Saturday, May 31, 2008
Friday, May 30, 2008
Crosscheck, prepare for take-off
Sites visited: 0
Leaves collected: 0
Starting mileage: 1853
Mosquito bites: 0
Weight: N (like I'm going to tell you!)
Cubs record: 33-21 (best in baseball! woo!)
Number of Democrat candidates for President: 2
It looks like I have a big nasty storm to drive through today. Yay!
And for hubby: switch the genders and this will be us:
Thursday, May 29, 2008
I'm a-leavin' in a Ford truck, don't know if I'll have any luck
Tomorrow is the Big Departure Day and I'm not even sure where I'm going first. How's that for seat of my pants? Those who know me know that undertaking a trip without planning every step in fully documented detail drives me *crazy* and yet now I'm doing a half-assed field collection trip for the third time. It all works out, more or less. In the places where it doesn't work out, I defiantly shout at the basswood-free woods, "It's my project and if I don't have a single sample in the entire state of Missouri, too bad!"
I spent yesterday printing maps and permits and emails and discovered that many of the firmly drawn red dots on my map actually referred to vague mentions in the literature of trees that might have existed there thirty years ago in an unspecified location. Oops. Too late to do anything about it now; I will just have to drive aimlessly and see what I find.
The Evolution poster is not done yet either, but I don't think it'll be hard to finish up. If I encounter a rainy, yucky day, maybe I'll just park myself at a bookstore and get it over with.
Today, I pack and buy groceries and supplies. Books I am taking: Darwinia, a sci-fi novel that I am close to finishing; A Mile in Her Boots, essays by women who do field work (appropriate!); and The Two Towers, since I read Fellowship last summer and it's an excellent travel book. I finished A Tale of Two Cities yesterday and it made me weepy at the end.
I'll miss my hubby and doggy and house and garden and yes, even the lab, very much. I'm such a homebody.
I will post pictures when I can. Stay tuned!
Miss Foley, who has no idea what's about to happen
Monday, May 26, 2008
Ahh, that's better
The final day of Frantic Lab Week (which was actually two weeks long) ended with me counting up the sequences I'd obtained for the second marker and discovering that so many of them failed that my sample size had plummeted into the realm of the unusable. Which meant I got to stop working immediately and declare that the first marker is good enough for now. I worked quite a bit on the poster over the weekend, learned two software packages for analyzing population genetics, and spent a ridiculous amount of time coloring tiny ovals in shades of green and orange. Because that's what scientists do. Who cares if my results make no sense as long as they're color coordinated?
I am about 80% clear to leave town on Friday. First site is in central Missouri, though I may make a recreational/cultural stop on the way. I considered swinging up into Wisconsin but seriously I need to STOP SAMPLING the northern populations. I may be the first-ever case of basswood addiction.
So I had a good holiday weekend overall. I improved my mad Guitar Hero skillz, compiled mp3 CDs to take in the car, worked, and watched the Cubs beat the Dodgers. Also learned how to change a tire on the new car, pulled a lot of weeds, went on a picnic. It was a good summer weekend at home. I won't have another of those for quite a while.
Friday, May 23, 2008
I must have this.
The lab across the hall from my office is being renovated all summer. Last weekend was the asbestos removal phase (gotta love the vintage 1960s carcinogens). Today began the heavy drilling phase. I don't know what they're drilling or why, but the drill has a high-frequency whine that makes me want to tear my ears off. I picked a bad day to forget my iPod with its wonderful noise-cancelling headphones.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Volo, let's go!
Once a year I trek out to Volo Bog to visit certain plants that live there. I can't talk about what they are or where they grow, but rest assured they are all happy and healthy this year. I've never been to Volo in the spring before; it's a very different place, much less vegetation obscuring the peat mat and a lot more water, fewer flowers but more birds, less poison sumac trying to taint me along the boardwalk. The waterline at the bog's eye almost obscured the entire measuring stick (such that there was no way to read the actual water level). The best part was that it was 60 degrees instead of the usual 95 I experience there in July.
Canada geese babies do synchronized butt-chewing
Dodecatheon meadia, shooting star
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Frantic lab week, Day 6 ?!?!!?
Before I left the house this morning, I had to clean up after the dog so hubby could mow the exuberant grass and dandelion collection we call our lawn. While I was doing my doody duty, Foley curled up in the sunshine to watch me in the most impossibly adorable way and I cursed the fates that would send me to the lab instead of lolling in the sun with my dog all day. Then when I got on the train, I was faced with a hundred happy people in blue heading to Wrigleyville for a day of baseball and carousing. I burrowed into my seat, turned up the iPod, and resigned myself to another Awesome Day.
On the plus side, things are going well. I guess that's something.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Frantic Lab Week, day 4
Wait, what happened to day 3?? Too frantic to write. I was the Sir Georg Solti of molecular systematics, conducting an orchestra of lab equipment and reactions and glassware in a harmonious symphony of productivity for nine straight hours. Followed by a mellow dinner of Quizno's and Dickens. Followed by seeing Flight of the Conchords at the Chicago Theatre. *love*
Day 4: Franticness is easing. I will do no more PCRs, no more exosaps, before my field trip. For all those samples that didn't amplify, I thumb my nose at you and leave you out of my study. And now I remember again why I oversample so much in the field.
Thinking about not sequencing tomorrow at all. These permits are not going to apply for themselves.
