Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A year makes all the difference - Scientiae, August 2010

I celebrated the first anniversary of depositing my master's thesis a few days ago. Reading my posts from a year ago, it would seem that I have gotten nowhere in the last year. I just started writing my prelim proposal and have yet to submit the paper based on my thesis. Despite my lack of visible productivity, I have accomplished a lot in the past year personally and professionally.

On the personal side, I went from living with my ex-boyfriend and two cats to living alone. That involved a drawn-out transition that I believe is finally coming to a close. My house is much cleaner and more peaceful than before, and I'm confident that I've made good, if difficult, decisions in light of the circumstances life handed me. I am now free to help my family on short notice if my dad's condition suddenly changes. When I'm not visiting family, I am able to focus more on myself and redirecting my life along a more satisfying path. I am becoming more the me I want to be by the day. That involves new career goals, new and renewed hobbies, and learning from all the trials of recent years.

Professionally, I admitted my passion for language and broad learning. As a scientist, I'd face deep learning and technical, utilitarian writing--not the best fit. Because of this seemingly obvious epiphany (as so many are in hindsight), I began to seek training in journalism. A couple of the instructors from the journalism department at my school are working with me to plan a curriculum that will fit with my PhD work. I'm really excited to meet with them in a couple of weeks! I feel more certain in my career plans than I have in years even though they're still developing. I'm running on pure faith that I'll find a way to pay off my undergrad loans (I suppose that's not much of a change).

My hobbies and hope for the future carry me over all the hurdles I face. Part of my life is unpredictable right now because of my dad's illness, but it does not comprise my life. In pursuit of being the best me I can, here some of my goals:
Six months
  • pass my prelim
  • complete the first objective listed in my PhD research proposal and present the results at a national professional conference
  • submit the MS paper
  • ride a century (100 miles)
  • gain experience in journalism and/or science writing, either through a class or an internship
  • test for my blue belt in jujitsu (a stretch, but not impossible)
  • continue to read as if my books are disintigrating before my eyes
One year
  • complete more of the PhD-specific goals I'll come up with as part of my prelim (TBD)
  • have a portfolio of usable writing clips
  • start working on the first paper based on my PhD research
  • ride my bike a bunch--at least one century next season
  • gain proficiency in jujitsu to at least the level of green tip
  • travel somewhere new
Instead of feeling lost as I have for many months, I'm excited for all the opportunities coming this year. I only dread two possibilities: letting fear get in my way and my dad's treatment not going well. The former I can prevent. The latter I will ignore unless it happens because there is no way to prepare for it.

To end on a positive note, I am elated about my upcoming tour of the East Coast. I can't wait to visit so many places and good friends. It'll be a great adventure!

Posted for the August 2010 edition of Scientiae, hosted by Alyssa at Apple Pie and the Universe.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

2010 ranks high in global temperature records

This year is setting a variety of records for global average temperature, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). Much of the record high global average temperature is because of unusually high land surface temperatures. This June exceeded the previous record, set in 2005, by 0.20°F. Ocean surface temperatures placed fourth.

Not everywhere is experiencing record heat. Spain recorded its "coolest June temperature anomaly since 1997," and Guizhou, China, saw record low June temperatures. Despite that, June 2010 was the 304th consecutive month with the global average surface temperature above the twentieth century average.

Near where I live, March, April, and May were all warmer than average. Most of the prior eight months were below average (November was a prominent exception). The High Plains Regional Climate Center has a neat tool to look at a bunch of climate variables across the U.S. How does your region jibe with the global average?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Macs win

You know that program that's been regularly crashing the department computer cluster for at least a couple of months? It runs fine on a Mac (thanks, adviser!). Go figure. At least I can make the final figure for my paper now.

Speaking of the paper, I have something resembling a draft. I haven't written the conclusions or abstract yet because I want to clarify the focus of the paper with some revisions before I try to summarize it. I'm having trouble with the organization. Each figure shows a series of six times for a level of the atmosphere. I used the figures to make a paragraph-by-paragraph outline that the adviser said looked good. After the introduction, data, and methods, I point out the significant features at each level and follow them through time. Now I want to connect the levels of the atmosphere to show a somewhat cohesive system and address teleconnections to show that the phenomenon I'm studying affects areas outside my focus region. Despite my seemingly logical outline, the discussion seems haphazard. I hope it only needs some heavy editing, but what if all the editing in the world will not make this organization scheme flow?

Friday, July 9, 2010

From NPR: The Writer Who Couldn't Read

Did you know that writing and reading are distinct processes in your brain? Howard Engel, an author of detective stories, lost his ability to read when he had a stroke, but he could still write. Check out how he relearned to read through writing: The Writer Who Couldn't Read.

Found on the Writers Write blog

Writing my first paper: Oh, the pain!

I am in the midst of editing my first scientific paper, and it's painful! I'm sure most of the pain is self inflicted. It's not bad once I sit down and start working, but it seems like the work never ends. I've been working with the same (last) figure for the paper for many weeks, fighting computer problems that defy explanation. I finally moved the scripts to a different machine. I don't think it's working. Though the program is still listed as an active process, the output file is showing no progress.

The part of the paper that I can write without the last figure is coming along. I'm flailing a little because I'm not sure how to write it. I suppose I'll find out if I'm doing it correctly when I send my polished-as-I-can-get-it draft to the advisor. To do that, however, I need to plot the last figure.

I have completely given up hope of finishing the prelim before the end of summer. I'd have to figure out how to run a model, generate preliminary data, write everything up, and figure out what else I have to do for a prelim in the next two weeks before my adviser and I are both out of town for the majority of August. Dammit!

As a result, I am registered for a class this fall on using the WRF model. I suppose it'll be a useful class. I still don't want to take it.

In positive news, my journalism (copyediting) professor invited me to chat with her about finding a way to get the experience and knowledge I need to break into science writing. I'll definitely take her up on that.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

My house gets clean when the computer dies

Ahh, the pleasure of a clean house and the sinuses to prove that I did the cleaning! I still have to clean the bathroom, the bedroom, and a few things in the kitchen, but I've made huge progress over the past couple of days. Pretty soon my house will be ready to host even those who are allergic to cats. (I gave my cats to a good home since I will not be here consistently enough to take good care of them.)

On the research front, the cursed paper I've been writing for the last mumble, mumble is delayed yet again. This time it has nothing to do with motivation or distractions. The department computer cluster doesn't play well with my code. I may have single-handedly frozen the file system several times. The cluster is now down for service. I'm going to start working on my prelim in the mean time since I feel like I'm wasting time waiting for technology to work. I don't have much hope of getting it done before the semester starts anymore, but I should be able to make a significant dent in it.

In other news:
  • I'm still enjoying my class. It turns out that I'm pretty good at copyediting (when I pay attention to such things).
  • My dress for my brother's wedding should be ready Tuesday, which is in plenty of time for the wedding. I need light gold shoes. Let's not discuss my progress on that
  • Dad's doing well for someone on a heavy chemo regimen.
  • I'm riding 62 miles on Sunday in the JBC 4th of July Metric Ride. This time I'm riding solo--no family, no friends coming. I guess I'll have to talk to strangers!
  • I have not yet turned my AC on despite some days above 90°F. I'm enjoying being stubborn.
  • I like fireworks.