Archive for June, 2011

Halfway

The end of June marks the end of the first half of 2011. Time flies so fast, which shouldn’t be a surprise to us, though it does often catch us off our guard. Now is a good time to look back on the year so far and look forward to what’s left to make sure we’re getting the things done that we need and want to do.

I’ve done quite a bit with research in the first half of the year. I presented my work at a conference, wrapped up the publication process for my paper, moved my experiment to a different laser, and collaborated with a guest research to measure some different photodiodes. I’ve also been preparing for more measurements of those diodes in the next couple of months. I also anticipate getting more new diode that need to be characterized, although I don’t know when that will be. Soon we should have enough data to write another journal paper about the work we’ve done on said different laser.

So, much of the work from the first half of the year continues into the coming months. By September, it seems like a lot will come together and wrap up (although a scientist’s work is never done and there are always more questions to ask, you do have to draw lines somewhere!). At that point, I should be looking in earnest at the items I need to wrap up to begin my final descent into graduation. There may be a few more measurements and some papers to write, but hopefully no new, big projects at that point.

While none of us can see into the future, it’s good to at least try to get a perspective of the likely course ahead. It’s best to be as prepared as possible. It’s also good not to stress out about the future, as worrying about it won’t change a single thing. I hope I am getting as prepared as I can be for the second half of 2011. A good dose of motivation would be helpful, too!

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Take me out to the ball game

Take me out to the ballgame….

Last night, DH and I went to a baseball game with a group of my friends from work. We really enjoy the opportunity to live close enough to professional sports teams so we can go once in a while. It can get pricey, but we can usually find good deals on tickets, even if it means we don’t get to sit on the 50-yard line or by home plate. So far we have been to baseball, basketball, and football (one preseason game). On our list still is hockey, and maybe we would consider soccer sometime, if the opportunity fell into place. I probably won’t be going out of my way for lacrosse, though we do have a professional team here. 😉

Take me out with the crowd….

Baseball is definitely our favorite, though. Our team has been very good the last few years, and the stadium is quite nice as well. One of my only gripes is that there are so many transplants in this area of the country that about half of the crowd every game are fans of the other team (and they are reeeealy obnoxious, too!). But we try to be loud enough to counteract all the negative propaganda of those crazy people.

Buy me some peanuts and crackerjacks…

It seems like almost every game at the ball park has a special promotion going on. Sometimes it’s free t-shirts or bobblehead dolls of your favorite players. One of our favorite promotions is dollar hotdog night (well, we say it’s our favorite, but we’ve only done it once ;)). You have to get there early to get your coupon, though, because they run out quickly. While yesterday was indeed dollar hotdog night, DH and I decided to pass and ate dinner at home before we left. Maybe next time.

One promotion that is ongoing for every game is Feed the Fever! If the Rockies score seven or more runs in a game, you get four tacos for a buck at Taco Bell. We root for tacos every game…but I think we’ve also only gone to get the deal once.

I don’t care if I never get back!

Last night, interleague play continued with the White Sox beginning a three game series with the Rockies at Coors Field. The game progressed very quickly; they went through nine innings in about two and a half hours (the average is roughly three hours). However, the game was tied, and it went into extra innings. Four of them, to be exact. Finally, in the bottom of the 13th inning, Troy Tulowitzky scored from first base (barely) on a bloop single by Ty Wigginton. Good thing, too; I was getting quite sleepy, and my throat was hoarse from yelling!

‘Cause it’s root, root, root for the home team….

It somehow feels like DH and I have had more than our fair share of extra-inning games–and it feels like they always lose! Fortunately, our patience was rewarded last night with a win. Of course, we have learned the hard way to never leave the game early unless absolutely unavoidable. Last year, the Rockies were down six runs against the Cardinals going into the ninth inning. DH and I don’t typically leave games early, but for some reason we were so tired that day and the score was so lopsided that we decided to skip out just that once.

If they don’t win it’s a shame….

Well, I’m sure you can figure out the rest. The Rockies scored nine runs in the bottom of the ninth (two extra courtesy of a three-run walk-off homer by Seth Smith…who coincidentally is one of my favorite players). Biggest come-from-behind win in Rockies’ history. After listening to the finale all the way home on the radio, we decided we would not be leaving games early any more unless necessary. As they say, no lead is safe in Coors Field.

For it’s one, two, three strikes you’re out at the old ballgame!

Count your blessings

So often when I blog here or on other sites, the temptation is to rant and complain about stuff that annoys me. I try (some days harder than others) to be informative and contemplative instead of contentious and whiny, but I know it doesn’t always work. Today I decided I would specifically be positive and encouraging by listing some things for which I’m thankful.

First of all, I am thankful for being redeemed and no longer under the punishment of the law! I don’t have to spend my life worrying about what comes after it; I know I am justified before God by the gift of His Son. I’m also thankful that He is the one who has given me all these other blessings in my life.

I’m very thankful for my health. When I read about or see people whose bodies are not operating right, I feel incredibly blessed that mine is cooperating, at least at the moment. We never know when we will develop an illness or suffer an accident, so I don’t want to take for granted something so simple as even walking around.

