Well, the bedroom is almost finished painting. Yesterday I painted a lot – I finished the trim, but ran out of trim paint for the last 3 cubic feet on the door. Then I got to painting the walls – 1/4 of them were still white, the rest needed more coats of paint. So now half the room is completely done, with 3 coats of the paint. We used Raspberry Truffle from Benjamin Moore. I actually used the new Aura paint, but that was because when I first went in, the salesperson told me that it was so good I didn’t need primer and I only needed one coat. He also sold me only one gallon even though I was sure I’d need more, because he said it goes on the walls so thin. I was skeptical, but he assured me, and so I took it and left. Well, 2 more gallons later and I’m out of paint and need more again. Moral of that story? Don’t believe salespeople when they make outrageous claims about how good the new paint is. One thin coat? Hah. Took 3 coats on each wall, and as I’m about out of paint again and not finished, in the end it’ll be about 3.5 gallons of paint for the whole room. My original calculations were that I’d need 3 gallons of paint plus tinted primer, so I guess in amount this isn’t that different, but the Aura is expensive and it’s been annoying that they keep telling me “No, you’ll only need this one gallon, more than that would be overkill” and then I have to make another trip to the store to get more paint, and if I had bought it all at once, it would have been mixed all into one container to ensure that the paint color exactly matches for the whole thing.

Here’s a picture of a corner that is finished, with part of the door in the picture, which is just about finished:

One thing to note, however, is that the amount of light in the picture is not the same as is naturally in the room; I had the lights on AND the flash, so the paint looks brighter than it actually appears in the normal lighting in the room. Still, you can see the walls are nice and even now. Once the furniture and other decorations are added, I’m pretty sure it will look awesome! (I was going to say it’ll be the best room in the apartment, but as this is a 1-bedroom, that’s not saying much.)

My skin cancer

Last summer I was diagnosed with skin cancer. Perhaps I was sheltered, but I hadn’t known anyone growing up who had skin cancer (or who had shared the fact), and so I didn’t know what to expect. I had had a biopsy done on my shoulder when I was a teenager, one that was so big that I needed stitches, so I wasn’t scared of the idea of needing a biopsy. I remembered that I was supposed to notice if something seemed to change color or grow larger, and I had been concerned about a spot on my face. I had thought it was a pimple when it began, but then it never went away. About two years after the spot appeared, it looked like this:

Finally, nearly three or four years after the spot first appeared, I noticed it growing in size considerably until it looked like this:

When I pointed the spot out to the dermatologist she was quite surprised, and basically said “Well, this looks like cancer.” So she said she needed to take a biopsy of it. Then she left, and came back. She apologized and said she needed to call the pathologist to learn how best to take a sample from a growth of this size. She started to leave, and she asked me something about if I was worried. I was still just thinking “well I’m having a biopsy done, that’s not new” and I told her I was fine. So she left. More time passed and she returned, and took the biopsy. By this time I was starting to feel worried, but I had already told her I was fine so she acted like it was all routine. To make matters worse, when she was rubbing the wound, she got something in my eye and it stung. I had to get up and rinse my eye in the water fountain while it hurt from some chemical she had dripped in it. Then she took a biopsy of another spot on my back, and told me that they would call me if I got a positive result, but that we should just go ahead and schedule an appointment for two weeks from then. So I left thinking I would hear as soon as they knew unless it was negative, in which case I’d learn in two weeks.

The dermatologist who had done the biopsy didn’t tell me much about what having skin cancer meant, so I left the doctor’s office that day feeling pretty unsure and scared. I called Husband (who at the time was still fiance) and he left work early to meet with me at a restaurant nearby. We talked, and when we went home I read up on skin cancer on the web. I deduced that it was probably non-melanoma skin cancer, of either the basal or squamuos cell variety. One thing that intrigued me was if 1 in 5 americans and 1 in 3 caucasions would get skin cancer at some point in their lifetimes, why had I not heard stories of people I knew or their families having skin cancer? But I was much comforted by the fact that

Fortunately, however, this is a cancer that has an extremely low rate of metastasis, and although it can result in scars and disfigurement, it is not usually life threatening.

