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and it’s T minus a few months before I become insufferable and demand that everyone refer to me as Doctor. The last week has actually been spent cursing my bleepity bleep Macbook. I have an old black one that still is covered under AppleCare which means the next repair will be free. That’s great except that the repair is something related to the wrist rest flexing and causing the trackpad to go wacky with the highlighting and random loss of huge chunks of text. Unlike most of the complaints I find out there it’s an issue with the right side (ie above the hard drive) rather than on the left side which is apparently caused by a bulging battery pack. So 60 miles down the freeway I shall go later this week to get this looked at while I pet the iPads and curse waiting until Feb.

I also sucked it up this week and added my name to the rumor mill thanks to the phone interview I had gotten and ignored my advisor who said it’s not nice to add names from shortlists on the rumor mill. I need the name recognition and I can see that lots of people have been googling my name + astronomy in the past few days to figure out who the competition is. Of course my adding my name to the rumor mill was also a power play- I noticed an increasing number of hits to my webpage from a major astronomy player institution where no one does my subfield. I’m hoping that meant I’m close to making a shortlist there too. Yay for hidden javascripts that track all the people lurking about my webpage.

Oh and with the new year I have officially decided to start the office cleansing- so I shall be using my scanner/printer/copier and scanning in all my undergrad notes as pdfs and compressing the snot out of them so I can fit them in my gmail code/scanned papers etc account as well as on external hard drive (though I’m going to tempt fate and only back up in duplicate, not triplicate). Hopefully by the time I become a Doctor I will have rid myself of about 15 cubic feet of dead trees.


Today I am not being the visual of a scientist which most children are taught. I’m female, sitting on a big yoga ball in front of two computers working on data from a major NASA and belting out the Glee versions of Britney Spears songs.

Yes parents of the world, your children could also grow up to be scientists working on very important findings while dancing along in their seat and singing trashy pop music. Isn’t that what you always wanted your darling child to do with their grown up life?

For the December Scientae:

I think I may have a serious stick up my backside these days, I don’t do a whole lot for funsies. Perhaps that explains why I’m miserable in the current town. But the few things I have for funsies:

My dog provides lots of fun. I may refer to him often as my furry overlord but how could you say no to this face?

I spend far too much time laughing at him snoring or sleep barking and chasing squirrels in his sleep.

Yoga class. I wouldn’t normally refer to yoga class as “fun”, rather a way to spend some time away from the dissertation when trying not to go batshit. But given that I have 10 years of ballet training under my belt, I cause entertainment in yoga class for not doing things right. I took a while for my yoga instructor to watch and realize that I had a ballet past when reaching for the barre that didn’t exist when doing tree pose. Unfortunately all those years of ballet didn’t actually teach me any grace, so all you parents out there, be forewarned!

I have a small . . issue. . hoarding Lush. Specifically hoarding Lush bath bombs. Somewhere my inner 5 year old has way too much fun glitter bombing the bathroom and the house with Avobath. . .or playing in the tub with the seaweed from Big Blue. So when I’m stressed out you can bet the first thing I do is play in the tub. But be careful with some of the bath bombs. . . ninja star glitter is just not fun when found in delicate places.

I also have two things I miss from my old hometown. . . which I’ll willingly admit was Los Angeles.

Item #1 is Huntington Library in Pasadena. I had an annual pass and was there weekly most of the year. I loved searching around there and seeing that the gardens were all dead during the week. Unfortunately now, I see it on film and sniffle because I miss it so- the two cases this weekend were in the movie Serenity (the Lily Ponds FTW!) and the wedding scene at the end of Legally Blonde 2 which was in the rose arbor right outside of my beloved herb garden at Huntington.

Item #2- I have an insane quantity of perfume from BPAL. I even have Snow White from 2004, one of my very first purchases. Not only do they sell about a bazillion scents which I huff and wear, but there is always a new scent at full moon and will call in Los Angeles and a few other places across the US. Will Call is entertaining- imagine a bunch of women from crazy different paths in life getting together and doing a lot of OMG sniff this! Yeah that would be will call. I miss my gal pals oh so much from LA and being able to go to these events on a monthly basis.

So in summary, I’m boring and only do little things for fun. I would probably do more if I were in a location I hate less and wasn’t ~4 months away from needing to hand in my dissertation.

So given that I’m about to submit paper #3 of the 5 papers in my dissertation (which OMG is due to the committee in final format 4 months from yesterday) and I find myself worrying about the stupidest thing- which email address to associate with the publication.

