If you see a whole thing - it seems that it's always beautiful. Planets, lives... But up close a world's all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life's a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern. - Ursula K. LeGuin

Sunday, May 31, 2009

RBOC: Links Edition

  • May has pretty much come and gone and I realize its been over a month since I've updated the blogosphere on the minutiae of my life.
  • I've also noticed that my rate of posting this year is less than half of what I was doing last year. A while back I decided to use blogging as a reward for writing. That system never really got off the ground but I have been writing--academic writing that is--up a storm so there is just less time to blog. This is a good thing but I miss thinking in a bloggy way about my life.
  • I have continued my Twitter experiment but find I use it more to follow than to tweet. I like to tweet but often get lost in other people's worlds and forget about my own.
  • I'm using TweetDeck and can also follow Facebook friends.
  • My Facebook friends are not as interesting as my Twitter friends.
  • Personally I think Twitter is old news now that NIH is in the act.
  • I've come to the conclusion that reward systems don't work well for me. I either get into the act of doing something and the doing is the reward itself or I just don't.
  • I haven't gotten back into physical activity yet this summer--especially my core plans--but there is still time and hope.
  • I have made some progress on my summer reading lists. I've read two of the fiction books, added and read a third, and have just started Always Coming Home by LeGuin. For the nonfiction I'm reading three of the books at once.
  • You can keep up with the progress by joining me on GoodReads.
  • I have a few Barnes & Noble giftcards and am looking forward to a day of shopping.
  • Angel is home and working. There is much more to be said on that but I'll leave that for its own post.
  • Termites are still swarming. It seems this can go on for 3 months after treatment. Unfortunately a colony seems to live in the attic directly above the bathroom. Termites in the tub--not so pleasant.
  • Family news continues to be bad. There seems to be a cancer outbreak in both mine and b's families.
  • The economy is hitting my family extremely hard. I find myself asking--where do people go when they are out of options?
  • I'm working on grant #2. I need a full draft by Monday night so b and I can go camping for 2 days. The finished product needs to be routed by June 9th.
  • We'd like to go back to the lake and spend two days paddling but b has just informed that it will be 90 degrees both days. Between the heat and the grant I may decide to stay inside.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


I've been conferencing this past week. The conference was for a small but important society in my field. My ex-boss was one of the founding members of this society. He held an elected office and/or was the editor of their journal for most of the time that I worked for him. Now he is nearing retirement and has given up his position as a leader in this field. I expected to at least see him at the conference but neither he nor his cronies were there. It made me realize that the old guard is being replaced.

I am not of the new guard and have no desire to be.

The theme of the conference this year was a perfect fit for my work. Since I had no plans for any other conference and it was in driving distance and it was a perfect fit, I decided to organize a panel. I presented some of my work; Jags presented some of her work; and the final presentation was by someone (Chris) I used to collaborate with when I worked for my ex-boss. We were three women in our forties presenting data from work that fascinates us and keeps us going. All three of us have been "the power behind the throne" to a rock-star researcher. Chris still is and seems comfortable with that position. Jags and I are comfortable not being rock-stars. It seems we are all in positions that allow us to pursue the ideas that interest us. The difference to me--and its a big difference to me--is that my work is now associated with my name. I don't need to be a rock-star but when my work is out there I want it to stand (or fall) on its own.

I included an NIH program officer as a discussant for our panel. This program officer works for an institute that I would like to fund my work and, as it happens, this person is listed as the program officer on my challenge grant (should it get funded). It was a great opportunity to get to know her and have her become familiar with my work. Afterwards we were able to talk about my next submission. I have been very fired up about seeking external funds ever since the challenge grant experience. I feel my work is ready for the next step and although it will be a slow and tedious process, I feel I am definitely on the right path.

My dissertation advisor--another rock-star and Jag's ex-boss--attended our presentation. She and Jags were co-authors on a paper in the very next panel. I had not seen her for many years. She is not a particularly warm-fuzzy type of person but she is someone I have always respected and I believe she respects me and my work. She seemed genuinally interested and later told me she really liked my poem analysis.

This was the first time I presented using poetry as an analytic technique and I wasn't sure how it was going to go over. I'm close to submitting a paper with the data and thought it would be good to get some feedback at this conference first. The field this conference best represents is primarily quantitative--they use big gun statistical techniques. They are not opposed to qualitative research but most don't understand it very well. My feeling is that narrative analysis is outside their comfort zone--so my use of poetic narrative analysis is really out there for them. My advisor, however, is much more in tune with qualitative techniques and she encouraged me to write a methodology paper on it, which is something I've been toying with for a few months now.

