Thursday, March 31, 2011

Happy Birthday, Judy

Today would have been my mom's 74th birthday. Wow. She died much too early, at age 56. Miss you, Mom.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Annnd up we go

This job thing has taken a bigger toll of me than I had previously thought. It's been interesting, though. When I was first divorced, I figured by the time I was 5 years out, I'd be happily settled down in the relationship I'd be in for the rest of my life. OK, I'm trying not to roll my eyes either.  My point is that I had assumed, it's been part of my plan, to be settled down with a nice guy, with another income, by now. I didn't want someone to provide for me, but to be kind of a backup.  And I'd be the same for him.

This feeling was ingrained when I was first looking for jobs, and saw the federal one that I did end up applying for. It was offered at two pay scales. The higher one (that I don't qualify for; I applied for the lower one) has a maximum salary (over time) of over 100K. When I saw this, the thought came into my head, unbidden, "If I made that much, I wouldn't need a man". And I guess that would be true financially.

I think that thought started my current mindset that it is all me here. It's my responsibility to find and keep the job that will provide me and my kid (for the half time that he's here) a reasonably good and stable life. And, it turns out, this doesn't scare me as much as it once did. I've got some skills, I can talk to people, I will find something.

I mentioned here a few days ago that there was the possibility of some money coming in that would keep me employed for a few months after the official end of my contract at work. I think that looks like it still might happen. As much as I'm privy to the goings-on at that level of the organization, anyway. Along the same vein, my supervisor told me he met with the highest level people in the division (i.e. our site) to make a pitch to have them change their minds and fund me so I can continue doing the genetics stuff I do, which no one else at the facility does. I was really pleased he would do this. I don't know when we'd know, and they didn't make any promises.

At the same time, I feel a little unsatisfied. I don't want to cobble together a few months' work at a time. And if I do get renewed, I don't want to have to go through this job-related anxiety next year. I don't want to appear ungrateful because I'm not. This, I suppose, is typical of the job situation for a lot of people. We're UP! We're DOWN. Oh, wait, someone's making a pitch for us, we're UP! Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Grappling with the big questions

Are these worth the money (three ladders for $50)? I hate the tomato cages I had last year. They came with the house, and were the conical type. They leaned over when the plants got top heavy, and took up too much room in my raised beds. I have one tomato spiral that I use periodically, and it doesn't work worth beans. I vow after each time I use it to never use it again.

I like the idea of a ladder because I could tie the plant to it as it grows, and easily get at the fruit. The other thing I'm thinking of is to get a bunch of 6' bamboo and put three posts of bamboo around each plant. It's cheaper (about $35-$40), but I don't know how that will work. So, dear readers, what do you use? I know some of you are intrepid and experienced gardeners, so I would appreciate your opinion.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Home Again

I am back home after my trip to CA for work and a spot of play. It was a good trip. I gave a good talk, and am hopeful that the extra three months of work that my boss is trying to finagle will come through. Or, that I will get a good job before then. I had my classic anxiety dream last night, wherein I am back working at the nature center in Toledo that I worked at (happily) before moving to CO. In the dream, and it is always the same theme, I am back working there, and there is a group of kids coming, SOON, and I need to present part of the day's programing to them without any preparation.

In this dream, though, there were more details, and it was one of the those dreams that seemed to last most of the night. I remember saying, as I have before in this dream, "I sometimes dream that I'm back here to work". Wacky.

Anyway, here are a few shots from the trip. This was much more of a professional/trade show type conference than the academic ones I am used to. This is one of the workers there, and behind her, you can just glimpse the exhibit hall. I had no idea there were so many products to kill mosquitoes with. Must be pretty lucrative, too, because those displays were really nice.

It rained the first day I was there, to my surprise. Here's a genuine west coast snail, trying to get out of the rain by coming up on the sidewalk. Its shell was about an inch across.

I really did laugh out loud when I saw the sign on this Mickey statue. Sure, put up a totally climbable statue and tell everyone to stay off. 

