Posts from the ‘Weather’ Category

Head for the hills!

DH and I took advantage of a free weekend to do something we’ve been meaning to do for a while–take a trip up to the Black Hills area of South Dakota. This isn’t one of our 101-in-1001 travel items, but it should have been (we might have to substitute it for another one, though). Since I haven’t been anywhere since Christmas (and then we just went home to visit) and it might be a little while yet till our proper celebratory vacation, it was much needed and surprisingly effective, even if it was just a two day trip.

The trip to the scenic location unfortunately required a six hour drive across the absolute bleakness of eastern Wyoming. However, DH and I kept ourselves entertained by listening to the Grand Ole Opry live and some old Hank Williams, Sr. recordings–huzzah for satellite radio. Finally we made it to our hotel and began exploring the area the next morning.

The Black Hills region, located in the southwestern corner of South Dakota, is characterized by dramatic granite hills and spires, rugged and inhospitable buttes, and rolling plains.

These granite hills are home to one of the most iconic monuments in America, Mount Rushmore.

DH and I visited Mt. Rushmore in the evening. We were tired and hungry after a long day and really debated whether to stay for the nightly lighting ceremony. While standing right there, we decided to look up and watch a video of the lighting ceremony on YouTube. So we got to see it while not actually having to stay to see the real thing.

Okay, okay. I’m kidding. Well, about the leaving part that is; I’m quite serious about watching the video. ­čśë We poked around the gift shop long until it time for the show, so we stayed. It was quite patriotic and dramatic, and while it was late when it ended, we were glad we stayed. And at the end of the ceremony all the veterans were invited to the front to state their name and service, and a few helped take down the flag for the evening. It was quite a meaningful experience.

Earlier that day, we did some scenic driving in the hills. We walked through historic Deadwood, the iconic wild west town, and drove through Sturgis, motorcycle mecca. I personally didn’t find it very exciting, but that’s just me. We also drove east towards the Badlands, first stopping at Wall Drug in the city of Wall. This is quite possibly the most awesome tourist trap ever. Featuring five cent cups of coffee, free ice water, a tyrannosaurus rex, and home-made donuts, it’s just about as close to Disneyland as you can come in the middle of nowhere. And of course, any day you get to sit on a large jackelope is a good day.

Moving on from the drug store took us to the Badlands themselves. This is an interesting geologic feature, a cross between the Grand Canyon and desert buttes. It really is quite desolate.

The next morning we spent driving around Custer State Park, which features both the granite hills and the rolling plains. The plains are home to lots of interesting animals like deer and pronghorns. We even saw a turkey and a roadrunner while there, two birds you don’t just come across every day. However, there are two more notable creatures in the park. First is a very large herd of bison, which we were excited to see during our drive.

The other interesting herd is a pack of burros, the descents of a herd used by pioneers. Evidently, they are also called the “begging burros,” for very obvious reasons. Say cheese, guys.

Our last stop on our way out of town was Wind Cave, a national park just south of Custer State Park. This is one of the longest caves in the world, with 138 miles currently explored but over 2,000 miles suspected to be lurking under just a few square miles above. DH and I took a cave tour (a mere two miles) before heading back home.

All in all, it was a great trip, short but full of interesting sights. We might have enjoyed another day to spread out our excursions, but we did everything we wanted to do and didn’t feel horribly pressed for time. We also picked a great weekend to go; it had been very hot, but it was cloudy and cool all weekend. I think it rained at home the entire time we were gone, too, so I’m glad we got rain but didn’t have to wade out in in.

It might be a little out of the way, but if you’re ever in the area or can make the trip, I highly recommend it!



Given that we now have company at home, I decided to do my run from work today. I’ve only done this once before, so I haven’t thoroughly scoped out all possible routes radiating outward from my lab. However, one thing about our building is that we back directly up to the Boulder Flatirons, meaning that after only a few blocks of residential hiking you can pop right out into the middle of a an open plateau or a shady mountain forest. It’s certainly something I try not to take for granted while being here.

For today’s run, I quickly consulted Google Maps around my current location and noted that Chautauqua Park was only a mile or so away. I decided that this round trip sounded like a perfect candidate for a quick mid-day run, so I headed that direction.

The Chautauqua Movement of the late 1800s was a movement that brought cultural and educational experiences to small towns and cities all over the country. What began as a summer camp for educating Sunday school teachers in the northeast quickly exploded into a cross-country movement allowing working-class people with little opportunity for a formal college education to come together for lectures, concerts, the arts, and classes in their own cities and towns. Chautauqua halls were built in to house these events.

