Sunday, February 27, 2005

The Study Project, Part II

Overall I've made commendable progress in organizing the study, though it has taken much longer than anticipated. Contributing to the prolonged pocess was the discovery of two nondescript boxes containing treasures like old journals, cards, emails, and various keepsakes from years gone by. Instead of just throwing everything into a trash bag and being done with it, I had to peruse, sort, and, in some cases, file various pieces of the past. This sort of "housekeeping" is more difficult than one might think. So much of it can have at least some sentimental value and it's largely a judgement call as to what goes and what stays. As I was in one of those "every goes!" moods, much of it went away, save for the significant things like old handwritten journals and various letters. It's a good feeling to let go of the past in such a way.

This morning I'm going to run out to procure a floor lamp or two and other assorted odds and ends that should bring the study project to a completion. It's looking and feeling a lot better in here now, so I've effectively eliminated an excuse for avoiding..well.....studying.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

The Study Project

Today's primary goal will be cleaning and organizing the study in addition to spending time with the research and studying for midterms. This full-scale domestic project is long overdue. My study is largely a storage room with a computer in the corner at present and this is not conducive for the intended function of a study. It's just this wretched nightmare of clutter and is going to be one hell of a project, but ultimately rewarding. If I can get the general organization done this morning, I may procure a few pieces of furniture and lamps this afternoon or tomorrow to complete the project. I so need this workspace.

I may even post some before and after images on here so share the present patheticism and hoped for transformation.

Friday, February 25, 2005


Enjoying a well deserved cup of coffee this evening. I made significant headway yesterday and today on the masters thesis research and by the end of this weekend the board will be set for the fieldwork season. If all goes as planned, this may be the last season for field research, then comes the joy of writing and defending the thesis. Being able to see the light at the end of the academic tunnel is certainly proving incentive enough to spend the necessary hours in the library even if it's the last thing I want to do on a particular day.

So come this time next year, I'll formally begin applying to PhD programs. This will require a fair amount of reflection as I'll be leaving the employment field for a number of years to become the classic "impoverished grad student." I've been rather fortunate up until now as I've been able to juggle the career with full time academic pursuits. Sure it's a lot of work, but the money is nice. Of course this form of multitasking is something frowned upon at the next level. Obviously it will come down to whether or not I have the fortitude and the burning desire to make that transition.

I suspect that when the time comes, there will be no question as to which path will beckon the strongest.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

All things considered.....

.... it was a pretty good day and I'll be heading off to bed shortly. This afternoon I was interviewed by a TV news program which is something I've always disliked (far too shy for such things). I've done a few such interviews over the last year or so and still get all clammy and jittery and wish I was anywhere else but there. When the cameras start rolling it's all I can do not to scream like a lilttle girl and flee the room. Though today's interview was tediously long, it went very well and we only had to reshoot one small section due to technical difficulties.

This evening I managed to avoid doing homework yet again. Not a good thing since I have an assignment due tomorrow afternoon. So instead of cracking open the books, I got around to watching "The Motorcycle Diaries" that I rented yesterday. Excellent film and interesting symbolism throughout.

Sunday, February 20, 2005


It's practially freezing in my apartment again tonight. The radiators haven't been on in a few days which I assumed may have been an issue with the boiler thermostat in the basement. Not a big deal as it hasn't been that cold. Until last night. Upper 20s and no heat! The ice planet of Hoth would have been warmer and with the extra advantage of having a tauntaun to ride around the apartment to place sensors and check out meteorites that fell nearby.

And if I came down to it, I could stuff myself inside the tauntaun until someone got the shelter built.

So first thing this morning I called the "maintenance emergency" number and found out that the main pump for the boiler downstairs was out (due to Mynocks. Chewing on the power cables.) and the new one wasn't expected to arrive until Tuesday with the odds of it arriving any earlier being exactly 327:1.

Ugh. I'm such a dork. And really look like one tonight: I'm wearing three pairs of socks, two shirts, and two pairs of sweat pants. It's always said that you dress in layers to keep warm, but this isn't working.

Help me, Obi-wan Kenobi. You're my only hope....

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Saturday AM

A sunny but cold morning in Norfolk. I actually slept in a bit for a change and am now waking up with the usual cups of coffee. Nothing pressing on the agenda today other than some research, homework, and some domestic chores.

