29 July 2009

Things I like right now

I'm going to take a minute and be completely self-indulgent and talk about things that just really make me happy right now.
  1. Iced tea cold brewed overnight in a mason jar. I got the idea here. And not just any tea, but fancy tea that is meant to be iced. Like strawberry osmanthus black tea. Ginger peach white tea. Pineapple green tea. I compulsively bought a sample pack of these wonderful teas at the grocery while they were on sale, and three months later (when I finally brewed some), I realized how smart three-month-ago Kate was. In fact, these teas are better dressed than me...they come in silk bags (?!?).
  2. Fruit crisps. Fruit in the bottom of the pan (I'm partial to berries and peaches from the farmer's market) with oats, flour, brown sugar, butter, etc on top (recipe originally from my dear friend Leenie [blogger profile but no blog? Here's the start of some peer pressure]). I had to stop making them because it was all I ate for days (except for the food Bill made me eat).
  3. Soakers. Wool+babies=awesome. I've knit several prototypes...I'm developing the master plan for the best fitting, easiest knit soaker (IMHO). Perhaps Katy will grace us with an action pic of a soaker on her little angel?
Self indulgence is over. 

28 July 2009

Ah, the feeling of being poked by tiny needles...

...and I don't mean after being with my husband! Mwa ha ha...interpret that as you would  like, sorry, I couldn't resist another burn to Bill.

After feeling a little down in the dumps lately, I decided to lift my spirits with a long-neglected, somewhat rebellious side to my psyche...I got another tattoo. 

The story behind this tattoo goes back a few years, to the very first week I was living in Columbia. My boss was trying to convince me to focus my graduate work on Brassica, a genus of plants in the mustard family. I thought about it, but finally told him that I wouldn't work on a plant unless I would consider getting a tattoo of the flower of said plant. And frankly, Brassica wasn't going to cut it (including a myriad of other reasons regarding my research interests and goals for graduate education). When I stumbled upon a lovely little genus of plants  in the monocot family Commelinaceae, Tradescantia, I knew this was a genus I could stand getting inked. When choosing my tattoo, I was inspired by Tradescantia sillamontana, a wonderful Mexican endemic that is fairly common to cultivation that blooms often in my greenhouse (I took this picture there). 

Based on this pic, I sketched a small flower, very botanically correct, and indicated some areas to shade coloring. 

My wonderful friends Katy and April went with me to Hollywood Rebels here in Columbia. A young but efficient woman named Katy (not the same as above) re-sketched the flower into a more stylized, simpler flower, and although not what I initially expected, is just what I wanted. After all, that's why I go to professionals instead of doing it myself with soot, boot heels, and urine like in Russian prisons (random, yes, but I saw a documentary on it once). 

All in all, this has been a long story for such a little tat. Here's a pic.
It hurt quite a bit more than my first (which I shall blog about later). It's purple, like a traditional Tradescantia here in the Midwest. I was worried about fading, being on the inside of my left foot and all, but I will get touch-ups and additions (yellow for the anthers? more purple? SPATHACEOUS BRACTS characteristic of the genus?!?!) as needed. 

Here's a close-up, complete with hairy ankles (you're welcome), cat scratches (courtesy of Fatticat), and new-tat glossiness.
Another cool thing about this tattoo? The center of the flower indicates where I should start turning the heel when I'm knitting socks from the toe-up. I'm already envisioning my next two...knitting related, and a phylogeny. Yes, I'm a dork.

21 July 2009

Post-deadline let down

The grant is officially done, and I feel like I can behave normally again. That's not to say I won't work as much, cause I'm definitely busy, but at least my working will be on my own timeline. Here are the major lessons I've learned while working on this group project, not in any particular order, and certainly not organized by relevance, but recorded here for the next time I need to write something and am feeling the pain:

1. Letters of collaboration submitted to NSF are written from one scientist to another, like "Hey Kate, how's it going? I heard you're writing a kick ass grant and I think I might be able to support you with *these very specific resources.*" For some reason (perhaps because I'm quite simple minded about some things), I thought letters of collaboration would be written from a scientist to NSF saying they would help *X scientist* do a particular portion of work. The real way the letters are written for some reason tickle my pickle, partly because it seems like the way Thomas Jefferson must have solicited scientific assistance..."Yo, Lewis and Clark, you don't have much going on right now...how about a trip out West?"

