Saturday, December 31, 2011
Although I didn't write it down, my biggest goal for 2011 was to finish my field work. CHECK! DONE! COMPLETE!
I presented at a big conference which resulted in useful connections and feedback.
I also managed to get two publications submitted in December, one of which has been in the works for 2+ years, and another that is just a short little thing.
2011 was a light blogging year (only 57 posts counting this one). When I fall out of the habit, I write less. I don't think it's much more complicated than that.
It has been a busy year. By my calculations, I've spent 2750 hours this year doing work, which I define as things I wouldn't be doing if this wasn't my career. That works out to an average of ~53 hours/week across 52 weeks of the year. I excluded my plane travel to and from Ukenzagapia because that adds dozens of hours. I think I had about 5 weeks worth of "vacation" where I wasn't working much if at all (a week in the spring, 2 in the summer, a week in the fall, and a week at Christmas). Spending 5.5 months this year in Ukenzagapia really pushed up those numbers since I work crazy 65-90 hour weeks in the field.
I keep track of how many hours I work for a few of reasons. When I'm in my office, logging my hours helps me keep track of when I'm really working and when I'm just reading crap on the internet or at the gym exercising. I aim to work 8 hours a day, 5 days per week when I'm not in the field or on vacation. In the field, I do it to help combat the feeling that I should be doing more. Finally, I figure there might be a handful of people out there interested in my quantification of this aspect of life as a scientist. I'm sure I've missed some things here and there, but I think it's a pretty good estimate of how much I'm working.
2011 has been a pretty good year. I'm halfway through my FIFTH year of grad school now! It's hard to believe. Thank you to all of you who are still reading my ruminations, and I hope 2012 brings more peace, love, and joy into your lives.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
I really feel like a true collaborator now with Sam. I'm pretty sure that he would not have gotten this fellowship without my help!
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Since I got back from Ukenzagapia a month ago, this has been my priority. I. must. publish. something. asap! I wrote the first draft of this manuscript more than 2 years ago. It was submitted twice and rejected twice (once with review, once without) in 2010. The amount of data has tripled since the first submission, because every time Sam or I have gone to the field we've collected more data. I originally called this my "short note". Ha!
By my calculations, I've spent at least 263 hours on this manuscript. In 40 hour work weeks, that's 6.5 weeks. That doesn't even include data collection. That does include some data entry, writing, reading relevant literature, revising, corresponding with Sam, finding references, some analysis, making and reworking figures, and formatting citations. I don't know about you, but I think that's an insane amount of time. This is my first real paper, which everyone says takes a long time (no kidding).
Just for kicks, let's turn those hours into dollars. Based on my stipend of $2500 per month, we could estimate that it cost more than $4000 in my labor alone to produce this manuscript (that's assuming $625 per week just for the sake of simplicity). And that's not counting Sam's time, which is much more valuable than mine! Science is expensive.
But the real kicker is that it's not over yet. The manuscript is likely to be rejected from this journal, which means it will have to go through more revisions before we can send it somewhere else. I'll just keep counting, mostly to satisfy my own curiosity.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Thursday, October 27, 2011
T, after a brief reflection, made a keen observation.
"I think, in Ukenzagapia, the thieves are many, but the plan is small. And in America, the thieves are few, but the plan is big."
Keeping your belongings, I've learned, is largely about preventing crimes of opportunity because, as T so nicely put it, "the plan is small". People don't have bolt cutters or hacksaws. If you make it difficult to steal something, they might try and fail, but they generally won't go out of their way to do it.
All that said, people do have machetes. I don't know what exactly happened or how much planning was involved, but this week we discovered that some of our equipment was stolen. They cut through one of the cable locks and in another case broke the equipment to steal it because they failed to break the cable. I have a glimmer of hope that we might be able to recover some or all of it, but I'm not holding my breath.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
It's been a good trip so far. I've had some exciting discoveries (natural history observation type discoveries) that will probably turn into a few minor publications. The electricity has been, dare I say it?- excellent. The weather? Pretty crazy, but I was gone for most of the craziness. I met up with another UBC student and we traveled a bit- kind of a biologist's pilgrimage :-) It was fantastic!
Sam is always thinking of new things for me to do, including setting up a pilot project for a grant of his. I've become the de facto manager for this project because I'm here. Thankfully, I just found a way to simplify the gargantuan task he saddled me with. So, things are rolling along. I'm not panicking yet.
