Friday, April 18, 2008

Motion Detectors don't like Paper Airplanes

On a related note to my recent Lights up my World post, we have a motion detector in our lab that turns off some of the overhead lights when no motion has been detected for about 15 minutes. Unfortunately for me, it only detects movement in half the room, with my desk being on the far end of the other half. So if I'm in there by myself, it gets really annoying, really quickly. Luckily, I have that new desk lamp that I can sit with as my primary light source (assuming most of the overhead lights are on) for a little while. Usually that little while is just long enough before I want to move anyway, meaning I can go set off the motion detector. I used to get up every 15 minutes, walk halfway across the room, and then go sit back down, and repeat....

Another one of my lab mates is also in the uncovered area of the lab, and we've been the only ones in the lab a number of times in the past two weeks. We started devising mechanisms to trigger the motion detector without having to move from our cubicles. I created a fabulous paper airplane that flew into the detected zone...and then did not activate the motion detector. We tried waving around my poster carrier tube as well. We also seriously considered tying something to the ceiling tiles with a rope ending at my labmate's cube so that if he pulled on it the movement of the object would turn the lights back on. Alas, we had not rope. So we just made any visitors walk in and out of the other door instead of the one closest to our cubes, causing them to set off the motion detector each time.

See, grad school can be entertaining! Really!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Purple peacocks, he's got 53!

On Tuesday night I watched Disney's Aladdin for the first time in years (well, probably decades), thanks to having a housemate with a substantial movie collection. This was one of my absolute favorite Disney movies as a child, along with Aladdin 2, Snow White, and Sword in the Stone. In middle school I had the sheet music for all of the songs (I probably memorized it all as well), I knew all the words by heart (for the songs and dialog), and I really wanted to dress like Jasmine (is that really healthy?).

It's amazing how different Disney movies seem when you see them for the first time as an adult. There were things I noticed that I hadn't really noticed before, and I even understood something new! For instance, there were references that I hadn't really paid attention to in the movie before, such as the sultan praising "Ala" when Jasmine chooses a suitor and other good things happen. As a child I didn't know much about other religions, so I don't think I really understood. There were also sexual innuendos that I had understood on some basic level as a child, but understand much better now. There is also so little plot explanation and true character development, but yet the story is so lovable! It's like one of my housemates said: you don't see much of Rajah, but she is still one of the most beloved characters. Not to mention all of the references to other Disney movies, including Fantasia!

Although I think the biggest difference is my opinion of Iago, the parrot. He's so annoying! As a kid I just thought of him as an annoying parrot, and an interesting character for that very reason. However, now that I know who Gilbert Gottfried is and can recognize his voice a mile away, all I could think about was how annoying he is! Yes, he annoys me on many levels and probably always will. But now I can't even think of Iago as being a obnoxious parrot, all I can think about is Gilbert Gottfried having an annoying voice and how I wish he wasn't the voice of Iago! It totally ruins the ability to be drawn into the world on any level. I think this of all things may ruin my enjoyment of Aladdin for the rest of my life.

I still can't wait to watch Aladdin 2 again though, and I still miss the Aladdin TV series (although I was probably above the chosen viewing age when it was on).

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

neVer forgeT

Today turned out not to be as bad as I expected. As the 1 year anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings, I expected to relive all the sadness and emotional instability of the week that started with April 16, 2007. I've had today on my mind for the past week, remembering all of the sadness I experienced myself as well as all of the grief I saw friends experience from afar. Thinking about how the university community was forever tarnished, and how so many people lost their lives, will always make me sad.

However, today I felt renewed. It almost felt like a fresh start, like a day to celebrate that yes, we made it. I really believe that today represents an important milestone in the healing process. That we made it to today helps to signify that we can make it to next year, and the year after that, and so on, without losing our minds, wallowing in grief, or forgetting to live ourselves. Granted, it is much harder for those who lost loved ones or dear friends, but I hope that reaching this point is helping them as well.

I wore an orange shirt today, and yesterday I encouraged other students and faculty through our social mailing list to consider wearing maroon or orange. I didn't see very many people in the department today since I was in my lab most of the time, but I did see people wearing those colors. It was nice to think that people were silently showing support. As I was thinking about things this past week I was worried that people might ask me questions about the shootings, especially people that weren't here last year but do know I went to VT. Thankfully no one did, as I think I may have fallen apart being asked much of anything.

