Search This Blog

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Center of Attention

When I was going to grad school, there was sort of a quiet understanding that when you got your Ph.D., you would do some post-doctoral research, then you would take a sliver of what you learned from your post-doc research and use it to morph into a brand new academic researcher.  Although no one of any authority actually said so, you just knew that if you did something else, you would disappoint your graduate adviser.

No matter how you felt about your graduate adviser, no one wanted to disappoint them.

Now that I'm doing something else (and probably disappointing my graduate adviser--*I'm sorry.  Doctah Doctah!  I'm sorry*), the graduate school program from which I got my doctoral degree is at least exposing the current crop of PeeAychDee'ers-to-be to "alternative careers."  So, a handful of times in the last year I've been requested to about my job to fresh young minds.

This also, of course, means that I get to feed my ego.  I admit it; I'm vain and I like to impress smart people.

It's more than just preening, though.  I have a cool job.  I have a cool job that I can't even say I knew existed in any real sense before I started doing it.

It's truly a shame that I didn't know about it before I fell into it, really.  Not that I think it would have necessarily changed the course of my career or where I am, now.  But I wasn't the only one who felt a sense of almost-shame for wanting to do something other than the expected academic route.  The fact is, I'm not the only one that knew I was going to be bored to tears with a single research path, but I suspect that many of my classmates are still struggling with their career goals simply because they didn't realize that they could do something else.

Fortunately, I wasn't the only one that snuck out.  There were three others at the career panel I participated in today that had cool (and I mean cool) "non-traditional" careers. 

When the panel host asked how we got into our careers, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that they'd also fallen into their careers by simply knowing what they didn't want to do.  (There was a lot of nodding happening as we briefly explained how we ended up where we ended up.)  And I was glad that at least a good number of young adults soon to enter the scary "real" world with their graduate degrees would be aware that they, too, could do something unexpected and without shame. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

Domestic Goddess

Kind of.  Not really.  But sometimes...

Once in a while, I get the notion that I want to do something homey.  Like cook.  Or iron.  Actually, forget the ironing.  I can't do that without making things worse.  I am a good cook, though, if I must say so, myself.  (My lovely boyfriend agrees, at least to my face.)

A few weeks ago, we were visiting my boyfriend's mom, who has grapevines trellised over her backyard fence.  She's been talking about getting the fence fixed, which means that the grapes must go.  I think it's tragic.

So, to console myself, I offered to harvest the abundance of concord grapes before *sigh* they are no more.

Approximately 10 pounds later, I have no idea what, exactly, I'm going to do with all of these grapes, which are characterized by an amazing flavor and an equally large seed in each one.  I froze some of them last year, but never got around to actually eating them.  This year, they sat in my fridge for a week and a half, threatening to shrivel up before I got to them.

I figured that the most practical thing would be to make jelly.

So, I presumed that I should cook them down.

But first...

Pick each.  And every.  One.  From their bunches.

Hours later (not too much of an exaggeration), I've got the grapes in a stock pot on low heat.  I allow them to cook, assuming that, like tomatoes, the skins will eventually fall off and you can either strain them out or they will disintegrate.  They don't disintegrate.  Or fall off.  Nor do the seeds go willingly from the flesh.  And when they've finished cooking down, you've got a mush of hotter-than-hell grape juice that smells delicious, but threatens to both scald and stain you (and every fiber of clothing you are wearing).

By the time this mash has cooled enough to maybe handle, it's really stinking late.  So, the grape mash goes into the fridge in the stock pot.

Step 2, the following day.  No time.

The day after that.  No time.

The day after that.  Ah, some time.  Run the grape mash through a strainer.  Which turns out to be very ineffective.  It actually requires pressing the grape mash against the strainer many, many, many times, only to be left with something that's still half grape juice, but refuses to be strained any further.  I find that squeezing the shit out of it by hand works, though.  And I even have enough foresight to wear some disposable gloves so as not to end up with purple hands.

The result...grape juice and what looks like bat guano, complete with seeds.  It's disappointingly little grape juice, too.

Grape guano.
Or, so I thought.

I find a recipe for easy jelly online (no, I didn't do that BEFORE I decided to do this), which calls for 3 cups of juice.  Check.  5 1/4 cups sugar (!).  Check.  And pectin.  Easy enough to get.  Cool!  I can do this!

I go to the store and purchase a dozen half pint jelly jars, some pectin, and canning equipment (a canning pot, tongs, jar grasper, jar opener, funnel, magnet...actually a pretty good setup, it turns out).  I come home and measure out my grape juice.  I have...12 cups of grape juice.  Shit.  I need more of...everything.

I go to the store and get more jars and pectin (regular instead of instant this time) and sugar.  Did you know that one 4-pound bag of sugar is actually about 9 cups?   ONLY 9 cups.  Then, I set to work.

