Merry Christmas!

my new camera!, originally uploaded by saburke.

Sorry for the lack of posts everyone... I've been a busy little elf these past few days! Apparently hubby was busily elfing some time ago to arrange the arrival of this beaute in my hands this morning. It's amazing, he's amazing for thinking of it! He even included black and white film for me to try it out. I can't wait to get roll one developed! I can tell I'm going to have a lot of fun with this camera!!!

I have to admit though, that I'm a little intimidated. I only started with this SLR thing a few months ago, and the beauty of the Rebel is sort of that you can know as little or as much as you want. Now I really have to learn. I'm excited, but a little nervous! :s

Merry Christmas to everyone, and Happy Holidays for others. We are having a wonderful holiday with everyone and hope you all are too!



sorry to have disappeared on everyone! i am home for the holidays ~ yay! ~ and enjoying spendng time with family... but sadly i've developed a nasty cold and really haven't done a whole lot of anything.

santa? i'd like some healthy for Christmas please?


Appologies for bloggy weirdness

I must have picked the worst possible time to upgrade to Blogger Beta!

I'd like to send a thanks to Styleygeek for hosting and including me the the Carnival of GRADual Progress... however all you new readers are getting to see every quirk in my new blog template as I try to fix it up! I'm not sure actually if Blogger Beta and Safari get along too well. I really like the new editing tool for templates, but it seems to keep freezing up on me, so probably some of you have seen a few duplicates of things, and things popping up in weird places.

I think I've got it looking more or less normal, so I'll be leaving it like this for now. I'm home sick for the day, so I'll probably swing back around the blogosphere again later, but for now I have paper corrections to work on!



I wish there were an i-App like iTunes, iPhoto, etc for organizing research papers. Something that I could add keywords that would be linked into Spotlight, and one could sort by journal, topic, authors, and maybe give ratings (you know you've read papers that are 5-star, and some you wish you could remind yourself never to read again by giving, oh, maybe negative stars!), oh, and most importantly link directly to the pdf of the paper. I'm not particular fond of the i-everything naming scheme, but a program organized like Apple's iLife apps would be fantastic. My current system of folders works ok but breaks down when I have papers that fall in multiple catagories... and I have this burning desire to rate papers these days.

Does anyone know if one exists (that doesn't involve inputing all data manually)? If not, anyone wanna write one???

Blogger Beta!

So it seems I'm now one of the cool kids, and I get to play with Blogger Beta! Which means things like labels... mostly I've wanted to play with labels... and I'm not sure what else. Should entertain me for a bit anyway! Hopefully there will not be horrendous glitches...

EDIT: oh, apparently, I got Beta just days before Beta came out of Beta. Kinda like being the last picked for the baseball team in gym class...


term recap and public accountability

So, some of you may have noticed the "progress bars" in my side bar creep along very slowly. I tried this motivational technique when I saw it on Dr. Brazen Hussy's blog some time ago and I thought it would help motivate me along to get things done. I thought I would also recap how this method of public accountability worked out for me.

Well, I'd have to say I wasn't nearly as sucessful Dr. Hussy. The only thing I acutally got completed was one of two Christmas presents, which is nice, but doesn't really help with my work, and since I still have another to go, really feels only half finished. I completely lost track of my TA hours as they were flexible and things got done here and there. I'm pretty sure I got more than the 40hrs I last posted, but not the 100hrs I was supposed to do. I still plan to make those up (it was more of a planning position, so in principle I can do it whenever), but now I'm doing an experiment and I'm going home for Christmas on Saturday, so I may have to just double up the work next term. I'm still a bit dissapointed that I didn't do more for that though. The paper, though not complete, and will not be submitted before Christmas, I'm actually quite happy with. I've now sent everything but the introduction around to my co-authors, and I think it is a better paper than the one I had in my head before I started digging here and there, and though I'd like to be faster at writing I really feel it was worth taking the extra time.

So, I end this semester and will head into the next with mixed successes and a whole new list of things in the lab, and writing, to accomplish. Expect more progress bars... we'll see if they work better next time.


quote(s) of the day


Hubby: "What?"

Me: "I didn't say anything. It's just the voices in your head... don't listen to them."

For some reason, he thought the fact that I added advice for a course of action regarding the voices in his head was incredibly funny. Why wouldn't you make this suggestion??

Also yesterday:

Hubby: "I made progress today by not going backwards"

Oh how true, how often this is true...

There was something this morning too... but I can't seem to recall.

pure vanity

pure vanity, originally uploaded by saburke.

I was feeling rather goofy on Sunday morning, so I set up a "photo-shoot" of sorts, with the subject being "Rebby" the amazing, super-vain Canon Rebel. The idea was to make it look as if "Rebby" was doing self-portraits with my iSight camera in PhotoBooth. It didn't turn out quite as creative as I envisioned, but it was fun anthropomorphizing my camera... seeing as how we name all of the electronics around our house!

The bunch of them can be found through the "camera self-portrait" tag on my Flickr account.


yum, originally uploaded by saburke.

My contribution to the group Christmas party: Gingerbread cake with chocolate buttercream frosting, decorated with chocolate shavings and candied ginger. Really, it turned out prettier than I could have hoped, and it seems that people enjoyed it, though no one got more than a sliver.

The cake recipe was one I had from the "Anne of Green Gables Treasury" and is really very easy... I'd almost say foolproof, but never underestimate the intellegence of fools. ;) The icing is a pretty basic buttercream with cocoa added. The candied ginger I bought at a store near us that is a puveyor of such goods and I have no idea how one actually goes about doing such things. I had so much fun doing this, despite a bit of stress since I hadn't made this particular combination before and used new cake pans. I was trying to make something similar to the cake I posted raved about some time ago.

One of these days I will stop taking pictures of my food... nah, I probably won't actually.

The party was great as usual, though we stayed too late and were stupidly tired yesterday. That's ok though as yesterday was still quite productive despite my intense desire for sleep. Actually, I'm still a little tired today. Ah well, Christmas comes but once a year!


terrible life choice

Further proof that I've taken the "stay in school" message a little too far... Bart Simpson makes fun of grad students. Watch, laugh, cry, sigh, roll your eyes...

(Thanks to Mel for sending this to me.)
(Fingers crossed on first attempt to embed video... if it doesn't work click here to go direct to youtube.)



I've read three research papers this morning and am halfway through the fourth. My eyes are scratchy, my head hurts, and my officemates conversations drove me to search for places nearby I might be able to find noise-cancelling headphones (EDIT: I should note that they aren't actually that loud, and usually talk science... I'm just easily distracted). I have to finish this last one before a meeting at 2pm.

I think this describes how I feel:

Ok, back to it then.


pretty pretty dress

So I stumbled across this today... and it is sooo pretty... and I absolutely love it. So here's the question: Can I buy a dress online (there are no Anthropologie stores in Canada), meaning: no trying it on, for a wedding next summer that we haven't yet formally been invited to?

Sadly, I think not. *sniff, sniff*

anybody in there?

anybody in there?, originally uploaded by saburke.

It's just been that kind of a day where at this point my brain can't do much more than play with my iSight camera. That little eye peeking out at me from atop my screen is just too much to resist sometimes... I wonder... is she watching me??

Happy December!

Christmas sock, originally uploaded by saburke.

Being the first of December, we put up our small, fake Christmas tree on Friday. Now it feels like the holidays are getting close, and we are getting excited about going home. Miraculously we pretty much have our Christmas shopping done... honestly, I have no idea how that happened... but it should make for more relaxing times and increased holiday spirit rather than stressed, crowd-fighting shopping frenzies.

Of course, a tree - even a small, fake one - makes for a fun photographic subject, so I immediately pulled out the camera. This is one of my two favorite pictures I took... this one makes the blog though since I made the ornament myself. :) The Fortissima Socka (colourway discontinued?) yarn is from Germany, and is meant to become knee-socks for myself (a much grander undertaking), and the pattern is Kate Atherley's training sock from knitty.com made with a slightly longer leg and foot.


a delish weekend

creperie breton, originally uploaded by saburke.

