Tuesday, May 20, 2008


I've been against karaoke basically my entire life. I don't consider myself a good singer, and rarely if ever sing around other people. The one time I sang karaoke was at my high school after-graduation party, and it wasn't exactly my best performance ever.

However, last Saturday was a friend's birthday and she wanted to go to karaoke. So I gave in since it was her celebration and not mine. The karaoke place in town gives each group their own room, so you aren't singing in front of strangers. At first I was a little hesitant, but everyone was basically singing along with the people who had the mikes so I joined in as well. I even sang 2 songs with the mike, because they were songs I knew really well and most other people didn't know them! So I'm patting myself on the back for getting over my dislike of karaoke and having a good time. I'm actually a little excited about going again! Guess that goes to show that you should give things you don't like at least two chances.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Wow, I never thought that would happen to ME!

So I just experienced one of life's little ironies for the first time: I started being healthier and gained weight. I now weigh 10lb more than I ever have before; yes, 10lb is not that much, but it's a start to something I don't want to continue.

It's ironic because it coincides with the academic year where I've been trying to cut out corn syrup (especially high-fructose corn syrup) by not buying foods with it in the ingredients, eat more organic and natural foods, eat fewer unhealthy snacks (replaced with fruit), and actually exercise. In fact, since January I have been exercising exponentially more than I have since coming to grad school.

Of course despite my good intentions there were weeks where we were just so busy that there was no time to cook dinner and instead we ate out or ate processed food (although we did try to buy processed food that was less bad than most processed food). I was also so stressed out for a month or so that I probably ate when I wasn't hungry. But these types of events have been occurring since I started undergrad so they can't by themselves explain the sudden weight gain.

The good thing is that the weight is not particularly noticeable to anyone else (in fact, someone asked me about a month ago if I had lost weight). This gives me hope that at least some of it is muscle mass from my increased exercise (softball, volleyball, tennis). But although it annoys me, it amuses me as well since I always hear women complain about gaining weight despite their good eating or exercising habits (and sometimes both), and I could never relate....until now!

I guess this summer will be a good one to test my theories on healthier living occurring during the summer instead of the school year for graduate students.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Legacy of the Block of Wood in my Car Door

"I'm sure someone my landlady knows has a table saw..."

Or at least something similar to the above statement is how the "fixing the car window" adventure of last summer began. The breaking of the car window occurred earlier that afternoon, when my officemate put down the rear right window on our way to lunch. As usual, the window hadn't worked well for a few months and I had put tape over the window switch to keep passengers from putting it down. By "hadn't worked well" I mean that you could put it down, but it would take at least a day or two until the motor would agree that the window should be allowed to go back up.

Of course it was entirely my fault that it happened: I didn't warn her not to put the window down, and when the problem had last happened I hadn't unplugged the switch from the window so that no amount of pushing the button would make it go down.

On the way back from lunch we stopped at 2 gas stations to get some WD-40 to try to lubricate the motor (the first gas station had NOTHING useful, and the second one only had a "WD-40 pen"). Richland apparently doesn't believe in these sorts of products.

We then worked on the window in our building's parking lot. I'm sure multiple people looked out their windows at some point and wondered what the heck we were doing taking a car door apart, but no one bothered us (hmm... is it a problem that no one cared about suspicious/odd behavior in the middle of a government lab's land?). We tried again later at my officemate's house.

Unfortunately, our efforts failed completely. Not to be out-smarted by a door, we came up with a plan: prop up the window with something. Our something became a piece of wood, but we needed a saw (and some wood). I bought some scrap wood for about a dollar at the home improvement store, and my officemate talked to the lady she was staying with about who she knew that might have a saw. Turns out someone just down the road did, so we went there after I returned with wood.

Well, the man down the street with a saw didn't like the block of wood I bought as it was a bit too big and needed to be cut (but a bit too big I mean about 5 times too wide). Luckily he had some other scraps and quickly cut them to size for me, along with a notch at the top to hold the window in place. We needed two separate pieces to be able to get it in the door, so I held the window up while he screwed them together. We then zip-tied the wood to the metal rod in the door. To put the inside of the door back on we had to trim the Styrofoam blocks attacked to it to fit around the wood.

This was supposed to be a temporary fix, since it was near the end of the summer and I would soon be driving across country to get back to New England. Well, until this morning the block of wood was still there, working every day and night to keep my window appearing to be normal.

About a month ago the window started to noticeably move down, such that a small opening appeared at the top of it. I opened up the door to check on my trusty block of wood. It was moldy! How gross. I assume the mold was eating up the wood enough to make it shrink or shift at the bottom of the door. Not having much time and a headache, I closed it all back up.

Today it was still relatively chilly in the morning, so I thought I'd see if I could get the motor to work. It has been finicky since around the time I bought the car (5 years ago...), so there is always a 50/50 chance on whether or not it will work on any given day. Amazingly, after plugging it back in the actual window support moved up when I tried the switch! Thus began about 20 minutes of taking out the moldy wood (with gloves) and putting the window back on its originally intended support. Another try, and window moved all the way up!

This time I unplugged the switch from the motor so that no one can put the window down. I left the tape on to help remind people not to bother trying, but at least now no one will erroneously feel bad about putting down the window.

You may want to ask why I just don't take it to a repair shop to get it fixed; well, I did that about 4 years ago when it first became a big problem, and about 6 months later it broke again. So I'd rather not waste my money.