By the time it actually gets published in the journal I should be defending. . .meaning that in the future if people have questions I likely won’t be at grad uni and probably won’t be keeping my account there either as it fills up with unmeasurable amounts of crap from both the physics and astro departments right now. I’d like to switch to my gmail account, it’s all prim and proper and my full name, as it will be with me no matter where I go. But I’m not sure that using the gmail account is the best idea. . . on one of the recent papers I was a co-author on, the much older faculty member refused to use my gmail account even when asked multiple times because it wasn’t “official”.

I wish I could spend more time writing than worrying about stupid crap like which email gets associated with my publications.

So today the random thought came to my mind after being the only person in this god forsaken town to get over so the damned ambulance could pass (seriously I swear this place is full of the stupidest drivers known to man): I really need to go get certified in CPR and First Aid.

I thought about this on my last observing run. Rather the big bruises on my shins from running into the box for the AED at the telescope dome right behind where the operator liked reclining his chair gave me constant reminders that “Hey you should learn how to use that damned thing”. I would have loved to have had company on that observing run in the form of either my grad advisor or my old undergrad advisor. But to be honest. . . I worry when I see old astronomers up on the mountain. I’ll see them huff and puff more than me and I’m an asthmatic that is stubborn and refuses to use her damn inhaler. Plus the awesome telescope operator is getting on in years too and well. . . I’m just scared that one day I’m going to have to use that damned AED and I won’t know how.

Perhaps I ought to sign up for the combined CPR and First Aid class next Saturday. At least maybe the next time I go observing I won’t worry about what might happen up there (except when someone needs oxygen. . . .the damned oxygen bottle has been empty for the last 3 years and yes I complain every freaking time I’m there).

Because I do things on paper (as the 6 white boards in my home office have other important things on them. . .actual code I was writing and debugging) and things wind up looking like this:

My awful code map

My code map which uses most of the colors of pen I have on my desk

Yeah. We’ll not talk about that actual code in idl and it’s amazing abuse of if and where statements. Why write a properly laid out code when you’re an astronomer and an electronic bludgeon can get the job done?

Um, dear lord.

My advisor and I skyped on Friday. He’s finally back from all his comet observing runs as well so we could chat rather than email.

Topics of discussion included job applications. I applied for one big postdoc which I either have no shot in hell of getting, or every shot in hell of getting depending upon the committee. For this application I decided to go big picture, so I tied my work into models of planet formation and then may have called out a future project for having a poorly designed observing strategy while stating what I could do to help the situation and provide options that wouldn’t mess with the other priorities of the project. I’ve got a bunch of other postdoc apps to send out for things that are right up my alley, or things I could spin to my research strengths, so fingers crossed for this coming year that I can start getting job offers rather than simply shortlisted.

Another topic of discussion was the 7 night observing run. I’ve been told to put that data at the end of the queue. Yay! I was wondering how exactly I was going to do a data shuffle on my computers right now to pull that project off as I don’t have half of a terrabyte free on my desktop or laptop.

But the big topic of discussion was *ohholyshit* my defense date. We’re assuming I’m going to get a job this year. And if I want to walk in May graduation, I need to defend before then. So. . . .we’re looking at a defense at the end of April. OMG. Paper #3 of my dissertation is almost done (I found a last few references, need to calculate the mass in asteroids in this certain family and finish up the conclusions and discussion) and it can get sent off to the journal. My goal was to have a draft of paper #4 to the former boss and the advisor in about 3 weeks, so I could send a revised draft out to the whole group near New Years and submit by mid Feb. And then paper #5 can be easily written while everyone is reading and reviewing paper #4. Technically April is enough time for my defense. . .half my chapters will already be published so that ought not be a problem, though realistically I ought to get a completed draft of the whole thing out by the end of March to go to everyone. Of course I still have yet to determine if late April works for my whole committee and I ought to find out how to put former boss on my committee even though I already have an external member picked out from our geology department.

So now I guess it’s crunch time. I wonder how many days a week I’m going to need to hit the pool to deal with the stress. At least one clear upside to this kind of schedule is that I won’t have enough time to check the bleepity bleep bleep bleep rumor mill.

So in the last week when I haven’t been posting, I’ve been working on my DPS poster (which is just about done and about to go to Kinkos!) and a related article draft. During this whole time my laptop has been cranking the music.

I’ll admit, I have the worst taste in music. When working I tend to use my purchased library from iTunes that consists of Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Ke$ha and Christina Aguilera. If I’m really angry I put Garbage’s Bleed Like Me album on repeat. I think my fellow grad students at University of the Frozen Tundra are grateful I’m not around especially as I have a slightly bad habit of singing along with my music if I’m deep into doing my work and I really don’t notice when I do that and am using headphones.

