Friday, October 31, 2008

tricks and treats for an aspiring ecologist

I think trick or treat is a great theme for November's scientiae blog carnival. I'm going to share the tricks I use to keep myself sane and the treats I enjoy as a grad student in ecology.

Taking time for fun- I make time for fun things like having people over, playing board games, and watching movies. I don't let myself stress out about work that I should be doing while I'm having fun. If it's going to stress me out that much to play a game, then I'll just work instead until I'm at a point where I can relax.

Regular exercise- I'm trying to be better about this in my second year. I have set myself the easily attainable goal of going to the gym at least once per week. I bike to school every day and have to carry my not-so-light bike up 2.5 flights of stairs so that also helps keep me active. I make time to go to the gym at least once a week even when I have a lot of work to do. I hope I can keep this up all year!

Income ingenuity- Budgeting carefully and spending wisely is crucial on a grad student stipend. Being creative is important to keep you from getting the blues about your empty pockets. I'm a huge fan of craigslist for acquiring just about anything except food. Several months ago I wrote a post about it for The Economical Academic.

There aren't very many deadlines in grad school. I find that applying for small grants is a great way for me to give myself deadlines. It forces me to think about my project more closely than I otherwise would, and I tend to blow off my self-imposed deadlines. I also have the grant deadlines repeat annually in my Google calendar.

Keep a blog! I think this blog has been really beneficial for me. It gives me a place to process my thoughts and even get some feedback. It's already interesting for me to look back at some of my posts from last year to be reminded of how different thoughts have developed. Also, the science blogger community is great! I'm not nearly as active as a commenter as many of you are, but I appreciate your blogs too!

Self-confidence and self-respect- Somedays I have to remind myself that I can get a Ph.D. and be a scientist, but deep down I have confidence that I can do it. Even when I struggle or receive strong criticism, I remind myself that I'm here to learn and no one expects me to know everything already. I also recognize and take care of my needs outside of school.

Travel- I get to go to Africa! Pretty awesome. No matter what you study as an ecologist, there are opportunities to work in interesting places all over the U.S. and abroad.

Romping around outside
- Studying ecology almost guarantees you get to spend most of your time for at least one part of the year outside (unless you end up doing theory at a computer). Classes almost always have field trips, too.

Eating free food- I think I've averaged about one free meal per week this semester. You might have to be strategic, but there's often free food on campus.

Academic community perks- There are so many fringe benefits to being part of an academic community. I get access to a fantastic student gym with free group fitness classes and a climbing wall, among other things. Universities tend to be much more walkable and pedestrian-friendly than the rest of the country making it possible to live car-free. I have access to a huge library and interlibrary loan. Plus I can occasionally pick up extra cash as a study subject for something.

Technology- My research gives me the opportunity to play around with things like GPS receivers and digital cameras. Buying research supplies with grant money is kind of like Christmas. But hands down my biggest perk to date has been my brand freakin' new MacBook that I'm using to write this post! It finally arrived yesterday afternoon. It is officially property of the university, but I intend to keep it for the rest of its useful life which perfectly coincides with how long I expect to be in grad school.

Schedule- I have considerable flexibility in my own schedule outside of classes and meetings. I can write for two hours in bed before getting dressed and going to school for the rest of the day. I also enjoy school 'vacations' even though there's always something to work on.

Thanks to Jane at See Jane Compute for hosting this month's carnival. I can't wait to see what everyone else has to say!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

my life in cartoons (part 1)

If I had a tracking number for my new MacBook, this is what I would be doing:

xkcd really hits the nail on the head.

But, alas, no tracking number, so I'm actually being productive and working on my personal statement for the GRF application.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

6 random things meme

I've been tagged by both Eugenie and Fia so I guess I'll do this.

