Thursday, June 21, 2007

Eight Facts about TheBrummell

I saw this meme over at PZ's earlier today, and tried to think of some things to put up should I find myself tagged. PZ did not tag me, so I forgot about it until I stumbled across Laelaps' post, and his tagging of me. The rules are a little different between the two editions (PZ vs. Laelaps), but I expect they share a recent common ancestor.

I'll post the full 5 rules of PZ's version, in something akin to horizontal transfer:

1. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
2. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
5. Don't forget to leave them a comment telling them they're tagged, and to read your blog

Laelaps' edition includes very similar rules, organised into only three points. Anyway, on with the show. The other "random" facts I've seen have mostly been about childhoods.

A. I lived in England (UK) on two separate occassions as a child - first for about 9 months in 1984, a period I have very few (and mostly very vague) memories of, the second time for about 2.5 years from January 1988 to July 1990. I did not enjoy living there in either instance. I have heard people tell me they wish they'd had such chances to travel (travel we did - France, West Germany, Switzerland, Crete, Benelux...) when they were children; these people do not know what they're talking about. Travelling in the back of a car with one's family when one is 11 years old is never enjoyable, regardless of the locations visited. Also, school uniforms suck.

B. The first one here was too negative, so on to something positive: I went on many great camping trips in the Canadian Rockies near Calgary when I was a teenager. While some camping trips were pretty bad, the majority were either very fun or so extreme and weird that the ability to tell great stories and share in-jokes after the fact make them great. I've crossed the continental divide a few times over saddle ridges between bare rocky peaks 2000 meters tall, with a 15-km view (or more) that contains not a single sign of humanity through 360 degrees. I also have some great photos from those trips; a few were taken by me.

C. I visited Bamfield, BC, in grade 11 on a school trip organised by the (public) education board of the City of Calgary, and I was the only person from my high school to go that year. That trip solidified in me my already-strong desire to become a marine biologist (next year... post on that coming sooner or later), and created a strong desire to attend Bamfield for summer coursework. The easiest way to get to summer courses at Bamfield is to be a third- or fourth-year student at one of the five member universities; those are the only universities I applied to at the end of grade 12. I was accepted immediately to the university of Calgary - not a surprise, any Calgary-resident grade 12 student with halfway decent marks who applies gets accepted there. The university of Alberta also accepted me, eventually, as did Simon Fraser University. UBC, oddly, offered me a place in residence, but did not accept my application. The university of Victoria similarly rejected me; because UVic was my first choice, I appealed their decision based on differing high-school graduation requirements. They had rejected me because I did not take a grade 11 or higher second language, a requirement for graduation in B.C. high schools. I explained to them Alberta's more anglophone requirements, and they let me in. I visited Bamfield again for a third year invertebrate biology course (long weekend) and attended summer courses there in 2000. My father now occassionally jokes that I think Bamfield is the best place on Earth. That's not entirely incorrect.

D. I have two facial scars, though both are small and only one is noticable. Above and lateral to my right eyebrow is the faint scar that resulted from getting hit by my cousin's bicycle (he was riding it; it might not have belonged to him) via the brake handle, at the age of five. I had five stitches, and a scar... perhaps one centimeter over, and I'd have an eyepatch or something. AAARR!!! The other scar is the result of a curling injury. That's right, I have a scar from an injury inflicted upon me while playing CURLING. I'm one step away from maple syrup for blood, ya hosers. To be honest, it's not that exciting. The scar is tiny and hides in my left eyebrow; I got it by pulling myself off my feet while sliding down the ice by hooking my broom onto the leg of an ici-side bench. The spring-hinge-cover of my glasses dug a hole in my head when I faceplanted on the ice. Two or three small stitches.

