Monday, July 31, 2006

Seriously, the small cars, they do not win the battles with the trucks

Two Fridays ago, The Husband was in a minor car accident. He rear-ended his father. And even though he was traveling at less than 10 mph, the front end of his 2000 Saturn SL is now all smooshed and is in all likelihood totaled, while his father’s Dodge Ram 1500 sustained a slight dent to the bumper.

But that’s not the point. The point is that, because my father-in-law is a wonderful, generous guy, he has loaned us the truck until we get The Husband’s Saturn (or possibly a different car, depending on how expensive the repairs turn out to be) back. Yes, he loaned us the very same truck that The Husband rear-ended. The Husband has been driving the truck to and from work because I hate driving that huge thing, and also because his commute is 30 miles shorter than mine, so in terms of gas conservation, it makes infinitely more sense. But last Wednesday, my father-in-law asked me if I could drive it to work because he had an appointment to get the bumper replaced. (My in-laws live in the same city that I work in.) He said I should just park it in the lot, and he’d swing by and pick it up during the day. Then, when I was ready to go home, I should just call and he’d come back with it.

I should also that my mother-in-law kindly offered to wash some laundry for us because we are currently unable to use our fabulous washing machine, what with it sitting in the middle of the kitchen for the past 8 weeks and all. So I left a load of laundry in the back of the truck for my father-in-law to pick up.

At the end of the day, I called my father-in-law to let him know I was ready to go home, and 10 minutes later met him in the parking lot. He was alone. “Where’s the other car?” I asked, because I had assumed that my mother-in-law would be there to drive him back home.

“Your mother-in-law still has it at the vet,” he said, while getting out of the truck. “She’ll pick me up when she’s done. Oh, and here’s your clean laundry, all folded.”

So, let’s recap. My father-in-law fully expected me to get in the truck that he was lending us because my husband’s car was in the shop thanks to rear-ending that very truck, take my clean laundry which my mother-in-law had washed and folded, and drive away, leaving him to wait, alone, in the parking lot for a ride. And he would have thought none the worse of me for doing so.

“OK, bye!” I said, and drove off.

No, not really. I drove him home. Even though it added 20 minutes to my commute. Yes, yes, thank you. Submissions nominating me for sainthood can be sent to the Vatican after I’m dead.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Maybe now is a good time for revenge

Last week, The Husband asked me if we had any plans for the weekend. Except I somehow misheard him and thought he said, “Did we invite any guests for the weekend?”

I looked around our disaster zone of an apartment, filled with previously cupboarded items lying willy nilly around the dining room, kitchen, and bedroom, with boxes of books that used to be in the office-cum-nursery, and with huge appliances blockading the middle of the rooms.

“Who would we invite?” I said. “People we don’t like?”

Can you see me now?

As you may be aware, we are remodeling our bathroom. And it’s taking slightly longer than we thought it would. Back before we started the demolition, The Husband kept telling me that it would take one week. Fortunately, I recognized that he was living in some sort of fantasy land, and knew it would take longer than that. At least three weeks, maybe four.

Oh, how young and naïve we all were.

At any rate, the walls first came down, you could see right into the bathroom from the kitchen and the dining room, because we knocked through the wall between the pantry and bathroom and the doorway between the pantry and kitchen had no actual door. So if you wanted to use the toilet in any kind of privacy, other people in the house had to retreat to the living room.

So one day my father-in-law was up helping out with the construction, and I had to use the bathroom. “No problem,” he said. “I have to go get something from the car anyway.” He headed out, and I pulled down my pants and sat down.

Unfortunately, he only got as far as the landing when his cell phone rang. He answered it, and as he was talking to the person on the other end, he started pacing back and forth. His mind was completely engrossed in the phone call, and he kept walking between the dining room, where he could see me on the toilet, and the landing, where he couldn’t. Meanwhile, I was trapped in a loop of pulling down my pants to sit down on the toilet and leaping up from the toilet and pulling my pants back up. Since he had said he was going to get something from the car, I kept thinking he was leaving when he walked out to the landing, but then back into the dining room he would come.

