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Oh Easter

Sometimes I am more strongly impacted by my Catholic upbringing than at other times. This year, with my dad's death in March, Easter has been frequently on my mind. While I don't interpret the Christian Bible as anything close to literal truth, I can see how aspects of it could have metaphorical value, and I appreciate thinking of this time of year and season from the standpoint of renewal. My father was a deeply spiritual man, and I know that he has found it challenging that he couldn't fully engage in dialogue about spirituality with his children. I still feel intellectually at odds with Christian religious beliefs, and that it would be disingenuous for me to act otherwise, so here I am.

Tangentially related, someone I know posted on Twitter about an interview from the radio program "On Being" that resonated with her, and that speaks about issues with Christianity's historical relationship to the environment as tied to colonialism:

https://onbeing.org/programs/wangari-maathai-marching-with-trees/

Powerful.

I am grading lab reports this weekend. Working at a Catholic institution, I am mostly just feeling a strong sense of relief around Easter because it is providing me with much-needed time to catch up on things. I hope that in future years I will have more bandwidth for other things besides work and rowing politics.

This entry was originally posted at https://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1290765.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Trash in the rivers

I was very pleased to see Mr. Trash Wheel get his due from NPR recently. I know some of you are big fans too because you introduced me to him first: https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2019/04/16/mr-trash-wheel-baltimore

The thing I love the most about Mr. Trash Wheel is just that it's such a genius design. The googly eyes especially, but really, the entire package. It is so clever to turn something like that into an attraction that draws positive attention to a problem and encourages people to make social changes.

Back in college, when we switched over from rowing on the Charles River to rowing on the Malden River, we were immediately struck by how much trash and debris were flowing into the Malden. It was both depressing and dangerous, so at one point, we organized ourselves to do a river cleanup day.

During the cleanup, we soon determined that we weren't going to manage to actually get the river cleaned up. The best we could hope for was to remove the uppermost layer of trash and litter from the banks. At the time I was already somewhat aware of how many disposable beverage containers people tended to use, but it's still different to go from knowing in the abstract to seeing it in person and having to pick it all up, piece by piece. The styrofoam cups were the worst, but there were a whole lot of plastic bottles, too. That hardened my resolve to aim to always drink from reusable containers.

When I've gone back over to the Malden in more recent years, I've been struck by how much it has gotten cleaned up. The main reason we switched to rowing there was because a developer had bought a stretch of former industrial property but couldn't make direct use of land right next to the river, for legal reasons. So they arranged a long-term lease with our coach and that allowed Tufts to build a boathouse right along the riverbank. By now, the area that I used to describe as an industrial wasteland back in 2002-2003 feels more like a park along a river.

But I suspect the river still sees close to the same amount of trash input. Shortly after we started to row there, our coach worked with city folks to get caps installed on the major river inlets, which helped to at least trap some stuff and keep it from flowing into the river. Other things can still easily get blown right in. I imagine those caps are still there, and that they still require regular maintenance. The Malden River might not be the best candidate for a Mr. Trash Wheel of its own, but with rowers and other people spending time on it, there's at least some hope that people will help turn back the garbage tide.

Don't let me get started on the Hudson.

This entry was originally posted at https://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1290368.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Complex feelings

I am running on fumes today. Typical for a Tuesday. Only one.more.lab to go (next week). Almost no more lecture preps left for this week. Just one small one.

Rowing leadership obligations are grinding me down right now. I know, I did it to myself. I would still like to see things through and drop fewer balls.

The students were wonderful in lab today, through all the ups and downs and trials and tribulations.

We didn't wind up getting to work with the hissing cockroaches, but I pulled them out anyway to show them to some of the students, and even got the FaceBug photo I'd been dreaming of:

Getting to know the Madagascar hissing cockroaches

I miss my dad. I can tell I am exhausted to the point where the exhaustion is in the driver's seat, driving my emotions.

This entry was originally posted at https://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1290150.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

The joys of [state] taxes

Okay, I can see why states are using these bar-code type forms. But I REALLY don't like it when the form yells at me to fill in my country first, when the question asking me to fill in my country is AFTER all the questions about my street address, etc.

After seeing all of the sections and questions for people who live in New York City / Yonkers...I'm kind of relieved I don't live there. New York wasn't *too* terrible, all told.

But meanwhile, the Arizona form...I pushed some green button on the bar code form, and the green button magically added another form onto the end of the existing form. The only problem was, it added a form that wasn't applicable to my circumstances, so then I filled in a whole bunch of zeroes on the added form, but then the file refused to let me advance any further through the main form and nothing would tell me anything about why. Eventually just starting to fill in the form all over again fixed the problem. But still, that doesn't seem quite right.

I'm nervous about class and lab this week. Will the students manage to make things all work? A lot of the responsibility is on them.

This entry was originally posted at https://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1289761.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

This week though

It has been a while since I've had this kind of terrible schedule lockdown.

But the end of the semester is in sight, somewhere.

Not a lot to write at the moment because I'm running on fumes.

