Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011 In Review

So it's a little early...usually I do this on the first of the year, but I'm going to do it now instead.

1. What did you do in 2011 that you'd never done before?
I drove to Iowa by myself, drove without being able to see out the rearview mirror, put together a flatscreen television, and started genealogy research.

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
How bad is it that I don't even remember my new year's resolutions? I have no idea. I should probably write those down or something.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Ummmm, I don't think so.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Yes, my grandfather John died in January. It was really hard. He died of lung cancer caused by smoking cigarettes. Do not smoke!

5. What countries did you visit?
Canada. I went to the Stratford Shakespeare festival.

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
A garage for my car. Seriously, it's one of the things that I really want in my next apartment. I feel so bad for my car sitting outside all of the time.

7. What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory?
I moved to Ames on August 1st. John died on January 26th.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Getting into graduate school at Iowa State!

9. What was your biggest failure?
I'm not really sure I had a major fail this year. That's a pretty good thing.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
My anxiety disorder got out of control again; now I'm back on antidepressants.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
I just bought a new flatscreen television to move into the 21st century. I only did it because my old TV's power button got stuck in completely so I could only turn it on with the remote. It's an awesome new TV so I'm glad I bought it.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
My brother has done a really good job on his research this year, and he's presenting at a math conference.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
No one really made me appalled or depressed. There were some people that were a little annoying, and there were some people that made drama, but it was more amusing in a pathetic sort of way.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Hunziker Property Management and Liberty Mutual. Oh, and Hyvee.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Getting really good grades during the fall semester!! I got 5 As, one A-, and one B+!

16. What song will always remind you of 2011?
Edge of Glory-Lady Gaga

17. Compared to this time last year, you are:
Happier or sadder: Happier! Much happier.
Thinner or fatter: A tiny bit thinner.
Richer or poorer: Poorer, although sometime this year I'll probably get richer.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Working out. Cooking. I got a new cookbook though, so hopefully I'll do more.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Having anxiety attacks. It's really hard to get anything done afterward.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
I spent it with my family! I am so lucky!

21. What was your favorite month of 2011?
June, because we went Up North again and it was awesome. I wish we could go every year because it's so great up there.

22. Did you fall in love in 2011?
Nope. I haven't met anybody yet.

23. How many one-night stands?
None. I don't do one-night stands.

24. What was your favorite TV program?
Mythbusters! I wish I could be on the show. It would be the coolest job ever. Also I like Ghost Hunters but that's my guilty pleasure.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
No.

26. What was the best book you read?
I barely read any books for fun this year. It's a bummer. I really liked Marvel House of M and Civil War. I know those technically are comics and not books but I don't care.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Uh, I really didn't have any this year. Adele, I guess.

28. What did you want and get?
A new television. A nice apartment.

29. What did you want and not get?
Quiet neighbors. They're alright, but not the best.

30. What was your favorite film of this year?
I really liked X-Men First Class, but I also just saw Sherlock Holmes 2 and it was really good too!

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 24, and sadly I was by myself in Ames. But my parents gave me a huge box to open and it had lots of Legoes in it, so I built lots of Legoes.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Living close to my family. I miss having them close by.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?
Pretty much the same as last year-more fancy than t-shirts, jeans, boots.

34. What kept you sane?
Star Trek! Hanging out with Tessa and Mike!

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Robert Downey Jr.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Oh god, politics right now makes me want to hit things. I hate listening to that crap right now.

37. Who did you miss?
My parents, my grandparents, and my Michigan friends Jasmine and Eric.

38. Who were the best new people you met?
Bryon is pretty cool; he's one of my classmates.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011:
Family is really important to me and I want to be closer to them when I leave graduate school.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
One day I'm here, I'm on top of the world/And the next it's falling in on me/I can get back on, I can get back on-Far Cry, Rush

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Blessings

I was feeling a little down earlier today, because I was thinking about how I have to drive back to Ames on the 27th and how homesick I would be. It really had me all out of sorts and I was getting post-holiday depression before the holiday was even over. But then I realized how blessed I really am. I get to be home with my family during Christmas. A lot of people can't be with their family, or they don't even have anyone to share Christmas with. So even though I have to leave and go back to Ames, at least I got to spend Christmas with the people I love best. It really made me reconsider how I was feeling, and even though I know that I'll be sad when I go home, I also know that I am really lucky to get to be home for Christmas, and that makes me very happy and very grateful.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lions Vanquished

I'm home for Christmas right now, so I don't have a lot of time or desire to compose a gigantic blog post, but I decided to pop in because my grades came back. I got a B+ in Biochemistry, my nemesis, an A- in genetics, and As in everything else! My GPA is a 3.79, which is higher than it ever was in undergrad. I am so happy and so relieved. Finally I feel like I can really put the Georgetown debacle behind me, because I've proven that I can do well in biochemistry and I can be successful in a graduate program. What a relief!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Good news, everyone!

I'm officially done with my first semester of graduate school! I took my biochemistry final this morning. It was a pain in the butt because I had to take it at the Online Testing Center in Carver Hall. They seriously do not have enough room in there and I had to wait in line for at least twenty minutes before I got a spot. If Iowa State is really into the online stuff they need to expand that center to serve more people during finals time. Anyway, it went alright and I figured out that even without the curve I've passed all of my classes this semester. Grades are posted by the 21st so it shouldn't be too long before I know exactly how well I passed everything, but I know I passed.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Almost Done

Well after all the pain and agony of the fall, there's just one exam standing between me and the successful completion of my first semester of graduate school. Thus far I feel a lot more confident about my grades. I already know that I got an A in both Micro 551 and 553, and I passed 604 and Ethics. I'm sure I got at least a B in Micro 552, although I really don't know more because I don't know my second exam grade or if there will be a curve. That leaves biochemistry. I finished my extra credit homework today, and I have 16 extra points that will be added to my grade after the curve is determined. So if I can manage not to bomb the final, I could get anywhere from a B- to an A- depending on the curve. So yay! This is way better than Georgetown.
I also emailed the next professor I'm rotating with to make sure that we were still good for me to rotate in January, since the last time I had talked to him was...probably September. He responded really positively and after I get back from my holiday we'll meet and get a project set up. So I'm looking forward to that as well.
Next semester could be interesting. I have three more of the Micro core classes left: Fungal biology, Virology, and Ecology and Environmental Monitoring. The last one will be the most boring, but that's okay, I get why they think it's important. I also have to take the second semester of biochemistry. One of my classmates has heard from Vet students that it is incredibly hard, so I'm a little nervous. I'm hoping that they're blowing it out of proportion or that I might not find it as hard because I've done a lot of signal transduction work. I just hope that I'll have enough time to manage it all without feeling like I'm going crazy.
Speaking of being crazy, last week I started taking Celexa. It was a bit of a blow to my ego because I didn't want to go back on an SSRI, but I know that it'll help me so I'll do what I have to do. Next semester I'm starting a group therapy session as well focused on anxiety and depression so hopefully that will help. It's frustrating to have to deal with all this but it seems that my brain's signal transduction pathways are permanently altered, so I have to figure out how to deal with it so I can function normally.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I finished!

I just validated my word count and won my third NaNoWriMo! I have written three novels during NaNoWriMo so far. Yay!
So, since I just had the idea I have to write it down so I don't forget. Next year's NaNoWriMo-a sequel to this one, maybe called Uncharted Waters. Twenty years after the events of Days of Defiance, none of the protagonists have aged. Curious, they go to the Great Library and find out that somewhere far to the west, in a part of the planet that hasn't been explored in centuries, is someone with the answer they seek. In addition, they hear of a mythical treasure and decide to seek it out. This will be more of a straight-up pirate story with a little bit of fantasy thrown in. Yay!
Doing a sequel makes me want to keep editing and rewriting the first story too, so that I'm working with the characters all year between now and next year's NaNo.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Recap

Okay, time for the Thanksgiving recap! Last Saturday I drove home after dropping Memo off at the vet. He's being boarded there whenever I go on vacation. So I dropped him off and he was mad at me because I made him go in the magic box (his kitty crate). Then I drove all the way home. The weather was pretty nice although it was really windy. On Sunday I helped my parents teach their Sunday school class. It's a middle school class and they talk about a lot of science and stuff, so I led them all through a cow eye dissection. It went really well and they were all really excited about it! A couple of the kids were really curious about what I do as a real scientist and I was glad that I could answer their questions and hopefully keep them excited about science. On Monday my mum and I went shopping which was fun because shopping alone is kind of boring. Then my brother came home on Tuesday. He was grumpy because he had to have a medical test done and it involved itchy electrodes. But on Tuesday night I went with my dad to fencing club again! I really miss the Schoolcraft club so it was awesome to see some of them again. Wednesday night we all went to Outback Steakhouse with my granny. We discussed some of my more bizarre genealogy results and she said she might ask her older sister what she remembered from growing up so that I can figure out what was true and what's not. On Thursday we went to Grandma and Grandpa's house (they're my dad's parents) for Thanksgiving dinner. My aunt and cousins were there too. It's always a lot of fun when we go over there, and we got my Grandma on facebook for the first time. Then today I drove home :( It's crazy, especially because I'm going back in three weeks, but I was really sad to leave. It just solidifies in my mind that when I graduate from Iowa I'll probably go back home to Michigan for my post-doc. I really do want to live closer to my family.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

200th Post!

