Quote of the day: caterpillar blood

Girl I work with says today: "Caterpillars have the weirdest coloured blood of any animal I've squished and looked at."


Lexan: MEC pulls water bottles

I posted about plastic water bottles a little while ago as it seemed like I was running across more and more information indicating that the Bisphenol-A in Lexan plastic (a common hard, clear, and easily coloured plastic) could be leeching into the water. Lately (in Canada at least) there has been a lot of press about this, in particular with respect to the use of this plastic in baby's bottles.

Today I see that Mountain Equipment Co-op has responded to concerns over Lexan by pulling food storage products made with the plastic until the government provides guidance regarding possible health risks.

While I'm glad to see a company that prides itself on social and environmental responsibility taking some action given the uncertainty about this product, I hope this isn't an example of an over-reaction in the absence of proper information.

I love film

L'Amour embrassant l'Amitie, originally uploaded by physics*chick.

I finally got around to getting my film from Europe developed and actually managed to go pick up the prints. These rolls, especially the black and white, have reminded me again why I love film so much. There is grain, but it is unobtrusive. Really, it only shows up in the very bokeh-y backgrounds of the shallow focal depth shots, the sharp detail is never obscured. The balance of light and shadow is so much stronger. I photograph light, really I do. I think this is why I don't care that I don't have a good flash. I'm rarely moved to take a shot unless I have great light. The sculpture gallery of the Louvre has the most fantastic light. I could have stayed for hours just there sitting in the warm sun and watching the shadows dance off the walls and sculptures.

If you're interested, head over to my Flickr photostream, or directly to my Olympus OM-1 set for just the film photos.


why i hate computers...

... because they *should* help you automate things, but it never seems to work out that way.

I've been doing data analysis on large batches of data files (100's, not 10's, not 1000's) lately, and while I've written an IDL program to do the fitting, plotting, and output of parameters I need, there remained a few tasks that I couldn't figure out how to automate:

  1. prepare the batch file (unfortunately, the files are not entirely sequential, so it's not that easy to automate... I could pull some trick with getting a file list and going from there... but...)
  2. convert all of the .eps files that IDL outputs to .pdf so that I can actually use/view/print them

I decided not to bother about the batch file, it didn't really take that long, and once made I save it and never touch it again. BUT the only way I seemed to be able to convert the eps to pdf was to open all the eps files in Preview (it converts them on opening) and then save each of them. This is fine for a few eps (or ps) files... but when you have a 136 staring you in the face and know there are more to come... and that each one involves pressing command-w, enter, enter, you want to find a way that avoids causing tendonitis. Seriously.

First I turned to Automator (I'm a Mac user... unfortunately my solutions will be less than helpful for Linux users, and nearly useless for Windows users... sorry!). To be fair, I have actually managed to get Automator to do some useful things recently, but usually my encounters with the cute little robot leave me feeling rather let down. A quick perusal turned up what I thought was true anyhow, that Automator has no built in way to convert eps (or ps) to pdf. I also checked the Apple Automator downloads and Automator World to no avail.

So I thought, hey, I've got unix commands up the wazoo on here, there *must* be one that can convert eps to pdf...


excellent. So I pull up the man page, figure out how to use it, test it on a couple of files, and merrily enter:

pstopdf *.eps

uuh... geeee... that was fast. A quick "ls" showed me why... it only did the first file. Bugger. A bit of frigging around later, it was determined that pstopdf does not take multiple file arguments.

Ok. That stinks, but maybe now Automator can do something for me using the action "Run Shell Script". Yes, that's it, I'll grab the filenames with a "Find Finder Items" input it to "Run Shell Script" to run the pstopdf command, and voila, there will be 136 pdf's waiting for me. Right? Well not so simple, but yes, eventually. The two main quirks I had to overcome were:

  • Apparently at some point the file output and file input of "Find Finder Items" and "Run Shell Script" became mismatched. Oddly this can be solved by inserting a "Label Finder Items" between (you can select none, so it appears to do nothing) which mysteriously does indeed change the file listing in the correct manner.
  • When using the "Run Shell Script" action: do not enter anything into the script box until after you selected how you wish to pass the input from the previous action. That little drop down will insert the necessary script fragments you need to work with, but only if the box is empty. Since I tend to dive in, I of course immediately put my command in before selecting this, and got very frustrated very quickly.
  • Also, since the pstopdf command only takes one input at a time (and I couldn't get it to work with stdin, though the man page claims it should function) I used the "Pass input: as arguments" option and placed the pstopdf command inside the loop with "$f" as the argument where the input file should go. If you have a command that takes multiple inputs, you *should* be able to use "$@" outside the loop.

Long story short, I'll make available to you, the fruits of my frustration, all for the low, low price of *FREE* (err, uhh, and listening to my rant)... better yet, I'll include my other workflows that I've been using:

Since some people were having trouble downloading the workflows above, I've put the workflow to convert eps to pdf and to combine pdfs into a zip file for download: PDFworkflows.zip

Is that all? Oh no... no, no, my friends. I started many hours ago, this morning, with IDL opening into an xterm completely UNCONFIGURED for my needs. Let's look at my "needs":

  1. Something more readable for my not yet caffinated eyes than black on white (I like a nice soothing green on charcoal... reminds me of that old Apple//c we had when I was a kid)
  2. More pressing: a bigger window (ok, I can drag and resize, but sometimes funky things happen when I do that)
  3. And pure luxury would be a SCROLLBAR... yes I like to scroll, especially when I'm running batches of 136 files and I'd like to look at some of that output.

Is that too much to ask? I have my X11 configured to open an xterm that is more pleasing on the eyes, but since IDL launches it's own xterm from a mini-app, and I couldn't find where it actually did that anywhere I was stuck with what it gave me. Until today people, until today. All one needs to do is create a default xterm style you are happy with and then any program launching it's own xterm will use this default style. The trick is simple: create a .Xdefaults file in your home directory. The bits of code I used were:


I got most of the commands from here and there is an xterm color table here. Now it looks like this:

Now go make a beautiful, scrollable xterm and make me proud... I have to believe I didn't waste my day in vain.

And convert some eps files to pdf while you're at it. Hell, convert a whole bunch of them and put them together into one gigantic pdf!

Because today, I got my computer to do what I wanted it to do... It just took a really long time.


PhD comics at McGill

the puckwhacker 2000(TM), originally uploaded by physics*chick.

So, two weeks ago I got an email from another member of our group who had just realized that the ticket he had for Jorge Cham's "Power of Procrastination" talk was at the same time as he had to teach a lab. Lucky me I got his ticket!

Excited as I was, this was also at a time when I had a ton of work to do (more on that later). I went, but as I sat there I started figetting and thinking about all the things I had to do, Jorge started into his (anti?)-motivational talk. He got some laughs with wikifacts about Mcgill (hockey was in there, as were Rutherford and the illustrious Mr. Shatner) and started talking about graduate student life. He talked about graduate student salaries, the emotional states of graduate students (some really sobering statistics there), and other such issues.

But then he started talking about procrastination, and moreover the GUILT of procrastination. That nagging feeling that gee-whiz, I really should be working, that is oh so hard to escape, because there's always something more to do, to read, to think about. And I sat there laughing half-heartedly, and wondering if it was really a good idea to have taken 2 hours out of the middle of the afternoon to go see a cartoonist talk about procrastination... guilt. Doh. This is why phd comics is so good... it's funny because it's true.