I’m thankful for my wonderful husband. He’s a godly man who cares for me and for others around us. He’s very generous. He always fulfills his responsibilities at work, in our relationship, and for our outside commitments, and then he goes beyond just his duties to help out wherever needed. I know he loves me a lot, and I love him, too!

I’m thankful for the health and well-being of my family and friends. While there are always occasional hardships in their lives, so far none have been faced with profound tragedy. I’m also grateful knowing that when the do hard times come (because they will), we will be there to support  each other.

I am thankful to have a house and plenty of food, since there are so many these days who are struggling. I’m thankful for both of us having jobs when there are many these days who don’t (even if we complain about going to work each day!). I’m also thankful that we can live comfortably, although I don’t want to be too comfortable while others do without. There’s a lot of little “stuff” that I have that I enjoy and am grateful to have, but I don’t want to be so attached to them that I love them more than the people around me and the intangible qualities that are much more important.

I could make a huge list of blessings, but these are just a few. What are you thankful for? I encourage you to count your blessings occasionally and not take them for granted like I often do!

GotW: Design and build

It’s been hard getting back into the work week today since I know that there is a holiday weekend coming up. But this week my goal at work is to continue mocking up the measurement system for the upcoming measurements in August. My colleague and I want to design and build a special holder for the diodes that would be sturdy and thermal controlled. When she comes in on Wednesday, we can hopefully draw up a design in Inventor, or one of those other CAD programs. Well, hopefully she can since I don’t know how to use those! Our guest researcher is also sending me some parts so I can design around the size of them. Once the design is done, we can send it off to the university machine shop to have it fabricated.

At home this week I would like to accomplish one of my ever expanding sewing projects. I just bought two new pairs of jeans, and they need hemming (like almost every pair of pants I’ve ever owned).  I pretty much just need to press the new hems with the iron and run them through the sewing machine. That shouldn’t take long once I overcome inertia and get the ironing board out and get going.

Also on my sewing list is to make some new, sturdy grocery bags that have a flat bottom and will kind of stand up on their own. One of my pet peeves is collecting plastic grocery bags; it’s not that I’m a card-carrying environmentalist or anything, but just having a ton of them around the house drives me crazy! And yes, if I don’t have to throw one away, then that’s a plus.

Another item is to make a new cover for the dog’s bed, preferably with some material material like kevlar so he can’t chew through it to pull out the fluffy pillow stuffing. :-p He likes to drag his bed halfway through the house and do this chewing routine when he is displeased with the level of attention that we humans are paying him. Evidently it works, since a gruff  “bad dog!” from one of us is better than no attention at all. So, I am still working on a design that would be sturdy to withstand some doggie teeth while also being zippable, washable, and maybe even in a funky print to coordinate with my decor.

Not all of those sewing projects will get done this week for sure, but hopefully I can narrow down the list a bit. While I’m not a very good sewer or engineer, it’s nice to be able to design and build your own stuff when you need something specific or unique.

A text scandal

I try not to complain too much in my blog, but I thought I would take this opportunity to briefly jump on my soapbox and rant a bit about a subject near and dear to my heart (and my pocketbook).

First of all, I don’t broadly denounce texting in principle. It is definitely a practical way of communicating if you aren’t somewhere you can make an audible or prolonged phone call or if you briefly need to send or receive a bit of information without an involved conversation. While I sometimes pretend not understand how people can send thousands of messages to one another over their phones, in reality I totally do the same thing through instant messaging on a computer and, yes, on my smartphone as well. I spent many an hour on ICQ or AIM in college, and today it’s the same idea with the added convenience of taking it with you everywhere.

But if you text and drive, YOU SUCK. I don’t care how awesome you are; you can’t see the road and your phone at the same time. So stop it.

Anyways, besides the texting and driving thing, I do have a major gripe about texting in general. First and foremost, I believe that it is absolutely ridiculous and scandalous that cell phone companies charge separately for this service. The data connections are already there for phone calls, so how exactly are they going out of their way to provide you with just another data transfer? Maybe there is some aspect of text messaging technology that I do not comprehend that requires much more funding than I realize to operate. I am skeptical of this, though I admit I cannot know for sure. But based on my experience with long-distance data transfer (which is definitely non-zero), I find it unlikely to be the case.

Furthermore, the fact that there is no control over incoming texts is outrageous. If someone calls you, you have a choice whether to answer and use your minutes; if someone junk-messages you out of the blue, you have no choice whether to accept it or not, and you are charged for a text that was completely useless to you. The only way to not get unwanted texts is to turn off texting altogether (I know someone who has had to resort to this).  In the past I have not been charged for incoming texts, which I think is a reasonable solution, but that is evidently no longer an option with my carrier.

This is simple, you say. Just buy a texting plan, and you don’t have to worry about being charged for each and every message! True; however, as I stated in the previous paragraph, I still believe that charging for texting is, in principle, a rip-off. Regardless of that, though,  DH and I typically do not text enough in a month for our individual messages to total the price of the most basic texting plan. We actually budget for a few texts each month, up to what one plan would cost. However, some months we do go over, and that is due to over eager texters whose incoming messages we can’t control.