Still it was a rough two weeks. I never got a call, and I showed up two weeks later wondering if I didn’t have cancer or if I did but they hadn’t bothered to call me. Well, it was the latter. And I saw it on my file before I even got into the doctor’s office, because the nurse had the file open with the information right on top while she was taking note of my insurance information. Right there I could see it: Basal cell carcinoma. In retrospect, I’ve decided that it was really inconsiderate of the doctor to neglect to call me. Those two weeks were pretty stressful for me, and I would greatly have appreciated knowing the result as soon as they had it.

It was on my face, so I had to get a special surgery called Mohs surgery, where they slice off a thin layer and then check the edges for cancer, and then repeat until the edges are cancer free. This was the first surgery I’ve ever had, and to have the word “cancer” attached to it was pretty scary. The nurses commented on how I was so young for this, which I didn’t appreciate. They do multiple people on the same day because the doctor can be slicing skin off while the technicians are checking someone else’s sample, so there were two other people getting it done that day. Both looked over 70. I was 22 at the time. Yup, that made me feel good.

From this experience I learned two lessons I always wish to share with everyone. The first is: Be very vigilant about sunscreen on your kids, especially if they are pale skinned. The doctors say the most damaging part of my history was the bad sunburns I had as a kid. Usually I used sunscreen – 45 spf – but I wasn’t always good about reapplying every few hours when we were out all day like at the beach, and if I was just out walking around, I often didn’t have sunscreen on. Nowadays, I use a spray sunscreen to protect my skin each morning before I go out. Lately I’ve been using Aveeno Active Naturals Continuous Protection Sunblock Spray, SPF 45, which I like a lot. I keep it in my purse in case I find I’m outside more than I expected and I need to reapply. I also really like Neutrogena Fresh Cooling Body Mist Sunblock, SPF 45, which has a cooling feel as it is applied to your skin. Because these products are so easy to apply, it’s not much trouble to wear sunscreen every day. I also have Coppertone Sport Continuous Spray Breathable Sunscreen, SPF 50, but I don’t like it so much for daily use as it’s oil-based and feels thicker. However, it’s good for times when I will really be outside a lot, particularly if I’ll be sweating or getting wet. Additionally, I now wear a visor when I’m outside to further protect my face from the sun.

The second lesson is: See a dermatologist regularly to get your moles checked out, especially if you have a lot of moles or very pale skin. I’m not too concerned about the scar on my face, which blends in pretty well now although it was brighter at the wedding. Still, if I had seen a dermatologist sooner it wouldn’t have needed to be as big. And giving cancer time to grow is really not a wise risk to take. If you are pale skinned or have had biopsies done before, they recommend seeing a doctor once a year for a mole check. If you are not at particularly high risk for skin cancer (dark skin, not many moles, never noticed them changing), then once every 2-3 years is sufficient. And of course if you’ve had skin cancer before, it is essential to see a dermatologist every six months.

So anyhow, that’s the story of my first brush with skin cancer. It may not be my last, as something like 50% of people who’ve had skin cancer once will get it again somewhere on their bodies. But the moral of the story is: WEAR SUNSCREEN.

Beautiful story

So I finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows yesterday afternoon. I read all of book 6 on Sunday while Husband finished book 7 and then I started book 7 on Sunday night. I thought the story was wonderful, touching, and even poetic. I feel a little lonely without another Harry Potter book to keep me company on the subway rides, since I’ve been reading nothing but Harry Potter books for about two weeks now. Anyhow, I loved it!

Reading…but not the same as most

So, like so many people, I have been consumed with reading this weekend. I am not, however, reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7) just yet. We picked up the book on Friday night at the Lincoln Center Barnes and Noble, which turned out to be a fun experience but not the raucous party that it sounds like they had over at the Columbus Circle Borders, where there was a “Grand Hallows Ball.”

