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I suck at keeping up with this thing. Therefore, I provide here a mostly-complete update before I have to once again retreat for the evil that is school. I spent a good deal of late July and early August simply taking time for myself. I made a to-do list, and I used it. I cleaned up my office (most of the way). I handled some obnoxious financial badness, and also took some positive steps to clean up our finances without requiring disaster conditions as impetus. I took wedding photos for a friend of my mother, did loads of Spanish, and prepared for the upcoming school franticness - I always know it's coming, and I'm never ready. Then, last week, I flew out east. I flew from Omaha to Chicago to Boston on Monday, and landed early Tuesday morning. (As in, a few minutes after midnight.) I was slated to be delayed on my first flight enough to make me late for the second, so United booked me on a couple American flights, then proceeded to try to dick me out of the miles. (I still have to mail them the boarding passes to get credit for the flights.) Well-kept Boston secret: the shuttle from the airport to the train station stops running long about midnight. P.S. so does the train. My original transport with Kara from plane-landing-place to bed-sleeping-place fell through, so the plan was to take the shuttle to the train (subway, I suppose: do not call it either of these things when you are there, for it is the T, and if you call it something other than this, you will get funny looks) and the <strike>train</strike> T to the MIT campus to chill until Live Entertainment became available (i.e., the person I was visiting made it back to town). So I hopped on the wrong shuttle, and I wound up at the Chelsea Employee Station. Yes, it seemed a touch odd that everyone on my shuttle seemed to be an airport employee, but I chalked it up to hopping on around midnight - shift change time, yeah? Anyway, the very nice shuttle driver - Alberto - chatted with me for awhile (my favorite bit was discussing the many ways Spanish has to tell a woman you love her) and took me back to the airport to wait for the 4:30am shuttle to the 5:00am T. The only food open was a Very Suspect Dunkin' Donuts With No Shortage of Ghetto But a Definite Shortage of Croissants; I bought a twisty glazed donut, then a few hours later, an everything bagel with cream cheese. (It is strange how different "everything" tastes, out that-a-way.) And copious amounts of coffee, of course. I read the rest of American Gods (which I started on the plane), finishing just in time to catch my shuttle. (Reading American Gods and other Gaiman-foo on the trip has made me itchy to write. I have story ideas. This always happens when I fly.) Shuttle to the T station, blue line to the green line to the red line to Kendall/MIT station. I got off there around six in the morning, then proceeded to wander aimlessly, no thanks to a couple of helpful folks who, when queried, told me that MIT was "all over [there]". I struggled until normal-ish business hours to find a restroom, eventually finding one at the Coop. And a wireless internet connection, courtesy MIT! I took an amusing video to highlight my toilet frustrations, then dorked around online for awhile until stuff started opening. After a couple hours, I grabbed a map and navigated my way on over to 14N to check out the Science Writing graduate program. The lady in the Science Writing department - Shannon Larkin, I believe (and I think she'll forgive me if I'm wrong, as she's aware of how sleep deprived I was when I met her) - was extremely genial and very thorough in describing the program. She didn't seem put off by my tangential train of thought, which might reflect well on her, the department, MIT, or some combination. She was effusive and competent and just nice to talk with. That's so underrated - all of it! As a result of my talk with her, I'm pondering the brutal stabbing of the voice in my head that says, "But I'm tired of school!" and possibly an application to the program. I had lunch at a nifty little (Greek?) place up near Central square, Brookline Lunch. They have an excellent idea for what should be in an omelette, which is to say, everything. Then I hopped back on the T (thanks to my handy week pass) and dashed up to Harvard. Harvard left me completely cold. Everything that felt like home at MIT felt like an overstuffed and still uncomfortable chair at Harvard. Which is not to say that it's a horrible school, or ugly, or even unpleasant - I'm sure people get a fantastic education there, the campus is pretty, and so on. I suppose it was just that: Harvard seemed so conventionally pretty, so uniform, that I was struck by the overwhelming sameness of everything I saw. I like surprises and disconcerting nooks and pockets of space for my many moods, and MIT seemed to play well to that (even if my predominate mood during my visit was tired). So pretty well immediately after arriving at Harvard, I took to the streets and the T tunnels on