Archive for October, 2010


on being a chronically ill graduate student

October 27, 2010

It seems odd to me that I have yet to formally tackle the topic of being a chronically ill graduate student.  Inasmuch as my blog is about anything, this is what it’s about, but so far it’s only popped up if you follow me regularly and can piece together all the gripings that aren’t about weather or broken lab equipment or politics or, well, all the other things that I blog about.

So, I’m going to remedy this situation, and you’re going to get a series about what it’s like to be a chronically ill graduate student.  A few recent events have made me reflect upon my time here as a whole, and it’s given me a little bit of perspective that I’m itching to share, hopefully to save others from some of the same trouble I’ve been through.  I also have a notebook full of half-written blog posts that I work on while on the bus, and I’m hoping that some of those will see the light of day if I’m organized about this.

Logistically speaking, I will be tagging all the posts in this series as “chronically chronicling,” so you can find them.

For readers who find this series through google or other means, and don’t want to wade through my blog to figure out who I am, here’s a quick introduction for these purposes, so you know where I’m coming from.  I’m a physics student, working on a very research-focused degree.  In terms of chronic illness, I’m actually fairly healthy at first glance, but I have that nasty brand of immune system that both fails to fight off common viruses in a timely fashion, and then overreacts to things that mean me no harm (ie, I have poor immunity and severe asthma and allergies).  Winter is not my friend, and neither is spring.  I had the misfortune to get a minor head injury a year into my program, and since have suffered from migraines, though those have been improving.  Tied up in all of this, mental health is almost always an issue for any graduate student, so we’ll throw that in the mix too.  I don’t claim to be speaking for anyone but myself, but I think that my experience can be helpful to others facing similar issues.

I’m planning to cover some topics already, but I’d love input from readers about what to cover.  Here’s what I’m thinking so far:

  • dealing with an advisor (and choosing the right one)
  • getting through your core classes
  • relationships with coworkers and all the other non-advisor people you may occasionally have to let down
  • does graduate school make you sick?
  • does graduate school make you crazy?
  • unexpected setbacks

Please do weigh in in the comments if you have things you want me to talk about that I’ve missed.  Also, don’t expect these to come flying hot off the presses every day; it’ll probably be a much more gradual series, and don’t be surprised if it’s interrupted by plenty of more inane posts.

I’ll be excited if this gets anywhere near the traffic that my post about the evil horse statue does.  One day I’ll grow up into a real blog…maybe.


continuing climate craziness

October 26, 2010

And again, an alliterative appellation, plus primarily a paltry post.

Today it is cool, dry, and windy here in town.  Blow-me-off-the-road-when-I’m-biking windy.

This, in case you were wondering, is what blow-me-off-the-road windy looks like compared to normal autumn breezes.

In fact, it’s so dry and windy, we’re under a fire weather warning (may it end more safely than our last fire weather warnings).  And yet, the western slope is expecting a foot or two of continuing snowfall, and it’s snowing lightly just 10 miles or so up the canyon.  This place boggles my southeastern-weather-attuned mind.

Thanks for tuning in to today’s “what the hell, weather?!” moment, brought to you by orographic lift.


monday meteorological mayhem

October 25, 2010

This morning it was cool and rainy, and the sun was out. It was also windy enough to plaster soggy leaves all over everything (faces included). There was, however, an excellent rainbow in front of the flatirons when I was out walking the mutt, and it almost made up for the grossness.  Almost.


These are the flatirons. They are flatter than they look from here.

By lunchtime, it was clear and sunny and respectably warm, with a light breeze.  Basically, gorgeous fall weather.  Of course, this was the part of the day I didn’t get to go outside for.

This afternoon, it rained toilet water inside my lab.  Oddly enough, this was the best possible water-falling-from-ceiling-situation we could have had happen.  No damage, except to my afternoon productivity.

When I left the lab, it had cooled off significantly and was windy like whoa, but still clear.  It was the first time so far this season I’ve been cold while walking to the bus.  Time to break out the hat and gloves, I suppose.

It snowed briefly while I was on the bus.  Oh, and the bus had no heat.

By the time I got home, it was downright cold, and still windy like whoa.  Walking the mutt, it was intermittently spitting snow on me.  We’re expecting our first hard freeze of the year, and we’ll see what kind of tough stuff my collards are made of.  I refuse to coddle them, like the guy down the street is doing to his bok choi.  Worst case scenario, I eat a lot of collards tomorrow.  I fail to see the downside in this.


somebody is more patient than i am

October 13, 2010

Listen up, dear readers.  Family, you’d better especially listen up.  Let’s talk climate change.

Actually, I’m sending you somewhere else to talk climate change.  One of my awesome ecologist friends has a fabulous 3-post series on her blog that I’ve been meaning to send you to for a month.  Since she’s sending traffic my way today, I decided I should really get off my ass and just link it already.  Even if you’re usually reluctant to challenge yourself on climate change, I think you’ll find it valuable.

