Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Help Me, O Internet!

There are some interesting features in our new house, but the weirdest one by far is this strange electrical outlet in our bedroom. Below is a diagram of two different types of outlets.

The outlet on the left is your average, everyday outlet, which are quite numerous in this house. The outlet on the right is this mystery outlet that's on one of the outer walls of our bedroom. Notice that the outlet looks sort of normal except that the two upper prongs are rotated 90 degrees from usual.

In trying to figure out what this outlet could possibly be, I asked my dad, the handyman of all handymen. Unfortunately, he'd never heard of such a thing. So next, I looked it up on the internet. Googling for "electrical outlets types United States" I came across the Wikipedia article about domestic AC power plugs and sockets. I learned quite a bit about power plugs and what they look like around the world. It was all very interesting. There are thirteen standard types of sockets, used around the world. The Wikipedia article had pictures of these thirteen standard types (A through M), but none of them are this mystery outlet. So then I read the fine print about the North American types, and it suggested that "plugs with two flat parallel pins are 240 V variants" of the standard type A (two-prong) plug, and are very rare. But there was no mention of the three-prong mode, but I think I'm going to go ahead and assume that this is simply a high-voltage variation of the type B (three-prong) plug.

This brings me to my questions for the internet. First, am I right that this is a high-voltage outlet? Second, assuming that this is a high-voltage outlet, why is it in our bedroom? I mean, sure, you have high-voltage outlets for your electric stove, your clothes dryer and the like, but the outlets for those appliances don't have this shape to them. They're usually a lot bigger than the standard outlet, for starters. More importantly, what sort of high-energy appliance would one put in the bedroom? A supercomputer? (I saw that IBM servers can be connected to such an outlet, but I'd think that the noise would really get to you.) Another stove, in case you wanted to bake yourself a snack? An enormous hairdryer? (But why wouldn't the outlet be in the bathroom then?) A super-mondo deluxe vibrator? (…and where can I get one?)

Help me, O Internet! You are my only hope!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

One Year of Blather

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Thank you so much for putting up with my blathering over the internet this past year. Some people actually read this site and come back again for more! Thanks again to those of you who frequent this blog and actually comment!

It has been a year of great change for Jeff and me. I moved from a cozy existence as a grad student to an existence as a real, live professional. I uprooted us from Illinois, our home for seven years, to Tennessee, our new home. I also started making more money than I spent, which is definitely an improvement! Here is a recap of the highlights of the year:

January and February were spent working really hard on finishing up my dissertation research, teaching karate, and losing that last bit of weight. In March, I was rewarded for my hard work in two out of the three areas by reaching my weight goal and interviewing for a job (complete with car wreck), and I was punished in the karate arena by tripping over an eight-year-old.

In April, I reached Lifetime status at Weight Watchers, failed to get an offer for the job I'd interviewed for, and almost interviewed at IBM Watson. (It was rescheduled for June.)

In May, I became a brown belt and traveled to Sweden for a conference.

June (and part of July) was absolutely insane for me, as evidenced by my hectic schedule for the month. I had four interviews, defended my dissertation, and partied wildly afterwards.

Two of my interviews (1) (2) actually resulted in offers being extended. July and August were spent ruminating over the decision of which to take. With an offer like this, it's really hard to say no.

In the end, I picked the other one, and began working on September 15. I went on ahead, leaving Jeff behind, to move to Tennessee and start my new job. I learned a lot, much of it stuff that one would not expect to learn on the job (such as how to write with the non-dominant hand). I was lonely and lived in a small apartment all alone, but in October, my beloved husband finally finished up in Illinois and moved down here to be with me, and Dad, Marvis, Laura, and Anne all converged upon Oak Ridge to help me and Jeff celebrate our birthdays.

In November, Jeff and I closed on our new house, which we are still enjoying. Thanksgiving was slightly depressing but I made it. December was more fun, especially after the orthopedist fixed my elbow. We also traveled to Kentucky after Christmas to see the family on both sides.

So far the new year has been good to us, too. We defeated our evil futon frame and did various other home-improvement projects. We found a new roleplaying group to join, and that has been a lot of fun too.