my tired feet and went back to MIT. I found a couch up in the Writing department, figured out what was up with Kara, and promptly attempted troubled naps. It should probably be noted that I packed light, carry-on only style, to avoid carting around five-piece Samsonite hell during all of this. I had my purse and my laptop backpack, which contained reading material, toiletries (all of the dry variety), clothing, and the laptop. It was really all I needed. So the wandering was not loaded down, but the sleep was hampered by my rampant paranoia; though I was tucked away in a very quiet corner, I was committing some sort of cardinal sin by Traveling With Many Valuable Possessions. Sleeping curled around a backpack is fitful. A few hours and some obnoxious traffic hassles later (5pm-ish, at this point), Kara rolled along my way, and we headed to her place. Recollections get fuzzy, here, but I believe there was showering and Red Bones for dinner, then we struck out on an ill-advised and ultimately failed attempt to find a drag show. Sometime around 11:00pm, I decided that the feet just could not take it anymore, and after nearly 36 hours of nearly-awake, I had to call it quits. Back to the T station, back to her place, and we retired to el bed-o. Wednesday (which, if you're keeping track, was both my second and third day there, sort of), we woke up late, had Indian food that apparently didn't agree with me (but tasted good!), then set off to LUSH for requisite stocking-up-on-bath-foo. We grabbed some henna for our hair while we were there, bought a couple books off a street seller, then pondered going on a duck tour. Given a combination of weather, cost, and lateness, we opted to check out The Garment District instead. It was kind of a bust - little to nothing in the XL+ range, so nothin' doing for me - but looking at obnoxious hats was fun; it was determined I should wear pimp hats, and Kara should wear top hats, particularly ones with Hideous Numbers of Sequins. We then walked home, primped briefly, and drove to the wrong Melting Pot for the gift certificate I had for a Fondue Experience. They honored the certificate, and we had the promised Experience, though I believe I will go ingredient shopping and have the same Experience at home for about a quarter of the cost (perhaps with less capital E). Particularly if I am eating with a vegetarian-or-something-like-it again; there wasn't a veggie in the main course that couldn't have been suitably sauce'd up for five bucks. We went home and henna'd Kara's hair - we were going to both do it, but I think I erred on the thick side with the henna and we ran out almost before we were done with hers alone. Alas. But she smelled yummy and herbal for days after, which was more pleasant Experience (at about a fifth the cost of the Fondue sort, and just as gooey). Then there was more sleeping. I was apparently catching a cold, but I wouldn't be certain about that for a day or so. Thursday, we milled about, showered, packed up, and headed north to Portland to pick up Will. There was much rejoicing and hugging, and then driving in the direction of his new place. We were greeted by the arrival of his bed, and also baby kittens nesting just outside his door, because apparently someone shorted him on his damned cute quota, or wanted to see me convulse and revert to the vocabulary of my babyhood. We proceeded to shop for all manner of home stuffs for him, as his moving strategy apparently involved throwing away anything that appeared to have possible uses in a new apartment. (Tongue firmly in cheek.) Friday was a good deal more of that, plus poking at the Chamber of Commerce for Answers About The Community. This all culminated in sangria-making and some hardcore chillaxing at Casa William. Saturday, we went to Scarborough Downs for lunch and pony-watching. My chaotic influence must have been working overtime, as one of the horses broke free and tried to jet out the service entrance. After lunch and a credit card kerfuffle, we picked up a rental car. We took Kara back down to Cambridge so she could prep for further traveling fun, then proceeded to get hopelessly lost in the death spiral that is driving in the Boston Metropolitan Area. Sam, to the rescue! He helped us avoid driving past Harvard for a fifth time, and to find the evil sign for the right turn we'd repeatedly failed to make - the sign which, against all logic, is located on the far left of a large intersection, through a thicket of trees and several lanes of traffic. I liked Boston. And then I drove in Boston. We fell into bed in the wee hours of Sunday morning. Sunday was a day for relaxing in the most complete way possible. Except that part where there was life stuff that needed sorting, still. We took a little evening drive up to a suburb of Portland to check out a car - one that seemed like a killer deal, but wound up not being it because the seller seemed bent on not allowing a prospective buyer to do diligence, obnoxiously. We looked at another car Monday morning, which wound up being