So I finally got around to putting the pictures from our (anniversary... 6 years together, my goodness!) trip to Quebec city two weekends ago up on Flickr. Oddly, my favorite pictures are actually of food... come to think of it most of the best moments of the trip are of food, and the consumption of said food in nice warm environments. The photo here is of the window of the creperie where we had breakfast... to be specific I had a chocolate (dark, dark, rich chocolate) and banana crepe... it was amazing. There are some classic pictures of the Chateau, etc in my photostream now too. We tried to take some pictures at night, but well... it's difficult.

Anyway, we had a great trip. It was cool, and I couldn't find my hat before leaving, so once again I had to stop in at "maison Simons" to pick up a new hat... and maybe new matching mittens. Hubby convinced me that the pink was cuter than the black, so I made a departure from my usual dark winter wardrobe and got them. I think he's right, they spruce up my black winter coat.

Our main mission (besides eating lots of great food) was to look at art. My parents had given us money at our wedding to buy real, actual art... not a poster, not a reproduction... real, bonafide artwork! We were pretty excited about this, and since there are quite a few art stores in Quebec city we figured it would be a good chance to check it out. Except... it turns out we have totally different taste in art! Oh, we should have known from our preferences while at the Musee d'Orsay and looking through art books etc in preparation for the museums. Sigh... So, we're thinking we might just get one of our favorite photographs blown up large and framed nicely instead. Perhaps we can agree more on this!

Places to eat in Quebec city:

Creperie Breton
Bistro sous le Fort

We also had coffee/tea at a nice little cafe, but I can't for the life of me remember the name. Sadly, our favourite brunch choice, L'Ardoise (oddly, also the name of the town my parents are from), has changed ownership... and well... sadly, it's off the favourite list. The Creperie was a new discovery and a great one! I've been to Bistro sous le Fort several times now, and each time has been more delicious than the last. This time I went for the classic Steak-frites, and well, I think it was the best Steak-frites I've ever had. :)


graduate student definition of a week

week: a period of time in which things may, or may not, be accomplished within.

So, I've been thinking about this difference between undergraduate and graduate studies. I remember being an undergrad and being oh sooooo jelous of the graduate students... no assignments, no tests, no exams... why, all they had to do was research, which is fun anyway right? Right??

Yeah, ok, I'll admit, it's nice not to be going into a frenzy right now about exams (like so many around me on campus), which seem pretty meaningless anyway... but, I find myself evaluating what I've managed to accomplish in this past semester and... well... it's not like I haven't done anything, because man, I've been working my butt off... but nothing is very final. It's more like... I've made some, not easily measured amount of progress. In some ways I miss the finality, and accompanying sense of accomplishment that goes along with things that get handed in... on a due date. The majority of things I've taken on since September have morphed into bigger (though mostly interesting) projects than I thought they would be. That's one of the really fun/frustrating aspects of research... the goal line moves... all the time... you learn something new about your data, and it suddenly gets a lot more interesting... and a lot more complex (not like I'm immersing myself in two whole new fields or anything to interpret the data for my paper... oh wait, that's where the last month went).

Add to that the freedom to have perfectionism run wild need to be certain things are correct before releasing them into the world of science, and it starts to feel like you're riding an asymptote... a really long, gradual asymptote. Remember all those assignments that got handed in with #5 half completed, and you were pretty sure your answer to #2 made absolutely no sense? Or that essay that you knew had some ill-formed chain of logic, but hey it was due and you'd stayed up all night and that was the best you could do? You can't do that when you are writing research papers... it just has to be right... or at least you have to be convinced that it is as right as can be at the time. You can't just say "well, I didn't quite finish the discussion section, but I said it was due today, so I guess I'll submit it anyway"... well, you could, but it probably wouldn't be accepted... or worse, what if it was and you had to deal with it being "out there" and people reading your knowingly crappy work? Same with experiments... when you know there's something interesting emerging, it would be silly to stop just because you'd spent a month on it, and that's all you said you were going to do.

Nope, personal deadlines be damned, if it ain't done, it ain't done.

So at a time of year I'm used to a big build up of stress followed by 2 weeks of blissful relaxation, I'm wondering if I'll even be able to truely de-stress knowing that it's all still there waiting... waiting to be inched towards completion.

As an undergrad I probably got as many as, say, 6,7, even 8 "things" done in a week (assignments, midterms, lab reports, whatever). Lately, it's really up in the air whether I get something "done" in one short little week.


things I hope to blog about soon...

There are two big things I really want to blog about, but just haven't found the time:

  1. Nanoscience and Nanotechnology safety and Good Science There were a couple of articles in the journal "Nature" about Nanosci/tech and health and safety considerations and where we need to go to address the potential problems we don't even know exist yet. I am itching to read this, as well as a comment on "science's bad public image". I hope to write something on this soon.

  2. Quebec is a nation... within a nation... consisting of... ? Those of you in Canada will surely be sick of hearing about this on the news by the time I get around to commenting... but being an Anglo in Quebec from another province... I know I just won't be able to resist contributing my two cents to this already over hashed topic!

So... if I could just get this big ol' research paper written... ie. finish the last of the analysis needed to finish writing said research paper... mainly I need to draw a diagram, but it turns out to be more involved than one would think drawing a diagram possibly could be... because it has to be correct... psish... what is it with scientists and being right? Anyway, if I could just get my darned work out of the way I could dive into these fun and interesting topics. sigh~

plight of the grad student

Everything seems hard... until someone else does it before you.

PhD comics: Scooped

Meant to post this a few days ago... meant to print one out to adorn my cubicle too.


rerun, originally uploaded by saburke.

Ok attempt #2. You may have noticed the "test post" from Flickr... I've finally managed to get Flickr set up to post to my blog. Now I'm working on the interfacing between myself and Flickr and blogger... attempt #1 didn't work out.

So, these are the (pretty, pretty) shoes I bought while in Edmonton. I wore them to church on Sunday so I got hubby to help me get a picture before I went and changed into more comfortable attire for lounging around and cooking the rest of the day. The more I think about it, the more these remind me of shoes I had when I was about 3 years old... burgundy t-strap shoes... these are a much more grown-up version, but I wonder if that is why I was drawn to them? :)

Anyway, hopefully this Flickr thing will work this time and I can post lots of pictures this way!

Ha ha! It worked this time! ;)


This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.


two thumbs way, way up!

So hubby and I went to see the new Bond movie (for those with their heads in the sand, that's Casino Royale). I had heard mixed reviews, so I wasn't really sure if it would be good, but it seemed like a "must see". Some of the complaints I heard were the lack of style of the bond character, you know, that 00- tuxes and martinis and witty banter with the antagonists, a lack of opulence and style in general of the surroundings and other characters, and a lack of gadgets... I mean a 007 without nifto gadgetry? Huh?? Dear god, without all of that where's the Bond?? I was worried they might have even gotten rid of the Bond girls! (on a quasi-feminist note, I see nothing wrong with Bond girls, they are generally sexy, smart, witty, know what they're doing and use it all to their advantage... Bond enjoys it, and everyone has a good time. I like them, and they usually add style and a bit of action relief.)

Well, in general I didn't feel these critisims were warranted. There was a distinct lack of the traditional gadgets, what there was instead was a great deal of use of those kind of gadgets we all seem to have these days: laptops, cell phones, I mean, even lots of people have GPS in cars now! I found the use of these slightly souped-up "everyday" objects very good (for those of you familiar with Alias, think similar to this, a little modification here and there, to make a super-spy-cell-phone, etc). To come up with original "gadgets" is getting tricky without going to the ridiculous like invisible cars a la "Die Another Day". Honestly, I find that too comic-book-like, and I'm not a fan. Also there were no far-out plots to take over/destroy the world, just plain old-fashioned terrorist/warlord bad-guy bankrollers. It feels like a spy-movie, not a super-hero movie, and I think that's how it should be.

