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Feb. 12th, 2014

Interview #1

So, I went on an interview, at the South Carolina Governor's School for Science and Mathematics, a public residential high school program for 200+ of Carolina's most high-scoring and interested high schoolers.

I think most of the question-asking went well, but I totally flubbed the teaching demo. The lecture part went okay with a few technological hiccups, but one of the interviewers asked me to work a problem on the board for the students, and I froze up doing it, which really made it look like I didn't know my stuff. Next time I do a teaching demo, I'll not focus so much on the lecture and make sure I can handle fielded questions.

Anyway, the town was small, but nice. A bit weird to get used to places where the residential streets didn't have sidewalks. It's really a driving culture down there, and not just because of the NASCAR track within 15 minutes of town. (I was counseled that unless I was attending a race, to avoid the area during races... much as one avoids driving near campus and downtown Lincoln when the Huskers are playing at home.) So if I get a job in the area, I'd have to learn to drive finally. That was actually a question asked of me: was I philosophically opposed to driving, or just never in a position to need it.

Besides that, there are always the bits of culture shock. Pickup trucks aren't new, nor are the proximity to farms. Between Lincoln and Ithaca, I'm used to things, and the realtor giving me a tour of town mentioned that there was a Farmer's Market last year**. Our Sunday dinner plans changed because half the restaurants in Hartsville close on Sundays -- we did end up at a very nice Mexican restaurant that probably does a good business on Sundays. That and

My flight back was needlessly complicated. I was flying out of Florence, SC, which is a tiny airport. I might even count it as smaller than Lincoln and Ithaca, since unlike them, it doesn't have a cafe, just some poorly stocked vending machines. Mechanical problems* meant that my plane didn't arrive in time and my connection was in doubt, but I decided to risk it. I didn't make the connection, so got to overnight in the city of Charlotte, North Carolina. Hey, new state for the checklist***.

On the morning I did fly out, it was snowing, and flights were already being canceled in expectation of the ice storm that is now blanketing the Southeast. I made it out in a not-quite timely fashion as airline schedules in Charlotte don't build in 'de-ice plane'. (Actually, they don't account for it in Ithaca where it's common in winter, which was why I never scheduled a tight connection in winter if I was taking the 6 AM flight, since we'd sit on the tarmac for 20-30 minutes while they sprayed down the plane with antifreeze).

So, next interview is late next week, and I should start prepping. And keep on the job market.

* Of the sort that propagate forward all day, since the plane has a schedule.
** Which is a nice thing for me; I like having lots of fresh seasonable veggies, and I'm starting to investigate being a slightly more humane omnivore and picking up (more expensive) animal products from local farms where the cows/pigs/chickens had a more pleasant life before their death. I'm probably never going to be a vegetarian/vegan, but I figure I can do what I can when I have the money to spend on happier hamburgers.
*** Airports and driving through states don't count as visits, but overnights or visiting any attraction does. Though seeing the Charlotte airport AND the Sleep Inn is not much of a visit to North Carolina.

Jan. 30th, 2014

Right, I have a LJ

Today I accidentally filled the kitchen with smoke because I entered the microwave settings to boil water for tea when I was defrosting a bread roll. It was needlessly exciting. I also learned that we don't have a working smoke detector because it really should have gone off for that.

In better news, I have not one, but two in-person second interviews. Oddly enough, both are in the state of South Carolina, which I have never been. My single in-person interview last year was in Georgia. I wonder if I radiate an aura that makes me attractive to Southerners, despite my Midwestern accent and Yankee word usage*. The first, at a high school for science/math-interested students, is a week from Monday, while the second (a college looking for a physics and astronomy instructor) is later in the month. I need to start writing my 'lesson plan' as both expect me to teach a class (or a mini-class) to show that I can, in fact, do what they'd like to pay me for. I also want to consult with a few people about doing more than a board lecture, since I talked up my ability to use modern teaching methods in my interviews.