Monday, September 26, 2011
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Monday, September 19, 2011
Friday, September 16, 2011
Friday, September 9, 2011
Actual excerpts from my April list:
-One roll of masking tape
-Rite in the rain universal spiral bound notebooks (3)
-Set of multi-sided dice
-Assorted small canisters
-1 foldable yellow ruler
-1 plastic pipette
-Electric water kettle
-Electric two-burner hotplate
-Four dinner plates
-Small plates (2)
-Box of ~62 sandwich ziplocks
-Black sports bra
-Grey pants (too big)
-Empty hand santizier bottle
-Deck of cards
You get the idea. This has helped me numerous times. I've even recorded a list as a voice memo because I was in such a rush I had no time to write it down, and then I transcribed it later. April's list of things left in Nyota had 200 line items, and then another 40+ left with my American friend.
Thanks to these lists, I've realized that some of my things did indeed go missing- I didn't just imagine I had them. In the time that I was back in the U.S., Sam came and left with his family, and Cam left a month ago. Now I'm missing 8 rechargeable AA batteries and two books. I'm pretty sure Sam is the one who lost track of these things one way or another. Also, Cam used up all of my duct tape and didn't tell me, so I didn't get more. He also said he left his bottle of Ivy Block, but it's nowhere to be found.
I don't mind that they used my stuff- I even gave them permission. I'm just annoyed that, for whatever reason, things didn't end up back where they should have.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
In the spring I returned to Big City just in time to (belatedly) celebrate our 2nd anniversary. As a belated birthday gift to me, we took a 4-day road trip in May that let us explore some new areas. I spent a few days visiting friend and collaborator Theo analyzing data for my conference presentation. In July we did a lot of traveling. We spent a week at the beach with my family, went to a wedding for our friends whose cats we had for a year, then spent a week with Jon's family on a tranquil lake. Our dog learned how to swim and we learned she's still clumsy (and adorable).
Shortly after returning home from Ukenzagapia in the spring, I decided that I was going to do a triathlon this summer. I found an all-women one nearby and started training. I had signed up for an indoor triathlon more than 2 years ago, but that ended up being the weekend of my grandmother and sister's funerals, so that didn't happen. I don't particularly love running, I'm not a very good swimmer, and I'm not a very fast cyclist, but I liked that the training was varied so I didn't get bored. I also did some yoga. I didn't stick to my training program exactly, and I felt like I should have done more, but the triathlon was actually easier than I thought it would be. It was just a sprint distance tri, which means the distances are all reasonable. I was thrilled with my performance (easily top 50%) and I definitely want to do more triathlons. I felt great going into the run, and really surprised myself at how fast I ran.
When we weren't traveling, I spent my days at the office working on data analysis for the conference and writing. Then most the last week after the conference was spent getting ready for this last trip to Ukenzagapia! So that's how I spent my summer. Goodbye, summer. See you next year!
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Sunday, August 28, 2011
I'm planning NOT to spend 7 days a week in the field this time. I'm wrapping things up, filling in gaps, and helping supervise other projects. So, I imagine all of this free time that I'm going to have, living in this house by myself. I know I'm not going to be able to do all of these things, but I'm very excited about the idea of running regularly, drawing, shooting things with a slingshot, doing yoga (did you know you can download free yoga podcasts?), making a solar oven and learning to bake with it, and taking awesome photographs, in addition to entering tons of data, sorting lots of research-related stuff, finishing my data collection, and generally keeping up on life. I've also got an exciting trip in the works.
Here's hoping for a great field season! First day in the field tomorrow!
Monday, August 22, 2011
Several of us had lunch today and the conversation turned to what we eat in the field, which eventually turned into a conversation about what kinds of insects people have eaten. Everyone in the room had eaten some kind of grasshopper, ant, termite, cricket, or grub.
Then someone started talking about the sad time when they found a raisin-looking thing in their granola that they realized was actually mouse poop. Now that's gross.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
I've already gotten feedback from ALL of the people I sent it to! One person collaborates with the person whose study I modeled mine after (let's call him Dr. Bigname), and forwarded my email to Dr. Bigname (who wasn't at the meeting). Dr. Bigname emailed me and said he thinks my study may be the best of its type in Africa! How's that for awesome?! He's forwarding it to Dr. Evenbigger.
As an aside, my poster printed with a minor graphical error that wasn't my fault. I pointed it out to the company who printed it and they offered to reprint it, but when I said that wasn't necessary, they sent me a coupon for 50% off my next poster!