As for style, I saw no lack of style. Ok, Bond was a bit rougher around the edges than the recent movies, but I was beginning to feel those were too polished anyway. This one adds in a bit of grit, a few good old-fashioned fist-fights, people get dirty, bloody, sweaty, it's more real. Bond still wears a tux though, still drinks martinis, and still carries on charming, witty banter with the other characters. Oh, and I'm not going to complain about a really, really ripped Bond... sorry boys, but you get the Bond girls for eye candy, we should get something too! ;) That aside, the surroundings are most certainly opulent, the women well dressed, well primped, and dripping in jewelry, the cars are fast and fancy, and well, I'm just not feeling a lack of style here.

Along the same lines as style, I also really loved the cinamatography. The black and white, grainy opener was fantastic and really set the mood for the whole film. The rest of the movie was in a hue that wasn't so much duller as usual, but it really looked like older film. Compared to the recent very "shiny" looking Bond flicks I felt like I was watching one of the old Bond movies (which I always preferred anyway).

As for the acting, I'm not much a critic in this area unless it's really good or really bad... but I'd definitely say that Daniel Craig as the new Bond works (I was skeptical... though not a huge Brosnan fan, I don't like change), and Eva Green as the Bond girl in this film was fantastic, though I did detect an French accent coming through her British character occasionally. The on-screen chemistry was great all the way from "prickly" to very, very warm. As for the villain, I can't tell if I liked the character or the acting or both... probably both.

The plot, based on the first Bond novel by Ian Flemming was great and held me through to the end despite the long-ish-ness of the film. I especially liked the twist at the end (no, I hadn't read the book) where I was sure I knew what was coming... but was surprised with an ending which was much more interesting. ;) I will say no more about that as I will not be a spoiler!

Needless to say, I highly recommend, even if you haven't enjoyed the last few Bond movies. ;) I feel like this is an excellent re-set to the Bond franchise, and I really, really look forward to seeing more!

Now, if I could just get the Bond theme song out of my head... dundedundendedundundedundendun....


land 'o beef and cold

So, as I mentioned in a post a couple of weeks ago I travelled westward for a conference/workshop thing and a chance to see a friend. I had a great trip! So here's the run down...

It started in Edmonton visiting with my friend. Her super-awesome boyfriend came into town and was nice enough to come pick me up at the airport and everything... which was great, even though I'm ok with taking taxis. Last time I took a taxi in Edmonton the cabbie got lost. For those of you unfamiliar with Edmonton here's the punchline: Edmonton is on a grid. The whole city is layed out on a grid, all the streets are numbered and the house numbers tell you the nearest cross-street. It's insane, I've never seen a city so perfectly gridded! Of course I'm used to these nutso east-coast cities were there are probably 5 street intersections, one way streets, streets that stop and start somewhere else, a corner is any angle greater than zero, and a street may take a turn at an angle anything less than 180 degrees and continue on as if nothing happened... etc,etc. Anyway, I digress.

What does one do in Edmonton? Well, when you are hanging out with your best friend who you love shopping with... you shop. We also went to the waterpark... *Awesome*... but it is in the mall, so does that count as not shopping?? I barely behaved myself in the stores... but mostly my pocketbook was safe.

  • Most practical purchase: tie between leggings to wear for hockey (less bunchy than sweatpants under shin guards) and body butter which was completely necessary in the infamous dry cold in Edmonton, especially after the chlorine in the water park. All very mundane and unexciting.
  • Least practical purchase: shoes. oh, but they are beautiful shoes... sometimes we have to make a little room in our lives for beauty right? to be fair to the shoes I bought, they are much, much more practical than the first pair I tried on, which perhaps I loved more, but honestly couldn't have worn... these shoes had already done a full day's duty before coming home as I wore them at the workshop. :)

Now, we didn't spend all of our time at the West Edmonton Mall (though perhaps with an appropriate budget we could have). We also decided to check out Whyte Ave... a trendier, quainter, outdoor shopping strip. It was all nicely decorated for Christmas already too. We took the camera this day (really, we didn't need any pictures of our shopping frenzy at West-Ed) and played around with Melanie's Rebel lens which is different than mine (her's is the film version). I was going to try to link the photos from Flickr since they are already there... but it doesn't seem to want to cooperate. So here's just one of the street:

See how pretty with all the lights? Anyway, after that we headed in to Calgary, crashed at friend's super-awesome boyfriends' place, who once again came to pick us up (what a sweetie!), and then off to Banff in time for my workshop. We had a great day in Banff. Banff is nice. We squeezed in: a short hike, a trip to the hot springs, and yet another little shopping expedition. I think the hot springs were my favorite. I really wanted to go back, but people from the conference were less enthusiastic about it than I was. How wonderful to sit in 39C water gazing at mountains with occasional flurries falling down!? Fantastic! Thank goodness I brought my bathing suit! Anyway, it was kind of overcast, and really on the chilly side to be doing too much hiking or anything without really being prepared. Here's a picture of me on our "hike" along a short section of the "hoodoos" trail...

... yeah, it was cold. Those weird rocks in the background are the so-called "hoodoos"... no idea what the origin of the name is. Anyway, Mel's really a great photographer, she: (a) managed to take pictures of me (I usually pull a duck and hide) and (b) managed to take good pictures of me (no half-closed blinky eyes, open mouths, crinkled chins, etc). I think she should make a career out of it. ;) I put up lots more pictures on Flickr... some of them are Mel's.

After that I was pretty busy with the workshop, but there was some "free discussion" time that was taken into the great outdoors. :) The workshop was pretty good, though I'd seen talks on many of the topics and there was not as much new as I'd hoped, and my poster didn't get a lot of attention. I did meet lots of people though, so it was still interesting and worthwhile.



So, I was tidying up my calendar yesterday putting in some dates that needed to be in there (lest I forget important meetings with lots of people eek!), and I decided it was high time I put in our wedding anniversary. As I typed the details into iCal and set it up to repeat annually, here's how it looked:

Note in particular "end: Never". Now, doesn't that just say it all? :D


the need to be productive

So, not to complain more about being busy... but...

I'm finding it difficult to be productive enough to keep up, and still maintain some semblance of sanity, sleep, and life. I don't think the answer is entirely in working more hours, because at some point I just kind of slow down and amount of work done goes asymptotically to zero. Aside from that, it just isn't sustainable, and my current level of things to do isn't going to subside for quite some time. Really, I need to learn to manage it better.

You see, I'm at this point in my graduate student carreer -- I think this rather enviable point -- where I know what to do. I know what experiments need to be done, I know what analysis needs to be done, I know what things need to be written up into papers, I know what things need to be done to prepare for the next round of experiments in the more distant future, I know what conferences I should attend. My roadmap is acutally looking something like a map... with clear roads to travel. This is rare, as anyone in grad school knows, and I feel pretty good about it (even though I know some of it will probably change... because that's science).

So, knowing that it can't all be done at once, I've got it divided up, and I'm trying to multi-task some of the writting and doing experiments. But still... I feel like I'm moving through it soooo slowly. And yesterday, I realized that to really write up this part of the paper I'm working on properly in a way that will be truely more useful, I have to learn about a whole new area and it seems not that well established/understood, so there isn't a nice book to get from the library, so I'm tracing back through research papers. Yesterday I printed about a dozen of them. So now I'm reading, when I feel like I should be writing.

Here's the question to fellow science bloggers: How do you decide where to stop? I could write something very descriptive about my data without really digging very far into this new area... but I know that it has the potential to add a lot to the paper... and/or eat a lot of my time.

Anyway, next week I'm away on a trip-to-see-a-friend-on-the-way-to-a-workshop... soo... probably no posts. But, probably some nice pictures when I get back!


sorry... a bit under construction

Since I'm changing a few things still with the template, it's quite likely things will look out of place on occasion. It might also help to refresh your browser as I've updated some of the images used for the backgrounds. Sigh, it's a work in progress... still not sure about the molecule background... I wanted something scienc-y since the title graphic is now gratuitous placement of photos I like. Of course, lately I haven't posted much about science... I guess spending so much time at work these days (oh yeah, back in the lab on a rainy Saturday), I'm a bit science-d out.

