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Status: Bandwidth exceeded

Am hiding in the fume hood room again. It feels like the only place where I can get any sort of quiet these days, which I desperately need, in order to plan out MY priorities (=not always identical to the priorities of the 10 or so people who keep trying to nab me for various purposes).

We've had some good monsoon rain this week, but the clouds keep swirling around the perimeter of the region where we've historically collected the leafcutter queens. So, no queens for me, yet.

It has taken me slightly too long to sort out what the new cricket hatchlings need by way of food and humidity, and so a large number of the early hatchlings died. Also, the hatchling rates suggest to me that a number of the adult females with curled wings aren't reproductively viable, so this whole project could just be putting these crickets through a bad population bottleneck. Frustrating.

Yesterday I managed to run some preliminary analyses on some seed-harvester ant queen respiration data, with interesting outcomes. So I shipped those results over to other people involved in that project. At the moment the next step for those data is unclear because I don't know what sort of publication they might go into. There's a whole lot of behavioral data from this summer's projects that is currently a big mess, to the best of my knowledge. I'm mostly trying to stay out of having to deal with any of it, for the moment.

Yesterday I also finally finished working my way through the preliminary round of behavioral analyses for 5 years' worth of historical data. That whole meta-project is far from finished, but that was at least one big milestone.

Today: lab photos, lab lunch with German colleague headed back to Germany today, coauthor meeting, phone conference with parents, ...not nearly enough time in there for substantive work, such as work on the paper for the coauthor meeting.

Floors at home haven't been swept in 2+ weeks (especially front entry hall), litterbox is overdue, cricket bins need washing, and it's time to start packing stuff up to move. And time to come up with a more definite plan for a place to move into once we reach New York.

This entry was originally posted at https://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1236526.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


Drain bed

"I say, Marge, do you ever get that funny feeling you're being watched?"
Filming ant queen behavior

more photos...Collapse )

This entry was originally posted at https://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1236475.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


Data curation

Give me a few more days and I'll be able to match the average programmer for general crabbiness levels.

Working with Other Peoples' Data can be a nightmare.

Specific Examples:
If two iPads are simultaneously logged into an Oogley-Googley web page of typey-boxes, one can very easily and unwittingly over-write the other, with no form of absolute step-by-step version control check. In case you had any doubts about this sort of "shared editing" being a terrible idea.

Are those crucial data files stored on personal computers, backed up to a shared external hard drive, on Brop-Dox, given over to the Oogle-googles, in an e-mail as an attachment, hard copy somewhere? All of the above, but varying according to person and year? Oh, what's that, in some cases the information only exists as frozen samples in frozen-over freezers?

What, exactly, do those 191 distinct letter code combinations mean?

Getting interrupted periodically by Thought-Jammers REALLY doesn't help.


This entry was originally posted at https://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1236199.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


The Weather

It's definitely monsoon season now.

Saturday morning, pre-monsoon, [personal profile] scrottie and I got up early and biked over to the Phoenix Farmer's Market. They had their mister system running at full blast, such that it felt like a tropical rainforest. On the return ride, the wind blew hot in our faces. Applying water to the top of my head felt refreshing.

Later in the afternoon, I went out again to run a couple of errands. Before I left, I soaked my linen shirt in water. Putting it on felt like donning a wet bathing suit - clammy, cold. The second I started bicycling, I felt fantastic. That feeling lasted for the entire 5 minutes while the shirt was still wet.

We're now at the point where the "cold" water coming out of the faucet is warm. No need to use hot water while showering.

Last night there were some good showers just north of Tucson, north of the Catalina Mountains, in a part of the state where we were once caught out in a microburst at the very end of a 400k brevet. There are leafcutter ants out there, but I don't know at what sort of density, so we didn't go down.

When the sun came up this morning, the sky was brown-orange. Cars are covered in a fine layer of dust: dust storm. The bike ride in to campus was humid, but at least temperatures were cooler than they have been.

I am hoping I won't have to do too much data collection this week.

