Having been out of town for most of August, I’m just settling back into my groove at home & work finally. Selinsgrove never quite happened; a conference came up that I was recommended to attend, so that’s where I ended up instead. First week of August was in Madison, WI, followed up by a couple weeks back in Minnesota & North Dakota visiting my family & friends. Despite coming down with some sort of a cold at the end of the conference, I kicked that pretty quickly afterwards & did manage to enjoy most of my time in Minot, Fargo, and Minneapolis.

Coming back to Toronto was rough. The twelve or so hours to get from Madison to Toronto is a long (albeit not terrible) drive. Then to get back and immediately throw the laundry in, unpack everything else, and realize my apartment still needs a sweeping/vacuuming, I really should have taken an extra day to get most of that under wraps. Instead, I just charged back into the work week & powered through it.

Thank god for the long Labor (Labour?) Day weekend. Gave me a chance to catch up with everything: sweep & mop the floors, clean the bug guts off the car, cook some dinner, buy some groceries1, do some laundry, run some errands, and just catch up on some goddamn sleep. I even snuck in a trip down to the Canadian National Exhibition early Friday afternoon, but much like the trip to the Minnesota State Fair over the vacation, I killed an entire afternoon & evening seeing the sights & devouring the food2. I meant to get around to watching Se7en & Ali G Indahouse3 as well, but I’m just a bit hooked on finishing season three of The Walking Dead right now.

I’ll get around to posting about the rest of the summer a bit. World Pride, once I finish up postprocessing all those photos. Madison. Minneapolis. Minot. Fargo. Minneapolis again with the State Fair. One last stop in Madison before the long haul back. But for now, it’s getting back into that groove between work & home. Except this time, I’m trying to play the juggle between my work & personal life a little more generously.

1I had hardly anything to eat besides leftover pasta sauce. I couldn’t realistically expect much of my usual staples to keep for three weeks in the fridge…
2The big reason for both of these events was to really just consume the food!
3This is suddenly on my “to watch” list because I had no idea Martin Freeman is in it, in an utterly atypical role for him!

Having had the year to settle into Toronto, it’s time to finally get back to some summer adventures while I still can. At least get out of the city a bit more. Some camping trips to the north will be in order, but I’ve yet to setup plans for those. I have, however, set some up for south of the border, back in the United States later this summer.

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Last (paid) day in my doctorate laboratory tomorrow. Still churning out experiments up until the end. Shit. I may be in Saturday to do yet one more. We’ll see.

I still haven’t gotten the chance to go up to Toronto to find an apartment yet. That’s going to be on the docket for early next week.

I’m trying to wrap my head around the fact I need to be packed and ready to move in about two weeks. I am clearly going to lose sleep over this.

Apparently this week was not the week to start following YourAnonNews on Twitter. Fascinating amounts of information that I don’t usually catch through social media (aka Twitter and the once-a-month visit to Google News), but between the Boston Marathon bombing, the Ricin-laced letter threats, and now the West plant explosion, I think I’m getting overloaded on news.

My immediate family is flying out to watch me get cowled during commencement this spring at UB. This will be the first time my parents have ever come out to visit (second time for my brother) since I moved to Buffalo. Considering I haven’t been back home to visit in almost two years, this is going to seem a little weird and surreal.

So much random stuff flying around in my head, and so little time & motivation to get it all out. I hope things will slow down to allow me a breather once I get to Toronto and get settled in. If not, I’m probably going to end up very hermit–like for the first few months of my time there (due likely in large part to having to write a review for my postdoc mentor once I get there).

The phrase, “save me from myself,” comes vividly to mind right now. The next month is going to be all kinds of high–strung Jamie, through and through.

Wrapping up 2012 was a bit exhausting. I got a copy of the first four (hopefully complete) chapters of my thesis to my mentor just before Christmas out of town at Cori’s parents’ place. Coming back from that, we had to promptly pack and I drove the crew out to Long Island for Cori’s college friend Kenny‘s wedding. As she was in the wedding party, it wasn’t exactly a tame weekend. We were basically busy every day. Without having a lot of downtime, it at least provided me some time to decompress from the thesis writing, and play around with the replacement Nikon I picked up (as my D80 was finally on its death throes). I got a few lovely shots out of the weekend, but I learned the hard way just which focus mode I should be using (I knew I should have stuck to my old guns!). We spent all weekend hopping from domicile to domicile to hotel. The first two nights were rough and short in sleep, and the stay at the coastal hotel was far too short, especially considering the lovely view!

