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!

I’m keeping tonight’s post relatively succinct in nature. I’m struggling to stay awake at the moment, and I got some people1 to impress tomorrow with my poster!

    Highlights of the day:

  • There’s a running joke now about how project/research X has been ongoing/started/joined/left since Y’s administration (even including a jab at the “Lewinski administration”)
  • Considering the quirks I’ve heard about Marians’ ability to socialize, he gives a very good talk; I’m less apt to believe said remarks about his socializing skills
  • Was surprised and pleased by the incorporation of G-loop/G4 structures into this meeting, albeit for perhaps only a singular talk; this was awfully popular in the repair and mutagenesis fields, so I wasn’t quite expecting it here
  • Someone thought the food here at the meeting was relatively terrible; I’ve just been ecstatic to have salad with every meal except breakfast (the couscous and quinoa salads were delightful surprises as well)
  • Next meeting (2013) may be in Italy…Italy!!!
  • Voted to recommend applying for the Gordon Research Seminars for the next Chromosome Dynamics meeting; I hope to be attending it, if my soon-to-be post-doc research interests align then!
  • Freakin’ amazing animation of mitotic chromosome pairing…I’d swear it came out of a professional 3D-animation studio from the looks of it
  • Intrigued by some results being seen, where it appears recA isn’t acting like expect…at least not responding like one would expect it to in response to UV DNA damage
  • Related to that, wondering what the hell is up with obgE…originally identified as a ribosome-binding protein, it seems to affect replication, chromosome partitioning, and god knows what else!

1Sue Lovett, David Sherratt, James Berger, Ken Marians, Alan Leonard, Julia Grimwade (although I think I have her taken care of after talking with her at her poster today) for starters!

Third day of this conference got a bit rougher. I did not wake up nearly as refreshed1, and I tried to cut back on my coffee consumption. It’s certainly not necessary, but it does help. That made the morning session a bit more difficult to stay awake through, but I did just fine! An earlier bedtime tonight will fix that issue.

I attempted to hike up Mount Snow during the free afternoon block. I only got about halfway up the mountain before I lost the quadricep/knee strength to keep climbing2, but it certainly was better than I had hoped after the poor attempt to climb Whistler Mountain two years ago. A quick immersion in the pool prior to the poster session, and I realized just how sore that climb left me. Yikes!

I’m getting more and more excited for my time at my poster on Thursday afternoon now. I talked with Sue Lovett again about my work and ß-clamp related stuff after lunch, and had a couple more people asking me when my poster would be up to look at and discuss. Apparently repair and mutagenesis conferences are not the place to be presenting my work!

Unrelated news: Netflix just drove their rates up. Streaming plans are no longer included in their DVD plans, so I’m promptly dropping the streaming plan, if not dropping them altogether. There are still a few older movies I want to see again, and some older TV series I’d like to rewatch, but I have no substantial use for their streaming. Their selection for streaming is too variable most of the time, as well!

Exhaustion and muscle fatigue are winning me over. I’m determined to keep up the blogging nightly during the conference, mostly for the principle of it, and less for the context. I’m still irked and torn over the ‘please don’t share/email/record/tweet/etc data’ principle of the meeting3, so I try to refrain from going into details. BUT, much to my surprise, I found another tweeter (or more accurately she found me) at the media! How hip are we?? I can’t wait until the walls come down a little further on this sharing of research data. That’s altruistically what research is all about, is it not? (o.O)

1Monday morning I woke up with the sun; the alarm did all the work this morning!
2My knees are surprisingly weaker than they used to be back during my high school years. I used to do quad extensions at an easy 150lbs for both knees. I think I’d be lucky to do 100lbs with ease on both knees now. Really considering getting them checked out for the weird squishy noises I hear from them as I climb stairs daily!
3Mostly because of the sharing nature of the conference, yet we can’t tweet/blog about it, despite the fact we’ll be discussing it with our colleagues later regardless? Seems a bit…moot, perhaps? *shrugs*

The second day of the conference has me finally suffering (or moreso meandering) through the entire mirth of what a typical day is going to entail here. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I was thinking it would be, so I definitely need to cut back on the coffee consumption. I thought I would need more; I was sorely mistaken. It’s fairly good coffee, but I just don’t need it!