I didn't attend many presentations at the conference. It has never been one that I've particularly enjoyed. I had to attend it frequently when working for my ex-boss and at that time it was very small and incestuous. New blood has definitely made a difference and I was happy to see a more varied listing of topics and presenters. However I have moved on from the main perspective of the field. It is still very relevant to my work but doesn't excite me. I did enjoy the sessions I attended and found myself watching how the speakers presented along with what they presented. I was most interested in watching older women--some were rock-stars and others were well-respected--but all spoke with an ease and confidence that I am beginning to feel. They were all passionate about their work and conveyed a deep understanding of the nuances--they spend their time thinking deep and long about these topics and it shows.

I walked away from this conference experience with a smattering of new ideas for both teaching and research but with a much better understanding of where I do--and don't--want to go in my career.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Discovering New Authors

Its a wonderful feeling to discover a new author that you love, especially when they're a prolific writer. I remember the first book of Octavia Butler's that I read. I loved it and my normal sadness of finishing a beloved book was replaced with joy when I discovered the list of books she had already published. I also remember my grief over her death--a large part was a selfish realization that I had read her entire collection and there would be no more new works.

I'm happily working my way through my summer reading lists and just finished a novel by Sheri S. Tepper--The Margarets. I've been wanting to read Tepper for a while--having heard about her on a number of sci fi blogs. The bookstore didn't have the older works that were on my list so I picked this recent work up instead.

It is an anti-utopia, where Humans (or Earthians) have destroyed the planet through overpopulation and environmental atrocities. The main character, Margaret, was born on a work colony on a Martian satellite. The story follows the life of Margaret as she splits into 7 different people--each ending up on a different planet in the system. None of the characters has any awareness of the others. Think Sybil except each personality gets its own body.

There are excellent descriptions of other worlds and races. Some of the races are good and some evil. And then there are Earthians--who blend good and evil with a pinch of ignorance. There are characters to care about and plot to keep you going. However the Margaret characters do get difficult to keep straight--especially since some are ignored for half of the novel. Also the "meaning" is thrown upon the reader like a brick. Subtlety, at least in this novel, does not seem to be in Tepper's vocabulary.

All-in-all I enjoyed it. I will definitely read more--especially earlier work--but I didn't walk away with the joy of new author discovery.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Research Partners

True research partners are incredibly important to my well-being. Unfortunately they can be hard to find and--unlike life partners--they don't usually relocate with you (of course I recognize that many in academia have long distance research and life partners and I consider myself incredibly lucky to have a life partner who can and will relocate with me). I met my first true research partner in graduate school--Jags. She was my advisor's #1 and ran an incredibly successful center for my advisor. We wrote a grant that joined my advisor's center with my boss' center and since I was my boss' #1, it made perfect sense that Jags and I actually ran the project. This project eventually became my dissertation. About a year after I graduated Jags took a faculty appointment Way Down South and we continued to collaborate long distance. It works but isn't as satisfying.

At that point I was an Assistant Professor at the institution where I had been employed throughout my graduate studies. Our center was given a line to hire another faculty member. I was on the search committee and instantly bonded with our best candidate--A-girl. A-girl was originally from Up North but had been living in a cold city in the Midwest for her graduate career and post-doc experience. She was moving back home to get married and was looking for an academic appointment. We hired her and within no time we were BFFs and research partners.

Since neither of us had any funding yet our first collaboration consisted of developing and running a summer internship program for undergraduate and graduate students. It gave us a chance to work with an amazing cadre of talent and to build a research agenda that complimented both of our interests. Two of the interns were particularly exceptional and by the end of the summer we had found a way to hire them as research assistants. We ended up developing a strong bond with one of them--Sparkle--and soon adopted her into our research world. The three of us formed a collaborative team on a formative project funded thru NIH. Fortunately for her and unfortunately for us, A-girl's life took a different turn and she ended up relocating to a nearby state. Our collaboration continued and face-to-face meetings occurred--but on a monthly instead of a daily basis.

Then it was my turn to relocate to SouthLite. We had already transitioned to a long-distance collaboration so it didn't seem so much like an ending--and it wasn't. We quickly established bi-monthly telephone calls. These calls occur whether we have research to discuss or not and as time goes on the research dwindles. Once I was here in SouthLite I was anxious to find a new true research partner or two. I was very hopeful since my main reason for choosing this position was the people I had met in my department.