the winner instead. And then we bought me a new bag for my return trip, as my laptop backpack was staying with Will, along with the laptop and such, which he bought. The return trip was a minor nightmare. We packed after we bought the new bag, then drove down to Boston in the rental and dropped it off at Logan, as agreed, then found my gate with plenty of time, so I chatted with Will about the laptop a bit - showed him the essential programs, set up a user account and all that. (This is not the nightmare part, of course.) Then it was onto the flight. For whatever reason, it would only let me check in through my first stop, at New York's LaGuardia International Airport. When I landed, therefore, I had no boarding pass for my next flight. I exited the secure area, hopped on a bus to the other terminal (brilliance) since my second flight (to Chicago) was on United itself, rather than a United affiliate (US Airways). When I got there, I couldn't check in at the carry-on only kiosk - it told me it couldn't process the itinerary change. Itinerary change? I thought. What itinerary change? Turns out my New York -> Chicago flight was delayed by a couple hours - enough to kill my Chicago -> Omaha connecting flight. So, rather than getting me to Chicago and then dealing with it, they stuck me at the end of a long line of similarly delayed folks so as to delay me the maximum amount possible. When I got to the counter, I explained my situation. "Can you get me home by 8:30am? I start a new job." "No," the nice lady told me. And I must have looked sufficiently crestfallen, for that got changed to a, "Well... let me see." She wound up putting me on a flight that was scheduled to be leaving an hour and a half earlier, but was actually leaving ten minutes later than the scheduled time for my originally scheduled flight, which made silly forty minute connection at O'Hare a ridiculous thirty minute connection. A ten-minute-late takeoff made it a stone-stupid twenty minute connection. And so when I landed at terminal C at O'Hare, nineteen minutes before the scheduled takeoff of my final flight (gate F12), three terminals away from said flight and at an hour that the shuttle to the other terminal was no longer running, I hoofed it. I shoved off my plane, I ran down moving walkways and stupid halls that stupidly lacked them, up the up-escalators in defiance of gravity, around corners and passengers. I ignored my burning fucking lungs for my fifteen minute sprint-jog-powerwalk-sprint-jog-powerwalk, only to arrive at the gate and find the door closed. "I'm sorry," the lady behind the counter there was saying to a similarly beleaguered couple. "We have to close the doors ten minutes before takeoff." We had seven minutes left. In the only good news from the entire debacle, the flight crew was negotiated with, we were escorted out onto the plane, and I did, in fact, make it home shortly after midnight, Tuesday morning. I hadn't eaten in about twelve hours, and the Boston -> Chicago leg of my trip had introduced me to the joy of sitting adjacent Boys Gone Wild, a screaming child and his non-English-speaking mother, a woman with the plague, a deaf woman who was apparently surly about said impairment and anyone who noticed it, and a chatty businessman brandishing college Spanish skills with bravado. Taco Bueno soothed my hunger and the immediate sleep once I was fed soothed my surliness. And I made it to my internship on time. So there. </Travelogue> Still vaguely sick with this cold. My internship started this week. Next week: UNO classes, eight credits. Teaching at UNO, two credits. The week after: Metro classes, three credits. I'll be busy, but it's actually a decently happy busy. Ciao, kittens. I'm off to bed.


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I am teaching eight hours per day. I am sick. My throat hurts. I am a couple days behind in my grading. All I want to do? Is not fix that. I want to climb into bed now. Not in two hours, after my students leave. Now.
A little over a year ago, a staff writer for UNO's twice-weekly newspaper (The Gateway) approached me to ask what I thought of some new federal funding for scientific research. My response, in the following clip:
"I am personally opposed to most government spending, particularly in the sciences," physics teaching assistant Erica Tesla said. "Government funding frequently comes with a lot of strings attached, many of which are inconvenient at best or crippling at worst. My opposition to government spending in the sciences is not meant to imply that I think the science should be a lower priority than other things-the problem is that spending implies control."
Full article: Pessimism follows federal science initiative announcement. Looks like research is backing up my opinion: Reason Hit & Run makes a mention of some research saying private research is better at making breakthroughs. Given that we can't get protection for scientists who expose manipulation, distortion, or suppression of their research, is that really any surprise?

