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Much busy. Very running.

A friend of mine from Texas, who now lives in Georgia, came out for a visit this past weekend. She's a ferocious Scrabble player, but we only managed to fit in a single game, and scrottie trounced us all!

It was very stressful to try and arrange for sight-seeing for an out-of-town visitor on top of needing to make it in to the lab to keep an ongoing feeding experiment running, especially because the feeding experiment is so labor-intensive it generally takes two of us to run. The grad student who is also working on it has been very gracious about my tardiness on Saturday and Sunday, and my running away in haste on Friday afternoon.

I have other thoughts and stories, but they'll have to wait. I'm still trying to push on a second experiment because it NEEDS to get rolling NOW so we don't run out of time at the end of July.

We did make it to the 20th Century Cafe for hot butterscotch. It was more amazing than I'd anticipated. Not over-sweet. I need to figure out how to make it at home.
Here are some things about living in the Bay Area that a person should contemplate in advance of moving here, and which are a good part of why I wasn't especially excited about living in this area.

People associate California with good produce. However, the population in the Bay Area is so large and urbanized that it takes just as much work to suss out good sources of good produce here as it takes in rural Texas. There are fake farmstands, for instance, which sell the same sort of stuff you'll find in grocery stores, all trucked in from the Central Valley and marked up because that's what people will pay for it. You can get nice stuff at the downtown Berkeley farmer's market, but you'll pay an arm, a leg, and maybe another leg again for it. You can get pretty good organic produce, but don't expect it to be anything special beyond what's grown in California's Central Valley for the national organic produce industry. Back to the problem of stuff that ships well but has no flavor.

Peaches. After some trial and error, I have actually found some pretty tasty peaches, which seems like a small miracle. They aren't any better than the delicious U-pick peaches in Arizona, or the delicious peaches in Washington state, and they aren't cheap. I suspect that peach quality is strongly affected by water availability and orchard watering regimes, and that these haven't been anywhere near optimal in this part of California during the drought years (ongoing). Also, like good raspberries and strawberries, good peaches don't travel well.

There's also the general fact that the East Bay, downtown Oakland excepted, is a suburb with a huge number of people packed into it. Dense suburb, I suppose. Not an oxymoron after all. As with Portland, there are a lot of people living here who wish to cling to and pursue a certain quality of life. That carries with it some good elements, like the corner where Monterey Market, Berkeley Horticulture, and the cheese shop can all hang on. The downside is that this area just wasn't built for this many people. It was built to be a sleepy suburb. So the roads are choked, the public transportation is choked, the bike path is busy, and the stores are choked. Restaurants and coffeeshops have to rely on high volumes of people to stay in business, so they're set up to get you in and out. There are a lot of restless Californians waiting in lines everywhere, and it seems like there are both Californian and Asian influences at play. From what I understand, in most Asian countries people are pretty accustomed to dealing with being packed into spaces, so there aren't as many niceties as people shove into you or past you, and there's a general feeling of impatience. At least drivers generally have to pay attention because there's so much going on on the roads. I still see a frightening level of absurd traffic maneuvers.

At least the produce from our backyard garden is phenomenal, and it's a nice, peaceful space. Suburbs still aren't my ideal, however.

Keep moving

I'm getting some whiplash from going back and forth between projects and tasks.

scrottie joined me for some stadium benches yesterday. Here's what the benches look like:

Stadium benches at UC Berkeley

Due to some miscommunication, we met up after I had already worked my way down to the far end (~18 sets of benches). So I continued and worked my way back to the beginning. I walked, while S ran and got in as many repeats as he could in the available time. Walking instead of running meant I still managed to pry myself out of bed to go rowing this morning.

It was windy, and nobody else was at the boathouse when I arrived. Iz showed up just as I went to put the blue Hudson on the water, so I wound up a lap ahead of her. I mostly did a bunch of legs-only rowing to work on more effective catches. I need to keep practicing that but it felt like I made some progress. It took some mental effort to get myself to complete all 3 laps.

Tomorrow, a friend of mine from Texas is coming to town for a visit. I'm excited and also nervous because the visit will be time-consuming.