Coming back from Long Island, I was pretty much a zombie last Sunday. With ten hour drives back to back over that busy weekend, I needed just some raw sleep. Using that down time to recover, finally got to thinking about how I need to setup this year.

This lack of activity is killing me. I’m no longer power-walking around the lab, lifting 50–lb centrifuge rotors, or squatting down regularly to get into low cabinets and floor–sitting incubators. Writing my thesis has killed my muscles and my ass. My quadriceps and hamstrings are tighter than they’ve ever been, and I’m so tired of sitting in a less than adequate computer chair all the time. I need some steady exercise, and it needs to be doable. I have been taking roughly three mile walks to break the monotony of writing. Considering they only take about 50 minutes, I figure I can eek out at least four of these a week. Ten miles of walking a week. Hopefully more, weather permitting, but I got to get this body moving again. I’m learning the hard way what happens when you neglect to regularly use your day–to–day muscles, let alone put them through full ranges of motion.

In addition to that, I will really need to get back into a gym again at some point. I’m worried my torn calf (from November of 2011) is weakening and getting tighter. My patellofemoral pain in my right knee has flared up a bit more than usual. I still do okay lifting heavy objects, but my back needs more work supporting my upper body and arms in those endeavors. I need to do some resistance training. Free weights. Legit squats. Calf raises. Good mornings. Good ol’ bench press and cleans. Get my core back to somewhere I’m comfortable with. With that in place, shucking the pounds to get me back down to 200 (or less) should be substantially easier.

Writing needs to be more frequent. More organized. More coherent. I’m going to need to write a lot more in my post-doctoral work. I’m going to need to put it together faster and better than I am now. Anything and everything I can do to improve that, I should be. A good start would be regular blogging, much to the desensitizing chagrin of others. Doing this in the early days of Toronto should be easy. The trick will just be to keep it up! Keep it something novel. Not just day–to–day humdrum or trivial stuff. Congeal some coherent, novel writing!

That pretty much sums up what’s on my mind right now. There is more floating around in there, but those thoughts will have to be coalesced later. For now, I need to give the laptop a break, revel in the Bison having won the NCAA FCS Championship Game, and root on Green Bay to a win on this wildcard weekend of playoffs!

As always, I seem to be terrible at keeping up with this thing. Having a busy winter (or lack thereof) made it hard to sit down and blog much. I think I need to resign to the fact that I’ll likely rarely (or never) be consistent with the blogging thing, and just leave it to be what it is.

December took off and got crazy because I was trying to finish putting together my yearly committee meeting. I finally have a more concrete timeline in place for finishing my degree, and it’s looking to be late this summer. I need to have another committee meeting within the next month to assess that I’m still on track for this deadline, and to verify I have a solid direction for what second paper I’m going to be working towards as part of finishing my thesis. Needless to say, with the establishment of a semi-solid deadline and the experimentation necessary to go with it, I have been trying to bust my ass to get much of this done.

All the holidays have gone by rather splendidly. Christmas needed to be low-key with my leg injury still on the recovery, and I got some nice swag from it. Valentine’s Day stayed sufficiently below the radar for my liking. My birthday was a source of hmming and hahing all the way up until the day of as to what I was going to do. Ultimately, I just went to trivia at Canvas@1206 as has *mostly* been the norm as of late, but ended up way more drunk than I typically was. And I mean way more drunk. I should not have driven the SUV the mere half block to move it from Hertel Ave to near my apartment in that state. I know I boast that I’m a “sober” drunk (can be attested to by more than a few friends), but that was just plain stupid of me. I don’t think I had realized how drunk I was until after I had parked the vehicle. Despite parking it without a hitch (no curb hits or nothin’), that was an epically stupid move. It shan’t be happening again.

The weather is driving me nuts. This extremely temperate winter and early arrival of spring has me very concerned for the upcoming summer. I love me some cold and snow. And I really loathe the heat of the summer, especially considering how I can’t feasibly run the air conditioner in my apartment without shutting off virtually every other major electronic device (because they’re all on the same breaker). 70˚ temperatures are arriving next week. Lord knows how warm this summer is going to be. I pity poor Emily, as she may be forced to dealing with me lounging around the apartment with no shirt on in order to stay cool in said heat, if the summer is anything like this last winter has been. However, if the heat really does get that bad, I’m sure she’ll start resorting to similar measures in the name of staying cool. The cats, unfortunately, don’t have such a luxury!