Psychophysics Freakout

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I currently have the best job I've ever had in my life, as a teaching assistant in the physics department at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Twice a week, I give a lecture on basic Newtonian physics (classical mechanics, mostly, plus a smattering of thermodynamics) that runs somewhere between 25 and 40 minutes. Following that, I assist anywhere between one and two dozen students through experiments using the material from my lecture. Each student turns in a writeup on the lab experiment a week later, which I then grade and hand back a week after that. I love my job. I really do! I love teaching, I love helping students, and I love physics at the level I teach. The money's not bad at all, either. But I've also been in a lot of jobs that weren't so great. I spent years in corporate America, where being five minutes later could mean a thirty minute lecture, or not making someone ultimately happy could mean your ass. That sort of experience fosters a sort of unhealthy paranoia and fear that can seriously eat you up. I very highly doubt that corporate life will ever be a direction I pursue again. As an instructive example, a little more than two weeks ago, I overslept my Saturday morning class. I was supposed to be there at 8 o'clock in the morning. At 8:25 a.m., I got a phone call. Me, bleary: ...hello? Student: Uh, where are you? Everybody left. Me, coming to: ...oh, crap! Student: What should I do? It's just me and one other kid here. Me: Uh. Ok, just - you and one other student? Alright. Go home, we'll make up the material next week. I hung up the phone and proceeded to FREAK OUT HARDCORE, as those who were online (or in the address book in my phone and under suspicion of having some sort of applicable wisdom) can tell you. I immediately emailed my boss, and proceeded to bite my nails waiting for repercussions that never came. I never heard back from him about it. Fast-forward to today. I'm talking with the department secretary about an email I sent her. "I haven't gotten anything from you," she tells me. My freakout starts all over again. What if, I hypothesize (as scientists are so good at), my boss never received my email explaining and apologizing for my absence and seeking guidance? If I go and talk to him and he didn't receive it, I look irresponsible and avoidant. If I don't go talk to him and he didn't receive it, he could find out about the debacle from someone else - ever more irresponsible and avoidant. So I go talk to him, stomach in knots. "Boss," I say, inserting his actual name instead of the word, "I'm wondering if you got an email from me about two and a half weeks ago?" He tells me he had, and he respon-- oh, wait, did he respond? He talked to the department head in case there were any students who complained or asked about it. The thrust of the advice - to teach the material even if there wasn't time for the experiment - was exactly how I'd been handling it. "I know how hard it is to wake up and realize you overslept," he said. "I'm not going to beat you up over it. I did appreciate hearing about it right away, though." I thanked him, and went on my way. ...and promptly started crying on the way back to my office. I really hadn't understood just how much stress I was carrying around simply not knowing everything was ok with this job-that-I-love. Neurotic to my last. (P.S. For those who may go :( at this entry, please note that I feel much better now.)
Real-Life Resume Blunders to Avoid: Your resumé is a professional document. Give it the proofreading and editing it deserves. (And incidentally, if you're in the market for such proofreading and editing, I'm your girl. References and rates on request.)
Because you totally need more evidence: 4:41:16 AM Tesla: Michelina's has a mystery dish which they list on none of their website-type-things. 4:41:24 AM Tesla: It is cheesy potatoes and broccoli. 4:41:32 AM Vance: Is it good? 4:41:34 AM Tesla: It is worth the WHOLE DOLLAR FIFTY. 4:41:36 AM Tesla: ... 4:41:42 AM Vance: >.> 4:41:42 AM Tesla: You decide what that means. :) 4:41:47 AM Vance: I can't say much. 4:41:52 AM Vance: I freaking eat their alfredo sometimes for lunch. ;) 4:41:58 AM Vance: Which is like $1.05. ;) 4:42:00 AM Tesla: Yeah, well. 4:42:20 AM Tesla: Soda from the machines at school is $1.25, and I usually don't finish a whole one. 4:42:21 AM Vance: So it means... UPGRADE! ;) 4:42:23 AM Vance: Hee. 4:42:37 AM Tesla: So cheap. 4:42:42 AM Tesla: But it's at least not revolting. 4:43:10 AM Tesla: But the microwave process they prescribe does do the funniest thing to the potatoes. 4:43:22 AM Tesla: Namely, makes them just slightly - and I mean -very- slightly - rubbery. 4:43:40 AM Vance: Kinda like the noodles in the alfredo. ;) 4:43:50 AM Tesla: Ah, you know of this effect! 4:43:54 AM Tesla: We should name it. 4:43:59 AM Tesla: The Tesla-Vance Effect. 4:44:02 AM Tesla: Or Vance-Tesla. 4:44:05 AM Tesla: I'm not picky. 4:44:15 AM Vance: They likely make the potatoes and noodles out of the same stuff. ;) 4:44:26 AM Vance: Neither am I. Either-or works ;) 4:44:29 AM Tesla: OMG IM EETING NOODLES EW 4:44:56 AM Tesla: Compromise: 4:45:23 AM Tesla: We can alternately call it The Quantum Tesla-Vance Effect and The Quantum Vance-Tesla Effect. 4:45:46 AM Tesla: When people ask us why we flip the names, we tell them that's the Quantum part, and their observation forced the moniker to 'take a stand'. 4:46:08 AM Tesla: BTW: That was hilarious if you both vaguely understand Quantum but not really and also hate it. 4:46:19 AM Vance: *snicker* This semester has warped me so thoroughly.