Tah-tah... time to go... my AFM tip just approached... nearly crashed... but didn't, so I have work to do!


a fresh face

So, I decided a few days ago that my blog template was "agressively boring" and it was time for a change. What do I mean by "agressively boring"? Well, here's the old page:

What was I thinking, just look at all that grey! Ugh! I came up with the term "agressively boring" in regards to the cover of my 4th year Quantum Mechanics book which had stripes of 3 shades of grey... like it was just trying so hard to be boring. And what did I do with my own blog? Shades of grey... shades of grey everywhere.

So in my attempts to stay awake today after being in the lab until 2am last night, I made some changes. The photos in the title graphic are mine, the fireworks are from Basel and the clock is from le Cafe des Hauteurs at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris. I don't know if the molecule background is going to stick... I think it might be too busy looking... but at least it's not grey. I also want to change some of the text colours, but man, I am just too tired to track down where all those are in the template. Another day... another day...



So, Sunday a friend of mine had a bunch of us over for a stitch'n'bitch... well stitch'n'bitch'n'paint'n'sew'n'(mold? pottery? potter? can't find an appropriate term for this). It was so great! Everyone there was a science geek at work, but suddenly on this Sunday afternoon everyone was there to create, to craft something with their own hands, turning yarn into fabrics, cloth into garmets, paint and canvas into art, clay into form. I took my camera (my other recent artistic enterprise), but I was so busy enjoying my knitting I didn't really take anything great. I did however take a picture of the delicious cake someone brought (bought, not homemade, but oooh... that was fine with me!).

mmmm... gingerbread cake with chocolate icing. Sooo good. A combination I never would have guessed, yet works so well. And I have a recipe for great gingerbread cake! Yay! Oh, and yes, that is knitting in the background... not mine, that of the hostess. A DNA scarf. Nerdy knitting, I love it.

I started these, and just couldn't stop to pick up my Christmas knitting again:

The pattern is Fetching from Knitty, and the yarn is an alpaca/silk blend (I don't have the ball band with me at the moment) which is a dream to knit with... feels just well, beautiful, and though I was skeptical of the hairyness of the yarn with the cables, it acutally like the way it's coming out. These fingerless gloves are totally impractical for Montreal winter, so I'm considering finishing them into mittens... but they are cute as fingerless gloves. Fashion vs. Common Sense strikes again... dang. Note the pink needles... they were my grandmother's and they are fantastic, the yarn just slides over them without them being too slippery. I wish I knew what they were so I could get more!

So, I was planning on doing some knitting here this evening while I have to sit in front of the AFM checking out my sample... however, I got a puck in the wrist at hockey, and it is pretty sore... just bruised, but pretty sore... in fact this typing thing isn't really working out so well. Somehow I think knitting is going to be a bit painful for a bit.

Anyway, seeing that it's getting quite late quite quickly, I think I'll sign off and prepare to leave at the end of this scan. Need to get more ice on this wrist of mine.


i don't have tape

i don't have scotch tape. i need to tape something into my lab book... but i can't find any friggin' scotch tape.

hoo-boy. it's been one of those days.

deeper and deeper and deeper and why am i blogging!?!?

So last week I was running an experiment and despite my best attempts to multitask, a new to do list grew out of the old one... the worst is that I know I'm not putting everything on them... I can't handle seeing all of it in one place. So I just put what I think I can probably get done in a couple of days. Today three things have stars next to them... that means they really ought to be done today. One thing requires getting a new compication with my new laptop not being able to run old things sorted out so that will probably get transfered to the next to do list. ~fun~

The big things not on my "to do"? The long paper which is long overdue for writing I must be working on (it graduated to its very own "to do" list), and the "to read" pile that just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger.

That's the "to do" and part of the "to read"...

So, if I don't blog for awhile, it's for my own good.


I'd rather be...

... blogging? knitting? sleeping? photographing? skating? OUTSIDE?? Any or all of the above would be fine with me.

Reason I haven't been blogging? Mostly this:

or rather many of these "to do" lists... all long... all demanding to be done immediately. As of Saturday morning I was freaking out and just sure I'd never be able to relax again. Thanks to hubby, who helped me get a few things done and made me chill out a bit, I am feeling less stressed, though no less under pressure.

Part of all the trouble was this:

a scholarship application as my fancy-schmancy one I've been enjoying konks out on me in May. I had totally forgotten about this and was thinking everything was honkey-dory and I'd get to sit back and watch everyone else freak out this year until the grad secretary sent around the deadlines for these and I remembered that 2007 was next year, thus I needed to apply in this competition. Gosh darn it, where are those years going???

Sooo... I am in the lab today, on this Thanksgiving Monday, getting my experiment for the week set up. Meanwhile, I should really be trying to knock a few things off my list, especially one I'm meeting someone about tomorrow and meant to get done all last week but I don't want to because it involves re-checking my work which needs to be done but is no fun, or that other one I meant to get done all last week but involves me dealing with format statements in IDL and so I really just don't want to. I think I will do them at home though. I have half an hour to go on the sample prep, then a few transfers, start the bake, and then there's really no reason why I have to stay in this sunless, florescently lit, cold, noisy, lab. Not that I mind the lab when there are things to be done here, but I hate working here when it could be done anywhere... it's just not that pleasant or easy to concentrate. I've tried my office, but there's always this problem of shuffling all my stuff back and forth... hmm... guess that's true for home too though.

Anyway... I did have some fun this weekend. I've done a bit of knitting... top secret though (I may or may not have started some Christmas gift knitting), so I can't say or show anything! I will say I'm super excited about it though! :D We also went to Mount Royal yesterday to take in some fresh air and take some pictures of the fall leaves now that Rebby is back from getting his poor little sensor cleaned. Oh yes, we the physicists gave up and had a pro clean the sensor... well, not before mucking it up further ourselves first. Here goes the story...

At some point, about a week into my trip to Europe a big, fat dust blob started appearing in all my pictures. Said dust stayed with me the rest of the trip, and no lens cleaning would get rid of it. I then sent it off with hubby on his trip in the same sad state so all his photos have dust too. Upon his return we decided something must be done. So we did what any experimentalist would do... we looked at the manual for about 2 minutes (enough to figure out how to acomplish access to the sensor), googled and read on the web for about another 2 and decided to work on it ourselves. We brought it to the lab where there is a gas bottle of ultra-high purity nitrogen, the same stuff we spray on our samples after cleaning them and such. I spray samples going into ultra-high vacuum where I assume everything is very clean, and particularly oil-free... well, that last part gives away the problem I think. So, with reduced pressure to avoid causing any damage, we quite easily manage to remove the worst culprits... yeah, actually they were visible, so it was pretty easy to see that we'd solved the problem. However, this is what a contrast boosted image of blank paper looks like (the grid was from graph paper underneath the blank paper):

The dust is gone, but those circles in the bottom left corner were not there before... those came from the gas line. Now to me, that looked like bubbles of oil. We later did a test on some clean glass slides, and sure enough, some kind of oily looking contamination was coming out of the spray nozzles attached to the gas bottles. So now I can't use the gas line, and we were without the camera for about a week and a half and short another $40. But the camera is back and certainly clean enough to take pictures of bright blue sky without signs of dust or other problems, and, someone is looking into the spray nozzle problem. So, on that note, I will sign off with a picture from yesterday's trip over the "mountain"...

Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving!


Today's PhD comic: the appearance of productivity

Oh gosh, how many times have I done this... carrying around papers (I do intend to read them at least), to group meetings, lunch, coffee breaks, on planes, sometimes even on busses... not into the bathroom stall... like maybe if you just had a minute you might read it... maybe...