This year has brought a lot of change to Jeff and me. Most of it has been for the better (although I do miss a lot of things about Urbana still). I wonder what changes the next year will bring. Thanks for taking the journey with me!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Adventures in Humor

The better half and I both have strange senses of humor. Luckily, we seem to have similar tastes in jokes. In this entry I shall attempt to delineate the different classes of humor in which we partake.

1. Inside Jokes. We have many shared experiences and from these shared experiences we draw much of our humor. For example, one time a certain family member (who shall remain anonymous) once said that only “goons” drank out of cans. So now we accuse one another of being goons when we notice the other drinking from a can.

2. Repetition. We are little more than amoebas, in that this is a case of stimulus-response. Most of these jokes are not even funny. For example, every time we pass a particular street in Oak Ridge, one of us nudges the other and says, “Hey, see that street? [My Ph.D. advisor] used to live down that street.” There were similar jokes in Urbana (like “That’s where the foundry used to be before it burned down” and “They used to run prostitutes out of that hotel.”) I don’t know why this is funny, but it is.

3. Injecting reality into fantasy, or vice versa. When we’re watching a TV show, or playing a game, or whatever, I often do this. For example, in the game World of Warcraft, certain animals leave you with “discolored fangs” as loot. I commented recently that if only those animals used Crest toothpaste, they wouldn’t have discolored fangs.

4. Puns. Mostly, I make the puns, and he groans. Puns were an integral source of humor in my family when I was growing up, and I continue the tradition.

5. Deliberate Misinterpretations. One of us says something, and the other takes it in a completely different way. Jeff is really good at this one. I tend to mix this method with puns for more effect.

What sorts of humor do you like?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Bits and Pieces of Nothing Much

* Inspired by our success against the futon, we decided to change all the locks on the doors, so that they would all have the same key. We successfully changed all the locks but one, which is the front door handle. For some reason, they put that door handle in a weird place: not in the middle of the door, but probably about halfway between the middle and the outside of the door. We couldn’t replace just the handle because the shape of the shaft that turns the new handle is different than the shape of the hole it’s supposed to go through.

* We found another group to roleplay with. Our previous group broke up because there were too many stressors in the other people’s lives. So Jeff inquired around some more, and we found a group who are doing a D&D campaign. We both had a great time. The only thing is that I’m the only woman and I think some of the group members haven’t really played in a group with a woman before, and they don’t quite know what to do. But I think that they’ll soon get used to me and I’ll get used to them. In particular, I think that I will be endeared to them when I start bringing tasty snack treats. The bunch of bananas at home is just getting to the right stage of ripeness to make some really tasty banana bread!

* I love my husband’s cooking. I like his jambalaya better than I like ice cream, and that’s saying a lot, because I could subsist entirely upon ice cream if it weren’t for all those pesky nutrients that ice cream lacks. Oh, and the fact that as proud as I am of having lost all that weight, I don’t want to do it again.

* This morning I went to a meeting about the proposals our group is submitting to the gubmint for funding. I understood next to nothing. I mean, I was able to parse almost every word that was spoken, but I couldn’t make much sense of the phrases stringing them together. But it’s all good; I just need to talk to my mentor and ask him to explain how things work.

My entire experience with proposals consists of writing proposals for supercomputing time. Those were pretty simple, and I had my advisor looking over my shoulder the whole time, because it was his name going on the proposal (some pesky rule about needing a Ph.D. to be a PI). I’m not writing any proposals for this round of submissions; my mentor is writing me in to his proposals. But in the not-so-distant future I’m going to need to begin writing proposals of my own. So it was good to go to that meeting, even if I didn’t get much out of it. Just being exposed to the process is a good first step.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Becca & Jeff 1, Broken Futon 0

On Friday night, Jeff and I defeated our broken futon in battle.

Our futon frame was all in one piece when we last saw it in Illinois. It was loaded into the moving truck and shipped off to who-knows-where for storage. But apparently, when it got to who-knows-where, it was taken apart with little care, resulting in a cracked beam and a broken off bolt.

Jeff glued the cracked beam back together, but we couldn't get the broken off bolt out of the hole. Fortunately, the cracked beam was the one with the broken bolt in it, so we just decided to replace that beam. We went to Home Depot and bought a 2x4, and had them cut it to the right length. We also bought some 4" wood screws, because we had no way of drilling the holes and installing bolts like the original. On Friday night, we reconstructed the futon frame without any major injuries to ourselves! We put the new 2x4 in the back, so you can't see it. The futon frame is stable, but just to make sure we lounged around on it a lot.