I feel a need to rant about the lab and such, but I’ll leave that for another time. I’m not sure if it’s good of me to be griping about it in a public place (especially if people want to try to glean information about me prior to potential employment), but I try to be honest and reasonable about my rants. Whether that helps shed things in a more informative light or not, I cannot say. It’s tough; I would like an outlet, but more and more these days, everything that enters the electronic sea that is the Internet is being examined with more and more scrutiny, from what I hear.

In the interim, I’m attempting to stave off some sort of respiratory infection that started with some post-nasal drip that needs to chill the fuck out and leave. In addition, I’m dealing some unusual back soreness. It’s been around for a week, which I had originally associated with an accident I had back at Cori’s parents’ place (now a week and a half past), wherein I found that the coefficient of friction between my feet covered with moisture-wicking socks and some generic carpet upon which I was standing is insufficient to stop my forward momentum as I attempted to “scare a dog.” The inability to stop sent me sliding down a couple of stairs, landing very hard on my ass, and nearly pulling some muscles in my pectorals to try to catch myself on the railing. The pain is localized to a previously unknown region of my back known as the thoracolumbar fascia, which appears to be a rather large piece of dense connective tissue, holding a bunch of my back muscles together. The pain is not chronic: it instead is only apparent when I’m attempting to lean over, or raise myself back up. It’s very bizarre, and becoming quite the minor nuisance, as I’m becoming concerned by its inability to resolve itself to date.

Today we’re going to talk about vices. Did you slip back into any old habits that you wish you hadn’t? Did you gain any new habits that you wish you would have walked away from? Did you discover the evils of Nutella? ‘Fess up … we won’t tell.

I’ve always had a hard time sticking to a schedule of (a) bringing in my own lunch, or (b) choosing to eat my own lunch in lieu of something tastier. Let me explain this a tisch in more detail.

There’s a minor plethora of restaurants across the street from my workplace. Of all the fastfood chains I will eat from, Wendy’s is among the few1. They happen to have a location across the street, and their cheap menu items are a for-sure way to get a cheap (albeit less than healthy) lunch. Secondly, there is an Egyptian/Middle-Eastern fast food restaurant that serves delicious shwarma, pretty good wings, and a variety of other tasty Middle-Eastern food. Next to them is Zetti’s, but I refuse to go there anymore (except for special occasion) because of their ridiculously rising prices and the owner’s derogatory and naive attitude towards food trucks. Down from them a little further in the plaza is an adequate Chinese takeout restaurant, and that pretty much wraps up the food selections in close proximity.

Considering how often I feel the compulsion to get out of the lab to escape the madness that is my coworkers for just an hour or so, between that and the temptation of fresh, tastier food than my own, I have binges where I slip into dining out for 2-3 days a week for lunch. Getting a shwarma lunch runs me nearly $8 after tax (and is among the healthiest options), whereas I can eek by on a $3-4 lunch at Wendy’s which hardly has any nutritional value to it. In either case, these scenarios are not really feasible to maintain. Neither financially, or in terms of my own nutritional health.

I’ve slipped out of the habit of cooking as much as I used to. I need to return to the days of cooking 2-3 nights a week, so that I have leftovers to eat for lunch during the week; tasty leftovers at that! Spaghetti used to feed me for nearly a week, yet I haven’t made it in months! Granted, I’ve been on injury reserve for the past two weeks, but I need to start getting some motivation going again and adding regular days to my cooking cycle once again.

Thankfully this week, I have a plethora of seafood chowder and potato & leek soup to keep my lunches occupied. Plus, I’m making some pizza from scratch tomorrow night, instead of splurging for a Pizza Hut Chicken Supreme via takeout (although I reeeeeeeally still want to).

1I would consider eating at the Subway right next to the Wendy’s, but the owner is an asshole and skirts company policy on various things. I refuse to give him any of my business.

It’s a sad memory in retrospect, but I really thought I had it all together once. I thought I had life made, and it felt glorious.