PhD comics: The "Carrying papers" phase


science news: nano patch-up, here's to winter

Two articles in ScienceNOW caught my attention today:

Nano-bio takes heart... or heals it at least. Samuel Stupp of Northwestern has published a paper in NanoLetters on the use of self-assembled nanofibers to increase the concentration of growth factors in injured tissue (specifically, corneal and heart tissue in mice) helping to stimulate blood vessel growth for healing. I've seen some of Stupp's work before and I have to say it was very impressive... that time he was presenting work he did using self-assembled nanofibers to recreate the scaffolding needed for nerve regrowth in spinal injuries. In terms of safety of such a treatment, I'm sure there is much to be done, however, the concept seems like it should be safe as these nanofibers consist of biocompatible molecules, and the fibers themselves are broken down over time, or can be induced to essentially fall apart.

Check out the ScienceNOW article. For those of you with access the article contains a link to the NanoLetters paper.

ScienceNOW: If I Only Had a Nano-Heart

Let's raise a glass to winter. Ok, this article is just kind of general interest, and struck me as kind of fun. Seems that the same systems in our bodies which help to regulate temperature are related to those which are responsible for ethanol detoxificaton. The jist? Cooler climes means higher alcohol tolerance... maybe... at least in fruit flies. Well, that's enough for me to drink to as winter prepares to blow in. :)

Check out the ScienceNOW article for more details (maybe someone who actually knows some bio or physiology would get more out of it...).

ScienceNOW: Hot Flies, Good Times



to balance all the heavy thinking of the previous post, here is a picture of one of my morning glories from about a week ago. they have more or less given up blooming as i fear they have already met the frost.

the tragedy and my state of mind

I live in Montreal. I think pretty much the whole world (actually, I am surprised how many international news outlets have carried the story) has heard by now that there was a tragic shooting at Dawson College (a CEGEP) in the downtown area here just this past Wednesday. A young man, with no apparent connection with the school, walked up with three guns, one a semi-automatic rifle, all of which were registered, legally obtained weapons, and started shooting at random.

I have been wanting to post something about this since... but where do I begin...

When I first heard, about 1pm on Wed, I had the normal reaction I think when hearing such terrible news... a combination of relief and thankfulness that it was not where I nor anyone I am close to works/studies, a twinge of sadness for those who may have been effected, and a curiosity about what was happening (causing me to spend much time looking for any news stories I could find). However, emotionally, I basically shrugged it off. In the days since, I have not been able to do so. Somehow, this event has brought forth a very much unanticipated flow of emotion. Fear and sadness... though not quite in the way you might think.

First I will explain "fear". Not fear that a gunman will come to McGill and the same type of tragedy will occur here. Fear that I am not appreciating and taking advantage of my time. There are so many things which can happen... there was a bomb found on a train in Germany just days before I arrived, there were terror threats at Heathrow which I flew through in both directions for my trip, there are much more common things like all those near misses with cars we've had on Montreal streets. How quickly life can change.

I like my life.

No, I love my life.

I enjoy my work, I have a rich variety of things which I (try) to do, I love my husband and the life we have created together, I love my parents and all that they have given me, I love how the future looks from where I stand now... and I am afraid... I am afraid something will happen to take it all away from me just when I feel like it is getting really good, and just as I have the maturity to recognize how good it is. As cliche as it sounds, I want to live each day to its fullest... but most of the time I feel like my life is on fast-forward and all I can do is just try to keep up, when really I want to slow it down to savour it. The problem is, to make more time, I would have to give up some of the things which are making me feel life is so rich. I don't want to go back to where I was three years ago, updating at my C.V. and wondering where the heck all the "life" went from it.

Now I am happy, and I just hope and pray that life can stay this way. Maybe someday I'll figure out how to balance everything and until then I'll just muddle through and do my best to appreciate all these things which make things a bit crazy from time to time.

Sadness. Like everyone who reads of Anastasia De Sousa, the young woman whose life was cruelly taken from her far too early, I feel sadness for her family and friends. Also for all of those who were injured, those who were present and will have difficult times ahead dealing with the tragedy.

But there is a deeper contemplativeness and sadness which the event has somehow brought forth. I'm not exactly sure where it's coming from.

The event has quite strongly highlighted another event in my life which at the time seemed... well, insignificant isn't the right word, but I certainly didn't expect it to have any lasting impact. I met a young man on the plane returning from Germany. For whatever reason we started chatting... hey, it's a long flight, might as well make the best of it. He had spent a month in Austria, so we joked about German words we learned, and schnitzel-everything. Turned out he was from New Brunswick... another maritimer! :) 16 (and a half... when's the last time I added that??) years old. For whatever reason he started telling me a bit more about his life. I must admit I was not prepared for what was to follow. As he tried to tell me he had lost his girlfriend just a little over a year before, and I joked thinking this was the usual story of a teenage breakup and the heartache to follow, I found myself listening to a description of how she died in his arms after he saw her be hit by a car. I couldn't imagine how I would be able to deal with such an event now in my life, much less how I could have dealt with it at that age. Needless to say he had suffered through some difficult, dark times. I got much of the details. He talked. I listened. Though perhaps admittedly careless with his own personal safety, he seemed to be doing as well as you might expect anyone in that position to be in. But he was also admitedly violent with his peers who dared to cross him, and more so with those that might take advantage of young girls... a sort of crusade it seemed on behalf of his girlfriend who he could not protect. I tried to encourage him to perhaps seek other channels (other than violent behaviour?) without seeming scolding. And I tried to encourage him to look out for his own safety if not for himself, then for these girls he wants to protect and all those he might help in the future... it seemed to at least give him pause for a moment, so I hope he considered it seriously.

The thing that concerns me a bit though was that his violent behaviour seemed to have isolated him at school (and I tried to convince him that high school is a strange environment where teens seem to lose any sense of humanity they might have been raised with in favour of their own tribal coolness). It seemed also that he may not have been getting much support from his parents. Now I wonder, should I have done more? Should I have given this young man some way to contact me? For whatever reason he felt comfortable spilling his guts to me... what if he has no one who will listen? or who he can tell without being judged? I don't think this somewhat troubled young man is capable of such a thing as the young man here was... but doesn't it fit the profile everyone seems to come up with? Isolated, depressed/troubled, sometimes violent, possibly lacking a support network? A normal kid, who does well in school, but is hiding this dark other side?

Of course, it's possible too that he made up the whole story... he asked me if I believed him. I said I did because I had no reason to distrust him, but the question made me wonder after the fact. But I have to say I'm a bit haunted by this kid and his dead girlfriend. I hope that my listening helped, and that maybe some things I said made sense and made him see that there is hope for his future. I hope that I didn't say anything wrong that might have made things worse. I hope to God that I don't hear there was a school shooting in his town.

I'm sad that there are people out there who find themselves isolated, unable to find help when they need it. I'm sad that our society doesn't even see it most of the time. I can't believe I just met someone only a couple of weeks ago who seemed to be suffering this same affliction of being alone while being amongst so many.

Needless to say with all these things running around in my head already, that rainy Wednesday evening as I walked to the bus stop (avoiding the metro which had been closed all day due to suspicions of second or even third gunmen) and could see the police lights from the area cordoned off around Dawson college, and thought about all those kids who had such a terrifying experience, I found myself struggling to keep all these emotions in check... at least until I got home. The past few days I'd best describe my mood as meloncholy as I've tried to figure out just where all this is coming from. Yesterday as I walked along rue Mt. Royal, I noticed a great many people who seemed to be really trying to enjoy the beautiful day. So that is what I did too, and today I will go skating with some friends, and tomorrow my husband comes home from a 10 day trip to Switzerland, and he will get the biggest hug he's ever gotten... but until he lands in Montreal, I will worry just a little.

... ok, so i went skating before posting this... it was worth having to stay later at work. :)



Sigh... I can't seem to find any reason why the comments wouldn't be working... I'm going to post this and then try to comment on it. Anyone who happens along, can you try posting a comment? Just a "testing testing 1-2-3" kind of thing? Thanks.

