Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 Retrospective

1. What did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before? Wrote a master's thesis & defended it. "Walked" in an American graduation ceremony. Flamenco danced. Learned to spin yarn with a spindle. Helped brew cider & mead.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I think my only resolutions were to keep up the 1x weekly exercise habit I formed in 2009, attempt to add to it, and to stop using paper cups for coffee purchases. None of these worked out as I'd hoped. Stress and an ill-advised month of flamenco classes wreaked some havoc with my body that I have spent the second half of 2010 struggling with. Nothing permanent, but aches & pains and chronic tension headaches make Rosie a grumpy woman. I was sporadic with the re-useable bags & travel mug, but sporadic use still reduces wastefulness better than not bothering at all.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? No, but a slew of friends (and one cousin) are currently pregnant & will deliver in 2011.

4. Did anyone close to you die? Not in 2010, but my cousin died Jan 3 after over a year battling metastasized lung cancer.

5. What places did you visit? Philadelphia, PA, Washington DC (including Alexandria and Mt Vernon), Williamsport, PA, Oxnard CA (surprisingly cute wee town).

6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010? A full time job! Of course I lacked this in 2010 because I was in graduate school with a part time internship, a very good reason.

7. What dates from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? November 11th I handed in my thesis for final formatting. June 12th Matt graduated with his Bachelors degree.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Thesis (detect a theme yet?)

9. What was your biggest failure? Hm. I don't think I really failed at anything, but I struggled with motivation and self-esteem all year.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? The flamenco played merry hell with my knees, I quit after a month and am still feeling it. I tweaked my lower back in October. Nothing that a little time & careful yoga type activity won't heal.

11. What was the best thing you bought? My spindles & loom.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? Matt & my lovely friends

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? Many politicians.

14. Where did most of your money go? Tuition, the trip to PA, and yarny crafts.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Diarrhea (my thesis topic was Clostridium difficile associated diarrhea).

16. What song will always remind you of 2010? Pass.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) happier or sadder?

b) thinner or fatter? Pass

c) richer or poorer? Pass

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Walking. Dancing (anything less stampy than flamenco).

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Procrastination.

20. How did you spend Christmas in 2010? With family at Granny's house in Los Angeles and NOBODY IN THE HOSPITAL. (Mum had a ruptured appendix just in time for Christmas 2009).

21. Did you fall in love in 2010? Frequently.

22. What was your favorite TV program? Dr Who. Castle. I also rediscovered the joy of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

23. What did you do for your birthday in 2010? Matt threw me a surprise party for my 30th!

24. What was the best book you read? Cryoburn by Lois McMasters Bujold.

25. What did you want and get? Publishable data for my thesis. Lots of little luxuries like travel, craft supplies and delicious foods.

26. What did you want and not get? My diploma (it will be issued May 2011)

27. What was your favorite film of this year? Coraline.

28. Did you make some new friends this year? Lots of SCA friends are now "real life" friends.

29.What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Getting everything submitted in time to ahve my diploma in hand. Having a job lined up, though I am enjoying having some free time while job seeking.

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010? Half my clothes don't fit so I'm going to distract you from my limited wardrobe with this stunning handmade scarf.

31. What kept you sane? Matt. The kitties. Friends. Yarn.

32. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Pass.

33. What political issue stirred you the most? Poverty. Healthcare & health disparities.

34. Who did you miss? My family.

35. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010. Graduate school is truly rewarding, but you really have to want it, and know why you are there.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cottage Industry

photo 4.JPG, originally uploaded by Rosemary Grace.

I warped my little rigid heddle loom for this scarf on Monday. Now, on wednesday evening, it's hanging to dry. All it needs is some kind of finishing on the fringe. I am thinking teeny braids. See the little droplets of water hanging off the fringe? That's after running it through the mighty centrifugal forces of Granny's washing machine!

Following a rainy 120 mile drive and a sing-along Messiah in the Walt Disney Symphony Hall I have been ensconced with my family at my Granny's townhouse in the San Fernando Valley since Sunday night. Matt is coming up by motorcycle tomorrow. I think it's becoming his Christmas tradition to ride his motorbike up here. We have been watching the impressive rain storms all week but it looks like it's clearing up now. I hope he arrives dry. Or at least mostly dry.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Yesterday I Defended My Master's Thesis

Mum and Matt were there, Mum's spending October in LA with her mum, and took the train down to attend. I presented the essential points of my project in about 30 minutes, with a 21 slide powerpoint, to two infectious disease physicians, a nursing professor, and a statistics professor. My cheering squad of two were the only other people in the room without the title "Dr.". I felt like I was babbling somewhat, but the committee and my family all said I presented very well. Good to know Mrs Heath's standard grade English class, and the Edinburgh Academy public speaking club paid off.

