Friday, July 30, 2010


There are a bunch of things I want to write about, but don't really warrant their own post!

1. After a hiatus of a few months, I've decided to shut down my Nature Network blog. You can read my reasons in my last post here.

2. PhD paper #3 was accepted!! Woohoo!! That means I only have MSc paper #2 to deal with before I'm caught up on all my academic obligations (and I've given my MSc supervisor a deadline of Baby G's arrival to get it submitted).

3. Related to #2, I had a very brief moment of Nature glory. They contacted my PhD supervisor and wanted to talk to both of us about PhD paper #3. However, by the time he returned their message, they had decided not to run the story. Oh well - it's still something, right?

4. I have had a few moments of glory related to the open house hosted on the weekend. My name has appeared in the newspaper twice (once in an article, another in a letter-to-the-editor that I wrote), and I had a TV interview. If you want to keep up on all the goings-on at the observatory, I created a Facebook group. Check it out, and join! We need the support!

5. I'll be putting together the August Scientiae Carnival over the weekend, so make sure to get your post submitted soon if you want to be included (official deadline is 11:59pm GMT today, but I'll accept them over the weekend too).

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

August Scientiae: Time Capsule

I am hosting this month's Scientiae. Since summer is a great time "check in" on one's life, I thought it might be nice to look back on a previous time capsule (May 2009 Scientiae), and think about what's in store for the next year.

Here is what I wrote over a year ago (with some comments in bold):

What I'm doing right now
- finishing up my analysis for project #3 so I can finally write my thesis (definitely done!)
- heading into the last week of my astronomy outreach program (it was sad to hand it over, but I've been lucky to start some new outreach projects)
- looking to hire someone to take my place in my other outreach program (that was done shortly after)
- preparing for our trip to South America (No matter how much we prepared, the trip went beyond all our expectations - including me getting my passport stolen!)

What will happen in the next 6 months
- finish my thesis, submit and defend - all by the end of September (done, done, and done - all ahead of schedule, by August 1st!)
- trip to South America in August (this became my reward for finishing my thesis early! Thank goodness I didn't have to worry about all that stuff while traveling.)
- get the ball rolling on moving (or possibly moving!) (Or not moving! We ended up staying right here when DH got a permanent job as a research scientist)
- start looking at job possibilities once we know where we will move (Once DH took the job, I started looking into jobs, and am now working as a post-doc in the Earth Sciences department)
- thinking seriously about starting a family (Check! We started "trying" in September, 2009, went through a miscarriage, and am now expecting #1 in November)

What I think life will be like in a year from now
- settled in our new city (well, kind of check, since we never moved!)
- looking for/buying a house (we bought a house in February and moved in at the end of April!)
- having a new job in science outreach and/or education (not quite yet, but there is a strong possibility of one coming up soon)
- being pregnant!! (it's TRUE!!! Due in November!)
- shopping for a new car (we're doing that this month, in fact!)

So, I think I did pretty well with my predictions! Let's see how I do this time:

What's going on now
- trying to set up an education & outreach program for the observatory
- working on an insurance project for my post-doc
- preparing for Baby G's arrival in November
- trying to hammer down a job for when I return after maternity leave
- knitting a tote bag

What will happen in the next six months
- buy a new car in August/September
- run two more outreach events (another open house and an event for the International Observe the Moon Night)
- finish off projects for my post-doc before I go on maternity leave
- finally submit MSc paper #2
- do a good chunk research on physics/astronomy education in Canada for a collaborative paper
- finish knitting that tote
- Baby G comes in November
- Have my parents visit at Christmas, and DH's parents visit shortly after
- Maybe visit my parents in Arizona in the new year with Baby G

What I think life will be like in a year from now
- have an education/outreach job lined up for when I return from maternity leave (earliest start date would probably be May 1st)
- have an education & outreach program up and running for the observatory
- have a wonderful first summer with Baby G and enjoying each little milestone he hits
- go to Montreal with DH and Baby G (our first trip as a family)
- have some more renovations/projects done on the house (maybe a deck in the backyard and a second bathroom)

This will be another year of BIG changes for us! I am especially looking forward to Baby G's arrival and getting out of research and into education & outreach.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Open House Craziness!

Saturday was the first open house at the observatory. Driving up there, I was worried - the skies were cloudy, and the forecast was for rain, thunderstorms, and even included a tornado warning! I was expecting that maybe 50-100 people would show up, if we were lucky.