Blogs, Blogging & one-sided friends

So, as I sat here at my desk eating my lunch and downing a quick coffee before my first hockey class of the season (yay!!! hockey's back! ... note: the only reason I might possibly look forward to winter rapidly approaching) I read a few blogs that I occasionally read. It's really only recently that I got into this whole blog thing. I never thought I'd become an avid blog reader, or blogger myself.

I was first really introduced to the concept by Josh (found over here at life's propagation, aka quarem.blogspot.com) when I worked in a lab with him in Victoria. When I left there I found myself checking in on his blog just to see what was up and really enjoy reading his posts on whatever he's doing/thinking/reading etc.

This got me a bit interested in blogging, and I had some ideas for things I might put out there to share. I tried my first blog shortly after but it didn't get very far... abandoned after 1 post... I still feel bad for it. Then I tried using a blog format to communicated with my 1st year physics tutorial students, and actually that more or less worked out, though I think there are probably better ways. I maintained a little election blog with some friends last year, but that had kind of a limited life span anyway and is silent for now. Then I decided it was time to try a personal blog again... this one. I figured it would mainly be a way for me to post my goings-on while away on trips and interesting stuff about my life in Montreal, and that maybe friends and family would read it. So far, that's about what's happening... but there are also quite a few people who visit who I'm sure I don't know.

So this brings me back to the reading end of things. I was just reading this blog that I stumbled upon in a totally random fashion while looking at some photos on Flickr's "interestingness" page (because I'm getting into photography now, and I find it fun to see what other people do with their cameras, what lighting they catch/create, what angles look interesting, etc). So now I find myself reading this blog about this girl from Oregon (you can catch her over at lylium.org), and I'm suddenly so happy and excited for her starting College! And it occurred to me... this is a bit weird. I mean, here's this girl I have never met, have no connection to, and yet I find myself really, genuinely excited for her. At the same time I feel a bit strange because she knows nothing about me... at most, I am a few pageloads and maybe she knows where from. I could post a comment, but I don't have anything really to say other than "Hi, I've been reading your blog, you don't know me, but have fun at college!"

Anyway, despite this strangeness, I still like the idea of blogging. I also find it intriguing to think that someone might randomly stumble upon my blog ramblings and read for awhile and feel some connection (though one-sided, and a bit strange) to me.

So on that note, I hope I will post a bit more than I have since getting back from Germany (yes, I'm back now). I still have things I've meant to write about and post pictures of from the trip, so hopefully I'll get to that soon, but work is getting in the way as I have made a pretty good plan of things I must do to finish this PhD thing, so now they must be done.

(ps - for some reason, it seems that comments are not working here... I will try to resolve that and post again asking for test comments.)


Evening stroll

So, having given up on the laundry situation (see below... yes they are still busy) I went down to the Duisburg Rathaus and Innenhafen. The weather had cleared up from the earlier thunderstorms, but there were still some pretty dramatic clouds hanging around in the sky. I had a nice walk, and took a few pictures. I also managed to get an ice cream on the way back. :) I love that Germans love ice cream and even when everything else is closed you can still get it.

Here are a few pictures from my walk...

Dramatic clouds... definately.

In the Innenhafen.

Of the Innenhafen.

I thought this looked a bit like a surrealist paining... except that it's real.

The Salvatorkirche, next to the Rathaus.

So, Duisburg might not be the prettiest city in Europe, but give a bit of nice weather and it's really not so bad! Everyone here seems pretty down on it, and has most tried to send me elsewhere for sightseeing. I'm glad I walked around tonight. There is a nice green space along the canal and it really is a great place for an evening stroll.


So, it's my last weekend in Germany, and I am doing laundry. I got up early (for a weekend) to get a "jump-start" on the washing machine situation. You see, at the guesthouse here there is ONE washing machine, for what I would guess are ~30 apartments. Ok, that's not so bad you might think... but I must first explain some points about the functioning of European washers and dryers.

Firstly, 60 min is fast for a small load of laundry to go through the washing machine. I go through and change all the settings such that the time comes down to 65 min. My clothes get clean this way... maybe they have a bit more soap than they might otherwise, but I'm ok with the result. However, when I went downstairs today at 9:30am there was a load in the washing machine scheduled to be completed in 144 min... and it was already going for a while because there was actually water in there already. Oy-vey! Are you kidding me?? Two hours to wash (not dry, just wash) a load of laundry???

Ok, so at least these Euro-washers give the time remaining. This is convenient for sharing as I can keep track of the time and hopefully sneak my load in just at the end. So I go back down to put my wash in a little after it should have been done (I got distracted by knitting and Civ and lost track of time) and the clothes are still in the washer. Ok, no problem, anyone who is going to put their wash on for 2 hours deserves to get it dumped on the table. Plus the table is clean, so really it's no big deal at all. But, man-oh-man, did they ever pack that washer full!! I guess that's why they went for the super every option mode, there was way too much jammed in there. So as I start trying to pull everything out it be comes clear that this load of laundry has morphed into a giant tangled mass of fabric, the only free pieces being tiny little childrens' socks which proceed to fall all over the floor. In fact, I rescued a few socks that got jammed into the door seal.

Anyway, I put my load in on my amazing super-fast 65 min mode, but alas the dryer is not free. Because those are incredibly slow too. Actually I haven't fully dried my clothes since arriving here, I just get them started for about an hour and then drape them all over the place to finish drying "naturally". It's just not worth the wait. And this is if you remember to clear the lint trap and the water trap (yes, European dryers collect and condense the water instead of venting it to the great outdoors). I'm not sure others here actually do this as last time I cleared the lint trap there were at least 4 layers of multicoloured lint. No wonder these machines are always busy.

So: status is 2:38 pm here, and I have one of two loads washed but not dried. I'm giving up for now. Going to shower and head down to the Duisburg Innenhafen. Maybe get some "Eis" (that's ice cream... and Germans seems to be hopelessly addicted to it... no complaints here).

I'll post something real on my next attempt to do laundry later today.


New Pictures: Aachen, Munster

So, I have finally put up some more pictures!

I went to Aachen the first full weekend I was in Germany. It was quite nice, and quite interesting. Certainly there was a lot of impressive architechture. Here is part of the Pfalz:

I got to tag along to Munster on a scientific journey to learn about quartz tuning fork sensors. The discussion was in German, so I didn't get to much out of it, but we did have some time for sightseeing.

So, if you'd like to check out more photos, they can be found with the others:

Sarah's EuroTrip 2006

Enjoy! There's lots more to come, I have two days in Cologne, and more from Zolverein and Essen, and Osnabruck, and pictures from the Duisburg Zoo!!!


shuffle: in the lens, on the continent, on the needles, indulgances

I haven't forgotten about posting pictures! I haven't even really been so busy that I would have thought I wouldn't get them up for so long... the problem is that it takes me some time to get them ready for public viewing. I have a few "reasons" (read: excuses) for this...

  1. I feel like a lot of the pictures I've taken have potential, but if they were just processed in black & white / faded / blurred / colour enhanced... they would be so much better! Meaning? I have been sitting in front of my computer sliding little bars around until I can hardly tell the difference anymore. Result? Probably I am overprocessing the photos and will go and reset them all.
  2. I need to learn the following: " I do not need to shoot everything in RAW format ! " Yes, for some reason, I keep leaving the camera on RAW. While I am now convinced that even with a fairly basic processing programme RAW is a superiour format for any post-processesing, not everything is an art photo, and as such can be taken in JPEG and left as is, especially since the camera for the most part does a damn good job of getting the colour balance correct in most cases. And since RAW has to be converted before posting on the web... really, it makes more sense in a lot of cases.