The Rules
  • Link to the person who tagged you.
  • Post the rules on your blog.
  • Write 6 random things about yourself.
  • Tag 6 people at the end of your post and link to them.
  • Let each person you have tagged know by leaving a comment on their blog.
  • Let the tagger know when your entry has posted
Ok, let's see what comes out.
  1. My grandma told me when I was a little kid that I was going to be a scientist when I grew up. I guess I've been trying to fulfill the prophesy.
  2. Most of my extended family are conservative Christians and an unfortunately high number of them don't believe in evolution. An unfortunate number of them also live in swing states. God bless 'em. Thankfully, my parents are rational and reasonable.
  3. I've never plucked my eyebrows but I do wax my legs. I'm getting better at it.
  4. I didn't really want to come to Big City for grad school and I was kind of intimidated by the idea of it, but the decision was easy when I wasn't accepted at the other 5 schools I applied to! I definitely think this was the best place for me to be since it turns out we know a lot of people here, I like my advisors and program, and we can live car-free.
  5. Jon and I will have a Quaker-style wedding.
  6. I don't have an engagement ring and I would be appalled if Jon spent hundreds or thousands of dollars on a ring for me, especially a diamond. One of our friends will probably make our wedding rings.
Who can I tag that hasn't been tagged yet?
Paulina (what we don't know is A LOT)
Leah (penn)
EcoGeoFemme (The Happy Scientist)
Amused (amusings...)
Anne-Marie (pondering pikaia)
I think 5 will have to do.

Monday, October 27, 2008

mental murkiness

This morning I received some feedback from Sam about my application essays. It sounded a bit harsh but he's absolutely right in everything he said:
res statement does not wow me. methods are fine but first few paragraphs are blase. nothing pivotal, just another story that the Herb lab is pursuing is what reviewers could say! same old story, just a new species -- who gives a damn? the first para has to capture our attention about a novel conceptual idea--what sets your study apart from everything else? why is it so novel and ground-breaking? i see nothing from what you may have reviewed for your paper that comes to play in the 1st few paras -- you have to work harder on this document.
This prompted a lot of reflection and thinking today. I didn't make any major changes since I'm getting more feedback tomorrow, but I did talk to Chip about my project and talked to a few people (Jon, Mariyah, another friend) about my mental murkiness.

Of course I know I need to address the things Sam said, but I seem to have trouble saying clearly in writing why what I'm proposing to do is novel and exciting. I've had this problem with the review paper and now with this proposal. I think it comes from a deeper lack of clarity about the ecological relationships I'm trying to understand, and the best way to go about understanding them.

In general I think I'm doing a good job at this whole grad school thing. I've identified an area of research with opportunities that I'm excited about and I've even gotten a few grants to study it. But I think my greatest insecurity and weakness right now is my ability to translate questions into experiments. Let me explain.

I have a big question for which I would like to know the answer. I'm not talking huge, but big. Bigger than can be accomplished by one Ph.D. or lab group. Under that question I have several smaller questions that are interrelated but can still be approached and answered in many different ways. Then within those I have questions that are specific to my field site and system. It helps me to think about the levels of each question and I've laid out many of them explicitly.

My problem is in connecting the experiments and the questions. I have an interesting array of methods I could use to answer some of these questions. I can think of experiments and observational studies that would tell me something about the system I'm working in. I start to try to answer one specific question using a particular method, but then I get discouraged that the question isn't the right one because it's only addressing X and not Y or Z*. Will answering this small question even tell me anything about the big one? Am I looking for a silver bullet that doesn't exist? When I start delving into the details, I lose sight of the big picture and have trouble justifying my research to the rest of the world. I have yet to find the middle ground where I can both grasp the details to answer specific questions while holding onto the bigger question. Am I making any sense?

I seem to be able to think up questions with ease, but the process of determining how to clearly and rigorously answer them is very difficult for me. I suppose this proccess doesn't come naturally to everyone and that's why I'm in grad school.

*Is this possibly a relict of my perfectionism that I have slowly overcome since elementary school? Is this the modern-day manifestiation of my fear of writing anything in third grade for fear of writing something wrong? Am I trying too hard to figure everything out before I actually do anything? I tend to think that since data are expensive in my case that I do need to figure out as much as I possibly can before I go spend 3 months in the middle of nowhere Ukenzagapia without my advisors. Perhaps that is perfectionism justified. No, I am not being a perfectionist. I am being reasonable and responsible in trying to plan my research carefully while recognising there are plenty of things beyong my control. At this point I think I am just confused.

Help fund classroom science projects!

Sciencewomen have challenged their readers to fully fund some teacher-proposed classroom science project for Donors Choose. Some of the projects still need more donations, like the one for Kindergarten Geometry that I supported.

