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Today I had just enough of a window of free time to make another double batch of salsa. Then I managed to win the online Scrabble game against S. And now it's solidly midafternoon and time to go to the lab.

It's hard to start or sustain projects under conditions like this. I am ready for this feeding experiment to be over. It has been three months. At least the circadian experiment ebbs and flows, and I can do other things during the gap periods.

I am falling behind on multiple crucial pieces of writing.

Convergence

I busted my way out of work at 4:45 yesterday to meet up with my friend S and also scrottie for a start-of-semester postdoc reception up at the UC Botanical Gardens. While we didn't get to fully experience the gardens (hmm, will have to go back), we did get to eat some phenomenal food and listen to some mellow live music.

But in addition, two ant people that I know from my ASU days were there. They have both just started as postdocs in an Argentine ant lab on my floor. A third person from ASU will also be joining them in October. This is all on top of being reunited with S upon arriving here - she and I both went to a tropical field ecology course in Costa Rica way back in 2004.

A lot of people wind up passing through this place, I guess. I'm excited about this for two reasons. Reason one, there are enough of us to justify a weekly postdoc happy hour gathering. Informal gatherings are really important. Reason two, I think I am going to try and infiltrate that ant lab some more. It should bring me back towards social insect research.

Assuming I survive the rest of the current experiments. (I will, they're just...taxing and taking up a lot of energy).

Broken sleep land

I totally didn't make it to the boathouse this morning. I'm pretty sure that I needed those extra 2.5 hours of sleep on C's office floor instead. Especially given how physically painful it felt to get up again at 7 am (more painful than the 3:30 wake-up to ride over to the lab).

Our current stable isotope tracer for characterizing lipid metabolism is not ideal. Apparently L started out trying palmitic acid in the beginning. That's the same lipid tracer as I used in Nebraska, though I used a radiotracer, not a stable isotope tracer. He was never able to obtain a reproducible signal with palmitic acid, so eventually they triangulated on oleic acid instead, injecting a bolus of pure oleic acid with a single C-13 label on the carbon that's easiest to label. A quick check of my notes about my palmitic acid experiences confirm why L never got any signal - only around 1% of the injected radiolabeled palmitate ever got oxidized over a 3-hour time period.

There are a couple of problems with the 1-13C oleic acid. The biggest one is that the amount of oleic acid we're injecting is equivalent to the total amount of lipid present in the entire cricket hemolymph pool. Hardly a tracer, unless there's incredibly high hemolymph lipid turnover. Along with that, as I'm doing the injections, I've observed a couple of crickets that have apparently bled heavily sometime during the 60-minute incubation period, and I'm not entirely sure about what's going on there. I haven't seen nearly as much bleeding during the injections themselves as compared to the glucose injections, but it still seems like there's something strange going on.

Uniformly-labeled C-13 oleic acid should generate a stronger signal, but it's also expensive. I would also need to think about the best injection vehicle for to dilute out this nonpolar compound.

We shall see what the preliminary samples reveal. They have just reached our collaborator today.

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Dear stuff,

Please hold off until at least Thursday or maybe Friday or the weekend. I am too busy and overwhelmed to deal with you until then.

Thanks,
rebeccmeister

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So, about two months ago, scrottie bought a 27-foot vintage sailboat, to go with his vintage motorcycle, Honda Z600, and Toyota Dolphin. Upon his return from the Midwest, he's been going to sailing lessons over at the California Sailing Club. I don't have the time or energy for yet another hobby, but was curious about the whole setup. So we went to their once-a-month Open House.

Sailing open house at the Berkeley Marina

The line to sign waivers was very long, in part because they were using that line to keep the line for life jackets from getting too out of hand. The waiver line isn't very visible in this picture, but you can get an idea of the size of the crowds. They were taking 3 or 4 people out in the dinghies, or 5 or 6 in some keeled boats.

Sailing open house at the Berkeley Marina

After about an hour and a quarter, I made it through the lines and over to one of the dinghies pictured above.

I hadn't been out on a sailboat since high school, and the boats we used at that time were larger, built for short trips. The dingies were agile, fast, and responsive, although the windsurfers racing around were going about twice as fast as we were. The wind and waves were brisk. The dinghies seem like good boats for learning the ropes, and the sailing cove was a nice body of water. It sits right on the other side of the freeway from the BAP.

They have an interesting dress code at the CSC. (click through and zoom in to read it)

Sailing open house at the Berkeley Marina

Then I went to the lab to work on the daily feeding experiment chores.

Today - well, tomorrow, really - we are running the 1 am timepoint. We're trying to collect pilot data in advance of a conference deadline, so we'll ship samples off to a collaborator tomorrow. Last week I did a good job of making it to the boathouse on all four of my intended mornings, and I want to keep that up this week, so I kicked off the week with a trip to the gym this morning. That meant packing breakfast, lunch, and dinner to eat at the lab.

And with that, time to get back to working on my job application materials.

4-3-2-1 [boat babble]

A training plan is beginning to take form. Up until now, I've been sitting in bow. Saturday morning, we tried switching places to see what would happen. Things felt equally good with me sitting in stern, although I suspect I'm slightly more prone to reverting to bad habits if sitting in stroke seat. On the flipside, sitting in stroke means I can concentrate on rowing and power application and not lose speed due to steering. We'll try this arrangement again next Thursday, and will then switch back one more time next Saturday, and after all that we'll make a decision and stick with it.

These last two practices have been good on multiple fronts. M is of the opinion that it's best if we each keep continuing to work on our own in the 1x, and I think she's right. Twice a week in the double should give us enough time rowing together to keep smoothing out the rough edges, but the more days on the water the better. Saturday morning, we did 3 sets of 10-minute pieces - I guess I should call them ladders - and we could tell that we had a mixture of really good strokes where we were moving the boat effectively but also some strokes where our power application wasn't as connected or consistent as we'd like. Room for improvement.

The 10-minute pieces are in my box of "practice classics" for head-racing season. They consist of four segments: 4 minutes rowing at a moderate stroke rate (24 or 26 spm), 3 minutes at 26/28, 2 minutes at 28/30, and 1 minute at 30/32. The goal is to maintain power and stroke length while bringing the stroke rating up to race pace. We rowed pretty comfortably and consistently at 30 spm last Thursday during practice race pieces with the Serious Double, but I haven't done a tremendous amount of work at race pace, so these practice pieces were good for building up to race pace and pressure.

There was one slight caveat: the stroke coach which we rummaged up from a bin in the boathouse never registered with the magnet under my seat. So we don't actually know if those were our stroke ratings. But we at least were able to use M's watch as a timer and brought the rate up at the appropriate intervals. Our final minute at a 32 also felt pretty good.

I'm looking forward to having more tools at my disposal for monitoring stroke rate and speed during practices. The blue Hudson doesn't have anything set up for this at all at the moment. S of the Old Man Double gave me some tips on two potential smartphone apps, one for the iPhone called Ritmo Time and one for Android phones called Boat Coach. However, he cautioned me that the GPS quality in smartphones means they don't provide as accurate of speed information over short distances as the SpeedCoach GPS can. The SpeedCoach GPS might make the most sense in the long term, but it also costs $400, so it's on the list of boat/accoutrements to acquire. But then M mentioned that she has a spare SpeedCoach bracket because she's upgraded to the SpeedCoach GPS, so I might just be able to install the bracket in the blue Hudson and use an older SpeedCoach that dichroic gave to me a while back.

So many fiddly bits.

On the subject of fiddly bits, though, I should make a mental note to do some measurements on the Pocock 2x and various oars. I am thinking of asking the Serious Double if they'll let me test-row a pair of their Dreher lollipop oars and share their rigging numbers with me. They said they time-trialed the lollipops against the current state-of-the-art Concept2 oars and the goofy-looking Drehers were significantly faster. So far I have just been borrowing a set of club oars, which are currently set with a shorter inboard and longer outboard, but of course the appropriate adjustment also depends on the boat's spread.

The wooden Pocock 1x has much wider spread than the blue Hudson, and I'm not sure I've checked the spread on the blue Hudson, nor do I know the spread on the Pocock 2x. In the very least at least the blue Hudson has even spread, unlike the red Hudson. Someone else kept resetting the red Hudson's spread back to something weirdly uneven because they probably didn't realize the whole (replacement) rigger is uneven. Ahh, the joys of club boats.

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Overscheduled

I am thinking I want to avoid using the word "busy" because it is often used in vague ways. Maybe "overscheduled" is a better descriptor, as it captures some of that sensation K and I used to talk about when doing that mental calculation to the next time we would be able to sleep and relax. It also touches on something scrottie emphasizes as important: having unscheduled and flexible time available to allocate to various different things and priorities that can come up.

As such: I'm feeling the pressure. We're starting the next phase of the circadian metabolism experiment. Meanwhile, I am about to start applying for academic jobs again, with all the writing that entails. My collaborator on the cricket feeding experiment is currently out doing fieldwork, so I'm carrying the ball for that project. Weekends are starting to look like this:

Saturday: Get up, pack lunch, go to lab, go to boathouse and row, pants-shop (time permitting), back to lab, run circadian experiment, eat lunch, do feeding experiment tasks, get home at ~7 pm.

Sunday: SLEEP IN + chores + cook breakfasts for the week, Scrabble with S, free sailing lessons, do feeding experiment tasks, get home whenever those are done.

There's not much room left for doing much of anything with the garden produce abundance. I also know that when I have full days, I am tired and unmotivated to do much of anything in the evenings.

Notes to self [rowing]

-Add a pair of spare socks to the tool-pannier again.

I used to carry around spare socks and underwear in Texas, but I changed tactics here and forgot how helpful they can be.

Instead, today the socks and the shoes I wore to the boathouse are drying in the lab drying oven. Fortunately the socks are thin and will dry quickly. Also fortunately I keep a spare pair of shoes at the lab.

After all, as they say, contrary to popular belief, rowing is a water sport.

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I have started trying to take the hilly route home as often as I can. Cranking up the hill is somewhat cathartic, plus there are only two traffic lights at the very end instead of the 10 or so along the flat route. It takes me about 20 minutes to go up, and about 5 or 6 minutes to go back down, so the total time is also comparable to the flat route. And it just seemed like a good way to squeeze in a bit more consistent exercise.

Last week I took the hilly route 4 out of 5 days. I'm on track for 4 of 5 days this week, too.

View from the cemetery on the downhill section:
Sunset Cemetery view

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Part of the motivation is getting ready in earnest for the head racing season. M and I are arranging things to row together twice a week, on Thursdays and Saturdays, starting this morning. We're going to do a half-marathon race over Labor Day weekend in Petaluma (maybe next year I'll do the full?), then possibly the Tail of the Lake in Seattle in early October, then the Head of the Charles because M is going to be in Boston anyway, then hopefully the Head of the Lake in Seattle again in early November. That's a satisfyingly full docket, although it will be a lot to stay on top of while keeping afloat with experiments and job applications. This morning's workout made it clear that the two of us will be able to keep the boat going at a decent clip over a head racing distance, which is reassuring. There are a lot of things to suss out when rowing with someone new, but I'm continuing to think that rowing with M will help make me a better rower overall, and we're reasonably compatible.

As we got off the water, with respect to regatta plans, J said, "So, some people view races as a stick. Other people view them as a carrot - a reward to aim for. As for me, I like to think of them as a donut."

Having events lined up keeps me motivated to get out and practice consistently, which makes me more emotionally balanced and satisfied in the long run. I continue to be grateful to have such a good gang of rowers to hang out with at the BPRC.
Intellectually, I have come a long ways in the past year and a half. It's a relief to be able to look back and see that as I revise my research statement. I'm incredibly grateful to both TZ and CMW for their roles in getting me to this point.

On the other hand, I need to get two manuscripts submitted this fall: the leafcutter one, and the next cricket one. I also need to get 1-2 more cricket manuscripts ready to go shortly thereafter.

Oh, there are also the ongoing feeding and oxidation experiments.

Almost every day, though, I'm aware of how fortunate I am to be able to do this kind of good work.

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