Mizzou Rule #1: Never leave home without an umbrella

Update: My student loan check came through, so I am no longer desperately scraping for pennies to pay for my groceries. Woohoo! Thanks everyone for your thoughts and wishes.

If anyone finds this red hat, let me know!

My first day of work was not too outrageous. On the way in, I decided to walk to the Skinker Forest Park Ave Metrolink, which is a little more than a mile from my apartment, instead of taking the bus there. Somewhere between the Link and the Central West End, I lost my beloved hat. This would prove less than beneficial as the day’s events progressed. As an aside, I absolutely LOVE the Metrolink and am really excited about Saint Louis’s public transportation system, especially since employees of BJC and WashU get free passes.

I was about thirty minutes early to my form signing appointment, so I loitered in front and in the lobby of the bank. Eventually, the stack of papers was set in front of me in a specific order and all the things I’d need to know about being a post doc research scientist at WashU were in place. That is, except most things went over my head. I need a UPass, not a Metropass? I need a WUSTL key with a new password every five minutes? But I can’t get that for 24hrs to 30 days after I start? Oh, no wait, the UPass can take up to 30days, but the WUSTL key can take how long? Why is my email different than my computer log-in ID? Whatever, I’ll figure it out eventually.

It started to rain during the meeting, and the walk back to the medical school was dreary. I got situated at my desk, couldn’t log in to my computer, and started reading. The grumbly stomach started and I realized I hadn’t eaten since 6am (it was now 2pm), so I headed out into the blusteryness for some soup at Pickles Deli. And it was good (try their black bean and steak soup if they have it next time!). The soup was great, and I headed back to the office for some more reading.

Unfortunately, the rain decided to fall harder and in larger drops during early afternoon, and it just so happened that I needed to head home early to get my occupancy permit. I also didn’t have a hat, or a rain coat, or an umbrella. Instead of buying one at the bookstore (read my last post if you are curious why I wouldn’t do such a thing), I braved the weather. Of course, the MetroLink was dry. But the bus stop, not so much. While waiting for the #16 bus, a nice, young Chinese student offered to let me stand beneath his umbrella and we chatted while we waited. Hopefully I will run into him again and can share some chocolate under better weather conditions.

By the time the #16 bus came, I looked like a drowned rat, and I had to change my pants, shoes, and coat before heading out to City Hall to get my permit. But, now that the permit is taken care of, my list of “must-do’s” is dwindling even smaller, and I am feeling a little better about things every day.

I also learned my lesson: Never leave home without an umbrella. Actually, since I am still on the cheap for the next few months, I plan to just carry my rain jacket in my bag wherever I go. Even if its sunny and blue skies. I just don’t trust the weather in this state quite yet…

Starting the newest chapter

In the last year, I have come to appreciate so many things that I might otherwise take for granted. Sometimes I am embarrassed about the little brat I have been in the past- when I’ve been too demanding of others. Sitting here, alone in my apartment, I am now- for the first time in my life- living completely on my own. I don’t have roommates, and it’s not just a short-lived thing, where my roommates are gone for a few weeks. I’m really, seriously living by myself. Now. At the age of 27.

It’s not that I really want to live by myself. It’s not that I crave that independence, or that I hate living with people, or that I am grumpy and antisocial. No, I have a feeling I will be reaching out to others as soon as the dust settles. But it’s going to be weird to not have someone there to talk to on my way home from work, to cook dinner with, to push me out the door for fun adventure. Oh, woe is me, right? Here I am, sitting by myself in my huge, new kitchen without anything simmering on the stove, in a new city with no friends, and I’m complaining. And that’s not what I want to do. I’m doing this all wrong.

I am happy. I am grateful. I am so ever thankful. I really, truly am.

I’m thankful for the safe drive, albeit stressful, that Baberaham and I had on our way to St Louis from the Upper Peninsula.  And I’m especially thankful for Baberaham for taking the reigns of the UHaul truck and navigating it through white-out conditions, rain, and winds for 800 miles.

The first 100 miles of our drive

I’m especially thankful for Baberaham- his time, his patience, and his help has been amazing in so many more ways than I can describe here. I can honestly say that without him, I wouldn’t be here, starting this new chapter of my life. He has done a phenomenal job of getting me unpacked, helping me settle into my new place, and most importantly, making me laugh.