Maybe posters aren't so bad after all.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Monday, August 15, 2011
More than anything, though, it has inspired me to think about a conference presentation timeline for parts of my dissertation. I want to give a presentation at next year's meeting on the final results of the project I did a poster on this year, and maybe present a different piece of that research at a smaller conference earlier in the summer. It will help me to have these deadlines on my calendar.
Friday, August 5, 2011
-Business cards. I have plenty of these already printed and I'm going to carry them around in my name tag holder.
-Highlighter. For highlighting the talks I want to go to in the printed program. This is the #1 most important time I need a highlighter in my life.
-Water bottle. It'd just be embarrassing to carry around a disposable bottle at an ecology conference.
-Distinctive ribbon. This is new on my list. I'm going to tie it to the tote bag they give me so I can tell it apart from the other 2,000 identical tote bags.
-Lightweight sweater/cardigan. It's going to be wicked hot outside but if they crank up the AC or have some temperature regulation problems, I don't want to be shivering.
I've been way out of touch with the blogosphere- does anyone have a blogger meetup planned? I look forward to seeing some of you very soon!
Friday, July 22, 2011
"great on [name omitted]
forgot ALL about her!"
Oh boy, that gave me a good laugh. Students, this is a great example of why you might need to email your professors more than once to get a response from them. If your message makes it out of sight, it's probably out of mind too.
More thoughts from me soon.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Thursday, June 16, 2011
There was a withdrawal and currency exchange transaction for which I didn't have receipts this time, and I was sitting here thinking, "Did I change $200 at that place? Or was it $300?" I was about to email Cam to ask if he remembers (yeah right), when I flipped back through my notebook where I write all sorts of misc things, and sure enough I wrote it down. $300 it is! That means I can account for all $4570 that I brought in USD! I haven't figured out yet how much of the Ukenzagapian currency I can account for, but I'm pleased as punch about the USD. I still have to figure out how much I have left in my big grant, how much of our money I spent, and how much money I spent from what Sam gave me. I have receipts all over the place.
When I'm in the field, about 1/3 of the things I write in my book are money-related, and because I'm kind of paranoid about Ukenzagapians overseeing the sums of money I manage, I tend to write in a way that makes it unclear which currency I'm working with (or even that I'm writing about money at all). This is not very good if I have to look back at my notes to figure stuff out. I need to be more clear about this!
While I'm thinking about money, that reminds me that I still have to actually do our taxes from 2010, and I'm still not 100% clear if I have to pay taxes on research awards even if I can clearly account for the research expenses, but I think the answer is yes (because they aren't "qualified educational expenses"). I'd be much happier paying these taxes if we had universal single-payer healthcare and if 60% of it didn't go towards war.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
I tend to deal with this tidying and packing problem by making piles of miscellaneous things, but then I fuss over them for a while, trying to categorize them, before hiding them out of sight. But I can't just do that with data... It is so frustrating sometimes that the world wasn't made categorically! There's always a judgement call to be made in categorizing those boundary points. If I have to do it a handful of times, ok. But if I need to make a whole bunch of decisions that could really go one way or the other... ack!
Obviously, today I'm dealing with some data that aren't clearly one thing or the other. I've been reading about ways in which other people have dealt with this, but the best way to approach it still isn't clear to me.
I talked to John about my dilemma. He also loves categorizing things and has a meticulously organized, data-filled music collection on his computer. When he has music with incompleteable data, he just deletes it. Unfortunately, I can't just delete the difficult ones!
I'm tempted to work on the easy ones for now and come back to the hard ones when I'm less frustrated.
Monday, June 6, 2011
Saturday, May 28, 2011
Friday, May 27, 2011
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
I'd really like to get her something special for graduation. I remember giving some of my younger friends a small set a drawers full of all kinds of little useful things (paper clips, sticky tack, tape, etc). I could do that for my cousin, but since I do still have some folks reading my blog I thought I'd ask if any of you have awesome ideas for an SLAC-bound high school grad. Did you get any really awesome graduation gifts? What great graduation gifts have you given?
I really hope she loves her SLAC as much as I love SFC. Seriously, my SFC professors sign their emails "Love" (at least to me!). I just got an email today from one of my profs who is leaving shortly for Ukenzagapia :-)
Monday, May 23, 2011
I've got a couple of poster presentations to make from scratch this summer and I'm wondering if I should use something other than Powerpoint.
