Tuesday, July 29, 2008

just a thought

I may be opinionated; I probably inherited this trait genetically from my dad, who has an opinion about basically everything. I try to be open-minded and listen to other people's opinions to make sure I really know all sides of the issues. But when it comes time to defend my opinions, I'm sometimes at a loss for how to state them without actually arguing with the other person, because I don't really want to have any bad feelings with people that I like. So I make an effort to always let the person say what they have to say without throwing my opinion down their throat. I think I do a pretty good job of this but sometimes I end up feeling like I didn't effectively convey my side of the issue. Anyway, today somehow we started talking about women and engineering, and I definitely have an opinion about that. After a while I just couldn't believe I had to explain why I taught for WTP, why I think we need to help encourage more women to consider careers in engineering. And it just makes me upset that some of my peers in engineering are basically perpetuating the unwelcomeness that women often feel in engineering. And they don't look beyond their own personal life for reasons why women might be underrepresented in mechanical engineering. And therefore they don't think it's a problem, don't think we need to do anything about it. It makes me madder than I can really say. Why I didn't think this at the time... well the circumstances were different. Everyone was laughing because nobody really wants to actually fight with each other. But deep down I'm a little hurt by the subject of our conversation, and it's illustrative that I was one woman arguing my side while five guys were on the other side. Well, not all of them were disagreeing with me, but I felt singularly responsible for trying to explain why women don't go into engineering at the rate that men do. Oh boo.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

veggies of my labor - week 6

Woohoo! Updated garden pictures! Suffice to say that my cucumber plant is steadily taking over the world. It's extending tendrils into neighboring plots, grabbing ahold of the tomato plants, grasping the zucchini leaves, and sprouting miniature bumpy cukes right and left. My little square is overflowing with leaves!

In even more exciting sub-news, the zinnias are blooming! They are a cheerful mix of pink, yellow, orange, and white, and they make me so happy!

Each blossom is an intricate sculpture of color burst. I feel like I'm making the world a prettier place. :)

Here is the biggest cucumber (photo taken on Saturday) - I actually picked this one today at about 8 inches long, and ate half of it on my salad for dinner! So excellent.

And here is the very first zucchini! James and I picked it on Saturday and James baked it into 12 zucchini muffins (which were DELISH). Oh man, I am loving this whole veggie garden thing.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

square one

What does it take to find a new roommate? It was never this hard before. Emily and I have interviewed with 6 different people, and offered the room to 3 of them, only to be declined by 4 of them! How is this even possible? Our apartment is spacious, well-maintained, nicely decorated, and on the first floor. We are both normal, easy to get along with, active, and responsible. We had no idea it would be so hard to fill the 3rd bedroom! Maybe it's because we waited until a month before our lease is up, or because our location is not convenient for people, or whatevers. I'm so tired of advertising ourselves and reserving all my weeknights for interviews. Bah.

In other news, my garden is flourishing! I picked my first cucumber earlier this week, and ate it immediately! (I had to make sure it was real!) The zinnias are all blooming, and the zucchini plant produced its first zuke - pictures to come tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

a little spotlight for me

My little garden got a spotlight on apartmenttherapy.com! Yay!

Monday, July 14, 2008

exceeding expectations

James organized a deep-sea fishing trip for us on Sunday, launching off the coast of New Hampshire and spending the whole day fishing for cod and haddock. Let me tell you what I imagined the experience would be like. I was thinking a fun day in the sunshine, enjoying the cool ocean breezes and the fresh sea air, reeling in big and small fish, catching my first real fish, eating turkey sandwiches for lunch, and then bringing home an ice chest or two filled with fresh fish to grill for dinner. Now let me tell you what actually happened. It all began well, with James's friend Tim setting us up with spots on one side of the boat, and we went to get a quick greasy and cheap breakfast at the diner around the corner. At 7am, the counter was lined with large round men eating their bacon and egg breakfasts, and I imagined that they were probably in those exact seats any morning of the week. We were thrilled at the cheapness of the breakfast, and we boarded the boat at 8am, excited about the action-packed day we were about to have. For the first hour of travel towards our fishing site, we chatted with each other and the people sitting next to us, who were more seasoned fishermen with stories of interesting and delicious fish that could be caught in the Atlantic. We were stoked.