This entry was originally posted at https://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1289548.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Well.

Here is an item that has been taking up space in the lab:

Saving for parts sometimes pays off

Today, this happened:

Balance with a broken windscreen

(In case you can't quite tell, the front glass windscreen panel shattered. As best I can tell, it was a total freak accident when a student tried to close one of the side doors on the balance.)

I stripped one of the screws while trying to remove it from the broken balance, so the repair is going to take slightly more work tomorrow.

This entry was originally posted at https://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1289234.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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Nonstop

Operating at max bandwidth right now.

I'm super nervous but also excited about having my Animal Physiology students work on a cricket project/poster.

That said...I gave them a challenging midterm, and overall they responded well to it. In keeping with the general theme.

Mostly I just need to figure out how to effectively cat-herd groups of 16 students. Wish me luck.

Thankfully an external committee project has just wrapped up (for an academic society). So now it's just rowing stuff and academic stuff, not a triple-threat.

Also thankfully we have a 5-day weekend for Easter. I suspect I'm going to need it.

This entry was originally posted at https://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1288980.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
For some reason, Tuesday made me extremely grumpy. I think it's just that I have a lot of face time early in the week, and it eventually wears me down. Plus there's the stress of never quite knowing what will go wrong in lab, and so then trying to figure out how to triage things is stressful. In addition to the salt problem, we had some difficulties with the salt meters and with the chloridometers. The students eventually figured out how to work with the chloridometers, but all of the collective issues meant that instead of individual lab groups collecting individual data, we had to aggregate data across the whole class. It's not the end of the world, but it's better if all of the students get to gain experience with all of the instrumentation.

Also, next time I should get even more crayfish. Twenty-four was barely enough.

Does anyone want some crayfish?

But. There are only three more labs to go. The remaining three labs have their fair share of moving pieces to manage, but that's a finite number of labs remaining, so I'm starting to feel like maybe I WILL survive the semester after all.

Meanwhile, the Giant Stack of Grading is still pretty huge.

Back at it.

This entry was originally posted at https://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1288775.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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Orders of Magnitude

This morning I figured out that my calculations for how much salt to add to some water to achieve certain salinities was off by an order of magnitude (too small). DANG IT!

So...it's going to be an interesting day of mixing up a bunch of saltwater for crayfish. Not as much acclimation time as I'd hoped, but better than figuring this out during lab tomorrow.

This entry was originally posted at https://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1288482.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
The Busch and Muller Toplight Line Brake Plus* taillight on Frodo stopped working about 3 weeks ago, and it took me until yesterday to get over to the bike shop to see if they could help me sort out the problem. I believe it should still be under warranty, but the shop needs to do their own testing to pinpoint whether the problem's in the light or the connections. I wound up handing Frodo over to the shop owner because the mechanic who did the light install wasn't there that day. Plus, it's spring now, so the shop's going to be hopping for the next couple of months. Especially on Saturdays. I did mention to the owner that it's impossible for me to get to the shop on weekdays due to work. Maybe he'll take that to heart and work with the mechanics to adjust the shop hours. I doubt it, though. Small business challenges.

So, back to Froinlavin for now. At least I have Froinlavin as a backup!

Coming back to Froinlavin, I am glad that I figured out a workable system to quick-wash my bikes for winter riding. A key initial challenge for me was that I was used to using a hose to wash my bikes, but I can't do that here in the winter. So here's how my process goes for salty winter roads. On a day when it's relatively warm and I have some daylight, I basically start out with this quick washing method, skipping the cleaner-lubricant step: https://youtu.be/TK3eCu1fPos . I fill a 3-gallon bucket with hot water and just a small drizzle of soap (if any). I apply the water to the frame with a similar long-handled brush, to start loosening everything up, focusing especially on the brake pads and undercarriage (you'd be amazed by how much crud builds up under the bottom bracket!). But I don't stop there because that would just move the salt around, not get rid of it. So next, I take a smaller pouring container and pour rinse water over key parts of the bike to help rinse the salt completely away, including across the drivetrain, over the brake pads, and along the rim braking surface. The 3-gallon bucket holds just the right amount of water for this project.

I also discovered that a chain will start to rust after about 2 winter rides (!), so [personal profile] scrottie and I came up with a system/idea, to keep a set of TWO active chains, so one can be swapped out for cleaning and rust removal at any given time while the other chain is in use.

I will confess that when I switched over to Frodo, I put Froinlavin away in the basement without cleaning her. So step 1 this morning was a quick bath and I was relieved to discover she hasn't rusted (phew!). Then I replaced her front brake pads and now she's good to go again.

I prefer Frodo for the commute, due to some nasty potholes and Frodo's improved handling when fully loaded. But on the other hand, it is SO NICE to have a reliable backup bike.


*This link is for a Wiki page about taking one of these lights apart to repair bad soldering, which is apparently a common problem for these lights. I don't have the same issue as described here because my light won't turn on at all, which means that the problem could be corrosion somewhere.

This entry was originally posted at https://rebeccmeister.dreamwidth.org/1288337.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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