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Four of my pieces were glaze-fired and ready to be picked up this past Thursday. The outcome was decidedly mixed.

First, a second dragonfly bowl:
Dragonfly bowl

But now, keep in mind that here's how it looked before firing:
Dragonfly Bowl 2

So, you know, just a slight loss of detail [sarcasm]. I used iron oxide to paint on the dragonfly, and now am wondering whether I should switch over to using a black stain instead. And if so, which one. The underlying problem is that with the firing schedule here, I don't have time for any test firing. Frustrating.

Most disappointing was this bowl, as you can see:
Cracked porcelain bowl

Cracked porcelain bowl

Beautiful, but fatally cracked. I feel like I've been struggling with this porcelain clay a lot, in ways I hadn't anticipated. For a couple of previous pieces, I had problems with glazes running and sticking to the kiln shelf, and observed similar kinds of stress cracks on those pieces as well. Our ceramics instructor says the cracks look to her like the sort of cracks that form during cooling and removal from the kiln shelf. There's no way to fix something like this so as to make it food safe, so this bowl is probably going to wind up in the pile of dilemmas. (other dilemmas: what to do with old chipped mugs).

Also, you probably can't tell that I painted this inside the bowl before dipping it in Klear glaze, as the oxide burned out and the glaze ran down and pooled in the inside of the bowl:

I was pretty excited about this watering can, which came out well overall:
Watering Can

The only strange part is what wound up happening with the handle. Somehow it seems to me like the clay for the handle shrank in diameter, so the handle's narrower, but the overall shape of the handle relative to the body of the watering can remained the same size. I.e. the clay shrank more in one direction than in the other. So the handle is a little too awkwardly large for the piece. Still, not too bad. Just, slightly strange.

The most rewarding piece wound up being a porcelain mug where I accidentally gouged the rim while moving the piece around while it was still greenware. It was a nondescript little thing all the way through bisque firing, but then the combination of glazes I decided to use on it did some phenomenal things during the glaze firing. Behold:



Totally adorable. I drank my morning latte out of it today.

Not that I need any more mugs. So maybe it's time to clear out the mug collection and get rid of the more chipped/awkward ones. If any of you have good ideas for what to do with old, broken ceramics, I'm all ears.

This entry was originally posted at https://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1235522.html. Please comment there using OpenID.


Status [science; ants]

Where were we?

Fourth of July, I guess. Spent the morning weighing ant queens, then the early afternoon getting caught up on various things. I should have packed lunch, but ate two grocery store donuts instead. Oh well. In the evening [personal profile] scrottie and I walked over to Boulders for a beer and discovered they were closed for the holiday. So we went to Palo Verde, where we were the only customers. The bartender told us interesting things about some 'zine vending machines she's set up at different locations around the Valley. She was pretty great. That was the best Palo Verde experience ever, but I can appreciate that a quiet bar is antithetical to a successful bar-running business model.

After weighing the ant queens, there were debates over What to Do with the Queens, so Thursday started off with a quick check on the state of the queens, and then a big meeting in the War Room. Good to get a sense of how various different efforts would mesh together.

Next on the agenda, working with a grad student to measure the ants' respiration rates. I thought we'd be able to get underway that day, but soon discovered that the whole setup wasn't quite as ready to go as I'd been led to believe. After telling S about the state of this task, he says he's going to buy me my own respirometry rig, and really, he isn't far off the mark (aside from the fact that the instrumentation tends to be very expensive). Lots of scrapping about for various tubes and wires and sensors, and even after all of that we still failed to get the activity detector to work correctly.

Ah well. Sigh.

So by the time we got things more-or-less figured out, it was time to rush home and then over to the ceramics studio.

Several pieces were glaze-fired, but I think at this point I'll save the details for a separate post.

Today consisted of more respirometry measurements, plus more time spent putting individual ant eggs into individual tubes to see how much they weighed, all while surrounded by Chatty McChatterson grad students. Friendly, in the Arizona way, I guess.