He ended though by talking about "the thesis" and actually getting to that day where you finally get to play through the "doctor" "doctor" jokes, and the reality that most people aren't actually that happy with their PhD theses, and usually "finishing" a PhD has a lot less to do with being done, and a lot more to do with external factors. Having just made the mental transition from being "in the middle" to "finishing", and having undergone somewhat of an existential crisis over what it "means" to get a PhD this was reassuring for me, and probably has helped keep me on the "finishing" track over the last two hellish weeks of post-doc fellowship applications, paper submission, and conference preparation.

So, naturally, after the talk, I had to get something signed. I bought one of the books of course, but I wanted something else, something special. I got back to the lab and took a look around and spied my hockey stick sitting in the corner waiting for our first game that night. Of COURSE! My labmates thought I was a total weirdo, but whatever. I brought my stick over, and not only did he sign, no, he made it funny. My stick shall henceforth be known to all as "the PUCKWHACKER 2000(TM)". Best procrastination ever!

ps- I'd like to say we won our the game that night, and that I scored a zillion goals with the puckwhacker, but sadly, no, we lost. We lose all our games. Never name a team "Absolut Zero" if you are likely to live up to it!


Where did I go?

Eurotrip Summary, originally uploaded by physics*chick.

Litterally? Well here you go, a summary in pictures. Conferences in beach towns are awesome.

Since I've been back I've been recovering from a cold, going to PhD comics guy's talk (more on that later), and trying to complete a lot of big things. Blogging's been kind of low on the prioity list lately.

Oh yeah, and for you knitting readers out there? I'm finally on Ravelry, so if you're there look for "thenerdynitter" (sorry if anyone out there is theknerdyknitter, or thenirdynitter or some such combination of mispelled words, I didn't know how to check if you were already in there!)


where i've been... under a rock

under a rock, originally uploaded by physics*chick.

Lack of intelligble blog posts due to a general lack of intelligibleness. Instead I present you with a photo I took months ago, made new again with dumpr.net's turn-my-photo-old tool. Makes me kinda want a Holga... but then my obsession with cameras is a whole other issue, and we don't need to go there today.

In other news, I'm chipping away at that to do list for August. However, now that things have settled down a bit compared to the rest of the summer, and most of the key items are either done or mostly done, I'm starting to slow down and relax more.


Quotes of the day: life in Montreal

Hammer rats: a breed of rats which are not seen and infest apartment buildings hammering on the walls, floors and ceilings.


hubby: "Living in Montreal is like having a roommate you don't like... that follows you everywhere."

hubby: "I need to buy a Land Rover, so I can rove the land."

what's it to you?

what's it to you?, originally uploaded by physics*chick.

Yesterday morning, barely awake, I looked out the window and spotted a little furry creature jotting across the balcony ledge. This "little" guy stopped to sniff the trellis of morning glories to determine if there was anything worth eating and then dissappeared down the side of the building.

If I hadn't taken pictures I'm not sure I'd have believed it once awake.


quick motivational progress update

I feel like I'm doing pretty good with my August sidebar to-do list. I've got 6 things knocked off already, and 3 more in process in other people's hands, I just need to hear back. That's over half of my original to-do list, and not everything on there was small.

But why is the list growing faster than I can get stuff scratched off??? boo.


Quiz me: Mac or PC?

You Are a Mac

You are creative, stylish, and super trendy.
You demand the best - even if it costs an arm and a leg.

Well, I just had to take this quiz... clearly as an Apple fanatic since 1984, I am a Mac. :)

water is good, but "bisphenol-a" is bad?

A few months ago, my parents sent me a somewhat alarmist email about plastic. The concern? They ran across an article on the internet stating that hard plastic water bottles marked with recycle symbol #7 contained Bisphenol A and that this could cause all sorts of health problems.

So I did a little research of my own. A little browsing around the internet and journal searches turned up a few things...

First of all "#7" plastic doesn't mean a whole heck of a lot. This label means "other". 1-6 are all specific types of plastic, everything else is 7. Ok. So just because my two water bottles are labelled #7 doesn't mean I'm doing any harm.

However, Lexan (a GE brand), also polycarbonate, plastic, which I do know at least one of my water bottles is made from, does contain Bisphenol A. *Most* clear hard colourful plastics marked #7 are Lexan.

Searching around some journals, I found a few articles expressing some degree of concern about the effects of Bisphenol A in rats. Nothing terribly conclusive as far as I can tell (I am not a biologist, I know very little about physiology, or the kinds of methods used in those studies), but the authors consistantly called for further study, and advised caution.

While this is a whole other issue, it should be noted that whether you absorb enough Bisphenol A to do yourself damage, in the kinds of large doses which can be released into the environment during manufacturing, humans and other organisms in the area can be affected significantly. That in mind, it is up to you whether you choose to buy a new Lexan bottle or avoid doing so for environmental and social reasons. I bought mine years ago now and was unaware of any of this at the time. I might have considered choosing something else had I known, though I suspect most plastics manufacturing has similar consequences.

Back to the health issues... Being uncertain, I have more or less left my water bottles in the kitchen cupboard for the past few months. Usually, a lack of conclusive data leads me to ignore the cries of the internet and carry on whatever I was doing before. However, given the small amount of data indicating reason for concern, and consequences like birth defects, infertility, and breast cancer, I decided that drinking city water in a mug at work is a reasonable alternative to taking a water bottle of Brita filtered water from home. If I'm heading into the wilderness (a rare occasion) or a long day around the city, I'll take one of my bottles.

But today I read this: ScienceNOW: Common Plastic Ingredient May Be Cause for Concern

A federal advisory panel meeting here today concluded that a hormonelike chemical found widely in food containers, bisphenol A, could potentially be causing neurological effects in fetuses and children. Although the group's conclusion, based on a wealth of animal and human studies, falls short of supporting any kind of ban, the panel expressed "some concern" about the chemical and noted that people may want to reduce their exposure.

Still, critics accused the panel of ignoring many other relevant studies. They point out that 38 bisphenol A experts and other scientists who met at a workshop last November concluded that people are exposed to doses that cause many other effects in animals, such as enlarged prostate and larger body size. The consensus statement of the November group, which is in press at Reproductive Toxicology, describes "a great cause for concern with regard to the potential for similar adverse effects in humans."

I think I'll be leaving those bottles on the shelf awhile longer. Maybe it's time to replace them with an HDPE or aluminum bottle.

Here are some other references:


What language am I?

Like the lemmings, I leap off where others do in my procrastination...

Your Score: Hieroglyphics

You scored

You are Egyptian Hieroglyphics! Monumental, ornate and even in technicolour! Your users contributed virtually all ancient knowledge on inks, dyes and writing surfaces - to the point where the popular reed of Papyrus became the universal name for organic, manufactured writing surfaces in the western hemisphere for thousands of years. Proud, upstanding and dignified.

Link: The Which Ancient Language Are You Test written by imipak on OkCupid, home of the The Dating Persona Test

seen here, there, and everywhere

time to try some motivational techniques again

Inspired by the (attempted) motivational techniques being implemented over at Dr. Brazen Hussy's place I've attached a list of things that ought to be done in August to my sidebar. I'm trying to keep it realistic (ok, so maybe even some of that isn't), so it's only 14 items long (for now) rather than 50!

Don't know if this kind of public accountability thing will help this time around, but at least Dr. Hussy can be amused and spy on my to do list!


Ravelry... because I need more internet communities to distract me

yarn diet?, originally uploaded by physics*chick.