That said, I have put up some pictures, and have images processed and ready for captions to post some more. Here is the address where everything so far can be found:

Sarah's EuroTrip 2006

As I add to the site, I'll put updates here. ;)

Next up: knititng. I brought a bunch of yarn with me with grand intentions of getting lots of knitting done in all that spare, lonely time I was going to have over here... um... that hasn't really been the case. I have done a little bit of knitting though.

Here's the result, and a preview of what's up next (maybe not all while I'm here...)

Seed stitch stripe washcloth in cotton (from the book "knitter's stash")... testing the pattern so I know what I'm doing before I go and get the linen yarn recommended. I like the seed stich... good scrubbies!

My first sock! My very first sock! Ok, so it's just a training sock, but it's so cute! it has a real heel and everything! I can't wait to find sock yarn!!!

Ok, so I actually knit this test swatch before I left. I got the yarn on sale... I bought a lot of yarn that day... and so began my stash. Anyway, after knitting the swatch, I know exactly what I want to do with this... but it's top secret! I'll let you know when it's done, and safe to tell. ;)

This yarn was part of a birthday gift from my parents. The first scarf I finished on the hottest day of the year... ironic timing eh? This one I'm dying to start, but requires 200 stitches be cast on... OMG I hate casting on... starting this project is going to be hell... but I think it will be fun once I get going. Such beautiful yarn!

So, dishcloth, coming along slowly, but I like the pattern. The sock was so easy! I used Kate Atherly's training sock pattern (found here on Knitty.com) and in a few hours I had already turned the heel. And to think I'm in Germany, land of sock yarn! Except... I can't seem to find a yarn store!? :S Oh well, there's some time left. As for the other projects, don't know if I'll star them here. Maybe all that yarn will just come back with me as yarn... not knit goods as I had planned.

Tomorrow I don't have to go to the lab. Yup. It seems they've decided to turn the ventilation system off on us which means the temperature is all over the place, and we have drift up the wazoo. No good measurements in sight. Major bummer, since next week is my last week, and we haven't really gotten anything good yet. On the bright side however, since the group is having a meeting (um, in German) to discuss project ideas and directions, it was suggested I just take it easy. So, tomorrow, I go to the Zoo! Supposedly there are cute little monkeys!!! Oh yeah, and I have to look over my talk for Osnabruck... but that's ok, at this point it shouldn't be such hard work.

Speaking of going over my talk... I had planned to do that tonight. But today was a pretty long stressful day... with little coffee (I've cut back since I fear I'm coming down with a cold)... lots of German discussions about electronics, and no good data. So instead I indulged myself a little and while picking up groceries I got this:

It was ok... less decadent than I was really hoping for, but a treat none-the-less. :D

And on that note, I will say goodnight, as it is now past bedtime here.


one of these days...

... I will learn not to take the hard road.

So, somehow I always manage to find ways to make life more difficult for myself. Example, I am in Germany, trying to do a difficult experiment in a short period of time, not to mention get in some sightseeing. Ok, that's not so bad, but I've decided to add on top of that... just "for fun"... to give a few talks while I'm here: one at the university I'm working in and one at another university where I was invited to go speak some time ago. This all sounded like a great idea several months ago... now it feels like a lot of work, and I have to prepare an abstract and settle on a title when I'd rather just go to bed right now. Meh.

I keep telling myself at times like this that I don't really need to do all these extra things, and next time I should just step back and say "no, I'm just a grad student, it's ok not to give a talk everywhere I go, it's ok not to start up collaborations with groups around the world". But, no, I always get "excited" about all these "opportunities" and my brain and my mouth take off at a gallopping pace before my common sense can catch up.

Really, it's all ok though. Things are going fine to well here (which in science is pretty good), I'm enjoying my stay, and I'm sure the talks will go well, and I'll get some interesting feedback. Sometimes though I just think it would also be just as good to be at home, getting my normal, thesis-progressing work done, and spending Saturday morning sipping coffee with my hubby instead of being a globe-trotting mad scientist who barely even keep straight where she needs to be when... but then, what the heck would I blog about??

Photos up on Flickr!

My photos from the ICN+T 2006 conference are now visible on Flickr in the ICNT 2006 Pool! Lots of Swiss National Day fireworks and some pictures from the excursion to Interlaken! :)

Flickr: The ICNT 2006 Pool

Enjoy! I'm really proud of some of the fireworks pictures, so I hope you like them!


More Basel... mostly photos

Here are a few more photos from Basel... some of the ones I am happy with and played around with to make interesting. (Above is the Lallekonig... um... the tounge king. A wooden replica of a mechanical statue that rolled its eyes and stuck out its tounge at the citizens of "KleinBasel"... lower Basel... across the Rhine.)

Basel is home to several major pharmaceutical companies and as such, the old town is flanked by fairly large, fairly prominent smoke (or whatever) stacks. This statue by the Rhine seemed to be looking rather whistfully off towards one in the distance. I suppose things have changed quite a bit for him over the years.

Statue on the front face of the Muenster... from on the face of the Muenster after climbing the bell tower (ie. rather high above the street... roof-tops...). The sky was so beautifully blue that as I reduced the saturation to fade out the colour to black & white the blue was still quite prominent, so I left it like that.

Again, the Muenster cloister... I really liked the colour of the ferns and the tiled roof. If you look really carefully (um... at least in the high resolution file) you can see the glass from the window distoring the far bank of the Rhine.

One of the two Muenster towers. I love the red stone, and the bright sky makes it look like it is really piercing the heavens.

The pulpit of the Muenster. Beautiful carving. The light was pouring into the church then too which was quite beautiful.

And last but not least! Two of many pictures I took at the fireworks for Swiss National Day. Big party, tons of fireworks. I've tried to post a whole collection on Flickr, but they don't seem to be viewable yet... I'll post when they are.

That's all for now, though I have lots of other photos waiting to be posted somewhere!

I am in Germany!

So, um, while on my European excursion I planned to post quite a few pictures here and some stories about the conference, traveling, playing in the lab here... but I didn't have internet access for awhile, so I've fallen quite far behind now. I'll put a few up today, and try to catch up.

The conference: ICN+T in Basel, Switzerland

Flying into Basel there were some really spectacular clouds! I took a lot of pictures. I'm sure the people around me thought I was nuts. The decent was pretty bumpy, but the clouds were beautiful and I actually enjoyed it. I guess this means my fear of flying was temporary, and is lifting. Not that all this mess in Heathrow (which I have to fly through to get home) is helping me enjoy the air travel experience. :(

So... Basel is a pretty nice city. The old part is quite small and nicely maintained. Unfortunately they are in the process of replacing many of the old tram tracks so the roads were ripped up in a lot of places, but I could still get a feel for the ambiance. I liked it quite a lot. So, I'll put a few pictures here, but most will go up on another website later (not too much I hope)...

The Muenster in Basel. Really impressively tall! Lynda and I went up into the bell tower and around on the outside. It was really high. I have more pictures... so I'll tell the story in detail later. Note the flags in the foreground. The red and white one is of course the Swiss flag. The other is the flag of Basel.

This is another picture of the Muenster tower from inside the cloister... it seemed to need black & white.

The Spalentor. A mediaeval gate of Basel with glazed tile roof... also impressively large. Note again the Basel flag.

The Rathaus (or town hall). Yes, in German, the town hall is called the "Rathaus"... is this some kind of cynical statement? I don't know. Does it seem apt? Definately. Anyway... the architechture is quite impressive. The stone looks extra red here because the sun was setting, but both the Rathaus and the Muenster are constructed from this reddish stone.

Basel as it sits on the Rhine.

Ok... so that was Basel, now maybe someday soon I'll post a few stories about the conference and then move on to where I am now!


Interesting Elephant Fact...

Apparently elephants don't like climbing hills! Not that I'd ever thought about it before, but now that I know it's kind of interesting. I guess being that big would make it rather difficult... the ol' Work=(mg)h ... next time I'm feeling to lazy to take the stairs I'll just have to remind myself that at least I'm not an elephant! Check it out...