Take a moment and think about why you like science. Most of you are probably somewhere on the journey of a scientist right now. Now think back, way back, to your earliest science memory. What is it? I remember holding a baby turtle. What do you remember about science in school? I would bet that you had at least one fantastic science teacher in your childhood that inspired and encouraged you. The teachers from Donors Choose are motivated people stymied by underfunded classrooms. When you give to a classroom project, you're helping another generation of students learn that they can do, understand, and love science.

What are you waiting for? Skip a couple of expensive lattes and go give $5 or $10 to a project you like.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

on applying again for the NSF GRFP

There seems to be widespread confusion in my department about whether or not second year Ph.D. students are eligible for the GRFP, and unfortunately I think most of them are misinformed and have been told they aren't eligible when they actually are. Then there's me, plowing ahead stubbornly at my final attempt.

Today I sent drafts to Herb's lab group to get feedback this week during lab meeting. I've been enjoying posts by Amused who got a GRF last spring. She's offering great advice for writing the application essays (here and here).

I was trying to figure out if I should list a manuscript in preparation (my review) in my publication list and I found this NSF document. It's basically a review of the GRFP from 2003 where they describe how the program should be improved. Many of the changes they suggest have already been make. It does explicitly say in this document that applicants should include mansucripts in preparation.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Dear Apple,

Please please please tell me you've already shipped my lovely new MacBook. I can hardly wait to get it. I've been waiting for months now to buy a new computer- the release of the new MacBooks has been imminent for weeks and it's been over a week now since I ordered my brand new aluminum baby. If it doesn't arrive tomorrow and I have to wait until next week I might buy a Dell* instead. I would really like to download more photos and podcasts but if I do, I think my iBook's hard drive will explode.

Anxiously waiting,

*Ok, I'm actually kidding about that but I thought it might get your attention. Send it the day before yesterday!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

abandoning chronology

I’ve been intensively scrutinizing essays (my own and others) for the NSF GRFP. I feel like I’ve made huge strides in improving my essays this year by looking more carefully at how successful applicants have organized their essays. One big change I made this year is I abandoned chronology in my personal statement. Previously I described step by step how I was inspired and prepared to attend grad school. Not this year. This year it’s organized around a theme with subthemes and I mention experiences as appropriate regardless of chronology.

The other big change is that I’m focusing much more on concrete things I did, am doing, or will do rather than talking about touchy-feely passion for science. I am a passionate, touchy feely kind of person but I personally find it much harder to write convincingly about those things. I need to keep some passion in there somewhere but I'd got to figure out how to make it work.

Monday, October 20, 2008

wanting memories

We got back yesterday evening completely exhausted, but we had an awesome time at SFC. I only saw Herb twice in passing! I'll hear his take on it tomorrow.

I had a wonderful time hanging out with my cousin, her friends, and some of my college girlfriends. We're all still trying to figure out where our lives are going to some extent and how so it was good to talk about that.

Other highlights:
  • a really big bonfire
  • hearing the my cousin finally feels like she fits in and that she's really happy there
  • seeing an awesome concert
  • going on a trail ride with my friend
  • watching the alumni win against the students
  • talking to friends who are going to RFC! We get to relive our travels vicariously through them.
  • catching up with some of my favorite professors
  • swapping stories about 70 mph species identification, picking up roadkill, and airplane travel with unusual, um, specimens.
One bittersweet moment was meeting current students from a particular student organization in which I was heavily involved and no one knew who I was. It's hard to believe I'm that old- I'm one of those people. *sigh*

(Later this week I'll try to post some photos after I get my new computer!)

**Note: Photos added on November 10, 2008**
This is how we felt at the end of the weekend.
This is a beautiful shot of the clouds before sunset.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

back where it all began

Tomorrow we're leaving for Small Friendly College, so I probably won't be blogging again until at least Monday unless I find myself with an exceptional amount of down time. I'm looking forward to seeing friends and my cousin who currently goes there. Oddly enough, Herb will also be there. You see, Herb and I share the unlikely experience of having attended the same Small Friendly College, albeit some decades apart. I had no idea he went to SFC when I first contacted him when I was applying to grad school.

Jon and I met at SFC, and it's a very special place for me because I think it profoundly shaped my direction in life. I'm looking forward to seeing many of my professors and friends and catching up on what they've been doing. It should be a good time.