So, I've signed up for Ravelry, a knit and crochet online community thing, that looks like just so much fun. You can show off your projects, browse around other peoples' projects, list your stash yarns (stash? what stash? i don't have a stash... achem), search for patterns to match yarns and see what other people have done... why, it's going to be like Flickr, but for knitting, maybe even better! :0

The catch is they're still in beta, so they are sending out invites as fast as they can handle new users. I waited too long to sign up:

Found you!
  • You signed up on July 20, 2007
  • You are #19118 on the list.
  • 11687 people are ahead of you in line.
  • 2401 people are behind you in line.
  • 33% of the list has been invited so far


My first sweater experience... to be continued...

riiiip it?, originally uploaded by physics*chick.

So there it is, the beginings of my first sweater. I'm starting to wonder if my sweater attmepts are to be forever cursed. I set out to make this design by drops my first sweater. I got the yarn (drops alpaca in a lovely burgundy colour). I finished other projects before starting this exciting venture. I swatched. Oy. My gauge was completely off, I changed needle sizes, and well, I was just dismayed by the fabric created when I actually got gauge. I packed the yarn up and shoved it to the bottom of my stash (I'm starting to consider other ideas for this yarn now, maybe Arisaig which I've had my eye on since picking up knitting again), and set out to knit this instead. After such a success (bulky yarns are great for confidence aren't they?), I set out after another first sweater attempt...

The details:

  • "Cable cardigan" from instant expert: Knitting (I'm still on the fence as to whether this book is good or not. The patterns don't have "sizes" persay, but rather suggest changing gauge, which is strange, and not so good, and I've found several errors already, but the patterns are good for inspiration and there is a nice stitch library and some decent how-to for beginners...)
  • Plymouth yarns Galway Highland Heather in colour 705 (a nice navy) and it is lovely and soft and springy (bought from kpixie, a quick and pleasant experience ;) )
  • now using 4.5mm needles (less than the recommended for the yarn), 4mm for ribbing

So, now to explain why the heck Pistachio Frog is sitting contemplating my sweater progress. Well you see, the sweater the back piece is sitting on top of is my very smallest sweater. Infact, that sweater is almost too small when worn over anything of any bulk. So as I headed into the arm shaping, I started to contemplate frogging the whole damn thing and starting over. Oh sure, it sounds extreme and reactionary... but I did set it aside for two months and think about the consequences of finishing a sweater that I couldn't wear and would be too small to give to anyone either. Ripping it out and starting over didn't sound like a bad option in comparison.

But did I mention that this is my very first sweater, and that actually I don't know what I'm doing? And the pattern doesn't have sizes? That would mean having the time to sit down with a calculator and rework all the increases and decreases required including the neck shaping which is something that terrifies me because I just don't understand it. So I finished some socks instead (more on that later).

Finally, I posted this photo to Flickr, where there are many supportive knitters, and I experimented with blocking my swatch (oh yeah, I swatched baby), and so deciding that blocking can solve anything (well, at least with this yarn) I am plowing ahead. Hopefully there will be no more catastrophies. Right? Somehow I doubt it...

At least for now, I have some knitting to do.


more film, life in colour this time

lone sailboat, not lonely, originally uploaded by physics*chick.

More photos from out west and trip home, this time taken with the Olympus. First colour roll of film. I chose a pro film that was supposed to have high saturation and cool tones which worked out well for the Ferry. Unfortunately many of the scans lacked the saturation and good tone depth that the prints had, so I tinkered with them in iPhoto. Anything that looks a bit strange is likely a result of my over processing the scans... except for the japanese maple, that one looks just as trippy in the print! :)


  • Olympus OM-1
  • Zuiko OM 50mm/f1.8 lens
  • Fujicolor pro 160C color negative film (ISO 160)

I ♥ this camera.


my iPod deserves the best, right?

I've been eyeing these iPod cases for awhile now. Handcrafted leather by Vaja. They actually make beautiful handcrafted cases and bags for many things besides iPods, and if I won the lottery, my laptop, and any other electronic gizmos I had or desired would probably be outfitted with slick, beautiful and functional homes as well. But maybe possibly I could splurge on my iPod and get it one of these customizable beauties to replace that little black faux-suede case it came with....



one talented cat

No, I haven't been hanging out at Jazzfest too much and started calling everyone a "cool cat". No, I mean an actual feline with musical talent. For a laugh, and a bit of amazement check out Nora the piano playing cat.

My violin teacher had a cat who knew scales and studies and used to meow when students made mistakes, but nothing matching this kind of musical aptitude.


vacay is a good thing

big BC sky, originally uploaded by physics*chick (aka saburke).

So we recently went out west (to what I often call the "wrong side"... being a east coast sort) for a summer school, a wedding, and a wee little vacation.

Some comments about Victoria BC:

  • People drive 35km/hr. No joke. We were almost late for the wedding. 35 people!!! THIRTY-FIVE!
  • The weather is adjusted for optimal comfort in the summer. Warm, but not too warm. Dry, not muggy, but not too dry either. Everyday as we exited the hotel and I wondered if I'd dressed appropriately for the weather, a giant smile just crept up onto my face as I realized that it didn't matter, because I was just going to be comfortable all day.
  • Downtown gets pretty empty in the evening. Don't try to find something to eat after 9pm. It will be difficult.
  • J.J. Wonton Noodle House is still amazing. And according to their fortune cookie I will have "good money-luck next month". Here's hoping for that.

We had fun just relaxing and wondering around for a few days in a place we both briefly called home.

Vacation is good.

Best of digital photos are up on Flickr now, and my film should be ready, I just have to pick it up and post those.


I'm still alive

over here, originally uploaded by physics*chick (aka saburke).

...and I will blog again. Really... maybe not soon? but someday.

I've posted my 2nd roll of photos from my Olympus OM-1. More black and white. I'm even more thrilled with this roll than the first.

Specs: Olympus OM-1, Zuiko 50mm f1.8 lens, Ilford black & white ISO 125.


... and now for something different

I've decided to start a new section of "Mad Scientist" here I will call: "covet". Yes, I want things. I want lots of things. I'm betting you all do too and will drool over things with me here.

Today I want these:

Aren't they beautiful? The other colours are gorgeous too... really I'm not sure if I could decide. Fluevog makes the most interesting pretty, pretty shoes (and he's canadian... so I'd be supporting the economy... right? right??). I aspire to own a pair someday. I nearly bought boots last fall... a moment of weakness shopping with a friend... thank goodness they didn't have my size.

is this just a vain attempt to pull myself out of my blogging slump? is it really just that i don't feel like working today because i need something to be delivered and just found out it hasn't even been shipped and the alternative isn't fun at all? maybe... li'l column a, li'l column b...


happy spring

cosmic sky, originally uploaded by physics*chick (aka saburke).

spring/summer has arrived in Montreal... I hope for real this time after flip-flopping on the matter several times and almost landing snow on us last week.

busy these days, work, visitors, parents, friends. all's well. enjoying the nice weather.

took this as part of a set of photos of some of the flowers i planted on the balcony. the rest are on flickr.


oh, poor neglected blog...

i've been really busy... and since i've sworn off complaining about how busy i am (because it is oh so unproductive in so many ways), i just haven't been able to post. but lots soon! promise!

for now, enjoy this annimated version of my life... there was no "lab" background (like no one has those! sheesh!) we'll call this my office...

hee hee...

thanks to styleygeek for the fantastic procrastination suggestion! tah-tah for now!

edit: ok, weirdness, but it looks like somehow the image changed as I continued to umm procrastinate on the meez site. should be me at my desk!


Cool kid gets cool shot...