Tomorrow I'm also giving a lecture at the university here: more aimed at the physics undergrads. One of my professors also invited me for pizza with the undergrads after, for advice on grad school. Since the seniors will probably be starting to get acceptances/rejections back, it's good timing. I don't know if he expects 'Rebecca went to a fancy Ivy League graduate school and it has taken her over a year to find a job' to be part of the lesson. (Honestly, even if I end up teaching high school, and if graduate school gave me a case of the crazies, I did enjoy my time there, and my graduate assistant stipend was enough so that I didn't run myself into debt doing it. I could have used a better exit plan, since I ended up being more attractive as a teacher than as a researcher -- and had I a chance to do a year or two over again, I would have buffed up my teaching credentials and practiced teaching more** -- but as has been noted, we can't all aspire to our adviser's job.

* I lived on the north part of the East Coast of the US until age 10, when we moved to Nebraska. Most of those accent and dialect quizzes place me as one of those 'vaguely Great Lakes'/'inland northeast' dialects, since I sort of have a mix of both Great Plains and Northeast Coast in my language.

** Or started making deeper contacts in the field. I have a few, but not as many as I should have to get a research job, and I know people enough for them to recognize my name, but not enough to really find a postdoc.

Apr. 16th, 2013

And the moral of the story...

... is that my sinuses decide that two days on planes in a row is not something I should ever do again, even on medication. Forgetting my water bottle (I fill it after going through security) doesn't help. Seriously, I'm just glad one day of travel didn't stress my sinuses out too badly, so I didn't feel like crap at my interview. (And of course, just now I remember the prescription nasal spray I have that is supposed to enlarge my nasal passages to improve drainage.)

As for the interview, it went well. Everyone seemed really friendly and collegial, so most of my questions about the job are the existential 'what do I want to do with my life' ones: basically I'm nearly 30 years old and still don't feel like an adult. Maybe taking time off between college and grad school would have helped, but grad school classes were hard enough with just a summer between them and physics classes. Being an authority in my job -- whether it be 'you are in charge of XYZ course' or 'do you have any ideas for research projects?' -- scares me.

Maybe that's one reason I wasn't in a hurry to finish grad school: being a grad student is a pretty comfortable life for me.

Jan. 9th, 2013

Back in New York

I made it back to Ithaca, with only minor hangups: my flight out of Lincoln was delayed because the crew got in late last night and required a full 8 hours of downtime before they could fly, so I needed to be rebooked on my connecting flights (because 10 minutes is not enough time to make it to another terminal in Chicago). Then, of course, between an earlier takeoff than listed and a quicker flight, I could have made my original tickets. Oh, well.

Today I might take at least a work from home day, because I need to grocery shop. We'll see where I am after that.

I also need to find breakfast. The bread in the freezer smelled funny (but that could be a funny smell coming from the sink), so breakfast right now is tea and wondering if I should make pasta or finish my tea and go out.

Oct. 14th, 2012

A day of vacation

I'm out of town this week for a conference in Reno, Nevada. So some observations.

Read more... )
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Jul. 13th, 2012

Travel stories

So, who wants a travel story?

I was visiting my parents and friends in Nebraska. The way out was marred by a late plane, such that I had to do a mad dash through the Newark airport to make a connection. You see, one of the downsides to living in Ithaca and having family in Lincoln is that it is currently impossible to travel from one place to the other in less than three flights, because they hook up to different hubs. Two flights can only be done if I have someone with a car to get me to a bigger city.

Anyway, I was booked on the first flight to Chicago out on Wednesday, at 6 AM. )

Jul. 2nd, 2012

So, I'm at home in Nebraska for a week(ish). My flight out of Ithaca was delayed by something like an hour and a half -- whatever the delay was, it was way before the plane landed. Ithaca is not the biggest airport, so it's pretty much a matter of pilots flying back and forth from the three or four cities you can get to from there, with the last plane in being the first out.