As I had not read a Harry Potter book since Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6) came out two summers ago, I had been meaning to reread the books before reading the seventh. My husband had not read 5 or 6 until a few months ago, and he read them all so fast that he finished two months before the new book was coming out.  So I decided to wait until a little bit closer to start reading them, anticipating that I would read them quickly.  But the summer wore on and time snuck up on me, and before I knew it was two weeks until the book release and I hadn’t started.  So I began, a little under two weeks ago, to reread them beginning with the first.  I managed to read 1, 2, and 3 in their entirety, and then for book 4 I skimmed it and read completely the beginning and especially the end.  Then I read book 5 in its entirety, which I just finished last night – I was reading book 5 while we waited in the line to purchase book 7 at midnight.  Now I am on book 6, and my husband is about halfway through book 7.  I’m trying to finish book 6 just after he finishes the last one so that I can pick it up right away to read it.  The suspense is difficult as we are both so excited and he wants to talk about the story with me, but my memory of book 6 is only vague and buying two copies just so we could read it at the same time seemed silly considering we are rather low on money right now.  I am sure I will have finished book 7 by the end of this week, and I can’t wait!


You Are 34 Years Old

Under 12: You are a kid at heart. You still have an optimistic life view – and you look at the world with awe.
13-19: You are a teenager at heart. You question authority and are still trying to find your place in this world.
20-29: You are a twentysomething at heart. You feel excited about what’s to come… love, work, and new experiences.
30-39: You are a thirtysomething at heart. You’ve had a taste of success and true love, but you want more!
40+: You are a mature adult. You’ve been through most of the ups and downs of life already. Now you get to sit back and relax.

What Age Do You Act?

I may be in the low 20’s in years lived, but I am the only one among my closest friends who is married, although I have multiple friends in the larger circle who are engaged and a few who are married. I talk about wanting babies even though most of my friends are still thinking about getting their careers off the ground. I am happy with the career track that I am on. Although I seem to know what I want and be on the way perhaps stronger and further than many of my friends, I am still passionate and excited about what lays ahead, and in that respect I might be retaining my youth a little below 34.

Got a full plate

…but I don’t mind. After my most recent meeting with my adviser, I now have four ongoing projects with which I will be thoroughly involved. This might be overwhelming, but mostly I see it as a good thing. All four of them have potential to churn out at least one paper, and I’m glad that my adviser trusts me and my work enough and has enough confidence in me to give me so many projects at once. From what I can tell, most of the other people in the lab group are working on 1 to 2 different projects, but the two elder members should be winding down to start their theses soon, so that may be why.

Talking about academic papers reminded me to check if my paper (which has been published online in the “article in press – corrected proof” stage) is in any of the major databases yet, and I found it on Pub Med and Science Direct! (It’s not yet on Web of Science; they seem to be a littler slower.) My first article! I’m so proud…I’m only about to finish my first year of grad school with the end of this summer, and I’m already a first author on a paper in a respected, peer-reviewed journal. I feel like this is a pretty good way to start off my academic career! Woohoo!

So these current projects of mine should lead to papers soon. They are loosely connected by various themes of my lab group and adviser’s previous work. One of them, the newest assignment, should follow in the footsteps of a lab group alumni who got most of the slow, tedious work of setting up a new experiment out of the way; we will just be varying a new parameter, taking data over a few days, and then analyzing that data. So this will be a focus of mine during the month of August, and then we will write our part of the paper. I will be the only grad student in my advisor’s group on the project, but it will be a collaboration with a team that does computer simulations, so one of the members of the other team might be first author. Still, it will be another paper with my name on it, and seems like it should go relatively smoothly, so I was happy to take this on.

Another project is to be done in collaboration with a company, and is in the very early stages. That may or may not pan out into a paper, but it’s a good lead for now, and the company may provide some funding for the group, which my adviser needs.
Then there are the two I’m already working on. One, I will definitely be lead author on any papers that come from it – it is following from the paper that is being published now. But as we are developing quite a new stage of this research project, it could take a while before we are ready to publish this, as there’s no way to know how many snags we’ll hit or how many tries it will take to get good data. We should be making our first honest stab at an experimental run that would actually be data for a paper (rather than just preliminary studies) later this summer though, so that’s moving along nicely.

