Monday, April 27, 2009

We're married!

Our wedding on Saturday and was fantastic. The weather was great, our marriage certificate was beautiful, the ceremony was wonderful, and the reception was a blast. Thanks to all of my readers who were there and helped make everything go so smoothly!

Many people have asked if I'm changing my name. I'm not, so I guess that makes me Mrs. Karina Anirak until I become Dr. Karina Anirak. I like the name Anirak and I've published under it (barely) so I'm content to remain an Anirak. Jon likes being Jon Rene and is keeping his name. We'll cross the what-do-you-name-the-children bridge when we get there.

Photo added May 27, 2009

Monday, April 20, 2009

why travel agents are still useful

Friday was  a total whirlwind in which I ran all over the place, including through the airport.* Now we're in Jon's hometown finishing up the wedding preparation** and trying to iron out important details for my upcoming trip to Ukenzagapia.

Last year on my way back from Ukenzagapia I flew some insane path on a non-refundable ticket that took more than 36 hours and resulted in my bags being severely delayed. I have vowed  never to fly that way again. I've raised my standards for international flights. I just can't risk losing my bags because this time their contents will be even more valuable.

My higher standards (among other things) have resulted in higher ticket prices this year. Someone at the museum who frequently travels to Ukenzagapia recommend that I contact a travel agent. The power of the internet and plethora of cheap airfare sites makes travel agents seem unnecessary, but this travel agent saved me $300 on my ticket and my fare is refundable. Amazing. I think that it is worthwhile to consult a travel agent for international travel, especially one that specializes in the region where you are going.

Jon got his tickets through the same travel agent, though his are more expensive since he's flying at abusier travel time than me. Now that we both have our tickets to Ukenzagapia, we submitted all of the necessary paperwork for our visas. I leave on May 15!

*We made an embarassing public transportation mistake followed by a bad decision that resulted in us checking our bags only 30 minutes before our flight. Only one of the bags made it at the same time we did.

**It is supposed to be beautiful and sunny on Saturday with a high of 80° F. Fantastic!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

April 15? Really?

Last night as I was lying in bed trying to fall asleep I realized suddenly that I am leaving for Ukenzagapia again soon. It has felt like such a far-off event for so long that it just hit me last night that I'm leaving in a month.

In the next month I need to:
-Get a visa
-Buy tickets
-Order equipment & supplies
-Submit grant from my prelim proposal
-Submit grant I've been sitting on for months
-Send my endless review article somewhere
-Figure out how I'm going to answer the research questions I need to answer this summer

I think this would be a busy month with these things alone. Add onto that the fact that Jon and I are getting married in 10 days and that we'll be away from Big City for a week... and I'm trying not to be completely overwhelmed. I have so. much. to. do. Better stop blogging and start working.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

I GOT IT!!!!!!!!

I just got an email from NSF-- I GOT THE FELLOWSHIP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

That's all for now, and I promise not to use that many exclamation marks again.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

enjoy the wind turbines while you wait

In the past two weeks, my blog has been visited 311 times as a result of 69 different keyword searches containing "grf" or "graduate research fellowship." This accounts for 45% of my blog traffic during that time, which doesn't count those of you who are now regular visitors waiting to see if I've heard. I'm not expecting to hear anything until Friday or maybe even Monday.

In the meantime, here are some photos I took of wind turbines a few weeks ago on our way to Joshua Tree National Park.

As far as we could tell here, it was wind turbines all the way to the mountains.

All of those blades spinning looked kind of eerie through the haze.

So. many. wind turbines.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

inapropriately addressed

I just got an email that went something like this:
Dear Sirs,

We are writing this email on behalf of Professional Society Outside of My Discipline to invite posters and presentations at our upcoming annual meeting. Could you please forward the following information to the students, post-doc fellows and researchers in your department/program?

Student Chapter Committee, PSOMD
Dear Colleagues,

[Relevant conference information]

PSOMD Conference Committee

This is disturbing for a few reasons.
  1. The first part of the email assumes that all recipients of this email are men.
  2. The first part of the email is from the STUDENT committee! The non-student committee used the more appropriate and gender-neutral term "colleagues." Aren't the students supposed to be the ones challenging the status quo?!
  3. I am sad for the women in this particular field who have to deal with such asinine assumptions.
In a less offensive incident of mistakenly addressed correspondence, I am still receiving letters from my IACUC regarding my animal care protocol addressed to "Dr. Anirak." I suppose the title "Dr." is a safe assumption since not many grad students here are PIs on their own protocols.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

we've got a project

Several months ago I wrote about the challenges that my cohort of interdisciplinary fellows faced in trying to design a project that combined all of our areas of expertise and strengths. On Friday, we finally committed to a project!