After the presentation and "public" discussion, the committee asked us to leave the room. Mum & Matt went for a coffee, I waited in the hallway to be called back in. After about 15 minutes my chair called me back in, and I was told it's very close to done, I need to expand a few sections and make a detailed table of studies on C. difficile and acid suppression. (That's the topic of my thesis). My chair also mentioned she'd like me to present to her infectious disease class, and I'm going to present the data at the hospital where the study is based. We (my on-site advisor and the team at the hospital) are putting together a paper based on this analysis and will be submitting it for publication. If it gets through it will be my first first-authorship on a paper.

Today I am doing no work. I put Mum on a train to LA, bought myself a couple of scented candles, and had a delicious sandwich, and now I'm catching up on free on-demand tv shows. Yay for Castle!

Tomorrow I begin with the revisions. I want to get this sucker finished and submitted so I can really celebrate.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Graceful they ain't

Friends of ours have a 1-year-old corgi (this isn't him). I kind of want one too.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Champagne tastes

photo 1.JPG, originally uploaded by Rosemary Grace.

Marble is always interested in my knitting and yarn, but she is in love with this violet Wollmeise German sock yarn. She maneuvers herself to keep her nose close to the ball at all times, and frequently earns herself an eviction from my lap by trying to chomp on a strand as it passes her face.

That sound made by deadlines as they fly past

Summer has been and gone (officially, though it's still 80'F and sunny here) and I am getting closer to finished with the interminable thesis, though it does seem to keep expanding and needing more bits added no matter how much I write. Which is not enough most days. Chapters 1-4 are largely done, I have some feedback on them to go through. Chapter 5, the discussion, has bits done and bits missing. I sent the existing bits off for feedback so I could pat myself on the back for sending something.

My internship has finished up, so I am currently an unemployed graduate student. I've applied for three different federal jobs suitable for my post-graduate self, civil service hiring processes are very slow so it's worth getting in applications even though I'm not done yet.

In other news, Matt and I started visiting the local Unitarian Universalist fellowship. I have never been part of a church community except for the obligatory Presbyterian leanings of my schooling. A couple of the songs sung in fellowship meeting are actually songs I learned in assembly in primary school, but it's otherwise a quite different experience. The symbols above the lectern are multi-faith and secular humanist/atheist folks (with an interest in pagan traditions) like myself are welcome. As are pagan/atheist folks like Matt. The community is very welcoming, and there is a focus on volunteerism and "helping hands". I'm going to track down someone involved in the knitting ministry to see what type of things they knit for charity, and we both spent some time this past Sunday chatting with members of the small "earth-based spirituality" group. Most of them are Wiccan, and there was a marvelous moment when Matt pointed out the pentacle dream-catcher tattoo on his calf, and three other people pulled out pentacle necklaces or finger-rings and one of the three simply said "welcome!".

Tuesday, June 01, 2010


I am not afraid
Of anything in this world
There's nothing you can throw at me
That I haven't already heard

Matt and I saw U2 perform at the Rose Bowl just before Halloween, they put on an amazing show (as usual), but after 3 hours of standing waiting for them to come on, and 2 hours of dancing/hopping about while they performed, our feet (legs, backs) were complaining loudly. We staggered back to the car and made it to bed at around 2.30am Monday, vowing that the next concert we'd wear trainers, not boots (we may have been influenced by the current single being "Get On Your Boots").

I know it's trite to reference songs, but I am so impressed by the imagery in many of Bono's lyrics. I wasn't a big U2 'fan' when I was younger, they were ever-present on the radio of course, and I liked them, but I wasn't particularly into them. Matt is very much into them, and so I have heard a lot more of their work since meeting him, and now I'd definitely count myself as a fan.

I'm just trying to find
A decent melody
A song that I can sing
In my own company

I never thought you were a fool
But darling, look at you. Ooh.
You gotta stand up straight, carry your own weight
'Cause tears are going nowhere baby

You've got to get yourself together
You've got stuck in a moment
And now you can't get out of it
Don't say that later will be better
Now you're stuck in a moment
And you can't get out of it

I will not forsake
The colors that you bring
The nights you filled with fireworks
They left you with nothing
I am still enchanted
By the light you brought to me
I listen through your ears
Through your eyes I can see

You are such a fool
To worry like you do.. Oh
I know it's tough
And you can never get enough
Of what you don't really need now
My, oh my

You've got to get yourself together
You've got stuck in a moment
And you can't get out of it
Oh love, look at you now
You've got yourself stuck in a moment
And you can't get out of it
Oh lord look at you now
You've got yourself stuck in a moment
And you cant get out of it

I was unconscious, half asleep
The water is warm 'til you discover how deep
I wasn't jumping, for me it was a fall
It's a long way down to nothing at all