Today, the Colorado Chautauqua Auditorium still stands at the base of Boulder’s Foothills, preserved and still used after over one hundred years. And I make a public confession here that in my eight years of living here in Boulder, I have never actually been up there (hides from the torches, pitchforks, and rioting of disbelieving locals).

However, do give me a little credit that I made the one mile run up there this morning! And I do mean up…up and up and up. Lots of huffing and puffing and slowing to a walk to let my heart rate subside a bit. And I even had to abandon sidewalk for a mountainous trail to get up there. So, while this wasn’t my fastest run ever or my longest, it was definitely the most interesting. A couple of minutes into the trail, in my surprise I looked up to see the Chautauqua hall above me. I stopped to take a quick picture.

I kept on the trail a little bit further and veered off at the fork that I knew would take me up to the hall. It was quite interesting, though I was in the middle of a run and not really able to poke around the grounds very much. I did snap another quick picture of the view of Boulder from above. I told you it was “up!”

So, a mid-morning run from a national lab and up a mountain to a historic landmark, with blindingly blue skies and panoramic vistas. Just a typical day in Boulder, Colorado.

One week

The defense is one week from today.

This has been a surprisingly hectic week, as evidenced by the fact that I didn’t get posts out Monday or Wednesday. I had a practice talk yesterday, which was a hot mess, but I got a lot of feedback for how to hone my truckloads of information into a concise yet precise 45-minute affair. I’ll continue to spruce it up and have yet another practice talk early next week.

I have a friend in town this week for work, and DH and I went down to Denver to have dinner with him. That was a lot of fun, though dinner dates just aren’t long enough to catch up. Going down into Denver on a weeknight is also unusual, and it cut slightly into my prep time for my practice talk.

I’ve been running around getting things together for my one job application, and yesterday I finally found a third reference to provide a letter of recommendation. That was a big relief. I have no idea how this job application will go, but at least it’s something to have one out there. There’s another one I really want to apply for, and I feel that getting it in sooner than later would be best. I just need to squeeze in a few minutes to update my application materials from the previous job to make it relevant to this one.

Today is DH’s birthday, too. I love birthdays, and I love to make a big deal out of them. Unfortunately, I’ve been so preoccupied this year that I did quite get to put as much forethought into it as I wanted to. However, he’s a very understanding man, and we agree that we’ll get to celebrate a lot more next week. I did manage to wrap some gifts and whip up a birthday cake for today, though, which I consider minimum requirements for an excellent birthday.

On top of it all, we finally got a spring cold snap. March is typically the snowiest month here, and we got nary a drop of precipitation the whole time. It seems like our whole winter got shifted forward this year, starting a month early in October and ending a month early in February. And while it’s been 60s and 70s and beautiful here for weeks, I knew we’d still get a little more snow eventually. Fortunately it didn’t stick much and barely got below freezing, but I was definitely sad to feel cold again.

In other news, I have, for some strange reason, evidently agreed to run a 5k on Memorial Day. Oh Lord, what was I thinking? I am not a runner; however, you might recall that starting up running again was something I had on my list of things to do after I am done. It turns out that my good friend is challenging herself to start running, too, and she was going to aim to start now and train for the 5k coming up in just about eight weeks (that’s typically a good amount of time to train for that length of race, even if you’re starting from zero). Like a fool, I publicly agreed to join her while commenting on her blog. Well, maybe I’m not a fool; it’s generally considered wise to commit to do things with a partner who will keep you accountable. Well, she’ll have to take me to task since I haven’t done anything since last Saturday (I told you, it’s been a busy week!). But I’m hoping I can squeeze in a couple of miles today now that the weather is looking up and my practice talk is over.

So that’s where we stand with one week to go. I’m still not all that anxious, though I was going into the practice talk. I’d rather get all my nerves out now and be assured that my talk is stellar and that I am completely prepared before even walking in the door next Thursday.

I can almost taste it

One thing that helps keep me going is thinking of all the fantastic things I will get to do once all of this is over! I will technically still be working after I defend (my appointment ends in June, I believe), but I don’t intend to do anything too complicated because I definitely need a break! It’s so close now, I can almost taste it all…I am so ready.

First of all, I’m finally going to start cooking again. I do still cook as much as I can, but I’m relying heavily on simple, quick-fix meals in my repertoire that I don’t have to think too much about, or ones that DH knows how to cook, as he does a lot of the meal prep for dinner most days. Unfortunately, most of these meals get repetitive and don’t feature as many veggies as I’d prefer to prepare for us. It takes quite a bit of time to be creative and find new recipes that incorporate a variety of foods to keep things exciting. Once you get them down, they become part of the repertoire, but it’s a slow process for me. Plus, with spring and summer coming, new foods and cooking methods abound! Out with the endless soups and casseroles, in with grilled veggies and fresh fruit. Yum, yum!