It is exciting to have identified a project, and even more exciting to see how each one of us fits into it. We will be working with several other individuals on project at a public institution.We will finish our part of the project in the next year, and the rest of the project will continue, hopefully better for our involvement.

Friday, April 3, 2009

How did my taxes get so complicated?

This is a horrible year for taxes for me. All I have is a W-2, a 1098-T, and a 1099-INT which seems like it should be easy enough. I have been doing my own taxes for years and I have no clue if I've got it right this year. None. Nada. I don't want to pay someone to do my taxes because I think on principle that I should be able to do them myself, but now I'm just not sure.

The main problem stems from my fellowship and the fact that UBC did not take taxes from my paychecks. Other people in the same situation at UBC have received all kinds of varying tax advice, including some very liberal interpretations of qualified educational expenses. Most of the students ahead of us have not paid taxes on the fellowship. My cohort is totally confused.

Tuition waivers further confuse the picture, though those are clearly qualified educational expenses. But, it appears that my waivers and my stipend both appear on my 1098-T. I have no idea how to interpret my 1098-T.

In addition to the fellowship and tuition waiver confusion, I received $3,000 in grants last year that were given to me personally, not administered by an institution. Apparently these are taxable. I have no idea how to deduct the research expenses that these funds were used for, or if I even can.

I'm 99% sure that I am supposed to pay income tax on all of the above, except for the tuition waiver. However, when I calculate my taxes using one of those online filing services, I only owe about 25% of what I set aside in anticipation of paying taxes. How can this be right?

Why can't I figure this out myself?!?!? Help? Suggestions?

On the bright side, I have only lived in one state this year.

Southern California highlights

A couple weekends ago we attended a wedding near San Diego of two of our friends from Small Friendly College. Here are a few photographic highlights.

Botanical Building in Balboa Park

Outside the Museum of Man, also in Balboa Park. The whole park is like museums a la carte- spend the day there and visit a bunch of small museums of your choice all within easy walking distance.

This photo doesn't look like much, but this happens to be the view of the ocean from my friend's desk in her graduate student office. I think I'm at the wrong institution. The best I can do is cover my ciderblock walls with scenic calendar pages.

It's amazing what people can do when they water a desert. On the right: dry and barren. On the left: green and lush. In the middle: the water that makes green possible. Oh, the policies and politics of water in the West.

Cacti in Joshua Tree National Park

More cacti in Joshua Tree

A dead tree in Josha Tree, but not a Joshua Tree.

Wind turbine photos coming later.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

teaching professional conduct in correspondence

Earlier this week I blogged about a fantastic student of mine for whom I wrote many letters of recommendation. Just yesterday I was contacted by a different student. Her email went something like this:
Hey Karina!! It's Student know, one of the trip to the museum Students? haha. Ok so I have a huge favor to ask of you, like the subject line says...will you be willing to write me a letter of recommendation???? I will owe you my life! haha. It's for an Unusual Internship with Unusual Employer...random, I know, but I graduated in January and my dream of becoming a [Job Kids Dream About] right away hasn't been going too well so I'm just looking around for anything that will benefit me. It's cool if you don't want to do it, I won't hate you :) but if you are willing to help me out I will send you my resume and the link to what the internship is about so you have a clue on what to write. Thanks for taking the time to read this rambling email! I hope your semester has been going great! Another Student always tells me how she sees you at the gym. I miss BioX!!!

Student X
At first I wasn't sure how to respond. Clearly she needed some advice on etiquette for professional correspondence. After much consideration I replied:
Hi Student,
Wow, that internship sounds quite unusual! As one of my most enthusiastic students, I am happy to help you however I am able. I may be able to write you a letter, but I need to know what the deadline is to know if I have time. In order to write a good letter, I need as much information as possible. Also, I highly recommend reading this page that talks about asking for letters of recommendation. Even in asking for a letter for Unusual Internship, professionalism goes a long way! Especially in this awful job market, you should always err on the side of formality, courtesy, and standard composition. You can start practicing in your correspondence with me. :-)
I decided to add the smiley face, even though it's a bit ironic considering the context. Apparently, my advice was very well taken. She replied:
Dear Karina,
Thank you very much for helping me out! I will try to be as professional as possible in this email after reading all of those guidelines you sent me. I'm going to keep that because it's very helpful! [Many internship details] I really appreciate this! I'll let you know about the deadline as soon as I find out, and if you can't make it, I'll understand :)

Student X
What a huge improvement! I'm so glad that she demonstrated that she's capable of higher standards of correspondence. Seems like it should be common sense or at least previously taught, but apparently not. On the bright, this bad habit in students is relatively easily corrected (assuming they actually do know how to write in complete sentences) and a little advice may go a long way in helping someone develop essential professional skills.