Sunday, November 25, 2012

Slug farm

One thing that I am cursed in regards to is gardening. Let me tell you, it's just NOT happening. Am I raving yet? Oh just wait, I WILL be.

Years ago, in the youth of my post-baccalaureate education, I didn't try very hard.  I got plants and kept them in the same pot I bought them in. When my basil plant got fruit flies, I put it outside the door. I forgot to water plants until they wilted. When I went to Death Valley to sample for the first time, I thoughtfully left my Rosemary on the deck to be watered by the rain- which is did not. It was actually blackened by the time I got back.

Then came a glorious summer when my good friend, let's call her Michelle, took me under her wing and helped me plant a small garden. Michelle is a gardening genius, able to keep plants alive for MONTHS at a time. She lent me everything I needed and that summer I enjoyed several tomato plants, flowers, a tiny strawberry vine, and lots of spring greens. I enjoyed the greenery and Rosie enjoyed chomping on the greens all summer long.

Last year I tried to grow salad greens and some daisies on my own. No go. Barely anything even sprouted, even though I remembered to water them every day (possibly part of the problem). I kept hoping that they were just taking a long time to germinate, but that hope was sadly misplaced.

After that I took a different approach. I bought a miniature rosebush and a variety of herbs, already sprouted, and put them in larger pots. I also bought a vibrant, leafy Ajuga reptans (or chocolate chip plant). I stacked them all up near the windows. How could I fail?!

Well let me tell you. All of my herbs withered. The rose lost most of its leaves. I continued to water (in moderation). I had high hopes for ol' A. reptans though. Some of the lower leaves had withered, but I assumed that it was adjusting to put energy into growing up, not out.

However, after another week, the Chocolate chip plant, which was the largest and healthiest at the start, turned crunchy brown like its namesake. What the HECK. Frustrated, I figured I should make the best of it and transferred the rosebush into the former A. reptans pot. And do you know what I found? SLUGS. I had a SLUG infestation in my houseplants. How does that even happen??

I put a the bottom of an Altoids box in the pot and filled it with beer, which is supposedly the absolute best way to trap slugs. My slugs, of course, are straightedge and refuse to fall off the wagon. Currently I'm trying to dry them out but that's one drawback to using the new low-energy efficient bulbs.

Of course, if I had the old-fashioned heat-radiating ones, the rose plant would probably spontaneously burst into flame.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

I remember coming home late one night in college, sophomore year. My roommate was enjoying the late night reality classic, Cheaters. We watched it as a joke, laughing at couples screaming at each other over billiard tables, women pulling each others' hair, and interviews with the weeping protagonists explaining how their spouse had promised never to "do this" again after "last time".
"Once a cheater, always a cheater," my roommate stated as we climbed into our respective beds.

For some reason that comment has stuck with me.

I think that the same goes for liars. Have you ever known someone who has had a series of unusual experiences that don't seem to add up? Have their circumstances ever started to make more sense after you catch them in a lie? As a rule, growing up, I would second guess myself rather than someone else. Maybe I was confused, or remembered something wrong, or there was a misunderstanding. Nowadays, I'm a little more jaded. I still give people the benefit of the doubt initially, but when things don't seem to make sense, they're on thin ice. And once I have proof that the person has lied in the past, why should I believe anything else they say that sounds suspicious? Sure, some of it is probably true, but why should I have to play the fool? That's not fair.

I'm not happy about this. Maybe if I were in a more stable phase in my life, with a  long-term job, relationship, and residence, I would gloss over more offenses. It's not fun being suspicious or angry. It degrades relationships. It's stressful and I feel like I always have to justify being so defensive. But what else can I do? Words don't mean much if they've only been empty promises in the past.

Interesting tidbits on landlord responsibilities

My water has been turned off, without warning, for the second time in the span of 8 days. I found the following information, from the Rights and Responsibilities
of Landlords and Tenants in Connecticut, published by the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch Superior Court, pretty interesting.