His phone call sounded important, so I didn’t want to interrupt, but after the seventh time he came back into the dining room, I was forced to call out, “You have to leave!” I finally heard him go down the stairs, and was able, at last, to pee in peace.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Week 7*

Dear Bathroom Remodel,

It seems like only yesterday that you were but a glint in The Husband’s and my eyes. Well, not really. It actually seems like a really, really long time ago. Ah, yes, I remember well those heady days of having a a working bathroom sink, shower, and kitchen sink, and a washer and dryer hooked up instead of looming largely in the middle of our kitchen. Sure, the old bathroom was gross and terribly ugly. Sure, the pantry was basically one quarter wasted space thanks to the arrangement of the washer and dryer hookups. But boy, do I ever miss having a shower.

Yesterday was a big day for you, Bathroom Remodel. Yesterday the plumbers came and reinstalled the kitchen sink. Yes, after 7 weeks of using the bathtub – without actual fixtures, only an uncapped pipe – as our only source of running water, we can once again do the dishes and brush our teeth while standing up! For a woman 6 months pregnant, this is no small thing, believe me. And over the weekend, Bathroom Remodel, we bought a dishwasher. Because the electrical work is not yet finished we can’t actually use the dishwasher, but one day we will, and oh, Bathroom Remodel, that will be a glorious day. But until that day comes, Bathroom Remodel, The Husband and I shall revel in the luxury of not having to wash dishes while awkwardly kneeling over the bathtub.

Perhaps you are wondering, Bathroom Remodel, why I am spending so much time discussing the kitchen sink and the dishwasher, when clearly those are not part of the bathroom. Well, in order to make sure you were the best Bathroom Remodel possible, we had to knock through the pantry wall and rotate the kitchen sink. This meant that the washer, dryer, about half of our kitchen cabinets, and the kitchen sink had to be temporarily relocated to various places in our apartment. So for the past 7 weeks we have been living like scavengers, as most of our dishes have been temporarily relocated to the dining room table. Our cleaning supplies and toiletries, on the other hand, are scattered throughout the apartment somewhat at random. They cover the kitchen table, my dresser, and The Husband’s dresser, and if we don’t use a specific item every day, we have no idea where it is. And because the dining room and kitchen tables are being used as storage, we have nowhere to sit and eat.

Hey, Bathroom Remodel, remember when the plumbers installed a leaky hot water pipe and we didn’t discover it until June 30th? And the plumbers were on vacation until July 5th? So The Husband and I were not only denied the possibility of a shower, but had to boil the water for our baths for five days? Those were good times, Bathroom Remodel. Good times.

I dream of the day you are finished, Bathroom Remodel. I dream of the day when the walls are up and painted, the tiles are laid and grouted, and the electrical outlets are wired and ready for use. When I am once again able to use our fabulous washing machine to do a quick load of wash, when I am once again able to wash my hands at a sink in the same room as the toilet, when I am once again able to take a shower – not a bath – and be able to completely rinse the shampoo from my hair, I will be complete. So please don’t tease me, Bathroom Remodel. Please let the electrical inspector be reasonable and allow us to install a vent that is less than 8 feet from the edge of the tub. Please let the tile man be fast and true in his tile-laying, and please let the purchasing of the baseboard moulding be swift and painless. And above all, please just be finished before the summer is over.

Because, God help me, if I don’t get to start working on the nursery soon, I am going to go stark raving mad.

*Inspired by the many “Letters to my fetus” out there in the blogosphere.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Frog update

The Husband has determined that the frog is living under the basement stairs. I have seen the frog, and have determined that it is, in fact, a toad. I have determined this based on the fact that said amphibian is bumpy and I think that frogs are smooth and toads are bumpy, but I haven’t looked that up to check or anything, so don’t quote me. (Although as a “scientist,” this is probably something I should know.)

We have named the toad (frog?) Wallace. We are hoping Wallace will eat the spiders.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


This morning, The Husband told me that he and the electrician saw a frog in the basement the other night. “I’m glad I wasn’t the one who found it,” I said.