We went to dinner one night at a New Orleans-themed restaurant. I had shrimp and grits and it was really good and really salty. The piano was totally covered with rhinestones, which reflected white in the picture, but you can kind of see on the sides of it.

Around the same area of the restaurant, there was a shopping district and I found this nice purple-flowered shrub. I have no idea what it is.

On to Palm Springs. After the conference, I took a shuttle to the airport, rented a car, and drove to see my SIL, who was visiting family in Palm Springs. I won't bore you with the details of the trip, but everything they say about California traffic is true. There are just so many people packed into that space. Here's a gas station that actually still offers full-serve gas - but it's going to cost you.

One of the botanically (and gastronomically) awesome things about southern CA is that there are citrus trees grown as ornamentals in people's yards. We picked these from the tree in the front yard, and there were also lemons and oranges about. I love that kind of stuff. And they were good, too.

This is the view out the back door of where I stayed. Just lovely. They plant annuals in the winter that we plant in the summer, and then come through as it gets hot and pull them out to leave the desert landscaping to get through those hot summers. It was a really nice visit.

I planted some seeds before I left, and they have germinated. I need to get out today and turn my compost pile again. I'd like to get the soil prepped in one part of my bookcase raised beds, so I can plant peas. It's fun to be thinking about gardening again. I got the job application submitted for the job I really want, and want to send in a couple more resumes to companies that don't have anything at the moment, but might, blah, blah, blah. It'll work out.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thoughts and possible news

My presentation went really well yesterday. It was a relief to have it over, and the whole day's worth of talks (a symposium on the bugs I work with) was interesting. A couple of near-snoozers, but overall good stuff. Note to people giving presentations: Leave your 30 row tables at home and just give us the good stuff, OK?

Last night, my boss and I went out to dinner with some collaborators, and they really liked the stuff I've done so far with their mosquitoes. There's talk of more collaboration, and me training one of them in our techniques. And talk of how to get as much done as I can before leaving at the end of July. Today I sat in on another symposium on the outbreak of West Nile disease in AZ last year, which a group from the CDC responded to and then gave talks on today.

As I listened to the talks, I thought to myself, "I'm going to miss these people; I'm going to miss this." Erg, kinda sad about it. My friend from work moved to WI to start a new job, and I miss her, too.

Well, tonight was the banquet. Man, the food was so good! I'm still full, 3 hours later. Anyway, My boss told me tonight there is talk about these collaborators putting up money to keep me on for an additional three months past the end of July. It's not a full reprieve, but they're trying, and maybe they can find some more money in the meantime to keep me another year. It feels good to see they'd like to see me stay.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A short dispatch from Anaheim

Well, I did it again. Chose a hotel that is a little too far from the conference. Not horrible, but a 12 minute walk, and I don't want to walk it after about 7 pm. I should just take taxis, there are plenty.

Can someone explain the appeal of Disney to me without using the word magic? Or using it and defining it somehow? I just don't get it. I haven't seen much of the park, as the hotel where the conference is is on the edge. We can walk through "Disney Downtown" which has shops and food, and then yesterday I went through a slice of the park on my way to catch a shuttle (which ended up being as long of a walk as going from my hotel). It's been chilly here, and it looks like they don't have everything open as they might if it were warmer.

Anyway, the conference is pretty good. It's got more of a trade show feel to it, and people are dressed up more here than at the academic conferences I'm used to. On a bright note, I saw my boss get an award from the Association whose conference this is, and that was a nice surprise. He hadn't let on that he was getting it. The talks have been OK. My world of population genetics is an infinitesimal part of the scene and that's fine. My talk is ready to go, I'll run through it one more time before I leave this morning. We've got 20 minutes, and if a ramble through it, it's 19 minutes. Perfect.

I had a dream the other night. I went into a room and there were two dead trees in pots. Small trees, like citrus. The smaller pot was sitting in the dirt of the larger pot, but they both had sand in them (which doesn't hold water, right?). So I was presented with these things, and my first inclination was to water them, which I did, trying to revive them, but I realized they were too far gone, and that with the sand, the water wouldn't help anyway. I'm pretty sure this has to do with past relationships.

