a half hour in line, but TE spent about 45 minutes because he was in the longest line (due to different last names). It was fun, in a way, because it made me feel like I was part of history (I think at least one friend was disappointed not to have to wait in line). It would've been even more fun if the line was only, say, 10 minutes, and the LP was happier, but at least he wasn't screaming.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Cross your fingers! (and updates)

I am probably about to find some glaring error on my CV. This is because I just sent it to the potential postdoc adviser (from my first post). I spent too long composing an email to him because I do not like to do these kinds of things, and I really hope he gets back to me soon, so I know that my email and CV are not too horrible.

Also, my pie deficit is at -1, for anyone who's counting. Maybe I'll have +1 pies after the weekend . . .

Another also, the LP is a bee today. Last weekend, the LP was also a bee and I was a bee-keeper at a Halloween party, and TE went as a flower patch. (Technically, TE was just holding some fake flowers, but it is hard to convince him to dress up, so I was happy. One year I went as TE so that, though he was not dressed up, I could pretend he was coordinating with me to both be TE. BTW, I made a pretty handsome TE, even if some people were confused by my drawn-on "stubble".)

No more crying for LP (or much less, anyway)

Last week we tried letting the LP "cry it out" for brief times in his crib. The idea is that you get a set bedtime and a specific routine going, and after all the routine you put him in bed and leave for 5 minutes or so, and then you come back just to remind him you are there and you haven't left, but he has to go to sleep now, and you leave again. The time gets longer, up to maybe half an hour. We thought the LP was old enough now to know that if we say goodnight and leave, we are really still in the area and everything will be fine. (He's older than one would typically start the "cry it out" because of several reasons. Two of them are that I thought he would learn on his own eventually, and that we haven't really had the time/energy to commit to it--it's important to try it for real and establish a clear routine.) I think he knows that we are still in the area, but he does not know that everything will be fine, and he did not learn that after a week of trying. The first night, LP cried a lot but fell asleep in about an hour total. The second and third nights were a bit better. I still let him nurse in the middle of the night, then I kept him in bed with us, because I certainly didn't have another hour to devote to the crying process in the middle of the night, and I don't think that would be good for the LP either.

Then the LP kept doing worse every night. It was really sad to come try to pat him and calm him down, because he would grab our clothes and try to get us to pick him up, and he would panic again when we left. Two nights ago, he wasn't crying as much but was yelling periodically while waiting for us to come back. I think the longest we were gone was about a half hour. It may have been more because I thought he was sleeping--then I heard him crying again, and when I looked in, he was standing there staring at the door. He eventually went to bed after maybe 2 hours total. It really wasn't working, and it was making him terrified of bedtime. I can't say if it would have worked in another few weeks, but we were not willing to find out and risk that it got worse instead.

Last night, before bed, we decided we were done and he could come sleep with us, but we would keep the routine and work on him sleeping in his own bed on the floor next to ours. LP didn't know that of course, so he was in a bad mood as soon as we started the bedtime routine. When TE got to the last page of his book (the last step before bed), he started crying. He was screaming as I took him to the bedroom, but as soon as we laid down in our bed and he realized he wasn't going to the crib, he calmed down and went right to sleep, much faster than he usually did before the crying it out. Maybe the experience helped him figure out how to sleep a bit better overall, but we're all glad it's over.

P.S. LP's last cuspid has poked through the gums!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Theory and thinking: my favorites

My favorite thing about being a theorist is that you can ignore things you don't like. Let's say you have some particles but can't or don't want to model silly real world things like their shape, size variation, and attraction/repulsion between them. You can just say they are hard spheres! Sure, not everything can be modeled as hard spheres, but it is something to know what hard spheres would do in a certain situation, regardless of applicability to a particular problem. Even if you want to know about a real system that isn't following the trend you calculated for hard spheres, the way in which it deviates likely tells you a lot about how the stuff that the real system is composed of is different than hard spheres. This is just an example, of course . . . the point is that you can learn something, perhaps even something relevant to a particular "real world" system, by greatly simplifying the problem. As a theorist, you are in control of your simplifications! After you have a basic understanding, you can add in the details and continue to explore! What I really love about this is having an exact answer, something that I know is right, even if it only applies in a limit that is not particularly "real world"-y. That's not to say that experimentalists can't also ask fundamental questions, get relatively exact answers to certain things, or that they can't make simplifications . . . just that they are seemingly more often constrained by actually having/measuring a particular thing that exists, which has certain properties which can't be turned on and off or changed at will.