Crickants II: The mind, it races

Yesterday: drew up a preliminary "graphical abstract" for manuscript on the verge of submission, led lab meeting discussion of awesome but complex local adaptation paper, did daily feeding experiment chores, got crickets set up to start the real deal for circadian experiments. I thought I might escape early, but I was so wrong. When I got home, I made pizza, bread, and muesli, and then it was time for bed. We didn't cook anything that generated leftovers last weekend, which is reminding me about how stressful it can get when I need to cook during the week, especially when I don't even get home until 7:30 pm. I should cook up a big vat of pasta with vegetables, and another big vat of lentils and rice, and I should freeze a bunch of the lentils and rice for quick meals.

Other things on the agenda: I want to update my website. It's showing its age, and I think it needs more visual elements. Part of the website update will be updates to my research statement, teaching statement, and CV. I'm actually excited about updating my research statement, as CW helped point out one major thing that should help bring it together. She also suggested working on my elevator speech, and she's right about that as well.

I need to keep pushing on the leafcutter manuscript, too.

Do any of you have good experiences with small solar chargers? I want to bring along a Jambox on RAGBRAI at the end of the month, but its battery only lasts 1 day before it needs a recharge, as we learned on the STP.

Hmm, I should also see about getting a new front basket for the Jolly Roger before RAGBRAI.

Crickants on the brain

Yesterday: polished figures for a paper that's almost ready for submission (yay!). Read the article for the discussion I'm leading today (dense.). Tended crickets for the ongoing feeding experiment (long.). Cooked pad thai, made too much bread dough (half will go to pizza for dinner tonight), made yogurt, washed the dishes, and went to bed.

I considered going rowing this morning, but my hands still felt tender from Sunday. On Sunday, someone else was using my preferred set of oars with the green grips, so I used a different set with blue grips instead, and got an extensive fresh set of blisters. Maybe I should try rowing tomorrow morning. If I do, I will need to figure out something to eat for breakfast at the lab.

I need to wrap things up on the leafcutter manuscript before the next stage of the circadian experiment starts to really heat up, next week.
sytharin and I went out to visit the Three Bears on Saturday morning. Towards the beginning of the ride, she remarked that it was probably the first long ride she'd done since the Seattle-to-Portland last summer. It felt good to stretch my legs on the hills, and it was especially nice to do the ride with functioning brakes. The hills are steep enough that I wasn't comfortable descending at full speed with non-functional brakes a couple weekends ago.

By the time we got home, I had enough time to sit on the couch for a minute and take a shower before it was time to swing by Monterey Market and then head in to the lab. On the weekends, Monterey Market gets so busy that the restocking staff can't keep up with demand, and often they also completely run out of things like carrots or mushrooms. So it was that I bought a full gallon jug of milk instead of two cartons (cartons are easier to store in our fridge and are useful containers for tossing out litterbox waste).

Saturday night we had a ravioli feast to carb-reload after the bicycling.

Sunday morning, I went rowing with M, which was great. We aren't a total natural fit, but we can both tell that, with some work, we can get a double moving along nicely. M is going to be in Boston over the weekend of the Head of the Charles anyway, so we're going to just go ahead and put in a 2x entry, and, failing that, probably a Director's 4x entry. So, that should be fun. I'm in charge of scoping out head races in Seattle as well, given that we both have interests in going to Seattle to visit our families and friends.

I had a small window of free time after that, so I finally managed to make progress on a couple of small projects. I've had a pile of various rowing-related items sitting on my desk, and finally got those organized into a binder so that things like training programs and rowing humor should be readily accessible. I also rearranged the artwork on the wall behind the bed, and am tremendously pleased with the outcome:

Art gallery update

And now it's time for another busy week of cricket research. Things are going to remain intense for a while as experiments heat up in addition to a friend's upcoming visit next weekend...
The early stages of getting an undergraduate set up on a project require a lot of hands-on time. I am trying to get one working on quantifying enzyme activities, starting from the square one of "Prepare a solution with this molarity." The initial time investment is challenging when I have so many other things competing for time and attention, and when I need to revisit the list of enzymes to figure out which one will be the cheapest starting point.

Aside from enzyme activities:

-Leafcutter manuscript revisions (it's working! It's going to get shipped off somewhere, although of course I'll need to sink a whole bunch more time into it first).
-Gearing up for the start of the circadian experiments
-Final pieces of the cricket video project setup (it's getting so close!)
-Last-instar feeding project heating up
-Revising and polishing job application materials + website (Have I mentioned recently how much I appreciate my current boss? She's being a tremendous help on this front!)
-Data analysis for Nebraska feeding experiments and the first round here
+ I will be leading article discussion at lab meeting next Tuesday


At home, P has been gently nudging me to participate in the backyard ceramics venture. I gave in last night and tried throwing with some of the recycled clay. Centering the clay on a kick wheel is more challenging than on a motorized wheel, but then the actual throwing is easier at its slower, more controlled speeds. The recycled clay was starting to get too sticky, and had a couple of bad air bubbles because I didn't wedge it quite enough. I also didn't have a clear idea of what I wanted to throw, so in the end I just put everything back on the plaster table again.