Anyway, despite that, I made it to Newark... touching down literally 20 minutes before my flight took off. Thankfully the plane to Chicago was waiting for some passengers from Hamburg -- I don't know if they would have bothered with me. Anyway, I spent fifteen minutes sprinting there, and the rest of my travel was totally uneventful.

Nov. 10th, 2011


Making my Thanksgiving and Christmas plans. Currently, for Thanksgiving, I'll be in the Boston area from Wednesday night until Sunday morning -- I haven't booked the bus tickets yet, but I'll get right on that.

For Christmas, I fly in to Omaha on the night of the 20th of December and out mid-morning on the 4th of January. Probably what will happen is that I spend the night of the 20th in my sister's place, then she drives me down after work on the 21st. Then either I go back to my sister's place on the 3rd and she takes a half-day off to get me to the airport, or Mom gives me a lift up to Omaha. (Mom really hates the Omaha airport, but having Jenn willing to act as shuttle helps her, since it really is cheaper to fly out of Omaha. Not to mention I only have to change planes once!)

So that's what's up.

Oct. 4th, 2011

Brief Update.

My talk went all right. I should have practiced it more, because my delivery was pretty rushed, but I got some good questions, and even got to mention I've got a paper in draft on a related subject. Plus, there was another talk that agreed with my results (but using a different method), which was nice.

Granted, one of my results is 'the trans-Keeler region of Saturn's A Ring is weird', since everyone who looks at it gets that it's different from the nearby parts of the A Ring, but we can't agree on what that means in terms of ring properties.

I do wish I understood French, though. Most of the hotel clerks speak enough English to get by, but I'm terrible in restaurants. I do think I'm better off than a French tourist in USA though; maybe because it seems a bit more normal to have tourists who can't speak much of the local language, because France is physically a lot smaller than the USA and is surrounded by non-Francophone countries*. All of the restaurant staff here have been really nice about the fact I obviously have no clue what they're saying to me, and can be barely trusted to order my own food.

(Also, being in a non English-speaking country makes me a lot less picky about food, because I barely know what's in it, so can't be expected to order 'X, hold the Y'. Also, I've had chicken curry sandwiches two days in a row for lunch in two different places. I wonder if this is a thing; and if so, can I bring it back to the States?)

It does amuse me that the 'unaccented' English I hear is British English. Logically, it makes sense -- I know I was taught Mexican Spanish rather than Castillian in school because Mexico was the nearest Spanish-speaking country -- but it's one of those things that is like 'oh, right, Europe'.

Tomorrow will probably be another full day of talks, but I might start to skip sessions in favor of exploring the city. Or checking out the public exhibit running with the meeting -- they have life-size Mars rover mockups.

* Given how much Spanish I know, I can read things pretty well. But the languages sound totally different to me.
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Oct. 2nd, 2011


I'm in the Amsterdam airport. Checked in for Nantes. I could leave, go through customs and go see some of the city, but right now, all I want is a shower, a change of clothing and a nap*. Sadly, I don't think the airport offers these amenities.

My Nantes flight is at mid afternoon. It's nearly 9 AM now -- I changed my clock because knowing it is 3 AM in Ithaca depresses me. Boredom may cause me to disregard the tiredness and smelliness of my current state.

* I slept maybe 3 hours on the plane. 4 if you count the nap I caught on the way to Detroit.

Sep. 30th, 2011

Okay, so I may have mentioned this to folks, but I'm going away next week to the American Astronomical Society's Division of Planetary Sciences conference, as I do every year. However, this year, the conference is being held jointly with the European Planetary Science Congress, and as such, is in Nantes.

That's in France.

I haven't been to Europe since I was an undergrad, and this is my first trip to France. Since I booked late, I get to fly all over the damn continent(s) to get to Nantes. On my way over, I spend 4 hours in Detroit and then 8 hours in Amsterdam*. My adviser suggested 'leave the airport and see a bit of Holland', but I might just want to lock all my valuables somewhere and take a nap. On the way back, there are no long layovers -- instead I get to trek to Paris, then get put on a plane to London before going over the Atlantic again.