James Berger led off the morning session with a lovely talk that did not disappoint, much like his publications. I thought he had fancy figures in his papers. It certainly extended towards his presentation of the material in a talk! I have been a bit enamored with his work for a few years now, simply because he’s done a lot to contribute towards understanding of how DnaA setups up the oriC complex to promote initiation of replication in E. coli, with a very structure/function styled approach. Interestingly, he may be the only structural talk I see this meeting, from the looks of it.

I’m shocked at how much real-time microscopy and single-molecule studies are being done in this field, egad! I mean it makes sense…visualization of chromosome partitioning/segregation/migration makes it substantially easier to examine was is defective with mutations in related genes. Some of the results being done with those kind of experiments is just amazing (and kind of beautiful too, when you look at how mitotic spindles pull the chromosomes to the daughter cells during mitosis).

I’m nearly flabbergasted by the similarity of interest of other labs to my own work. When I attended the ASM Conference on DNA Repair & Mutagenesis, I really had very little interest at my poster. In fact, I think I only had one individual come to talk to me about it when I was manning it. So far at this meeting? At least five individuals1 have expressed their desire to come talk to me about my work when I’m presenting my poster on Thursday. On Thursday! They’re excited to hear about it now! What the fuck! Obviously, my work is totally in the right conference this time!

Also, meeting a lot of interesting people with intriguing work! I met a graduate student from Sue Lovett‘s lab2 who (with the exception of the post-doc who also came up with her) is one of the only ones in her lab doing ‘chromosomal dynamics’ related work in the lab (similar to myself in my lab). I also met a post-doc from Elliott Crooke‘s lab, and he and I talked through all of lunch about our work and more. Randomly, I chatted up a post-doc from Antoine van Oijen‘s lab who found that UV-induced damage in E. coli at 23˚C apparently does not induce UmuC/D foci. Blows my mind!!! UmuC/D are the proteins known in E. coli to repair UV-induced DNA damage. Egad!

Also, interestingly, I met a young PI, Wiep Klaas Smits, who is transitioning his post-doctoral work in Alan Grossman‘s lab on Bacillus subtilis to a new model system, Clostridium difficile. It was interesting to learn how proximal oriC in B. subtilis and C. difficile to their dnaA loci (basically adjacent to), whereas in E. coli the oriC has been mapped to ~45kilobases away from the dnaA locus.

Uffda. Okay, I’ve really rambled enough. I need to get my ass to bed so I can indulge in more great talks, and attempt to hike up Mount Snow! Well, at least as far as I can get…

1First one of which was actually the conference chairwoman, Sue Lovett! Wow!
2Sue’s work is highly touted by my own mentor for much of her lab’s work in DNA repair.

So, I’m in West Dover, VT, for the week for the Gordon Research Conference on Chromosome Dynamics. It was about a seven hour drive out from Buffalo, with a very scenic (albeit secluded) drive through Green Mountain National Forest on Kelley Stand and Stratton Arlington Roads. Definitely gave the Jetta a nice workout, between the hefty inclines/declines1, and the dirt/gravel-only stretch that is Kelley Stand Road. I have to admit, I love and miss the smell of big forests!

The first keynote was pretty awesome. David Sherratt provided some interesting data about chromosomal segregation in E. coli, and even a shout-out to Hda (my favorite protein)! Susan Gasser‘s keynote about chromatin migration in budding yeast after was also really interesting, but left a lot of speculative questions unanswered. They actually had to cut the post-talk discussion to an early end because they were out of allotted time. It also reminded me how eukaryotic systems are going to kick my butt in the talks. However, I’m pretty enamored that they chose a prokaryotic talk for the first keynote of the conference!

Also, I have a bunch of 4th of July pictures laying around from last weekend. Go take a look, if you haven’t seen them already. I got some fairly nice fireworks pictures, and a couple of great shots of a Roman candle war.

Lastly, Google+ is going to be my technological crack for a few weeks. I got an invite over the weekend, and am slowly learning the ins and outs of it. Bad time for that, amidst a scientific international conference!

1Some of those inclines/declines were pushing 20-25% grade. Uffda!

The Good
The 3rd ASM Conference on DNA Repair and Mutagenesis in Whistler, BC, Canada, was amazing! Six days of intriguing (for the most part) talks from peers in the field, despite the fact that my work doesn’t necessarily fit in the best with the theme of the meeting. The lab that I’m working in is pretty heavily interested in coordination of repair in general, but I have my own little niche of work in that grand scheme as well.

