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Warm fuzzies

This has been a wonderful meeting for catching up with tons of folks, most especially old friends from grad school.

It has also been great to hear what the new crop of students is up to at ASU.

Then there are sweet things like all of the insect art and jewelry at the insect expo, and of course so many talks about awesome science that one person can't keep up with everything.

My smart-o-phone's camera is still terrible, but hopefully you can read a bit of the text from this thing I found:
Howto for an insect collection

Howto for an insect collection

...a beginner's guide to making an insect collection. Perhaps you know someone who would love the encouragement.

Social Insect Socializing

Full day of talks today.

I set my smart-o-phone for a 6:30 am alarm, to have plenty of time to get up, make coffee, eat breakfast, then head over to the hotel for the pre-conference conference of the North American Section of the International Union for the Study of Social Insects (NAS-IUSSI).

I woke up at 7:20, in a panic because I was so late.

I made it to the first part of the meeting on time, but in my panic I forgot to bring my poster with me. So I had to miss an hour of talks to go back to the hotel and get it.

Other than that, it was wonderful to see so many friendly faces, old and new, and to hear about all the different kinds of questions people are asking and addressing in social insects.

It also makes me glad, though, to be doing a mixture of work in solitary and social insects. Working just with social insects is a bit too insular, methinks.


Florida notes [transportation]

I flew on Frontier Airlines, an Airbus of some sort. It is true that the seats are extremely close together and don't recline. I didn't mind that quite as much as I'd feared, although I didn't get anything resembling particularly good sleep. The non-recline aspect means less interactions with passengers fore and aft, which I appreciate. And given how much fuel airplanes burn, it seems like a good thing to maximize fuel economy where possible by filling planes as full of people as possible (assuming that translates into higher fuel efficiency per passenger). Also, if it's a sufficiently unpleasant experience maybe more people will be motivated to try out other, better modes of travel, like trains.

When I landed, I went in search of the city bus. The system here is called the Lynx. It was confusing to find at first, because there are hundreds and millions of Disney buses and other exotic resort vacation carriages festooning the various airport entrances, but eventually I found the city buses.

I was going to take the bus to the Convention Center and then walk the rest of the way to the La Quinta, but in some respects this part of Florida makes Texas look laughably compact. At least there are sidewalks everywhere.

In addition to the city buses, there are these "i-Ride Trolley" things that must be run by the tourism bureau or something to help ferry people around without clogging the roadways. I was pleased to see them but it's weird to see them using the same stops as the city bus, with people refusing to get on the city buses (cost the same and cover similar routes). That's America for you, though.

I had thought I'd made reservations at the La Quinta closer to the Convention Center, but it turned out my reservations are at one that's another mile away. So I may be using those trolleys and buses slightly more than I'd thought.

Time for a nap.

Breathe in, breathe out


Went to an exciting and awesome departmental seminar on "Food webs and invasion dynamics in the Drosophila gut microbiome" by someone in the Molecular and Cellular Biology Department here. Apparently there are 5 main bacterial species that live in fruit fly guts, and they're aerobic and culturable, so they're a phenomenal microcosm for studying a wide range of questions.

Then I decided to get all-of-a-sudden nervous about my practice talk for the conference next week. That said, the lab has given me some great constructive feedback to work with, so my talk will be a lot better than the practice talk was. That's the purpose of practice talks, right?

I am looking forward to having some snippets of quiet time while I travel. I have a lot of work to work on during those snippets. I'm going to bring along my giant headphones.

Time to get lab stuff wrapped up.

Two things making me cackle with glee

My mood flipped yesterday and I don't entirely know why. Maybe because I'm reaching the point where finalization is inevitable for certain things, like printing my conference poster and departing for the conference?

