Friday, May 27, 2011

NEEDLES!!! 2009

You are required to say the title like they do on Back to the Future.  Okay. 

I still have a little more time off before summer school starts.  I'm kind of stuck in a mode where I have no structure to my day, my to-do list is infinite, and I'm having a hard time digging in.  I'm used to teaching 2-3 classes a day, then doing only the things that have to be done before tomorrow.  Now I have all of these long term goals that will take all summer to complete and I don't even know where to begin on some of them!  My office space here in the house is shared, so I can't seem to take over a space with my books.  If I took a day to clean up a bit, this wouldn't be a problem.  Anyway, I got some gardening done (future post) and today I'm prepping for summer school and getting ready to go on a Memorial Day camping/backpacking trip to Utah.  We're leaving later in the weekend so we can end our time in a very busy national park that only gives out first-come first-serve backpacking permits for those of us who were too dumb not to reserve one two weeks ago.  We'll get to the park Monday night or Tuesday so most of the crowds should be gone, or so we hope!  We'll hit up a less-traveled, less-rules area earlier on.  We'll work right up until we leave so we can take off the early part of next week instead.  I just learned that they're having a bit of a wind storm and that happened to us last year.  So, I'm glad we're waiting to go. 

I just got back from the grocery store and I have big plans to share with you how an anal, gluten free, list-making girl with a practical, easy-going boyfriend prepares for four days in the desert.  That's two days of car camping, two days of backpacking.  I'll take pictures of my methods as I go so you can either laugh at or learn from my process, which has proved very successful in the past. 

This will be our third annual trip to Utah.  I'm hoping, if the backpacking permit thing works out, that we'll be returning to the park we were at in year one, which was my first backpacking trip.  We hiked a total of about 15 miles in The Needles District of Canyonlands National Park with full packs and two days of drinking/cooking water in our packs.  I was so proud of myself! 

Here's some pictures from our two-years-ago trip.  Hopefully I can top them this year!  (Last year was a windy excursion, I'll be sure to share that story as well in the future.)

Watching the sunset on our first night, car camping, at the Needles Outpost, just outside the park. 

Hiking into our backpacking site.  This is near Chesler Park, one of the neatest places I've ever been.  Needles. 

On the Joint Trail, I believe, in Needles.  Getting closer to our backpacking site.  Cairns marked our path, like this one. 


Imagine how much gear I had to buy for my first real backpacking trip!  It has paid off in loads since we use it all very often. 

How does one wear a heavy pack without getting a tummy-roll? 

From DP1, our backpacking site in Needles as the sun sets. 
Have a great Memorial Day Weekend!  What are your plans?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Internal Rules and the To Do List

How do you manage your mental To Do list?  A great high school teacher once told me that there's always one most important thing that you have to do.  Put that thing at the top of your To Do list, ignore the rest, and do it!  Now it's done, now you have a next most-important thing to do, so put it on your To Do list of one, and then do it.  This helps us prioritize and not get overwhelmed by how long our list is, but instead of making a long list, just do the thing that is most timely or most important. 

Now, what this rule ignores is that sometimes your most important thing could take all day and you might never make it to the next most important thing.  This could be a big problem if they both need to be done by tomorrow. 

It also ignores the fact that some of us can multitask, although I think the latest research says that we can't do it well. 

I think this works for short-term goals, but not for the long-ish term.  For example, I have five work-related tasks that I need to accomplish this summer (without pay, 9-mo contract).  Each of them could take an infinite amount of time.  Instead of doing the most important one first and possibly never getting to the others, I'll have to work on each task twice a week for a bit.  I was messing around with how I might do this and threw it into my Google Calendar to see how it works once my summer school class starts up.  Here's what it looks like:


The big problem today, though, is that right now I have a daunting task that I have to do to finish up my semester-- grade long research papers.  There are 20 things I can think of that I'm actually really excited to do right now, like make my summer syllabus, start researching for my climate change class in the fall, organize all of my papers from this semester into their respective binders, etc.  However, if I follow my internal rule that I can't do these "fun" tasks until my one most-important task is done, I can't touch these things I'm motivated to do right now until I finish my grading, which I am not motivated to do. So my internal rule is keeping me from doing the things I'm motivated to do.

Here's another example.  Dave spent an extra day in Boston and bought me two books at the Harvard Book Store that he knew I'd love (see previous post, what a sweetie!) and I'm just dying to read them, but my internal rule says that I have to finish the two books I'm actively reading now before I can start these new ones.