Most of the week in between will be spent in a series of dark rooms listening to talks about rings and moons and other sexy and exciting planet things. I'll try to get out into the city in the evening, or skip a session to visit things during the day.

But, I'll try to get pictures. And buy folks postcards, though I may not mail them until I get back. Who wants postcards?

* I leave Ithaca at 1 PM and arrive in Nantes at 6 PM the following day, which is more than 24 hours in transit.

Sep. 19th, 2011

The thrilling life of the scientist in training

I need to update this more often. Especially since I feel like I should take a page out of [livejournal.com profile] childthursday's book and give regular updates as to State of the Ph.D.-in-progress. Having to report my goals makes it easier to set and keep them.

I've also gone back into counseling, because... well, Ph.D.s give you the crazies. Not having them; earning them. So there's Dissertation + Job Search + who knows what else. All of which needs to happen Right Now Dammit.

Also, I'm going to Europe for the first time in nearly a decade. This year, the annual planetary science conference is in France. This is also the first trip I've made to a country where I don't speak the language: all other places I've visited had large English or Spanish-speaking populations. I don't anticipate any problems, since I will be spending 90% of the time either in the hotel or in the conference center listening to people talk about planets. In English.

But maybe I should get a dictionary to handle things like 'ordering food'. That was handy in Spain, as I had only limited vocab at the time. I had a year of the language, which gave me simple grammar and a lot of the staples, but meant that I didn't always know the word for 'shrimp' or 'watermelon'. Especially as schools in the USA usually teach Mexican Spanish, so any dialect differences left me confused.

At least I know what I'll be talking about. There's some background I need to read, but that will take less than an hour. And I can cut down one of my old presentations for '7 minutes in which I talk about the A ring, and maybe tease about the C ring if I find out anything interesting this week'.

I should buy postcards or something. For people who want postcards from France. I'll probably send them when I get back to the USA though.

Jun. 8th, 2011

Crowdsourcing Info

Do any of you know a good way to learn enough of a foreign language to be a tourist (aka read signs, ask for directions and where the bathroom is, etc.)? Specific book (series) or programs are always helpful -- name names!

I'm going to Nantes, France for a conference in the fall. Now the two times I've been to a non-English speaking part of the world when I was old enough to speak in complete sentences*, most of the tourist-interacting parts of the country were Anglophones. But both were Spanish-speaking parts of the world (Spain and Puerto Rico), and I actually do speak Spanish, so even if I was confronted with someone who didn't speak a lick of English, I could resort to Spanish. Granted, on the trip to Spain I had one year of Spanish, and to Puerto Rico, I hadn't spoken Spanish in almost a decade, but it was better than nothing. But I know very little French beyond 'Hello, how's it going? My name is Rebecca!'. Even 'how do I get to the hotel X?' and 'please speak slowly' would be something.

Tangent for a story )

* I spent some months living in Germany as a toddler. While Mom reports that I spoke both German and English equally well by the end, learning two languages at once is not really relevant here. I am sad that we didn't hang around long enough for me to remember any of the German, though it does make me wonder if I'd have a better 'ear' for it than other non-English languages.
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Apr. 21st, 2011

This is why we have a CO2 problem...

Normally my mother and brother (and sometimes my sister and brother-in-law) go to the New Hampshire coast for a couple of weeks in the summer to visit with my extended family, and I join them for a long weekend. Right now, I'm pricing travel methods. Surprisingly, when you take into account that I'd have to find transportation to Syracuse, train travel would be about the same price as flying ($100 for a round-trip train from Syracuse to Boston + $110 for the van to the train station, versus $260-$280 to fly Ithaca to Boston (plus $15 for cab fare if I can't take the local bus)) but take as long as a bus (9.5 hours by train, while the Greyhound can take 9.5 hours or longer, depending on what the connection through NYC is like -- it's shorter when you're on a direct Ithaca-Boston route).