I just noticed that this is my 200th post on this blog. Pretty cool!
This week feels like it is going by so slowly. I really want it to hurry up and be Saturday so I can drive home to Detroit for Thanksgiving break! I am really excited to go home and see everyone. I have missed home a lot. I'm boarding my cat Memo at the vet during break. I hope he'll be okay. He can be really nervous so I hope it doesn't upset him. They have a giant fish tank to entertain the cats so I hope that he spends most of his time trying to figure out what a fish is. He's never seen one before so it will be weird and worthy of study. Add in that he's a little mentally slow and hopefully that adds up to him being happy while I'm gone.
NaNoWriMo is going pretty well. I just hit 30,000 words today. I'm still ahead of schedule which is good so that if I lose days on break I'll still be able to finish. As long as I have enough plot left, I should be able to make the 50,000 words easily. It's definitely a rough draft, but I think it might be the first draft that I edit or add to after November is over.
I did manage to get into BBMB 405. I checked again on AccessPlus and a bunch of seats had opened up so I took one. I'm glad so that I don't have to go through all the trouble of getting an add slip in the spring.
The other thing that happened is that I finally got in to see a counselor at SCS on Monday. I'd been on a wait list for almost two months. At first I wasn't sure I even needed to see someone because I'm not in crisis mode right now, but I went anyway and was really glad I did. I always need more help in managing my anxiety disorders. I do have an appointment in December at Student Health to talk about going on medication for a month or two. My counselor and I talked about it and we think it might be helpful so that I can concentrate on learning more coping skills without going into crisis. I have a feeling that I might start to struggle again with homesickness and depression in January, since it will be a while since I'll be able to go back home and my harder classes will be starting. So being on medication for a little while might be helpful. I'm a little reluctant but as long as I don't end up taking medication long-term I think it will be alright.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Whoa

I just got an email from my Dad. Apparently he heard from my great-aunt's estate attorneys today. They sold her house and after the final taxes, it looks like my brother, cousins, and I will get another thirty thousand dollars each. My great aunt...she was crazy generous.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Mid-November already

Time is going by really quickly! It's almost the middle of November. Next weekend, I'll be driving home to spend Thanksgiving with my family! I have two tests that I have to take between now and then-Biochemistry and Bacterial Genetics. I'm a little worried about both of them. I always worry about Biochemistry because I do struggle through the class and I want to get a decent grade. As for Bacterial Genetics, we only have two exams and that's what our entire grade is based on, and I've never had a class taught by this professor before, so I don't really know what to expect. Hopefully everything goes just fine. I did find out that I got a 91% on my Micro 553 exam, which is awesome! And I was way above the class average so that was kind of cool. It's been a while since I've been close to setting the curve in a class so I felt very accomplished.
NaNoWriMo is going pretty well so far. I'm only about a day's worth ahead, and I need to get more since I don't know how much time I'll be able to spend writing during Thanksgiving Break. I think I can do it and since I don't have class until 4pm tomorrow, I'm going to try and write three to five thousand words.
The only bummer is that I registered for classes and BBMB 405 was listed as full! I've never not been able to get into a class. It's a big class and should be easy to get added to in the spring, but it's kind of lame.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Things to be thankful for

November has started. This is the month we're supposed to be thankful and remember. I have so much to be thankful for.
I'll start with the most immediate: as of today my first rotation is done! I gave my report at lab meeting this afternoon. It went really well. I am glad that I was able to do some work with plants since I had never done any before, and there's a slim possibility that I might get a publication out of this. But I'm glad it's done because I'm pretty sure that I don't want to do my thesis there. Giving my report was the last thing I had to do, and now it's not hanging over my head.
Second, National Novel Writing Month started yesterday! I love NaNoWriMo. I am so excited to write my novel this year. It's a lot of fun and a great break from doing science.
Third, in three weeks I am going home for Thanksgiving Break!!! I have been waiting for this since September. I miss my family so much. My parents and I are so close and being far away has been a lot harder than I expected. And I miss my grandparents, who are also back in Michigan. Having all my family nearby as I was growing up was so awesome, and it's just now that I'm realizing how hard it is to go it alone. I am really thankful for having such a wonderful stable family that supports me in everything I do, even when it's hard.
But I have been feeling better about being here in Iowa, and that's in large part because of Tessa and Mike, who are my closest friends here. They are really awesome and it means so much to me that they've been inviting me to things and spending time with me. It makes me feel a lot less lonely and I have a lot of fun with them. Thanks guys!!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Last Week of October

It's the last week of October! I have a lot of work this week. It's the last week of Micro 553, so there's the final project and the final exam this week. The project isn't too bad. It was just writing the specific aims to a grant proposal that was given to us, and then we get into groups and pool them and pick the best ones. The exam is on Friday, and hopefully it will be alright. There's a lot of material to cover and I'm not sure how in-depth the questions will be.
It's also the last week of my rotation. I have one experiment to finish, and then next Wednesday I give a talk in lab meeting to present my data. I'm nervous about the talk because I hate public speaking, but at the same time I am really looking forward to it being done.
What I am looking forward to is National Novel Writing Month, which starts November 1st! This year I am writing a fantasy novel. The story has pretty much been in my head in one form or another since I was 12, so finally getting it out on paper properly will be exciting. It might be hard to balance school and NaNoWriMo, but I think I'll be able to do it. After doing science all day, which is driven so much by data, it's nice to come home and write a story where I can make everything up and don't have to justify my choices to anyone.
The other awesome thing about November is that I'll be going home for Thanksgiving Break and I can see my family again! I am generally feeling better about being here and living by myself, but I still really miss my parents and grandparents. So I am looking forward to seeing them.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Good Weekend

I had a really awesome weekend, which is great since school is so blah. My friend Allison came down to Ames from Minnesota, and Tessa and Mike came up from Urbandale, and we all went to the Iowa State Homecoming game! I had never been to a college football game, so that was pretty cool. The stadium is actually pretty nice, and everyone was well-behaved at the game (where we were sitting, anyway) so it was fun. I don't understand football, and ISU lost, but it was still a lot of fun to hang out. After the game we went to this restaurant called Vesuvius. I had never been there before. It's a wood-fired oven pizza place. I had the Margherita pizza and it was delicious. I seriously think it was the best pizza I've ever had. After that we went to London Underground, which is a bar but it feels more like a pub and it wasn't a loud annoying bar. We all hung out for a while and I had a White Russian, which was really good. It was so great to hang out with Allison again, I hadn't seen in her in like three years. And I always like hanging out with Tessa, and Jen and Stanley are pretty cool people too. It was a great day and I was so glad that I went, because I like hanging out with adult friends.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Almost Over

October is almost over. Yay! And my first lab rotation is almost over. Double yay! I just inoculated my rice plants today, so that is the start of the last experiment. I don't care what anyone says, that is it. I am done after this experiment. I have a lot of schoolwork and it's not getting easier, so having the rest of the semester off from lab work will be awesome. I'm also pretty sure I don't want to do my thesis in this lab, so not having to work there anymore will be good.
My sinuses have been all messed up this week. I actually stayed home all day Tuesday because I was so dizzy that I didn't think I could drive. I'm feeling a little better but it still feels like someone punched me in both eyes. That's definitely not fun.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Mid-October

Wow, it's the middle of October already. It seems like this month is going by pretty quickly. I guess that's a good thing because I want to get to November so I can visit home. Time passing this fast is kind of weird though.
I guess things are going okay. The next three weeks will be really stressful though. I have a quiz, two exams, and a final project in the next two weeks. Then the experiment I was supposed to do at lab got changed today, so I have to revamp my plans about how the end of my rotation will go. I think it will be okay but I hate it when things get changed abruptly. Of course, then I have to give an end of rotation presentation at lab meeting. I hope it will go alright. I know I'm a good public speaker, but I feel like I just don't really know what I'm doing or what I'm talking about. So I worry that I'll sound like a complete idiot when I talk.
On a better note, I started biofeedback today. It's really cool. At the Student Counseling Center, you check in and get a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. Then you go to the room, which is nice and dark. You get to sit in a little cubicle in a recliner that massages if you want, and you plug the headphones in so it's all quiet. Then you put the sensors on your fingers-two measure your skin conductance and one measures your heart rate. Then you use the computer programs, which guide you through a bunch of different exercises and help your practice the techniques. It's pretty cool; today I did some breathing and mindfulness exercises. It was really neat and there's a graph you can watch whenever you want which shows how your heart rate and skin conductance change based on what you do. I felt so relaxed after I was done. It was awesome and I wish I had that kind of set-up in my apartment.
Speaking of apartments, I'm sick of living with so many people crammed around me, and I'm definitely sick of living with undergraduates surrounding me. So I'm going to try and find a house to rent for next year, so when my lease is up in July I can move somewhere else. I want a house ideally, because then I would share zero walls with other people and I could have a yard and things like that. But if I find a duplex or townhouse where no undergrads are allowed, I would look into that too. I really just want quiet and more stable neighbors.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

I stole it from Tessa

1. EVER BEEN GIVEN AN ENGAGEMENT RING?
No. I was expecting one once, but instead I got dumped. It hurt a lot at the time, but it was definitely for the best that the relationship ended.