2. I no longer feel sad when I get revisions back about my writing. This was a great training exercise for me, because I was incorporating bits of text from all sorts of people (including grad students, postdocs, professors, collaborators) and the reconciliation between all these types of word choice, sentence structure, and other patterns made me understand and appreciate stylistic differences all that much more. As much as it pains me to admit, I think I might have been hanging onto that sad, silly little habit from my childhood where any criticism was viewed as a personal attack. The end point: I don't get grumpy about reading comments about my writing and can get going with revisions.

3. I am a heck of a lot more efficient at writing than I was before.

4. Three C goals for writing: clarity, cohesiveness, concrete.

5. Blogging has helped streamline this process.

Addendum: I love that my boss quoted an interview from NPR with Nora Roberts to me (I haven't been to that fansite before, I just looked it up for the purposes of blogging, I promise). The motto of this romance novel writer is apparently "Sit your ass down a write." I read lots of her work (I should blog about my firm stance on dirty romance novels later), and I think that's a good place to start.


I've been spending loads of time lately helping my boss write a grant. It's been a great learning experience, and my writing and thought processing has definitely improved as a result. Both myself and another grad student in the lab have been immersed in the project for a few weeks now, and I think our communication processes are starting to show it. My boss and I received an e-mail from said grad student with some comments on a portion of the grant. I opened the e-mail and this is what it said:

Here are my comments on this section.

Tracked changes,
*Other grad student*

After so much editing and proofreading, it seems perfectly justified to use "Tracked changes" in place of "Sincerely," "Best," "Go with God," or my personal favorite, "Cheers."

When I pointed it out to my boss, he laughed so hard he spit coffee on his shirt.

10 July 2009

Working at a University and some pictures to make me feel better

I lost my student ID a few weeks ago when I was sick/traveling. This wouldn't be so bad, except it's required to get into my building to work after hours and on weekends. After digging through nearly the entire house, and begging people to let me into the building a few too many times, I finally sucked it up and went and got a replacement. 

I get the new ID without much problem (*except having to get a new picture taken, and the Missouri heat made my face a wonderful shade of red that served to accent my double chin, but I digress...). I then realized I had to trek across campus to the Key Shop (conveniently located in a parking garage) to get my card encoded for key swipe access. I check my watch, and the web...it's open for another half hour.

I make it there with time to spare only to find the office is closed. I call the number listed on the sign (and accidentally dialed the wrong number the first time, sorry Cherise?????), and was connected to someone in the office. Here's how our conversation went:

Me: I need to get my ID encoded, but the office is closed.
Her: Our hours just changed. Customer service hours are from 7:30 am to 10 am Monday through Friday.
Me: I was really hoping to get my card swiped so I could work this weekend. There is no way I can get this done today?
Her: Customer service hours are from 7:30 am to 10 am Monday through Friday.
Me: So that means no?
Her: What building do you work in?
Me: (my building)
Her: Oh, we sent an e-mail to (my facilities manager) this morning, and you should have received it. There was someone else earlier today that had this same problem...

At which point I gave up, after a mental face palm. You mean, there will be confusion about your hours if you don't change the website, and you don't notify people ahead of time? So I have to beg my labmates to let me into the building for another weekend. So goes my tenuous relationship with facilities management at my University. It has surely deserved its capital "U". There are some truly wonderful people working there that have gone far beyond their job descriptions to assist me, and there are people that also seem to make it their job to complicate my life.

So instead, I give you some cat pictures, because they always make me feel better.

Exhibit A: Fatticat in one of his new toys...an area rug that also serves as cat bed and jungle gym.
Exhibit B: Fatticat sleeping in a basket of clean clothes. I'm glad Bill doesn't mind a little cat stank on his clean jeans...