This is why undergrad was so satisfying to me--the homework problems had answers. Much more often than for research (understandably), you could spend a certain block of time working something out, and come to a conclusion that was either right or wrong. There's something very soothing about having an answer at the end of a bunch of calculations, especially if it is something simple like a quantity or graph (as opposed to working on a research project over the course of many months eventually contributing to a better general understanding of the area). Of course, open-ended questions or long-winded (by necessity) answers aren't without their merits.

My second favorite thing about being a theorist is getting to think about the limits. If you are measuring the temperature dependence of something, you must have a certain range of temperatures at which you can reasonably take data. If you instead have an equation to describe your system, you can ask (and answer) what happens as temperature goes to any value. What happens as temperature goes to zero, or is extremely large? Are there certain temperatures at which the behavior changes in a qualitative way? Of course, your equation may be completely invalid, as it relates to the real world, at near-0 or very large temperatures (or even may be mathematically invalid at some point). However, the limits or critical points tell you important things about the theory itself, and if it describes the "real world" over a certain interval, then you have a better understanding of what effects are operative during that interval. In trying to be general, I hope I have not descended into something that will be read as near-gibberish. If confused, you may rest assured that I know exactly what I mean.

My work here has taught me to immediately ask what the limits would be, even for non-work-related problems. On occasion, I have amazed TE with surprising insight into his research, homework problems, or design work for tinkering projects. On other occasions, I have also gone a bit too far with this sort of thinking without fully understanding the problem, and have made assertions and mistakes that may be considered patently ridiculous to the typical person residing in the "real world".

I guess both of my favorite things boil down to this: as a theorist, you are not constrained by the "real world". You may note I did not attempt to define "real world". I do not intend to do so, but I think the point here should be relatively clear without a formal definition.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Future posts: I am a Tinkering Theorist, really!

For all the imaginary readers out there, who were expecting tinkering or theorist related posts: I realize several of my posts have been about food, while none have been about tinkering and others are only marginally related to theory or being a theorist. Of course, cooking can count as tinkering in the kitchen, and everything I do is somewhat related to my life as a theorist, but I do plan to post about a more classic "tinkering" project, as well as how being a theorist makes me think, and I want to comment about a conversation I had recently with Alice of Sciencewomen. Maybe if someone finally makes a comment somewhere on this blog, I will be inspired to write one of these posts. They'll be here eventually.

Pie update: -0.5 and falling

I brought in 2 pies this morning, and a half is still in my refrigerator from last night. There were 2 pumpkin (including the one for me) and one pecan. The peach pie will have to wait for another day, because it's intended recipient is leaving town today. The pecan pie has no corn syrup . . . not because I am against corn syrup, but I don't like to keep things around that I only use once or twice a year, if there is a good alternative. Apparently this is a big deal, because, from the Wikipedia page, it seems like pecan pie was invented/popularized by the major corn syrup brand as a way to use corn syrup. (How did we ever live without Wikipedia?) If I am invited to have some of the pecan, I'll let you know how it tastes without the corn syrup. Some recipes have maple syrup instead, but mine had no syrup of any sort and a lot of brown sugar, because I suspect this particular pecan pie recipient would not prefer a maple flavor with his pecans.
Overall Tinkering household pie count: -0.5 (which will be -1 in a couple of days)

(UPDATE: I am told that the pecan pie is quite good, even without corn syrup.)