The landlord must:

  • provide a clean apartment when the tenant moves in;
  • clean common areas (hallways, stairs, yards, entryways);
  • keep hallways and entryways lighted well; and,
  • keep plumbing and heating systems working (both hot and cold running water).
In addition, the following may be required by state and
local housing, health and fire codes:
  • correctly repaired and safe stairways, porches, floors, ceilings and walls;
  • good locks on the doors to the apartment;
  • safe fire exits from the building;
  • two electrical outlets in each room;
  • extermination service if the apartment is infested with pests or rodents; and
  • a smoke detector that is in working order.

If problems arise with utilities supplied by the landlord,
the tenant should:

  • First contact the landlord and then tell the land-lord the problem in writing and follow up with a call.
  • If the utility is not restored, contact the local Health Department or Housing Code Office. They have the power to contact the landlord and inspect the apartment.
  • Contact the local police department.
  • Restore the utility and deduct the cost from the rent.
  • After two (2) business days without a utility, get another place to live until the utility is restored.

As it turns out, my landlord doesn't only suck, but he's also been violating the rules outlined in this document! I know that some of these are subjective, but I don't think that anyone would deny that leaving cleaning materials, including disgusting dirty towels in the tub and bathroom cabinet are part of a clean apartment upon moving in, nor a refrigerator filled with dead fruit flies. I am so seething with anger that I can't even call him. I wish someone could take my bp right now.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Luck and logic

Being alone sucks. (Have I started a post this way before?...) But I'm not just whining. Being alone is annoying and bad for your bank account and your general and mental health. However if you haven't met that special someone, the only alternative is being with someone who isn't right for you. This is also generally bad for your finances and general and mental health.

So what the heck world? So what the heck other people who are all my age and married? Am I missing some vital secret or did I not get the memo that we're supposed to be faking it? Or do I really just have incredibly bad luck??

I'm actually guessing that it's the last one. I've always had bad luck. I knew it even back when I was little. In third grade the students did a project where we decorated giant pieces of paper with what we imagined to be Native American-like designs (but as we know, third graders aren't exactly masters of the Components of Design). My rug was made with my best friend, and included cat faces, hearts, and other traditional Native American elements. When it was done, I wanted to share the rug weekly, but my friend wanted to draw straws. I objected, because I knew I would lose. I think that finally I ended up crying, but my friend wouldn't back down, and so the teacher picked names out of a hat... and I won. I felt like such a jerk, with tears streaming down my face from being upset that I would lose. After all this, I'm pretty sure that having my name drawn for custody of the rug was the most unlucky thing that could have happened.

Who are all these people who long for the days of youth anyway??

I'm still not really sure what the best option is in regard to being alone or being with someone who's eh. I'm pretty sure both of them have more cons than pros. I've always rationalized not dating someone who's only mediocre with the logic that I don't have the time or energy for added stress. But honestly taking care of everything myself and the lack of any physical contact aside from that of Rosie rubbing her wet nose into my nostril to wake me up at 5am also results in a certain amount of stress.

I don't have an answer, but I think that it's valuable to see both sides. I do enjoy blowing off steam by writing these entries but they also help me pick apart a swarm of contrasting feelings in a complex situation. I talk about it to work through it, because I know that I can learn from all of these experiences. As my best short friend always reassures me, "Think of how much we've learned from all this. We're going to be GENIUSES!"

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Unconditional love

I once dated a guy who didn't believe that animals have feelings.

I don't know what I was thinking.

This morning it was chilly. I was bundled up in my blankets and was having a dream about staying at an awful hotel for a conference (all too real, in my opinion) when I awoke. Checking my phone and seeing that I had time to sleep more, I stumbled to the bathroom and back, alerting my three year old cat, Rosie, that I was "awake". She jumped up on the bed, probably expecting attention, but I rolled over and went back to sleep with the comforter pulled up to my chin and tucked in around my shoulders, practically an air-tight seal.
When I awoke on my side, I found that Rosie had scrunched herself into the mini crevice between my arm and stomach. I smiled but, uncomfortable, rolled over onto my back. Rosie complied and moved to lie on my chest on the part that people are always rubbing in Vaporub commercials; exactly where I can feel the cold when a sinus infection is coming on. Then she began to purr.

