Sunday, September 25, 2005

Adventures in a New Place

I haven't written much lately, because I've been pretty busy. Working all day is pretty exhausting, even when your work just consists of sitting around and thinking a lot. In the past ten days or so, I have read three papers assigned to me by my mentor, as well as several other papers with applicable background material. The problem is that I like to take notes while I read, because it keeps me focused on reading. Otherwise my mind tends to wander as the eyes go back and forth and "read" the paper. Unfortunately, my stupid hand/arm injury makes me unable to take notes in the usual manner. I have tried typing the notes, but for mathematically-intense papers such as the ones I'm reading, it's really hard to do without getting bogged down in the mathematical notation.

I've been doing a lot of note taking with my right hand, and I have seen a lot of improvement in my penmanship. I have progressed from illegible to nearly-illegible, so that is progress. In particular, my fingers are starting to flex as I write, which is a big improvement from before.

All week long, I have felt like I had a permanent funny-bone feeling in my left elbow. It has awakened me at night, and it aches all day too. So I asked my mentor for a recommendation for a good doctor. I called that doctor and found out that I couldn't get in as a new patient until January. I asked the person who answered the phone what I could do, and she suggested this walk-in care place. I found out that they had Saturday hours at this walk-in place, so I went there yesterday morning. The doctor decided that I have tendonitis and gave me some super-strong naproxen sodium to take.

Now, I know that if I have tendonitis, it is not my main problem. I know what I have and it's ulnar nerve entrapment. He didn't pay it much mind when I mentioned that when I first injured my arm two years ago, I got an electric shock in my elbow whenever I gripped with my hand, or that the only fingers affected are my little finger and my ring finger, or that I have a funnybone feeling. But I took his diagnosis and I will be back next Saturday when the symptoms haven't improved.

As for work, other than the pain inflicted upon my arm and my brain by trying to learn all this new stuff, things are going pretty well. The lab seems to be a place where you can get plenty of free food. As a recent grad, I still appreciate free food immensely. On Tuesday, I went to a meeting for postdocs, and scored some cookies and lemonade. On Thursday, they had a "Fall Festival," with free brats, sauerkraut, potato salad, dessert, and soft drinks for everyone. This coming Tuesday over the lunch hour there is an "International Festival," which is not free but all the proceeds go to the United Way. I bought my ticket and I plan to sample all the international foods.

On Wednesday I will go on a three-hour tour of the lab that they give for new employees. And on Thursday I have an appointment to meet the division director. He is in charge of recruiting new hires from the University of Illinois, so I plan to talk to him about that. I know exactly how to recruit computer scientists from UIUC.

In the evenings at home, I've been playing World of Warcraft with my better half. It's been surprisingly fun. We are playing gnomes. Gnomes have these crazy hairdos in these crazy colors. I picked a pink beehive hairdo. From the front it kind of reminded me of a shrimp's tail, so I named my character Prawnhead. I'm a mage and I zap bad guys with fireballs from afar. There are a lot of quests that you do, so it's not just killing things, which makes it more interesting.

Thanks to my fearless sister Laura, I was made aware of the fact that Oak Ridge has a farmers' market. It's more like a farmer's market, because there are maybe five farmers there. It is several steps down from the one in Urbana. Still, it was nice to go to it on Saturday morning. I bought a bag of apples and some spinach. The apples are really good. I haven't tried the spinach yet. It was a big-leaf variety that I am unfamiliar with. Still, spinach is one of my favorite vegetables, so I'm looking forward to trying it.

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