E. I have little experience of stress. Exams, minor deadlines, travel, personal relationships, all elicit only the weakest of stress responses in me. I've never been in a traumatic situation, though, so I can't say anything about really stressful situations. This summer, however, I am experiencing stress (an inherent part of the PhD process, I gather). Between now and the end of August, three interacting and major things will happen in my PhD. 1) My first ever field season, four weeks in and around Churchill, MB, starting July 7, collecting invertebrates and preparing the specimens for genome size measurement. The stress here comes from a) the fact I've never done this before combined with b) the realization that I have a shitload of things to get done before I go, not least of which is write a rough draft / detailed outline of the review paper that will form chapter 1 of my eventual thesis (and serve as a guide to some of my activities in Churchill), and perform half-a-dozen last-minute mini-experiments in the hope that I will be able to preserve some collected specimens and not need to deal with them (dissections) in Churchill. The first such experiment was disappointing: I do not think I will be able to use a graded ethanol concentration series for preserving arthropods. Shit. 2) The lab is moving! Yay! In fact, the WHOLE DAMN DEPARTMENT is moving to a new building. Moving one lab is one thing. Moving an entire building is something else entirely. The local upshot of this "relocation" process is that I can not do any more lab work as of tomorrow. So I've been trying to get those mini-experiments I mentioned done very quickly, and working on that review paper later at night. The last two nights I stayed at my desk until later than 10:00 pm. This is rather unusual for me, but I expect (and welcome, to some extent) many more long days in future. At least I feel like I'm accomplishing things... there's just so many more things to do. 3) PhD administration stuff: I need to have my first committee meeting before the end of August. Before that meeting can be even scheduled, I need to get a committee. One of the minimum three people on my committee has to be from outside my department (Integrative Biology); getting an outside person involves my advisor submitting a letter and that person's C.V. to the department. So there are some beaurocratic events that I have to coordinate. I have to return the form listing who is on my committee, with signatures, to the department BEFORE I go to Churchill. And when I get back, before I have the meeting, I have to write a PhD proposal that my committee will accept (and sign!). This PhD proposal's requirements are still very unknown and vague to me - the graduate secretary here did not provide me with a straight answer, and passed my questions off (via me, of course) to other people in the department. In other words, I asked "what's the story on this PhD proposal thing I have to do before August 31, you know, in between a month in the Arctic and, oh yeah, a week in New Brunswick grabbing marine squishy things?" and her reply was "ask your advisor and the chair of the department's grad studies committee". Great. MORE contacting people out of the blue, while THEY'RE DEALING WITH THE MOVE, to ask random semi-stupid questions that will (GUARANTEED) have answers that make me sad. I'm expecting my questions about this proposal to be answered by something like "typically, the proposal for a PhD student is a very detailed, 30 page manuscript describing everything..."
Also, I should be working on that review paper right now, or composing polite-but-urgent emails, or something other than writing this blog post that my advisor WILL read and who will almost certainly then ask me awkward questions about the progress of my work (with obvious, but unsaid, implications for my future as a graduate student). Urgh... so this is why people complain about stress.

F. Another thing for me to stress about: money. There are some indications that I will be flat broke, and need to borrow money (from my parents) by approximately September. I have not Monday-ranted about grad salaries because I said I'd only rant about things that are trivial-but-real; grad salaries are non-trivial to me. To look on the bright side, owing yet more money to my parents will serve as strong incentive for me to get NSERC funding; the application deadline is sometime in October.

G. Two negative facts in a row, more happy needed. I appear to be in excellent health. Never in my life have I broken a bone or had surgery more invasive than stitches (see above). I've never had a serious infection, and my (again, non-life-threatening) allergies are limited to a single class of antibiotics that are not widely used, anyways. I recover from colds and other minor illnesses rapidly; I think my average feel-bad time for a cold is about 3 days. Recent work-related health investigations have all come back very positive - the doctor's (cautious) opinion was that I'm certainly fit to dive, and physiological measures such as cholesterol and haematocrit are all well inside the healthy range.