Add pectin to grape juice, bring to boil, stir in sugar.  Whoah...  That's a lot of sugar.  This is going to require more jars.

I go to the store.  Get more jars.  And finishing jarring my grape jelly (after washing each jar by hand, then running through the dishwasher).  I even processed the jars.  Because there is no damned way we're eating 30 and 1/3 jars of jelly within 3 weeks.  And each and every one of those jars sealed!  (Hooray!  I wasn't entirely confident about this.)

It actually turned out quite good.  I just hope we don't get botulism.  Do you suppose I should hold off on giving any of it away?

Monday, October 3, 2011

I know interesting people

Stacked Blocks Baby Quilt in Gray and Pink
Beautiful quilt stolen from
Quilts By Jess' Etsy page.
There seems to be a flurry of creativity these days.  Maybe it's because of the economy--so many people who were laid off or had their retirements and salaries squeezed might have just decided that they should take the time to simply do stuff they enjoy.

I've noticed amongst my friends some amazing talent flourishing.  Or, maybe, I'm just noticing it.

Actually, I've known I have some pretty cool friends for a while.  I thought I'd just take the time to brag.

One of my friends has been making quilts.  Making them like a madwoman.  Well, madwoman as in doing a lot of them, not that they look like Picasso's or anything.  She makes bright and beautiful baby blankets and larger bedding (, and then blogs about it (  What's even more cool is that she's a lawyer and a geek!

Another of my friends is another cool geek.  By day he does computery stuff (don't ask me what he does, he's a different kind of geek than I am, so I only really understand that he does computery stuff) at a large financial services company.  By night, he and some friends do a podcast on the latest technology, movies, games, etc. (  He also brews beer and mead (mmmm....mead....)

Then, there's my friend with an aquatic thumb--that's like a green thumb, but with fish, not plants.  But, that's not her only hobby.  She also raises and shows dalmatians (, and has probably the most well-behaved dogs I have ever met.  Most of her dals are liver spotted, which I had never seen before I met her.  Her dog, Argus, is even a national champion!  He qualified for and competed at Westminster this year.  How cool is that?
Check it out!

I have other cool friends, but I should probably leave some bragging for later.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Some people should be beaten

I don't drive very often.  I'm quite proud of that fact.  Mostly, because I don't really enjoy driving all that much. Plus, it saves me money.  And I can read on the bus.  The police (and pretty much everyone else) kind of frown on doing that while driving.  (You hear that, Mr. Businessmanwhossoimportantthatthenewspapercantwait?)

I typically drive about once a week.  Lately, that once a week has been on Sundays, driving to work because I've been incredibly busy.  This doesn't generally make me happy, really.

Well, today I need to drive to work again.  I go down to the underground parking garage--the underground parking garage that I pay extra for the convenience and safety of it in my "luxury apartment complex"--and about 2 parking spots away, I press the button on my keyfob to unlock it.  It does.  I  hop in and stick my key in the ignition.

Then, I discover that there are things where they shouldn't be.  There are some stamps on the console just in front of my shifter.  There's a broken air freshener on the passenger side floor.  My phone charger is not in the center console but on the floor.


I remember that our apartment complex sent out an email a couple of days earlier saying that some people had their cars broken into and some stuff stolen.  Well, Saturday on the way out, my boyfriend and I drove by slowly to take a close gander at my car.  No broken windows, and I always lock my car.  I also never leave anything of value in it.

This morning, though, I'm suddenly not certain that I'd locked my car.  I had stopped by Wednesday morning to pull some marketing materials out of it from my trip to SD in order to bring them back to my office.  Everything was fine, then.

I hop out of my car and open my trunk.  Stuff that was normally at the very front of the trunk, nearest the back seat was pulled to the back of the trunk and rifled around.  OH, I was pissed.

I pull my car out and drive to the front of the building to give the office staff some whatfor.  Except they don't get there till noon on Sundays.  I. Have. To. Get. To. Work.

So, I take a quick trot back up to my apartment (after locking the car, of course), and ask my boyfriend when the last time he drove his "good" car.  About a week.  Did you check to make sure it hasn't been broken into?  Why....?  Mine was.

He comes out to check my car out and notices something that I hadn't...they'd punched my lock in and pulled my door handle partially out.

Now, I'm furious.

Yes, it's that dirty.  It gets driven maybe 1 time a week.
They had wrecked my barely valuable car even more, and they hadn't even taken anything.  Not the dollar I always keep in my center console for emergencies or the $3 worth of change there.  There was nothing other than maybe 15 or 20 cents missing from the ashtray.  Yet, I will have to repair my car or face the fact that it will be almost worthless for a trade and probably less secure because the handle is popped.

So, I get off to work almost an hour after I intended to, and I'm grumpy.  Really grumpy.  And I worked for 10 straight hours.  I could have come home an hour earlier.  But no.

Some people definitely need to be beaten.