2. LONGEST FRIENDSHIP?
21 years-Jasmine and I have been friends since preschool.

3. LAST GIFT YOU RECEIVED?
My mum just sent me the MST3K Gamera boxed set. I got it today in the mail!

4. HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU DROPPED YOUR CELL?
A few times, but always onto the carpet from about two feet off the floor, so no damage.

5. WHEN'S THE LAST TIME YOU WORKED OUT?
I went for a walk yesterday.

6. THING YOU SPEND A LOT OF MONEY ON?
Rent? I'm actually starting to save my money so I can rent a house next year, and so I can do things like buy a washer and dryer if I need to.

7. LAST FOOD YOU ATE?
A Healthy Choice panini.

8. LAST DRINK YOU DRANK?
Diet Vanilla Coke, which for some reason you can't get in Michigan but you can get in Iowa.

9. ONE FAVORITE SONG?
One Little Victory by RUSH

10. WHERE DO YOU LIVE?
Ames. I really miss Detroit. I like Ames, but I miss Detroit. I think I'll feel better the longer I'm here, and probably once I'm living in that house I want.

11. HIGH SCHOOL YOU ATTENDED:
I was at Roeper for the first two years and Walled Lake Western for the last two. High school sucked.

12. CELL PHONE SERVICE PROVIDER:
AT&T. It's alright, although I don't get very good service inside my apartment, so I have to talk to my mum while standing on the patio. I don't know what I'll do in the winter!

13. FAVORITE MALL STORE:
Um. I don't know. I shop like a man.

14. LONGEST JOB EVER HAD:
My job at Karmanos. I worked there just shy of two years.

15. DO YOU OWN A PAIR OF DICE?
Nope

16. DO YOU PRANK CALL PEOPLE?
No, that is rude.

17. LAST WEDDING ATTENDED?
Jasmine and Eric's. I've been out of state for a lot of weddings.


18. FIRST FRIEND YOU'D CALL IF YOU WON THE LOTTERY?
My parents. Never mind friends. I probably wouldn't want that to get out, anyway.

19. LAST TIME YOU ATTENDED CHURCH?
Last Sunday. I go every week.

21. BIGGEST LIE YOU HAVE HEARD?
That Obama wasn't born in the US? That's a good one.

23. WHERE'S YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO EAT WITH FRIENDS?
Claddagh back home. It was the after-fencing hangout.

24. CAN YOU COOK?
Yes, although it's kind of boring cooking just for myself. But I do it because I want to stay healthy.

25. WHAT CAR DO YOU DRIVE?
A 2006 Ford Focus named Alfred. He is an awesome little car.

26. BEST KISSER?
Um. No comment.

27. LAST TIME YOU CRIED?
Wednesday morning in my counseling session. The lady asked me about my relationship with my family and I started crying because I miss them so much.

28. MOST DISLIKED FOOD?
Broccoli. I literally cannot find any way to eat it except in cheesy soup.

29. THING YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT YOURSELF?
I am tenacious. Even when I feel like I can't do it or I'm too weak, I hang on and keep fighting through.

30. THING YOU DISLIKE MOST ABOUT YOURSELF?
My anxiety disorder. The thing I hate about it is that it's chronic. It will never go away. I will always have to fight with my brain about how to react to things.

32. LONGEST SHIFT YOU HAVE WORKED AT A JOB?
I had one day at Karmanos that was 14 hours. That was hellish.

33. FAVORITE MOVIE?
 I like old science fiction/horror/thriller B movies. I especially like Vincent Price.

34. CAN YOU SING?
Yes. I was in choir in middle school.

35. LAST CONCERT?
RUSH with my parents. It was awesome.

37. LAST MOVIE RENTED?
Oh geez...it's been a while. I think it was From Hell.

38. THING YOU NEVER LEAVE HOME WITHOUT?
My driver's license?

39. FAVOURITE VACATION SPOT?
Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

40. DO YOU LIKE CHINESE FOOD?
Yes.

42. IS YOUR ROOM CLEAN?
Yes. My whole apartment is actually pretty clean.

43. LAPTOP OR DESKTOP COMPUTER?
I have both. I use the desktop more.

44. FAVOURITE COMEDIAN?
Stephen Colbert.

45. DO YOU SMOKE?
Absolutely not. My grandfather died this year of smoking-related lung cancer. Fuck no. Smoking is a dealbreaker.

46. SLEEP WITH OR WITHOUT CLOTHES?
With.

47. WHO SLEEPS WITH YOU EVERY NIGHT?
My stuffed manatee. And Eeyore. And a panda.

48. LONG DISTANCE RELATIONSHIPS WORK?
They can, if all the people involved are invested in it.

49. HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU BEEN PULLED OVER BY THE POLICE?
Never, surprisingly.

50. PANCAKES OR FRENCH TOAST?
French toast

51. DO YOU LIKE COFFEE?
Yes. Have a cup every morning.

52. HOW DO YOU LIKE YOUR EGGS?
I don't like solid egg yolks, so I only eat eggs if they're scrambled or omletted.

53. DO YOU BELIEVE IN ASTROLOGY?
No, although it's kind of interesting.

54. LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE?
My mom.

55. LAST PERSON ON YOUR MISSED CALL LIST?
An unknown caller...mysterious.

56. WHAT WAS THE LAST TEXT MESSAGE YOU RECEIVED?
It was from Tessa! Telling me that she could see my car because my GPS missed her house and I was driving around in circles.

57. MCDONALDS OR BURGER KING?
McDonalds has more healthy options, and I like their fries better.

58. NUMBER OF PILLOWS?
Two.

59. WHAT ARE YOU WEARING RIGHT NOW?
Blue jeans, a blue and green shirt.

60. PICK A LYRIC, ANY LYRIC OR SONG?
I have the Doxology stuck in my head for some reason?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Time goes by

It's October already. That happened both really fast and really slowly. I don't know, it seems like it went by kind of fast, but then it seems like I've been in Ames forever, and how is it only October? Time is being weird. I'm told this only gets weirder once you have children. Since I'm not doing that soon, I guess I will have to wait and see if that's the truth.
I'm actually feeling a lot better today than I have in a while. I'm still waking up anxious, but it goes away sooner and I don't feel quite so nauseous, so I can at least drink some milk and coffee in the morning. It's still annoying but at least it isn't horrible. My first counseling appointment is tomorrow morning so hopefully that will go well and I'll start getting some more help with this stuff.
School is going fine. Biochemistry is boring and I really could not possibly care less about it, but I have to at least make an effort so that I can get a decent grade. The professor isn't bad, it's just that I do not care about bond angles and hydrogen bonds and crap like that. It's too small scale for me. Pathogenic Microorganisms just started last week and that class is really interesting. I like pathogens though so I could have called that. After that one is done then I have Bacterial Genetics in November. I'm a little nervous about that one because genetics is not necessarily easy to learn and remember for tests. Also if the professor is who I think it is I'm not sure his teaching style or grading style will be very nice. We'll see.
Lab is actually going a little better. I have been pretty meh about it, especially since I had a small issue with the lab manager, but today she was really helpful and pleasant, so maybe things are okay. My PI and I talked and he wants to add two more experiments for me to do, which is a lot of work, but it might end up going in a paper that I could get authorship credit on, so it's worth it. I just hope that the data is good and useful, because nothing is sadder than doing a lot of work and getting crappy data out of it.
So yeah, that's what's happening at the moment. I am looking forward to November because I can finally go back home for a week, but hopefully October won't be as crappy as September was.

