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Solo Row

It was challenging to get up and out this morning, but I made myself do it.

None of the usual suspects were at the BAP. The Serious Double, P, and Old Man Double are all in Boston getting ready for the Head of the Charles this weekend. The water was glass-flat. I had the BAP completely to myself.

I took out the Kaschper because the blue Hudson is still drying out in advance of stern compartment repairs. The Kaschper is rigged higher and it took a while to get comfortable in it, but eventually I got back to a point where I could do a couple of hard power 10's.

Today I should order one of those Stroke Coach GPS units so I can start to structure my workouts better. After that, I think I want to time-trial some boats and oars. Maybe a 2x2 experiment: Kaschper vs. blue Hudson, Concept2 vs. Dreher oars. To be fully fair, I think I should do back-to-back pieces and reverse the equipment test order on subsequent practice days.

This is the best time of year for the project. In November, I'll tackle the Holiday Challenge by working my way through some of the marathon training program. It's almost time to start making race plans for 2017, and I'll aim to make it as good year as I can. All the better if I can mix things up with some 2x races in addition to the 1x.


Deeper thinking

One of the questions that I have been practicing asking myself lately is, "What is the broader significance of this finding?"

I find it challenging to draw myself back out to the level of generalities. In the leafcutter literature, it seems to me like there are a lot of cases where people don't bother trying to do this. It's a matter of getting stuck in the specific mechanisms at hand.

TZ is much better-practiced at this art. In some respects, that's just a product of having experience working in the same system for a long time. But to some extent it has probably also been a product of having spent a lot of time thinking about his field of interest (life-history evolution), and only subsequently picking a specific study system within that field.

In that respect, my story has been more convoluted because I got into the study of social insects based on an interest in network systems. My initial argument was simple: social insects are useful because they're easier to manipulate than many other kinds of network systems. Then, of course, I had to learn a tremendous amount about social evolution and nutrition and a bunch of other nonsense.

But think, for example, about trying to manipulate nutrition in a developing brain. I've been sitting in on a seminar led by a researcher who has been interested in how nutrition in the brain intersects with recovery prospects for traumatic brain injury patients. Very challenging to study, but with obvious rewards. It's funny, though, because he's neatly back in the category of "this is useful because direct human benefits," whereas I'm happier working in a more purely theoretical context.

Anyway. I have just sent the current Leafcutter Manuscript of Doom back over to my Ph.D. advisor. I hope she can give it an extremely thorough going-over. One can hope. Otherwise, it's probably time for me to set it down for a while and work on other things where my energy and ideas feel more fresh.

Finding quiet

I must thank moodyduck for introducing me to mynoise.net as a white-noise generator.

Most recently, I've been listening to "Cave Chime," which is generated from the sounds made by (gently!) hitting stalactites of different sizes. It's useful for feeding my enjoyment of percussive sounds.
I had a Skype interview yesterday for a faculty job, and the mental video reel keeps replaying over and over in my head. There are several aspects of how it went that left me feeling dissatisfied, which is not a good sign. Since I can't have a do-over for yesterday, it seems like it will be more productive to write out some points so I will hopefully be better prepared next time (assuming there is a next time, but let's not dwell on that).

They wanted to know why I was considering a place that only offers up to Master's degrees, not PhDs. My message was garbled, but what I should have said is that I consider broader scientific education to be a higher priority than training people to the highest level. By some metrics, PhDs are overproduced.

Related to that - I should have asked more specific questions about recruiting and supporting Master's students instead of the vague, open-ended, negative question I asked at the end.

Lastly, when they asked about space and resource needs for research, I needed to say more about my stable isotope and radioisotope work.


But time to stand up, dust myself off, and move on.

Hello there, Monday

I managed to get myself to the boathouse this morning, in advance of what is going to be a long day (9 pm circadian timepoint). However, as I removed my bicycle from the bike garage this morning, I managed to both roll my bike through and step in some dog poo because it's dark by the garage doors and I generally don't bother to turn lights on. Yargh.

Some dog or another likes to poop right there about once a month. Part of me wants to collect up the feces into a pile right next to the sidewalk along with a sign that says, "We're sick and tired of this shit!"

But I probably won't do that. Too many other projects that are more important/worthwhile.

After griping about pants both here and on Facebook, a good friend of mine from the Arizona days offered to send along some of her hand-me-down pants. She and I are the same size and this was also a great excuse to catch up a bit. So that was comforting.

Ordered pants

I finally ordered two pairs of pants from eBay. Unlike most other retailers eBay will not start sending me catalogues. The downside is that as soon as the current pants all wear out, I can't continue to get the exact same pants.

Pants-shopping makes me angry. Over a month ago, I tried going to the nearby Goodwill, and found about 10 pairs to try on after looking through around 80 pairs. None of them were any good, and I left empty-handed.

Other recent pants purchases have gone as follows:

1. I had a pair of Lee brand gray herringbone pants I liked quite a bit. I ordered what should have been an identical replacement pair, but the manufacturing standards were much lower for the second pair (flimsy waistband in particular). So now I am nervous about wearing them too often because they are going to wear out prematurely.

2. I tried ordering three pairs of pants from Docker. Two pairs were the wrong size (one case was not my fauly), and the fit of the third pair looked terrible. I returned all three pairs, at the cost of time spent shopping and shipping fees.

3. I ordered some light-blue Lee capris pants off of eBay. They are too light in color (=prone to showing the dirt and stains), and the stitching is disintegrating in one spot (so far). They are currently the most intact pants I own.

In the past, I used to wind up wasting entire afternoons pants-shopping because I would try on a series of pants and: nothing would fit correctly, the price tag would be too high, and/or the fabric and fabrication quality would be garbage. A lot of this is due to how fast fashion happens in the US. I would be happy to support companies that offer good alternatives. For example, I might switch to buying things from Patagonia if I can determine whether their pants will actually fit me.

By extension, it is also difficult to find high-quality fabrics in fabric stores in the US. Unless you go to a specialty yarn shop, most of the common offerings are rubbish as well.

Many of these factors may be why REI basically turned into a clothing retailer.

Rainy day commute

It hasn't rained here since, what, March or so? Well, the remnants of that tropical typhoon finally landed here this morning. It started to rain with light but steady drops just as we finished breakfast.

My rain-game is way off. I managed to convince myself to change into spandex shorts, but I should have changed out my shirt as well. The Showers Pass jacket kept off most of the water, but not all of it. At least I don't need to look especially presentable today.

I should also double-bag my backpack. Water got through the bottom of the Arkel pannier and lightly soaked the bottom of the backpack. The corner of my journal is ever so slightly damp.

Days like this make me grateful for my rowing habits and the fact that I generally schlep around a ridiculous amount of gear. I have to budget a bit of extra time, but I have the routine down for changing clothes at work. The gear serves its purpose.

The rain brought a LOT of grime to the surface on the roadways.


The problem with getting a brief taste of freedom is that then my ambitions run wild and I want to finish ALL THE PROJECTS.

Thus, this morning, I decided it was time to finish transplanting the vanilla bean orchid.

Vanilla bean orchid staked

That is a heavy-duty wooden stake wrapped in moss. scrottie kept joking about how he wasn't sure whether I got a sufficiently sturdy stake for the orchid. Vanilla bean orchids are vines that like high high high humidity, so I wanted to get this little vine transplanted ASAP to keep it happy.

I like the mossy aroma, but it also kind of makes me want to do some crazy and massive moss-themed redecorating. I guess that's what they say about taking the Pacific Northwesterner out of the PNW. From a bus poem: moss grows on the north side of our bones.


The taillight that was a cast-off from scrottie (Princeton Tec Swerve) must have decided to pop off on Tuesday after jury duty. I had no great fondness for it other than that it was free, but that left me with only the solid, kinda dim light mounted to the rack of the Jolly Roger, plus one of those dinky Planet Bike Spok lights that runs on a (surprise surprise) CR2032 battery. The Spok is fine as a backup, but not as a primary taillight because it doesn't use rechargeable batteries.

So I stopped by the local bike shop and got another one of those Planet Bike SuperFlashes. Also a CygoLite Expilion 720.

I've had a CygoLite for a while as one of my two headlights. It was also a castoff from S. Whenever I go over bumps, it flickers on and off, suggesting loose wiring somewhere. It also spontaneously turns itself on, so I can't leave it on the bike or it runs down its battery (also, theft).

On the other hand, I've basically tried to destroy it, and it refuses to die completely. The mounting bracket has also held up to years of abuse (at least 5 or 6 years by now). So I am hopeful that the replacement will actually serve me well. In addition, the battery from the old CygoLite fits in the new one. And maybe I can return the previous generation light to the company and grump about it.


So, that's two miscellaneous to-do items checked off the list.

But seriously, pants.

Well then.

Today I have jury duty, in Martinez, CA. I have already griped to my sister, scrottie, and the good people of Facebookland about what a nuisance it is to trek out to Martinez from El Cerrito given that I don't own a car. Apparently one can opt out of jury duty if one demonstrates undue transport hardship (i.e. mapped out total one-way travel time greater than 90 minutes), but of course the transit time for me via bike + 2 bus transfers squeaks in just under this total. I left home at 7 am, rode to the El Cerrito Plaza del Norte transit stop, then the second bus got me here.

I don't mind the waiting. Theoretically it's a chance to work on computer-based tasks. In practice, they started playing a movie or something at high volume right above the only desk spaces by the window. So instead I'm in the hallway, listening to the banging containers at the x-ray and at the edge of someone's personal fragrance cloud. Marginally better.

While I am waiting, I worked on the annoying battery acquisition situation. I appreciate all of the thoughts and tips. I resigned myself to placing a single Amazonia order this time around because I could not manage to easily track down any other sources offering both the CR2032 and LR41 batteries, and in retail stores they typically sell for at least 4 times the price as online. Hopefully the Amazonia honor the checkbox asking for things to be grouped into as few shipments as possible. You'd think those Locker pick-up spots would be a nice alternative, but for two things: the closest ones are apparently "full," and the end cost for shipping and handling is nearly identical. In case that's something you have ever wondered about.

Maybe I should just tackle the pants situation next.

Things that plague me


I have several devices that require those CR2032 coin button batteries.

I have a tiny flashlight that takes those LR41 watch batteries.

I *hate* dealing with packaging and shipping. In other words, I would be satisfied if I bought packages of both battery types and they showed up in a single shipment.

Where should I shop? Or do I just eBay and deal with the nuisance?

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