Saturday, December 10, 2011

Travel Time!

Tomorrow, I'm flying to my first and second on-site interviews (my second interviews with these places overall). Can anyone guess where they are?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

How to Finish Your Ph.D. and Get a Job, Part I

I have all the answers.

Happy birthday to me!

Just kidding! I have no answers! Yet. I'm trying to accomplish both things, so if I ever do, I will let you know.

In the mean time, now you know where I've been. Right after the Marine Corps Marathon, I woke up early and dragged myself to main campus for Princeton's Dissertation Boot Camp. Five days of dedicated writing time with an array of breakfast and lunch-ish snacks and a constant drip of coffee? SIGN ME UP.

Mom makes fun of me for my free food fascination, but I am only behaving like any other normal grad student. I digress. Writing.

Boot Camp began with a round-table discussion in which our sergeants (lovely Writing Center staff) led our group of 20 plebes through introductions, exercises to help us define our dissertation audience(s) and good titles, and the writing of daily and weekly goals. I enjoyed chatting with my fellow cadets very much, even though (especially because?) I was one of only four or five scientists or engineers in a sea of humanities and social sciences folk. Soon, we were sent off to our assigned desks for the week. I shared a big, comfy room with two other writers.

This desk was mine for five productive days:
GS Boot Camp

The impressive array of morning snacks included bananas, grapes, bagels, yogurt, granola bars, cream cheese, peanut butter, Nutella, juices, tea, and coffee. The afternoon snacks were not advertised as such, but I made a very satisfying lunch out of them: trail mix, hummus, pita chips, apples, more granola bars, more coffee, and--perhaps because it was Halloween--REESE'S!
Delicious snacks

Our bulletin boards held inspiring quotes, our goal note cards, and my dream defense date.
Personal bulletin board
So true

On the second day of camp, I turned 27! Happy Birthday to me! I arrived home that day to these beauties on the patio, courtesy of Craig and Melissa:
Birthday cupcakes on my patio!

Also, Rachel cracked me up with this card in my mailbox:
Awesome card.

And sister Amy's Arabic-speaking Dalek is amazing:
Awesome card II, from Amy!

On Day 3, I used a bunch of books, lugged all the way over from lab:
I lugged a lot of books from lab.

In the afternoons, we broke up into small debriefing groups, the same each day. I was highly amused that in mine of five people, I was the only girl. Now, that's not unusual. That's downright normal. What was strange is that I was the only scientist! :)

By Day 4, I was done with a Chapter 1 draft and truckin' through Chapter 2:
Day 4! Still Alive!

I got to do some math, which makes me happy:
I did math today.

My group got along well. They were interesting guys with topics completely outside of what I usually contemplate: Georgian music, philosophy, ancient Japanese warrior families, and Latin American drama groups. I loved glimpses into their worlds, and I hope they enjoyed glimpses into mine...

On Day 5, we wrote during the morning and had one last debriefing with the entire squad. And pizza and cannoli (which will always remind me of You've Got Mail). We discussed our progress (we all made some), what helped (a new space, focused comrades, free food), and how we could perpetuate this motion and finish (stay off Facebook).

I highly recommend that you take the Dissertation Boot Camp if it is offered at your university (Princeton isn't the only one that does). It kick-started my writing! I left with 1.75 more chapter drafts! (Out of only five or six total, that's significant.)

I finished out Day 5 in my apartment.
Last day ended early, so I finished at home.

Here, I learned one reason...
Faraday is one reason...

...for the difficulty that I occasionally have...
...why I have difficulty...

...working at home.
...working from home sometimes.


Since Boot Camp, however, you'll be pleased to know that I have complete rough drafts of three chapters, a 75% finished draft of another, a 33% finished draft of the fifth, and plans for the simulations for the sixth.

One major tip I can confidently offer to someone writing their dissertation? GET A BUDDY. Working with Nadine, who is writing her master's thesis, lends accountability, motivation, and camaraderie. The food at our meetings isn't free, but at least we share it. :)

Stay tuned for Part II: "How Jess Is Trying to Get a Job".

