Friday, July 26, 2013

Say it with Song

This song describes my pump:
Up Down by Shinee (enough English lyrics for you to get the idea)

This is how I feel right now:
I'm So Tired by the Beatles

So, this is what I'm listening to:
Wherever You Are by One Ok Rock (yep, it's in English, mostly)

Notes 'N Words by One Ok Rock (they're my happy place, what can I say?)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Yesterday and Today

Pump would not start.

Called in electrician -- found a breaker flipped and flipped it back.  

Removed questionable gate valve to make system more vacuum tight.  

Went to turn on pump.  It sparked and smoked.  

It didn't start.  

Found I had pinched and grounded a wire. I hung my head in shame.  

Called back in electricians -- fixed the wire and found a broken fuse.  Replace broken fuse.  

Started pump.  

All systems go.  

Turned on liquid nitrogen.  

I left the room.

I came back and the pumps were off.

"There was a pop! and a flash of light!"  

Pumps would not start.  

I checked fuse box -- found broken fuse and replaced it.  

Started pump.  

All systems go.

Pressures started rising.  

Turned off pumps.  

Did a leak check -- found two large leaks that have been there since I first started in the lab.  

Fixed the leaks.  

Started pump.

All systems go.  

Glorious, oh, glorious success.  

Running low on oil.  

Turned off pumps.  

Started pump.

All systems go.

Turned on liquid nitrogen.  

Did not leave the room. 

Heard a pop and a large spark fly across the room.

Turned off the pumps.

Went to turn on pump.

It didn't start.

I checked the fuse box -- found a broken fuse and replaced it.  

On our last fuse.  

Do we try again?  

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Turn of Phrase

Yesterday at our Uke Jam, it got to my turn to choose a song and I looked at my friend for a suggestion and so we went with Edelweiss.

Everyone smiled, "Oh, another waltz?  Why do we keep choosing waltzes tonight?"

My friend and I looked at each other and started laughing.  "We should do Waltzing Matilda!"

When it got around to the lady who had heard our conversation, she chose just that song.

Did you know?  Waltzing Matilda is not even a waltz.  And it has nothing to do with dancing either.

But no matter, we were in a mood to laugh and we played it.  As I strummed through the chords (or tried to) and sang along, I would throw horrified glances towards my friend.  "They're going to arrest this guy?"

I suddenly realized, I had no idea what this song was really about.

So, I looked up the lyrics.

Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong
Under the shade of a coolibah tree,
And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boiled:
"Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me?"

Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda
You'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me
And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boiled:
"You'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me."

swagman: an itinerant Australian laborer who carries his personal belongings in a bundle as he travels around in search of work.
billabong: A branch of a river forming a backwater or stagnant pool.
coolibah tree: a type of Australian eucalyptus tree
billy: a camping pot used for boiling water
waltzing: to travel while working as a craftsman
Matilda: a term for the swagman's bundle

Essentially, it's a song about a man who travels around looking for work who is cooking himself some food by a river. In the rest of this song, the man kills a sheep to eat it and is approached by policeman who want to arrest him for stealing property from a squatter (side note: who is technically stealing property from someone else). The man refuses to be taken in and kills himself instead and his ghosts haunts the area.

English baffles me.  English baffles me.  English baffles me.  

I only knew the definitions of half of the words in that song.  How did I figure out what I did in that song?  

How do people ever learn this language as a second language?  

And why, oh why, oh why, do Australian people sing this at sporting events?  

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Challenge Accepted

I think my lab thinks she's being hilarious.  Hilarious in the way that children think it's funny to run away from their parents in the mall and hide when said parent is exhausted and in a hurry to leave.

I guess in this analogy, I'm the parent and my lab is my child.  It might be an apt description - I do blame my lab for my grey hair and for taking the prime years of my life.

 Last week, a coupling failed.  This coupling was kind of a mess to begin with.  Some previous students had taken some rubber material and wrapped it around the two joining pipes and taped the seams with electrical tape and then threw a few metal clamps around the whole thing and called it good.  It baffles me that it didn't fail before.  It baffles me that it was sufficient to hold any portion of a vacuum.  But it held.

Thanks to this custom part, I had to go through two different couplings to find something that somewhat worked.  Even then, it wasn't perfect but I'm beyond the point of hoping for perfection.  While waiting for the parts, I opened up the coupling and cleaned out the system from oil and iodine.  As I struggled to squeeze myself in and out of that tight spot and maneuver around wires and piping and equipment, I was struck by the fact that this was something I had never opened up before.  As I cleaned and worked, I thought about my fingerprints which covered almost every inch of my lab and I marveled.

I smiled and told my colleague, "I think it's official: I have now fixed or maintained everything in this lab."  And then I knocked on wood just to be safe.