The event began at 6pm, and the cars started coming...and coming...and COMING!! There was a steady stream of people from when we opened until about 11pm! We estimate that about 500 people came out - it was amazing, jaw-dropping, and practically made me cry with excitement!

We even had a couple hours of somewhat clear sky, and pointed the big telescope at Venus and Saturn. People loved it. Even when it clouded over again, people just loved having the opportunity to see a research-class telescope in person - right in their own backyard.

I also loved some of the stories!

Some people came from neighboring farms - they had lived there for over 40 years and had never been allowed to see the telescope before! They were so excited that they could experience something that has been in their community for years.

Then, there were people who took astronomy classes at the university, and were asking about certain professors. One guy had taken an astronomy course with the current director of the observatory in the 1960s! It was so cool.

Needless to say, the event was a great success, and I am so proud to be a large part of it. I received so many great comments about the volunteers who helped out, and everyone was very supportive about keeping the observatory open.

Let's hope the results from this event, and the one in August, will help gain support from the higher-ups at the university!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

August Scientiae Reminder

Hi All!

Just a reminder to get your posts in for the August Scientiae! The deadline is 11:59 pm GMT on Friday, July 30th.

The original call for posts can be found here.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Blog Identity

Today I took people pleasing to a whole new level.

I actually wrote a long post basically apologizing to my readers for the topics I've been writing about lately. I wanted to apologize to the science readers for not posting about science-y stuff, and I wanted to apologize to the TTC/pregnant/family readers for not being consistent with the topics I write about. That I feel torn between the two communities, and thus feel like I'm losing my blog identity.

Hello, Alyssa!!! It's YOUR blog! You can write about whatever the heck you want to write about!!

Admittedly, this blog is in transition. I rarely blog about science-y stuff anymore because I'm leaving academia and don't have much to say about the subject. Many of my posts recently have been centered on the house and Baby G. But, since those are basically the focus of my life right now, and this blog is really about my life, why do I feel like I need to apologize for that?

I guess it's because I feel guilty.

I feel guilty because, when I started blogging, I became part of the science blogging community. I received tons of support from graduate students, post-docs, and professors that were going (or went) through the same things. I feel as though I'm letting down my science-based readership when I write about such things as home ownership and motherhood.

Also, since I'm a super organizer/planner, it kind of bothers me having my blog seemingly all over the place. It would be nice to have a theme or direction.

In any case, I honestly don't know where this blog will end up right now. I know that Baby G will be the subject of many upcoming posts as we anticipate his arrival. After that? Who knows? Whatever happens though, I hope you will continue to read about my journey - wherever that may take me!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Open Letter

Dear London Drivers,

Why the constant need to inch forward at a red light?

First, you roll as slowly as possible toward the intersection. Why? You are not driving a semi truck that is difficult to start from a complete stop. You're in a tiny little Honda, for God's sake!

Then, if you ever do come to a stop, you inch forward at any chance you get. The car in front of you moves? You inch forward. The car beside you moves? You inch forward. The traffic coming the opposite way starts moving? You inch forward. You think the light might turn green? You inch forward.


By the time the light actually turns green, there is usually 10 car lengths between me and the car in front of me! And then...guess what?...no one starts moving!!

So, please - for my sanity (and the sanity of many others, I imagine), please stop with the inching and mind-reading of the light change. Just pay attention and drive. Please!!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sell or Not?

I keep going back and forth on whether I should sell my car and get a new one before Baby G arrives.

Okay - that's not entirely true. I really want to get a new car. I guess I just feel guilty about it since my car works fine.

Here's the deal. My current car is a 2003 2-door Sunfire with a manual transmission. If we were to get a new car, it would most likely be an automatic Toyota Matrix that's a couple years old.

Pros of getting a new car:
- it will have four doors, which means easier access to Baby G in the car-seat
- more room in general, and the hatchback would be an extra bonus when we need to pick-up or drop-off bigger things
- less chance of large maintenance costs (my car is 7 years old, and is starting to make some funny noises)
- automatic transmission will be easier to drive in the city (and just in general)
- automatic windows, door locks, key-less entry, etc. will make my life easier
- will be even better on gas than my current car
- will be great if/when we have more than one child

Pros of keeping my current car:
- no monthly payments!!
- umm....no monthly payments?