ScienceNOW: Ain't No Mountain Low Enough


PhD comic: Lab Hazard Rating System

Ok, so pretty much anyone who has worked in a lab has seen a sign like this... well, sort of like this. I think it's probably extra funny to us since we recently underwent a safety inspection - that's another story that's probably blog-worthy.

PhD comic: Lab Hazard Safety Rating

I'd say we're a: 2-0-2-VOR, sometimes we're a: 2-0-0-VOR. Fortunately nobody really smells... except maybe after hockey class in the winter... hmm... Definitely we rate a "0" for Air Conditioning Hazard... it is freaking cold down here! I like to go outside in the sun just to warm up! Makes 30C and 95% humidity feel damn good!


Commander Data? Is that you?

Ok, so no, we're not talking super strong something-ium alloy, super smart positronic net, futuristic Star Trek androids, but this is pretty incredible! I had no idea this was possible... I can't do it justice, so just check it out for yourself:

Wired: Meet the Remote-Control Self

... don't miss the gallery too!

so, now to find out if anyone reads this...

So, I've finally added a counter to my blog. I meant to do it a long time ago, but since I'm pretty sure nobody reads this, I kept not bothering. One of these days I will actually email my friends and let them know that I've started a blog... that was kind of the point afterall. Maybe I'll do that now... well... in a little while. Maybe after I go get a chocolate bar...


There seems to be an ever increasing amount of press about potential safety concerns of nanotechnology. Much of nanotechnology is still in the "dream phase" and a lot of people buying into the hype of "nano" will say it can enable and fix anything we need it to in the future... in the future... in the future.... I tend to think that is wishful thinking and that a lot of the "fears" about nanotechnology are unfounded primarily because they aren't anywhere near technologies yet.

However, there are a lot of nanoparticles making their way into the market these days in the form of nanomaterials, eg: Nanopants which caused a bit of a stir, and a lot of cosmetics products; L'Oreal is the single largest holder of "Nano"-patents... no small feat for sure. So, if we are wearing nanotechnology, and especially plastering it on our skin, it becomes a very valid question to ask about the environmental and health risks of these products in their use and manufacturing.

Moreover, with all of the increasing press "Nano" is getting, especially on the negative side, it will be crucial to the field of nanotechnology and nanoscience (I'm considering the -science as less applied work not likely to directly lead to commercialization) to provide information on the heath and safety of products coming to market. Otherwise, public paranoia is likely to develop which could shut down perfectly safe and viable technologies before they ever get a chance to mature. Misinformation, or worse, lack of information is a difficult foe to fight.

So, on that note, although I don't necessarily agree with everything put forward here, it is interesting to see that there is some movement toward a coherent plan to study environmental and health effects of nano. Next step: informing the public.

ScienceNOW: Tiny yes, but are they safe?


We did it!

Well, due to everything going on, I've been a bit slow in posting this... actually we just passed our 3 week wedding anniversary. I have to say that as we walked... er... kind of briskly... out of the church at the end of the ceremony (thanks to Aunt Georgette for this "action-shot"!) I was the happiest and most excited I think I've been in a very long time! Everything in the wedding went wonderfully. The ceremony was great. The priest who married us (Fr. Andrej) had a very warm character and was much more concerned with maintaining the feeling of the day than the formalities of the ceremony, which really helped to make everything feel extra special, rather than nerve-wracking. We were surrounded by close friends and family, and I don't think we could have had a better wedding. Thanks to everyone who could come!

As for details...

My day started pretty early in the morning with a trip to the farmers' market to pick up the flowers. I had decided long ago that I wanted lilies, and I wanted to make the bouquets myself. This actually turned out to be pretty fun. The lilies when we picked them up were mostly closed... which is good for shelf life I suppose, but not so pretty, and we wanted pretty that day. So, we had been told to put them in a bit of warm water and they should open up. Sure enough, we put them in a bucket of warm-ish water and you could almost watch them opening! It was truely amazing! So, my best friend and maid of honour came over to have breakfast and start the process of making the bouquets and later getting ourselves ready. This is a great picture of us at the hair-dresser. Love the aluminum-foil Mel!!!

I guess everyone hopes for a nice sunny wedding day. I tried not to get my hopes up, especially knowing how tempermental Nova Scotia weather can be, and also that it would do whatever it was going to do and it was well beyond my control. Well, it rained. It rained all day. It threatened to let up for a little while... but then it started raining again. Fortunately we had taken the forecast seriously and went out and bought a big black and white golf umbrella the day before. This most certainly came in handy and actually made a pretty nice accessory for photos (example, this one below from our official photographer Jule Malet-Veale)! This lovely umbrella also made it possible to follow our original plan of walking from the church to the reception. It was much less of a mass march up the hill than we'd hoped with a sunny day in our imaginations, but we had a blast. Still riding high from the ceremony, and that "We did it!" feeling, we walked out of the church, up Spring Garden Rd (one of the main downtown streets for those who don't know Halifax), up past the Folklore center and Port of Wines, and then up the hill to the grounds of R.A. Park. We had a few people stop and honk, and offer congratulations along the way, and our photographer played papparazzi with us, which was a hoot.

Of course it was after that things turned south a bit. As we were trying to get some pictures outside (in the rain) before going in to dinner, I noticed my Dad on a cell phone. This is not a normal occurance, and he didn't look particularly happy about whatever was going on, so I knew something was up. Fortunately, my first thought that someone was seriously ill was not so, but it turned out my Dad was on the phone with the police to report that the car had been broken into while we were in the church and my backpack with my laptop, iPod, other misc item, my handbag with my bank and credit cards and my overnight back had been stolen. My first thought of "oh no, not my laptop" came with a terrible sinking realization... i hadn't backed up. I didn't exactly take the news well, and our photo-session got cut short.

So, pretty much the first thing I got to do as a married woman was call and cancel my bank and credit cards. F-u-n. All the while trying to remember when exactly I had last backed up my data and analysis, and what I had done in between. While trying to deal with being on hold, and attempt to maintain? regain? some composure, my new husband asked if I wanted my Mom. Now, don't get me wrong, I love my Mom, and normally her presence would most certainly be requested if possible in such a situation, but I just thought "why do I need my Mom? I don't want you to leave"... I suddenly realized I had my husband, and that was all I needed. Then I came out of the office where I was using the phone and I had friends all waiting to console me too. So after my Mom scurried me off to the bathroom to compose myself some more, and literally powder my nose, I was ready to put it behind me (temporarily anyway) and try to enjoy the reception.

And the reception was great! I think it was better than we could have hoped. (Minus perhaps some carefully considered musical selections that were the reason for having the laptop with us in the first place.) The food was great, everyone seemed to be having a good time. The cake... oh the cake was beautiful... and tasted amazing... I could barely believe my eyes when I saw it. :) And the U-shaped table, despite it's big-ness, created a nice feeling of everyone sitting together. We had candles on the table rather than flowers, and they gave the whole room a nice warm glow. Unfortunately this thwarts most digital photographers... probably even our pro had some trouble with the lighting conditions... but it felt very elegant yet relaxed, and I was thrilled.

Probably one of the best things we did was serve the cake. It was a great way to get to talk to everyone, and we had lots of fun doing it. I think the expressions on our faces say it all. One thing that might be good to note however: chocolate cake + white dress = no, no. Eventually we gave up and I handed around napkins not pieces of cake... unfortunately Shawn got to experience the staining power of chocolate due to some early cake serving bumbles. Sorry!

At the very end of the reception, we made another attempt to get some pictures... at this point it was getting rather difficult as everyone was pretty tired. It seems my blinking reflex becomes more of a problem the more tired I get, and I kept slouching. Drats. Anyway, our photographer was great... and I think I'll make a separate blog post about that... so I think she managed to pull a few good ones out at the end anyway. Major kudos for that!

I guess too, Janya's piece of advice for me all along was probably the best thing anyone told me about planning a wedding, and it was true: "Just think: at the end of the day you'll be married"... and it's true, that was the best part. :)