I was not wrong in my choice, as my colleagues are wonderful people who I respect and enjoy. However none have developed into true research partners. Several have overlapping interests with mine but somehow the right mix of ingredients for partnership is not there. I have learned I can grow my own research partners and did it very successfully with DeeDee. DeeDee was my first graduate assistant in SouthLite and in the two years we spent together she became both a collaborator and a friend. However I've since learned that the DeeDees in this world are few and far between and students eventually graduate and relocate. Luckily DeeDee is less than an hour away, but even so we struggle to find time to see each other.

I started contacting people outside of my department who seemed to have similar interests. I ended up having lunch with three different women in three different departments. One has become a friend but not a research partner; one led to absolutely nothing; but the third has been developing into what I believe is a true research partner. Let's call her M.

M was instrumental in helping pull together last month's Challenge Grant and from that and some breath-taking work that she is currently doing, we have developed a mutual research agenda for the next few years. I've been slowly getting to know M but the more time I spend with her the more I like her. Yesterday we spent the entire day together in a nearby city--where she lives--to attend a talk relevant to our work and the grant I'm working on now. She also set up a meeting for me at a local community organization that she has been working with for many years. Recently she and her husband have started a Garden Club at this organization and are teaching 12 6 & 7 year old boys how to garden. M showed me around the agency, showed me the garden, and introduced me to several of "her kids" and friends. We also had lunch together and she gave me a brief tour of her city. I learned a lot yesterday that will help me with my research and my grant but I also learned a lot about M. I'm looking forward to a long a friendship and partnership. Hopefully neither one of us is going anywhere anytime soon.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Did I Mention...

...how much I enjoy the university when no students are around?

Well there are a few students but mostly they leave me alone. Its been a great start to the week so far: all meetings have been arranged by me and focus on my work. Does life get any better? In addition I managed to attend to a little personal grooming. My hair now has some lovely summer highlights.

Tomorrow I'm off to a day of meetings in a neighboring city that will once again revolve around MY work--bliss.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Kickback Day

Yesterday's data collection did not go very well. I had 11 dyads signed up and only 1 showed. Definitely my worst turnout yet. However it did mean that I finished early and I decided to hightail it over to the local grocery store and fill out house with goodies for our kickback day.

Today we slept until 11 and then b got up to make the promised waffles and eggs. I stayed in bed catching up on blogs. Breakfast was scrumptious but then it was back to bed for b and me (Angel decided to play his computer game)--me to read and b to surf the web. I've started a new book. It is not on my summer list but when I went looking for the two books by this author that are on the list, I found this. So far its pretty good but lately I keep reading that her early work is much better.

b eventually got up to go play video games with Angel and I caught up on a new favorite show on Hulu. Most of the day continued in that fashion until b and I decided to get up and start cooking. He grilled a massive amount of meat (burgers, chicken & sausage), corn on the cob, and pineapple. I made veggies for days--roasted red peppers in balsamic & garlic dressing; a roasted medley of eggplant, portabella mushroom, zucchini, pepper, and onion; and stir-fry broccoli with snow peas, water chestnuts, onion, scallion, garlic & ginger. I also decided to finally try making won tons. I made a tofu, scallion and asparagus filling and tried them steamed and fried. All was delicious and we have leftovers for the week.

Now I'm back in bed with a Guinness while the guys continue to play video/computer games in the other room. In about an hour it will be time for the season finale of Survivor. I have a ton of cookies leftover from the failed data collection (yes I feed my participants) to get us through the evening. When it is all over I plan to waddle off to bed for a full night's rest. I'll be starting my summer break with a 10 am budget crisis meeting Monday morning.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Graduation Day

In true Brigindo-fashion, I scheduled two data collections this week--one the night before Graduation and the other today, the day after Graduation. I have no idea why I thought this was a good idea but if I ever get a similar thought in the future someone needs to shoot me.

Graduation Day went beautifully. This is my third year of attending and there were very few graduates in my department that I did not know at all and most I knew well. I taught many (both graduate and undergraduate). This made me feel full and proud. However it is a bit scary to send them off in such a lousy economy. They all looked thrilled and proud of themselves but a little wary.

Several of our undergraduates will be back next year in our master's program and two of our masters' students will be in our doctoral program. We've yet to graduate a doctoral student, but that may change next year.

I also got to have lunch with my favorite (ex)-research assistant ever, DeeDee, who came to see her best friend graduate. DeeDee and I can talk nonstop all day long but rarely get the opportunity to do so. I can't believe its been a year already since she graduated.

But Graduation Day was about more than being a proud professor this year. This year Pumpkin graduated. Pumpkin graduated college at 20 years old, summa cum laude, and with the university's highest award. She is amazing in every way and I was beyond proud to watch her graduate in both ceremonies. (Yes, we do two graduations--a large university-wide and a smaller school ceremony--that are both are the same day. It makes for one very long day and the faculty are all pretty giddy by the end).