And finally, there is a project that I helped begin last summer (when the grant was funded), but then handed off to an elder grad student when classes began in the fall. I have expressed much interest in this project as it is really interesting to me, and my adviser tells me it will be passed to me soon. I have begun to get training in what’s been going on while I was in classes all year. The other student who had it during this past school year is working on two papers out of it right now, but there are more areas for study which particularly interest me so I expect we will be working towards a paper with me as lead author in around a year or so.

I have often worried that I am not working hard enough, because when I feel in the slumps of depression I tend to get very little done. Adding to that is the fact that it’s still only been 3 months since I failed my qualifying exam and it is definitely still a sore spot for my emotions and confidence. So knowing that my adviser thinks well enough of me to give me all of these projects really makes me feel better. When I take a look at all that I am doing, at what I have accomplished so far and am working on now even in this first year of grad school, the feelings of shame, worry, and low self-worth are swiped away in favor of happiness and even, gasp, some pride.

I have read that a researcher should have multiple projects in different stages, particularly the head of a research group. I don’t really know how common it is to have this many projects when you are only a member of the group and not the PI, and I am only a first year grad student too. But I don’t think I could be asking for more and this is a pretty strong start. This would mean another 2-4 papers within say the next 2 years, so by the end of my third year of grad school, I could have 3-5 papers already published. From what I can tell, that’s damn good.

Oh, and did I mention in addition to all this I’ve been babysitting about 12-15 hours a week or so usually on 3-4 different days each week? It seems a bit like a lot, but I am thrilled by it; I had forgotten how much I feed off a full schedule.

But balance is crucial to me. I spend oodles of time with my husband each week; I barely ever do grad school work on weekends unless I slacked during the week; I see friends regularly for board games and dinners and other things; and although I’m not always eager to get out of bed for a morning babysitting time, I love the time I spend with the baby and toddler that I watch. I am growing closer to them all the time and I adore watching them grow and develop.

Ferber video

I just watched this video over at babycenter, and I think it’s a great video about the Ferber method.  The things I like the most about it are: that it stresses that it’s only a choice that will work for some people, how Danny Lewin describes the approach as “very fast” and “accelerated”, and how the end of movie emphasizes that while it works for some, it’s ok for it to be too much for you to go through with your own child.  One comment, though, is that I feel that the short bursts of video with the baby crying really is far from depicting how difficult it actually is to listen to your baby crying and not responding to him.

Well put

When I’m feeling down, this is often the only way work gets done for me as well. Dooce put it so well:

Work that has, of course, been put off and put off until the worrying that I do over what I am putting off is more powerful than the sleeping that I do to avoid the worrying, and the act of keeping my head from exploding is an aerobic exercise.

Games I’m looking forward to

Well, it’s one of my favorite events of the year, even though I don’t attend it personally: the E3 convention, the annual gaming convention at which game developers share exciting bits of their upcoming games.  I just wanted to share some of the games I’m looking forward to:

  • SimCity SocietiesThe Sims and The Sims 2 have been some of my favorite games of all time, and I also love SimCity.  We have SimCity 4 with the Rush Hour expansion, and it’s quite fun.  Societies looks like it will be good, with the new ability to decide what to focus your town on – you don’t have to make the people like you.  You can be a green city, or totalitarian society, or a wealth-oriented city, and others in between.  Picking what to focus on and what kind of society to build reminds me of playing Civilization, one of my other favorites, but it will have similar city building and strategy/managing components to the other SimCity games.  Sounds good to me!
  • Wii Fit.  Husband and I have a Wii, and we love that it tires us out when we play Wii sports.  I think Wii Fit sounds pretty great – especially since I like balancing exercises and other toning and cardio work that it seems like it would be perfect for.
  • Starcraft II.  I didn’t ever play Starcraft, but I did play Warcraft III before I played World of Warcraft, and I’m definitely a Blizzard fan, in particular with strategy games.  This one looks like it’ll be good!
  • Spore. I may have mentioned this before, but I’ve been excited about Spore for a long time, and like so much of the rest of the gaming world, have been eagerly anticipating it even as it’s release date gets pushed further and further back.

Heck, I could write about more, but that’s enough for now, isn’t it?  I’m off to do some work and then to watch Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix tonight.  Yay Harry!