Regardless - two things are making me cackle with glee today:

1. This morning, scrottie and I had some initial discussion about plans for Thanksgiving. We have decided to have Thanksgiving on a Boat - his sailboat, specifically. Hmm, I don't know if it has a name, but if it doesn't, I'm pretty sure I am obliged to call it Princess TinyBoat. I'm sure there are plenty of remaining details to work out (inviting other folks, etc), but just the notion of Thanksgiving on a Boat gives me something fun to look forward to.

Updated to add: It's called "Free Spirit," which is a generic and dumb name, so I will still nickname it Princess TinyBoat, even though S points out it's not so tiny...

2. I have a new minion who is awesome. I want to get her to run enzyme assays. She just finished taking biochemistry and is super excited about putting all her arcane knowledge to immediate use. This is a phenomenal development.

Still overscheduled

The downside of working through the evening is that it interferes with sleep, every single time. I can't tell if my broken sleep and strange dreams last night were productive or not, but I can tell you that poor sleep caused me to miss my morning of PT exercises, stretching, and strength training today. These days I am using rowing as my mental break from academics, along with snatches of time for cooking and garden chores. More sedentary activities just make me too anxious.

I missed Tour de Fat San Francisco on Saturday. I had already committed to going rowing in the morning with M, so the day was sandwiched between that and having to go to the lab in the afternoon for daily feeding experiment duties.

Here's a Twitter thread on being an isolated academic. These things are often on my mind, although I'm not in nearly as desperate of circumstances as this person is. I *do* know that my current pace is not long-term sustainable. It feels more like how things feel during the middle of a busy academic semester.

I need to look at job applications as something that I ratchet my way through, not something that I sprint through. One click at a time, steadily moving forward. Second application submitted last night. Time to look ahead to the next set. There are a couple of positions in the next set that would be AWESOME.
Step 1: Find ads. Note deadlines. Organize spreadsheet and decide whether or not to apply.

Step 2: Work on individual applications. For each application, look up info about the department so as to re-tailor materials to specifics of job ad description and department interests.

Step 3: Start individual online application process for individual application. Discover, partway through, that some totally random piece of information is needed. Hunt down the random information.

Step 4: Submit application. Send copies of materials in highly-organized format to reference letter writers, thanking them profusely yet again for writing reference letters for you.

Step 5: Wait several months without hearing anything.

The academic job hiring cycle is annual: ads come out in the summer and early fall up through around January for positions that generally start the following fall. Good luck getting other employment options to line up with that timeline!


Meanwhile, in the garden. sytharin has been out of town on vacation, so it has been up to scrottie and me to harvest and cook as much as we can. Here was last week's harvest:

Weekly garden harvest

That's a plant pot full of the Black Prince tomatoes. A-plus, would grow again. That bucket got turned mostly into ketchup.

The cucumbers are more challenging to use up. I finally took some time yesterday to turn a bunch of the pickling cucumbers into refrigerator pickles:

Cucumber problem (halfway) solved

Today I picked a two-thirds plant pot of tomatoes and used them plus that giant cucumber (size of my foot!) to make another batch of cucumber pico de gallo. So, only three medium-large slicing cucumbers left to deal with for now.

Tomato production is starting to wind down, for the Black Princes, at least. There are a couple other varieties in the backyard that look like they're just starting to pick up, but the plants aren't as crazily overgrown as the Black Prince plants, so the net haul won't be as large. Oh - scrottie picked about a gallon of cherry tomatoes, too. I think we're doing all right with tomatoes for the year.

Piano benches are like bike saddles

The piano bench showed up Wednesday night, but I was too dead to do anything with it until last night.

It's a cheap bench, but it is already eighty hojillion times better than the jury-rigged situation I had previously. As a bonus, all my piano books fit neatly inside (although this is where its cheapness is apparent; the storage space is small).

I can't promise that I'll play more frequently now. It makes me just a little sad whenever I'm in a phase where I can acquire something that will improve some situation at home, but then I don't have the time or energy to actually put that thing to use. Like buying my cat a nice perch but then not coming home in time to snuggle her.


At some point a week or two ago, my sister declared that we had planted too many tomato plants.