Thankfully my PhD advisor is spearheading all of the behavioral measurements that have to happen over the next 3 days. She wants to test the hypothesis that queens with higher metabolic rates are the same queens that dig more. I have a gut feeling that her hypothesis won't be supported, but of course am keen to see the actual data.

It will be good to get back to working on data analysis and writing. This has been a week of silly nonsense in terms of experiments/studies/lab time, which is okay but not my main reason for being here.

This entry was originally posted at https://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1235374.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Friday afternoon/evening: Whirlwind grocery store stop after work, made dinner, and fed my sis-in-law and kids. Seitan fajitas! The grown-ups enjoyed them tremendously*. Note to self: get or think of more kid-friendly entertainment stuff for when kids come over to visit. Then, packing for hiking and camping.

Saturday morning: Up early, made coffee and breakfast burritos for myself and brother's family, wedged camping supplies into the car, then wedged myself into the middle seat of their Subaru between two kids in car seats. We drove up towards Oak Creek Canyon, with a quick stop in Sedona for second breakfast*. We reached the parking lot for the West Fork hike at 9:30 am. There were four cars idling in line, and yes, the lot was full. So we backtracked one site to the Bootlegger Picnic Area and splashed in the creek there. Maybe it was for the best, as the small children were only up for about 0.5 miles of hiking anyway.

After lunch, we drove up to the Lava River Cave, which was very popular with the short set AND the adults alike. Primitive camping out in the Coconino National Forest was also a hit. So nice and quiet among the pines. What a relief. C enjoyed getting to watch and listen to some common nighthawks dive-bombing (see/hear an example here), but didn't find any nightjars.

Sunday - Tuesday: Got up, packed up, drove back to Phoenix, said goodbye to my brother and family, ate lunch, jumped in the shower, did some repacking, then loaded gear into another postdoc's car for the 6-hour drive out to Pine Valley, CA. Thankfully her car wasn't as cramped as the Subaru.

The last time I went out to collect harvester ant foundress queens in southern California was over a decade ago, I think in 2007 or 2008. Cibbet Flats was still a nice campground. The big field in Pine Valley was still there. The campground at Lake Henshaw is still sketchy. The pie from Julian is still mighty fine.

The mating flights have definitely shifted earlier over the past decade. The peak used to occur right around the 4th of July; now the flights are mostly done by then. We still managed to come back with 46 queens from the cooperative site and 59 queens from the non-cooperative site. It was a fun group of people to collect and camp with.

The break from typing has been helpful. Back at it soon. Also, it's July already and almost time to start packing things up again. Also time to keep looking for a place to rent.

*Comments about children with extremely picky eating habits deliberately left out.

This entry was originally posted at https://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1235091.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

A different sort of day

Biking in to campus this morning, I saw an animal trotting around. A fox! I paused to take a picture of it. It just stood there, watching me, for a minute, then went on the other side of a tree. So then I wound up taking a photo of it a half-second before it pooped. Once it had finished its business, it climbed a tree and disappeared onto a rooftop.

The day got eaten by helping to dissect eggs out of ant farms, putting them into individual tubes so a collaborator can later genotype them. I did a similar procedure for my very first publication in grad school. But at least by now I've learned a few more tricks for how to avoid popping the eggs.

I simultaneously feel productive and not-productive.

This entry was originally posted at https://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1234858.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Status [rowing; family]

I made it out rowing yesterday morning (Wednesday). The air temperature outside the house was actually slightly cooler than the air temperature inside the house at 5 am. [water from the tap now ranges from disgustingly warm to warm-tepid] Up until now, I've been trying to row on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Yesterday morning, there were just a few 1x rowers, and just one launch slowly following a 1x. The water was almost completely flat, only slightly ruffled by a small breeze. I remembered that I like rowing.

One of the other 1x rowers recognized me from the previous Arizona era; we'd participated in a sculling clinic together. She said the lake was generally much more quiet on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; all the big teams tend to be out on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and weekend days.