Related to food, I also plan to tend a veggie garden again this year. The weather is unseasonably nice for March (usually our snowiest month), and while I don’t want to rush things as there’s always a chance for snow through May, it’s already time to get the garden beds ready. Once I am done, I’ll have time to plant veggies, sow in rotation for continuing harvests through the season, and water (or plan some sort of drip system, which I’m very motivated to do this year). I already have some lettuce coming up in a planter, too! I’m super excited for gardening and plan to enjoy it when I’m done.

I also plan to exercise! I am sick of sitting at this desk in this chair for hours on end. I am not the world’s fittest person anyway, but I do try to get out and do some cardio and strength training every week. That’s gone down the tubes the last month, but I will get back into it when my time frees up. With the weather getting nice, I have grandiose plans of becoming a runner, too (I’ve tried at different times, but I always get off track and never can climb back on). Then more strength training and flexibility and stretching. I know I’m so out of shape right now that it’s going to hurt to get started again, but I’m determined!

There are also a ton of craft and home projects I want to get back into, most of which are on my 101 in 1001 list. The top priority is painting most of the trim and baseboards in the house. I’ve been putting this off for three years, ever since we repainted the walls and thought we might get new carpet and didn’t want newly-painted trim to get banged up. I was a little sloppy with the trim thinking it would get done soon…oops. I just bought the paint last weekend, so I am ready to jump on it. My second project will be making a home inventory.This involves going room to room and cataloging what you own and all its value, essentially what it would cost to replace if your whole house burned down or you got robbed. Your normal home owner’s insurance policy covers some percentage of your home value to go toward personal effects, but you typically have absolutely no idea how much it would actually cost to replace everything, especially if you’ve got nice clothes, fancy electronics, expensive instruments, professional tools and the like. We initially wanted to do this out of curiosity, but it is really practical to know in case you need to adjust your insurance coverage, and better to do it now than after your house burns down or blows away. You can’t just assume it will never happen to you.

I am also determined to finish knitting this one blanket I started over a year ago. Maybe closer to two. It’s knit in individual squares that are then seamed together at the end, and I’ve just been so slow finishing it. It’s bright and colorful and just interesting enough without being too complicated; I have no idea why I haven’t gotten into it. I have had exactly 0 % knitting motivation recently, but I intend to get the darned thing done now.

I also want to get out and about! We’d like to take a trip this summer, but we’re just playing that by ear. Even if we don’t go anywhere big, I’m still ready to get out of the house and go explore Colorado or surrounding areas.

Since I still don’t have a plan (i.e. job) after I finish, I really don’t know how the whole summer is going to play out. Are we going to have to move and sell the house? Will we stay here a few more months, or few more years? So I do have to keep that on the radar. However, I think most of my plans I can do regardless of other circumstances. I’m just so darned ready to get some semblance of a real life back. I’d say it can’t come fast enough, but I still have a lot to do in the meantime!!

Something about Wednesdays

There must be something about Wednesdays. The last few weeks, I have worked hard and been productive Monday and Tuesday, but when Wednesday comes, I just feel lethargic. Granted, this week it’s been near 70 degrees until today when it plummeted to 35 with freezing rain/snow. That alone is not helpful, but it’s Wednesday, too.It also doesn’t help that I feverishly tackled the TeX-ing the last two days, and now I need to go back to other stuff that I don’t like doing as much (i.e. writing and analyzing data). In the future, maybe I should consider doing the less enjoyable tasks Monday and Tuesday and save something more fun and less involved for the middle of the week. As much as I’d like to take a nap now, I’ll just have to keep going.

I’ve been feeling sluggish in the evenings at home, too. I guess I’ve been so focused the last couple of days that all my energy is spent by the time I make it home. I suppose it’s okay if wait until April to dust, but I don’t want to fall too far behind on the normal things I need to do at home, either. I’m thankful to DH for helping out with things, too, though he’s been busy himself lately. To help motivate me to do at least a few small items in the evenings when I get home instead of totally crashing on the couch, I’ve made (what else?) a list of tasks–some small, some that I’ve been putting off, some time-sensitive, some enjoyable–that I can pick from each evening. All I need to do is finish one or two tasks before bed, then I feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day instead of guilt that I just sat around all evening (even if I still did sit around most of the evening). That worked fairly well yesterday, so I’ll try it again tonight.