P.S. I love that we can be the Tinkering household here online, with no dash between names! Sometimes it would be nice to share a last name, especially if it were mine, though of course I do not regret our name keeping decision and it is working out fine.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pie deficit

When friends babysit the LP we usually give them a jar of jam from the farmer's market or other such gift, but sometimes we forget and have to give them something later, such as a pie. I promised one babysitter a pie several weeks ago, and racked up my pie deficit to three when I needed help from a couple of coworkers for my little volunteering adventure on Monday. Today I am going home early to make 4 pies (we have to have one for ourselves, right?). Pumpkin, peach, and pecan are due to others, and ours will either be pumpkin or apple, I think. I wonder if I have 4 pie pans?

In any case, right now I have -3 pies, but by late tonight I hope to have +1 or +1/2 depending on how late we are talking about :). Hopefully this will be a fun activity to do with my mom, although she probably won't be able to help much since she will be playing with the LP.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I really have to stop eating things off the floor

Even if seems like a lot of food would be wasted by refusing to eat it after dropped on a clean floor (since LP drops a lot of food), maybe I should rethink my eating dropped food policy. Why? I just dropped a small piece of food and picked up and nearly ate a similarly shaped leaf. Hmmm . . .


I am having a hard day already, and it is pretty early, and it is harder because I don't really know what my problem is. I left my first blog comment under my new pseudonym yesterday, and it was apparently so poorly worded and incoherent that it was read in the almost opposite sense of how I meant it. I am kind of upset about that. I don't know why I care so much, but I suspect it is because I had a very long day yesterday and am not feeling well. Our 4 hour volunteering slot turned into more like 6 hours of stuff and accompanying disruption of my and LP's schedule yesterday for various reasons. I had a really great time during the event, but it was tiring, and my back hurts now. We did get on the local news, but I didn't see it. Maybe I will search for a video of it, because I am not getting any work done now. I really need to do work, though, because my meeting is today, but when I tell myself to not be upset it makes the situation worse, so I guess I will just sit here and be for a few minutes and then hopefully everything will seem better. I think that I, like LP, am more emotional when my mom is around, because you just kinda feel like she is there to make everything better, and then it is a bit harder when everything is not perfect and right with the world. My mom was really sick yesterday and so LP spent the whole day in daycare, then the night during the volunteering stuff he went with a friend of mine and then my mom felt better and picked him up halfway through. She says she is feeling better today so I hope she is up for going to dinner and then we can all hang out with LP. Maybe I am also a bit sad because we are going to quit bottles at daycare this week, and only nurse at home. I don't want to wean him completely yet, but he is getting good with cups and juice and he isn't allowed to have bottles in the big boys and girls room anyway, where he is moving in a couple of weeks. I don't like being emotional because it doesn't happen very often and I am not good at it.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Best title of a paper ever

"An Introduction to the Conjugate Gradient Method. Without the Agonizing Pain." Jonathan Richard Shewchuk

I should note that I haven't read the whole paper, but I looked through it last year, and always meant to come back to it. Maybe when I have "more time".

Updates and a Question

Here are some updates to stories the reader has probably not been following, as this blog just started on Friday. So I will provide a bit of background.

--The little poker's poking finger is healing well, and not even a band-aid was needed today, which is good, because he has learned to take off bandages by sucking on them until they are not sticky anymore. (The poor guy got it into a cooling fan a little more than a week ago.)

--I called a former coworker now working in my hometown where I am looking at getting a postdoc (see prior post), but he wasn't there and hasn't called me back. I hope it's not because he is unsatisfied with his position (in my message I made it clear that I wanted to talk about my applying there). It's likely he is just busy.

--My mom is visiting most of this week, and babysitting the LP. We are taking the opportunity to do some volunteer work tonight to help with bicycle safety. Hopefully lots of people will come to our station even though it is getting cold (soon it will be too cold to ride without gloves and a hat).