Monday, September 26, 2011

I guess I should update

School is going okay. I've gotten good grades so far. Lab is alright, although I'm not sure I'm that interested in what they're doing and I've butted heads a little with the lab manager. I only have five more weeks there so I'm just trying to stick it out and do the best I can until it's over. Really though, I'm struggling. For the past week I have woken up with the worst anxiety. As soon as I wake up, it hits me before I can even have time to consciously worry about something. It's so bad that I'm having trouble eating in the morning and it's really throwing me off. It goes away in an hour or two but sometimes it takes longer before I can eat. It sucks so much. I have an appointment to see a counselor but it's not until next week so I'm trying to just hang on until then. I bought some applesauce today because I thought that it might be easier to eat than solid food in the morning. Ginger ale helps a little bit too. Anyway, I hope it gets better soon because it's really putting a cramp in my life, otherwise I would be feeling a lot better.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Okay, I feel better now

I just booked Memo's boarding so that I can come home for both Thanksgiving and Christmas! Yay!! At first I thought I was only going to be home for Christmas. But the way it turns out, I'll be done with my rotation at Dr. Bogdanove's at the beginning of November, and my rotation with Dr. Zhang doesn't start until January. So I will be free to go home! I am so so excited and I'm really looking forward to seeing my family. Hopefully I'll be able to meet my nephew if he's home by then too. Anyway, yay going home!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

First year homesickness, part 1

Today I was really hit hard by a wave of homesickness that I can't really explain. I think it may have been triggered by the fact that this week I officially take possession of the title to my car and register it in Iowa, getting Iowa plates and all. I've never had to do any of that before, I've always driven on my dad's insurance and he owns the car, so it's weird and new and freaks me out. But yeah, I felt so homesick that I cried a lot for no reason and eventually called home for the second time in one day so I could talk to somebody.
I guess part of it is that I do live alone, and I like that, but I feel isolated from my friends because they all live in Des Moines and I'm in Ames. And I don't want to butt in on their lives every weekend just so I don't feel lonely. Plus I'm single, and it's really hard to be single and away from my family, because I'm not physically near anyone that I'm super super close to. I don't really know how to do that yet and it's kind of hard. I really want to date and have a relationship, but I don't want to just date the first person that shows any interest because I'm desperate. But I am kind of lonely. I really don't know what to do about that.
Hopefully I'll feel better because tomorrow it's back to school and lab and I'll be busy. This Saturday I've planned to go see the BodyWorlds exhibit at the Des Moines Science Center, since I've never been and I have really wanted to see it for a while. I'm hoping that just getting out of the house for a while will help me feel better.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

First Rotation!

I got my first lab rotation set up today! Sweet relief. I was getting kind of nervous there because technically all of us are supposed to start our rotations by next Tuesday. So yeah, it got cut pretty close, but I am officially rotating in Dr. Bogdanove's lab. I have meetings scheduled with two other professors, so hopefully I'll have all three rotations set soon.
Anyway, Dr. Bogdanove works on plant pathology, specifically pathogens of rice. The bacteria make these proteins called TAL effectors. When the bacteria infect a plant, they secrete the TAL effectors which go into the plant nucleus, bind specific DNA promoters, and activate transcription of those genes. Usually the genes that are transcribed help the bacteria infect the plant cells better in some way, but some plants have evolved some resistance mechanisms. The interesting part is the TAL effectors, because they're specific and they can be engineered to recognize pretty much any DNA sequence. There are several projects going on, but I picked to work on the one that requires the most plant pathology, and therefore I know the least about. I figured that I might as well learn a bunch of stuff right away rather than stay in my comfort zone with basic molecular biology. So I'm going to be taking TAL effectors from one type of this bacteria, putting them into another type of the bacteria, and then infecting the plants to see if the different TAL effectors change how the bacteria infect the plant. I'll be able to explain it better once I'm doing it, I'm sure. But I'm really looking forward to starting!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

23AndMe Results!

So about a month ago I decided to do genetic testing on myself, mostly for curiosity's sake. I went with 23andme because I've had several friends use it and like it. Just last night my results came in, so instead of going to bed like a normal person I stayed up for two hours looking at everything. Obviously I can't talk about my increased risks or anything like that because even though there's a genetic non-discrimination act in place, I wouldn't count on anyone following through on it. So here's the other stuff.
mtDNA haplogroup: I'll start with this one because it really threw me for a loop. I'm Native American on my mother's side. My great-great-grandmother spoke Cherokee. This is how I was raised, this is what I am. That's important. My haplogroup is H2a1, which originated about 26,000 years ago in the Middle East, around Turkey. It slowly spread through Eastern, Northern, and parts of Western Europe. It is not one of the haplogroups that indicates Native American ancestry. My first reaction was something like WHAT. Then I poked around on the 23andme forums and found out some interesting things. First of all, the haplogroups to determine NA ancestry and the modern Asian haplogroups because they're aren't many NA people who've done genotyping to compare to. Secondly, many people, some of whom have more documentation than I do, who are related to NA tribes on the Eastern seaboard do not have a typical NA haplogroup. Weird, huh? Currently there are a couple of hypotheses floating around to explain that. There's the Solutrean Hypothesis, which no one can really prove or disprove at this time, which posits that people came from southwestern Europe to the Americas about 20,000 years ago, before the Bering Land Bridge, and they're the ancestors of lots of eastern tribes. The second is that this maternal haplogroup came from Vikings who settled in the Americas before Columbus. The third, which is possible for my family in particular, is that we picked up this haplogroup from one of the Roanoke colonists who intermarried with local Native Americans. So that was weird, and I've just joined Ancestry.com to see if I can follow a paper trail and get more information about my family that way.
Decreased Risks: I'm at decreased risk for breast cancer, Alzheimer's disease, lupus, MS, melanoma, ovarian cancer, and osteoarthritis. All of which makes me very happy.
Traits: So I obviously don't have the alcohol flush response, which it accurately predicted. It also accurately knew that I was a bitter supertaster. It also accurately predicted my eye colour (blue), my hair curl (it's wavy), and that I'm more of a sprinter than an endurance runner. One of the things I thought was fun is that I'm apparently less susceptible to contracting leprosy if I'm exposed to it. I can armadillos with impunity! It also accurately showed that I have extremely good episodic memory.
Drug Response: So apparently I would have a really good response to interferon beta if I ever took it. I guess that's good. But I'm extremely susceptible to liver toxicity from floxacillin. Luckily that drug isn't used in the US, but if I go back to Europe it's good to know. It also says that I'm a slow caffeine metabolizer, so the reason I need so much coffee to feel an effect must be because I drink too much or something like that.
Yeah, so that's my DNA!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

First year anxiety, part two

This week was the first week of class. I think it went alright. Two of my classes are pass/fail. Of course one of them is journal club and I have to present in it, but I signed up for December 1st so I can put off freaking out about it for awhile. The other pass/fail class is Ethics. I think it will be pretty easy. Then I have Micro 551, which is Microbial Diversity. It's only five weeks long, then it's replaced by Pathogenic Microorganisms and then Bacterial Genetics. I think it won't be too bad. I don't know how in depth it will be and there's only one exam, but it's a short class and I think it will be okay. Then there's Biochemistry. It's a huge class full of undergrads, of course, but the professor says he wants everyone to know big concepts rather than minutiae. Whether that will play out in his exams and homework remains to be seen. The annoying thing about the class is that all of the tests are online and we have to take them at the Online Learning Center in Carver Hall. This is stupid. If I wanted to take my tests online, I'd take the whole freaking class online! I am not amused by this at all. Oh well. I'll live with it.
The major source of my anxiety thus far is that I still don't have any rotations set up. Two people have said no, and I'm waiting to hear from two people right now. If I don't hear from anyone by tomorrow afternoon, then I'll email two more people. I really only have about ten days to get the first one set up, so I'm really nervous.
In the land of non-grad school but still annoying things, my cat is still stressed about the move and I think might be picking up on my anxiety a little because he took a pee on my papasan chair this evening. So tomorrow after class I have to drive to Ankeny to go to Petsmart and get some enzyme cleaner to get the smell out. I can't blame him too much because he's a nervous cat, and he takes some calming treats called Composure every day, but it is one more thing I didn't need to deal with. I actually need to find a vet to take him to soon, since he's due for his rabies shot, so maybe I can talk to them and see if they can offer anything else to help him out. He's got the Feliway diffuser and the Composure, maybe he needs a short course of antidepressants again. I don't know. Anyway, more crap I have to do.
I've also been eating like crap the past couple of days. It sucks because I'm obviously still trying to lose weight, but I just felt so out of control. I'm trying to go back to the Weight Watchers basics and be really good about tracking my points and exercising so hopefully I will start feeling better and less crazy. And hopefully I didn't do too much damage to my weight. I did buy a swimsuit this week though, which I haven't done in four years, and it's a really cute one that doesn't look horrible on me, so I guess that's good.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

First year anxiety, part one of many

This morning we had a meeting with the dean of the IM program. Dr. Halverson is a really nice guy and he's very helpful and not intimidating and so that was great. I finally met the other guy who is in my year who also is an ISU alum. Weirdly enough, he got degrees in English and Biology, so we have a sort of similar history. Anyway, we had individual meetings with Dr. Halverson after the big one. That went well, we both agreed that it was wise for me to take BBMB 404 again. I took it in undergrad, but I took it online and only got a C+. I don't feel confident in my ability to do biochemistry and I don't think I could pass 405 if I went straight into it, so I'd rather repeat 404 in an actual classroom with an actual teacher and do better. We also talked a bit about rotations and who I should look into, and this evening I sent out my first inquiry.
I have to say that asking for a rotation is my least favorite thing to do. I think I would rather speak in public than asking for a rotation. It feels like cold-calling, and it actually kind of is. All of these factors out of my control go into it-whether the person has funding, whether they have space in the lab, how they feel about having students work for them, etc etc. Then it comes down to a meeting and whether I sell myself well. I absolutely hate it and it's such an anxiety-ridden process for me. Now I know the professor I emailed today is well-funded, and I have a special fellowship, so hopefully money doesn't keep me out. I did talk to him when I interviewed, and he seemed nice and I know he has students in the lab, so it probably comes down to space. I really hope there's space. Once the first rotation is set up, then I have time to get the next two nailed down. I'm waiting now for a response. It's out of my control, but I hate hate hate having to wait on something like this.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Ugh.

