Monday, June 29, 2009

Not as old as I thought I was

Mr W and I saw an exhibit at the museum last weekend on health that had movie on what one's body goes through when you're hiking at altitude. This led me to decide that I'd go hiking on my birthday, on a trail that I had hiked a couple of years ago and liked a lot (i.e. lots of wildflowers).
I used to hike more than I do now. I've also had to have some physical therapy this year on my hip, which I injured when I was in my 20's (playing Capture the Flag, but that's another story). So I guess it wasn't a surprise that I woke up at 3 am and started worrying that I might hurt myself, or have to turn back because my hip hurt, or that the dog would get hurt, or blah blah blah.

I considered going someplace else, but in the end stuck with the plan and just did it. The trail head was about 1.5 hours away, up our local canyon (the Poudre) and it was a beautiful day. The dog was about out of her mind with enthusiasm; it was really fun to watch. There were lots of little rivulets of water, so I bet the smells were amazing. I kept her on a leash, which was great on the uphill (got a little assist here and there) but hard on the downhill because she pulled a bit.

And, it wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be. The parking lot is at 10,000' and the full hike was about 2 miles one way, with only about 1000' of elevation gain. Unfortunately, I only made it about 80% of the way, as there was still snow on the trail and it got deep enough that I was breaking through with almost every step. I'm a little disappointed, but I'm sitting here about 7 hours later and nothing hurts yet. I imagine my knees will be a little sore, but that's to be expected.

I might try again in a month, when the snow will be gone. I could certainly also pick something that wasn't so high up to begin with too, but it's nice to get the cooler air when it's hot in town. It was a good thing indeed to pull out my hiking stuff - pack, first aid kit, boots, etc., and have everything fit and feel good. I love my old boots - no blisters!

I picked up Mr W and we went to Whole Foods. They sell individual pieces of cake, so I got a piece and he got a cupcake. We are all caked up and I'm going to get him to bed so I can have a glass of celebratory wine and go to bed.

It was a good day.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

It's not you, it's me

I don't blog much about being in a long distance relationship (LDR). I can see now that, at the beginning I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I'm quite satisfied (for/at the moment anyway) with how we carry on the relationship in the present. CB and I've been doing it for a little over two years now. He also travels for a living, leading bird watching tours, so there is an added component of absence that wouldn't be there otherwise.

I have to say, though, that one major challenge is processing the subtleties. Having to wait to speak until CB's in cell phone range or has an internet connection is just how it is, and for the most part, I haven't had a situation where I had to talk to him RIGHT NOW.

But something did happen the other day that gave me some insight, so I thought I'd share it. Being divorced and having a young kid who loves his dad but won't think to get him anything for Father's Day presents a situation that I sometimes have trouble with. Long story short, CB and I were talking on Father's Day, about Father's Day, and I saw his perspective as being (imagine this) quite sympathetic to a divorced man like my ex.

At the time, which was a bad time because he was in the middle of the last dinner of the tour with the people he was traveling with, I felt weird, like I had been scolded. And yet I couldn't do anything about it because he had to go. So we agreed to talk about it later.

Sometimes the feelings just sort of burn themselves out, and sometimes they don't. We eventually got to talk about it a couple of days later, and while I wasn't seething the whole time, the basic feeling didn't abate either.

It was interesting, after we each had our say, the difference we had was sort of still there, only it was in context now and it was OK. Another thing was the extent to which I realized how the things I do or don't do for Father's Day are hopelessly wrapped up in how I feel about the day.

I marvel at how the process ends up providing me with insight as to why I see things the way I do. Thanks, CB.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Vanity, thy name is...

This is sort of a shallow post, so if you're looking for something pithy, this probably isn't the one.

A few weeks ago, I got my hair cut. I got what I asked for, but it looks very, um, matronly. Practical, ho-hum, no pizazz. I've also been coloring my hair, on and off, at home, for a few years. I did the permanent color for a while, and for the last year or so have been using the semi-permanent kind. But I've not colored it for about 2 months, and it's starting to look salt and pepper. And matronly. And, well, old.