--We decided to try to add another even littler poker to the Tinkering family! I guess what we decided was to go for late July, as we already knew we wanted another little one. I am not sure if my thesis defense can be scheduled before late July, but earlier is better for other reasons. 1) My mom can come help, as she doesn't work in summer. 2) It will be (much?) cheaper, because we will get all our prenatal lab tests on the same "policy year" as labor+delivery, allowing me to only go up to one year's worth of out-of-pocket-maximum costs (plus any random charges they decide not to cover). This is especially important since our little trip to the ER last week for the LP's finger. Maybe we can even get to our family out-of-pocket-maximum, which I think is smaller than 2-3 individual out-of-pocket maxima (I hope!). 3) Wouldn't it be silly to let the unscheduled thesis defense get in the way of my long-term family planning? Especially because now I will have a reason to work hard and finish earlier! 4) If we don't get pregnant on the first try, we still have time to have the baby during grad school (the basic idea is that schedules are more flexible than with a "real job").

--We have been getting ready for the even littler poker, though we are a little less prepared than last time. We just got our flu shots. I started taking vitamins just a few weeks ago, though I really should have been taking them still, since the LP is nursing, but I had run out of my prescription (they are free from the student health people if you have a prescription, so I had to do the doctor's appointment thing first).

--I have not yet told my mother about the next baby, but I know there will be a "discussion" about naming. The LP took my husband's last name because he shared his gender, and now the next one is supposed to take my surname. The other surname is/will be the middle name in both cases. Mom is not interested in the kids having different last names, but I think they will be fine. She claims that it "sounds funny" to put my husband's last name before mine, supposedly because of the particular names that they are, but I think the real reason she thinks it sounds funny is that she is looking for another excuse to be against the kids-have-different-last-names decision.

I have one question for the hypothetical blog reader(s): is it ethical to try to have a baby of a certain gender? Recently some research suggested that there might be a slightly better chance of having a girl if the mother does not eat breakfast (there was an apparently somewhat plausible reason for this discussed in the paper). Even if this is a real effect, if I stop eating breakfast the chance of having a girl is not changed very much. However, I wonder if it is a bad idea anyway. It strikes me as a poor frame of mind to put oneself in, that one kind of child is more desired than another. Somehow it seems like there is an ethical line between thinking it would be nice to have a certain kind of child and actually doing something to make it so (whether that something works is beside the point).

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Postdoc Search Begins

Hello all! I'm a graduate student theorist in an engineering/physical science discipline, and I'm graduating next summer-ish. I've been thinking of starting a blog for awhile, but today a bunch of events came together (I have something on my mind, my old blog--just updates to friends--is not working well, and I thought of a reasonable name) and I started this blog. Maybe I will do more intro later, but this post is about what I'm going to do with the next few years of my life. As I want to be a professor, and the departments I am thinking of would not likely hire me without some more experience, I recently started looking for postdocs.
On my mind today is whether I should apply to a postdoc in my hometown. I have been looking at top departments and top people in the field, and a few national lab positions. None of the very top (top 20, say) schools are in my hometown, but there is a government research lab which I just learned has postdocs in my field. I feel qualified for the position and I am sure I would learn a lot there. Moreover, it is the perfect location, and while I had resigned myself to living far away for several more years (or life), I have gotten myself really excited about the prospect of living at home again, if only for a year or two.
The problem is, it's probably not the ideal position for someone who's looking to be a professor. The person there who would be my adviser is not a professor and maybe not as well connected as some of the other advisers I'm considering. Also, based on my initial impressions, the research there isn't as fundamental as I would like it to be. (My future undergrads would probably appreciate someone who understood applications or "the real world" a bit, but I doubt this project is applied enough to make a difference on that front--after all, it is still theory/simulation.)
So, what to do? I am not prepared to significantly hurt my career for one year at "home", but really this would be, at worst, taking a small risk of slightly dinging my career path. In fact, maybe being happy at home will make me the ultimate researcher and I will get tons done and therefore help my career? The deadline is fast approaching!!! ahhhhh!!!