But in the last few weeks my phone has been ringing off the hook- the advisor and I have a few too many irons in the fire so we’ve been skyping and cell phoning often. I know it’s my advisor because Daft Punk’s Technologic is my ringtone for him. I think it’s fitting with the lyrics “Write it, cut it, paste it, save it, Load it, check it, quick – rewrite it”. Yeah that’s basically my life dealing with my advisor. It took me a while to decide on that ringtone for him however- I had contemplated Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus as the advisor is the one that tells me to keep plugging on even when I’m pissy about job applications or paper reviews. Lately I’ve been thinking of changing to Gaga’s Telephone- the section with Beyonce singing about how she should left her phone at home because this is a disastah, but I don’t think I’ll do that until after the DPS or else I might have to explain the ringtone to collaborators (Eeek!).

But now I’m curious- what music did other astronomers and planetary scientists use when they were writing up? Do they still listen to that music during time crunches? Because god knows. . .I don’t know how I’d explain being 40 years old and rocking out to the Britney.

So earlier this week I had to request a graduation packet from the University of the Frozen Tundra. It not only has handy documents like the Reviewers Report (the yes, this is or no, this isn’t ready for defense form), but it’s the only way I can actually get the formatting guidelines for the dissertation!

The grad college is quite helpful in that they make templates available in LaTeX and Word so you don’t run afoul of the ruler wielding person in their office, and they clearly state the margins on the website, but other items like font sizes are missing. I had to require the packet to find out that only standard fonts 10 point or larger are accepted and it must be double spaced (okay that one I figured out from the LaTeX template). Oh and there is an exception for examples, quotes, tables and charts that say “similar size and easily readable” followed by “no smaller than 9 points”.

Shit. Guess who has tables that only fit on the page in /rotate with /tiny in LaTeX? I guess I’m going to have to break up tables. And I need to figure out who to write to request permission to reprint my thesis articles in my dissertation. Guess with this last manuscript when I submit the copyright form I can double check things.

I’m practicing avoidance techniques with the end of my dissertation. In part the dissertation scares the shit out of me, especially the last two papers (they’re epically huge and yeah, they make me want to cry) and I’m feeling like it’s not worth hurrying up and finishing (say for a Dec graduation rather than a May grad) if I don’t have a job lined up. As of yesterday however, I couldn’t avoid- I have journal article proofs I’m supposed to correct by Friday! Eeek!

So the best way for me to correct proofs is to mark them up, so I set my old printer going. . .and going. . . .and going. Over 2 hours later it finally finished printing 13 pages of proofs. It took so long because el crappo printer has decided to try and “build” the color black out of colors even though a full black cartridge was loaded about 4 printed pages before. I had gotten a little pissy with it since it didn’t print duplex, so I did actually have a new printer sitting in a box in the house just waiting for me to have a fit. Well I decided to set it up, but it wouldn’t fit in the same spot as the old printer. Crap. The only place it would fit is my bookshelf, but that would require me to get rid of some old crap.

What did I find on my bookself? Well to start, I found my physics lab notebooks from my freshman year (1998-1999). Off to the recycle pile those went. I also found random articles from planetology class, old class notes that had been copied into notebooks (I take notes on copier paper and then copy them into notebooks for classes so I have to review the material) and. . . . European history outlines from my sophomore year in high school.

All this crap has moved across country with me multiple times, and they’ve definately made my moves more spendy (both in terms of weight and extra boxes for the crap). But right now I’m trying to figure out how much stuff to purge. Do I:

  • Toss every physics homework set (and notebook I may find) from undergrad
  • Keep the old physics notes etc thinking I may wind up stuck and teaching physics classes at some point
  • Keep all the astro notes? Throw out the astro notes from undergrad (which I’ve actually found more helpful than most of my grad coursework)?
  • Toss all over my course notes with the realization that like everything is on the internet these days?

I sort of wish I could do the last option just to clear the floors of crap, but it doesn’t seem prudent as a graduate student. Maybe I can do that into postdoc #2 if I ever get postdoc #1. Right now though I’m leaning towards tossing all my physics undergrad stuff except stuff from quantum mechanics (because that was the class I had the most trouble with and one I didn’t have to take as a physics requirement for this PhD). I think all grad programs should have a class as students are about to graduate: Physical Sciences 8001: When to PurgeĀ  the Shit You’ve accumulated over 8+ years in college.

July 2018
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