Pumpkin's grandparents and boyfriend flew in for the event and her best friend threw her a lovely party. I baked cupcakes (pink with purple frosting) at her request (in between grading and data collection). After the party we all went out to dinner (b, Angel, myself, Pumpkin, her boyfriend--who needs a name but I'm to brainfried to think of one--her grandparents and her little sister) at a fancy french restaurant. It was lots of fun and Pumpkin was in her full glory.

It was definitely a Big Event Day that, while I was very happy to be a part of, I am even happier to have behind me. I am anxious to get on with summer break and all it has to offer. Even though I am officially done with the semester, it doesn't feel done this morning because of data collection this afternoon. My student research team will be there and will do a tremendous job, but really I just want to laze around in bed reading fiction all day.

b has promised we can do just that tomorrow AND I get waffles and eggs for breakfast.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

My New Love

This is my birthday present from b. I've been putting off getting one for many years. It seemed like a big item (both financially and size-wise) for me to own and I always made due without it. For some reason this seemed like a good year to ask for it. I thought I'd be happy with it but not thrilled.

I am thrilled.

Note the color. I like yellow in my kitchen and it matches the baking bowl I found earlier this year on my escapades Up North.

I made myself a birthday cake with it...a cake I've made a number of times before (deep chocolate layer cake with peanut butter frosting). It was not only extremely delicious but so so much easier.

I love to knead when I make bread so I didn't think I'd use the dough hook that much. Tonight was pizza night (well calzone night actually) here at the House of Dirt and Rocks. I gave it a whirl.

I'm in love.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Summer Of

Angel has declared this The Summer of The Stretch. He wants to get a full split. I have declared this The Summer of The Core. I want to have stomach muscles again. b, in true b fashion, has declared this The Summer of Bacon and Whisky. He wants...well that's fairly self-explanatory.

Tomorrow Angel and I start our regime.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Double Digits


When I was 11 my family got back together after a six-month separation. My sister Amy and I had been sent to my Aunt's house, my sisters Meg and Jo to my paternal grandmother and my mother had moved back in with her parents. Everyone moved back in together except for Jo and my dog. We also gained a quasi step-father--my mother's then boyfriend. That year I joined the girl scouts; I started middle school; I adopted pet rats; and I got my period. I was more developed then most of my schoolmates and received a lot of unwanted attention because of it. It was a year of transition and change.


When I was 22 I was living with my boyfriend. I graduated college that year. I was already working in a full-time office job with benefits and responsibilities but I wanted a change. That was the year I started working at the hospital-Ivy League medical school. I ended up staying there 17 years. That was the year I decided to marry my boyfriend, mostly because I wanted a baby. I ended up marrying him shortly after turning 23. That was a year of growth and commitment.


When I was 33 I realized I could no longer avoid ending my 10 year marriage. I was ABD and working as a project manager in a research institute, where I had been for the last 10 years. I was miserable. It took half of the year to actually make the break and move myself and Angel out of the apartment we shared with my ex-husband. I remember sitting in the living room of my new apartment all alone and reveling in the space and freedom. Three months later I met b and we had our first date. It was a year of new beginnings.


Yesterday I turned 44. I'm wondering what the year will bring.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Coherent Blog Post

I haven't had a coherent blog post in a while. Looking over my last several posts I realized they have been all lists and bullets. I've had a few ideas and started writing a real blog post once or twice in the past week but nothing has managed to stick. I blame it on the end of the semester and the encroaching summer break. This always feels like a schizophrenic time of the year.

I'm feeling very in-between. I've finished one grant and am about to start another--as soon as the semester ends. I've got one paper ready to go out--as soon as co-authors respond--and another I'm about to start--see end of semester comment above. I've all but finished current grading but am waiting for final papers/presentations.

On the home front, Angel came home late Thursday night. He moved half of his belongings from school, stayed until last night, and is back at school to pick up the rest of his things and say good-bye. It seems that will take him 3-4 days. Once he comes back, he'll look for a job here and, if unsuccessful, will head Up North to his dad's. So currently we have no idea how long he will be with us.

Graduation is in two weeks and there are many events--work-related and social--that must occur in that period. Shortly after graduation I have a trip that will be half-work/half-pleasure. I'm trying to fight the feeling that I need to wait for this all to be over before I can settle down into some serious work. There's a good chance there may not be a settle-down time, at least not for a month or two, and then the summer will be mostly gone.