Creative Goals

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  • Taking 12 credits this semester, rather than my typical 15-20. Sensible. Sane.
  • Teaching two sections of lab. Still sane.
  • Was not hired for the position at the new Apple retail store in town.
Given that my schedule this semester has stabilized into something eminently sane, I should actually have some decompression time. So, I have a few goals for this semester:
  • School: Finish those labs from last semester. For real. All the way.
  • Design: Get the blog redesign project I started done. All the way. It's really mostly done - I just need to convert to templates and make a few more decisions about how to display archives.
  • Photo: Take 100 photos per week. I have a camera which it is reasonable to carry around (the Casio EX-S600EO) with a freaking 2GB SD card; I no longer have any excuse not to go crazy with the taking of pictures.
  • Photo: Enter at least one contest at DPChallenge per month. (Why not use that for inspiration?)
  • Video: Get approved as a video stock contributor at iStockPhoto.
  • Writing: Write a substantial piece of short fiction. I'm not talking about serious "literary fiction" - I'm not even sure I know what that means, actually - I just mean something longer than the look-at-me-we-all-have-ADHD flash fiction I can bang out in a single sitting. A plot would be good. Characters required. I'm thinking 3,000-5,000 words. (I just know that if I can get one done, I'll have loosened up the knotty problem of how to turn my ideas into words.)
  • Music: Finish one of the songs I have started. I've got about six sitting around, each with about half of the lyrics written, an idea of the melody line for those lyrics... then nothing.
I think the overall idea here is very much like throwing spaghetti at a wall; I want to see what sticks. I do a lot of disparate stuff, and seeing what holds my attention when I genuinely have time for it seems like a good idea. ...and then there's the lab thing, which I threw in there as my own personal guilt-trip. Any thoughts? Things I've mentioned to you or that you (knowing me like you do) think I want to be doing this semester that I've left out? Comment!
1. My mail is b0rked. This is something with the server. I don't know what. Send email to my first name (dot) my last name (plus sign) sperari (at) that domain Google has for mail. If you're missing any of this information, it's around on the site. If you can't work it out and you have a different address, give it a couple days, then try the address you have. 2. For those of you I haven't told, I had an interview Tuesday with Apple for a position at the retail store they're opening up out Village Pointe. They called today; I did not get the job. 3. Immediately after hanging up the phone after the phone call from the very nice lady at Apple who told me they'd chosen not to hire me, I got a link to an article telling me how miserable my life as a scientist is destined to be. Sam is currently working full-time and going to school part-time in order that I might be able to finish my degree sooner; I've recently been feeling rather insecure about the prospects of my being able to provide for us as well as he's able to. I'm simply not certain that my skills and physics degree will be marketable. I'm vaguely terrified that they won't be. Needless to say, the article (which makes a dozen or so of its ilk I've read) could have come my way at a more opportune time. 4. Sam and I have put in our orders for our tricked-out iMacs, complete with the discounted iPods. 5. I somehow torqued my shoulder earlier today, and it's extraordinarily painful. I'm hoping I can manage to get some sleep tonight. This is not an exhaustive list of everything on my mind, right now, but if you add it all together, it provides a decent picture of how today has colored my mood and my current reactions to ongoing foo. It also explains why I feel very much like being in bed. Good night.
You know, this summer so far has been absolutely wonderful. Love, time off for relaxation, creative endeavors - I'm a happy girl. But I would really love it if I could go an entire month without being sick - this body-ripping, congested, sore-throat, sore-everything kind of sick. I didn't sleep for more than 20 contiguous minutes last night, in spite of taking a nice healthy dose of Nyquil. After I drove Sam to work, I came to school, but I couldn't motivate myself to get out of the car. I wound up sleeping in my car for almost an hour, on and off, 80-degree heat making my mouth dry because I can't manage to breathe without it open right now but feeling like a blanket nonetheless. Fuck you, summer colds. Fuck you a lot.
  1. A bum wandered into the TA office.
  2. I spent 9 hours working on my optics take-home test.
  3. Someone mysteriously left a bag of tortillas hanging on my doorknob.
  4. My mom was released from the hospital.
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