Archive for ‘The Daily Grind’

November 7, 2015

Just call me Dr. Jones. Some day. Maybe.

by Janie Jones

So, today was a hallmark date.

I officially began my graduate school application process.  It took the better part of the day.  I had to dig up unofficial transcripts from high school and 4 different colleges I’ve attended over the years.  I had to fill out a ton of forms, write an essay about why I want to get my PhD, another about what qualities I would bring to the graduate school, and I had to send letters to people asking for recommendations.  Before I can complete my application I need to get my GRE scores and I need to get confirmation that the people who I ask for recommendations are willing to give them.  Then, I send $75.  If the graduate school thinks I am worthy, then I have to get all official transcripts from my high school and all the 4 colleges I’ve attended sent in.  After that, if my official transcripts confirm I’m still worthy, by April I should know if I will be allowed to torture myself for another 3-5 years in pursuit of my PhD.

It is sort of daunting.  I have to admit, there have been a lot of days in the past year or so when I have doubted whether I want to commit to more time in school.  I don’t really know what I’m getting myself into.  Most people say it’s tough.  Then again, calculus was tough.  Physics was tough.  I’ve been on the tough circuit this past couple of years.  I haven’t always performed as brilliantly as I’d have hoped, and I am quite tired.  As Forrest Gump would say, “I’m kinda tired.  I think I’ll go home now.”  But I have no home to go to, so I guess I might as well keep on running this race and, in just a few more years I could hold the ultimate academic title.  Knowing I am this close, I don’t think I could be satisfied with not going the full distance if the powers that be in the admissions office will let me in.

And I think they will.  I mean, I just have this feeling.  I hope it’s not bullshit, but I do think I could do well in graduate school.  I don’t know why I feel this way exactly.  I just really think this is what I’m supposed to do.  Sure, I don’t know everything.  I certainly haven’t maintained that A average.  But I have yet to give up, and science is 90% being too stubborn to quit even when you have no clue what you’re doing- yet.  That’s the beauty of being a scientific researcher.  You don’t have to know everything.  If you did, you wouldn’t have a job anymore.  Research in science is all about not letting what you don’t know stop you.  You learn along the way, and the more you learn, the more you realize there’s a ton you don’t know, and so you do more research.

And “we” don’t know a lot of things yet about Lyme disease and the bacteria responsible for it.  I can do a lot toward a doctoral dissertation studying them little bugs.

So, cross your fingers for me.  Pray I don’t have to blog 5 months from now that I’m a washed out, has been, PhD wannabe.

It would be way cooler if some day you could be telling all your friends you read the blog of the famous Dr. Jones who discovered a way to prevent Lyme Disease and cure chronic Lyme Disease back when she was a strung out, neurotic undergrad.

Heh.  Paging Dr. Jones….

November 2, 2015

Well, now that was $5 bucks that didn’t go to waste…

by Janie Jones

Well folks, it’s the end of an era.

One of my two vintage alarm clocks went dead.  I don’t know what happened to mine personally (it might be buried in the spud’s room at the farm) but I inherited a similar one from my ex.  Mine was purchased somewhere circa 1980s and had a small faux walnut case with red digital numbers, and I suspect the ex’s was of a similar vintage.

I remember when my mother bought it for me.  It was the year my parents bought their first house.  I was almost done with seventh grade, so I’d have been 13 I think.  I was kinda disappointed because I wanted one like my grandparents had.  You boomers remember these?

vintage alarm clock

I was fascinated by how the numbers would flip.  I also wanted a radio alarm instead of that hideous beep the cheap alarms made.

I cannot tell you how I hated that beep.  I developed an honest to Pete anxiety trigger to it.  It got so bad that if I’d hear that alarm sound anywhere at any time my heart would race and I’d start to panic.  So when DVD players became affordable, many years later, I bought a new alarm clock with a CD player that I could set to wake up to a certain CD.  Oh, that was like waking up to a whole new world.