Maybe she was just cold, but this is what I call unconditional love.

posted from Bloggeroid

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

People just... make me wonder.

This is a Tumbler-type entry, themed "People just... make me wonder."

From a blog titled End Of World Party 2012, dedicated to organizing a party boat cruise for Dec 21:

Sir Samuel Zeus Clemons February 27, 2011 at 11:15 pm

i’ve been communicating with mayan aliens for some time. i was turned onto this site by one of my elves, she’s the coolest elfin chick on the planet, goes by @OuchDammit on #Twitter.

i can say the mayans are pretty decent people, they come occasionally and send out landing parties from time to time….

it is probably obvious why they communicate with us ferrets, instead of humans, since humans are so bipolar and whacked out half the time.

i tweet at @Samuel_Clemons

P.S. can i bring my elves, nurse in hot maid’s outfit, and other minions?


A message recently received on a dating website...
Hello , 
My name is XXXX. I’m doing My Fellowship to become an Heart Surgeon .You look beautiful. Your eyes can speak.. I would love to know you more you seem like an honest person which is hard to get in today’s world. Looking forward to hearing from you. 
PS I had bad stalker experience which was not good that is why no picture on profile. 

Yup this guy is DEFINITELY a real doctor...
And finally, a *highly* selective sampling of reviews for the movie Trollhunter-

"5 Stars! Sharp wit, explosive action and great humor."

"Funny and sad, mythic and thoroughly modern, Troll Hunter is a MUST-SEE for anybody who likes smart, well-written creature features."

"Makes trolls seem so real you will be afraid to go camping."

I have seen this movie all the way through and none of these- I repeat, NONE of these- come even close to being true.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

And the snow with its whiteness...

In bed with my down comforter, listening to the wind whistling over the brick face of my building, I feel fortunate to separate from nature's angry power. Winter in New England is such a unique time. There is the one world outside, where the elements rule with all their fury. And there is another world here inside, a world of normal, simple things which we take for granted, like heat and blankets and curtains. Such a curiosity, that there should be such a difference between the worlds- one is nothing like the other.
Look out my window, and all that can be see is white. Even the roads show only a smudge of muted grey down the middle. There is snow carpeting the fallen leaves, snow up above on ledges and branches, and even the air is still filled with snow, whipping back and forth as if trying to fill up that space also. It's easy to imagine, 50 years ago, why people scoffed at the idea of tectonic plates, landing on the moon, global warming. Nature seems so big and overwhelming, so ubiquitous and all-encompassing, that it must be infallible. Just think of trying to travel in the snow before plows and cars.... it would seem outrageous to think of moving the volume of snow that plows now remove (and trucks sometimes further remove) from the roads.
The vast power and strength of nature are not only intimidating though. In its grandness, nature is also reassuring. It is something bigger than ourselves. Uncontrollable and unstoppable, we think that it must prevail no matter what mistakes we make. That even after a disaster, errors will be hidden until so much snow.
This is exactly why we must protect it; to remind us that there is something bigger than ourselves; and perhaps, also that even the biggest, strongest, most wild beast sometimes faces a fight where it might not triumph.

Tonight is exactly the kind of night I imagine it being when Meg Murry hears a wind in the door.

“At Tara in this fateful hour,
I place all Heaven with its power,
And the sun with its brightness,
And the snow with its whiteness,
And the fire with all the strength it hath,
And the lightning with its rapid wrath,
And the winds with their swiftness along their path,
And the sea with its deepness,
And the rocks with their steepness,
And the earth with its starkness:
All these I place,
By God's almighty help and grace
Between myself and the powers of darkness.”

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Brannigan, begin again

I want to eat because I'm stressed. I'm stressed NOT because I have six million things to do, but because after nearly five years in graduate school and hours of therapy, I can now handle having five million things to do. No, I'm stressed because for some inexplicable reason, everyone seems to think that THEY know how to do my job better than I can.