I will switch over to only trying to row on Wednesdays and Fridays from here on out.

I only did a steady-state/overdistance piece, a lot of alternating square/feather to continue working on balance. I am also trying to get myself to pull out the exercise ball at home more frequently to keep practicing balance on it, too. But it was enough that I was exhausted yesterday evening, which made riding to the grocery store a battle of wills.

Monday evening, my cousin A was in town, so I met up with her and a couple of her friends for dinner in downtown Phoenix, at the newer Cornish Pasty there. Actually, I like that location better than the original location down the street from us in Tempe. It's quieter and more comfortable, and full of fun chandeliers. My friend J says it took them about a year to get the location set up the way they wanted. View of the chandeliers from the balcony:

Cornish Pasty Chandeliers

On Friday, my brother and sister-in-law are coming to town, because my brother is on someone's committee here. On Saturday, we plan to go hiking and then camping near Sedona/Flagstaff, which should help alleviate at least some of my general grumpiness over not going hiking enough while out here. Then on Sunday, my officemate and I are going to head out to San Diego County to eat delicious Julian pie collect more seed-harvester queens.

So I bet it's going to monsoon in Tucson over the weekend. Just wait.


I'm otherwise slogging away at data analysis and writing at work ("being boring," as [personal profile] scrottie would put it.

This entry was originally posted at https://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1234657.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Inventory [academic projects]

Current writing project statuses:

1. Leafcutter ant Manuscript of Doom: From the most recent reviews (rejected), Reviewer 1 noted that our premise was about simultaneously testing two frameworks used to study nutrient limitation in living systems, but that we fell short of what we'd promised because x, y, and z. This is because I'd felt that it was too much to put in both the nutrient analyses AND the feeding/growth experiments, and in any case I still need to chew over how to present the nutrient analyses. In the meantime, last year, a synthesis paper got published that examines how these two nutrition frameworks intersect. Reviewer 2 recommended we incorporate the paper, and reviewer 2 is right. So my new to-do list: evaluate how to add back in the existing nutrient analyses, do a few more biochemical analyses (cellulose content - aka "fiber"), come up with a new target journal, revise the Introduction and Discussion, and resubmit. Piece of cake, right?

2. Texas project on cricket nutrition/lifespan/reproduction: manuscript is mostly written. I had an intellectual breakthrough several weeks ago, but have mostly been working on other, more time-sensitive stuff in the meantime, so I haven't gotten back to actively working on this one.

3. Nebraska cricket projects: Going back over my notes, I'm supposed to be responsible for writing at least 2 out of 4 manuscripts. I just sent a message to my coauthors to let them know the current status of those manuscripts, which are mostly still stuck in the data analysis phase. I suspect the other 2 have also stagnated because they include some data that are currently in my possession. Hard to write results if you don't have the data.

4. California cricket projects: I need to run a few more statistical analyses for Circadian Project 1, at which point my postdoc mentor is supposed to be doing the majority of the writing. In theory. I need to run a bunch more statistical analyses for Circadian Project 2, now that follow-up data collection is finally finished.

5. Seed-harvester ants: Cleaning up other peoples' data makes me grumpy. However, at least I now finally have ALL the data. This manuscript is supposed to be a sort of synthesis paper, which should be very intellectually satisfying, once it's finished. It's going to be a painful headache to get done, though, because it relies on multiple years of ragged datasets collected by a whole host of people.

6. Non-first author projects: Two seed-harvester papers and a cricket nutrition paper (California). Maybe also another leafcutter paper. The seed-harvester papers have been taking up a lot of time recently.

Yeah, that's a lot of balls to be keeping in the air. I know.

My plan when I get to the new job is to stick to small-scale things initially - low-hanging fruit. The bottleneck for me is still data analysis and writing, so I'm thinking I might see about training undergraduates to work on very specific/discrete pieces of the writing projects (e.g. literature review on a specific topic; maybe development of critique skills?). We shall see.

This entry was originally posted at https://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1234298.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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