In other news, I finally sold my guitar this week. I’m glad that someone will now get to enjoy it, instead of it wasting away in a closet somewhere. However, I couldn’t help but be a tiny bit sad for a moment to see it go. I’ve now got my eye on a couple more┬á(less sentimental) items to try to sell on Craig’s List, and I also need to finally donate the items we rounded up weeks ago. Then it’ll be time for another spring cleaning project.

Well, that’s pretty much all my paltry grumbles for today. It’s really not been a bad week, and I’m in an optimistic state at the moment. I’m sure I’ll continue to ride the roller coaster of optimistic to terrified as I approach the end, but as I continue to hack away at the writing and make solid progress, I should no longer be petrified by how much there is left to do. Then my terror can be focused on the actual defense instead. ­čśë

Signs of spring

This has been somewhat of an unusual winter. We got a lot of snow early, then nothing until January. Since then we’ve had plenty, including record-breaking snow in February. Now we’re entering March, which to most people is finally the start of spring; for us, it’s traditionally our snowiest month. At least the weather gets much milder between snowstorms, but still. If our whole winter was shifted by a month, then we might actually be home free into summer! But I won’t hold my breath, though. :p

However, while I am skeptical about a milder than usual March, I can’t help but catch a little spring fever from the clear signs of spring I’ve seen. Yesterday, it was supposed to snow a few inches, but it didn’t do anything here. Now the forecast into the weekend is a slow drift toward 60, where it will be for a few days. I could swear I see a few tiny tips of green from new irises springing up in the flower bed. I’ve also seen my first baby calves recently, a sure sign of spring that I look forward to every year! The days are getting longer, too. While I remain realistic about the likely weather events we will yet have, I’ve decided to defy March; I’m hedging my bets and making a few tentative plans.

While the average last frost date isn’t until May 15, I have this insatiable urge to plant something now! And with some careful planning and ingenious tricks, I am going to outsmart March and get some stuff growing. My plan is to plant some lettuce in containers. Lettuce actually prefers the cool weather and won’t do well once the snow stops and the temperatures immediately soar (there’s no intermediate spring-with-no-snow period here). Therefore, sowing into portable containers will allow me to grow them on the deck during these sunny, near-60 days and pull them inside if it gets below freezing. Using three or four containers, I can stagger my planting so I have some plants maturing all the time instead of more than I can eat all at once. And then, when the weather is finally warm enough, I can begin to sow everything in our normal garden plot while already enjoying a few fruits of my labor. Clever, eh?

I’ve never grown lettuce before, but I eat a ton of greens, so this is quite exciting for me. I’m incredibly hopeful that home-grown lettuce will be yummier than store-bought, because, I’ll be honest, I eat it but I don’t love it. We’ll give it a try, though. Last year I tried spinach and chard, also greens I eat often. They did okay but not great, but I’m determined to give them another go. This morning I bought lettuce, chard, and spinach seeds at the local hardware store, so I am ready to get my green thumb on.

So maybe I can get a few seeds into soil this weekend so they can have a few warmer days to germinate outside. There is nothing like fresh, new life poking out of the dead landscape to give one renewed vigor and hope that this desolate time will soon be over. I could say the same about my thesis as well…

Decaffeinated thoughts

Well, I finally got a committee together, but now I have to get those five busy people into the same room at the same time on the same day. Right now the room(s) I want are not available at the “best” time for everybody, so I have to either figure out a secondary room arrangement or see if I can slightly inconvenience one person to get the desired room layout. I assume that option number one will probably win. Oh well.

Today I’m particularly annoyed at the whole writing and revising process. I feel like I’m going to drown in references for one thing, and I keep getting distracted by much more entertaining mental pursuits like randomly surfing the web or repetitively checking news websites.┬á I can’t even really listen to music; if it’s not my worn-out playlist on my iPhone, it’s too new and interesting to ignore, and I end up paying attention to it instead of letting it be relaxing background noise. I just have to focus, but my thoughts seem scattered, like my brain is filled with some kind of fluff that long, coherent thoughts can’t attach to. I wish I knew how to achieve mental solidity and clarity at will.

Is this what coffee is for?? :p (I’m not a coffee drinker, but maybe I should start)

At least going to get a coffee at the nearby shopping center would give me an afternoon break; it’s a common event for many in the group, but I, the non-coffee drinker, never go. The ten minute walk over there is usually invigorating, a nice exercise for stiff muscles and cramped lungs. However, it’s freezing cold and cloudy today, not very motivating for getting out of the building. I guess I’ll stay here, eat an orange, and just try to ignore how not fun the writing is.