I go around and around with myself on the hair color issue. If I had the money to spare, I'd get it done at a salon every 4-6 weeks and likely be very happy with it. But it's about $100 each time, and I can't justify the expense (yet). So I do the semi-permanent color at home, and it's pretty good.

But then I get into a phase like now, when I try to convince myself that I shouldn't NEED to color my hair. That it looks OK as it is. That my self image shouldn't hinge on the amount of grey in my hair. So I don't color it for a while, and it grows out, and it's a bit two-toned (the semi-permanent color doesn't give as much of a skunk stripe look). Then I hit the wall and color it again. Because it looks prettier, fresher, and like a I give a hoot about what I look like.

What I need to do is to get it cut again, and just freakin' have a professional color it and stop worrying about it. I talked to someone at work who is in her late 50's and has sort of greying blondish, brownish hair - very natural to go with her granola-y self. She said the other day that her hair is completely grey, and that her stylist is going to very gradually color her hair lighter and lighter until it matches her natural color. In other words, she's got a plan.

I need a plan. I'm tired of looking in the mirror and trying to convince myself that, at a few days from 44, I'm supposed to be OK with the grey hair. It makes me feel old and alongside this haircut, the effect is magnified. Here's what I want for a haircut. Minus the attitude (mostly).

Stay tuned.

mohawk image
shag image

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Hi, do you mind if I join you?

This has been my line at lunch every day at this conference. Sure, I could go and sit by myself, but I've been forcing/encouraging myself to meet some new people.

And I have to say, I have met so many nice people. I don't know if it's because I'm older, or if I feel like I know what I'm doing (more or less) at work, or what, but it's not as hard to talk to people about what I do and what they do. Almost everyone seems to do at least moderately interesting work, and, of course, they don't mind talking about themselves. That's a good thing to keep in mind in general - people do like to talk about themselves.

My advisor in school was the one to suggest this conference several years ago. I remember her saying that the presentations at this particular yearly conference were most in line with her own research interests, and that the people who attended were friendly. And so it is. The talks have been interesting (although there have been 4 full days of them - whew!), and I'm leaving with several new ideas for my stuff at work.

I think one of the best things has been to talk to other women who have kids and full time sciencey jobs. It's just cool to be able to talk about our kids as well as our research projects.

And I also realized, repeatedly, that my work situation is somewhat unique. I'm thankful for the degree of autonomy and flexibility I have. And while we don't seem to be rolling in the dough, none of my purchase requests have come back unsigned yet.
Looks like next year's meeting is in Portland, OR. I like the green of the PNW.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Evolution Conference Day 3

I never knew so many people worked on reptiles. I thought I'd have enough oomph for a coherent post tonight, but I'm tuckered out. My talk went well. I think the most important thing I've gotten out of this so far are a couple of ideas of things to try with the mosquito DNA when I get home.

Everyone here does tend to think that their study system is so obviously the best.

It sounds hokey, but one nice thing about conferences is that you can get a fresh perspective of what you do because you're explaining what you do to people. Repeatedly. This isn't a bad thing, because people are polite enough to ask. You have to of course reciprocate and learn how they are studying something (*yawn*) that just wouldn't hold your interest. I'm trying to think of a good example, but I'm only remembering the interesting ones.

I don't know why, but I'm fascinated with the pale morphs of lizards and beach mice, who live on sandy dunes. It's such a great example of local adaptation. I guess I'm interested in local adaptation. Need to translate that to mosquitoes, because I think, even though they are really widely distributed, that they show local adaptation. No one has looked for it, that's all.

I was explaining my job yesterday to a couple of people who have faculty positions. I told them how I found out about the job (applied for an ad in the paper), how I'm regarded (lots of autonomy and flexibility) and where my funding comes from (my boss gets a budget and says, "order what you need to do your work") and I thought:

Man, I'm lucky.

And those are my random thoughts. Tired and heading to bed now.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Evolution conference Day 1

I'm sitting in the hotel room, almost ready to get some dinner. I feel like I've earned it, as the conference is about a 15 minute walk (a bit farther than I thought it would be), and I've gone back and forth twice already. Anyway, the room's acceptable (although there's a family with young kids next door, hopefully they'll turn in early).