This story in the Toronto Star just has to make you smile. This kid gets a new shot on life, and a great shot in net, getting to practice with the Leafs after receiving a double lung transplant to treat his cystic fibrosis. He must be feeling on top of the world right now, and rightly so.

Way to go kiddo... keep it up. Hope to see you in nets for the ol' Maple "buds" for real someday! (a lot of times it seems they could use the help...)


The first roll...

the couple, originally uploaded by physics*chick (aka saburke).

... from the OM-1 I got for Christmas!


  • Olympus OM-1 body
  • 50mm f1.8 Zuiko lens
  • Kodak 200 ISO Black & White film
  • Developed and scanned at a shop here in Montreal (not developing anything myself just yet)

The rest of the roll can be found in this photoset (minus two that were poorly exposed, 1 of hubby, and 1 pretty out of focus dog).

Now it's loaded with 125 ISO Ilford Black & White. I've already taken a few, but it's a 36 exposure roll, so it might be a little while before I go through it and get them developed. I can't wait to play with it more though!


people must be disappointed...

Inspired by StyleyGeek's Tuesday space-filling post on search terms bringing readers by...

Here are the last 21 search terms that directed to this blog:

  1. mad scientist quotes
  2. knit blog erika knight classic military
  3. a story of something good happening when someone kept a exotic pet
  4. funny mad scientist
  5. mad scientist cake
  6. jule' malet-veale flickr
  7. knitted hockey washcloths
  8. mad science birthday show
  9. bart simpson grad student
  10. mad thumbs
  11. mac mad flickr
  12. graduate students terrible life choices
  13. jule malet-veale
  14. mad scientist quotes
  15. kelly cardigan knitting
  16. nova scotian who had a hit with testing 1-2-3
  17. texshop photographs
  18. you might be a nova scotian if
  19. mad about stitching
  20. organizing pdf papers bibtex freeware endnote
  21. funny crossed eyeglasses

Granted the oddity of this list speaks somewhat to the eclectic (ie. scattered) nature of this blog, but I can't help but think that many people must be disappointed when they get to my blog and there are no tips on giving "mad science birthday shows" or recipies for "mad scientsist cakes".

Oh, and for those of you looking for our wedding photographer: Jule Malet-Veale's website (if you're actually looking for a wedding photographer in Halifax, she was very good by the way! ... um, if perhaps a tad slow with the prints).

And if you are a knitterly type and don't care about the sciency stuff, or the grad school stuff, click knitting in the sidebar under "filing system".

If you want Bart making fun of grad students go here.

If you're looking for exotic pets, I can't help you!


Je Vote

As it's election time around here there have been signs going up saying "Je Vote"... an encouragement I guess for all of us to get out to the polls on election day.

That has nothing to do with this post.

I want you to head over to Jim Gibbon.com to vote on the Haiku contest. You can vote for my contriubtion under physical sciences (I'd be thrilled!)... or not.

Just go vote.




photographic lull... old pics to keep you amused!

curiosity, originally uploaded by saburke.

I've been in a bit of a photography lull these days. Mostly because it's been so cold outside; I just can't imagine pulling my fingers out of warm mitts to take pictures... even after a beautiful fresh snowfall. I also need to get over to the place I get film developped to submit my first roll from the Olympus OM-1, and pick up some more film. I'm still really excited about it, just haven't had a chance to do anything with it.

Anyway, to keep you all amused, I've posted some of the pictures I took last year in Germany when I went to the Duisburg Zoo to Flickr. I like the way a few turned out, and animals are generally amusing anyway!

new and improved blog! new features!

Ok, well, one new feature. I added a weather box to my sidebar. Now you can see how cold it is in winter (ok, not very cold today) here, and how freakin' hot it gets in summer!

As hubby said the other day: "You know you live in a crappy climate when it makes you uglier."

No, that wasn't directed at me, or he would have gotten a pretty ugly stare down rather than a chuckle. Though... *sigh* ... no amount of special soaps, or "potions", water, or vitamins can save my skin and hair from this climate. Thank goodness spring is around the corner! *fingers crosed* Meanwhile, I need to work on getting us out of here and into healthier climes! California sounds good, no?? ;)

where am i?

I guess I haven't posted in awhile. I had planned to put up a birthday post on Sunday, and possibly even do a birthday self-portrait photo shoot... but since I spent most of the day in the lab I was cranky. So no post for you! Sorry... not your fault, I'll try to behave.

Anyway, I'm tired of complaining about work here, so I'm trying a new policy akin to the "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all" advice. I'm going to make a concerted effort to avoid the "waaahhh, everything sucks" post. That may mean a sparser blog for awhile, but I don't want my blog to become a negativity feedback mechanism, and honestly, who wants to read a whiney blog?!

Related cute, anecdote: When I was still just a little tot, my mother claims she tried to sit me down and talk to me about "whining". Knowing my Mom, I'm sure she sat with me and tried to reason that there was no purpose in mere whineing, and tried to make sure I understood as she went. At the end she asked once more if I understood, and I apparently nodded knowingly and with a big smile on my face said "No wine, apple juice!"... a reference to getting apple juice in a wine glass at dinner parties where the "grown-ups" were having wine. Clearly I had missed the entire point... I guess she just laughed and accepted that I might just be a bit young to grasp that one.

So, turning a new leaf here. Mad Scientist will (hopefully) no longer be Whiney Mad Scientist.

No whine, apple juice!


Entertainment is Haiku:
participate you.

Check out this fun contest over at Jim Gibbon.com, challenging the academic blog-o-sphere to write their research in Haiku.

Here's my contribution:

Buckminsterful|erene on KBr studied by High Res'n NC-AFM: Molecu|ar nucleation and growth on an insulator*

C60 islands.
molecules do not like salt;
strange shapes resulting.

Yup. Acutally that's pretty much it in a nutshell. Sad that it boils down to 17 syllables...

*(Excuse the "typos"; I deliberately messed with the title a bit to make it not appear when googled...)


Knitting: first article of real clothing!

My new vest... made by me!, originally uploaded by saburke.

Ok, so it's a chunky knit vest (hahaha... take that sleeves!), that took me less than two weeks to complete despite being insano busy. Here's the run-down on the details:

Pattern: "Tank Top" from "Classic Knits" by Erika Knight

Yarn: Substituted suggested Rowan Big wool for Araucania Limari, a hand-dyed bulky weight wool/alpaca/silk blend, in "black" which is actually more like a charcoal grey. 2.5-3 skeins, each 100gr/56m.

Needles: 10mm and 12mm.

Gauge: pretty close to the specified 8sts/4in on 12mm (ahem, there is an error in the pattern gauge, it reads 18sts when it should read 8sts). I was going to knit a size up with this yarn, but since the gauge was reasonably close and the garment meant to fit snugly I stuck with my original size.

The pattern is written in a reasonably understandable manner for someone who has done a bit of knitting. That said, I got a bit confused with the neck shaping, and I have some suggestions for the decreases.

In particular, the pattern for the front of the vest is written out for only one side of the v-neck. The other side is stated merely as "complete to match first side, reversing all shaping". Ok, I'm decent at geometry and all, so this isn't so hard. However, the decreases for the first side (right side as you look at it) read k2tog tbl (knit 2 together through the back loops) to make a left slanting decrease. Naievly, I assumed that I could just use k2tog on the other side to make a right slanting decrease. Except these two decreases bare no resemblance to eachother but in name! k2tog tbl creates loops that cross the stitches knit together, this doesn't happen with k2tog at all. I stared in horror (ok, so I was being a little over-dramatic, but this is my first garment ever, I wanted to love it!) at my totally completely asymetrical vest. I took out the row. I knit it again. I stared in horror again. Repeat. On the third attempt I started looking for alternatives as I'd determined at this point I was decreasing quite properly, but using the wrong one. Upon consulting the great internet I came across: the great life-saving visual chart of decrease techniques (there's one for increases too). Thank-you Amy Finlay. Thank-you for explaning knitting in ways I understand, and sharing with the world through the power of the internet.