Kid tested, but moms would not approve

I’m thankful for my new home, for arriving to this new and unknown city and having a roof over my head. I’m thankful that my new apartment is on the second floor, so that the first night I was in this new city, I wasn’t panicked about the flash flood warnings that were going off. I’m thankful for my landlord who is trusting and my neighborhood which seems safe.

Flash flood warnings the first night

I’m thankful for my parents who are worried about me even though I’m 27 years old; parents that would do anything they could to make sure their daughter is safe and happy. I’m thankful for their enthusiasm, their excitement, their concern. I’m thankful for their care packages that had just about anything I would really, truly need to get by, including instant mashed potatoes and soap. It’s the little things, really.

I think the only thing that wasn't in this box was a gallon of milk

I’m thankful for having friends and family that are truly the best this world can offer, who will stand beside me and help me through any hurdle I might have. Generic? Probably. But I am truly blessed. I am absolutely, positively, 100% grateful for the wonderful, thoughtful, and truly selfless people that are in my life.  I have friends that will go for a run with me as my “farewell party”- friends that will house me and feed me and not care that I’m just passing through. This move has been one of the most forthright in underlining the relationships I’ve established and the importance of the people in my life.

Being so far away now doesn’t mean that I don’t have those people in my life anymore. It’s like a rainbow where I can’t see the other side- just because I can’t see it, doesn’t mean it won’t be there. And the amazing thing about rainbows is that they often show up before the rain has stopped, to bring a smile and a sense of peace. I hear too often that it’s hard to find genuine people, which surprises me because I feel like I’ve been surrounded by truly genuine, honest, caring people for the last three and a half years. I have friends that I wouldn’t trade for the world, and loyalties that I will hold for years to come. I have no doubt that the relationships I’ve made in the most recent chapter of my life will continue, and get stronger, throughout the rest of my book.

And I have no doubt that I’ll see a rainbow in the sky every day that I am here in this new place. Does that seem overly optimistic? I don’t think so. I have so much to look forward to, to be thankful for. I am experiencing something in my life that most people don’t have the opportunity to have. I am pursuing my dreams, I’m nervous and scared and afraid but most importantly, I’m excited. And I think I am ready. What will this next chapter bring? I can only imagine, but I know it will be more and more and more of the wonderful and exciting. More of the love and the thanks and the challenges and the triumphs. I am ready.

I know where the other side of this rainbow is...

New kicks and training tricks

Flashy (and glittery) ProGrid Omni 8s

I’ll admit it; I fell behind a bit in training. I lost motivation to get out and cross country ski. I have been staying up late (well, until 11pm or so) and waking up late (7am), and haven’t been hitting the gym like I want to. My hours are lower than I want them to be because of that, and because of the whole bout of lung irritation I have been dealing with for over two weeks.

But this week, I got back in the game. I did some threshold repeats with my buddy, Erik (although I didn’t do them too aggressively, thanks to the aforementioned asthma). I got in the pool. More than once. And I will even matched my planned training volume (well, so long as I make sure to get a long run in tomorrow).

I credit getting back on track with something that lit the fire: a new pair of shoes. Lucky for me (because maybe I needed a bigger flame under my butt), I got two pairs. I bought a pair of Saucony ProGrid Omni 8’s and a flashy pair of racing flats, last year’s Saucony Fastwitch 3’s.

There's supposed to be two holes, but this was an easy problem to fix, thanks to Baberaham's toolbox!

Both shoes are sweet. The Omni’s have glitter on them (bonus) and are a comfortable, stabilizing, and responsive pair of shoes. The only downside: the pair I got was missing one of the lace holes, but that was an easy remedy with a spade bit. So far, the shoes are so good.

Look fast, think fast. Fastwitch 3s

I’m really geeked about the awesome deal I got on the Fastwitch 3s on Saucony‘s online store. The new Fastwitch (the Fastwitch 4) shoes have been released, so the old Fastwitchers that are still in stock are on closeout for $64. Since I was ordering the Omnis anyway, I got free shipping on my order to boot (free shipping on orders over $75 bucks). Talk about a steal.Nothing could get better for a poor graduate student like me.

check out the mesh liner on the inside of the shoe. No sopping wet shoes for me this year!

the soles of the Fastwitch 3s

I’m super excited to race triathlon in these racers. The Fastwitch 4s are the perfect color, too (Trakkers green, anyone?!). Underneath the shoe insert, a water-drainage system of bright yellow mesh lays between my foot and the sole. The lining of the shoe is smooth and frictionless. Plus, the shoe has a roll post to prevent my foot from overpronating. All wrapped up in 6.2 ounces. Awesome. What’s more awesome? The Fastwitch 4s are even lighter and have an even smoother and softer fabric upper. I think I found my new speedwork shoe.