I guess the big news as of late is that I was contacted yesterday by a student at a local medical school who is in the process or organizing a post-tsunami public health assistance expedidtion to Sri Lanka this summer with a secondary goal of building an orphanage for kids left parentless by the tsunami. As it sounded like a worthwhile humanitarian project, I readily volunteered . So now comes the planning stage: defining goals and outcomes, writing grant proposals, and securing the logisitical components. While the prepatory footwork may be a pain at times, it's nonetheless key to the degree of success for such a project.

More on this as it comes together.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Wat Chaiwatthanaram

The images below was taken in Ayutthaya, located an hour or two north of Bangkok. It's a temple complex called Wat Chaiwatthanaram. The second image is of the same complex, but taken from behind near the river at sunset. Note the two Buddha images silhouetted against the setting sun.

Wat Chaiwatthanaram Posted by Hello

Sunset Posted by Hello

Spring Fever

I just paid all of my bills for the month and am now working my way through a cup of strong coffee in preparation for tackling some homework tonight. A couple small assignments are due tomorrow and I haven't even looked over them yet. Dunno why I waited until the last minute again; this is not typical behavior for me. It probably results from this being my last structured class for the masters degree and, consequently, I'm suffering from a mild case of "senioritis." The weather may also have something to do with it. 60s today and up in the 70s tomorrow. So I think there's a little spring fever mixed in as well. Of course it won't last: after tomorrow, cold weather will settle in again, which is just as well.

Otherwise, I'd have to relate tales of taking the Jeep onto the beach or road trips to the mountains. And for Kim's sake, I'd even post some pics of my adventures. :-)

And speaking of pics....this evening I may post a few of the more interesting images from the Thailand trip (provided I figure out how to do so). Sounds like a productive way of not doing homework.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Saturday Afternoon

Perhaps to atone for my wicked ways (see previous post) or because I had nothing better to do, this morning I prepared lunch for my parental units. As I don't visit them as often as I probably should, they were quite surprised to see me stride through their door, unannounced and bearing containers of food. As I'm still on my Thai cuisine kick, I made some exotic dishes for them to try. But not too exotic. They are old, after all, and very set in their ways. If I were to set something before them too exotic, too strange, they would pray for me at church tomorrow.

So I've just now returned home and am wondering what to do with the rest of the day. I have a mound of research and homework to do, but I'm not quite in the mood for that. Perhaps after the coffee kicks in I'll feel more like being studious. Or perhaps I should tackle cleaning/organizing my study/storage room. The latter is probably the more pressing issue as I have much research hidden somewhere among the piles of papers and empty Starbucks cups on my desk.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Well, I'll be damned....

....literally, if the follow survey was indeed true. SuddenlyI feel very bad about tormenting Kim....

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Sixth Level of Hell - The City of Dis!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:

Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Very Low
Level 2 (Lustful)Very High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)High
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Moderate
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)High
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Extreme
Level 7 (Violent)Very High
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Very High
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)High

Take the Dante Inferno Hell Test

Thursday, February 10, 2005


This evening a close friend and I sallied forth to Colley Cantina, located a WHOLE half a block from my apartment for diiner and alcoholic refreshemnt. As usual, I had the gold margartia on the rocks with salt. In fact, I had two of them. The first one always goes down so smoothly, you just have to order a second. I've long been quite tha margarita fan and after years of research, I still belive the Cantina has the best in the Tidewater area. As such, living within sight of the place is a terrible thing, but we all have our crosses to bear.

Oddly enough, this was my first visit to the Cantina since I left for vacation in mid December. Our waitress tonight has known me for years and was like "where the hell have you been?!?!?" At one point not too many years ago, I was quite the regular there, particular when I had roommate(s). It was a tradition to go there every Thursday night and only on the rarest of occasions would we miss a week. Various friends who knew our routine would join us and we'd spend hours hanging out chatting and partaking of alcoholic refreshments. But such were the carefree days of youth when responsibilities were so much less and it really didn't matter if you woke up feeling terrible on Friday morning.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Warm Norfolk Night

OK....maybe it's not technically warm out. It's just much warmer than it's been so far this year. The last two days we've had highs around 60 degrees or so which is certainly sufficient to stir feelings of spring fever. It was so warm yesterday that I seriously considered putting the top down on my jeep for the drive home after work (Kim..are you paying attention? **evil grin**). But since the commute from the office to home is only ten minutes, it wasn't worth the trouble. No matter though. Only a few more months until warm weather settles in for good.