My standard operating procedure is as follows:
1- Observe how undesirable situations arise
2- Do not repeat actions that yielded undesirable situation.

If my mother is reading this, she's raising vehement objections. Mom, it's one thing for you to tell me life lessons that you've learned and expect me to take them on faith. It's another thing for me to suggest the way to do something during a lab meeting, politely defer to others' (these are junior others) and then waste countless hours of my life discussing endless other ways to do whatever it is we're trying to achieve. Usually it's something completely asinine, like the division of work, or setting up meetings. Lately, I've just given up on being nice and bark out my suggestions and stare down dissenters. I know that barking isn't attractive, but neither are the giant bags under my eyes from working until late because the time that I had reserved for reading an article, or doing analyses or WHATEVER was eaten up by some sophomore with an uncontrollable desire to help by suggesting increasingly unhelpful possibilities of when to hold meetings.

Growing up, I wasn't much of a leader. I marched to the beat of my own drum (more like, the toot of my own Star Wars intro theme) but wasn't much for getting others to do it with me. I knew I had good ideas, and was passionate, but I never felt the need to be in charge.

But then I entered grad school.

One of the most overlooked and potentially devastating downfalls of higher education in science is that young scientists get zero training in management. Have you ever sat in a room full of professors and graduate students and tried to pick a theme for your discussion-based primary literature course? After 10 semesters of this, I seriously don't know if I can stand another round. Seriously. I may have to inhale some toxic fumes and get rushed to the hospital on purpose to avoid it.
It's not just that everyone has different opinions. It's that everyone is polite enough to (grudgingly) listen to everyone else's suggestions, even long after the time that you've accumulated far more topics than are needed, even if everyone votes twice. No one ever steps in and says, yeah ok that's enough. I don't know if it's because no one wants to be "that" person, who doesn't let little Rhiannon get in her oh-so-important fourth recommendation, or because they're afraid someone else will step up and ask who put THEM in charge, or because they enjoy the screechy melody of our young, caffeine-fueled voices. All I know is that no one ever stops it until I've spent 15 minutes imagining ways to kill myself inside the conference room without anyone noticing. (Note: it wouldn't be very hard to keep them from noticing.)

I'm completely off topic. What was my point again? Ah yes. People mysteriously insisting on taking the path of greatest resistance. Here's another example. Last year, I applied for a grant from a national institution. Roughly a week before it was due, someone mentioned to me (surprise!!!) that the grant actually had to be submitted to my university first, and then the university would "OK" it, and do the actual submission. It was still nearly just as much work for me; the only thing the institution needed to do, besides read over what I had written and click "submit" was to fill out the overhead costs section. All this was pretty annoying though, because they wanted to have the grant 4 days in advance (apparently they're slow readers!) and since I had been informed of this at a late date (don't even get me started on THAT) this was, to say the least, a time crunch.
But after a hell of a lot of work, and revisions, and not sleeping for a week, I submitted! I was so proud of myself that I opened a bottle of wine I'd brought back from Argentina and had been saving for three years.
Two days later, I got a message from the grant institution. A bit apprehensive, I opened it.

I had been disqualified because the overhead costs on my application had been filled out incorrectly.

Some people think I'm bitter. Others think I'm bossy, and I bet some people even think I'm mean. But really, I'm just trying to get shit done. Right.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Saturday night's-

The kitty's asleep
but I'm awake with my expectations.
I thought I only
watched six episodes of Glee;
but it turns out
I watched 9.

This afternoon I worked hard
so I could take the night off.
But without any plans
on a Saturday night, it's no so all right.

I'll go to bed now too late,
having stayed up waiting
for something better to come along.
And tomorrow I work again.

Go to the gym,
work for the lab,
clean up the apartment,
wash myclothes
And I can't get no

Another week has gone by
without hitch nor error
but I ask myself-
What have I done wrong?