And my new training tricks are rolling out. This week, I’m starting Motivation Mornings, which means I go to bed early so I can get up early and get my butt to the SDC. I think that if I can get through one week of 6am arrivals at the gym, I can easily continue to do so for the rest of the spring (routines are awesome).

I’m also planning a Swim Week (although not nearly as badass as Charisa‘s) to get me grooving into swim-shape. More tricks for swim training? Using TriSwim makes swimming completely manageable. I think part of my hatred of chlorine-ridden pool time was the way I smelled for the rest of the day. Now that I have a supply of TriSwim, I think my hair will actually be in better shape than it was before I started spending so much time in the pool. Plus, it removes the stinky stench of pool that would otherwise ruin my day. Trust me, chlori-melon is not a scent-of-the-week at Bath and Body Works. I’m also geeked about getting a new swimsuit or two, because nothing says “get yer ass in the pool” like a new suit. 🙂

IcebreakerGT = Awesome

Blogosphere, meet my new favorite shirt – 2010’s Icebreaker GT Dash Tee. I won’t say much right now, but a picture is worth… how many words again? I will leave you with this: If a shirt can make you look soooo good, why wouldn’t you want to get one?

One word: MegaTough

Nevermind all those bikes in the background, that shirt is HOT!

Nordic Ski Regionals: Day 1

Yesterday, I watched the men’s and women’s NCAA Midwest Regional classic races at the Michigan Tech Trails! Woohoo! Check out some of the video I took here:

Michigan Tech represented well! Henna finished fourth for women and Oskar won the collegiate race! Heading to watch the skate races here soon. Go Huskies!

Getting over it

I have been a little out-for-the-count as of late. Skipping last weekend’s ski marathon turned out to be a good idea, because all week I’ve had a nasty cough combined with shortness of breath, as well as stressful episodes of human interactions, and an all-in-all overwhelming week. But, I went to the Fast Care clinic at Shopko yesterday, and found out my (health related issue) was just an over-active asthmatic lung or two. I got bumped up to puffing a higher-level steroid inhaler, so hopefully it calms my lungs down a bit.

Now what to do about the human-related issues? Let’s just say I wish people would be responsible for their actions. A few weekends ago, some Jeep-driver with a parking problem rammed past my car to park in our private lot (he was staying with my neighbor), and took my bumper and side panel as collateral damage. True, the damage is not major, he basically rubbed the paint off my bumper with his tire and scraped the back corner panel with his bumper, but it still costs nearly $700 to make it right. Not something I particularly wanted to happen to my first-ever “I bought it brand new and took out a loan for it” car! Anyway, enough ranting.

I’m off to watch the Regional races at the Michigan Tech trails now! Women’s Classic starts at 10:30, men’s at 12:30. Woohoo!

Time to enjoy a cuppa joe.

It’s Saturday and I’m home alone. I can’t remember the last weekend that I was un-busy, and all by myself. Baberaham left this morning to head to Mora with some friends for the Vassaloppet, and I bailed. I am registered for the classic, but I just didn’t go. Our ride pulled up, and I didn’t get in. This is the first race I can recall that I’ve signed up for and didn’t compete in. Being the broke-a*s college student I am, I really try to avoid wasting money. But, I was feeling a bit under the weather yesterday, and woke up this morning with a sore throat. Instead of sitting in a car with the (potential) top male finishers and getting them sick, I “sacrificed” and stuck around Houghton. I think truth of the matter really is: I have lost motivation to ski race this season. I have skate skied twice, both times throwing in the towel early because I was being too much of a wuss to build my shin strength. I’ve classic skied several times, a few longer skis, and I thoroughly enjoy it, especially when the wax is just right… but I’d honestly rather go for a run or ride my bike than head out for a ski, let alone race a marathon. So, I just stayed.

Sitting here, in my apartment alone (well, Abbie is here, too), I’m reflective. I don’t feel tired or hungry, nor do I feel incredibly awake and alert. I’ve put time in on the bike trainer and I plan to head to the pool this afternoon (after a few hours at the office). I watched a movie and caught up on email, and maybe tonight I’ll bake a cake. Go for a long run tomorrow (I’m feeling better). I’m really excited to just train this weekend, put in the hours on my feet and get it done. I also am looking forward to making some ice cream and enjoying the “quiet” (as soon as I started writing that sentence, someone outside started belting out an indistinguishable song).