“Well, I think frogs are pretty cute, actually,” said The Husband.

“Yes, but I wouldn’t have wanted to catch it!” I replied.

“Oh, we didn’t catch it,” he said.

“You just left it there?”

“Yup. And we haven’t seen it since, so…”

“OK,” I said, calmly. “So you’re telling me that we might have a frog permanently ensconced in our basement? A frog that will one day die and leave a little froggie corpse to rot?”

“Uh… yeah.”

As if the low ceilings and pipes covered with cobwebs and asbestos weren’t enough to keep me out of the basement.

What to buy a nerd for Christmas

One of the best gifts I ever got was a wallet-sized Periodic Table of the Elements. It had the periodic table on one side, and a list of physical constants (like the gas constant, R, and the Boltzmann constant, k), conversion factors, properties of water and air (density, viscosity, etc.), and structures for the different chemical groups (ethers, esters, alkenes, etc.). The best part was that it had the gas constant in seven different units. This gift was so awesome that when I lost it, I rushed out immediately to replace it, because I used it constantly. I still have it, and I still love it.

Shut up.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


It was the same night that my study group member wanted to use the Peng-Robinson equation to solve the problem involving carbon dioxide. We had been working on Thermo II homework for hours and hours, and we were getting way too punchy to keep it up. So we decided that, finished or not, we would stop working at midnight.

Sure enough, when 11:59 pm rolled around, not much was getting accomplished as each of us sat and stared at the clock waiting for the magical witching hour.

At 11:59:45, the clock stopped.

Then the second hand started to sweep backwards.

We left anyway.

Monday, July 17, 2006


I’ve gotten many of the bad symptoms with this pregnancy – nausea, back pain, nausea, fatigue, nausea, and nausea – but for the most part, I have avoided the crazy mood swings. Just the occasional crying jag sparked by absolutely nothing and a small bout of depression back when I thought I would be nauseous for the REST OF MY LIFE. Not that I am bitter.

Still, that didn’t stop me from being incredibly annoyed at The Husband the other night. What had he done? Well, he was looking up directions online, and he was not typing exactly what I would have typed. The bastard.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Trust me, the idea of using the Peng-Robinson equation is hilarious

Along the lines of this post, I recall a time when my college study group was working on a problem set for Thermodynamics II (class motto: Remember Thermo I? This is worse!). We were trying to solve some question that involved a gas like carbon dioxide or something. It was getting pretty late, and we were all a little punchy. I said, “Well, if we use the ideal gas law, then PV=nRT.”

One of the study group members replied, “But carbon dioxide isn’t really an ideal gas.”

This was an issue that had come up in my group before; you see, the ideal gas law applies to, you guessed it, ideal gases. Which don’t technically exist. But it’s a reasonable approximation and the ideal gas law is the simplest equation to work with, and it was nearly midnight and we had been working on this problem set for hours. So I said to him, “Well, you can use the Peng-Robinson equation if you want to, but I am going to assume it’s an ideal gas.”

Oh, how we laughed.

And then we may have cried a little bit.

I still may just be fat

I’m six months along, but I’m still not showing in such a way that strangers feel comfortable asking when the baby is due. (In this day and age, people probably feel safest expressing surprise at the pregnancy while the woman is on the way to the hospital. “You’re in labor? Why, I didn’t even know you were pregnant!” they say to the woman with a belly that enters the room a full minute before she does.) What I’m wearing also makes a big difference; the looser shirts in particular hide where exactly the bulge is located and it is not clear at all that I am pregnant.

So, about a month ago two of my co-workers and I were having lunch, and one of them, who didn’t know I was pregnant, said he had lost 6 pounds in the past few weeks thanks to all the work he had been doing because he moved. The other co-worker, who did know I was pregnant, said, “That’s a coincidence, because Mo has probably gained 6 pounds in the past few weeks!”