I think this is where my lab thought it would be extra hilarious to do something.  It was like she thought I was issuing a challenge.  Everything?! Just you wait.  I'll show you.

Today, I was planning on running my experiment.  I turned on my laser and started working through the laser few things I needed to do.  But there was a loud noise coming from the iodine pit so I went down to investigate the new leak in the pneumatic valve system (fittings spring leaks every few months there).  Except it wasn't a leak.  It was the regulator spouting mist all over the iodine pit.  I hung my head and went to go find the lab tech for some help in figuring out what was even going on.  

After opening it up and cleaning it out with no success, we decided the regulator was officially broken and needed to be replaced.

Hahaha, I get it.  A new something to break.  I spoke too soon.  Joke's on me.  Very funny, lab.  You're so clever.

But remember?  In the analogy, I'm the tired parent who really just wants to leave in peace.  This isn't really funny anymore, right?  Well, kids never seem to pick up on the "The joke is beyond old" sentiment.  And my lab doesn't seem to get the hint either.

Ok, lab.  Well, keep running around.  You may think you're running me down but I promise you're wearing yourself out.  Nap time is coming.

He who laughs last...

Monday, July 8, 2013

Lab Art

Here are some pictures of the equipment that hangs out behind my lab.  (i.e. the stuff outside my window)

Just from a different perspective.

Doesn't it all look impressive?   

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


A decade of Julys:

Years in the Past |  Location | Occupation | interesting events

10 | Zhongli, Taiwan | Missionary | I experienced my first ghost month in Taiwan which included biking through the streets one evening with the air filled with smoke from burning incense and paper money.  Sparks even flew onto my clothes and burned little holes in the fabric, a constant reminder the rest of my mission about the experience.  
  9 | Neihu, Taiwan | Missionary | The water purifier in my apartment broke and I determined I would fix it myself so I spent my days planning appointments around stores where I could possibly pick up the parts I needed while my companion and I tried to ward off dehydration and heat exhaustion in the summer heat by buying our water or filling up every water bottle we owned at the church's water fountain.  One night's highlight was winning free water from our local 7-11.
  8 | Moon Apartment 7 and 12, Provo, UT | BYU Baseball Park Custodian | That summer, I experienced my first dating experiences since my mission, my first pretend summer romance and my first real heartbreak (er... three of them).  I learned the joy of photography and long bike rides in the mountains.
  7 | Moon House, Provo, UT | BYU Grounds Crew - Pruner | I spent eight hours a day learning about plants and how to take care of them while chatting with my newest friends and spent my evenings on walks worrying about graduate school and money.  I remember making a lot of bread and eating a lot of soup.
  6 | Montebello Apt, Charlottesville, VA | Graduate Student | I spent July in my first relationship which was a long distance one and required a lot of travel and planning and I served as ward activities chair so I remember feeling exhausted and busy all the time but I also felt very happy.
  5 | Montebello Apt, Charlottesville, VA | Graduate Student | The summer before I moved into the Shamrock house, a few of my roommates and I met up in Norfolk, VA for a very fun vacation that went exactly opposite of our plans.  I never did get to see the Great Dismal Swamp.
  4 | in the process of moving from the Shamrock House to the Bennington Place, Charlottesville, VA | I had just returned from Taiwan and so spent my time trying to catch up on the culture of Taiwan so I listened to a lot of Jay Chou, Wang Leehom, and of course, Mayday.
  3 | Bennington Place, Charlottesville, VA | Graduate Student | I think I spent this entire month moving people into and out of my ward and moving myself into a new apartment.  It was exhausting work.  I also spent that summer worrying a lot about my family and friends.  I paced the parking lot of my new apartment.
 2 | Mormon Row, Charlottesville, VA | Graduate Student | I spent the day with my sister and Baby and spent the evening with my roommates.  Even though it was wet, we went to watch fireworks and had a lot of fun.  I don't remember much from the rest of that month at all.
 1 | Sendai, Japan | A few days after the 4th holiday, I boarded a plane for Japan which ended up being more humid than I could imagine.  I spent my days acting as the intern and my evenings watching Japanese TV.  I tried teaching myself Japanese during this month and started running every day which I even started to admit was a "hobby" by the end of the summer.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Passing Through

Me: <cleaning out part of my sister's car> Baby!  You have tap shoes!  You take tap?  You do tap and ballet?
Baby: <nods and then sees a package of cookies in a bag> Yep!  And  there are these cookies here.

Me: <trying again> No, really, what have you learned in tap class?
Baby: ??
Me: Have you learned the shuffle/step?  <I demonstrate>
<Baby laughs at me>
Baby: No! Not the shuffle!  I learned how to stomp my feet!
Me: Really?  Like, just to make noise?
Baby: Yes.