But.  There’s always a but isn’t there?  I actually grew to like the red number readout.  Over the intervening years no matter how many different alarm clocks I’ve been through, I always kept my first alarm clock with the red numbers just as a clock.  When I moved to my tiny room in the Big City, I went back to using the red number alarm clock I inherited from the ex as a clock by my bed (but now I use my cell phone with a pleasant, cheerful chime with bird chirping in the background to wake me) because it shed less harsh ambient light but was easy to see without glasses or contacts.

Finally, after some 30-35 years of service, however, it ceased to keep time.  It has no moving parts, and runs on electricity, so I ‘m not sure what wore out.  Maybe some circuit finally degraded.  It had been not very accurate for a week or so, slowly losing time so I had to re-set it frequently.  Then, the time discrepancy got greater and greater until finally, when I came home from the farm it was so far off the time it was useless.  I had to unplug it and throw it away.

Oddly, I feel sort of lost now.  No red numbers to warn me of the time through out the night when up for trips to the bathroom, no numbers to comfort me with the knowledge that I have two more hours before wake up.  No more of old reliable who I once hated then came to prefer.

*Sigh*  Life is strange.

But, I see I could get a replacement with one of those retro flip number alarm clocks that always fascinated me…

October 14, 2015

A lack of forethought on your part should not constitute and emergency on mine

by Janie Jones

I have five different instructors this semester.  They all seem like basically nice people.  Mostly I enjoy the subjects.  But three of the five just can’t seem to get their poop in a group and give consistent and/or advanced information on when and what things need to be done.  I am getting a lot of eleventh hour emails about this assignment or that meeting that need to be added or changed.

Last night, for example.  I got an email apparently at 7:46 pm saying my 10 am lab time needed to be moved to 9:50 am and might run longer than the original time even with moving it up ten minutes.

Unlike most night owls, I was already in bed at this time.  So this morning chances of getting a message to and from the instructor before I actually am now expected to show up are quite slim.  The problem being that as I can’t be at the lab at 9:50 because I have a class that doesn’t end until 9:50, I kinda would like to know if I should even bother to show up.  You know that whole lack of transporters crap kinda makes getting from one place on campus to another a little slower than instantaneous.  Heaven forbid, too, I might need to go to the bathroom or anything.  But if I can’t complete the task in the original time allotted, should we just reschedule?

Now this particular professor is pretty flexible.  I’m 99% sure she won’t make a big deal out of it one way of the other.  Either she’ll be go ahead when ever you get here will be fine, or she’ll be we can just reschedule, no problem.

However, another of the teachers is really good at having assignments scheduled to be due on Mondays, but not providing the assignment information until sometimes late in the afternoon on the Saturday before.  While it is true I spend most of my weekends doing homework, I think it’s pretty crappy that it’s implied that I’ll just be able to drop whatever is going on on Saturday and/or Sunday to make time for an assignment if I already have plans.  Mondays I usually have pretty much open for homework after lunch, but if you don’t know what the assignment entails, it could take a long time, and I don’t want to deliberately wait until Monday afternoon to find out that this thing is going to take 3 or 4 hours when I have other homework to do too.  Let’s be realistic.  If you knew when you handed out the syllabus at the beginning of the class that an assignment would be due on nearly every Monday of the semester, why can’t you get the assignment information out to us more that two days ahead?  Especially if those days are weekend days?

It is a HUGE pet peeve of mine that professors EXPECT you to have no weekend.

And then there’s the professor who is so unprepared that he usually doesn’t post the lab assignment until a few hours before class.  It’s really hard to come prepared for a lab where you will have to make calculations and do a multi-step technique if you only just got the procedure when you walk in the door.  Then it’s a mad rush to figure out what you’re doing and get done on time.  Or, he won’t tell you what he’s discussing in lecture ahead of time.  Normally not so big a deal, but it’s a very small class and he likes to ask the students lots of questions during lecture.  Sometimes there are mammoth pauses or literally guessing games to figure out what answer he is looking for because we had no idea what to prepare.  The second or third week of class I asked if he could possibly put up lecture notes or some outline of what would be discussed in class the night before and he said “No, I’m too busy.”