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Marine Corps Marathon: The Race I Didn't Run

I've written many race weekend recaps, but this one's a bit different. I didn't run in this race, I volunteered for it!

When my stress fracture sidelined me from training, I deferred my registration in the Marine Corps Marathon until 2012 and signed up to volunteer at the expo the day before. So, on the morning of Saturday, October 29th, I packed my car for the weekend and drove down to DC! This was the day of a freak East Coast snowstorm. I drove ahead of the snow and through intense rain the entire way down the I-95 corridor from NJ to DC. Thanks to the high-speed flow of traffic and very alert driving (due to a pumpkin spice latte), I arrived at the DC Armory for the Expo in a not-too-shabby four hours.

I signed in at the check-in tent, got my t-shirt, and was asked if I'm comfortable with computers and could find numbers in a database. Yes, yes I can. The sweet morning-shift lady trained me and left. All the runners were super friendly and nervously excited. I loved checking IDs and discovering from whence they came. We spoke often of the frigid, soggy weather and hoped that the forecast was right: that Sunday would be sunnier and warmer. Someone asked where I found a Starbucks; she was quite disappointed to learn it was in Delaware.

In a mid-afternoon lull, another volunteer suggested I go inside the Armory to the main part of the Expo to look around. As race expos go, it was a good one! Definitely on par with the Philly Rock'n'Roll Half and the Seattle Marathon Expos, much better than the NYC Half Expo, and not nearly as fun as the Disneyworld Marathon Expo. I took info for the Athens Marathon (a bucket list item of mine: they run it from Marathon to Athens, like the original), ate some samples of protein bars, and avoided looking at shoes (because I have no extra money for the pretty shoes).

I offered my services at the t-shirt pickup area, and was put to work handing out bags for use with the baggage drop-off services in the morning.

So many Brooks bags

My two co-volunteers were silly and fun:

My trusty co-volunteers

Most of the runners I met at this stage were awesome, too. There were many frustrated with the layout of the expo, though--we all agreed that separating bib pickup and t-shirt pickup into separate buildings was a terrible idea, especially as the bib tent was freezing. Also, three hours before the end of the Expo, we ran out of race maps, programs, and spectator info brochures. People were understandably upset. Most of them realized that it was not the volunteers' fault and we commiserated with them. We kept smiling at the runners:
MCM 2011 Volunteer!

And at the Marines handing out shirts:
DC Armory

When the Expo ended, I drove to Amanda's house in Springfield, VA. Along with her boyfriend, Bob, we headed immediately to a Halloween party. We were appropriately attired. Bob was Dexter (of the TV show), Amanda was Daenerys (from Game of Thrones), and I revamped my Dalek costume.

Dalek and Daenerys

Dexter and Daenerys

Have you ever arrived at a party and been the only one in costume? Yeeeeah, now we have. We were the only adults (out of about 30) in costume. Very cute six-year-olds were. It was awkward. But their friends were fantastic, so then it wasn't awkward! We had a great time. :)

After a lovely night's sleep, I said goodbye and drove twenty minutes to Arlington, where I met Justin and Charissa for brunch! We had fabulous conversation and delicious egg, gruyere, and squash paninis.

After saying goodbye to THEM, I set about trying to get through DC to Maryland. Parts of the freeway were blocked for the race, which certainly slowed traffic, but allowed me to see some of it! I literally saw the tail end, with the last brave runners and walkers pushing through their final miles, followed by the official aid vehicles. Yaaay, Marathoners!!!

Once past our nation's beautiful capital (I saw the Capitol building, Jefferson Memorial, and Washington Monument from the road!), the traffic didn't really let up. I started going stir crazy. It took eight minutes to drive a mile on a 75-mph speed limit road. That's running pace right there.

The Baltimore-Washington Parkway sure is gorgeous in the fall, though:
Drivin' up 95!