When I have so many things going on at work, I'm not that motivated to do much at home. Throwing also made me miss Bridget. I really need to quilt first, before getting back into ceramics.

We visited Caffe Trieste this morning. I suspect that something about their coffee caused immediate gastrointestinal distress, which makes me sad because the cafe itself was a welcome break from recent weeks of boutique-feeling establishments.

Caffe Trieste

Caffe Trieste


I took the year off from applying for academic jobs last year. I just couldn't stomach it, and was way too busy with experiments to have the gumption and energy.

I've also felt like, to some degree, I haven't had a clear picture of my desired trajectory. I've had a couple of discussions about this with my current boss, and the thing is, she is 100% great. Last week she said, "I think you and I should go over your job application materials soon," so we made an appointment to do so and she said to send her copies regardless of their current state. Spending those 9 months working with TZ was also pivotal. I have moved in some very positive directions.

I still struggle with confidence, but at the same time I feel like I am in a much better position now to go for it. I've been able to spend more time thinking here, and reading some key pieces of the scientific literature. Getting to work with stable isotopes is also nicely rounding out my scientific toolbox to the point where I am feeling like I have the skills I need to move forward with the systems I want to study.

I'm going to take it as a good omen that a job ad for an awesome job also just appeared in my e-mail inbox. LET'S DO THIS.

Also, as J said yesterday, "If I waited until I was completely ready before I did anything, I would never get anything done."


I am just going to put a couple of things here instead of on other social media venues because this seems like a better place for productive conversation.

After hearing about the horrible bike crash in Kalamazoo last week that killed 5 cyclists, I got to wondering again about where automobile crashes sit on the list of preventable causes of death.

The Wikipedia page provides some perspective, although it contains a note that the chart for the US is very much out-of-date. There's some additional information in a more recent CDC report (pdf), where automobile crashes are lumped into the category of "Unintentional injuries." There's a trend towards progress in terms of automobile crashes, although of course this depends on what one considers to be an acceptable level of preventable causes of death. And were firearms scrubbed from the record? I did not poke at this especially hard so I am still probably poorly informed.

Overall, human beings are terrible at being scared of the things we should actually be concerned about, because so many of these things are things that we are in contact with or experience over the course of everyday life, and so we just come to see them as something normal. In contrast, think about the extreme safety measures in place for airline travel. I also still see bicycling as a really good tool for reshaping these lists in a positive direction.

Also, this is mostly unrelated, but I am incredibly happy to see this article about bridging indigenous and scientific knowledge in Science. I am happy because it's a beacon of hope, and to me it's a wonderful form of trendy "Citizen Science" because it validates indigenous peoples' way of life.
It's starting to get light before the alarm goes off at 5 am. Solstice approaches!

Lots of wildlife on the BAP (Berkeley Aquatic Park) this morning. The geese didn't leave much poop on the dock, so I didn't have to sweep, but there were (was?) a handful of mussel shells down at the end of the dock, left by gulls who land there to pry them apart and slurp up the tasty innards.

At the end of my first lap, I watched three white pelicans huddled together, bobbing their beaks underwater. I also noticed a number of white egrets, and one of the smaller heron varieties standing quietly along the shore.

Iz is out of town this week, so J showed up to row in her single instead, and together we made a plan to spend our third lap doing intervals of 90 seconds on, 30 seconds off. About 10 strokes into the first interval, I wound up in the middle of a flock of geese, and managed to hit two geese, one with either oar, at almost the exact same time. Urf! One stroke later, I hit a third goose. Come on, geese! Get it together! Of course I blamed J for sabotaging me. Other than that we got in some good work. J's faster than I am, but she only managed to creep up to my bow deck over the course of each 90-second segment.

We also watched a ray surface for a minute or two and stick its fins out of the water. I thought it was a seal at first, but didn't see any seal head, so I think J's right about it being a ray. She also rowed right over it and probably got a better view.

I think I also saw a white, translucent jellyfish hovering in the algae.

Maybe I should start bringing a camera out with me.


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