Note to other bloggers: My RSS feeds all just reset for some unknown reason so now it says I have 1,327 unread feeds (the real number is more like 80). Either way, I obviously read too many blog and I'm behind so I'm probably behind on your blog too.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

meet my new MacBook

No, I don't have it yet, but I did just order one of these babies: the best MacBook money can buy (before it becomes a MacBook Pro).

I prefer smaller laptops for their portability, and the Pro only comes in a larger size. On the inside, my MacBook will be almost as good as a Pro, and better in some ways than the least expensive Pro. I'm getting the biggest hard drive (320 GB) and the most RAM (4 GB) that I can for a MacBook. I am also getting AppleCare, because it has always been worth it in my experience and it gives me peace of mind. The total comes in at just over $1900 with the educational discount, and my fellowship is paying for $1700. Not bad at all! I plan for this computer to last me until the end of my Ph.D., and then it can be almost completely recycled because of the major improvements Apple made in the redesign of the MacBook/Pro.

I'm preparing myself not to receive it until Monday. Oh my gosh I can hardly wait!

(As an aside, I woke up this morning to check for the new MacBooks and our internet wasn't working. It turns out that our service was shut off because the bill was 55 days past due!!! We were enrolled in autopay, but apparently that didn't transfer when we moved and I didn't notice that we weren't paying (even though I keep track of all of our expenses). Ack! We don't usually do things like that! So I had to pay about $10 in extra late fees and reactivation plus the balance in full to get us back online. After all that they didn't even have the new laptops in the online Apple Store until this afternoon.)

friends and mentors

On Monday I got to visit with my friend Cora who recently finished her Ph.D. at a big-name university with well-known ecologists. She finished in less than 5 years and is a role model for me as someone who can use her time effectively at work and still have a life outside of school. She was married for her whole Ph.D. and she's now expecting her first baby. When I see grad students who seem to be at school every day of the week until late in the evening, I remind myself that Cora was able to finish sooner than everyone else in her cohort by working intelligently. She even went on several long vacations! As someone slightly older and certainly more experienced than me, I think of her as a mentor and appreciate her perspective on getting through grad school. How would my grad school experience be different if I hadn't known Cora?

Cora was originally going to come over for dinner, but we changed plans and met for lunch at BNHM. It was a good excuse for me to work at the museum. I finally rode my bike from home to the museum after thinking about doing it for months. It was great! I should do that more often. Even with a 2 hour lunch to chat with Cora and show her around, I got a lot accomplished today. I'm feeling really good about the condition of my GRF personal statement and previous research statement. Family members and close friends will be getting drafts soon! I was holed up in a very quiet corner of the museum and I restricted my internet access. Sometimes a change of scenery is definitely a good thing for writing.

We've had a very social few days, hence the lack of posting. We had a party on Saturday night that didn't end until 4 am and two people spent the night. Great fun! On Monday evening a friend from SFC stopped to visit as she drove through Big City so we went out to dinner with her. Oh my gosh, I just realized this is going to be a very short week for me. I'd better get a lot done!

Monday, October 13, 2008

computer Christmas Eve

According to MacRumors, Apple will be releasing their new line of notebooks tomorrow! I'll be getting a new computer as soon as I possibly can since my dock has frozen 10 times in a month and my 30 GB hard drive is totally full. I am sooooooooooooooooo excited! I've been holding off on a new computer because my friend Mitch told me months ago that they would be releasing new ones soon. The anticipation is like Christmas Eve. I can't wait!

Friday, October 10, 2008

do you know who I am?

I've titled this post for some future reader.

I did a little bit of Googling around when I should've been doing something productive, and I found my blog, much to my shock, at the top of some very basic Google searches about this field. I'm telling you now- there is no way that I will finish my Ph.D. before someone at my university stumbles upon my blog and quickly identifies me. I'm convinced that it's only a matter of time before some wise new UBC student who has prepared him/herself for the grad school experience via the blogosphere makes the connection between real me and blogger me. Or perhaps it will be someone who is already here?

I can only hope that you, future reader, will tell me first rather than everyone else in your lab or the department!