I finally made it to Jessup, MD, where I had coffee with James and met his three nephews, sister, brother-in-law, dachshund, German shepherd, bunny, fish, and sixth-grader friend there to do her science fair project on electromagnets with Uncle Jimmy. It was wonderful and chaotic and fabulous.

Back on the road:

Continuing my leap-frog up I-95 from friend to friend, I paused in Media, PA, to see Erica, Dan, and Cadillac the Cat. Erica gave me delicious Minestrone soup and these for my birthday (which was later that week):

Washcloths from Erica

How cute is that?!

I left Media, drove through Philly, and realized that my gas light had been on quite a while. Naturally, from then on, there were NO GAS STATIONS. FOR MILES. Finally, praise the Lord, I found one. Whew.

I got safely home to Faraday around 9pm. At 9am the next morning, I'd have to be on campus for Dissertation Boot Camp...but that's a story for another day.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Wedding in Santa Fe

First: another dear friend graduated! Congratulations to Dr. Luc! He and Meg left Princeton today for good and started their road trip to California. Best of luck to them! I'll miss them!

Congrats, Dr. Luc!

July 24-26, 2011

This summer, I visited Santa Fe, NM, for the wedding of my lovely friends, Laura and Adam.

I left hot, sticky, gross NJ and arrived in hot, dry, fabulous NM with about an hour and a half to spare before the first wedding event. The hour-long drive from Albuquerque to Santa Fe was gorgeous. The open space of the southwest was refreshing.

After a quick change and attempt to fix travel-hair, I walked a short five minutes to the art gallery for the dinner and jazz reception. Weddings are typically fantastic reunions: several former classmates were there! We thoroughly enjoyed the food, music, and art.
Me, Nate, Monica at the reception the night before the wedding
Fun art at jazz dinner and reception.

This statue startled pretty much everyone with his eerily realistic face:
Nate and a very realistic statue.

Saturday morning, I woke up bright and early to run. My goal was to run 6.5 miles along this route:

View Larger Map

After huffing, puffing, and almost fainting through a very slow mile, I remembered that Santa Fe is over 7000ft above sea level. This sea level girl decided that a walk would be just fine. Plus, it allowed me to stop and take tons of photos.

I saw lots of artwork:
Love the artwork

Pretty neighborhoods:
Desert neighborhoods

And desert:

I was incredibly thirsty and out of water by the time I got back to downtown, so my sweaty self bought an Odwalla green juice and bananas in a grocery store next to my hotel. Best idea ever. Then I swam in the pool for a few laps. Second best idea ever.

Laura and Adam did a wonderful job of choosing the hotel, chapel, and gallery all within a few minutes' walk of each other and downtown Santa Fe. For lunch, I found a cute cafe near the main square serving green chile nachos. (Okay, based on empirical evidence, every restaurant in New Mexico serves green chiles.)

Soon it was time to get fancied up for the afternoon wedding ceremony at the Loretto Chapel!
Famous Loretto Chapel: site of ceremony
More Loretto

This beautiful Southwestern chapel is famous for its "miraculous" staircase, which was supposedly built by a strange man who disappeared without asking for pay once it was finished, and is apparently a marvel of engineering.
The Miraculous Staircase

We eagerly anticipated the arrival of the bride.
Getting ready!

Soon, the ceremony began!
Bridesmaid and Groomsman

And beautiful Laura walked down the aisle, escorted by her parents:
Bride and her parents!

(I didn't realize how poorly my camera settings reacted to the lighting until too late.)

They said their vows:

And got MARRIED!
They did it!

Princeton classmates rejoiced:
Princeton contingent!

The reception was held at the Hacienda Dona Andrea, a lovely 45-minute drive out into the desert. They provided buses for the guests, from which we saw the big Albuquerque fires:
Fires near Albuquerque

What a perfect reception location! It was gorgeous!
Amazing views
Down to the bar
Pretty tables

Dinner was delicious, toasts were lovely, dancing was fabulous, and the night pretty much perfect.

First dance in the setting sun!

The next morning, we enjoyed a brunch reception at the wedding hotel and said goodbye to the gorgeous Southwest!

Princeton friends!