I used the "crossed right slanting decrease" on the second side of the front, which matches k2tog tbl satisfactorily.

Alternatively, I might have used an ssk on the first side and merrily k2tog on the second to match.

Interestingly, the photograph in the book appears to have the garment knit as I started to do, with k2tog tbl and k2tog... but it really seems strange for me to have two sides of a vest not be mirror images of each other!? Maybe I'm too much of a perfectionist...

The other note I have is that the armhole shaping suffers the same mismatch, and I'd suggest using ssk rather than the k2tog tbl as it won't be loopy... I don't really care that I didn't notice at that stage however as this more or less ends up in your armpits... so, as you wish. ;)

Anyway, I enjoyed making this, and I've already enjoyed wearing it. The bulky yarn is super-warm, so even without sleeves I was toasty. Ok, so I wore a thin cotton jacket over it...

As for the rest of the book, I've got my eye on both the "military cardigan" and the "kelly cardigan" (I like cardigans...). But I'm really excited to try the "Bardot sweater" which is a rolled top, sortof off the shoulder sweater in a less bulky, but still fairly chunky gauge.

More photos (L-R: yarn ::"knitting with pylons" aka, orange, plastic, 12mm needles :: in progress :: finished!):

Yarn for "Tank Top"knitting with pylons"Tank Top" in progress"Tank Top" from "Classic Knits" FO

click image to view on flickr


too many monkeys

Lately, for both hubby and I, work has primarily been a case of too many monkeys on our backs. You know the feeling? Like there are always a bunch of little things naggling at you, and you can't get any real work done becuase you are carting around a bunch of hairpulling, noisy, little monkeys? To add to it, we've both got home monkeys as well as work monkeys on our minds... little stuff like appointments that need to be made, projects around the apartment, etc. Of course the work monkeys have taken priority for the most part... meanwhile, I still need a haircut, a doctor's appointment, new eyeglasses, and a trip to the dentist. At what point is it reasonable to say, no, I need to look after myself?

Anyway, Hubby brought up the monkeys analogy this morning (as he was sorting through online optics catalogues for work.. on a Saturday morning), and so all day as we've dealt with various assortments of them, we've peered over our shoulders at the imaginary monkeys and made little monkey noises. Sometimes I think we are losing our sanity...

The whole thing reminded me that my Dad got quite a kick out of the phrase "Please check your monkeys at the door", to the point in fact where I made him a sign for his office. Not sure if people really stopped passing off their monkeys to him... but humourous none-the-less.

I wonder if I made a sign, or added it to the signature line of my email if people would get the hint??

(Note: Graphic shamelessly stolen from Telus Mobility site)


Le point de craquer*

I think I need to read this in detail: Six steps to a stress-free career (seen at: YoungFemaleScientist).

Of course, not everything (or much) is really under one's own control on that list...

  1. Create a good space: Mm-hmm... mm-hmm... I hear you there. I hate working in the sunless, cold, noisy (pumps), uncomfortable chair lab environment unless I'm doing an experiment and actually have to be in this environment. But I'm also not to keen on working in my overly warm, moth-infested, noisy-neighbour, bad creaky chair environment of my office either. Except... I don't think anyone would take kindly to my demanding a sunny corner office with no noisy co-workers, and a light pipe for the lab so we don't feel so much like Doozers (Fraggle Rock? Anyone?).
  2. Raise your status: Mm-HMM... yes, being the boss would alevieate stressful incidents like last night, what a great solution, dang-nabit, why didn't I think of that?!? Except... I don't think anyone is going to hire me until I've jumped the hoops... and even then it will be a while before I can start pawning off responsibilities and get that nice corner office complete with real sunshine.
  3. Be social: Uhhh... lost me here. I mean sure, a little chit-chat might feel good at the time, but it's like a sugar hit. Get back to your desk and realize your to do list is just as long as when you left? Crash... sugar-low. A little socializing... ok, but I think it's rare for grad students anyway, in shared offices and lab spaces to be lacking in social contact.
  4. Don't be too social (aka: too many interruption): Yup. They say the average worker has 3 minutes to focus between interruptions. Yipes. You see this is what happened yesterday... everytime I turned around another task popped up making it virtually impossible to complete tasks. I just ended up with a to-do list in constant flux.
  5. Learn to switch off: This is exactly what I didn't do last night. It started out well, Hubby and I had dinner, watched some TV (yay, Grey's Anatomy! except... they won't kill off Merideth will they??? they can't... right??), I did some knitting. Then I picked up my computer to do some aimless web-browsing or possibly play a few turns of Civ before bed, and somehow I automatically clicked on email immediately after turning on Airport. Ok... sure... whatever, might as well confirm there's nothing there, or maybe a message from a friend? No harm? Right? Email from boss... bad idea. If I'd just left it alone, I wouldn't have worried about it until the morning when it likely would have been too late to do anything about it. And so be it. It wasn't like I stopped work early (~6:30-7pm... right around when the email was sent). It would have been perfectly reasonable for a normal person to have simply just not gotten the message. Dang. No more email at home. Not unless there's a reason.
  6. Modern stress-busting (yoga and other trendy things): Sure whatever. I'm going to hockey class in an hour and a half and have a game on Sunday. Maybe slapping some pucks around will help with my stress. It's also social, being a team sport and all.

Moral of the story? Probably the worst stressor of all for grad students is having the majority of these things out of our control. So take a deep breath, pound down some coffee, find a way to get your aggression out, and wait for that glorious moment when you get to the top and can demand that perfect office.

* title taken from a grade school french text I had: "le point de craquer" was at the top of the "stress-o-metre"... "je suis a le point de craquer!!!!" became a silly expression amongst my friends and I.


i ♥ PhD

"Piled Higher and Deeper" that is... the comic.

I just lost it... I just went officially batty.

Two days ago, I submitted a paper I worked on for ~6 months. It is 9+ journal pages long. Anyone who's written a paper of that length, I'm sure knows what pain, oh what pain that is. That damned paper also represents work I've done... no, committed to for the last 4 years of my life. 4 years → 9 pages.

Normally, I think that would warrent a bit of a break.

Except... I can't really rest on my laurels because there is another to write, and word on the street is someone else has observed something similar in a really similar system. I think it's okay... I won't exactly be scooped, but the shine will be taken off of it a bit if I don't get to it first. So I've got to get this sample done next week to prove (enh... maybe disprove, but I'm pretty sure of this one) a biggo hypothesis I've got and get right back to writing.

On top of this...

Yesterday Hubby and I had to go to this politico conference/buisness schmooze thing and put up the posters that we've been dragging around to conferences to show how awesome nano is here. No one cared... but we added to the statistics of the number of "great posters by students". Super...

Today, I had just gotten to work set up my laptop and was about to head to the little girl's room after being out in the cold (you know, morning coffee + cold air = trip to little girl's room?) when Supervisor pops by with the job candidate for today for a lab tour.

Once that was done (and I made my trip to the little girl's room), I check email. Re: submitted paper, problems with manuscript (wha????). Re: TIME SENSITIVE: scholarship app I asked about over a month ago... due IN ONE WEEK. Re: theory collaboration, put some results together can you look 'em over? Re: slides from pizza lunch talk for new undergrad project. Re: job talk at 11:30. Re: regular seminar at 4:00.