Now I can mentally prepare myself for this inevitable future event and move past the axiety associated with being the number one Google hit for blog ecologist. At least it's always changing...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

meeting with Herb

I hadn't had an 'official' meeting with Herb since July or something so yesterday we got coffee and talked about what's going on in my academic life. He said he thinks my review is shaping up well, which is good to hear. I thought I was getting weird vibes from him during the lab meeting but I guess it was all in my head. I wasn't going to let myself get too worried about it, but this meeting was reassuring.

As advising styles go, Herb is very hands off. If you're not self-directed and motivated, he's not going to be much of a help. His style so far is working well for me because I have some clear ideas of what I want to do, and he is generally pretty good at helping clear the path (once you decide where the path is going).

We talked about my review a bit, who should write letters of recommendation for my NSF GRF application, the novel methods I want to use next summer in Ukenzagapia, and who I need to talk to about the methods. Oh, we also talked about when I should do my prelims. Apparently prelims here aren't the grueling "weeding" process that some programs have, because Herb and Leo both keep saying I'll have no problem with them. Leo wanted me to do them this fall! Herb and I were talking about March. Sometime in March. So this fall I need to officially get my committee together and schedule a meeting before the end of the semester so I know what to prepare for the spring. Herb said there's no reason for me to wait until next year, so I need to get them done before I leave again for Ukenzagapia and before our wedding in April. I still don't know what exactly I'm supposed to do for prelims, but I guess that's why I'll have a committee meeting (so they can tell me).

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

being honored

Last week in the midst of my writing madness I attended a fancy dinner to be recognized for a grant I received from the university (I think I might have called this Grant A). I already spent the money for travel to Ukenzagapia and had no idea I'd be honored at a dinner until a few weeks ago.

I got an email saying they wanted to honor me and the other award recipients at the dinner, could I come, etc. As I got more and more emails about the award dinner it started to seem like a bigger and bigger deal. First they wanted to know if I would be bringing a guest (I stupidly said no). Next they told me I'd be meeting the donor who endowed the award. Then they wanted my CV for my "introduction" (What? Why are they introducing me?). Finally they called me the Friday before the dinner saying they urgently needed my "remarks" for the script (WHAT? What do I have to say?). Remarks! Oh my. Apparently this is the kind of award ceremony where they talk about you and then you say thank you and how much the award has helped you. I've never been honored at one of those before!

On the night of the dinner I arrive at the building on campus and meet the coordinator with whom I have been corresponding over email. As I'm picking up my nametag he asks, "Do you have a copy of your remarks?" Uhhh... you mean you aren't going to put them on a teleprompter or something? There's not a copy of that script you so urgently needed them for? Apparently, you are always supposed to bring a copy of your remarks (ok, I'm not really sure why I thought I didn't... I think perhaps I just failed to consider and comprehend what it meant to give these remarks. Now you've been warned. Bring your remarks). So, I ran back to my office to print my remarks, then returned, sweaty, to the pre-dinner mingling.

They aren't kidding around about this award dinner. It's possible that the whole thing was more expensive than our wedding will be. First there was an open bar. I had no one to mingle with since I declined to bring a guest so I found another student who wasn't mingling with the gray-headed male-dominated crowd and chatted with her until dinner.

During dinner I was seated with the bigshots. There was an alumni association chairperson, a dean, and a chancellor. I don't even know what a chancellor does. Where are they in the administrative hierarchy? Is there more than one? The man who established the award I received sat down right next to me, so I got to tell him how much the money helped me further my research as a grad student in biology.

There were many speeches, much clapping, lots of university cheerleading, and some awards. Considering how long we sat there they really didn't give out very many awards. Students were in the minority by far. I think it was mostly wealthy alumni, other major donors, administrators, and professors.

I got so nervous when they called me up and read my introduction. I didn't know what they were going to say (I wish I'd asked), so a few things caught me off guard. I think my little speech was ok, but I wish I'd practiced it more so that I would've been more calm, cool, and collected. Then they gave me a thing with my name and such engraved on it and took my photo with the bigshots. I had no idea they were going to give me a thing- really the money was enough!

After the awards we had to hang around for more photos and they had a dessert bar with a chocolate fountain. When I left I got to take home a huge flower arrangement, except that it only made it to my office because there was no way I could get it home on my bike. I'm telling you, they went all out on this thing. Their money is probably better spent funding more student awards.