So, I leave you with this Saturday post somewhat open-ended. Nothing exciting going on, but I’m excited about that. I have my cup of coffee, still steaming, and its smell has filled the room. The sun is peeking out from behind the gray. It’s going to be a good day.

A different kind of Sunday run

Bald eagle soaring, something I probably won't see tomorrow unless I'm watching the Discovery Channel

Every Sunday, I try to get out for a long run with my training partner, Marg. We always have something to chat about, and see some amazing things. Tomorrow’s long run is going to be a little different.

My friend Erik, who is training for Ironman St George, convinced me to run a marathon this weekend. Not just any marathon; a treadmill marathon. He’s done one before (when he was on his second deployment in Iraq as a Marine), but the farthest I’ve ever pushed it was 22 miles. What’s another four? Erik’s time spent training while he was deployed to Iraq got me thinking about all the other guys and gals overseas that aren’t able to enjoy the things that I get to enjoy; being able to run outside for three hours in a nice, cool breeze, being able to race, or even being able to embrace the changing seasons. The melting snow, the blossoming flowers, a lot of our troops on active duty are missing the things many of us take for granted back here in the states. And, although I’m sure some of our troops have exciting jobs, there are most definitely days when things are boring, mindless, cabin-fever-ish for them. So, although I’m sure it would be (much?) easier for me to design a 26.2 mile route outdoors in the beautiful Keweenaw, [especially since it’s going to be 30F and sunny tomorrow – perfect running weather, I think], we’re going to throw down on the “dreadmills” instead. Bonuses? We’ll have access to nutrition at all times, be able to wear shorts, and have easy access to a toilet (just in case).

In honor of this superfun day, I asked some folks on Twitter what a good name for the run would be. Here’s what they had to say (other than “You’re insane”):

The Treaddy Twenty-Six (@YouRHere)

The HamsterWheel Run(@dirtdawg50K)

Who in the Hell Runs a Marathon on a TMill Fun Run (@dirtdawg50K)

Stationary Marathon (@dirtdawg50K)

Trial of Mills (@SilentSportsEd)

I kinda like Run to Nowhere Marathon.

What do you think it should be called?

So tomorrow morning (Sunday) at 8am EST, I’ll be hammerin’ out 26.2 miles on a ‘mill at the gym. Erik will probably be done a good twenty-thirty minutes before me, but luckily I will have friends coming and going to run along, too. And my trusty iPod Shuffle is locked and loaded with music and podcasts for up to 10hours of entertainment. I’ll share the music list with ya’ll after the run. Stay tuned for my detailed race report… ha! Who else is going to join me?

By the way, my runnin’ girl Marg will be joining us for a bit in Sunday-run tradition, as will Baberaham. Neither of them have committed to the full marathon, though. Maybe next time?!

Note: [I think someone swapped my vitamins for crazy pills.]

Cool tools for my fellow Science Geeks out there

As I wonder and plunder through my third year of grad school, I get a breath of confidence every once in a while that I may graduate in the near future (and then proceed to be hammered back to shore by the waves of reality). Last spring, I focused my efforts to get to research-only mode so that my advisor could save money on tuition and I could make an extra $250 a semester in stipend. Trust me, that $250 was significant. Recently, however, I started thinking about the next step: the Post Doc.

Currently, I’m putting the pieces of my doctoral puzzle together, in the form of a dissertation (it’s in its initial stages, known as The Outline). It gets me starting to wonder what lies ahead. Seriously, I know that jobs are few and far between, and being in school for so long might put me in a position to be “over-educated and underpaid”. So the best strategy to tackle my next-phase step is to ask: What is it that I want to do with my life? Since I ask myself this question every time I fill out a fellowship application or write an essay entitled “What it is that I want to do with my life”- I should really know the answer. But the truth is, what exactly I want to do with my life next is dependent on what exact opportunities are available when I defend my dissertation and move on from the graduate school lifestyle. Having flexibility, exploring new areas of science, and continuing to learn and expand my horizons, now that is what I want to do with my life!

Since I know that I want to go into academia, the next step is to look for a post-doc or a teaching position. I know that I love doing research and I love learning, so let’s say my next step is the Post-Doc.