Whistler in general was beautiful! I was completely out of shape for a good hike up either of the major ski slopes, Blackcomb and Whistler mountains. I did try to take plenty of pictures when I could, despite hardly having the time to a few days. We did get a fair amount of free time, with about 3ish hours every afternoon to squeeze in a lunch and our choice of activities. The best part of the free time activities easily had to be the ZipTrek zip line tour of the Fitzsimmon’s Creek valley, between Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. For being afraid of heights, this was a great way to start breaking that fear!

Unfortunately, I did wear myself a little thin at the conference. I went out every night of the conference, meeting new people and having a few drinks every time. In combination with that and getting up relatively early to make breakfast at 7:30 each morning, I rarely got more than six hours of sleep a night, hardly more than four for the last couple! A wretched but brief cold set in as I was coming back, and I’m thankfully just clearing the remnants of it from my system now as we speak.

The Bad
Holly and I have been married nearly four years now. For the last couple of years, we’ve been steadily recognizing and somewhat trying to deal with problems we’ve had between each other since moving to Buffalo shortly after getting married. Since February of this year, Holly signed us up to go see a couples’ counselor in order to help address some of the issues between us.

Since then, the sessions have helped us to open up and address more issues between each other and realize what we’re trying to achieve from these sessions, but at the same time it’s also opened our eyes up to what we’ve been expecting from each other as partners and reevaluating whether or not the other is really going to meet that goal. Just short of a month ago, Holly broke the news to me that she had come to the realization that she just didn’t think the marriage was going to work out: there were expectations we had of each other and they really weren’t accomplishable without significant changes in each other. At this point in our lives, we don’t think we should have to make sacrifices that great in our core principles for the other, and despite our strong connection, maybe we’ve pushed a good thing that we had (in a great friendship originally) a little farther than we should have taken it. I felt similarly about these issues, but I asked for a few weeks to think it over and ensure that I (and Holly as well) believed this was the best course of action to go forward with.

A week came and went, and then I was in Whistler for another week, and we revisited the subject Monday evening of this last week. After seeing what’s in store for my future as an eventual post-doctorate and potentially even a primary investigator (PI), I couldn’t feasibly see myself gaining any additional time to really work on making things better right now, and Holly was surprisingly pleased with the freedom she felt in my absence. So on those notes, we both felt even more assured in our decision to go forward with a separation/divorce (depending on how complicated NY state makes it for the immediate future). It’s a strange and awkward time now, but we both feel this is for the best for both of us. We have no hard feelings for each other, we’d still like to remain friends and keep in touch, and will strive to try to make this as easy as possible for the other as we carry through with it.

Hopefully plans will pan out at least comparable to what we’re hoping for. This is obviously new for the both of us, so it’s hard to predict just how well we can keep things as close to ideal as possible.

The Ugly
This is going to be one crazy summer. I have already gone to three conferences for the summer. I had plans to go camping randomly throughout the summer, and take day-trips mountain biking in some parks in western New York. Holly had plans to be gone for six to seven weeks for a summer immersion program to fulfill her remaining elective credits for her M.A. at UB. I was going to drive back to North Dakota and drop in for my ten year reunion in late July.

Plans have obviously changed to some extent. I likely won’t get the chance to go camping nearly as much as I would like. I would still like to find some time to take day-trips to go mountain biking at least a couple times this summer. Holly got screwed out (by a lack of communication from UB) of her summer program and will have to instead attend it next summer (thanks Mr. Advisor, we never knew she needed to file a Consortium Agreement in order to study abroad, let alone verify that the credits will transfer). The drive back to Minot, ND, will likely come at a bad time in late July as Holly and I will be looking for our own places to live in and move in to around that time, so the end of the summer is looking particularly grimacing.

Sorry for the surprise to those of you who knew nothing of the qualms that Holly and I were having with each other. It was something I don’t typically speak of due to my nature to try and address things on my own first, although I’m sure some of you reading this already know about this, either through Holly or myself. Hopefully this summer will turn out okay, I’ll still have my good friend (despite losing her as a wife), I’ll find a place to live in and get moved into without too much hassle, and I can get some kickass research done.

*deep breath* Time to get started, I guess!