Here's one last example as to why this might be a bad idea.  Every day, the last thing on my mental list of things to do is to exercise.  Do I ever get to this?  Nope.  The result?  Hiking/backpacking season is two weeks away and I am a muscle-less blob. 

I'm curious how all of you think about your to-do list and your goals.  Do you write it down?  Use a digital version?  (Note the cool check-off list you can put on each day in the Google Calendar above.)  Do you make internal rules for yourself like I do?  Does this help or hinder your progress?  I've heard of some women saying, "I'll wait to have kids until..."  so I can imagine this internal rule thing might hold true for really huge life-goals.  What do you think?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Summer Reading List

What's on your summer reading list?  My reading falls into a few categories:  teaching, weather and climate, science and skepticism, food, and novels.  I wanted to share with you a collection of books, some of which I have read, some of which I am half way through, and several that I am dying to read this summer.  Since my summer starts next week, I wanted to throw these reading goals out there and see if you have any additions for me.  I have a long list from a facebook probe awhile back, but as you'll see, most of my reading is non-fiction.

Food:  As I prepare for a summer of gardening, cooking veggies from my CSA, and traveling further down the path of perfecting my diet for my health, these two books make up my limited resources on the topic.  I'm 3/4 through Animal Vegetable Miracle and am loving it!  I might have to check out some of Kingsolver's novels, I really like her style and this book makes me crave fresh veggies.  It offers motivation for eating locally.  Stalking the Wild Asparagus is one of Dave's books from an edible plants class he took at Rutgers and it has some fun stuff in it.  I look forward to diving into it here and there this summer.  Hopefully I can use it to figure out if the plants in my garden today are the lettuce I planted or weeds!

Teaching:  I was part of a faculty learning community this year and these books are all from our awesome Faculty Development Center director.  Thus far I've read Weimer's Learner-Centered Teaching, which points out that students don't learn from lectures, they learn by doing.  I am half way through My Freshman Year, which tells the story of a 50 year old woman professor who pretends to be a freshman in her own school and lives in the dorms.  She comments on how life is as a freshman and how us professors should change the way we view our students.  Oddly enough, she did this little shinanigan of hers while I was a junior in college, so what she describes are things I already knew.  It hasn't been that helpful except to verify that being a young professor might be helping me connect to my students more than some of the elderly professors.  I also dove into Advice for new faculty members and had a hard time getting into it.  It was all about how you should think about what you're doing before you do it, like if you're going to prep a lecture, wait before you sit down to do it so you can plan it a bit in your head.  Hopefully I'll dive into the rest this summer.

Science and Skepticism:  To be a true scientist, you must be skeptical of things, question why they are the way they are, and demand proof.  I'm a huge Carl Sagan fan (most recognized by being the author of Contact, you know, the movie with Jodie Foster?).  I recently read his The Demon-Haunted World:  Science as a Candle in the Dark and it pointed out how society cares more about pseudoscience (astrology, homeopathy, ghost hunters) than it does actual fact-based science.  Well, one of his original books made into a corny TV series is Cosmos.  I've seen a few of the shows and love it (Dave does an amazing Carl Sagan impression).  So, I feel like I should have already read the book and will try to do so this summer.  The top book on this pile is the last book, I believe, that Sagan wrote before his early death and my understanding is that it focuses on science and religion and how they can or cannot coexist.  I'm hugely interested in this topic.  Did I mention my old department-head was a student of Sagan's?  Lastly, Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything will catch me up on some science history that I should know, but probably don't.  I like integrating these tidbits into my lectures in my physics and chemistry class.

Novels:  I really had a hard time understanding why everyone was so into the Dragon Tatoo series.  It has its moments, but it's not worth the trouble of reading all of the crap in between.  Therefore, I am 3/4 of the way through book three, yes three, and can't bring myself to finish it.  Should I just watch the movie?  Maybe I'll dive into these other two this summer, but I hear Hunger Games might be more worth my precious beach time. 

Weather and Climate:  Dave scored these top two books for me from the Harvard Bookstore.  I can't wait to dive into them!  I made a rule that I have to finish two of the books I'm reading now before starting a new one.  The top one is about how an ice age was discovered and the second one is about the psychoses caused by climate.  Storm Watchers is a sweet history of meteorology that has been on my shelf for ages.  Eloquent Science is a book for how to be a better atmospheric scientist.  I used it as my textbook for my senior research seminar this semester.  For the non-slackers who actually read the book, I really think they got a lot out of it.  It's perfect for first-year grad students! 

Now that you know what I'm reading and plan to read, I want to know what you're reading!  Do you have any specific topics that you always go towards at the book store? 