Overall it was an interesting glimpse into part of a big university. I'm glad I went, even though I had to go back to my office afterwards and write for a few more hours. I'll be sure to tip off the next award recipient to bring their own remarks, dress very nicely, and bring a guest.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

trying to say what I want to say... what do I want to say?

Today I got feedback from the lab about my review. Most of the feedback said that I need to make my points more clearly and not bury them in the middle of the paper. As one person commented, I need to do a better job of saying what I'll say, saying it, and then saying what I said. I also haven't found the right audience, or the right angle.

Herb said in grad school he read two reviews on the same topic. One was an exhaustive summary of the literature, and the other took the literature and made a point with it. I need to do more of the latter and less of the former.

Basically, I've done a lot of reading, thinking, and writing, but I still don't have a clear, interesting, or memorable way to communicate my synthesis. I'm a little bit discouraged, but I'm not going to let myself get down about it. I can publish this (someday!); I just need an epiphany like the one I had a few weeks ago about my GRF application.

As much as I want to, I am going to resist the urge to stop thinking about this paper for a while. I'm not going to put as much energy into it until after the GRFP application is due, but I'm not going to ignore it completely. I'm hoping that if I keep coming back to it every few days and thinking about it a little bit at a time that I'll have another breakthrough.

Monday, October 6, 2008

review reflections

Tomorrow the lab group is giving me feedback about my review. I really need to figure out how to put a graph on my blog (suggestions, readers?) to track my enthusiasm. It was probably a 2 last Thursday and an 7 on Friday afternoon. I kept asking Mariyah questions and trying to talk through my confusion with her, so she offered to read it on Friday morning so that we could talk about it Friday afternoon. She really helped remind me that what I'm writing about is exciting and interesting and I'm not the only person in the world who cares about it.

I hope that I get inspired rather than overwhelmed and my ideas clarified rather than confused from tomorrow's lab meeting. I need to keep making steady progress on this review even while I start working a lot on my NSF GRF application. There's so much to think about with this review. I have about 100 citations and there are more papers I should read and possibly incorporate. Herb wasn't kidding- it's hard to write a good review.

On a completely separate note, I ended up not making yogurt today, but I did make a casserole, cobbler, quiche, and cookies. I have lunch for several days now! The cookies are for the lab group for commenting on my paper tomorrow. I was going to bring them cobbler, but I decided it would be too messy and involve plates and utensils.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

GAH! I'm going home

If I haven't read your blog, replied to your email, or called you back, it's because I've been working my butt off to get my review ready for the lab group to read. I just sent it to everyone after working on it nearly non-stop (brief email checking, peeing, and eating breaks only) for 11 hours today (well, Sunday), 5 hours on Saturday, and I don't know how many hours last week. A lot.

I'm not coming to school tomorrow and will instead be giving my plants some much-needed attention, thinking about wedding stuff, making yogurt, and cooking for my lunches this week. I'm determined not to eat another frozen burrito anytime soon since that was the majority of my diet for the last week.

I expect there will be more blog posts this week since I won't be writing like mad. Ok, I'm really going home now.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

not just rats and mice

This semester I'm taking a class about using animals in research. I have to take it in order to graduate so I figured I'd just get it out of the way now. The vast majority of animal research here at UBC happens in labs and so the majority of things covered in the class don't apply at all to my particular research circumstances.

Today we toured one of the animal research facilities and learned about their protocols. A veterinarian was leading my group which also had two of my ecologist friends. The beginning of the tour went something like this:

Vet: So is everyone here working with rats and mice?
Mostly silence from the group and the ecologists shake their heads.
Vet: Really? What fields are you all in? Raise your hand if you're working in neurology.
A couple of hands are raised.
Vet: Cancer?
A few more hands.
Vet: Epidemiology?
A few more hands.
Vet, slightly baffled: Well, what are the rest of you studying?
Me: Ecology.
Vet: Oh, cancer.
Ecologists give her a strange look (last time I checked I wasn't studying cancer).
Vet: ...Oncology, cancer.
Me: No, eeecology.
Vet: OH! EEE-cology. Wow, that's unusual. I knew this one woman who went to Costa Rica to study birds...

She didn't even ask what kinds of animals we all worked with. I was kind of looking forward to telling her.

(And now, back to my regularly scheduled writing.)