(Her sister told me later that Baby has never worn tap shoes or attended tap class yet.  She made it all up)

Sister: Baby, do you know where we are going?
Baby: Sarah and Marc's?
Sister: Nope, not there.  Think about it.  I told you.  Where are we going?
Baby: <whispers> Cinderella's Castle.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Only Thing

My entire life, I've wanted to be married and have kids.  In first grade, I remember walking down the hall of my school in my Brownie uniform and deciding that having fifty kids sounded about right.  When I was in high school at a math and science school, I was not afraid to tell my friends that I wasn't really planning on having a career outside of raising my kids.

I wasn't entirely sure how it was going to work out; I don't really do well with those sorts of logistics.  I did know that I wanted a college degree.  Yes, I definitely wanted a mission.  But I just knew that soon after the mission, I would meet the man I was going to marry.  I needed to get married quickly of course because I was settling for no less than five children and I didn't want to have them all at once.

My whole life, I made quiet little plans about that future family of mine and those five children.  I never spent my time worrying about wedding details - as my high school roommate and I agreed, we could get married in a towel for all we cared, as long as it was modest.  I assumed my fiance and I would make the wedding plans together so I never concerned myself with colors or locations or times of year or flowers or really anything much.  However, I did make plans for the stuff that came after the big to-do.  I wanted to learn how to cook and to clean and to sew.  When I was a teenager and worried about the typical "the world is a bad place, why bring children into it?" scenario, I decided that I was going to make it a life goal before those children came along to seek out the best books and the best experiences so that I could show them the beauty and the magic of the world that they lived in.  So, I worked and dreamed and planned for that dear little family I was going to have.  I prayed for my future husband; I prayed for my future children.

In the meantime, I was going to a math and science high school and getting a degree in Mechanical Engineering and serving a mission in Taiwan.  But those things were meaningful ways to pass the time until I got married and had my family.  When leaders felt the need to teach lessons about the importance of not postponing marriage or putting undue emphasis on careers, I just smiled.  That lesson was not for me - I wanted a family more than I wanted any of those other things.

Years passed.  At some point during my PhD, I started to feel something change.  I would look over my library of children's books and want to just throw them all away.  I stopped praying for that elusive husband and those equally mythical children.  I started saying "If I get married" rather than "When..." and got annoyed when other people corrected me.  I started to get offended at lessons in church that talked about how marriage and family was the most important thing we can ever do.  Once, I even stood up and walked out in the middle of a Sunday School class...which I never do...ever.

What had happened?  Well, part of me simply needed to create a life for myself that didn't entirely rest on something that was supposed to happen several years previous (according to all my life plans).  The other part of me struggled to know how I could have gone wrong.  I had always wanted and dreamed and planned for the things that my faith and church taught me that I should be wanting and dreaming and planning for.  Except it hadn't been realized.

That day that I walked out of class, I went and sat in the chapel and had a very serious talk with myself and with God.  Was I actually mad that the church lessons focused so much on marriage?  No.  Did I wish for them to stop?  No.  So, what was I mad about?  Why did I feel like I couldn't breathe when I got in those lessons?  Why did I panic?  Answer: I was walking down a path I had never planned on and I had no idea what I was doing.  And significantly, if I believed that The Plan was motherhood and I wasn't a mother, where did I fit into the faith and church I had believe in and embraced my entire life?

I came to this conclusion: Motherhood is something that only women can do.  Even with all our medical advances, only women can bear and give birth to children.  This is a calling that is distinct to them.  The importance of willing mothers, of good mothers, of kind mothers and good mothers cannot be emphasized enough.  There are children who need to be born, children who need to be loved, children who need to be taught.  Essentially, there are children who need mothers - women.

But caveat: somehow, along the line somewhere, in the emphasis on mothers and motherhood, I somehow mixed up the words.  I had started to believe that motherhood was the only thing women can do.  I had started to believe that my worth, my chance to make the world better, my value in the Church was dependent on my being a wife and mother.  Things as simple as the bumper sticker several years before, I had happily stuck to my bike, "No other success can compensate for failure in the home," now stung and wounded my soul.  I somehow convinced myself if I couldn't be a mother, then it didn't matter what else I did, I would always be failing or lacking in some way.

Honestly though, when did being a good person, a kind person, a person who wants to make the world a little better EVER count as a failure?  In what world would there be no use for someone who has talents, dreams and the heart to make a difference?

It never has and never will, anywhere.

Motherhood is something only women can do.  It is not the only thing that women can do.  The world and the the church need women for everything they are and everything they have to offer.

I'm grateful to be a member of a church that helps me remember how important and eternal families are.  I'm also grateful to know that God does not require me to wait until eternity (or some unknown future) for my plan to begin.  I can make a difference.  Now.