OK, up and at 'em!!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Off to see Mickey

I'm going to Anaheim, CA for a conference soon. I've got my computer and camera, so I'll try to post some pictures. Since work will pay for me to check a bag, by golly I will. I'm also going big time and bringing my sweater knitting project to work on at the conference - that seems so decadent!

One weird thing is that the weather (think southern CA in spring) is supposed to be rainy and low-60's. Blech. The conference is at one of the hotels at Disneyland, and I'm staying at another hotel close by. I'll try to get over to the park once, although I admit the Disney stuff doesn't hold much magic for me.

It's a small world after all....

Friday, March 18, 2011

It's so me

Maybe I'll wear this to my first interview, which hasn't happened yet, but will!

From Cafe Press

Thursday, March 17, 2011


I attend the Unitarian Universalist church here in town. I joined about four years ago partly to give myself a new community to be involved in and partly for Mr W to get some spiritual context in his life. To each his own on the religious front, but one thing I really like about this church is its pastor and his sermons. I love leaving feeling like I've learned something. Last week he had a list of words that are hard to translate directly into English, but nevertheless have meaning.  I liked the list and Marc's descriptions so much, I'm sharing them here.

"uffda"--OOF-da--Swedish, exclamation--A word of sympathy for someone else in pain--"Ouch
for you"--You hit your thumb with a hammer--You're getting ready to move--You're being
consumed by Terry, the lovable but dangerous Great White Shark-- We shout "Uffda!"

"Rasa"--Sanskrit, noun--The mood, feeling, or sentiment evoked by a work of art, some other
entity, or an intense event--The essence of the emotion I feel in response to the essence
embedded in my experience--Marcel Proust eats a special French cookie and it triggers in him
intense memories of his past--and a really, really long novel--the essence of the cookie yields for
Proust the essence of his life's journey. "Rasa" is both a quality which inheres in an object or
event and also the inner feeling state evoked.

"yugen"--YOO-gehn (hard "g")--Japanese, noun--An awareness of the universe that
engenders emotional responses too deep and mysterious for words--We have the sense of, a
feeling for, the profundity and mystery in our lives and also in the world. Like "rasa," "yugen"
describes inner feelings more than the event or object that arouses such feelings.

"h`ozh'q"--HOE-shk--Navajo, noun--The beauty of life and the world, as seen and created by
a person--One's wealth and riches are one's stories and song, one's poems and paintings, the
various things of beauty one has created or embodied in one's life. Beauty is the full gestalt of
object, creator, and viewer. We walk and live in beauty; we end our days in beauty. "It is
finished in beauty."

"ostranenie"--ohsh-truh-NYEHN-yay--Russian, verb--To "defamiliarize" the world--In art,
literature, religion, rite or ritual, the intention to explode the ordinary, whether in an object, in
perception, or in experience, so as to revolutionize meaning. Make strange objects that are
familiar--Picasso, Emily Dickinson, William Blake, Charlie Sheen, Gertrude Stein, Andy Warhol and
the giant can of tomato soup. The exploration of light in the paintings of the Impressionists
might be seen as one example of this effort. Jesus in his parables uses reversal, irony,
unexpected metaphors and analogies to allow us to see and feel anew. In Zen this practice goes
on constantly, which might make you eventually desire to go on a long run, watch TV, or eat
crackers/ice cream/cookies-- whatever you prefer. But will cookies ever taste the same after
Zen? "I think not."

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Workin' it

Networking has been on my mind of late. I've told several people that I'm being let go (it feels nicer than saying "laid off") and to please spread the word and let me know if they hear of any leads. And you know what? I know more people than I realized I did. It's because I went to school here, obviously, but it still felt good that I've been able to even have people to mention my plight to. OK, maybe it's not a plight yet.

Yesterday, I was picking up Mr W from his we-don't-have-school-today day care thing, and ran into a woman who has a son about Mr W's age and we were students together in Biology department. She got the job at the Botanic Gardens that I applied for an didn't get an interview for. I am happy for her, as I didn't want the commute, and she no doubt was better qualified for it anyway. But she mentioned that she had thought of me the other day because they were getting a list of people together who had the skills to work on short term projects doing lab work that I can do. We exchanged email addresses, and I sent her a resume as well. I don't want that kind of piecemeal sort of work, but it's always good to have one's credentials on file.