Alright, the pro list for keeping my current car is short, but that one pro is very, very big...especially since my salary will be reduced while on parental leave. Although, I should note that we can afford the payments of a new car - it would just mean we wouldn't be able to put as much into savings while I'm on leave.

So, do we sell the current car now and get the new one before Baby G arrives (and reap all the benefits listed above) or suck it up and keep the Sunfire until I go back to work? For the parents out there - anyone done the newborn thing with a 2-door? If so, would you recommend it?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Open House

The time is finally here - the first of two open houses for the observatory (the one that is scheduled to shut down at the end of 2010) is happening this Saturday!!

In case you're not up on this whole situation, I found out last fall that the observatory was slated to shut down within about a year. I was appalled that they would just let it close down, so I put together a small business proposal and a steering committee in an attempt to develop an education and public outreach program for the observatory. The department has basically let me take this on, pretty much because no one else will (even though they think it's a great idea). There have been a few bumps in the road, and I expect there to be a zillion more before this thing ever gets off the ground (or IF it gets off the ground).

In any case, we were granted permission to use the observatory twice this summer in order to run public open houses. These events will basically be experiments - what can we do with the space? how do we handle lots of people/cars? how much interest is there for this kind of thing? how much support is there from the department/faculty/university?

Once we have the answers to these questions, we can start putting together more concrete ideas for the program(s) --- which leads to being able to get more time dedicated to such programs at the observatory --- which leads to us being able to apply for funding. It's a slow process, but hopefully a valuable one!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Back to the Same?

The last week or so I have started to feel queasy and very tired again in the evenings. I'm fine all day, but when 5-6pm comes along, I just feel icky, and don't want to eat (or at least don't want to eat the meals we planned at the beginning of the week). I'm not sure if it's because I'm off my morning sickness medication finally (went off about 1.5 weeks ago), or maybe I'm not eating enough during the day, or maybe I have some sort of nutrient deficiency?

In any case, I don't want to cook, and we end up eating cereal, or simple sandwiches. I guess that's fine - as long as we're eating something - but it's sure getting boring too! So, does anyone have any easy, fast, healthy, summery, recipes they'd like to share?

In other news, reviews came back on my PhD paper (#3), and the comments were very minor. So, the changes have been made and I'll be resubmitting today! Horray!!

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Well, the last room left to paint was the nursery and we finished it this week! We went with a farm animal theme, pretty much because we bought this super cute stuffed cow back in November when we found out I was pregnant the first time around:

Fig. 1: Cute-ass cow.

Before we painted, the room kept in theme with the rest of the house: the nursery was painted brown - including the ceiling - giving it a nice cardboard box feel.

Fig. 2: The nursery before.

We decided to go with a two-tone wall: lighter green on the top and darker on the bottom. We were going to do a chair rail in between, but when we tried to install it the walls were so warped that it didn't look too good. So, we opted for a wallpaper boarder instead. Here is what we have so far:

Fig. 3: The nursery after. Don't worry - those stuffed animals won't be staying in the crib! They'll be out of there once we install a shelf above the dresser.

Fig. 4: A close-up of the boarder.

We still have some final touches to do on the room itself, let alone getting everything else needed for Baby G. But, we still have 4 months - that's enough time, right? Right?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Painting Update

So, we had another painter come today to fix what the last guy screwed up. He came and was gone within a couple hours.

He was SO great, and did a nice job. He even fixed our window! YAY!

He told us a few things about the first painter. He gets paid by the job, not by the hour, so it's hard to get him to do anything extra (like a third coat or doing more than one coat on the trim, for example). He also said he's had to fix his mistakes before --- so the company totally lied to us (they said they'd never had any problems/complaints about the guy).

Another interesting thing, apparently the first guy's wife, who was helping him paint our house, does not work for the company - she just helps him out. I wonder what would have happened if she was injured on the job? The painting company is insured, but I'm guessing only for their employees. Not cool.

Anyway, we're happy it's done, and we didn't have to pay for the guy today. Now all we have to do is a few touch ups in the nursery and all the interior painting will be done!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Call for Posts: August Scientiae

Summer is a great time to look back on the past year and reflect - or to look forward to the goals for the next year. Last May's carnival, hosted by Endless Possibilities v2.0, had us put together a time capsule of what was going on in our lives during the spring of 2009.

Well, here's a good chance to look back - and forward! If you took part in the May 2009 Scientiae, have a look at your time capsule. What have you accomplished in that time? Are you where you thought you would be over a year ago? If you didn't take part, can you remember what your goals were for the 2009/2010 year? How far have you come since then?