Somehow in the intervening spaces between talks and lab visits I actually dealt with the scholarship app (except transcript), looked over the theory stuff, though didn't reply yet. Went to BOTH talks. Found and sent the slides. And knocked 1 1/2 things off my existing to do list that I was OH SO LOOKING FORWARD to eliminating in these two last days of the week before I have to start a sample which will KILL next week (if I'm lucky!).

no... dice...

And then I got an email from Supervisor. Tonight. At 10:30pm. Can you take the speaker tomorrow morning? I have a meeting. Oh, and maybe have Hubby show him his stuff too. Hubby says "too bad, I've got stuff to do". Note: Hubby was not emailed about this... only me.

I nearly cried.

Last week it was publicity materials for this schmooze-fest we went to yesterday (in addition to the scientific poster). It seems I'm becoming go-to-girl. Although in a way I appreciate the respect, and the recognition that if I'm asked, it will get done... I'm tired. I need a nice long nap... maybe on a tropical beach.

Hubby told me to drink my beer. My beer that was supposed to celebrate submitting the paper, because I didn't drink it on Tuesday because we had to get up at 6am. I think I'm going to have to pour it down the drain again. Waaaa...

So when I went to PhD comics and saw this... I just laughed... and laughed... and laughed... not that I really feel it's particularly relavent (actually Supervisor doesn't usually come to see demos... perhaps because of group legend that this used to happen?) but... just... so... funny.... PhD comics: brightening the bleak and dreary lives of grad student everywhere.

I'm going to go cry myself to sleep now, so I can get up and to meet with Mr. Speaker bright and early tomorrow morning.


Science News: Oh Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun...

... won't ya please shine down on me! To make my skin healthy? Wait, aren't we supposed to stay out of the sun these days?

This recent study, featured in ScienceNOW: The Good Sun talks about how getting a bit of sun may trigger immune cells to be more active near the skin's surface eating up damaged and infected cells.

Oddly, I've always gotten the impression that a moderate amount of sun makes my skin (especially my face) feel and look healthier and less prone to break-outs. Of course, I'm careful to keep the amount of sun I get low and try to keep out of mid-day sun for fear of damage, and just plain old sunburns (which I get stupidly easily), but it does seem to me, especially in the winter when it's difficult to get much sun at all, that completely hiding from the sun not only makes me almost blindingly white, but my skin just doesn't look or feel very good and I'm constantly battling with it. I wonder if it's really this effect going on? Curious. Guess I'll try to poke my head outside while there's still daylight!


Friday Funnies with Flickr

So, while browsing around on Flickr:Explore for some lunch eating entertainment, I came across this group:

Flickr: Stick Figures in Peril

Now, personally, being a huge fan of stick figures I LOVE IT. Excuse me while I go look through all my photos for something to contribute...


What I think a lot of us know to some extent...

news@nature: Science blogger Bora Zivkovic/The editor of a new book, an anthology of science blogs, talks about how his blog saved his career in science.

How blogging brought him back to science, back to writing his thesis, why blog... interesting. Also touches on where Science Blogging may go in the future.

You can also check out his blog here: A Blog Around The Clock, though he claims there will be less posting now that he is working on his diss again... hmm... can anyone say procrastination mechanism?? Best of luck Bora!

Quote of the day

PC: "Keyboard error: press F1 to resume"

Science news roundup: Where the mind wanders, More than the sniffles, Setting a good example

Ever wonder where your mind goes when it wanders? This news item features a study examining what parts of the brain are active when the mind wanders... it suggests we have a sort of "default" setting which helps to generate spontaneous thought. Does this mean daydreaming might lead to that next great Eureka moment? Maybe someday it will be a good thing when the boss comes in and catches you off on a cloud?!?

ScienceNOW: Peering Inside the Wandering Mind

Mounting evidence that the 1918 flu pandemic turned us against ourselves; meaning our own immune systems did the dirty work putting the young and healthy in greater danger.

ScienceNOW: Portrait of a Killer

Editorial addressing issues of scientific misconduct on both the grand and seemingly minor scale:

news@nature: Leading by example

The article makes a few points I think are of note:

"No aircraft are going to fall out of the sky because somebody fudged a graph in a materials-science journal. Rather, the problem is the time wasted by other scientists chasing up minor and not-so-minor infractions in pursuit of their own research."

This is quite true... most pure research never directly makes it to the public, so it isn't going to be the public at risk, but rather the "front line scientists" (mostly graduate students, post-docs, and junior researchers) who will have to wade through the crap, puzzling over this equation, or that graph, and trying to make sense of what may have been fudged, or even just not checked thoroughly.

"But most important of all, as the first scientific studies of the factors behind good conduct confirm, is the example set by senior researchers themselves. It is here in the laboratory — not in the law courts or the offices of a university administrator — that the trajectory of research conduct for the twenty-first century is being set."

Here's where I like to make the analogy of research groups to families... a professor in my department once told me about meeting up with his "scientific sister"; they had done their PhD's together, and the analogy made so much sense to me. Your supervisor(s) and other senior researchers that you interact with are like scientific parents: they are your role models in everything from measures of success to ethics to how you conduct yourself on a day-to-day basis. You "grow up" scientifically during these impressonable years and learn how to conduct yourself in research and in communication, and it is natural to look up to those people near you with more experience. I think that last statement of the article is critically important. Perhaps today when problems with cheating in schools, and "padding" resumes has become almost acceptable, it will become increasingly important to be aware of the example being set for the next generation of "science kids".


(almost) end of day update

So, lest I leave you with the impression that all is rosey after my upbeat, chipper, happy morning post... I figured I'd update as this seemingly never-ending day, I think, finally is drawing near a close.

Top 10 signs the day is long:

  1. It feels like Friday. 12 hours ago it felt like Monday.
  2. Your eyes are scratchy.
  3. You can't remember what you had for lunch (peanut butter... I think... but only because that's what I usually have).
  4. You wonder why you are still wearing the same clothes as yesterday... oh wait, no, that was today.
  5. Half your dinner is sitting beside you in a styrofoam container.
  6. You keep wondering why you can't figure out what day of the week it is... oh right, still Monday.
  7. It's 9pm and you're still sitting in the flourescently lit hell vaugely refered to by most as "the lab", and still have things to do before going home.
  8. You have written three blog posts in 1 day, when usually you post less than once/day.
  9. You find yourself convincing yourself: "Self?" "Yes, self?" "We can do that tomorrow, right?" "Yes, I think so. Good call, self."
  10. Actually you are too tired to think of 10 things...

It hasn't really been a bad day; I am happy to be doing an experiment. It's just been really long... and well, not as sucessful as I'd hoped. It does still feel better than sitting in my office battling words though!

So, um, I'll finish up then, and see if my sanity returns again in the morning. *fingers crossed*

save the data!

Further proof via PhD comics that grad students get a bit *squirelly* at times...

A nice companion to my much earlier Scrat (from Ice Age) does Grad school

Good weekend

cuppa joe (fetching), originally uploaded by saburke.

I had a *real* weekend, and now I actually feel refreshed.

We did a few projects around the apartment we've been meaning to get to on Saturday, and refused to go outside in the windy -20deg C weather. We drank lots of coffee, made cookies, Hubby played some Civ4 and I did quite a bit of knitting.

I finally finished up my fingerless gloves (Knitty.com: Fetching in an alpaca/silk blend), pictured above. Not very practical, but cute. I like. (Photo credit to Hubby.)