And yesterday, too. I got an email from a person who I consider a mentor, who was on my graduate committee and has helped me with data analyses since I got out of school. He had a person who was trying to use a program that I used and wanted to know if I could give him any pointers to make it work. I put in my two cents' worth and then had the opportunity to share the news that I was going to be let go, blah blah blah.

And with the job I'm really wanting right now, the Biologist one that pays really well and is a FTE job with the government, well, I've found a couple of people who know people there as well. Of all things, my SIL in South Carolina used to work with a woman who now works for the same government agency, in the same building, but a different department, as where this job is located. And I emailed the x because he's a government contractor, and he suggested I email this guy who is also in the same building as the job is located in, and who I just happened to see the other day when Mr W and I were at this hands-on science thing.

It's wacky.

But it makes me feel like I'm doing something towards getting the next job, and that makes me feel calmer. I'm not feeling so urgently like I need to go back to school, but I need to make that decision in the next month or so because the application deadline is May 15th and I'd need time to assemble letters of recommendation, and get official transcripts sent, etc.

We're going to a parade today, the St. Patrick's day parade downtown. I'll take pictures.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

My Resume, Wordled

If you click on the picture, it will take you to the Wordle page and you can see it bigger-fied.  I took out the personal info and left my "action words".

Wordle: ResumeWords

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

This and That and That

Not too much news to report, but I thought I'd check in. Work has sort of settled back into a new normal, where we all realize that we need to wrap stuff up, but there's lots to do. I'm supposed to go to a conference in a couple of weeks, and started to work on my talk yesterday. I was going through older presentations looking for a logo to put in my talk, and realized that I've already given a longer version of this talk, so I really just need to pare it down to about 15 minutes. I even had picked the same template that I had used previously; how's that for predictable? My only question that I need to send to the contracting company I work for is, "if the government shuts down next week, do I still get to go to the conference?" The fee is paid for, but they buy refundable airline tickets, and I haven't paid for my room yet, so I really don't know.

I have been looking for a job, and actually found a couple to apply for. A couple that are (in my mind anyway) really good fits, not ones that I would pick out of desperation (although that time may come). One's a fed job, in town, and it's a couple of pay grades above what I make now. I'd qualify for the lower of the two pay grades offered (which is still great and awesome) but I was fantasizing yesterday about what I would do with the money offered by the higher pay grade, which would almost double my salary. Buy a car with cash? Contribute money to all the places doing good work around town? Put money in Mr W's college account? My retirement? Ha! There's no chance of me qualifying for the higher grade, but I'd be thrilled THRILLED to get in they system at the lower one. Oh, what's the job? It's got an analysis part where I'd read reports and distill the info into sensible bits, and then a public outreach part. It's so me.

The other one is something called a Science Teaching Fellow. This one's in Boulder, which is about an hour away, but they want someone to work with the professors who teach undergrad Evolutionary Biology, Ecology, and other stuff up my alley. I need to re-read it to see if there's a learning component for the Fellow, or if they want someone who already knows more what they're doing. It's a one year thing, renewable for up to three years.

So those are good leads.

I've been dutifully turning my compost pile, in hopes that I'll be able to use it to amend my soil before I plant things this year. So I'm out there with my watering can full of hot water a couple of times a week, and I think I see progress. The soil in my raised beds got hard and dry last year, despite me buying a soil/compost mix from the landscaping company. It's funny, after reading some of the great blogs that I follow that operate at larger and much larger scales than I do, my little plots seem so tiny. But I'm just trying to feed me and Mr W (and whatever green beans the dog ends up getting).

Can I say that I am, without fail, amazed at this seasonal cycle that I am part of? Every year when the garden is done, I'm done. Last year, I had food to eat beyond the garden's existence, but there was a point at which I said to myself, "This does not hold my interest anymore". And it rests, and I forget about it, and I start to knit again, and we have the holidays, and then it comes and gets me again. The desire to pick out seeds and plants and plan and scheme. Gardening and knitting kind of pass each other and bump knuckles on the way, one going in, the other going out of my scope of interest.