Now the fun part - what is going on in your life right now? What will be happening in six months or a year from now? What are your goals? Are you looking forward to the next year, or dreading it?

Feel free to interpret this in whatever way you'd like - you could do a bullet list of everything, or a snap shot of the more important things going on, or share an anecdote that will allow you to remember the summer of 2010.

Of course, posts on any topic related to women in science will also be accepted! Please submit your post by emailing the permalink URL of your post to scientiaecarnival [a] gmail [dt] com by 11:59 pm GMT on Friday, July 30th. The carnival will be posted on August 1st.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

It goes on and on..

I posted the before and after pictures of the painting we had done a couple weeks ago. Well, the painting wasn't actually finished. We were supposed to get a third coat done in the front foyer and main stairwell because the blue was still showing through in places.

We first asked for them to do this on the Friday of the week they were here. They didn't do it. Either there was a mis-communication between the owners and the painter (we called the owners about it, since that was the phone number we had), or the painter forgot/didn't want to do it.

The painter dropped by the next day to give us the bill and drop off the key. We asked him about the third coat and he said he could come back on Tuesday to fix things. He didn't show up.

I called the owner again, asking when the painter can come back. He said Wednesday morning - fine. We get home on Wednesday after work and find the painting hasn't been done (or at least not a full coat like we asked) and our living room window was lying on our couch. The only person with access to our house (besides ourselves) was the painter, and the window/screen was not wrecked from the outside - so we figure the painter tried to open it and broke it some how.

If you're keeping score, that's 3 strikes (plus a broken window). DH and I lost it. We called the owner and talked to him for quite some time. I was adamant that I did not want the same painter back in our house. He had multiple chances to fix things and didn't. Plus he got paint on the ceiling and some of our gorgeous wood trim (not a very professional job, in my opinion). After a while, the owner understood the situation and would call us early the next week to schedule another painter to come and fix everything.

We get a call today (Tuesday - more than two weeks after the painting started) from a different owner to schedule another painter. He will be coming on Friday. I then ask him about fixing the window. He tells me the painter said he didn't touch it, and that he's known the painter for a long time, and doesn't know me from a hole in the wall, so what is he supposed to do? Basically, he's calling us liars. That we broke our own window on purpose so they would fix it.

I am so, so, SO very sick of these people. What's even more annoying is they think we are pissed off for no reason. No. I don't think that's the case. I think we've been more than fair and gave them plenty of chances to make things right without losing our heads. We gave the guy three chances to fix the painting, and he didn't, not to mention all the other crap. I don't think we are out of line, and they can kiss my ass if they think otherwise.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

77% of you were...


It's a BOY!!!!

We were totally surprised - we both thought we were having a girl. Between the heart rate, the size/shape of my tummy, and my intuition, we were convinced. So, when the ultrasound tech showed us "the money shot" and there was obviously something there between the legs, we were shocked!!

We are thrilled, of course, and are now planning out the nursery and talking about names. Stay tuned!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Living the O Life

At our book club meeting the other day, one of the other ladies told us she was reading Living Oprah by Robyn Okrant. The book is based on her blog by the same name, and chronicles her year-long journey living "her best life" (according to Oprah).

As we were talking, we brought up the fact that Oprah is full of contradictions. She loves to talk about how to do things "on a budget", but then has these extravagant "favorite things" shows. Or, she'll talk about how we should all love our bodies the way they are...but here's 10 ways to look thinner in jeans. Even with this, some women take what she says as gospel - from how to be a spiritual person, to what books we should read, to what celebrities we should care about.

What we don't get is how she seemingly has such power over a huge range of women...and why isn't there a similar person that men look to for advice/information/opinions about everything and anything? Is there something about women that need a "mother figure" to tell us all how to act, what to like, and how to look? Why don't men fall into the same "trappings"?

We really couldn't come up with an answer. I am going to read the Living Oprah blog from the beginning though, to see if Robyn has any insights into this phenomenon. Maybe the above-mentioned book club member can shed some light as well once she finishes the book :)

ETA: I should add that I am not "against" Oprah in any way. I have a lot of respect for her, and what she has been able to do with her life. I think she can do a lot of good in this world because of the power she has...but because of this power, she needs to be very aware of how women see her as a life coach/guide/guru.