Sunday we went to church and got to see the Deacon who did our marriage prep with us... he is an amazing person and seeing him made me feel like all was right with the 'Verse again. :)

Then it was off to the lab for a quick stint...

Until... Hockey! For some reason, I was really, really super excited about the game yesterday. Maybe it was hockey class on Friday (my first time in Hockey II: Intermediate, not Beginner), or maybe it was feeling well-rested from Saturday... but as I sat on the bench waiting to go on I found my legs bouncing up and down like a little kid who just can't wait. Anyway, we lost. Totally out-played. Sometimes frustrating, but I had fun. They were a little rough, but not too bad. Pig-tails continue to protect me for the most part. ;) (Who checks a girl in pig-tails?? Note: I play in a non-contact men's league, and yes, I have been knocked around a bit.)

So, today, despite a bit of soreness, I feel good. I'm doing a sample this week, rather than writing (the draft has gone out to authors again, fingers crossed for it being the last draft), so it's going to be a better week. I can feel it in me bones. :)

Just so you don't get the impression that I'm some great hockey star...

... me, last semester after miraculously getting the puck from someone... I lost it about 2 seconds later.



Ok, so I was checking out some news and I ran accross this article in the Globe and Mail:

Enough of the iHype already

and so being a self-proclaimed mac-hugger I had to read...

The jist is this: Apple is really good at marketing... especially viral advertising.

No.... really??? You mean... you never figured that out before??? Duh. What I really don't get is why this is a big deal. We are bombarded with marketing everywhere and for everything, esepcially electronics where the need must be created.

I don't need a cell phone, iPod, computer... I need food, shelter, clothing. Yet most people have most of these things today. (ok, fine I need a computer for work... but whatever, you get the point). Companies generate a need for these things... through marketing. One look around on a bus or a coffee shop, or your own apartment will telll you that they're doing a damn good job.

So Apple plays the game, and plays it very well. I remember the add for the first iPodnano... man, I wanted to get my hands on one of those. I even had an iPod, but I was suddenly struck by a burning desire to hold, if not own, a nano. It's rare an ad is that effective on me.

Maybe what gets to people most is that Apple still gets play off its underdog appearance. There is still a cult of mac, people who zealously defend and push Apple products (I know because I used to be one of them... I still love macs, and personally think they're better, but unless you really pick a fight with me in the PC vs. Mac arena, I try to keep my trap shut)... but hey, now it's catching on. iPod is everywhere. Students are toting MacBooks around campus, baby-boomers are putting iMacs in their living rooms. Apple profits are up. And ads like the Mac vs. PC portraying Mac as young and hip and cool compared to the barely functional, emotionally fragile, uptight PC are still hugely popular. Has Apple become successful enough that it's just no longer fair to pick on Windows?

Or does the author of the article just really not want to want an iPhone and went off on a disparaging rant to convince himself that he doesn't.

Anyway, the article sent me off on a tangent looking for spoofs of the Mac vs. PC adds and I ran accross this completely politically incorrect, but hugely funny video:

Enjoy, and don't get mad at me... I warned ya.

Knitting for homeless

So I've been thinking about this idea for awhile... Actually since last Christmas when I learned taught myself how to make mittens.

The stumbling block has been that it takes me a bloody long time to make a pair of mittens, and as such I would have to spend all my knitting time creating mittens for homeless people to feel like I was doing anything of any use, and well, I'd like to also knit for my family and friends, and heck, occasionally myself! (That may sound a little selfish compared to the needs of the homeless, but it's honest and realistic.)

So I decided I'd do scarves instead. Those can be knit in bulky yarn and go fast with little to no thought process (perfect for doing while running my experiments!)... So I went to Zellers the other day to look for inexpensive yarn that has some value in terms of warmth (to me this means it must be mostly wool). No dice. All acryllic all the time... maybe that's ok, better than nothing, but I'm not very satisfied.

So now I have a plan to go to a store that carries yarn I've not yet explored... except I'm not sure I want to go alone because last time I went through that metro station I was... not quite accosted... but well... let's just say Hubby quickly jumped in kindly offering his seat in order to step between the man and me who had stepped between me and Hubby and begun leering at me. So thanks to Hubby's quick reaction and way of dealing with things (oh, and probably size) nothing happened... but I'd like to take him with me on this mission... just in case.

Ironic, no? An experience with a homeless person is keeping me from helping homeless people.

Anyway, I just came across this via the knitty blog:

The StreetKnit Project

but it's for Toronto. I think it's a fantastic idea though!

So I started looking for Montreal, and I found a group which is trying to accomplish something similar:

Knit Hook & Give a Little Warmth

but the group seems to focus on a specific project at a time (their next meetup is to make Teddy bears, which sounds more complicated than my original mitten plan). I've just decided I'm doing scarves for now... so I don't think I'll join them at this particular time. However, they do mention Dans la Rue in Montreal (homeless youth) as a project, so maybe I'll contact them once I get some yarn.

Anyone else in Montreal interested in joining me? Scarves, hats, mitts for homeless in Montreal?


Euro-photos finally up

mirror, mirror on the wall..., originally uploaded by saburke.

So for those of you who have been reading for awhile, I've finally gotten around to posting all of my photos from my trip to Europe last summer. They are now located in a set on Flickr.



you might be a nova scotian (aka bluenoser)

So, I have this big long, actual post planned... but I have a ton of work to do also... so here's a cop-out post. My parents fowarded a list of "If.... you might live in Nova Scotia", sort of "... you might be a redneck" style, and I found a few kind of funny. If you're not from Nova Scotia, or anywhere near, or know anyone from there... never mind... they probably won't make sense.

If someone in a Home Depot store offers you assistance and they don't work there... you might live in Nova Scotia.

If you've had a lengthy telephone conversation with someone who dialed a wrong number... you might live in Nova Scotia.

If you have sw itched from "heat" to "A/C" in the same day and back again... you might live in Nova Scotia.

If you install security lights on your house and garage, but leave both unlocked... you might live in Nova Scotia.

If you design your kid's Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit... you might live in Nova Scotia.

If driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled with snow... you might live in Nova Scotia. 

If you know all 4 seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter and road construction... you might live in Nova Scotia.


Apple Mojo

Wired news story: Why Apple Makes Me Cry.

'nuf said.

Damn that Steve Jobs and his brilliant company. How does he do it? Why do we all want it... whatever it they come out with?


shiny new apple products

iphone - oooh... yeah, i'd like to phone on iphone... ;) seriously though, this is pretty cool... ipod, pda, portable web and phone all in one. i see people on the bus juggling all these things at the same time and wonder how many times they've dropped them all. so nice to have them in one package.

apple tv - enh. i like the idea of not having wires around, but i'm not super excited here... not yet anyway. i think it's the right direction, but not for me right now.

Airport Extreme (802.11n) - this i like. i mean, faster wireless = good, but shared wireless harddrive for backups? awesome. :D unfortunately, we've already got an airport express... so for now, we'll just stick with that.

summary? given that iphone is with cingular, and thus probably not coming to Canada for awhile, and I probably couldn't afford it anyway, I will remain iphone, or any-phone -less for awhile yet. the others are cool, but not purchases I'm looking to make right now. nope, nothing here to drool over for me really.

Edit: some real photos from Wired

To buy or not to buy?

I like to shop as much as the next girl... but I am cautious with my money, so every time I go to actually buy something, I here a little recording of my mother's voice from when I was younger saying "If you spend it, you won't have it anymore..."