The series documents her discussion with a climate-change skeptic aunt, and includes a lot of great layman-friendly coverage of the science issues as well as a very well-documented look at the political issues involved.  In it, she responds to her aunt’s questions in their ongoing discussion, and I strongly suspect that these questions are fairly common to climate change skeptics the world around.   Oh, and she does a fantastic job of remaining calm throughout, especially for someone whose research is directly about climate change.  It’s not confrontational or condescending, in my opinion, and I hope you won’t find it to be that way either.

Go read it already.


open letters

October 12, 2010

Dear internet,

I have a lot of rage this morning, and I cannot, for one reason or another, direct it into actually calling out the things that are pissing me off.  You’re going to get my passive-aggressive version of it.

And StayFocusd, if you cut me off from WordPress mid-post, I am not responsible for any violence that ensues.

Love, Lady Quantum


Dear friends who live far away from me,

I am a much better reason to visit Colorado than a band you’ve seen play fifty times.  Also, it is generally polite to let me know that you’re coming, instead of giving me a call when you incidentally remember I live here once you’ve arrived, and then be willing to work with my schedule to hang out, since you didn’t give me any goddamn notice to begin with.

Just so you all know.

Love, Lady Quantum


Dear Braintwin’s lab mates,

You all are the most miserable excuses for humans I have ever heard about and had the pleasure of not meeting.  I think, in the midst of your many academic achievements, you neglected to take Don’t Be An Asshole 101.  Someone who shows up in lab with fucking strep throat on a regular basis is working too hard, not slacking off.  Someone who accidentally knocks a few flakes of frost into a drawer is not actively trying to sabotage your work, and it’s not their fault if your paper labels come off if you put those labels in a place where they were likely to get wet (such as under a frost-covered drawer), dumbass.  They will not read your mind about this issue either, so if it does upset you and you don’t want it to happen again, one would generally advise you to a) waterproof your damn labels, b) move your damn bottles, or c) mention the issue when it’s actually relevant.  It’s not a good idea to immediately begin shouting about it months after the fact, and then gather everyone else in the lab to launch into a treatise titled, “Why Braintwin is the most worthless person we’ve met.”  She’s not.  She’s worth about fifty of you, assholes.

Further, you are in no way entitled to monitor Braintwin’s location at all times, and she does not have to report to you when she’s not coming in or is leaving early for some reason.  She is not some kind of felon on parole.  She’s a grad student having a hard time.  Sharing a workspace does not give you any right to tell her how to run her life.

I hope you all choke on your Ph.D.s and all your labels wash off.  May your reactions fail every time.

Love, Lady Quantum


Dear miscreant mutt,

It is raining.  The sky is not falling, it is not the apocalypse, and it’s not even that damn cold out.  You will probably suffer much more if you sit here and whine that you have to pee than if you just suck it up and go pee when I open the door for you.  I know I suffer more.

I hate you.  You’re right behind me, looking at me like I can do something about your pain other than open the door and usher you outside, but I really can’t.  I’m not sorry.  Just go outside already and pee.  Please.

Also, whining does not make me feed you faster.  Just so you know.

Love, Lady Quantum


happy cold season to you

October 4, 2010

It’s that time of year again: I’m sick.  Woohoo?  Funny thing is that I’ve been taking care of myself, am getting one of the culprits of last year’s (and the year before’s, and the year before that’s…) lingering illnesses treated, am getting more or less enough sleep, and eat well at least some of the time.  All of which are a big improvement for me.

But then, the partner got sick, and I got his illness.  Boooooooooooo.

So today I’m at home (about to go back to bed).  It kills me to not go to work today, since I’m going out of town later this week, have a lot on my plate, am kind of in the hot seat still, and more importantly, I actually want to get my stuff done.  I had this little dialogue in my head this morning, during my decision-making process.

mean voice: You know, your advisor is going to hate you even more if you’re out sick today and miss meeting on Friday when you’re traveling…
voice of reason: Shut up, he’s not the boss of me.
mean voice: Actually, he kind of is.
voice of reason: Damn.  Well, you’re too sick to work, and you’ll just end up with your head on your desk wishing you’d stayed home by the end of the day.
mean voice: Yesterday you felt well enough to sit around and read a fantasy novel for hours, so how is that different from reading journal papers or working on a computer?
voice of reason: I was only awake for those hours.  It wasn’t very many.  Stupid comparison.  You also can’t take a nap at work, nor is it considered polite to gargle saltwater and spit out contagion in the public restroom every couple of hours, and these are both things you’ll need to be doing today.
mean voice: But you rested all weekend, did all the good voice of reason-y things you were supposed to.  You didn’t go to the beer festival, you didn’t play ultimate, you slept a lot and probably drank four gallons of honey-lemon tea.  The good and proper grad student you were pretending to be this weekend would suck it up and go to work.
voice of reason: You just implied that a proper grad student would have stayed home sick from the beer festival and not played frisbee.  I’m not listening to you anymore, as you’re clearly delusional.
mean voice: Oh shit, you’re right.  What am I saying?  If you were sick enough to skip a beer festival you’d been looking forward to for a year, you’re totally sick enough to stay home from work.  Good thinking, voice of reason.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was honest-to-god how I decided it was okay to stay home today (y’know, at least the reasoning here, not the voices so much).  *beats head on wall*