So the bus costs $80 less than the train* for the same length of trip, and the plane takes less than half the time (4 hours to fly, so I save 5.5 hours (plus drive to Syracuse, minus waiting around in the Ithaca airport)) for a $50 premium on cost.

Incidentally, when I was in high school, I took a trip to Spain with my father and stepmom, where we went from Madrid to Granada to Seville, back to Madrid. The last leg of the trip was done on high-speed rail, and took around 2 hours to cover the same distance from Ithaca (or Syracuse) to Boston. And that was back in the late 90s.

Now, it's not quite comparable -- Seville is about three times the size of Syracuse, so there's probably more demand for a direct route. (Boston itself, when including all the towns around it, is probably comparable to Madrid, at least in terms of population. And given the number of students, cheap travel is always nice.) On the other hand, there's also regular (read: on the hour) direct plane flights between Syracuse and Boston, and Syracuse is already on the Buffalo-Boston train route. (Though stopping in Rochester, Syracuse and Albany probably would slow a direct train from Buffalo to Boston.)

(Also, I realize that more/faster passenger trains and such wouldn't work in the Midwest -- big stretches of sparsely populated farmland with the occasional city/town aren't mass-transit friendly -- but that the East Coast (and the West Coast) are good areas for having trains and buses and other options beside 'car' and 'drive to airport and take a plane'.)

* But only when you take into account travel to Syracuse. If I could get into Syracuse free, the fares would be comparable, and I'd be able to get a direct bus to Boston two hours quicker than the train. Surprisingly, it costs me more to fly out of Syracuse (in this case), despite the existence of direct flights, since apparently they cost more than heading down to NYC, then taking the NYC-Boston flight. I don't even know...

Jan. 6th, 2011

Traveling home was mostly uneventful, despite having to leave security at Milwaukee, head to the USAirway ticket desk and pick up the boarding passes for my next two legs*, then back into security at the other concourse (still with time for lunch). Also, my first flight actually gave out a free snack**, and the second was only half full so the flight attendant was all 'once we get everyone on board, you folks can move seats if you want'. Which meant that most people got to have an empty seat next to them.

Then we got to the flight to Itahca, and there was this guy... )

Jun. 6th, 2010

Summer Vacation Adventure

One nice thing about being a grad student is the flexible hours*. Sure, I'm not getting the 12 weeks of summer I got when I was a kid, but I can still take a vacation. Normally I just visit family, but this year I get a Grand Adventure.

Basically, tomorrow I'm meeting [livejournal.com profile] lasafara down in New York City. We'll spend most of the week being tourists and stuff, and then we set off on a road trip towards the general vicinity of Portland, Oregon. See, this is kind of a working vacation, in that Lasafara is moving and I'm along as navigator, bird-wrangler, and general-purpose 'here to do everything but drive' person. We'll drive for two days, stop in Nebraska for visiting my family and our friends, then drive some more.

The only pain in the butt thing is that either bus option involves me lugging my stuff 15 minutes by foot to get the bus on North Campus -- I'm up before the city buses start running.

And take lots of pictures and be goofballs about being on the Oregon Trail. )

Dec. 17th, 2009

Back in the Midwest

So, travel wasn't that bad. I got about 2 hours of sleep on Tuesday, but I can never sleep well before a flight.

I got to the airport at 5:15, when my flight was due to leave at 6. Yes, I know the 'hour before you leave' rule, but the Ithaca airport is seriously small -- plus, the taxi was late. I got through security about the time the plane should have boarded, but I know better than to expect any 'first flight' from Ithaca to take off on time, especially in the winter.

Read more... )
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Oct. 12th, 2009

Travel Woes, Part n

So, who wants to hear another travel story?