H. I attribute my acceptance into the M.Sc. program at Simon Fraser University partly to my M.Sc. advisor's dogs. When I met him, I had driven to SFU to meet with more than one professor, and met him near the end of the day. Besides us 'hitting it off' well from first meeting, he took me for dinner to an Irish pub near his home, and he was very pleased when I happily agreed to transport his dogs home at the same time (his wife, another professor at SFU, had needed to leave earlier with the car to attend some meeting or something and couldn't take the dogs because she wasn't going anywhere near home until much later that night). My one-and-only vehicle that I have ever owned, a 1990 Dodge Grand Caravan SE (3.3L V6), was well suited to the task. And his dogs seemed happy with the arrangment, too - the larger of the pair, Harry, a mostly-German-shephard massing near 50 kg took the three-seat back bench, and Shasta (also mostly-German-shepard, but with some other traits thrown in), massing about 35 kg took the two-seat center bench. These were also consistently their positions when I drove those dogs around on later occassions, for example when I was house-and-dog-and-cat-and-fish-and-stick-insect - sitting for my advisor's family while they were on vacation. While I'm not much of a dog person, and I've had my differences with those individual canines, I did enjoy their excellent car behaviours.

OK, that's my eight facts. I will tag Carlo, Necator, BronzeDog, Infophile, The Angry Astronomer, Rick of My Biotech Life, The Everyday Scientist, and King Aardvark.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for continuing the meme; given the great "random 8" you, PZ, and Molly have come up with, my list seems a bit unsatisfactory. Oh well. Anyway, best of luck with your the piles of work you have to do. I have to run around my E&E department looking for a new advisor myself; he was assigned to me in January, said he'd be back in July, and now I found out he's retired so I need to find someone else to sign off on all my forms to let me graduate next spring. Ugh. At least I've got plenty of work to do at the geology museum to keep my happy.

Necator said...

Bastard! This is a blog version of a chain mail! Will I get seven years bad luck if I don't fill this out, or pass it on? What if Idon't know eight other bloggers???

Why am I shouting and using multiple punctuation marks?!?!?!

King Aardvark said...

Necator: Shouting and using multiple punctuation marks is a natural reaction when subject to a run by meming such as this !!!:;;!">?1~!!!!

Damnit, I don't know 8 people either. I had a hard enough time with the memes that require 5 people.

Necator said...

I meant chain letter, not chain mail. Chain mail is what I wear while making a pee.

Run by meming? Should not that be drive by meming? Or is this a carbon emission thing?

King Aardvark said...

Yes, drive by. Exactly.

Don't mind me, I'm just stupid today.

TheBrummell said...

It's a 'meme' on teh intarwebs, guys. "Required" has a very different definition here in cyburspace.

Neither of you were shouting, by the way. SHOUTING LOOKS LIKE THIS!!!!!!

Also, I am now totally psyched to see what "a blog version of chain mail!" looks like. Can I be knight, or do I have to start as a squire?

rvidal said...

Thanks for the tag, I think.

Oh and by the way, you put the wrong link to my blog :D

PS: My 8 facts are one-liners... how poor when compared with your post!

TheBrummell said...

Oh and by the way, you put the wrong link to my blog :D

Fixed! Thanks for finding that.

Carlo said...

Argh! Why do you meme me when I'm at a conference and cannot participate???

TheBrummell said...

Why do you meme me when I'm at a conference and cannot participate???

1. Verbing weirds language. "Meme" is a noun. Stop doing that.
2. There's no time limit on this; enjoy your superconferenceburnout, then come back and post a really short point-form version of this meme when you feel like it. Mine is among the longest I've seen.
3. You have been spending too much time typing back and forth with Necator, apparently, since you used so many question marks.

Necator said...

1. Verbing weirds language. "Meme" is a noun. Stop doing that.

Is this an irony?

TheBrummell said...

Is this an irony?

Yes. It's also a line from a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon.