Monday, June 27, 2005

A Memorable Weekend (Part 2)

We went to the Thai restaurant in downtown Urbana for dinner on Friday night. On our way in, I saw one of my karate students eating dinner there with his parents. We had a table for 9: Dad, Bonus Mom, Laura, Aunt Barb, Uncle Glen, Julian, Glenna, Jeff, and myself.

I had the pad thai, which was good, but I couldn't eat it all so I got a box to take home the leftovers. I think everyone else enjoyed their meals too. Afterwards, we went to Jarling's Custard Cup where I had a waffle cone with strawberry custard. It was pretty good. Then came the inevitable celebratory song: Dad, bonus Mom, and my younger sister had written a song about my accomplishments, to the tune of the Beatles' Lady Madonna, which they performed, complete with rhythm instruments and kazoos, right there at Custard Cup. It was a nice song and the lyrics were very clever and I wasn't as embarrassed as I could have been. But it was definitely a crowd quieter, because the people around us all stopped what they were doing and turned around and watched.

On Saturday, lots of relatives and near-relatives were arriving. The parents-in-law came around noon, as did Grandma Mary, Uncle Grant, and Aunt Jean; Alice, who babysat for me when I was growing up; and Aunt Ann all the way from Wisconsin. In the morning, Dad and bonus Mom went to the grocery store and bought a whole bunch of party supplies, such as hamburger patties, bratwurst, and buns. Then they came back to our house and put the perishable stuff in the fridge. Jeff and I stayed home to wait for the in-laws and my former babysitter, while Dad, bonus Mom, and Laura went over to Barb and Glen's house to have lunch with the other relatives.

I had requested that Dad-in-law make a watermelon basket with fruit salad for my party. I went into the kitchen with him to watch the master at work. Unfortunately, the watermelon cracked open when he began cutting it, so the watermelon basket was not possible. But it meant that the fruit was ripe and delicious, so he made a mean mixed fruit salad with it (which would have gone in the basket had the watermelon not cracked). I helped him make it. It was a good bonding experience.

The only problem was that we didn't have a bowl big enough to hold all that fruit salad. So father-in-law and his son went out to the store to get a big aluminum-foil turkey pan to hold it all. While they were gone, Alice arrived. She got to talking to my mother-in-law and they really seemed to enjoy one another. Eventually my dad and Laura came back to the house, after having picked up the cakes and dropped them and bonus mom off at the hotel. And my husband and his dad came back too. We did some final cutting of tomatoes and other preparations before heading out to the party site.

Dad, Marvis, and Laura were the first to arrive at the party site. Chris, a friend who drove in from Kentucky also got there before me, and was helping with the setup when I arrived. I got there a few minutes later with the in-laws and Alice. It seems that there was a mistake with the grill. When I had called to make sure that by "podium" they meant I had rented a "grill," the woman confirmed that I had indeed rented a grill, but that they don't have an entry in the computer for grill, so she used podium because it cost the same. But when we got there, there was no grill. The very nice park employee called around and got permission to borrow some grills from other park district employees who lived near the park, but she didn't have a car so my dad borrowed our car and picked up the grills. This meant that the burgers were a little on the late side and we didn't start eating for at least an hour into the party.

I think that the party was a huge success. All of my officemates showed up, as did my advisor and his wife; some of my karate friends; Barb, Glen, Julian, Glenna, Grandma Mary, Grant, Jean, and Ann; several other grad student friends; Alice, my former babysitter, who told embarrassing stories about me; Chris, a friend whom I hadn't seen in 15 years, who did NOT tell embarrassing stories about me (at least, as far as I know!); Dave, our friend from role-playing; and, of course, my dear husband, my father, my bonus mom, my younger sister, and my mother- and father-in-law. I had a great time, despite the encore performance of the graduation song. People seemed to enjoy it, or maybe they enjoyed watching me squirm. One of my friends decided he wanted to book my dad, bonus mom, and Laura for his next party.

It is blueberry season, and I got a whole flat of blueberries from my aunt and uncle who live next door to my grandma. So it seemed logical to make blueberry pancakes the next morning. I invited Dad, bonus Mom, Laura, and Alice to join dad- and mom-in-law with us for blueberry pancakes at 9. I realized that I didn't have the ingredients for it, though, so I got up the next morning to buy some syrup and some eggs, and while I was at it, some orange juice and some turkey bacon. When I got home, the family had already arrived and were starting to make the pancakes themselves. I was able to take charge of the pancakes and make them from there myself, while Marvis made scrambled eggs and cooked the turkey bacon in the microwave.

The pancakes were fluffier than usual, perhaps because of the extra gluten. Everyone agreed that they were excellent. There's nothing quite like pancakes made with fresh blueberries. I'm getting hungry at the thought of them!

Everyone was gone by 11 a.m. After that, my husband and I took a nap, because we were exhausted. I enjoyed having everyone around, but it can be tiring. I tend to get so excited that I end up missing a lot of sleep.

A Memorable Weekend (Part 1)

In case anybody was worried, I passed my final.

I spent the day Thursday at home with Jeff, cleaning the house and installing quarter round in the kitchen. I measured the quarter round and sawed it, and he installed it. In the evening, I taught both karate classes, because my karate instructor is doing his annual National Guard training. By the time I got home, I was exhausted. At about ten, my dad, bonus mom, and younger sister arrived. We chatted for a while before they made their way to their hotel.

On Friday, they came over after breakfast and we hung out for a while. I gave my dad and bonus mom their birthday presents (their birthdays were in May and February, which shows what a bad daughter I am!). Dad's present was some Red Skelton DVDs, which he then decided to watch immediately. So we watched the DVD until it was time to leave to pick up the pirozhki from Lyudmila at 1:00.

We were to pick them up at her apartment near campus. Upon entering the building, the smell of baking pirozhki hit us, and I did not envy her neighbors who must have to smell that delicious smell every week without the chance to eat any of it. She lives in a tiny studio apartment, where she bakes all the pirozhki every week. I knocked on her door and she answered. She had all my pirozhki boxed and ready to go.

Her friend Natasha was there helping her bake. I spoke some Russian to them and introduced my sister and my father's wife, which was the closest I could get to expressing my relationship to Marvis with my limited vocabulary. Natasha was impressed with my Russian, but I told her that I'd taken Russian in college and forgotten everything. She said that she wished her English was as good as my Russian. That was very polite of her but I think I sound like a better Russian speaker than I actually am. I'm pretty good at speaking any language because I have a musical ear and am not afraid to contort my mouth into strange positions to make foreign sounds. I'm also pretty good at forming sentences, and imitating the ways in which native speakers make shortcuts in their speech, so I sound a lot more competent than I actually am.

Lyudmila asked what the pirozhki were for, and I explained to her that they were for my Ph.D. defense. She told me to wait a second and she went into her apartment and brought out a painted Russian spoon which she gave to me as a good luck gift. I thanked her profusely and said goodbye.

My husband and I went to my office to wait until 3 p.m. while my family went back to their hotel to freshen up. At about 2:30 p.m. I changed into my purple silk suit and put on my makeup. I chose that outfit because Laura wanted to see me in it. My officemate remarked at how dressed up I was. "I don't know how to give this talk if I'm not wearing a suit," I quipped.

I didn't feel nervous at all until I started giving the presentation. Then I got a little panicked. My mouth got dry and I regretted not having drunk more water before the presentation began. But I kept my concentration and tried not to look at my family members. Mostly I watched the professors on my committee to see their reactions. One professor, my favorite cantankerous committee member, interrupted me a few times, and my bonus mom told me afterwards that she didn't like how he did it. At one point, he said, "I just can't believe that what you said is true," at which point I calmly replied that I had a more detailed explanation in chapter 3 that explained how it was true. Bonus mom was bothered by his abruptness and lack of tact, but I was not fazed because I know him and that's just how he is. You have to either accept it and appreciate him despite his limited social skills, or be really offended. I choose the former over the latter.

At the end, the public was permitted to ask questions. My dad asked whether the optimization method could be applied to the problem of the spread of soybean rust. I told him that I thought it probably could, provided that the objective function did not have too many parameters. That was the only question I got from the audience. Then they were dismissed and the committee asked their questions. They kept me there for a full 45 minutes. The first part was spent explaining to the cantankerous professor about the details in chapter 3. He was finally convinced, and the discussion continued. Aside from some off-the-wall ideas from the professor in chemical engineering, there were some good suggestions. I need to make a few minor changes to the dissertation. In particular, I need to explain why I wouldn't want to use some of the other global optimization methods, and add a section about the success of using my approach to the application problem. Then they kicked me out to discuss me for a few minutes, and I went back to my office. After a few minutes of deliberation, they decided to pass me unconditionally, and sign all the papers right then. Unfortunately, I hadn't realized that I was supposed to bring a certain paper with me for them to sign: the "red-bordered" form, which once had a red border but doesn't anymore, yet is still referred to as such. So we frantically printed it out and got the form to them to sign.

After all that was done, I realized that I had been locked out of my office! Fortunately, I have an actual key to the office. But unfortunately, that key was located in my backpack at home. So Jeff and Laura headed for our house to get my backpack and the key to my office. In the meantime, Dad, bonus Mom, and I sat in the lab and waited. Eventually they came back with the key and I got into the office, grabbed my casual clothes, and went to the bathroom to change.

The rest of the weekend was spent in celebration. But that is the story for another entry. This one is already much too long!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


As per the subject line.

I just got a phone call from my host at Oak Ridge, and he said I should be receiving a letter in the mail next week with the offer of a postdoctoral position.

I can't believe it.

I am so excited!

That was some fast turnaround time. I was there interviewing a week ago today.

I'm still going to give my all to my upcoming interviews, though. It would be nice to generate more offers and use them as leverage against this one.

I don't think that IBM will be able to get their acts together in time to compete with this. Assuming, of course, that they are interested in offering me a position in the first place.


Friday, June 17, 2005

Adventures in Bribing the Committee

The word on the street is that the better the snacks you provide for your committee, the better things go. So I have decided to bestow upon the committee and the other members of the audience one of my favorite foods: pirozhki made by the Russian lady at the Farmers' Market. Just this afternoon I called and talked to her on the phone, ordering four dozen of the delectable treats.

For those of you playing along at home, who will never get a chance to come to Urbana on Saturday mornings for the Farmers' Market, or to my thesis defense either for that matter, they are simply rolls with fruit filling. She also makes traditional varieties with savory ingredients such as eggs and cabbage. I think these fruity ones are geared towards us sugar-loving Americans. In any case, they're great. I walk to the Farmers' Market every Saturday morning for the sole purpose of buying pirozhki from Lyudmila, as I've now learned is her name.

So I'm supposed to pick them up from her next Friday at 1 p.m. Along with the pirozhki, I plan to have some fruit, possibly some brownies if I get the time to make them, and some milk and juice to drink. I think it will make the whole defense experience run much more smoothly.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

More Adventures in Interviewing

My whirlwind tour of Oak Ridge went pretty well, I would say. I left early Monday morning and got home about 7:30 p.m. yesterday. I definitely enjoyed my time there. The land is just breathtaking there, needless to say. They have beautiful, tree-covered hills, and the Smokies are just a short drive away.

It was crazy hot there, with highs in the 90's both days and high humidity. In case you were wondering, polyester olive-green suits do not breathe well, and panty hose keep you warm in the summer and cold in the winter.

On Monday, I left really early for the airport, meaning that I didn't get much sleep the night before. The plane trip went without incident. When I arrived at the Knoxville airport, I went to the restroom and got freshened up before heading to the rental car counter. Getting my car took a while, because they were short on cars. Finally they asked if I would be willing to rent a minivan, and I said sure, I don't mind, I just want to get out of here. So I got a Chrysler Town and Country minivan. It was very fancy. If only they rented out a set of kids and a soccer ball, I could have passed for a soccer mom. But I actually liked the minivan. It was built for big people, and I am nearly six feet tall. Also, it kind of reminded me of driving my parents' tan van, which was lots of fun once I conquered my fear of it.

I arrived at the lab at about 3:00 p.m. I met with my host, who turned out to be an affable and friendly man. Out of all the hosts I've had, I think he was the most personable. He showed me their big machine room, which made me drool, but I managed to avoid creating any puddles. He also showed me this big visualization wall that they have there, and visualizations of some of the scientific problems that they've modeled. It was very impressive. We talked for a while about my research, and he tried to understand it. The problem with inverse problems is that if you're not familiar with them, it can get kind of confusing. You're solving for the parameters so obliquely that it's hard to believe it would even work.

Then I went to check in to my hotel. There has to be a bit of an adventure on every trip, and it was the hotel that fulfilled that requirement for me. The water was turned off at the hotel, because there was a leak right over the electric box. They had not yet located the leak, and until they did, they had to keep the water off. The poor woman at the front desk was distracted by all the people calling her, confused about the water. She assigned me a room, which I went to only to discover that it hadn't been cleaned up from the previous guest. There were wet towels strewn about and the bed was unmade. I went back down to the desk, and she assigned me a different room, which was clean. I relaxed for a bit as I waited for my host to come and take me out to dinner.

He took me out to dinner in Knoxville, with another guy who I'd be working with there. As it turned out my visit coincided with an important meeting for the management, which this guy had to go to the next day, so this was his only chance to meet me. We went to an Italian restaurant. This time, I could comprehend the menu. I ordered the only thing that looked good, didn't feature onions, and also had short pieces of pasta rather than long ones. I didn't want to try to tackle long noodles while trying to make a good impression!

I then went back to my hotel room, where they had apparently fixed the leak and turned the water back on. I called my husband and chatted for a bit, and then went to bed.

The next morning I went to Oak Ridge and met with my host as he transferred my talk to a USB drive. He asked me why I'd e-mailed it to him and brought a backup on a CD instead of just bringing my own laptop or one of those drives, and I said it was because they hadn't allowed that at Sandia, so I just went with how they did it there. He laughed and said that because Oak Ridge is not a weapons lab, they don't have as much security as Sandia. He was certainly right about that. I was allowed to wander around the Oak Ridge campus without any kind of supervision. At Sandia, they have to escort you to the bathroom, and wait outside while you do your business. I imagine it will be like that at Los Alamos too when I visit the week after next.

I gave my seminar in a very fancy and very new seminar room. I think it went pretty well, although two young people, possibly student interns (?) were there and I kind of put them to sleep. But I think that my talk would have been boring to me at that age too, so I didn't feel bad. The people whose opinions mattered managed to stay awake.

I met with many different people after that, including two men who both knew my advisor from when he worked there. He hasn't worked there for nearly 15 years, but one guy said that my advisor actually hired him to work at Oak Ridge, and his first assignment was to finish up his thesis. I remembered my advisor telling me that story, actually. I also talked to another guy who is friends with my former boss's boss at NCSA who is now at Purdue. I really liked him, but unfortunately, I don't think I'm the postdoc he's looking for. He seemed like a really fabulous guy, though, and I imagine he would be great to work for.

My host also seemed like a pretty good guy to work for. He was personable enough that I think I could relate to him in a friendly way. He also seemed honest and straightforward, which are other traits that are important to me.

I think he's interested in hiring me. I don't know what, if anything, will come of it, but we shall see. He did go so far as to ask me how soon I could start, and my salary expectations. I told him I thought I could start in August, but I danced around the salary expectations as best I could, making it into a bit of a joke by saying "more than I make right now!"

I felt more comfortable at Oak Ridge than I felt at IBM. I enjoyed the characteristically Southern politeness of the people at the airport, hotel, and even the lab itself. I loved the accent, which I am embarrassed to say sounded a bit quaint to me, after living in Illinois for so long. I enjoyed being called "ma'am" and even "honey" again. But there was more to it than simple Southern culture. My host was not from the South. Most of the scientists there are not from the South. It just seemed to be more of a place where I wouldn't have to be aggressive and thick-skinned to get along. Which is not to say I could be a "submissive Southern woman" and make it. But I could be more like myself without having to worry about trampling others or being trampled by others.

So I feel pretty good about my visit to Oak Ridge. I just hope that they will get their act together and make me an offer, instead of stringing me along like they did to my former officemate.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Adventures in Interviewing

It seems that on any interview trip, there must be some sort of strange transportation-related snafu. I had promised more exciting dispatches on Friday, but I ended up spending the day sleeping and recovering from my trip. As it turned out, the plane from Westchester County Airport left several hours late because they were not allowing planes to leave for a few hours and then when they did allow planes to leave, it was restricted to one every nine minutes. We were ninth in line, so 81 minutes later, we took off for Chicago-O'Hare. We landed there about ten minutes before my flight to Champaign (the last one of the evening) was to leave, so I missed that flight. But I managed to wrangle some ground transportation from the airline, a regularly-scheduled shuttle that comes every three hours to the airport, and was to arrive at midnight. Unfortunately, the midnight shuttle was full, so I had to wait until 3 a.m. to take the next one. I went through all my kata five times as I waited for the shuttle, because it was imperative to keep myself awake somehow. Once in the shuttle, I fell asleep almost immediately, which is rare for me because I have trouble sleeping in a vehicle. I got home at about 6 a.m. on Friday morning, and spent the morning sleeping and the afternoon getting my checked luggage from the airport and generally trying to stay awake.

Anyhow, I think that overall, the interview went pretty well. I am glad that the transportation woes occurred at the end of the trip rather than the beginning. I flew to Westchester County Airport via Chicago-O'Hare on Tuesday night. As we landed, I saw the beautiful rolling hills, full of trees, and it reminded me of Kentucky, although a very pristine Kentucky without cars on blocks and burned-out houses. Westchester County Airport is not much bigger than the airport here. I noticed as we were taxiing towards the gate a whole hangar full of planes belonging to IBM. Something tells me that even if I get a job there, riding on those planes will not be one of the perks. I managed to find my hotel without much trouble, and checked in. The only problem was that they assigned me the room that was the farthest away from the lobby, and the card key didn't work and I had to march all the way to the front desk and back to get a new one.

IBM Watson Research Center is on a beautiful campus. The building itself was designed by the famous architect Eero Saarinen, and it has some interesting architect-designed features, such as the lobby furniture and some of the office furniture in the older offices, and dark, uneven stone in certain places on the floor. (I avoided those areas if possible, because I didn't want to increase the likelihood of twisting my ankle.) The building is kind of banana-shaped, and the two long sides of the banana are windows and the hallways. It's great because as you walk along you have this view of the tree-covered hills, but it means that no office, not even the president's office, has a window. It was designed in an era when dark wood was in. The cafeteria has very dark wooden tables and the walls are dark too. It's really beautiful if you appreciate the styles of that era. Another interesting feature is that there are restrooms in every stairwell. There are corridors perpendicular to the sides of the banana, down which the offices are located. The office corridors are indistinguishable except that they are numbered and the inhabitants are listed.

I met with my host on Wednesday morning, and then with one of the people I'd met in Stockholm after that. At 11:00 I gave my seminar, which I think went pretty well. One problem is that I usually start off a bit weak, but as I speak I begin to warm up, and then I end up pretty strong. I was taken to lunch in the IBM cafeteria by a student intern and the second man I'd met with. I had a good salad, some yogurt, and an ice cream bar. I met with a bunch of people throughout the course of the day. They all blur together, except the one appointment at the end of the day which I was dreading, with a real geophysicist. I'm not a geophysicist so I'm always afraid that a real geophysicist will discover some sort of flaw in my scheme. But he did not seem to. He was very interesting and I had a great time talking to him.

In the evening, my host, his wife, the geophysicist, and the guy I'd met in Stockholm took me out to dinner at a restaurant in New York City. I drove my rental car to my host's house, and he and his wife drove us into the city. This was pretty exciting because I'd never actually been to NYC before. I felt really out of my league and like a total country bumpkin, but I tried not to show it. It began when I opened the menu and didn't understand what it said, even though it was all in English. But the waiter described one of the specials, which struck my fancy, so I ordered it. My host also ordered some appetizers, some of which I understood, and some of which I didn't. The one I did understand was portabella mushrooms with tomatoes and cheese on top, which was very good, tastier than when I make it. We also got something with octopus, which tasted good but was a bit chewy; something with scallops, which was also very tasty and had polenta; and some crabs that had been breaded and fried. I was worried about that because you could see their little legs and everything, and I had no idea how to eat them. But I just watched what everyone else did. These crabs were soft-shelled crabs, so you could just cut them up and eat the whole thing.

They also ordered some wine to go with the dinner, but I did not partake. I don't like to drink; for one thing it's empty calories that I would rather spend on something delicious like dessert, and for another, I figured I needed all the sobriety I could get if I expected to find my way back to my hotel from my host's house. I tried to graciously decline, but people get kind of embarrassed if they are drinking when you're not. I made some jokes about the empty calories and the fact that I'd lost a lot of weight and was trying to keep it off. That seemed to work.

My entree was a fish that had been encased in salt and baked in the oven. The chef himself came out and disassembled it for me. First he removed the thick layer of salt. The salt was brown on the outside, and at least an inch thick. Then he removed the skin from the fish, and took out all the meat from the inside and put it on my plate. Finally he put some olive oil on it and squeezed a lemon over it. A waiter came and ground some pepper over it, too. It was served with spinach, which is what had finalized my decision about getting that entree. I thought that the fish was pretty good. I was actually not the only person who ordered that entree at the table, and everyone else was raving about how great it was. Don't get me wrong, I thought it was delicious, but I felt like a phillistine because I didn't really get what they were making all the fuss about. It was definitely good and I savored every bite.

For dessert I had warm, flourless chocolate cake, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. There was also this brown twig coming out of the ice cream. I wasn't sure what it was, and unfortunately I was the only person with this dessert, so I didn't eat it. But the cake was delicious. It had been drizzled with raspberry sauce, which made a nice contrast. And the cake wasn't too sweet, either. Perhaps I am more of a dessert connoisseur than an entree connoisseur, because I definitely appreciated the high quality of the dessert. If the fish was as good as the cake, then I can see what they were raving about.

I got back to my hotel at about 11 p.m. I called and talked to my husband about my day and the evening's culinary experience before heading for bed. I woke up the next morning and packed my bags and got ready for the next day of interviews. I met with many people and once again they all blur together, except that one of my interviewers had an emergency at home and interviewed me over the phone from home. At the end I talked with my host. I figured I had nothing to hide so I told him that if they made me an offer, I would probably accept. I was really impressed with the people and the work environment and I think I would fit in well. He said that they were interviewing three people, and I was the second. He also said that it was going to come down to a match between me and people with funding. I could be the best candidate in the world, but if the funding's not there for what I want to work on, I won't be the person they choose. I said I understood, and I also mentioned that the job search is kind of like dating, and there has to be a mutual match, and I hoped that their enthusiasm for me matched my enthusiasm for them, but if not, I'd appreciate being told as soon as possible if the answer is no. He assured me that if that was the case, they wouldn't string me along, and he also said that if I got an offer from someplace else before I heard from them, to let him know. I said I definitely would, because I'd rather work there than anyplace else. So I think we had an honest discussion about what was going to happen.

I made my way back to the airport, but I had a hard time finding a gas station to refill the car. Eventually I found one and made my way to the airport. Once I got past security, I realized that there were people packed into the waiting area of the airport like sardines. I found the restroom, which was blissfully uncrowded, and changed from my purple silk suit into more comfortable clothing (and, more importantly, more comfortable shoes). Then I found a wall and sat down next to it as I waited for my flight. You know what happened next because I've already told you.

It turns out that either I'm no longer allergic to silk, or I didn't wear that suit long enough for it to affect me, because I had no rash from it. True, it was lined in a different fabric, but there was no lining at the very ends of the sleeves or the skirt. My feet were cramping a lot from two days in heels, but I think they have recovered, just in time for me to wear heels again on Tuesday. And the menstruation gods were on my side this time. I had killer cramps all last night and I'm still suffering from them now, but that's a whole lot better than suffering from them tomorrow or the next day.

I'm leaving bright and early tomorrow morning for Oak Ridge. Hopefully my chronicles will resume again on Wednesday, although I make no promises. Chances are, however, that I will experience a different type of transportation-related snafu if I experience one on this trip!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Feeling Better

I'm feeling slightly better now, after having drowned whatever bug I had in liters and liters of beverages. Also, I slept fairly well last night, and woke up after 7 feeling refreshed instead of exhausted.