It was of course another crazy day at the office. First thing this morning I had a meeting with a supply vendor and I generally tend to dislike such meetings. I sit behind my desk as they do their song and dance routine as to why their product is so much better than that of their competitior. Then they try to get all chummy (the "old buddy, old pal" routine). If the meeting goes longer than expected, or if I'm otherwise busy with this or that, I usually just slide the reading glasses down the bridge of my nose and glare over the top of them in the manner of a wicked librarian giving the eye to a second grader whose belch and laughter just broke the library's tomb-like silence. If they don't get the hint at this point, I wavy my hand in front of them Jedi-like and say things like "I'm not the client you're looking for."

Between everything else I had to do today, I continued tinkering with the personnel requisition for reopening the assistant manager position that was indefinitely closed several years ago due to budget cuts. Admittedly, the chances of this coming to pass are very slim, but I'll try my best to push it through. Having an assistant would be a tremendous relief. I'll finally be able to delegate some administrative tasks which will leave me with sufficient time to master Solitare and take care of personal emails. **sigh**

Monday, February 07, 2005

Monday PM

I've just now retired to my study after puttering about in the kitchen for about two hours making some of the more unique Thai dishes to take to work tomorrow. A few of my employees who were not invited to my dinner gathering on Saturday (maybe their invitations were regrettably lost in the mail **smirk**) have been badgering me aobut bringing in some more Thai food. Hence the culinary endeavour tonight.

Before our montly department administrative meeting today, the laboratory director asked that I give a presentation in March to his entire lab staff. Since I am highly allergic to saying "no," I agreed and am now faced with putting together an hour long lecture and Powerpoint on West Nile Virus and other mosquito-borne diseases. The overall caliber of the lab staff is fairly high, so I am permitted to say things like "enzootic" and "pathogenicity" without having to worry about them dozing off, or wanding out of the room. Perhaps I'll even live on the edge and say "encephalomyelities."

While the presentation should be fun, it does bring up the problem that I absolutely loathe public speaking. It was not but so many years ago that I avoided giving presentations at almost any cost. Even during the undergraduate years I would give them only reluctantly: waiting until last to give mine with hands and voice shaking all the while. I said back then (and I more or less still agree with the sentiment today, that I would rather write a ten page paper than give a ten minute presentation). But with the progress in the career, speaking engagements were just those things into which I was thrown, like it or not. I still don't like them, but I've reached the point where I just accept them as part of the job. Besides, it's all good practice should I someday find myself a professor at some university. Not that I necessarily plan on this, but it is a possibilty nonetheless. I've had the opportunity over the last year or so to teach a few labs and give a lecture or two and it is somewhat appealing. So who knows. It could very well be the direction my life's path will take.

Sunday, February 06, 2005


...Ahhhh...Damn fine coffee.

Last night's small dinner gathering was a rousing success. I made four more or less authentic Thai dishes, all of which were very well received, particularly the savory minced chicken. This was one of my favourite dishes whilst in Thailand and I was gratified that my own version was very much like the real thing. It's a fairly simple recipe too with prep time being far, far greater than actually cooking time. Prepping the ground roasted rice that goes in the dish was by far the most time consuming. First you have to dry-roast the rice to a nice golden brown color, then spend an eternity grinding it with a mortar and pestle. Next time I may just throw it in the coffee grinder and see what happens.

My sister and her fiance brought over last night the DVD collection of a wonderful British comedy series called The Office, which was remarkably delightful in a very subtle way. Though I've long been a fan of British comedies (Are You Being Served, Keeping Up Appearances, and 'Allo, 'Allo) I had not heard of this one, and was quite surprised as to how good it was. It's filmed in the style of a "documentary" which certainly adds a unique touch which also gives the cast these great humor opportunities when interacting with the interviewer and "camera." Very original.

I just hope I'm not as bad a boss as the one features in the show. So no more jokes around the office.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Early to bed, early to rise....

One would think that if you're up reading well into the wee hours of the morning on a weekend, one would actually make an attempt to sleep in. That's how it should work anyway.

But not for me.

I'm such a creature of habit sometimes. This is particularly true when starting my day. Regardless of whatever time I ultimately go to bed, I still get up early, earlier than most would consider normal and the need to get up early is fueled by my internal clock and personal choice. For whatever reason I absolutely hate to sleep in. Occasionally I will indulge and stay in bed until 7, but anything beyond that is an exceedingly rare event. Even at that hour, it feels as though so much of the day has been lost and that's a feeling I absolutely detest.