Tonight is the first night I've felt any kind of homesickness. I don't really know what sparked it, if it's just time to be homesick, or if it's the weather, or if it's that I made chocolate chip cookies from the family recipe today, but I'm feeling kind of down. I'm sure I'll be back to normal soon, but for now I am all weirded out.
Next week there's some kind of mandatory meeting on Tuesday morning, and then I have an individual meeting with Dr. Halverson afterward. I think this is when they tell us the procedure for getting our rotations set up. I'm not positive how that works yet. I'm a bit nervous about that because I don't know if the people I want to rotate with are taking students, and if they aren't then I have to try and find other people. I think rotations are more stressful than classes.
Speaking of classes, my schedule is actually pretty awesome. At Georgetown we were taking a full load, like an undergraduate. I still have 12 credits this semester, but the way they're configured is pretty cool. I have Biochemistry all semester, as well as Bioethics, and once a week there's a microbiology seminar I have to go to. The other three classes are Microbial Phylogeny, Pathogenic Microorganisms, and Bacterial Physiology. But they're each only about a month long. So instead of taking all three at the same time, they're one at a time. It's way better and it leaves enough time in my schedule to actually get something done at a lab rotation. So that definitely made me happy. Also, I already have the Biochemistry textbook, and so far there's only one other book I need to buy, so I won't have to spend a lot of money this semester on textbooks. Yay.
Anyway, next Thursday I have to go to four hours of safety training. BLEAH. I have done lab safety so many times that I should get a waiver or something. It will be boring and useless. Ick.
I promise I am having fun though. Tomorrow I'm going to a grill-out that my friend Mike put together. Mostly the people that are coming are people I know, although there are a couple I haven't met yet. That's why I was making cookies, I thought it would be nice to bring something for dessert. And next Wednesday I'm going to see Rifftrax Live: Jack the Giant Killer. Rifftrax is done by the people who did Mystery Science Theater 3000, so it's really funny.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

19. Favorite minor that decided to shove him­self into the spot­light and why!

Nothing is really going on that's worth writing about in Iowa right now, since class hasn't started, so until something exciting happens all you get to read is writing meme.

My favorite minor character that eventually ended up being heavily involved is Evgeni's father Nicolas in Last Days of the Unreal City. Originally he was not even alive, and then he was missing. I never planned for Jaelle and Evgeni to go meet him, much less for him to have a huge impact on the plot by directing them to a group of rebel fighters. So that was kind of a surprise. It ended up being pretty awesome though, and I had fun writing this grumpy old Russian engineer.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

18. Favorite antag­o­nist and why!

This is actually a hard question, because I genuinely dislike every antagonist I write. So far they've all been straight up bad guys too, no tragic antiheroes or morally complex villains. I think that's because if I wrote one of the latter characters, they would end up being the protagonist. So I really don't have a favorite antagonist.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Moving In Is Hard Work

So I thought that the hard part was done Monday, when we moved everything out of the truck and into the apartment in 100+ degree heat. I think that was the hardest part, but the rest of the week hasn't been much easier. It took me two days to render my bedroom and kitchen usable, and then today I tackled my books. I have probably close to a thousand books, and that made about 30 boxes worth sitting in my front room. I had managed to get two bookcases up in my office, so I filled those first, then maneuvered around and got the other two bookcases up in the living room and filled them. Then I patted myself on the back because I thought I had managed to fit every book I owned into these four bookcases.
Then I noticed the two boxes sitting off to one side labeled 'books.' Ugh. So I drove to Target and bought another bookcase. It was cheap but all my bookcases are cheap. I don't make enough money to get fancy shit yet. I got home at 4pm and dragged the box into my bedroom to put this bookcase together.
At 6:30 I was finally done. What a nightmare. I knew this thing was cheap, but geez. It had the requisite instructions not in English, but every single hole where a screw was supposed to go was too short and too narrow. So I had to re-drill every single hole. Then to top it all off, I finally got this thing together and up and realized that I had put one of the top sides on wrong, meaning there were no holes for the pegs that hold the shelves to go. I was not about to take the entire bloody bookcase apart to fix it, so I just drilled through the side and put the two holes I wanted in. It looks a little weird but I don't care because it works and it was a twenty dollar bookcase to begin with.
It's done and all my books are now really unpacked, but what a pain in the ass! I do not want to do that again anytime soon!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

17. Favorite pro­tag­o­nist and why!

You know, I really liked Jaelle from Last Days of the Unreal City. It was fun to write a scientist for once. It was also fun to write her as a bit of a rebel in a strict patriarchal society. I really should go back and do a second draft of Last Days. There's so much in all the characters that didn't get put in the first go round, and I think there's a lot to expand on, especially in Jaelle's case.
I think that Liera in the upcoming novel may become my favorite. Of course, this character and this story have been bouncing around in my head for more than a decade now, so Liera is practically part of me at this point. I'm really looking forward to writing this one.

16. Do you write roman­tic rela­tion­ships? How do you do with those, and how “far” are you will­ing to go in your writ­ing? ;)

Oh God, I've tried but I kind of suck. I feel like when I write them that everything rushes along way too quickly and it only makes sense to me and not anyone else who reads it. But I keep trying, because how else will I get better? I don't write anything explicit though, I just can't manage to do that with any amount of realism. I have enough trouble trying to progress the characters from strangers, to friends, to lovers without it sounding stupid.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I'm Here!

Woo, this is my first official post from Iowa. I finally have a couple of minutes to type. I've been busy! On Sunday I left Michigan for good and drove all the way to Ames. Yesterday we spent the whole day unloading the trailer. It was awful, because with the heat index it was about 110 degrees out. I have never been so sweaty in my life. It sucked. But we got it all done and had dinner at Hickory Park and the ice cream made all the hard work acceptable. Today was putting a bunch of furniture together, and then realizing I needed more furniture, and then buying it and grocery shopping, and that's where I'm at. Oh, we also ate lunch at the Machine Shed in Des Moines, because I went there once with a friend and enjoyed it, so I took my parents there. Now we're going to shim some of my bookcases and my pantry, go visit my great-aunt Barbara's grave, eat dinner, and try to put together my recumbent bicycle. It should be interesting. But now I'm here!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Programming Note the Deuce

I'm moving to Ames this weekend! And, I need to pack my whole life right now. Which means that as of today, my desktop computer will be packed up. I still have my netbook, but my internet time will be restricted for the next week or so. Hopefully I will have internet soon when I move. My apartment has internet as an included utility. It's awesome not to pay extra for it, but I have no idea how setting it up works. I may just be able to plug in my cable modem and get on the internet, or it might be more complicated. I have no clue.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

15. Mid­way ques­tion! Tell us about a writer you admire, whether pro­fes­sional or not!

I really like Neil Gaiman. Sandman was such a huge deal for me. The way he wrote it, and the way the comic was put together (and I have to give the inkers/colorists/etc props for that as well) made it so real to me. It was like I was reading something that I had always known about, but I only knew it unconsciously and it was brought into the light. Everything else he has written has drawn me in the same way, in that I literally cannot put the book down until I am done.
I also admire Robert Jordan's ability to create such a gigantic world in Wheel of Time, especially in a post-LOTR fantasy world. I actually think the WoT world is more complex than LOTR's world, and I can barely keep it straight when I'm reading, so being able to keep all of these threads in order when creating it is even more impressive to me. I also have to say that Mr. Jordan impressed me with how well he was able to write all of his female characters, when I struggle with writing my male characters.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

It's Getting Real

I'm moving in eight days. Crazy! I thought I would be way more prepared for it but I'm not. I haven't even finished packing. I still have a whole bookcase left! I'm getting nervous. The U-Pack box is being dropped off on Monday and it leaves on Thursday. Then I leave on Sunday and move in August 1st. I am crazy nervous right now and have all the horror scenarios running through my head. I even had nervous dreams last night that left me feeling really weirded out. I'm sure it will all go just fine but I can't help but be anxious. Part of having a panic disorder, I guess.
I am way more prepared than when I moved back to Michigan from DC. I barely had anything packed when the truck came then, so I guess I'm in better shape. Still nervous though. It also doesn't help that it's been insanely hot here for the past week. That makes it harder to do things like haul stuff up and down stairs and it severely interferes with my motivation to do anything. Yeah.
I think I have gotten most of my paperwork figured out, as in when I can do it. Switching driver's licenses and stuff is such a pain, but I have to wait at least a month before I can do that anyway. I do have to remember to turn the electricity on in my apartment before I leave. It will be kind of awkward to forget.