This is, indeed, sums up my peeve…overeager texters and no incoming message control. Now, I realize not everyone can remember who on their contact list does and does not have unlimited messaging. But just assuming that everyone does have a texting plan and will not be charged for incoming texts and then bombarding them with messages is incredibly irresponsible. This happens to teens all the time; they try very hard to be responsible and stay within a limited texting plan, and yet their friends keep sending them stupid messages that go way beyond the number allowed. Then the poor kid gets in trouble for running up a huge bill because of their stupid friends.

We don’t mind conversing with you via text if you want to alert us that a meeting was canceled or if we want to quickly remind you to do something. However, we do not want you to have a 200-message conversation with you that could instead be had on the phone. And if half of your 200 messages are one word that costs us 20 cents each, that makes us particularly annoyed. And if you send us ten pictures (costing $0.50 each) without asking first, we may be sending you a bill.

Again, we could just get a texting plan, but they aren’t exactly cheap, and typically we never log enough messages to even begin to reach the amount we’d spend on one. It just seems that lately more and more people are texting us, probably because we make the mistake of politely texting back with answers. They assume we want to have all our conversations via messaging, and then we are stuck with the bill.

But there is some hope on the horizon. In its next iOS upgrade, Apple is including a new messaging feature similar to Blackberry’s where people can text for free between iPhones. This would take care of most of our worst offenders and leave us plenty of wiggle room for the other folks who need or want to contact us by text. So, if you have an iPhone, download the new iOS version this fall, and I’ll be happy to chat it up! Otherwise, you’re welcome to call me up or send me an email. Or you can deposit funds into my Paypal account to fund that text conversation you’re dying to have!

Almost like Christmas!

Today has been almost like Christmas. I got three separate packages at work today, things that I had ordered or that others had ordered for me. Since we’re gearing up for measurements in the upcoming months, we had to acquire some parts and equipment that we need. It has been trickling in all summer, but evidently a whole bunch of it just decided to come today.

Packages come to a main shipping area on campus and are distributed around the building once a day, right after lunch. You will often see people stalking the mail room or their offices around 1:00, waiting for stuff they expect or hope to be delivered that day. If it doesn’t come by 2:30 or so, you are out of luck until next afternoon.

I opened one of the boxes and had to unwrap approximately 287 square feet of plastic wrap from around the individual components inside. The manufacturer was extremely careful to protect their items (which would make sense, if you knew how much they cost!). I was kind of disappointed that there wasn’t a sandwich in all that plastic wrap instead, though. There was also lots of bubble wrap (which is fun) and a ton of packing peanuts (which are lame).

The best days in the lab are ones we get ordered from the optics company Thor Labs. They send a box of “lab snacks” in every shipment, stuff like granola bars, cookies, trail mix, tootsie roll pops, and fruit chews. What a brilliant marketing campaign, feeding hungry scientists who are cooped up in the lab all day. In fact, I kind of wish someone got an order in today, because I could personally use a snack right now!

Opening boxes, eating special treats, and waiting for stuff to be delivered after 12:00 o’clock, plus the AC blasting in the lab so the lasers don’t drift with temperature fluctuations…it’s just like Christmas!

One more thing I like about summer

Yesterday, I failed to mention one of my absolute favorite things about this time of the year…fresh produce! I am so excited to see some fruits and veggies other than apples and oranges in the grocery store. A girl can kind of get tired of the same thing over and over. I’ve been enjoying fresh berries, a few peaches and plums (although it’s still a little bit early for for them to be the cream of the crop), and soon there will be fresh veggies of all kinds, like peas and peppers and tomatoes.

DH and I are eagerly watching our garden progress. Soon–very very soon–my garlic will be ready to harvest. I am so flippin’ excited about my garlic. I have tried unsuccessfully the last two years to grow it, but this year looks so promising. The stalks are large and sturdy, and the scapes came out a few weeks ago. July is usually the time to harvest, and did I mention how excited I am?

We have a ton of tomato and pepper plants again, and we hope they are also more successful than in past years. We have quite a variety of plants and set-ups, so it’s really a big nightshade experiment. One day we’ll figure out what works and will be such experts, but it takes time to develop a working knowledge.

Sadly, we suspect that bunnies are eating some of our peas and beans! Ergo we have erected a bunny-proof fence around the perimeter to prevent more damage. We also scolded our miniature dachshund for falling down on the job. He loves chasing the bunnies, but evidently he’s been a little lazy lately.

Finally, I have some spinach that’s flourishing in pots; in fact, I should really harvest some of the leaves so they can continue to have room to grow. My chard isn’t doing as well, but once the garlic is harvested from the garden, those greens will go in the main plot. They usually like cooler weather, anyway, so I plan to capitalize them as a winter crop to extend our growing season.

I also look forward to fresh farm stands where I can pick up local produce directly from the farmers. There are so many in the area, which is quite a luxury in my opinion.

I hope all of you enjoy the fruits of the season as much as I do! Just writing this blog is making me hungry. 🙂