Co-worker #1 sort of blanched, stared at me with a frightened expression, and said to co-worker #2, “Um, you’re not really supposed to make comments like that…”

It was pretty funny.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

This entry is good enough, right?

A friend of mine who just recently finished her Master’s degree told me that in the last class she took, her teacher gave her special instructions for an assignment. She was to do the minimum amount of work required to complete the project, and that was it. No delving into anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary.

I found this fascinating, because no teacher of mine would tell me to do that. They wouldn’t have to. That’s how I operate. Oh, I think that maybe in high school I worked harder than necessary, but once I got to college everything changed. I think it’s because I no longer had time to put that extra special something on homework assignments. Sure, I would probably have learned more if I actually read the chapter before doing the problem set instead of using the time-honored technique of randomly flipping through the chapter to find the right equation to solve it. But I would only have learned more in one of my classes because I would have flunked out of my other classes thanks to not finishing any of the problem sets.

See, engineering is hard. I say this not to put down other disciplines. In no way am I trying to compare the challenges of earning an engineering degree with those of other degree programs. I never had to read fifteen books a week for a comparative literature class for example, and neither did I have to pass an oral exam in a foreign language. So I can only draw from my own experience and say that the course load and work required for an engineering degree can be quite overwhelming, and the only way I could get through it was by doing only what was required of me, and no extra.

But, hey, you could argue that that is the whole philosophy of engineering anyway. Who but an engineer would model a horse as a sphere with four cylinders in order to estimate the volume?

Monday, July 10, 2006

The mystery that was Jim

The Doktah has recently been having some issues with one of her students that reminded me of that guy, Jim, who was in my class the first year of grad school. I am using his real name because I feel he will still remain anonymous, even to me, because for the life of me I can’t remember his last name, and I’m not 100% certain that his first name was really Jim. So, here he will be known as Jim.

In January, Jim ended up with the department head / interim Dean of Engineering / soon-to-be permanent Dean of Engineering as his advisor. The dean mostly did theory and computer simulation research, so Jim didn’t have much actual lab work to do, per se. He just was supposed to… I don’t know, sit at his computer and simulate stuff. Whatever those simulation people do. I don’t really understand how people do that sort of thing all day, but to each his own.

But when May rolled around, Jim sort of disappeared. It took a while for anyone to notice, even the Dean, because, as I said, Jim’s “lab” work was at a computer in an office quite separate from the Dean’s office, and the Dean, being dean, was fairly busy with administrative stuff. By July, however, when no one had seen or heard from Jim in two months, it was determined that he had left school.

Whether he thought grad students got the summer off (they don't) or whether he decided to quit school but keep cashing the stipend checks for as long as he got them, I never found out. All I know is that he never came back.

Friday, July 07, 2006

And to think, a year ago I didn’t even know what wainscoting was

The other night as The Husband and I were in bed reading, I brought up the subject of wainscoting. You see, once the bathroom is finished, we plan to knock down the grease-stained, horsehair-plaster-and-cheap-sheetrock walls in our kitchen and replace them with quality sheetrock and wainscoting, and I wanted to talk about the cost of the wainscoting.

So there we were, talking linear feet and price and baseboard mouldings, when I realized that, actually, I didn’t want to talk about the cost of wainscoting. Even though I was the one who brought the subject up, I never ever wanted to talk about wainscoting ever again.

This is an unforeseen side effect of home renovations. The renovations become such a huge part of your life that you become unable to talk about anything else. Approximately 75% of my conversations with The Husband in the past two-to-three weeks have been along the lines of, “Have you called the electrician? When will the floors be done? Is the water back on? How much does 70 linear feet of wainscoting cost, anyway?” (The amount of time we spend discussing these things would be higher, but at least 23% of our conversations are about cribs, diapers, and strollers. Yeah, we’re living the high life.)

My sister-in-law, who currently resides in a house with completely new walls (and wainscoting!), warns me that once we are finally done with the renovating, the shop talk will not be over. Oh, no. Because then we will have to invite people over and show them everything we’ve done. And if they are homeowners themselves, they, too, will be compelled to discuss things such as the cost of wainscoting, because other homeowners can’t help but be interested. Those without houses, however, would prefer that we all shut the hell up.