14. How do you map out loca­tions, if needed? Do you have any to show us?

I've only had to do this once, and I actually drew a little map out so I could make sure I didn't accidentally put two places in the same spot or something equally silly. It's hand drawn though, so I don't have it to put up. Maybe I can make a MSPaint version when I write the novel this November? That would be kind of cute.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

13. What’s your favorite cul­ture to write, fic­tional or not?

This probably gives me away as a crappy writer, but I haven't ever written any particularly in-depth cultural differences. It would probably make a couple of my stories better, but they haven't moved beyond first or second drafts so I haven't done any cultural explication. Honestly I'm more interested in getting characters and plots first and adding world details later. Plus what I've written so far hasn't been set in ultra-diverse areas to being with. Last Days was either a post-apocalyptic wasteland or a strict neo-Victorian floating city. Terminal Dreams was set in the modern day United States. My NaNo novel this year is set in an entirely fictional world. So I haven't even really written something that had a lot of cultural diversity to initially put in. Not to mention that I'm still at the point where I feel more comfortable writing what I know, so I'm not about to go writing about a culture that I'm not part of and haven't studied extensively.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

12. In what story did you feel you did the best job of world­build­ing? Any side-notes on it you’d like to share?

Well, this novel that I'll be writing in the fall is the first one that's really set in a completely fictional world. Terminal Dreams was set in the present day, and Last Days of the Unreal City was also set on Earth, albeit in a post-apocalyptic future. I guess I feel like Last Days needs more revision before I'd feel completely happy with it. There's a lot in my head that I don't think translated well in my first draft. But this new novel is set somewhere completely different, where I had to draw a map and make everything up from scratch, and that's kind of fun and cool. I still don't know how well it will end up translating, but it is neat to build a universe from the beginning.

Monday, July 18, 2011

11. Who is your favorite char­ac­ter to write? Least favorite?

I'm not sure I have a favorite character to write. It's harder for me to write realistic antagonists, so I guess that might be my least favorite to write just because it's difficult. Sometimes I get frustrated when I have a picture or a scene in my head and it's not translating well into words, but that's less a character issue and more a situational issue.

Friday, July 15, 2011

10. What are some really weird sit­u­a­tions your char­ac­ters have been in? Every­thing from seri­ous canon scenes to meme ques­tions counts!

I think I had a scene at one point where the main characters were kidnapped by dwarves and bartered their way out of the situation with a spontaneously appearing duck. I have no idea, I think that came from a goofy NaNo prompt. That's the weirdest thing that's happened. If I write comedic scenes in, they're usually dry comedy and not slapstick. Everything else is pretty serious business.

9. How do you get ideas for your char­ac­ters? Describe the process of cre­at­ing them.

Geez, there really isn't a process. All of my stories just kind of appeared in my head, and the characters just appeared too. I've never really sat down and thought about all the characters I would need beforehand. If I get to a place where I need a secondary character, they just kind of appear. It's very organic, I guess. I have a harder time naming them than anything else, but the personality just appears on paper.

Monday, July 11, 2011

I went fishing

I went fishing for northern pike Up North, and I caught no fish. I did, however, catch this:
Yep, that's a bald eagle sitting on the top of that tree. I've seen bald eagles in the wild before, but never has one stayed put long enough for me to take a picture. This dude hung out for almost an hour, and he was talking to another eagle that was somewhere in the woods. It was epic.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Presque Isle

Presque Isle is a little island just off of Marquette in Lake Superior. Every time I go Up North, I go to Presque Isle because there are some totally sweet rock formations you can go walk on and it's a lot of fun. It's extra cool for me because I've been able to spend the past 20 years watching the beginnings of biological succession occur and I'm a dork so I think it's awesome. This is also one of the best places to look at Lake Superior. It's hard to explain what the lake is to me. It's an integral part of my life and holds a special place in my heart. It's really hard to explain how it feels to be out on these rocks and there's no one but you and the lake, but it's awesome.
 The day I went up there it was cloudy and only 59 degrees. It was so nice. I really don't like super hot weather so it was perfect for walking around. It was also really windy so the lake was all crazy.
 I saw these little purple flowers growing in the rocks. I've never seen them before and they're cute. Succession in action! Someday the rocks will all be dirt and there will be trees growing here.
 Lake Superior gets really deep really fast. There's no sand here at all and the bottom of the lake is solid rock. It literally drops off from standing on these rocks to about 20 feet deep right away.
 There was enough wind that the lake had some pretty powerful waves coming in to shore. It took me about ten tries to get this picture right as the wave is crashing over itself.
 There's a lot of copper and iron in the cliffs, which is why mining was such a big industry in the Upper Peninsula. The orange colour is the iron.
 Another picture showing how unsettled the lake was. I like this one because I inadvertently caught the spray from a wave in it.
I'm standing on top of the cliff here and looking down at the water. I'm probably thirty or forty feet up in the air. After you hit the water it's about sixty feet deep there. Absolutely crazy. I don't recommend jumping off; there's a powerful undertow right there in the water. There's always a couple of stupid people who jump off for fun and die every year. Respect the lake, seriously.
That's my pictures of Presque Isle this year. I really enjoyed going back and being able to stand there again, just me and the endless water.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

 While I was Up North, I got to go on the Pictured Rocks tour. You can only see most of the Pictured Rocks from Lake Superior so you have to go on a boat to see them. I'd never done it before so it was really cool. The boats hold about 150 people, but ours wasn't full. I got a seat on the top of the boat so I was outside the whole time and it was easy to take pictures. The boats go 13 mph and slow down near each of the coolest structures. The whole tour was almost three hours and it was really awesome. The weather was perfect and the lake was really calm so it was a great time.
 This is Miner's Castle. I've been here a million times because you can go see it from land. In fact, the observation deck is visible in this picture. But I'd never seen it from the water and the bottom of the rock formation is really cool.

 This is called Lover's Leap. Apparently the water is only two feet deep underneath the rocks, so it's not recommended you leap off. The rest of the water is really deep-it drops off really fast to around sixty feet.
 The colours in the rocks are formed by minerals seeping through them. This is called Rainbow Cave. The brownish red is from iron, the green from copper, the black from manganese, and the white from calcium.
 Yeah, this is called Indian Head. It does kind of look like a dude, but I'm assuming a white guy decided it was an Indian.
 This is the Grand Portal. The rockfall underneath the arch is really recent because they used to be able to take boats underneath it.
 The series of rock outcrops here is called Battleship Row because it looks like several old battleships lined up. Of course when you get close to them they don't look like anything.
 This is a closeup of some of the copper seepage in Chapel Cave. The water is deep enough that we were able to take the boat into the cave and get really close to the walls. I thought it was really pretty.
 This is called Chapel Rock. It's a cool rock, but the tree on top of it is also way cool. The tree is only surviving because its roots are actually hanging off one side of the rock and buried in the dirt on the main cliff. It is totally crazy.
This is the East Channel Lighthouse on Grand Island. It doesn't work as a lighthouse anymore, but it's being restored by the people who own summer homes on Grand Island. I think it would be cool if they eventually made it a place you could rent to stay in. I would totally stay in an old lighthouse.

Monday, July 4, 2011

8. What’s your favorite genre to write? To read?

I write some bizarre combination of science fiction and fantasy, sometimes veering into steampunk/post-cyberpunk territory. I like to combine elements of the two genres-fantasy type settings, for example, and genetic engineering and computer hacking from sci-fi. I do more biological-type science fiction elements just because I'm a biologist and understand that a heck of a lot better than physics.
Obviously I like to read science fiction and fantasy. I grew up on the masters of science fiction and Tolkien. Actually now that I think about it, that's most of what I read. I do like some older horror. Most of the other stuff I like to read is considered classic literature or it's nonfiction.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

7. Do you lis­ten to music while you write? What kind? Are there any songs you like to relate/apply to your char­ac­ters?

I actually do not listen to music while I write. It's distracting to me. I do however, watch old B-movies while I write, because they are entertaining when I have writer's block. Otherwise, I keep it quiet. I tried listening to music for a while, but I would just get distracted and never write anything down, so I quit. Plus I don't get tangled in my headphones when I'm trying to leave the computer.

Up North Waterfalls

Now seems like a good post to show a bunch of pictures of waterfalls from around the Munising, MI area. So here they are.
 The first is Miner's Falls. Fed by the Miner's River, it goes all the way to Miner's Beach where it dumps out into Lake Superior. Those miners were very creative namers. Anyway, Miner's Falls has actually been moving in the whole 20 years that I've been going Up North. It used to fall more straight in the middle and now it's moving to the right.
 This is Munising Falls. You used to be able to walk behind it on a sandstone shelf that has eroded away. I was able to do that all of once when I was less than a year old. It's actually my earliest memory-walking behind the falls with my dad. Now there's been a bunch of rockfalls so you couldn't get back there if you wanted to.
 This is Au Train Falls and the reason it's such a close picture is because I was walking up the falls when I took the photo. Au Train Falls is really big, but it's also really shallow and the rock formations are perfect for walking on. There's a hydroelectric plant nearby, which is cool I guess.
 This is Bridalveil Falls. You can only see it from Lake Superior, which it dumps directly into, and it's a seasonal waterfall, so it's not always flowing. I was able to take the photo on the Pictured Rocks boat tour, which is awesome and I highly recommend. Anyway, I like how these falls just skate down the rocks.
Lastly, this is Wagner Falls. I think it's one of the prettiest waterfalls. The Anna River flows over the falls and keeps going towards Lake Superior. Not a lot of people go see this one so it's nice because you're all by yourself.
That is the waterfalls of the Pictured Rocks area that I saw and took pictures of this year. Ta-da!