You've got to get yourself together
You've got stuck in a moment
And you can't get out of it
Don't say that later will be better
Now you're stuck in a moment
And you can't get out of it

And if the night runs over
And if the day won't last
And if your way should falter
Along this stony pass

It's just a moment
This time will pass

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

April: a SNAFU is better than a FUBAR

SNAFU: Situation Normal - All F* Up

FUBAR: F* Up Beyond Any Repair

I think my anxiety reached a head in April. I had a lingering migraine, complete with aches all over my body, for the first two weeks! I met with my stats prof, and wrote another missing section, handed the latest version over to my adviser to read on her trip to Tanzania (she is a jet-set HIV prevention doctor), evenings were spent napping and nursing the headache.

When I started to feel better I engaged in a bit of displacement activity: I unclogged the slow bathroom drains, ran de-scale stuff through the dishwasher and cleaned the oven. My gods, the oven. I did a second round of cleaner foam stuff on the the bottom the first round couldn’t get it all off.

Thesis Chair kept saying “simplify it, drop some variables, don’t try to do it all!”, and the Principal Investigator kept saying “you should include this, and this and THIS, and are you addressing this other thing?”. Then it turned out I was offtrack with my specific research question, a classic case of my committee of four, and me all thinking we know what’s going on, and are on the same page…but we weren’t. The bottom line is that the chair wants me to get a thesis together so I can defend and be done, the investigator wants it to be as close to a publishable paper as possible so that it’s more useful to her. My intention is to keep in touch with the investigator after I'm done and help her produce a paper or two out of this dataset anyway, it will be good to get my name on a paper or two from this project.

Thesis Chair was surprised I didn’t freak out, hopefully that’s a compliment. Most of what I have written is still good and useful, and the committee is going to work with me to try to get me done asap, but I will have to re-do the analysis with the new question. I met with the Principal Investigator (Dr in charge of the project at the hospital) to go over the database and consult on a better research question.

The new analysis already looks a lot better, and I'm plugging along. Analysis is the fun part actually, after some hair-tearing getting my database migrated onto the analysis computer. I actually resorted to calling Mr Riveter in to pat my shoulder and talk me through troubleshooting the data migration, I kept getting the same error message over and over and over…

The commencement ceremony is on May 21st, my parents fly in on the 20th. I can participate in the ceremony because I applied to graduate this semester, you don't have to be completely wrapped up to participate, since they have the ceremonies right at the end of term, rather than after all the results are in and processed like for my BSc.

Friday, March 19, 2010


Not dead, also not done yet. One page (two headings, ~300 words or so) of literature review left to go, revise the methods, meet with statistician on my committee to see if the plan I have for analysis is acceptable. Do analysis, report results...write discussion. Eeeek!

Matt is rapidly approaching the finish line, April 5th he will be done with his BS classes. Wooo!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

An embarrassment of bacon riches

The Banner, originally uploaded by Rosemary Grace.

The banner Matt picked for my surprise party two weekends ago, with the fairy lights we always have up in the archway between the living and dining areas. Matt also took this photo.

He took me to lunch on the Saturday, sushi and white wine by the San Diego Bay, and when we returned I was greeted by 15 friends with noisemakers, who had been hanging out in our flat, setting up and drinking beer for about 2 hours. Everyone was already quite merry! I got lots of hugs, a gorgeous handmade peacock pearl necklace and earrings set (made by a friend), fresh roasted coffee, a giant bag full of odd skeins of pretty yarns (each skein more than sufficient for a hat or mittens), a crochet scarf, and a pound of bacon. Which is apparently the new 30th birthday tradition in some circles of my friends.

I’ve put in my paperwork to graduate in May, but I’m behind in my thesis writing. I need to get in gear now so I don’t end up dragging this on and having to wait till after the summer to defend, and graduate a whole six months later.

My problem is I’m burned out on the grad school thing, I just want to move on already and have a steady job, I'm still struggling with the mild-moderate depression, mostly in the form of anxiety issues, and I’m in this state when I’m kind of numbing out from everything. I haven’t been to my regular dance class for 3 weeks, I’m barely knitting, and I’m burning a lot of time zoning out in front of the TV or on the web. So I get home from work or class, and flop on the couch with a cat & my laptop and/or switch on the telly. This is often accompanied by a glass of wine, or a beer, which is relaxing, but also kills my resolve to get any writing done.

By Monday I have to, no beating about the bush, no excuses, get a 10-12 page introduction written, I have 2 pages and some notes. My plan is to get a new arriving-home routine: a brisk walk around the courtyard at my building, wash my face, use the neti pot thing that protects me from stabby sinus pain, and treat it like a restart to the day. Then sit AT A TABLE and, you know, work on my thesis.