Next project: rearranging everything in the downstairs "den." We're making it into a gaming room, where we will have our TV, stereo, futon, easy chair, bookshelves, computers, a table, and chairs.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Happy New Year!

We had a great time in Kentucky. First we went to my dad and bonus mom's house, where we saw both of my sisters, Rachel and Laura, as well as Scott and Byron (Rachel's husband and son), and Anne (Laura's girlfriend). A good time was had by all. Highlights (from my point of view) included

*Sisters' night out, in which we did girly things like go bra shopping, get free makeovers, get pedicures, and go out for dinner and dessert. Okay that last one was not intrinsically girly, but since it was an all-girl activity, it counts. The pedicures were fun, except that it was slightly uncomfortable to have Asian immigrant women bowing at your feet. (The woman who did mine spoke no English.) But it was nice to get such luxurious treatment, and I think I'll probably do it again sometime.

*Byron, my incredibly cute, two-and-a-half-year-old nephew. Aside from the early morning yowling, he was cute as a button and a joy to be around. He was not terrified by his Aunt Becca and Uncle Jeff. One day when Byron was wearing an orange shirt, Uncle Jeff even got him to say "Go Tennessee!"

*Dad and Marvis, the impeccable host and hostess of the visit. We are always made to feel very welcome by them. I never cease to be amazed by Marvis' big heart, because she spoils Byron just as much as she spoils her own grandbaby, Maya, and she treats me and my sisters as if we were her own children. I know where to go whenever I need to feel taken care of: chez Papa et Marvis.

*Giving gifts (and getting some, too!). I enjoy the giving almost more than I enjoy the receiving. Despite the fact that in May, when I was buying gifts in Sweden, I didn't even know of the existence of Anne, I bought one extra t-shirt and that was what I ended up giving to her. It was a surprisingly big hit because, as it turns out, she is interested in Sweden and hopes to visit there someday. And for Scott I got a book on the Stockholm City Hall, which I thought he needed in order to prepare for the day that he receives the Nobel Prize in Physics. He was glad that I was willing to help him out like that. The gifts I received were wonderful, too. From my fearless younger sister I not only received last year's promised gift of leg warmers, but also a handmade bag made from a denim mini-skirt and an old pillowcase. It is really something to behold! And from Rachel, Scott, and Byron, I got some beautiful pillow covers for square decorative pillows. Now I just need to find some pillows for them, and a place for them to go. Dad and Marvis also showered me with gifts, including an ergonomic mouse pad with wrist support, a Kentucky t-shirt, and a South American wall hanging.

On Saturday, we traveled over to Louisville, to visit the in-laws. Highlights of that portion of the trip included

*Seeing Alice, my former babysitter. As in, she used to babysit me when I was a kid, and (amazingly!) she still likes me. I saw her on New Year's Eve, and she commented that she had spent more New Year's Eves with me than with anyone else. That is a distinction of which I am quite proud! We went over to her mother-in-law's and spent the evening playing games. But I was pretty tired so I returned to the in-laws' before 11 and welcomed the new year by sawing some logs.

*Cooking dinner for mom- and dad-in-law, who complimented me on the chicken dish that I made. Can I just say that matzo meal is the best invention ever? For those of you who are fans of chicken with a lemon flavor to it, pick yourself up a container of matzo meal (by the Manschweiz company, maybe? something like that) and make the lemon chicken in the recipe on the side of it. It is sooooooo goood and super easy to make.

*Seeing the mom- and dad-in-law and the brother-in-law and sister-in-law-in-law, who obviously like me and are proud of me. I gave them each a copy of the magazine that I was in (nothing too amazing, just the NCSA's publicity magazine, Access) and they were quite proud. Dad-in-law even took the magazine to work to show it off to his co-workers.

But I think that the biggest highlight of the whole trip was actually coming home. I am, by nature, a homebody, so it was good to get back to my turf, even if I don't completely feel like it's home yet. It's home enough that it felt good to once again sleep in my own bed and shower in my own bathroom. Still, it was a fun trip and I'm glad we went.