6. Where are you most com­fort­able writ­ing? At what time of day? Com­puter or good ol’ pen and paper?

I usually write my NaNoWriMo novels right at the computer because it counts my words for me and I do type faster than I write. Since until recently I worked full-time, and I will be a full-time student for the next million years, I usually have to write in the evening. If I'm just working on either outlining future work or just stretching my writing muscles by doing fanfiction, then I handwrite everything. I still do it in the evening though. I only have time to do these things in the evening.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Programming Note

This is just a quick placeholder/reminder for me. Once I get home, I'll do a real series of entries on my Up North vacation. I'd like to get home and get my photos in order so I can put some of them up here so everyone can see what I'm talking about when I say this is the most beautiful place on Earth. I might be interrupted by my quick trip to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, but maybe not if I'm really on top of my shit.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Last Day of Work and First Day of Vacation

Yesterday was my last day of work at Karmanos. Of course there was some more stupid drama, this time about the microscope. I have no idea how that will end, but it was really stupid. But after decontaminating equipment and packing up the rest of the other lab, my supervisor took me out to lunch at the Motor City Brewery. They make this awesome pizza there and of course brew their own beers. It was cool and I got to go home early. I'll miss working with my supervisor, she is absolutely awesome, but I'm glad to get away from the drama and move on to graduate school.
Today I drove with my family to Munising, MI on Lake Superior. The drive is pretty boring. I used to think it was super long, but after driving to Iowa and back a couple of times on my own this drive seemed short in comparison. It's actually only three hours shorter, but it seemed like a lot more. The weather is awesome up here right now. It's in the mid-sixties, no humidity, and sunny. It's the perfect kind of weather to me.
I know I'm being slow about the writing meme. I promise I'll finish it eventually. The last week of work was really busy and then my brain was just mush by the end of the day. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Fencing

It's me! In my fencing gear. I fence epee and it's about freaking time that I took a picture of myself with my gear on.

5. By age, who is your youngest char­ac­ter? Old­est? How about “youngest” and “old­est” in terms of when you cre­ated them?

Let's see...my youngest character is Jennifer in Terminal Dreams. She's 14 and is the one that first suspects her older sister is haunting the house. She also gets in touch with the ghost hunting teams. I think my oldest character is Nikolas in The Last Days of the Unreal City. He's in his 60s and works with a group on Earth trying to rebuild the ground cities after the war.
In terms of age of creations, Liera in my as untitled NaNoWriMo 2011 is actually the oldest. I created her way back in middle school, and the story has gone through so many permutations in my head. This year is when I hope to really write down the story the way I want it. Youngest in terms of creation are the cast of The Last Days of the Unreal City. I made them all up last year for NaNoWriMo 2010. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

4. Tell us about one of your first stories/characters!

Oh, I just remembered the first story I ever wrote a few days ago. I was in first grade when I wrote it, so it's hilariously silly. It had something to do with my two best friends at the time, who were both named Mike, and horses were involved. I did illustrations to it as well, and if I recall correctly the horses looked more like camels. But I thought I was sooo fancy and such a good writer. I've gotten better since then, I promise.

Monday, June 13, 2011

3. How do you come up with names, for char­ac­ters (and for places if you’re writ­ing about fic­tional places)?

Well, I don't really have a set process. Usually they just sort of magically come into my head. Occasionally I'll borrow a name from somewhere else, but I never straight up use a character's name unless I'm writing fanfiction. But most of the time names just randomly pop up when I need them. If I really needed a name and nothing was coming, I'd probably google around a bit until I found something that sounded good.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

2. How many char­ac­ters do you have? Do you pre­fer males or females?

I don't even think I can count the number of characters I have. There are loads in each story. Most of them are secondary/background characters, but they're there. Almost all of my main protagonists are female, because I'm a girl so it seems easier to write women, although I do have a couple of male main characters. I've never written a story from an all-male perspective though. I feel like I wouldn't know how.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

1. Tell us about your favorite writ­ing project/universe that you’ve worked with and why.

I think that my favorite thus far was my 2009 NaNoWriMo novel, entitled Terminal Dreams. It's about a haunting and ghost hunts from the ghost's point of view. I got the idea while simultaneously doing homework and watching Ghost Hunters and wondered what the ghosts thought about the guys doing this stuff, if they were there. The universe was present day, and the nice thing was that I didn't have to do a lot of background research beyond what types of things people use for ghost hunting. The background research on my current project is killing me. Anyway, I think this is my favorite because it came together so well, and it is my first complete novel. This year's, once it's done, may become the favorite because it's been kicking around in my head for so long, but for now Terminal Dreams takes the cake.

30 Day Writing Meme

 I'm going to embark on another 30 day meme; this time it's not general questions but instead deals with writing. Since I have written a couple novels and am gearing up for the third in November, I thought it would be both interesting and useful to get me into novel writing mode. Here are the questions:
1. Tell us about your favorite writ­ing project/universe that you’ve worked with and why.
2. How many char­ac­ters do you have? Do you pre­fer males or females?
3. How do you come up with names, for char­ac­ters (and for places if you’re writ­ing about fic­tional places)?
4. Tell us about one of your first stories/characters!
5. By age, who is your youngest char­ac­ter? Old­est? How about “youngest” and “old­est” in terms of when you cre­ated them?
6. Where are you most com­fort­able writ­ing? At what time of day? Com­puter or good ol’ pen and paper?
7. Do you lis­ten to music while you write? What kind? Are there any songs you like to relate/apply to your char­ac­ters?
8. What’s your favorite genre to write? To read?
9. How do you get ideas for your char­ac­ters? Describe the process of cre­at­ing them.
10. What are some really weird sit­u­a­tions your char­ac­ters have been in? Every­thing from seri­ous canon scenes to meme ques­tions counts!
11. Who is your favorite char­ac­ter to write? Least favorite?
12. In what story did you feel you did the best job of world­build­ing? Any side-notes on it you’d like to share?
13. What’s your favorite cul­ture to write, fic­tional or not?
14. How do you map out loca­tions, if needed? Do you have any to show us?
15. Mid­way ques­tion! Tell us about a writer you admire, whether pro­fes­sional or not!
16. Do you write roman­tic rela­tion­ships? How do you do with those, and how “far” are you will­ing to go in your writ­ing? ;)
17. Favorite pro­tag­o­nist and why!
18. Favorite antag­o­nist and why!
19. Favorite minor that decided to shove him­self into the spot­light and why!
20. What are your favorite char­ac­ter inter­ac­tions to write?
21. Do any of your char­ac­ters have chil­dren? How well do you write them?
22. Tell us about one scene between your char­ac­ters that you’ve never writ­ten or told any­one about before! Seri­ous or not.
23. How long does it usu­ally take you to com­plete an entire story—from plan­ning to writ­ing to post­ing (if you post your work)?
24. How will­ing are you to kill your char­ac­ters if the plot so demands it? What’s the most inter­est­ing way you’ve killed some­one?
25. Do any of your char­ac­ters have pets? Tell us about them.
26. Let’s talk art! Do you draw your char­ac­ters? Do oth­ers draw them? Pick one of your OCs and post your favorite pic­ture of him!
27. Along sim­i­lar lines, do appear­ances play a big role in your sto­ries? Tell us about them, or if not, how you go about design­ing your char­ac­ters.
28. Have you ever writ­ten a char­ac­ter with phys­i­cal or men­tal dis­abil­i­ties? Describe them, and if there’s noth­ing major to speak of, tell us a few smaller ones.
29. How often do you think about writ­ing? Ever come across some­thing IRL that reminds you of your story/characters?
30. Final ques­tion! Tag some­one! And tell us what you like about that per­son as a writer and/or about one of his/her characters!