I like to joke I have strong travel luck -- the two times I missed flights, I was able to travel on standby and get there only hours late. This makes up for the missed connections, and so on. I've only had to overnight once and it was paid for by the airline.

This was clearly the tail end of the distribution for my travel luck. As in, I had luck, but it was bad. )

This means I am karmically owed at least two uneventful trips for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Or maybe just one unexpectedly nice trip.

* She does satellite-surface stuff, plus is one of the Mars rover staff.

** Okay, NASA has to pay for my ride home. Still, NASA only gave my advisor so much money, so being frugal is good. Especially given what I've paid to eat this past week.

Oct. 8th, 2009

More Puerto Rico Incidentals

One thing I forgot to post is how noisy outside gets after dark. I'm told that it's because of the coqui, which are frogs that are native to Puerto Rico. At night, they start chirping, and you hear it everywhere. You can even hear it faintly from inside our room. They aren't much to look at, being a gray-brown in pictures and only about 1-2 inches long. I haven't seen one. I have seen little lizards on the path during the day, and Janet, who is a sociologist who studies scientists*, found a crab the size of her hand roaming around outside the room. Her room was closer to the waterfront, while I'm close to the pool and the conference center.

Read more... )

I still haven't given you a science report, but I will -- I was kind of inactive yesterday after working off post-talk nerves, but I did get to Rings, Irregular Satellites and Icy Satellites so far, and some scattered Exoplanets talks. This afternoon is Origins of the Solar System from 2 til 5. I don't know what I'll do tomorrow. Also, expect photos and such -- on Saturday, I get to go to the World's Largest Telescope before coming home on Sunday.

Also, for those of you in Europe or up early in the morning on Friday (tomorrow), at 7:30 EDT, NASA will be dropping a used rocket onto the South Pole of the Moon to look for ice in the debris cloud. There will be a probe (LCROSS) watching it, then following it down, as well as Earth-based telescopes. I'm sure there will be streaming video on NASA's website. I'm going to watch it from the conference room here -- they've been making a big deal about it, and the registration gift was a mission patch. Which will be going on my jacket next to my Apollo 40th anniversary one. Perhaps I can find some more patches in the Arecibo gift shop.

Oct. 6th, 2009

Puerto Rico Not-a-Vacation

I have a bit more than an hour before my presentation, so I thought I'd do some blogging to relax.

We got into San Juan around 3 on Sunday, and drove to Fajardo. The hotel I'm staying at is a resort, which the only reason that it is remotely affordable is because I have a roommate, and NASA (through my adviser) is footing the bill*. I still have the interesting problem of finding cheap food -- while, technically, I will be reimbursed assuming I don't go crazy, I'm trying to keep my incidentals down to under $30 a day. So far that means lots of sandwiches and pizza, the occasional hike off-site, and being sure to help myself to the free pastries at coffee breaks.

Anyway, this place is both beautiful and immense -- seriously, there's a funicular down the hill to the coast, and a boat to a private island. There are also about a dozen restaurants and stores on-site, including a Starbucks. Also the wireless doesn't work in the rooms, which is disappointing, considering my half payments are about the price of a single at a reasonable chain motel.

I'm gonna head out sometime and get pictures. I took a few, but not that many.

The weather throws me a bit, because my Midwestern thunderstorm sense is thrown by seeing regular thunderstorms in the evening, that may or may not hit, and usually pass within an hour. Plus, the humidity makes me think that something is coming as soon as I see the clouds off the hill. It's also 90°F and humid no matter what time of day it is. I wore a skirt today, and it's the first time I don't feel coated in sweat. On the other hand, the rooms are all over-air-conditioned, so I get cold if I'm in a skirt and open-toed shoes.

It's now 15 minutes until session start, so I'll post this and give an update on the science later. Maybe I'll have a seat after the session end and chat then.

Until then...

* Your tax dollars at work.
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