I stayed here until about ten after six last night, finishing up my thesis and the talk I'm to give at IBM tomorrow. Luckily there were only minor changes to be made to the thesis, so I was able to make them and then send it straight to the committee without another iteration of corrections. And I sent off the file for my seminar to my host at IBM, who confirmed that he had received it and that it worked.

And soon I'm off to the airport to fly to New York. I hate flying, but I hate driving even worse, so flying it is. Also, I guess it really wouldn't be realistic to drive to New York at this time. I was feeling really nervous about getting myself to the hotel tonight because it will be dark and I'll be trying to find this strange hotel, but my clever husband figured out something to help me. He bought me a little lamp that you strap to your forehead and it shines a red light. That way, you can use it to illuminate your surroundings (or in my case, map!) without forcing your eyes to readjust to the darkness. This will be very helpful to me, because that way I won't have to try to memorize the directions. I put the lamp in my checked luggage, because I didn't want to risk the airport security people thinking it was an implement of terrorism or something.

I'll be in New York all day Wednesday, and then I'll return late Thursday night. I'll be back with more of my exciting dispatches on Friday.

Monday, June 06, 2005


It seems that I am sick with something-or-other. This morning my temperature was 98.9 F. I know that doesn't sound like much, but my regular non-sick temperature is more like 95-96 F. So this is non-trivial. I took some tylenol, and my husband got out all the cold and flu medicine for me, just in case I needed it. I will probably take a large subset of it along on my trip.

I brought a two-liter of orange diet rite with me today, which I have drained by about a third already. My throat is kind of raw, and all weekend I couldn't seem to get enough to drink. My eyes are sore and bloodshot. My brain is only mildly slow on the draw, fortunately. On the bright side, my cheeks are flushed, so if this keeps up, I won't have to wear as much makeup!

I dragged myself out of bed at 7, and took a shower, which did little to improve the way I was feeling. Eating breakfast and taking that tylenol helped, though. I walked slowly to the bus stop, although it required as much effort as walking fast on a normal day. I babied myself and took the elevator up to my office rather than the stairs.

Right now I feel pretty much okay just sitting here at my desk and exercising my fingers. I wouldn't want to do much else, though. Hopefully I will feel better tomorrow, or at a minimum feel about the same, but enhanced by adrenaline.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Adventures in Feeling Really Nervous

The nervousness is beginning to kick in now. I don't know if I'm just nervous about my upcoming interview, or if it's nervousness over the entire month's festivities, but I'm feeling very jittery. I'm afraid that I'll get sick, too, which I really can't afford to do. The only good thing that might happen is that I might lose another five pounds due to indigestion, like I did at the end of March just before I went to Sandia.

It's funny, because really it just started yesterday. On Tuesday I was fairly placid and serene. Up until yesterday afternoon, I was calm as can be. Then I guess I finally understood what was going to happen in this crazy whirlwind month.

Allow me to summarize:

This week:
Today: Tweak interview talk. Invite more people to party.
Tomorrow: Call park district about boat rental. Also, make sure that when they said on the invoice I was renting a podium, they really meant I was renting a grill.
Weekend: Pack for interview. Ask Russian lady at Farmer's Market about a special order of pirozhki for my defense. Finish putting quarter round around the kitchen and hallway. Try to get lots of sleep and to stay well.