T-10 Days

I only have ten more days left at work! Thank goodness too, because there is more stupid shit going down and it is getting really annoying. We're supposed to be moving to another building, so I've spent the past two weeks busting my ass to get everything packed up. Well, earlier this week my boss finds out that the space we're moving into hasn't been vacated yet, and the guy who is supposed to be vacating it is holding the area hostage while he demands fancy crap for his new space. And the dean is currently on vacation, so we have to wait for him to get back and forcibly kick this guy out so we can move in.
None of this would be a huge deal except that now we have time to do some science since we aren't moving, and everything is already packed up. So doing experiments is a double pain in the ass because I don't know where anything is and have to dig through boxes all the time. I'm looking forward to being done and having this be someone else's problem. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

I keep spending money

The past week or so has been expensive. I'm buying a bunch of the stuff I need/want for moving, and of course it costs money. Thankfully I have all this money plus some, but I don't like seeing my money go away. The most expensive thing I bought was a new bed. I've been sleeping in a twin bed for way too long, so I bought a queen size. Yay! The next most expensive thing is a stationary recumbent bicycle. I want to keep up exercising, but I know that especially the first semester, I probably won't be doing much fencing or going to a gym. Plus I can read while I use a recumbent bike, so I can study while exercising. I like to multitask. Then it's just small stupid things like kitchen stuff, a region-free DVD player, floor lamps, stuff like that. I'm glad I've been budgeting for all this stuff for a while.
I've only got fifteen days of work left! I'm really excited to be done. Technically I get paid through July 8th because I'm using all my vacation days, but it's really only fifteen days left to show up at work. I'll miss my supervisor because she's completely awesome, but I am glad to move on.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

It's June!

It's June, and that means that I have less than a month left at work. I am really looking forward to being done. There's been stupid politics going on for ages, but it's just getting sillier and sillier. Luckily my supervisor is really awesome, but there's not a lot we can do to change the political climate. It's frustrating. So I'm getting excited that I'll be able to leave soon. Plus I am really looking forward to going back to graduate school, although I am really nervous about getting grades again. I'll feel better after the first semester is over and I've passed everything. Until then I think I'll be at least a bit worried.
In other news, I went shopping last Monday and now I wear a size 10 jeans! I was also able to buy some button down shirts in a size L instead of XL. It is gratifying to finally be able to go down a couple of sizes. I've lost forty pounds since I was at my highest weight in 2009. I'm not done losing weight; I want to lose another 20 pounds or so. But being able to get into smaller clothes makes me really happy. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Odds and Ends

I went shopping today. I bought a new bed, upgrading to a queen size for my new apartment. I bought an ottoman, a wall clock, and a couple of floor lamps. It was relatively painless, which is how I like my shopping. My mum makes fun of me because I shop like a guy. I don't like to spend hours looking around at everything-I just want to go in, get what I want, and get the hell out. Today I was able to do that so I'm a happy camper. Tomorrow I'm going to the outlet mall with my mum and granny for clothes and kitchen gadgets, and I'm hoping that it will be equally painless. We'll see.
After I was done shopping, I helped my dad plant the garden. We had chives and red onions spontaneously grow, but we had to plant the bell peppers and tomatoes. We'll also put in green beans and cucumbers, but the greenhouse didn't have those plants yet. Just as we finished putting them in, it started to thunder and the tornado sirens went off. We went inside to find out that we were under a tornado warning. Oh, what fun. So we had to corral three cats in their carriers to get them to stay in the basement, and my dad had to carry the collie downstairs because she can't walk down the stairs by herself. Our oldest cat started yowling, which set off my cat, and the fluffiest cat was trying to escape the whole time. Thankfully we only had to stay down there about fifteen minutes and the worst of the storm passed by.
Now I'm starting to plan my latest NaNoWriMo novel. It's actually a reboot of the one I tried to do and failed in 2008, which is the story that's been bouncing around my head for more than a decade now. I'm actually going to start doing a load of research since it has to do with pirates, and I need to get my nautical terms straight. And then throw in a really bad dude, meddling gods, super soldier manufacturing camps, and some cranky dwarves and you get the idea. It's X-Men meets Lord of the Rings meets Pirates of the Caribbean meets Iron Man. So really, really complicated, pretty much. And hopefully it will be really awesome when I write it.

Day 30 - Your highs and lows of this month.

Highs:
  • I got approved for my apartment in Ames.
  • I got to hang with my dad's side of the family yesterday and meet my cousin's fiance.
  • I bought furniture for my new apartment.
Lows:
  • I'm doing the jobs of three people at work but still only getting paid to do one job. I am told that this is just how it is in the real world. Bummer.

Well, I don't have many lows so that's good! And I finally finished this meme.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Day 29 - Goals for the next thirty days.

-Pack my entire life back into boxed in preparation for moving.
-Pack and move the entire lab from Hudson-Webber to C.S. Mott.
-Finish my experiments so I can go on vacation without worry.
-Get back to really eating on plan instead of half-assing it.
-Background research for NaNoWriMo this year.

Day 28 - Something that you miss.

I actually miss London a lot. I've only been there once, and it was only ten days, but that was an awesome trip. I think London is really the only city I could live in and be happy. It would be crazy cool to end up in the UK in my future. I loved it.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Day 27 - A problem that you have had.

I have generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety, and have dealt with several bouts of major depression. It is something that I will live with for the rest of my life, and sometimes it is difficult to deal with. I spent almost three years on medication at one point, which was necessary then, but currently I'm not on anything. It works for me now, because I did a lot of therapy and that's helped me find coping skills to live with the anxiety disorder. My depression is always situational so over time it went away on its own. But I always have to be careful and watch myself so I know when it's time to head back to a therapist or try medication again. It's frustrating sometimes because I know my reactions are irrational, especially the anxiety attacks, but all I can do is work through them. There's no way to prevent them.

Day 26 - What kind of person attracts you.

Intelligence is a must. I am not going to waste my time with someone who can't keep up with me. Ambition is essential as well. I don't want to be someone's mother and I'm not interested in someone who just wants to float through life. Honestly I'd prefer someone with some kind of college education, although it's not necessarily a deal-breaker. Similar values are important, or if we differ on something, at least respect for those differences. And I mean real respect, not passive-aggressively trying to undermine me since I've had that happen before as well. I only do serious relationships, so if someone wasn't as committed as I was, I would have to end it.
That's it. I don't like to make these lists of what attracts me, because then I think I would probably miss someone who is right for me but maybe doesn't fit what I thought I would want.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Day 25 - Someone who fascinates you and why.

This question is kind of weird to me, because there's not a specific person I'm fascinated by. That sounds a little obsessive and weird. But I guess there's a category of behavior that I'm interested in, or at least that I watch a few television shows about that I find interesting, and that would be criminal behavior. Mostly I'm interested in the psychology behind it, and what motivates people to commit crime, and stuff like prison structure and the prison code and stuff like that. I'm not sure why that's so interesting to me, but it is, even from a historical standpoint. Heck, the first class I took with Dr. Griffiths at Iowa State was the crime and mentalities in early modern England class. So yeah, I guess that's fascinating to me in a weird way.

Day 24 - Your favourite movie and what it's about.

I don't really have a favorite movie. Most of the films I like are good adaptations of books anyway. Yeah, can't really answer this question. Who only has one favorite anything, anyway? Like I could pick even if I wanted.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Day 23 - Give five pictures of guys/girls who are famous and you find attractive.

Yes, I find Geoffrey Rush as Hector Barbossa attractive. Shutup.


Hugh Jackman

Robert Downey Jr. Especially with his Tony Stark goatee.


Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach. Yes please.

Evgeni Plushenko

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Day 22 - How have you changed in the past two years?

I've changed quite a lot, actually. 2009 is what I call the Year From Hell. It started with the end of a four year relationship that I thought was going to become a marriage. At the same time, I was realizing that Georgetown was a horrible place and that I did not want to keep going to school there, but I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. So 2009 began as a giant existential crisis. Thankfully I had a great therapist. In 2009, I think I was still trying really hard to be an adult, but wasn't sure exactly what that entailed or what I looked like as a truly functional adult. I had spent all of college in one relationship (that I now realize was dysfunctional for at least half of that time) and I had never breached much beyond that. By suddenly being thrust into singledom and forced to make the difficult choice of leaving the Georgetown graduate program, I finally had to get accustomed to making hard decisions and standing by them, even if they were the wrong decisions (for the record, this time they weren't).
After moving back to Detroit, I got a full time job, which is how I spent the rest of 2009, all of 2010, and up until this moment. I got to pay off all of my student loans, which was awesome, but more importantly I spent some time out of school. Just working gave me time to breathe and think about what I really wanted to do. In the fall of 2010 I came to the conclusion that I did want an advanced degree, that I did want to stay in science, and that the right program for me was Iowa State's Interdepartmental Microbiology(IM) PhD program. So I applied. Of course, this spring I was accepted and this summer I'm moving back to Ames to start life as a graduate student again. However, this time I'm going to be a slightly different graduate student. I'm older, I've spent more time in a lab, I'm more certain that this is in fact what I want to do, and in general I'm more prepared to navigate the insanity that is academia. I'm also still single, and planning to stay that way for the meantime, because if nothing else it means that there's one less focal point for drama that will distract me from the much more important goal of passing all my classes. My anxiety disorder and depression are under control now, instead of being active and untreated, and I'm more prepared to recognize when I need help if those things start to trouble me again. Overall, I'm on much sounder footing than I was two years ago.
So to sum up, now I really am a functional adult, instead of someone masquerading as one.