So, to all you non-homeowners out there, I have this to say on behalf of those of us planning renovations, undergoing renovations, or basking in our renovated homes: We are sorry that we can talk about nothing but wainscoting, drywall, the benefits of ceramic vs. acrylic tile, and porch-painting. We are sorry that we have become such colossal bores. We can’t help it. There must be something in the wainscoting.


As previously mentioned, I have spent approximately 150 years painting the three porches on our house. I did not mention that three of the porch-painting hours were spent painting the backerboard, which is the frame that surrounds the lattice under the porch, red. The Husband and I painted the front door red last year, and we thought a red backerboard would add that extra kick we need to make the outside of our house not quite so horribly horribly boring.

Unfortunately, we were wrong. The red backerboard looked awful. It was just too much red, and it drew the eye to the wrong place; namely, the backerboard. So, I heaved a heavy, heavy sigh, and resigned myself to repainting the backerboard gray. I did this without complaint, unless you count all the complaining I did.

But! I had planned to paint the kickboards of the stairs white instead of gray, because I thought it would look weird for the kickboard to be the same color as the top of the step. I therefore did not re-prime the red kickboards, and guess what! It looked great with the red kickboards. It’s just the right amount of red.

I am telling you this because this morning a gentleman walking by on his daily constitutional spotted me and The Husband in the driveway, and stopped to tell us that he loves the red. He totally made my day1.

1What has not made my day is that, thanks to the bathroom renovations, there are HUGE CHUNKS of paint missing from the banister of the second floor porch, and I’m going to have to repaint them2. Kill me now.

2In case you are wondering why it seems that The Husband is totally slacking and not helping me with the porch-painting, I am doing it because it is one of the few items on our enormous household improvement list that I am allowed to do in my pregnant state. Trust me, The Husband is not slacking.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

This will not be a party.

Yesterday I was flipping through my sister’s copy of Child magazine. Such magazines are more interesting to me now than they were, say, six months ago. At any rate, there was an article about the new trend of having tons of people in the delivery room with you during the birth of your child. Apparently, it is becoming quite common for couples to invite friends and family to view the birth. These people can just wander in and out during your labor. One woman said that, because the crowd caused a bit too much confusion when her first baby was born, she assigned each person a job for the birth of her second. She gave the job of photographer to her father-in-law.

Her father-in-law.

Although she admitted that she felt a little weird upon seeing the graphic photos that her father-in-law took, overall she seemed quite happy with the way things went. She found the support from her friends and family a great help during labor.

Well, bully for her. It’s nice that there are people so comfortable with themselves in the world. But I can tell you, as much as I love my father-in-law, he will be nowhere near the delivery room when my turn comes, and certainly not with a camera. Shudder.


We had a French post doc in our lab for awhile, and, as it turned out, he had a red belt in Tae Kwon Do. So when he found out I was going to TKD classes via the school’s TKD club, he decided to tag along. Naturally, he had left his TKD uniform in France. He wrote home and asked someone to mail it to him, but in the meantime, he had to wear street workout clothes. This was very unfortunate. Not so much for him, but for the rest of us in the class, because his street workout clothes consisted of teeny tiny shorts and an oversized t-shirt. The overall effect was an outfit that appeared, at first glance, to be just an oversized t-shirt. This was very disturbing, particularly if he did a high front kick. It was bad enough that our TKD instructor started asking him when exactly his uniform would be arriving from France.

Around the same time, Athletic Post Doc taught Grouchy Guy and me how to play squash. To reciprocate, I offered to teach them how to swim. (Don’t I sound so athletic and in shape? It’s all a sham. At least, it is now anyway.) We had already had a few lessons when French Post Doc discovered what we were doing and asked how much I was charging for the swimming lessons.

Visions of his chicken legs topped with a European bathing suit swam into my head, and I told him, “It’s free unless you wear a Speedo. Then it’s $50 an hour.”