Monday, May 9, 2011
-Interdisciplinary project. This will end with a poster presentation this summer and won't be part of my dissertation.
-Review paper (hopefully the intro to my dissertation)
-Other manuscript (probably not part of my dissertation)
-Project A (a chapter)
-Project B (another chapter)
-Project C (half a chapter)
-Project D (other half a chapter)
-Database (maybe part of my dissertation)
-Bonus project (not part of my dissertation)
Highest priority (things in the analysis/writing/submitting stages):
The other things (especially the bonus project) can wait. I'll be working on the database this summer too but it's not in the analysis stage yet so I'm just helping the development along. I'm not sure if I should try to tackle these things one at a time, like spend a week working almost totally on the "other manuscript" with a clear goal at the end before I move on to tackle the next big thing? Maybe I'll try that and see how it goes. It would be good to get the closest-to-done manuscripts out the door.
Sunday, May 8, 2011
Saturday, April 30, 2011
Friday, April 29, 2011
I'm really trying hard to establish new home routines for myself now. Part of the reason I was able to do such an insane amount of work in Nyota was that I had a routine that didn't vary much, my life was pretty simple, and someone was cooking for me. It's much more complicated here and there are many more distractions (husband! puppy! houseplants! youtube! cooking! housework! - I had none of these in Nyota). I'm trying to simplify my life by scheduling things so that I just know when I do them and don't waste time and energy deciding whether or not I should do them (I do this a lot). So far I'm mostly doing this with things at home, but I think I'll do it with some school things too. I'm not the kind of person for whom routines come easily (I think I've blogged about this before), so I have to make a conscious effort to create and stick to them.
I'm curious, my readers, if you have created routines for similar reasons. If so, what have they been?
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Thursday, April 14, 2011
-I just spent a long time counting a bunch of little things in the dark with a headlamp because (big surprise here) the power is out. My back is sore and I'm pooped.
-I still have to pay our state taxes (like, right now). I'm just roughly estimating, and then grossly overpaying, the amount we owe for taxes and will sort it out for real when I get home.
-I'm going home SOON! Only 1 week left in Nyota!
-Vacation was awesome. I hardly did any work for 4 days.
-How am I ever going to be a real grown up scientist?
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
For the next few days, I'm on vacation. I've got my computer with me and I'm hoping to catch up on email, but mostly I'm hoping to relax and have a wonderful time. So far, so good. The place where I am for vacation is fantastic! I'm thrilled. My life is awesome.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
I also arranged with T and B to pay their wives to make some plastic thingamabobs for me, which worked out well and provided them with some extra income (plus, I'd given them both nice scissors as a gift so I knew they had the tools to do it!).
But my most exciting news is that I'm planning to take off FOUR consecutive days in April for a break from fieldwork! Cam and I are going to travel somewhere else for a few days. I'm SO excited about a vacation! I'm planning to do some computer work then, but it will be a great mental break after being in the field for all but 9 days in the past 9 weeks.
Monday, March 21, 2011
In the past 3 weeks I've:
-started a big experiment
-dealt with several extended power outages
-had no running water for 2 weeks due to drought
-had 2 different house guests back-to-back, followed by the arrival of Sam and Dr. K!
-gotten chased away from a site by bees
-spent all but two days in the field (15 days straight)
-gotten great encouragement and advice from Sam
-went swimming in a newly discovered (and safe!) place
My schedule is pretty well packed for the next 5 weeks, but I'm trying to find a few days to get away from Nyota and travel someplace new. I hope I can. I could use a little vacation.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Basically, I've been really worried that we haven't done enough for his project, so much so that I was nearly in tears about it in November. I sent him the email update tonight with trepidation and was seriously thinking about not checking my email in the morning in case his reply is bad and then puts me in a funk all day.
He replied right away and said, "This is quite impressive- well done!"
I literally breathed a sigh of relief. It is so great to hear praise sometimes!
Saturday, February 26, 2011
Saturday, February 19, 2011
Monday, February 14, 2011
Sunday, February 13, 2011
On my second day here, my phone fell out of my pocket on the road when I was getting on B's motorbike. We went back about 20 minutes later to look for it, but by that time it was long gone. I really liked that little Nokia :-(
I actually had an extra phone with me that I intended to give as a gift (for no one in particular). I also have another sim card that I use for internet, so now I am having to take my phone apart every time I get online until I can get to one of the telecom stores to get them to replace my sim. I will be able to get the same number back which is good, it's just a matter of getting to town to do it.