I’ve recently discovered RePORTER from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Formerly known as CRISP, RePORTER is a new and updated version, used to find out who has been awarded a grant (or grants) from the NIH recently (updated weekly), what research they were awarded money for, and how long their grant money will be there. Want to know how much the faculty in your department were awarded last year? Type in their name. For me, I’m planning on scoping out potential laboratories that sound cool and checking if the PI (primary investigator) have money to support research. If you are a pre-doctoral life sciences student and you want to try and get funded without a graduate teaching fellowship, one option is to apply for the Ruth Kirschtein-NRSA Pre-Doctoral Fellowship through the NIH. In order to be awarded this, one must first establish a relationship with an NIH-funded faculty (ding ding ding! Use RePORTER to find these faculty). It beats going door-to-door and asking.

RePORTER is really neat, too. I tried searching for PI’s in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin who have received money from NIAMS (National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases). It was really interesting to see who was doing what research in my region! RePORTER can be used to navigate through all different search procedures, like Funding Mechanism (training grant, SBIR, research projects, etc), Award Type, State, and organization (such as university). Now you can find out who has what kind of money, because it will list the award cost, too!

Every researcher in bio-based science should know about PubMed. It’s an online database for compiling manuscripts that have been accepted to peer-reviewed journals. Depending on your university or library, you may not be able to access all the manuscripts listed on PubMed without paying a fee, but most medical schools and universities have Free-Access permissions (and if that doesn’t work, try to Interlibrary-Loan an article you can’t seem to access). The most important thing about research is knowing what has already been done, and what needs to be done next. Reading about what others are doing, and staying on top of the literature, is key! I use PubMed practically every day to try and find new articles or articles I may have missed, especially while preparing manuscripts for submission (and preparing my dissertation, too!).

Remember when you had to write papers for school, and you had to use references and form a bibliography at the end?

Please tell me you don't just cite Wikipedia!?!?

EndNote is a really awesome tool that helps make writing papers a whole heck-of-a-lot easier. First, take all those journal articles you have stacked up on your desk. Second, enter in the title, author, journal name, etc. into EndNote. Hit save. Type your paper like you normally would, and when it comes time to enter a citation, click on the paper in your EndNote database, click insert, and voila! You have an automated bibliography. If you are planning on submitting the paper to a peer reviewed journal, you can change the format of the citations and bibliography even after you drafted the entire paper. Simply change the reference format and it automatically changes all your citations. Sooo much easier than going in one-by-one on your paper. Plus, you don’t have to worry if you are using annotated, alphabetized, or numbered citations. It’s all automatic. Makes grad school survivable, anyway!!

And for a fun tool that I like to play around with on the interwebs sometimes, I bring you Wolfram|Alpha. It’s a pretty slick resource, from the makers of Mathematica, that compiles data and interprets user-input search cues to get results. It’s much more advanced than Google (in fact, its not really like Google at all), and more dense with information than an encyclopedia. For a little bit of fun, you can try this game:  Type in your birthday (day, month, year), and see what other important things in history happened on that day. Or, type in your name, and see something like this:

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Other cool (and more useful) tools with Wolfram|Alpha are:

  • job/degree searches (This is especially useful for high schoolers and college kids trying to decide what it is exactly they want to study; compare occupations and see the growth/decline of the jobs of interest)
  • compare cities (looking at jobs all over the US? type in the cities of interest and compare population, temperature, elevation, surrounding areas)
  • find a gene or protein sequence (ok, maybe a little too nerd-core for some people, but I got really geeked when I typed in “aggrecan” and got back the protein sequence, 3-D image, and atomic structure of the backbone of proteoglycans! Goooh!)
  • find out about a material and its properties (I retrieved the Young’s Modulus and density of aluminum just like that! Useful for all those kiddies in Mechanics of Materials! *snap*)

National Girls and Women in Sports Day!

In honor of National Girls and Women in Sports Day, I’m sharing with you, my lovely blog peeps, a sweet slideshow of radical women in sports!

Here are some really awesome events going on in the Midwest:

  • Northern Michigan Wildcats Women’s Basketball at HOME against Ashland (Thurs) and Tiffin (Saturday)
    • Games will be held at the Berry Events Center in Marquette
  • Pointer Invitational (Indoor Track & Field) – NMU and Michigan Tech Indoor Track & Field Teams at the University of Wisconsin Steven’s Point, Friday and Saturday