Sunday, May 8, 2011


Here's a few tidbits from my conference trip to Boston.

Some Italian dude with a big belly tried to get me to pay $12 for my salad (4 slices of tomato, a can of tuna, onions, basil, and olive oil) and $18 for the piece of grilled chicken he put on top of it for me, as if it were two separate meals.  I am proud of the fact that I was able to talk him down without the mob coming after me.  Italian restaurants in North Boston are not so gluten-free friendly!  I feel a little guilty we didn't go back there because I know Dave would have appreciated the pastries. 

We hit up the Union Oyster House later in the week and splurged for a nice meal with Dave's research group (my old group).  I got this "medium" sized lobster and a baked potato for $28!  I was in heaven!  The waitress was super polite, unlike all other food service I received that week.  I highly recommend this.

We also did the barking crab with Dave's family Friday night and we enjoyed crab legs, lobster, and other goodies.  Yummy seafood, cool ships.

I ate this dude.  He was tasty. 

Classic Boston dining.  I highly recommend it!
Dave pretending he's short.  Me looking like I need a haircut.
 We visited Cheers.  In typical Bostonian style, they were rude to us and angry that we had a large group.  The food was typical American fare, but surprisingly affordable.  They also had Woodchuck Cider on tap!  Score for the gluten-free freaks! 
I couldn't get my flash to go on, so Dave was trying REALLY hard not to fall off.
We walked back through the Boston Commons and took these pics near the frog pond, which apparently doubles as an ice skating rink during the winter! 
My good friend NavyGirl does a Cheers and Jeers post every now and again, so I'm taking her idea and doing Cheers and Jeers to Boston, then there's more pictures below.  I'd divide this into two posts, but honestly, I'll just forget to post the second one, so here it is. 

Cheers to Boston for being totally tiny.  We could walk across the whole city in about 25 minutes, which we did, several times.  We only had two days to see the city after the conference and we probably put in 4 miles the first day and 6 the second.  Dave's parents are troopers for keeping up!  When you look at a map of the area, you might think it's like NYC, but in reality, we were able to be anywhere we wanted to be with very minimal effort.

Jeers to Boston's lack of working pedestrian crossing signs.  Why should I push a button and wait at an intersection for the white man if the light never actually changes?  I can't tell you how many times we played frogger on some busy streets.

Cheers to the Freedom Trail.  Even though this trail consisted of a few lame spots and other spots we had to either wait an hour for a tour through or had to pay to get into, which we didn't, this trail is literally a red stripe that leads you through all of the historical stops in the city.  It was so easy to just follow the red line to where we needed to go next.  I think all cities should have a trail for their tourists to follow!

Jeers to the lack of recycling bins.  Okay, so the hotel doesn't recycle.  Hotels in San Francisco totally recycle, so we are a little spoiled.  I get a pain in my heart when I throw away a plastic bottle, glass bottle, or a newspaper.  It happened over and over at the conference.  PATHETIC!  I thought it was just the hotel, but upon checking out the rest of the city, even the AMS headquarters, there was no recycling.  In fact, I brought home 4 newspapers and recycled them at the Denver Airport out of guilt. 

Cheers to Southie.  Our first four nights we stayed at the Omni Parker House, the longest running hotel in the country, and the home of the conference, but last three nights we stayed at a vacation rental home in Southie.  Despite imagining it to be kind of like Ben Afleck's "Gone Baby Gone," you know what?  The apartment was cute, the neighborhood safe, and we even went to an Irish Pub and didn't get any dirty looks.  It was easy to just grab the subway and get downtown in a matter of minutes.

Jeers to rain.  Not just rain, but thunder and lightning.  Where is a person to go when it's raining and your home is not nearby?  A bar, that's where.

Cheers to Kennedy's pub for keeping us dry and liquored up while it rained.  I particularly enjoyed the Milky Way Martini and the amazingly talented singer and guitar player who covered Mumford and Sons.
A beautiful day downtown.

Near the Quincy Market where we ate lunch every day.

Some sort of cherry tree with carnation-like blossoms.  Dave is flirting with a squirrel.

This picture seemed perfect until I noticed that woman on the right.  Thanks a lot, girl!

The aquarium had penguins!  And sharks!  And seals!  And huge sea turtles!
Alright, now that I'm done with my 4-day conference and 2-day vacation, I need a vacation!  It's finals week!  There is a break in sight!  Dave should be flying in any moment, my laundry is done, groceries bought, suitcase empty, and I'm hoping to get to bed early!  Time for a quick shower so my 8am final is a little less painful tomorrow.  Cheers!