Also, my American friend sent a new Nokia (I hate the spare motorola!), brownies, and cheese with her daughter who came to Nyota on a field trip with her school!
I've been getting ticks, which has never happened before. They are teeny tiny, like the size of this period. I also pulled a fat one off that had clearly escaped notice for a day or two (or more?).
I still had some permethrin from when I brought it in 2009, so I treated my field clothes. I think that will solve the problem.
In less than a week I had poison tree rash on my hand and wrist. Even worse, I actually forgot- of all things- to bring more Ivy Block! I have some left from last time, but not 3 months worth.
American friend's sister-in-law is coming in a few weeks, and she told me to have some Ivy Block sent to her house and she'll bring it! So I'll have more in about a month. I'm also going to try something called Oral Ivy. I'm pretty skeptical but it was only $8...
The electricity hasn't been very good. We've been out of power about 1/3 of the time I've been here so far, including a 48-hour and 24-hour outage. Those are the worst.
Is there an upside to not having electricity? I guess it could be worse, and I just try to do the things that don't require electricity like laundry and equipment prep and be extra-conservative with my laptop battery use. Oh! I guess I did get to try out the solar shower that I brought, which works wonderfully. It also reminds me how fortunate we are to have electricity. I try not to take it for granted.
The internet is even slower than I remember it.
I do have internet, and it's so slow that I can easily go a whole month on less than 500 MB, which is only $2. Awesome.
My favorite field pants are wearing out (new holes with every thorn I encounter), and I don't love my second pair.
There are lots of really cheap used clothes here (thanks to all of the developed countries sending them here and undermining the development of a local clothing industry), so I think with enough searching in town I should be able to find some suitable replacements.
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Friday, January 28, 2011
Thursday, January 27, 2011
I'm carrying a ridiculous amount of cash on me this time. Violet is picking me up at the airport and bringing me straight to my friend's house with my 120 pounds of luggage. I'll unload some of the cash in the city, but I'll have to change most of it into local currency, and then the stack will be too big to fit in my money belt. Gotta come up with a different plan for how to bring it all from the city to Nyota. I'm staying in the same place as last time, and Cam is still there so I won't be lonely.
Have I said on the blog that I think this may be my best trip yet? I'm super excited about the project I'm going to be working on. I think it's going to be the best part of my dissertation, thanks in part to Theo who set up data simulations to run power analyses that allowed us to hone in on a reasonable sample size. Also, my permits are all set so I hardly need to spend time in the city!
I'll be gone 3 months this time. I was only home for 9 weeks. My cell phone battery didn't even die! Hopefully the infrastructure (especially the electricity) will hold up to make the next 3 months as productive as I dream they might be. Fingers crossed.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
I thought the publications were more important than the title, but I think I might be wrong about this. Perspectives?
Monday, January 17, 2011
Friday, January 14, 2011
This morning I woke up and had an email from Leo saying, "I hope you don't mind if I miss your committee meeting this morning. I have a lot of deadlines and need the time to work on them, and I think I already gave you all of the useful feedback I can." I wrote him back asking if he could come if we went to him at the museum, and he said ok to that but then I had to talk to Sam and Chip about it. In the end, we couldn't go to the museum because Chip didn't get to school until 1 minute before my meeting was scheduled to start, and Sam had to leave promptly after an hour.
My meeting (with only 2 of my 5 committee members) went well. It was really mostly just a meeting with Chip, since Sam and I have talked numerous times about everything that I presented (and he's sick and spent part of the meeting with his feet on a chair and his eyes closed- body language clearly indicating "I don't need to pay attention to this"). Chip had some great insights and useful suggestions so it was a useful meeting (and Chip is notoriously overcommitted and hard to pin down). Even though the meeting was fine, I am frustrated with Leo. I don't think he wants to be on my committee anymore. As I've written before, my projects have gotten further and further from his area of expertise. Last year he said, "If you're going to have committee meetings without me, maybe I shouldn't be on your committee." I like Leo and he's my main tie to the museum right now but it seems like he's not getting much out of the relationship and maybe I'm not either. I don't know who to put on the committee instead. I need to talk to Herb about all of this and decide what to do.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
Friday, January 7, 2011
Oh boy oh boy oh boy!