I have a lot on my plate.  I’m often too busy to do the homework they assign.  I’m often not available to jump through hoops, adjusting my life around their inability to be organized.  And, I am a very organized person.  In order to balance everything I have to do in a day, week, semester, my time has to be budgeted sometimes down to the last minute.  More often than not my time budget is woefully inadequate to do everything I have to do in a respectable manner.  So when other people’s screw ups mess up the delicate balancing act and my limited free time is impinged upon or I lose time at work or on homework assignments I get really mad because their problems have caused me to fail to some degree.  If things out of my control cause too much havoc in my life I end up in a really bad place emotionally.  We are doing everything in our power to keep Janie out of such places, but we can only do so much.

My moral to this story?  Nine-tenths of college is learning to insulate yourself from the incompetence of others, even those who are supposed to know more than you.  The better you can be at not being ruffled by the mistakes of others, the more successful you’ll be.  When you graduate, if you manage to do so and not go postal, you should get an honorary PhD in Bullshit Management.

August 19, 2015

Pride, Responsibility and Integrity

by Janie Jones

I’m feeling a little unsettled today.

I got an email from someone at Stickittoyou U yesterday.  Apparently they want to interview me about my scholarships and grants.

This year I’m getting in excess of $14,000 of “free” money, meaning I don’t have to pay it back, for tuition and school related expenses.  Most are need-based, but some are merit based and have minimum GPA requirements.  These funds will cover about 90% of my tuition, books and fees.

Yes, it rocks.  Yes, I’m extremely grateful.  Yes, I do feel honored and lucky.  And yes, I’ve worked very hard to get the best grades I can to be worthy and have applied for up to 50 some scholarships for this year.  But, there is a part of me that is also very embarrassed and ashamed to not be able to support myself and my daughter without all this need based funding.

It feels very much like being interviewed and having my story pasted all over the school homepage and “other uses” is trying to make me seem like someone of distinction to be honored and looked up to when I have done nothing but find myself too poor to make my own way in the world and too under-educated to get the good paying jobs (ie, more than minimum wage) that would allow me to live an average middle class life I was accustomed to before “life” happened.

Sure, everyone needs a hand up once and a while and people and organizations who give out scholarship and grant money are trying to acknowledge and help us who are less fortunate better ourselves.  But, it seems to me if you have a proper sense of pride, self respect and integrity you should be celebrating the donors, not the people who have done nothing but accept their generosity.

While many people fail to see my side of this issue, awards ceremonies and interviews just drive home my shame in being unable to provide for myself.  It feels like celebrating my failure.  I have done nothing to deserve to be celebrated, yet.  Everyone, in my opinion should strive to better themselves, what I’m doing is not special, or unique.  It should be normal, average, and expected.

So, I do thank the donors.  It allows me to do what I have to in order to be a better person and one day again be able to provide for myself and my family.  But I’m not there yet.  Currently I’m a hot mess of stress, frustration, panic, fear, longing, exhaustion, and insecurity.  It’s too soon to see beyond the struggle.  I am grateful for the help but it’s way too soon to see anything in my situation for praise or admiration and I don’t want to be an object of pity either.

I just want to say a heartfelt thank you and go about my business.  Why is that so weird to the world?

June 5, 2015

Answers to the top three questions inquiring readers are dying to know

by Janie Jones

How do you know it’s summer in the Great White North?

Well, for one, when the lawn needs mowing again after just 4 or 5 days since the room mate mowed.  And, despite being 47 degrees at dawn, and having barely surpassed 50 degrees for the last week or so, at 2pm when you go out to take your turn at mowing the lawn it is 70 degrees and you, still thinking it would be cold, dressed in a tee shirt and long sleeve denim over shirt and pants.  By the time you are done, you are totally drenched in sweat.

How much lawn is too much lawn?

When it takes you three hours to mow the lawn, including three breaks to refill the mower’s gas can, and when you can stand at the top of the hill at the far edge of the back yard lawn, look down on the roof of the house and can’t see the numbers on the license plates of the cars parked in the driveway, YOU HAVE TOO MUCH LAWN.

Don’t get me started either on the joys of a lawn that is basically hill.

How are you today Janie?