But not so fast, knitting. I've got a sweater that's about 25% done that I need to finish off before it gets warm.

Monday, March 7, 2011


Well, this dreadful photo (I took it with my phone, put it on Facebook and copied it from there) shows where my mind is of late. Saturday, I went out with dear friend D and her friend K, and we had drinks at this hip little place downtown. Drinks, as in I had two drinks. And I was hungover on Sunday. Note to self: the cost of the second drink is too high. Enjoy the one and drink water, OK? Anyway, we had a really fun time that also included dessert.

February was pretty darn mild, and we expect to have more winter before it's really spring, but it's OK to start seeds around the middle/end of March, for planting around the beginning of May. It used to be Mother's Day, but people jump the gun a bit. New this year are the mini-melons that I'm going to try to trellis, and the pickling cukes, which I will also trellis. The kid likes pickles, so we'll make some. I got a Roma-type tomato and the plant is determinate, which I'm thinking will give me one largish crop and I can can them all at once. That's the plan, anyway.

Still haven't heard anything about the teaching jobs. I've got my resume almost ready to post on several job sites, and have created saved searches that email me potential jobs once a day. I'm going to a conference in a couple of weeks, and I need to get my talk ready. It's hard to shift focus back to the job I'm still getting paid to do.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Life going on

Well, after the news that all but two of us contractors were losing our jobs, the folks from the contracting company flew out, and individual meetings were scheduled with each of us for yesterday and today to discuss "your future employment with our company". Mine's at 9:00 today.

I'm thankful that we all talk to each other, as co-workers who had their meetings yesterday described them as "five minutes of nothing".

Why, you ask?

Because Congress passed the stopgap spending dealio, so the government still doesn't have a budget for this year, so the contracting company and the CDC know that the budget will be cut drastically, but can't say for sure by how much until they pass one. I just hope they don't shut down in the midst of this, because I wouldn't get paid for that time.

As it is, I'm good until the end of July, and am now looking at that as enough advance notice to find something else. I had all but dismissed the teaching jobs as viable possibilities, as it's been a month now since they closed. But I called yesterday to see if interview candidates had been chosen, and they have not! So I consider myself still in the running, and now - go figure - the starting salary offered to do these jobs doesn't seem so unreasonable after all!

If those don't pan out, my next idea is to figure out something to live off of for a year, and complete the graduate certificate in Instructional Design at UC Denver. I'll sell the van if I have to *sniff*, but am hoping I can come up with something that I can live off of and am not above taking out a loan, but I don't want to do that either.

So, I'm actually hopeful. Everyone I talked to yesterday mentioned how there's "nothing" in town in terms of jobs for what we/they do. I feel fortunate that at least I've dipped my toes into some other pools and can pursue the teaching/education thing. Who knows? Maybe getting laid off will be the kick in the pants that lands me in education (either teaching or being support staff in the form of ID) after all.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


I'm being laid off at the end of July after all.

Boom Shakalaka

Here is my latest knitting project. It's a Cadence sweater, by Jordana Paige. If you click through to look at the pattern, you'll see that it has this really wide neckline, which initially turned me off to the pattern. But good old Ravelry shows several projects where people have cast on with smaller needles, then switched to the needles the pattern calls for when they start the chart. How clever! So I cast on with size 7's, and then switched to 10's. Too early to tell if this worked, but I think it will be OK.

Here's a close up of one of the pattern repeats. The Cadence name is apt, as I have gotten into a rhythm working around them. You might also get a sense from the pictures that this is bulky yarn. I am such a fan of bulky yarns for sweaters. This is Cascade's Ecological Wool, which is a really good deal, at $15.00 for 400+ yards of yarn. I love the look of a sweater made from DK yarn, but just don't have the time to spend with that skinny yarn. This way, I can see my progress and actually have a chance to wear this thing before it gets warm. C'mon spring, I dare you to come early!