As it turns out there is now some scientific evidence that this is pretty much what the brain says too when debating a purchase. Check it out:

ScienceNOW: When Your Brain Goes Shopping


A really truely "special" day... or... how God smote me for not going to church

Two words: Giant Cockroach

Now for some background...

In Sept 2002 I moved to Montreal to start my MSc. Since I did my undergrad in my hometown, it was my first big move, my first place to myself, first time (since being too small for it to be relavent) living in a big city (I grew up in a small city). My Mom made extra effort to make sure we found an apartment that would not present any problems for me. We thought we had done well. I moved into what seemed to be a well kept building with semi-respectable neighbours (though mostly students). Looks can be deceiving. I met the first cockroach one morning at 6am... it was crawling up my leg. I didn't know it then, but it was just a baby. Actually at the time, I didn't know what it was... just a weird-ass bug. Anyway, I managed to kill that one and a couple more that morning, and promptly threw out my new plant (lest it was the source). I met the next one a couple weeks later staring me down from atop my toothbrush. That one was I think fully grown for the particular variety (somewhere half an inch to an inch). I met various others on occasion over the next 9 months... then I moved. The building managers never dealt with the situation properly. Only after several months of chasing the damn things around by spraying individual apartments did they hire a real exterminator. Apparently the problem was a tennant two floors above me who must not have minded roaches. Ugh.

Anyway, needless to say: I have a problem with bugs now. Not that I was ever the kind of kid who really enjoyed bugs (I also have a bee/wasp/hornet phobia and I hate spiders and earwigs etc), but now I get to a point where my adrenalin is pumping I get super paranoid and twitchy and I absolutely cannot sleep if there may have been bugs around. Did I mention that I hardly slept for several months in that first place? No? Well I didn't.

So, the events of yesterday went something like this:

I didn't sleep well Saturday night for no particular reason. Maybe it was the espresso I had at 7pm, or maybe Hubby was being a bad bed-sharer and stealing my space and blankets. Whatever. Point being I overslept Sunday morning and we really had planned on going to church. When I realized our lateness I hopped in the shower and tried to get ready as quickly as possible... I just couldn't quite make it, and I refuse to go to church late (I hate it when people walk in 20 min late... you've missed half of it! it's disrespectful! to God of all people! ... sorry pet-peeve with my current church). Anyway, so Hubby shouted out "cancelled" and poured another cup of coffee and retreated to the couch. We ended up starting on one of our many little home-improvement projects and realized we needed more glue, so out we went. All's well so far...

On our return, as we walk down the hall of our floor, we notice a black spot on the floor near the baseboard... it's between lights, so it's hard to see... I ask "what's that??", Hubby says "nothing, keep walking". As I walk by I'm certain I saw it move... I say "it moved"... I've said this before about shadows, bits of leaf, a piece of a chocolate bar... so when Hubby says "I'm sure it's nothing" I'm sure he meant it. We drop off our stuff in our appartment, and I insist on investigating. So we go back into the hall and check it out... this time it definately moves and it is definately a cockroach measuring about 1 1/2 inches... maybe 2 inches.

Oh... God... here we go again...

Fortunately, even though this is a Sunday, the girl in the office was there. So we went down to tell her about our "discovery", and ask her if she wants to come see... she hesitated a moment, but came. Now, I have new respect for this girl. She seems like a somewhat waifish girly type, and I had my doubts about her abilities to deal with crises. However, she looked at that bug, looked at us, and said "oh no, that's just not normal"... in a tone that really said "oh no, that just shouldn't be... and then, get this... proceeds to try and stomp on it!. Anyway, I offered to go get my super-duper roach spray that I'm never without... you know... just in case... and I swear it took half the can to kill this thing... and I'm pretty sure it was dying anyway.

So now the real question is: are there more?? Was this just a hitchhiker from someone's tropical Christmas? Or maybe a special live dinner for someone's exotic pet that got away?

Not knowing, we went into lockdown. We cleaned everything. We established a perimeter with spray to deter them. We are leaving lights on 24hrs a day in at least the kitchen and bathroom. No dishes will be left un-washed. No water left standing. Still... despite our efforts, I didn't sleep. I maybe caught a few zzz's at 5:30am, woke up, and went back to sleep at 6:30am. Alarm went off at 8:00am. I'm so tired.

Did I mention the power went out for about 5 hours just after this?? That hindered our cleaning efforts.

Apartment-office-girl said she would call an exterminator today, if she couldn't get one on Sunday. She lives in the building. Despite her heroics I think she was distrubed... very disturbed. I felt bad for her, she had a shitty day too. I think she'd planned on sitting in the office doing some paperwork by her little Christmas tree for the day. The power outage also resulted in some kind of alarm fault she was trying to deal with.

I think I'll to church next Sunday. One Sunday year before last I thought it would be a good day to go to Ikea... that ended in the emergency room getting 4 stitches next to my eye after tripping on an escalator and catching my fall with my face. I've gotten away with no bad things happening on Sundays I skipped church, but I feel like there's a message here. Can't hurt right?


today i will get things done

I'm hell-bent on making today productive so I can have a guilt-free relaxing weekend. I've got reading, writing, emails, and web-maintenance to do.

Wish me luck.


damn, b... run out of space already!

So, just as I'm starting to really enjoy Flickr, and just as I get a new camera for Christmas, I went to upload some pictures and this pops up...

... ahhh nuts. Should I do it? Should I "go pro"?? It's really not much money... I just dislike paying for web-services. :(

(note: since I'm a mac-user, Picassa is not a solution... windows only. plus, I do enjoy the "photo-community" thing that Flickr has going on... like yesterday when I signed in and found that some talented people had marked two of my photos as favorites!)


Today was... um... "special"

So, I'll have to make this quick... part of the fun today was that I forgot my power cord at home today, meaning limited computer usage.

Today I:

  • Tried to get here at 9am after being on vacation for 2 weeks... I made it for 9:30.
  • Was trying to get here at 9 for a repair person who was maybe coming because things were unclear before Christmas as to what was happening because someone else was supposed to be here but is still away.
  • Got to school to find the repair person was coming, but not until afternoon, and that no one else would be around.
  • Repair-person and I ran into some odd, odd problems (ever seen copper turn into black flaky stuff?? apparently it can happen! oxidation???? :S )
  • I recruited hubby to help me replace molecule sources... which lead to more fun of cleanning the shutter for the evap in the ultrasonic bath, and I kept dropping it back in when trying to retrive it with tweezers from the beaker.
  • There was mysterious powdery flaky gunk in one cruicible... I'm sure it's carcinogenic... I just have that hunch since I can't seem to avoid getting it floating around everywhere.
  • I dropped a screw that goes in UHV on the dirty, dirty floor... had to clean that again... while the repair-person waited for me to get the evaporator back on... his time is worth $250/hr if I recall correctly. Gulp.
  • The evap wouldn't go back on because the gasket slipped... had to take it off... accidentally touched the gasket, so had to replace it too.

See? Special... and that's day one at work in 2007... should be a good year eh?

Proof that people will score anything...

For your bloggy enjoyment... my life: 7

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Being an over-achiever, I feel that 7 is a bit low... however, it seems to be higher than the average, indicating that things are going well in my life. Well, I agree... they generally are. If I could just manage to convince myself to be less stressed about things at work, then I think that mind part would come up significantly. Actually, let's make that a resolution of sorts for this year: be less stressed in 2007. Unfortunately that does jive very well with getting my research done and starting writing the diss... or maybe it will just go more smoothly if I would just chill.