It has been three days since The Lawn Mowing on Tuesday.  Afterward my joints and muscles were so sore they were trembling.  But I had to get up way early to study for my chem test the next day.  The next day my hands hurt so bad it was painful to hold the steering wheel in my car, car despite the soft padded steering wheel cover.  I ached everywhere, and hobbled when no one was looking.  Leif came to town and picked up the spud to take her to the farm so I was able to go to bed early.  And though I got about 10 hours of sleep Wednesday night, on Thursday I had to spend three and a half hours standing in chem lab, so although I am recovering from The Lawn Mowing, there is still a hint of tenderness particularly in the feet and legs.  At least I can now grab things with out wincing.

Take home lesson:  Never buy a house or sign a lease on one with a lawn this large unless a riding mower is at your disposal.

May 4, 2015

Random Monday Morning

by Janie Jones

I couldn’t think of anything to blog about this morning that didn’t relate to school.  I didn’t think you wanted to hear one more whiny post about how I can’t wait for this semester to be done any more than I wanted to write one.  So, I Googled the phrase “random Monday images” to look for inspiration.

Funny how it seems at least half the images are of women in bikinis.

The other half, well, they definitely fit the random bill.  But most of it had no connection I could see to Monday.  I included the link above, for those pesky citation reasons and just in case you don’t believe me.

Also in case you don’t have time or the inclination to check it out, or perhaps your not in the mood to sort through buxom women in bikinis to find the wacky stuff, here’s a few of my favorites, for no particular reason, and in no particular order:

left the toilet seat up

Heh.

long hair

I look at this and think, daughter of sasquatch. Does this seem at all freak-show-esque to anyone else? Especially on account of the fact she wouldn’t be washing that mop every day. How heavy must that be? How hot?  How stinky?

batman n robin

Holy hair pins Batman! It’s the daughter of sasquatch! Well, Robin, you needed a date to the prom, didn’t you?

I smile to hide

Oh, noes! My secret is out!

Happy Monday!  BTW, it’s my last Monday of the semester!  Sorry.  I guess I couldn’t resist one school related comment.  But I waited and just snuck it in here at the very end.

May 1, 2015

It might finally be time…

by Janie Jones

Many long years ago back in the last months of 2010, when I first started this education thing, I needed a “good” computer.  I was newly laid off from work and worried about stretching my tiny little bit of reserves for as long as possible.  I discovered I could get extra financial aid money to help me buy a new laptop.  Still, no sense in borrowing a ton of money, so I got a lower, mid-priced laptop.

I was never particularly happy with it as a laptop.  I considered it to be big, and bulky.  But it did pretty much everything I needed it to do.  Over the years I’ve toyed with the idea of replacing it with something sleeker, lighter, faster, but I always came back to the whole, this one is technically fine.  Last fall though I did buy a glorified tablet/netbook that was smaller and lighter for carrying to class.  And I don’t for a second regret that purchase, however, it’s Windows 8, which I don’t like as well as XP or Windows 7.  Also there’s the tiny little screen which isn’t optimal for some homework projects, and it has no CD drive and excessively limited storage capacity.  It’s main attractions were it was dirt cheap, it was fast on the internet and it was small and light.

With my new little netbook, I’ve become comfortable with the laptop being the main, stay-at-home, homework computer, and just using the netbook for carrying to school.   The system has been working pretty smoothly, and the urge to replace the big daddy computer have vanished.  Which you know means that a twist of fate will now intervene.

The last few weeks/months I’ve started having some issues with my big dinosaur laptop.  It locks up, it is even slower than usual, it looses the wi-fi connection.  Now this morning, the screen won’t illuminate to full power.  I fear the end is finally nigh.  Whether I want to replace it now or not, I believe it’s days are numbered.

computer problems

Interestingly, I feel a bit bummed.  Not just about the possibility of having to shell out precious and scarce cash for a replacement, but because this monster has seen me through almost 5 years of college.  It might not have ever been a dream computer, but it did the job, and I know it’s keyboard and it’s quirks like the back of my hand.  Replacing it now would also mean having to fully embrace the world of Windows 8, which I’m not sure I’m ready for.

*sigh*

I guess we’ll see what happens upon reboot.

'Did you try unplugging it and plugging it back in?'