Am nibbling on Starbucks espresso truffles. Proof that money can indeed buy happiness--from Walgreens, no less.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Frantic lab week, Day 2
About half of my PCRs failed for whatever reason. Argh argh argh. Rerunning now, moving ahead with sequences on amplicons that did work. Also, somebody has been moving stuff in the lab, or not washing it properly, or using items for the wrong purpose. Since I'm alone in the lab these days, I can safely rant about it and nobody has to hear what a control freak I am. MY lab! Don't touch anything!! The floaty things for the water bath belong here, why are there crusties in the ethidium staining tray, and who used up my tape and put the empty roll back in my drawer? I feel myself going all Les Nessman sometimes. "These lines are where walls should be..."
It doesn't help that I have the song from the old Riunite wine commercial stuck in my head. "Riunite, it tastes so fine/Riunite, pure and natural wine/Riunite so nice, Riunite on ice/Riunite, Riunite!"
Somebody kill me.
It's not as bad as the commercial for the answering machine songs. The "Wait for the Beep" rap creeps up on me from time to time, even after more than 20 years. Here, share my pain:
I've had the last line of the song stuck in my head for the past hour.
(ref. the bookshelves of doom blog)
Monday, May 12, 2008
Frantic lab week
I have set myself an ambitious schedule for getting my data for the Evolution meeting by the end of this week. I just put 60 PCRs in the thermal cycler; each successful PCR represents 3 sequencing reactions, and I can run 48 sequences at a time. Then I have to edit the data and analyze it so it makes some sense. My preliminary results were a bit nonsensical so this may take some creative story-telling. Fun!
I just finished two not very good books, impulse buys from the used book store. Both were mysteries; one was also a cheesy romance novel in which the heroine fell in love with the guy who acted like a jerk but was HOT so his personality could be overlooked. Both were badly written. One kept using the wrong words and making me question whether I actually knew what those words meant (I did, it turned out). The other read like the script for a TV movie. Anyway, the conclusion of this rambling story is that I started reading A Tale of Two Cities this morning. It's like eating a gourmet meal after days of snacking on doritos. It's like lying on a pillowtop mattress after a week of sleeping on rocks. I forget sometimes what really good writing feels like. I keep going back to reread sentences, not because I am confused but because I want to savor them again. I've missed you, Mr. Dickens.
Friday, May 09, 2008
I spend a lot of time on the 'L' or walking, mind wandering. As I reflected on my recent committee meetings and made plans for the next year, it occurred to me that I could conceptualize my whole project as a series of derivatives. For those of you who would like to know what it is that I'm doing (without me giving away any of the interesting results), here's an overview:
First derivative: Biome to forest
In which I go from this:
Second derivative: Forest to tree
In which I go from the above to this:
Third derivative: Tree to DNA
In which I go from the above to this:
Fourth derivative: DNA to amplicon
In which I go from the above to this:
So, the fourth derivative of the North American temperate forest biome is the little tubes of PCR products in my freezer. At each level, the complexity of the system gets reduced by one dimension and I am left with a simpler substance that describes the essence of the level above it. The information locked in the amplicon's sequence ultimately tells me what I want to know about the tree, the forest, the biome: where did it come from, how did it get here, and who are its relatives? I find the method moving in its elegance and simplicity.
Speaking of which, it's time for me to get back in the lab. There are fourth derivatives to be taken.
Thursday, May 08, 2008
Apres exam, le deluge
Final exam scores are in. The professor is wisely leaving town for a week, but I don't have that luxury. The onslaught of email has already begun. "Can I come plead for extra points on the exam we took two months ago?" Everything is a negotiation these days. The students think they can talk their way into a higher grade, and it must work sometimes or else why would they keep trying it? Why, in my day, if we missed a grade by a couple of points, we kicked ourselves for making stupid mistakes and took our lumps. I find myself saying things like that a lot these days. "In my day, we didn't even have Powerpoint. We had to attend class and take notes... using actual pencils!"
I am so old.
Had my commitee meeting earlier this week, and met individually with the out-of-town member today. Hooray, administrative duties are done for another year! Everything went swimmingly. You can't imagine how happy I am right now. Or maybe you can. Now I have two weeks in which to plan my entire field trip and gather the rest of my poster data and do my annual volunteer assignment. No problem!!
Saturday, May 03, 2008
Thursday, May 01, 2008
1) Could it be?? Yes!! It's the Return of the Obvious Metaphor Anxiety Dream!! Last night's dream featured the storefront church I walk past every day. They had converted the front half of their space into a convenience store to help raise money. I went in to buy an ice cream bar, but I checked each of the dozens of racks of ice cream bars scattered around and discovered that everything was half melted. Every ice cream I picked up was sagging and falling off its stick, and I had to try to get it back on the stick and back on the rack without having to pay for destroying ice cream. Hubby says the dream means I am feeling conflicted about my religious choices (he was kidding).
2) Seven turkey vultures circled over UIC yesterday. Had they spotted an undergrad who succumbed to final exam pressures?
3) Today is the National Day of Prayer. Celebrate by doing something useful with your time instead of praying.
4) Today is my LAST DAY OF TEACHING FOR OVER A YEAR. Hell yeah! Join me in a prayer that I get an NSF grant so I don't have to teach the next year, either. (kidding!)