Today I was scheduled to work a half day, and I managed to get home, make lunch, and start making progress on pulling together demographics for my study population. It’s like pulling teeth to focus on this stuff, pathetic! I will call this an initial win for actually breaking my routine a little.

Tomorrow’s goals: get up with Matt in the a.m., continue with demographics tables for at least an hour before heading to my hiking date to climb Cowles Mountain with a coworker. After the hiking date do something school related, be it more tables, working on outline, or working in intro.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Nice bonnet dude, did your wife make that?

knitting 007, originally uploaded by Rosemary Grace.

Matt has been a real gem recently. He’s usually a gem, but he’s been a extra sparkly one, here's why:

1) He’s plotting some kind of birthday get-together for me this weekend, I have no idea what, because he is doing it ALL. This is a big deal, I am the social secretary in our relationship, and have previously organized my own birthday parties (and made/bought my own cake).

2) On Monday he completely blitzed the kitchen, getting it to a point where it is now easy to keep it clean and the counters empty of dishes waiting to go in the dishwasher/be hand washed.

3) He wore the forest green tam I made him for the first time this week, after checking with me that rain wouldn’t hurt it (bless, it’s wool - it’ll just need re blocked), and apparently him showing up on a U.S. Navy base in a knitted tam has caused much confusion and double takes. His coworkers all insist it’s a beret, and had never heard of a “tam” or “tam o’shanter”. This crowd is clearly fashion challenged: the tweed golf cap he usually wears when it’s rainy weather initially got some comments along the lines of “hey, newsboy!”. This time the security guard kept giving his tam a funny look while checking his I.D. at the gate. His verdict: “those guys don’t know anything about hats!”

We decided it's probably best not to tell his coworkers that this particular style of hat is also known as a "bonnet" in Scotland.

So: plotting happy things for me while working full time and doing online university classes full time? Check. Going above and beyond the call of dishes duty? Check. Totally earning himself a wardrobe of interesting tams? Check.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Even Faeries get moles

In three weeks I turn 30, 21 days left of my 20's. I'm rather excited to be honest, I think the 30's will be good years. I also know that the only alternative to aging is not desirable at all.

I think I am most shocked to realize that 10 years ago today I was an exchange student at the University of California, San Diego. I had not yet changed apartments to get a single room, so I had not yet met a lot of the people I became good friends with in the last 12 weeks of my exchange year. Ten years ago today I was also in the final healing stages of my first tattoo: a crescent moon with roses on my left hip bone. My tattoo is almost old enough to be out of primary school! This faerie is my other tattoo, I got her/it on my lower right back in January 2001, so she's only 9.

I've had a love/indifference relationship with the faerie tattoo. I had carried the pencil sketch for this design in my planner since I was 15, but not long after getting it I discovered a variety of faerie art that impressed me even more, and having it on my back meant I didn't get to admire the artist's work every day like I have with the crescent moon. There is also an unfortunate cult of Tinkerbell fans, women who enjoy the bitchy princess spoilt brat persona, and adopt Tink as their mascot. As I grew up with peter pan, the flower fairies, and mythology involving the wee folk/sidhe, my impression of the Fae is that they are forces of nature, neither kind nor cruel, a symbol of the harsh beauty of nature. Definitely not a squeaky little female sprite who stomps her feet all the time and obsesses over human boys. I've been toying with the idea of expanding her wings, darkening the green, giving her an owl or a raven as a companion, or even choosing a slightly larger design and having her covered over by an acanthus leaf or a William Morris style peacock.

Matt took a closeup photo of the ink work so that I could study it, and decide what I wanted to do, but while cropping it and brightening it up a bit on photoshop I noticed something not part of the original design. An oval mole on her right upper wing (left as we look at her). Of course it's not on her wing, it's on my back, and I'm pretty sure it wasn't there when I got inked. Especially since the outline of her wing is broken at that point.

With my history that means time for a biopsy. I only just had a screening with my dermatologist, but the tattoo does disguise the mole, and she relies heavily on me spotting any changes. I'm waiting to hear back on a biopsy she took from my leg, a tiny but very dark mole we decided to investigate, but I think I'm going to call and make another appointment to show her this offender as soon as possible. I'm sitting here wanting to tear it off myself!

Of course there is a certain amount of self blame for getting tattooed at all, though who knows if I'd have spotted a new pointy mole back there at all if I wasn't studying a photo of my own back for planning purposes. I'm really done with the constant vigilance thing, though I know I don't get to choose, I have to keep an eye out for skin changes for the rest of my life.

Besides all this, I need to submit review board approval of my thesis project, get my Master's committee officially listed (I've got them lined up, but they're not on file), and apply for graduation. Instead I'm scanning through a few years of photos to see if my lower back shows up in any of them, in case I can find an earlier comparison.