Next week:
Monday: Go over final draft of dissertation with my advisor, correcting anything that needs to be corrected. Turn in final draft to committee. Also, get his approval of talk to be given at interview on Wednesday. Do final packing for trip.
Tuesday: Travel to New York. Dodge heavy traffic in an unfamiliar vehicle and try to locate my hotel late at night.
Wednesday: First day of interview. Dress professionally in uncomfortable clothing and shoes, drive myself to strange building, meet lots of strangers, present a seminar and entertain questions, all the while behaving as graciously as possible. Probably go out to lunch and dinner with strangers and try to eat as politely as possible.
Thursday: Dress in another elegant outfit. Pray that I am no longer allergic to silk, and hope that if I still am, the hives disappear before the next Monday. Meet more strangers and be as polite and gracious as possible, while answering hard questions about math. Try not to fall asleep due to exhaustion while talking to them. Navigate heavy traffic and make my way back to the airport in time to catch my flight. Change clothing in the airport. Buy presents in airport for my husband and for the woman who covered my karate class on Tuesday night. Arrive home late at night and collapse.
Friday: Recover from grueling ordeal. If I haven't done this already, send final draft of thesis to committee. Catch up on e-mail, especially messages pertaining to my next interview.
Weekend: Continue to recover. Make last-minute preparations for next interview. Try to get lots of sleep, eat little salt, and if I'm lucky, start my period. If I'm not lucky, start dosing myself with naproxen sodium. (low sodium + pain killers = my way of taking out some insurance against bitchin' cramps during my interview in case the menstruation gods are not on my side.)

Week of June 13:
Monday: Travel to Oak Ridge. Interview may start right after I leave the airport, so dress nicely but comfortably enough to walk across O'Hare airport without my feet cursing me. Possibly go out to dinner with people I've never met and who haven't yet heard my seminar. Or, maybe my seminar is scheduled for Monday afternoon. I guess I'll find out. In any case, be gracious and accommodating, ignoring any semblance of PMS.
Tuesday: Spend most of day interviewing at Oak Ridge. Leave mid-afternoon to catch my flight home. Again, dress nicely, but comfortably enough to walk across O'Hare, or, change clothes at the airport.
Wednesday: Recover from grueling ordeal. Catch up on correspondence, especially pertaining to next interview and the other interview that has not yet been scheduled.
Thursday: Work on defense talk. Practice it upon unsuspecting officemates and other suckers. Teach karate after missing almost two weeks.
Friday: Continue work on defense talk. Maybe even practice it upon my advisor.
Weekend: Buy tableware, plates, napkins, name tags, and decorations for my party. Try to get lots of sleep and stay healthy.

Week of June 20:
Monday-Wednesday: Prep for defense and party. Prep for next interview.
Thursday: Dad, bonus mom, and sister arrive. Make final preparations for party and defense.
Friday: My big day. Eat nothing and stare at the wall. Tell bad jokes badly out of nervousness. Dress in uncomfortable clothing. Supply tasty pirozhki and assorted beverages for audience. Give defense talk. Answer questions graciously. After audience leaves, remain unfrazzled by committee's questions. Return to my office as they confer, and try not to think about the fact that they're in that little room talking about me behind my back. Jump up and down for joy when I pass. Go out to dinner with husband, sister, dad, and bonus mom.
Saturday: Day of my party. Go to farmer's market in the morning. Enjoy the day. Set up for party at 6 p.m. Enjoy my guests and the potluck food from 6:30-9:30. Clean up afterwards.
Sunday: Recover. Say farewell to departing family members. Thank my dad for underwriting party.

Week of June 28:
Monday: Make final preparations for Los Alamos interview. Pack for trip.
Tuesday:Travel to New Mexico. Drive 100 miles to strange place in unfamiliar car without getting lost. Listen to some good music on the way.
Wednesday: Dress in uncomfortable clothing. Give seminar, interview with many strangers, behaving graciously at all times. Eat as politely as possible.
Thursday: Drive back to Albuquerque. Travel home. Buy souvenirs for my husband and for the woman who covered my karate class on Tuesday.
Friday: Recover from trip.

Over the course of the following weeks:
Review my options. If unsuccessful, find other jobs to interview for. Ask people I met at conference for their help. Otherwise, decide which job to take, and begin preparing for move!

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Adventures in Karate Instruction

As a brown belt, I am now allowed to give belt tests. Last week I gave a yellow belt test, and last night I gave an orange belt test. Both girls passed with flying colors.

I gave the yellow belt test on Thursday because the main instructor was giving a green belt test and couldn't do both. The other brown belt was also there, and she taught everybody else while we gave the tests. Then last night, he wanted to work with the new students, so he had me give the orange belt test while he did that.

The boy who took the green belt test passed, so now we have a fairly advanced student to teach. I need to review my blue belt kata to make sure I'm doing them correctly before I try to teach them to him.