It was an emotional day, but for the most part the emotion stayed inside and in the back of my mind. It came to the forefront only as I watched the commemoration speech webcast on the VT website. Hearing the names of each victim and a few sentences about them only served to remind me how real people died that die, real people with hopes and dreams, family and friends, plans for the future that will now never happen. It only served to remind me that they never had the chance to say "goodbye." It was enough that I had to pause the webcast a few times to keep from being overwhelmed. It was enough that just thinking about it is affecting me now.

As was said before, we will prevail. Although parts of this day were rough, making it to the end is a sign that we will indeed prevail, even it will take time. I hope that everyone else thinking about the Hokies today were also able to find strength for the future, and that everyone will be OK. I truly believe that we will be.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Grad Student Eating Habits (summer vs semester)

I find that different times of the year bring about vastly different health choices, at least for me. This change was exceptionally noticeable between last summer and this past fall, as I was on an internship during the summer. Unlike most internships, I was not paid any more than during the regular school year, so money was not the main issue. However, I somehow worked out more, ate more fruit, cooked more at home, ate leftovers or "real" food for lunch, watched less TV, surfed less Internet, and saw more daylight.

Many of these changes are probably due to having more time in the evenings (although of course I had research to do during many of them), such as cooking enough dinner to eat for a lunch or two as well, and finding time for tennis in the evenings. I saw more daylight because my desk was actually in a room with a window (amazing!), and because daylight lasted at least until 9PM. I surfed less Internet and watched less TV because I spent more time on the phone with people who were not there, I read a few books (including the entire Harry Potter series....again), and I had to go to bed at a reasonable time.

Of course once I returned to grad school, I started eating instant lunch food again, sitting in front of the TV with dinner, not exercising as frequently, and sitting in a windowless room. I think somehow grad school just drains the will to put effort into this sort of thing.

I have been better this spring semester though. I'm on an intramural volleyball team (last summer was my first game of volleyball in about a decade!), I have weights and exercises to do at home, and I plan to bike into school once it warms up more. I've been better about eating fruit for snack instead of junk food as well! It seems like once you resign yourself to putting the little extra time here and there to keeping healthy, it's not really so hard. It's still hard for me to convince myself to exercise for the sake of it, but soon I'll have softball as well as tennis, so it should be a great summer again. Even without the internship definition of a work day!

Lights up my world!

I just barely missed the month mark, but as of 2 days ago it has been 1 month since I blogged about the new light on my desk at school!

Yes, I know you were hoping for something more exciting. But really, it's riveting! My headaches seem to be completely gone (nothing short of a miracle), and I feel happier whenever I'm sitting at my desk. This has been true ever since I received that lamp. The difference is remarkable. I think I'm starting to sound a lot like an advertisement...but I really do love it!

It's amazing how something little like that can make being at work so wonderful. I was there until after midnight multiple nights last week (due to a deadline), and I think having such bright white light actually tricked me into thinking it was earlier in the day each time. If I thought my advisor was more likely to trick us, I would think that she'd paid for the lights just to con us into working longer hours in the lab.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

I love books, but libraries don't love me!

I've loved books since I was a kid. I actually got in trouble often for reading for too long at a time, as my optometrist had said that reading for hours and hours on end was one of the factors causing my bad eyesight. I remember reading with a flashlight in my bed in elementary and middle school since there was always more I wanted to read of the book.

So what does this have to do with my adult life? It would seem to have no correlation, as it's hard to find time to read for fun. I mostly read articles online (news, self-help, short interesting stories) that I can finish in 30 minutes. I also read online comics, which give me the nice fantasy world. But none of this is the same as reading a great book from start to finish (although I did read an entire trilogy last summer, as well as re-reading the entire Harry Potter series!). I've gotten halfway through a fiction book on audiotape (yes, tape) this schoolyear, but I haven't listed to that in 2 months now.

No, what my life has come to now is reading for research and classes. I read technical articles, textbooks, library books. And thus we get to the crux of my problem: library books. I'm like Hermione in the sense that I believe the answers to all of my academic problems lie in library books, only my library is not nearly as reliable as her library! Quite often our online library search does not find a book that does actually exist, a book I need is checked out for the next 5 months, or the book I need is at one of the other area colleges and will take multiple days to get to me. It seems that if you want a library book from a university library, you better check it out at the beginning of the semester, otherwise it will not be there! There are thousands of books in our library system, but yet the ones I really need are always checked out. Probabilistically, this should not happen to me as often as it does. I must conclude that the library does not love me as much as I love it.

I'm not sure what makes me sadder: that I never read for fun, that I now rely on a university library and am happy about it, or that something that should be so useful has failed me so many times and tends to fail at the crucial time period.