As I sat waiting for my flight out of Denver this morning, I chatted with a woman who, as it turns out, teaches at a small college in Michigan. She does her research on plant conservation genetics, which is what I studied in school. I don't usually talk to strangers much (although I admire people who are really good at it) but she was carrying a poster tube and was about my age, so I figured we'd have something to talk about.

CB and I were talking the other day about scientific conferences, after I told him I put together a 12 minute talk. He thought that was kind of bogus. The audience would learn more about a particular project if the talk were, say, 30 minutes or so. This is true, but there are just too many people (about 900 presenters) wanting to give talks to do that.

Why don't they pare it down? Well, presenting one's research at scientific meetings is part of being a scientist. It's a way to tell others what one is doing research-wise, learn about what other people are doing, pick people's brains about new ideas, get help with troubleshooting, and make contacts for future collaborations. I don't think they turn anyone down who wants to do a talk, but I'm not sure.

And, while it's true that getting everything you want to say down to 12 minutes can be a challenge, bigger talks that are good talks require more work. I lucked out and give my talk tomorrow afternoon. Just enough time to practice a bit, attend some morning talks, get my talk over with and enjoy the rest of the conference.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

(Don't) stop me if you've heard this

I've been thinking lately about how our stories define us. I was recently visiting CB and found myself saying, several times, "I've probably told you this before, but when I...." Then I'd use the story as an example of the thing we were talking about at the time. Does that count as tedious repetition? I hope not. I suppose the people who love us have heard our stories lots of times.

When my family gets together (not often enough, I might add) it seems like retelling stories holds an important place, right alongside getting everyone up to date on what's been going on in our lives recently.

Yesterday, I left work late and had to: get the dog, drop off the dog at home, get the kid, feed the kid and take the kid to karate. We are sort of new to the twice a week after work/camp/school activity, so I'm still very much getting the routine down. In my haste, I left my parking lights on and had to call AAA for a jump. First time I've used it - they were there in 20 minutes - good service!

Anyway, while we waited, I asked Mr W if I had told him the story of when I had been hiking, left my lights on, and my battery died. Just me and the dog and an empty parking lot, no cell phone reception, etc. It was a moment of triumph when I pushed my car out, popped the clutch and got it started. Yes, he had heard that story before. Darn, I really like telling it, too.

While I sat knitting during Mr W's class, I sat next to a teenager whose father was participating. She had nothing good to say about his form, or the fact that she had to be there. So boring, and he was sort of embarrassing her. It reminded me of a time when my dad came to the community pool and did goofy belly-flop cannon ball things off the diving board to embarrass us. I look back so fondly on that now, I hope that girl looks back fondly someday as well. I couldn't restrain myself, though. At the end, when she sighed and said, "finally!" I looked at her and said, "maybe next time you could bring a book". It just popped out, I didn't mean to make her feel bad.

I don't mind hearing stories again. I think it helps to reinforce bonds and remember the things that shaped us into who we are now.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Smells of the season

I was out walking over lunch today and smelled the flowers of some Russian olive bushes. I think it's a pretty distinctive smell, and it always reminds me of summer, specifically swimming at the municipal pool near my house when I was a tweener. I don't think of the place otherwise, but when I smell Russian olive flowers, it takes me right back to that place and time.

Another smell that does that is the smell of asphalt, again, in the summertime. The grade school across the street from the first house I lived in repaved their parking lot one summer, and ever since, the smell puts a picture into my head of the parking lot as seen from the front yard of that house.

Funny how smells can be so powerful. I'm sure there are others that do the same thing, but those were the two I thought about today, as summer's holding back a bit and we're having some rainy weather.

How about you? Any smells that just take you back to a place and time?

In other news, I took Mr W to his second karate class today. He had a full day at camp, and then the karate afterwards. He was whooped by the time it was time to go to bed. It's good to be that tired and have the next 9.5 hours to do nothing but sleep. I thought the class was neat, and he seemed to like it. I got to knit for an hour, while they practiced blocks and punches.