Guess it all boils down to being a morning person.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Winter Wonderland

Tidewater Virginia received an unexpected bout of snow this afternoon and early evening. I was off at day 2 of a regional conference up in Willamsburg and, as is my customary habit, checked the weather forecast online before I left the apartment this morning. Cloudy and cold iwth a chance of rain later in the day. Ho-hum. So it came as a great surprise when I came out of the conference room during a break and saw through the glass doors at the end of the hallway, a swirling flurry of white.

"Wazzat?" I said.

As the rate of snowfall was heavy and beginning to accumulate on the grass and parked cars, many of the conference attendees whose employers were too cheap to spring for hotel rooms and thus commuted each day, (myself included) gathered their belongings and rushed out into the wonderland of white, hoping to get home before the roads became a complete disaster. Two colleagues from the office expressed concerns about the whole thing, so I gave them my cell phone number to call in case they ran into any problems (e.g., sliding off the road and down some snowy embankment). I gave them about a ten mintue lead time before I left. If they ran into any problems, I would be along sooner or later to help and/or mock them. As far as I know, everyone got home safely.

Perhaps we were all over reacting as the greatest problem on the way home was much reduced visibility. But this is southeastern Virginia, after all, and it doesn't take much snow to send us into a panic.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Vituperative Ramblings

As I've been deep into the epidemiology homework almost all evening, I'm now taking a well-deserved break to enjoy a beer whilst I hammer out a few lines on here. Epi is certainly turning out to be an enjoyable course (from a nerdly point of view), but it's a lot of work nonetheless.

Whether it be a good thing or bad, the one thing that particularly struck me tonight as I worked my way through the chapters on calculating rates of morbidity and mortality was the cold, methodological approach to dealing with disease and death. As far as methods are concerned, people are reduced to just a number to be plugged into some equation. A bit creepy, to be sure, and somewhat of a paradox if you think about it. Those involved in the field of epidemiology have to possess a certain degree of concern for human welfare to be involved in that kind of work; otherwise they would probably pursue other lines of work that probably pay more. I suppose it's commendable on a certain level to be able to separate the human face from the raw data in order to serve the common good.

But concern for the common good is one significant difference I've noticed between associating with the health science graduate students and the biolgoy grad students. I'm in the biology program and perhaps the greatest disappointment are the fellow grad students. This has bothered me since my entrance into the program about a year and a half ago. With a few exceptions they are a bunch of pompous jerks whose collective sole concern is themselves and their own esoteric research.

The health sciences grad students are by and large of a vastly different character. Most currently work in one health profession or another and exhibit an entirely different approach to academics and their place in the grand scheme of things than that shown by most bio students. The health sciences folks are much more grounded in reality. Certainly they are as intense as the bio students when it comes to research, perhaps in some cases even moreso, but it's not this all-consuming, cut anyone's throat to make a name for themselves approach. Moreover, their collective concern is the betterment of the human condition, not their name in some journal that no one ever reads.

I'm certainly not knocking academic inquiry into the various process of the natural wold. I'm a biologist at heart and am thrilled as much as anyone else by the prospect of discovery, of adding new, novel information to the body of scientific knowledge. When I was in Thailand, almost every insect, every odd plant earned a second glance from me (usually followed by "Hmmmm. Well that's different"). This is why I pursued a masters degree in biology and would not go back and change things if I could. The natural world is filled with so many wonders; one could spend a lifetime studying a single mosquito genus or a species of moss and at the end still not know everything there is to know. And of course it's all important work, from a certain point of view. My biggest gripe has been, and will be, the approach to such pursuits.

Perhaps this is just what naturally occurs at the graduate level, where students can be a bit too zealous in what they do. Maybe they have PhD programs and eventual professorships on their mind. Or it could be the fact that, at 33, I'm a bit older (and maybe wiser? Nah) than many fellow grad students. I work full-time, have experienced more of the real world, and possibly have different world views that someone who's 24. I've also progressively become more of idealist in my old age. Human suffering in all of it's many forms is becoming something that could keep me up at night. In the final analysis, it's probably a combination of these factors and probably some i have yet to consider. Whatever the reason(s) my future academic and career paths are become more well-defined.

Peace Corps, anyone?