Wednesday, February 22, 2006

As long as we're talking about me...

A while ago, Big Sister #1 told me that the first time I ever met her husband (obviously only her boyfriend at the time), I, in a gracious effort to make him feel welcome and entertained, read aloud to him from Little House on the Prairie.

Turning 30 makes your sisters, and your sisters’ friends, old

Last Sunday, and Newest Niece’s baptism party, the discussion turned to my recent milestone birthday. Brother-in-law #2 asked me if I felt old. “Not particularly,” I said. “Not really that different from a month ago.” He said that my turning 30 probably made my sisters and brother feel old, since they are all older than me.

“Well, Big Sister #2?” I asked, “Does my being 30 make you feel old?” I was particularly interested in her reply, as I distinctly remember her shock at learning that I had started drinking coffee. (Yes, that was a few years ago.)

“Actually, it would probably hit my friend Jane the hardest,” she replied. “She saw a picture of you graduating or something a few years ago, and said, ‘Now that one hurts.’”

Apparently, the first time Jane ever met me, I had just come from the kitchen and proudly announced to those congregated in the living room that I had just made a sandwich. “So what?” people replied. Someone added, probably my brother, “I make sandwiches all the time.”

“Yes,” I said, “but I just made a sandwich all by myself.”

So the jolt of realizing that little kid was now old enough to have a Ph.D. was a bit startling to Jane.

Interesting side note: Now that I am 30, I rarely make sandwiches all by myself because The Husband spoils me rotten and usually makes them for me.

Everyone has plumps

Yet another non-grad story about my nephew. Sorry.*

Three-year-old Nephew was at my parents' house, and he was kneeling on an oversized pillow which he had place on the big green easy chair. "Be careful," said my mom. "You might slide off and break your knees!"

Sure enough, Nephew slid off the pillow and landed on his knees. Now, Nephew tries to be tough, so he just knelt there on the floor, quiet. "Are your knees hurt?" my mom asked him.

"Yeah, a little," he sighed. "But my plumps are OK."

This statement gave my mom pause. "Your what?" she asked.

"My plumps," he said again.

My mom thought about this a bit more. "And where are your plumps, exactly?"

"Oh, right by my knees," Nephew replied, gesturing towards his legs. "All around here," he said.

"Oh!" said my mom. "And do I have plumps?" she asked him.

"Oh, yes," he said, getting up. He walked over to her and rubbed her legs to show her where her plumps were. "They keep the electricity from getting into your body," he explained.

"I see," said my mom.

A little while later, Nephew slid off the chair again, but landed on his backside. He looked up at my mom and reassured her, "My bum plumps are OK."

*Not really.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

I'll take stupid answers for $200, Alex.

Quizzo was a popular bar game in the city of my grad school, and for about a year, a group of us attending the Thursday night game on a regular basis. The rules of Quizzo were simple: Teams of people answered trivia questions read over a loudspeaker. There were four rounds of questions, and the team with the most right answers at the end won a $25 gift certificate. But you didn't want to win Quizzo to get the gift certificate, you wanted to win Quizzo for the glory. Our team didn’t usually win, but we held our own and had a lot of fun.

But sometimes, instead of holding our own, we were really stupid. On one such night, our team consisted of me, Housemate, Scottish Guy, Bitter Guy, and The Doktah, and one of the questions was, “What state has the most coastline?”

Scottish Guy, Bitter Guy, The Doktah and I started discussing likely answers. California, Texas, and Florida were all contenders. Scottish Guy said it must be Alaska, because of all of the islands of it’s coast. But then Housemate said, “No, it’s Rhode Island.”

Needless to say, we were very skeptical. Rhode Island? The state so small that you barely notice it’s there? Was he kidding? “No, I’m serious!” insisted Housemate. “I remember reading about it on a road trip through New England! Rhode Island actually has a lot of coastline!”

Well, he seemed pretty confident. And it also seemed like such an unbelievably stupid guess that he must know it to be true. Why would you ever guess that Rhode Island has the longest coastline unless you were privy to some secret information? And it wouldn’t be the first trick question in a round of Quizzo. So, following this logic, we wrote Rhode Island down on our answer sheet and told Housemate that he owed us all a round if Rhode Island was not the answer.

He still owes us that round.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Damn you, Irony!

I was going to post a picture of my car, but I didn't have my camera with me last Friday, and now the car is all taken apart. Plus, I don't really know how to post pictures. So I want you to imagine that, instead of reading this italicized paragraph, you are looking at a picture of a light blue Honda with the front end all smooshed in.

Honda Civic Hybrid: 0
Ford Bronco: 1
Irony: 6,000,000

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Overheard at my sister's house

Pixie Niece recently asked Big Sister #1, "So what does Mo do, anyway?"

"I'm not really sure, actually," Big Sister #1 replied. "I think she grows cells or something."

There was a pause. Then Pixie Niece said, "That's sort of gross."

Monday, February 06, 2006

Reasons I Miss Working with Professor The Doktah No. 2

Professor The Doktah just informed me that she has instituted "4th Floor Super Happy-Fun Hour" for her lab.


Around my third year, I saw The P.I.’s First Grad Student working on his thesis. He was on the third or fourth draft of it, and I noticed that he was inserting the endnotes by hand. That is to say, he would type the endnote number, say “1,” click the icon to make it a superscript, go to the bibliography, and type in the reference. The problem with doing it this way, is that if you have 200 references and decide to add a one between references 2 and 3, you have to find every time you cited references 3-200 and change the numbers by hand. This is not trivial. And when you are writing a paper, you insert (or delete or move) citations all the time.

“Did you know that Word will do that for you?” I asked him. And then I showed him Word’s “insert footnote/endnote” function, which keeps track of the citations for you.

First Grad Student sat there at the computer, mouth agape, as I showed him this. Remember, he was working on his thesis, so at this point he was in his 5th or 6th year of grad school. “How many papers have you written doing it the hard way?” I asked him.

In a hollow voice, he answered, “Four papers, a proposal, and a fellowship application.”

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Reasons I Miss Working with Professor The Doktah

Number 1: The Backscratcher

The Doktah had a pink backscratcher. It was the sort of thing that you might win with 25 skee ball tickets. The Doktah may, in fact, have won it with 25 skee ball tickets. At any rate, she kept it hanging from the shelf above my desk in the lab. The backscratcher was awesome for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, it scratched a mean back. There’s nothing like a backscratcher for when you have an itchy spot you can’t reach. But – and this is where I explain why I miss working with The Doktah – the best part about the backscratcher was that it was shaped like a hand. A tiny pink hand. So if a person wanted to, say, demonstrate that she was thinking about something, that person could look up thoughtfully and say, “Hmmmm,” while scratching her chin with the tiny pink hand. Or, if a person wanted to make a good first impression on a visiting post doc, she could slide the backscratcher up her sleeve and offer the post doc the tiny pink hand to shake.

Yes, I miss working with The Doktah.