In the rare event you didn’t know, I used to be married. I’ll spare the details on why it didn’t work; it is present in mostly large pieces in my blog if you really need to go look it up. Anyhoo, I really thought I had it all back when I got married. Let me recap things for you:

  • I graduated college, double majoring in chemistry and microbiology (both subjects I love)
  • I was working a delightful job that I never expected to get, learning about the fascinating field of material science at a very respectable pay fresh out of an undergraduate degree
  • I had been accepted to graduate school programs both domestic and abroad, and had settled on moving to the eastern coast to pursue a Ph.D. in Buffalo, NY
  • I spent a week in Germany and was dying to go back
  • Holly was back from a year abroad in Germany, and I couldn’t wait to get started with my life again in her in it

I really thought I had it all together. Even though the wedding was tiny (just a ceremony in a courtroom and a small reception in the park), it felt surreal; it was too good to be true.

I don’t mean to sound snyde, but it was to a small extent. I just learned the hard way that I followed some emotions blindly farther than I should have. It was an amazing relationship, just not one that constituted a marriage. But that build-up to that day was remarkable. I felt like I was on top of the world, and ready to steer it wherever I felt like.

I have fallen far from that pinnacle. Graduate school has taken longer than I would have ever expected. The marriage went onto rocks and has since dissolved. I’m amidst financial woe as long as I continue through graduate school, subjected to an adequate but far from my previously very comfortable ‘real job’ wages.

I missed something when I was last atop that pinnacle, however. Being back down in the valley, I never saw the other peaks that I have to climb. Satisfaction is arbitrary in each situation. I’m on my way up another peak. I don’t know if it’ll be the ‘most satisfied,’ because it’s hard to gauge just how high each one is on your own. But I think I’ve got a long way to go up yet…*smirk*

So to set the stage, I should probably state that I was raised Roman Catholic at my maternal grandmother’s behest, and so my mother obliged. I was never personally interested in the catechism classes in my younger years. When I got to high school, the grades were grouped together into a sort of ‘youth group’ wherein there was a lesser focus on the religion itself and a greater focus on the principles it is intended to impart. Still, I never had much of a taste for the religion myself, although I did appreciate the moral messages that both the pastor and catechism director helped to convey.

In the years after graduating high school and following my confirmation into Catholicism, I came to learn that I had a pretty liberal upbringing (and view) within the church. I met many a friend in college that were very staunch believers in the principles and stories provided in the Bible, but my doubt of theology on a greater scale had long since been implanted in my psyche. These are the years I birthed and refined my Devil’s advocate attitude to discussions; I learned to do my best to understand the other point contrary to my own, and in doing so, tried to educated the other discusser(s) on the contrary to their own points. I never tried to provoke those who were unwilling to accept evidence contrary to their own beliefs, I only wanted them to see it from a standpoint other than their own. I was insistent on understanding how people came to see religion the way they did, and use that to help reanalyze my lackluster approach.

Over the past few years, I’ve come to a (tentative) resolution on my thoughts towards religion in general. I’ve adopted the moniker of being an ‘atheist,’ but I really more closely align with an ‘ignostic’ on principle.

ignostic – a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God —Taken from Apple’s Dictionary application, referencing the New Oxford American Dictionary

This pretty adeptly describes my stance on religion: I really don’t believe that any of us, no matter how divined we may think we are, have any clue what exactly entitles any sort of a god-like entity. Sure, everyone postulates what ‘God’ is really capable of doing, but it’s all speculation based off of stories.

I’m not unwilling to believe in a god, but I frankly feel that if they are anything like religions or mythology build them up to be, then Joe Shmoe on the street is really going to be incapable of understanding what they truly are at a fundamental level. Much like multi-dimensional physics, it is broaching territory we are completely unfamiliar with.

I’m not unwilling to believe in the supernatural either. I have had a couple incidents that have scared some sense1 into me, so as much of a critic as I was before, I’m growing some doubts.

In any case, I’m not concerned so much about religion. I am more inclined to believe that one should do good in their life, and try to do good unto others. You don’t need religion to be a good, morally sound person. Although, when someone calls an atheist an amoral, corrupt person to my face, it does stir an urge in me to besmirch them with a punch to their thick, myopic skull…but I digress…

1Literally…or maybe more accurately, scared some sense out of me, since it doesn’t abide by normal logic in my head.