We've only just begun to make ketchup out of them! And we don't have a full years' supply of salsa yet. That's mostly because salsa takes more work to prepare.

I need to mix up some brine for refrigerator pickles. The cucumbers are still out of control.

In case this is ever useful to you: the teeny-tiny half-cup Mason jars fit inside of the wide-mouth quart-size Mason jars. This makes it possible to use the tiny Mason jars as weights to keep stuff submerged in brine. If stuff (e.g. peppers) are completely submerged in the brine, they will undergo anaerobic lactic acid fermentation. Some mold may form on the surface, but you can generally skim that off and eat the stuff underneath just fine.

Note to self: read more about fermented ketchup options.

Breathing [work update]

Fun and rewarding stuff:

I'm attending two conferences in Florida at the end of the month. The main one is the International Congress of Entomology, held every four years. The previous Congress was held in South Korea, and I was lucky to get to attend it thanks to the grant that funded my work in Texas and Nebraska.

Orlando is a slightly less exciting destination. On the flipside, I'll give a talk about some of the cricket work from Nebraska, on amino acid metabolism in the context of nutrition and the cricket life history trade-off between flight and reproduction. Yesterday I finally had a few minutes to revisit the book Protein Turnover, which is mammal-focused but has a great chapter covering amino acid metabolism. I'm looking forward to making progress on the Nebraska work.

The second conference is a day-long satellite meeting of the North American Section of the International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI-NAS).

Things could get weird at the IUSSI-NAS meeting. There's a researcher from another group who did some fairly slapdash but high-profile studies on nutrition in a primitive fungus-growing species, who will be giving a talk about his findings. Another grad student from my PhD lab and I (=academic siblings) are both going to present on our work with desert leafcutter ants, in which we've come to a different set of conclusions via different means. We're going to keep the emphasis on high-quality science and insights that can apply to systems beyond fungus-growing ants. I also hope to have the associated manuscript finally off my desk by around the time the meeting rolls around. It still needs a couple more days of hiding in the library and intense concentration.

Other than that, there's not a whole lot going on (as scrottie would say, I'm being boring). Rowing has been helpful for taking my mind off of academic concerns, but the academic matters are pressing and are still keeping me busy at the moment. I always hold on to some optimism that things will settle down in a month or so, but I don't know how realistic that optimism is. I may just need to be even more proactive about managing my time and priorities to ensure I leave time and space for life outside of academic work.


Ka-whump [rowing]

Can I just say again, how grateful I am for the wonderful people out here? This morning, I managed to deactivate the bed magnets and made it to the boathouse for a Tuesday morning workout in the 1x. The Serious Double has helped maintain the training agenda as they gear up for the Head of the Charles, and this time of year they apparently alternate between hard weeks and easy weeks. Last week was an easy week, so by extrapolation you can guess that this morning was not so easy: 48 minutes of intervals, total.

It's nice enough having the double kick my butt, but in addition P has been showing up, in her single, and she and I are just about the exact same speed. The Serious Double had to get off the water in time for Iz to catch the 8 am train, but P and I stuck it out to finish the second set of intervals (first set: 22 minutes of 90 seconds hard, 30 seconds paddle; second set: 45 seconds hard, 15 seconds paddle). There's no substitute for having another boat right next to you, pushing you to keep going until the very end of the last piece.

Helps make up for having had a fairly lazy Monday morning (from an exercise standpoint), where all I did was an ab workout and some physical therapy exercises for my shoulders.

I love it - all of it. The BAP is small, but we make good use of the water. It's a permissive environment, meaning that the people and place foster opportunities to get better and faster.

I thrive in permissive environments. But then again, so do most people. I think that's at the heart of this post on boosting student confidence, too:

Thursday will be race pieces, in the 2x with M. Probably two 5ks - the standard head racing distance. Hopefully we can keep up with the Serious Double. M and I had a great practice on Saturday morning, and the work in the double has been helping me find more speed in general, so we just have to find that groove and stay in it.


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