9am - the 20-foot swells start to make our stomachs a little woozy, and one by one we start donating our breakfasts to all the fish in the sea. The horrible feeling never really goes away, and an active concentration of my eyes on the horizon is necessary to avoid constant puking. I wait for the boat to reach its destination, some shoals out in the middle of the ocean where the fish hang out, and I assume that when the boat stops, the crazy rocking will stop and I'll recover enough to do some fishing. Unfortunately, the waves are still coming, tossing our boat side to side, and the best I can do is hold a rod that James baits for me, and half-heartedly reel it in if I feel a tug. Sometimes just the act of looking at the rod makes me sick. To top it off, there aren't many fish biting, and the boat captain takes us to four different sites to look for more fish. What with the tides and the violent waves, none of our group catches any edible fish, just some dogfish sharks that have to be thrown back. The more seasoned fishermen catch a few haddock, but they also do their fair share of ralphing. As far as James, Tony, Connie, and I were concerned, we were in a marathon test of endurance to avoid death for 8 hours before we returned to the docks at 5pm. It was the longest day of my life. Every time I looked at my watch, it was like 12 minutes after my last glance. I was ready to swim back rather than stay on that boat.

I'll spare you the gory details, but I walked off that boat at 5pm with a body ravaged by that boat. My stomach hurt, my legs were sore from holding my body in place as I clung to the rail for the two-hour trip back, pretending I was a crazy sea captain in the crow's nest or whatever, my butt hurt from the 6 hours of sitting on that hard plastic seat, my back hurt from the slouching I did to avoid feeling sicker, and later I found out that my entire face was sunburnt, excluding what was covered by my sunglasses. So now my nose hurts when I crinkle it.

To top it off, none of our crew caught any edible fish. James's friend actually gave us some fish (pity fish, if you will) and we thankfully but ashamedly took it home to grill. Unfortunately, while cooking it, I saw a couple small brown worms wriggling in the fish meat, which Amit said was totally normal (really?). I figured if they disappeared after cooking, I could still eat the fish... but then while eating, I discovered two big worms right in my bowl! I was WAY too grossed out to eat any more, and I think I'm swearing off fish for like a month. Blaghghgh.

James and I are sticking to rivers and lakes from now on.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

secret life of plants - week 4

The crazy humid thunderstorm weather has continued for the past week, and my garden has been loving it. The cucumber plants are going crazy, basically shading over half the garden, and shooting out skinny arms to reach for some support, so James put together this jungle-gym trellis to give them something to grow up. The zucchini is also going strong, and I'm hoping it will sprout a flower sometime soon! The tomato plants are also super leafy, so I tried to put two support cages on them, truly learning the lesson that you have to put those things on when the plants are small. I tragically broke off a few branches while doing it today. :( The plants have a couple small white flowers, but no tomatoes yet.

For some reason, the bell pepper plants never really flourished here. They grew at like a quarter of the rate of the cuke plants, and seem to have some unhappy browned holes on their leaves. Now they will certainly get less sun since the cukes are such monsters. Who knew they would need so much space!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

uncharted territories

I've decided to change my outlook on research. Previously, I felt kind if intimidated by all the components of my new lab that I knew nothing about. Working three years in my old lab put me in a comfortable position of feeling like I knew something about certain areas of materials characterization, measurement, etc. When I switched into the new lab, there were a host of things I felt lost around - circuit design, high-temperature materials, machining, design in general... and this made me uneasy because I felt that, as a fourth-year grad student, I shouldn't be so helpless. I mean, I was pretty clueless and useless when I joined my first lab, but as a first-year, who really expected me to know what I was doing? Now I feel like there's some expectation of competence from me. But I recently realized that nobody is supposed to know everything. The only way you would is if you have been doing the same thing for years, and who wants to live that life? Even after graduating, people seek new and unfamiliar projects to provide a new learning curve that adds even more wrinkles to their brain. So I've decided to adopt that goal as well. So I need to build a circuit to translate an AC voltage and current into a power measurement? Research, buy and machine some high-temperature insulation bricks? Design a high-temperature experiment? Excellent.