rebeccmeister: (cricket)
We have five nights remaining here, so I've been switching things into high gear, to the degree possible. That means two circadian experiments a day, one at noon, and one at about midnight, with whatever crickets we can catch. Even if we can't fill out our long-winged sample sizes, we can at least get information about the short-winged crickets, to compare with data from the lab. We've also managed to pinpoint one location that seems to have a slightly higher proportion of long-winged crickets, so I was able to run 3 long-winged females last night. L is also starting to have slightly better success with her pitfall traps: she managed to get another long-winged female this morning. Progress! We actually have a bare minimum sample size complete for the first tracer!

The blacklight hasn't really attracted much in the way of crickets, but there have been a lot of interesting and beautiful moths.

The exhaustion is cumulative. I am struggling to verbalize late at night, when I'm tired. I'm screwing up numbers. At least I'm catching myself...I think. Sample schedule: wake up, drink coffee, check the last-instar crickets for new adults. By 10 am, start prepping for the noon timepoint, which runs from 10:55-1:30. Eat lunch. Collapse in a puddle, or go to town for groceries. Prep for the evening timepoint. Eat dinner early, so we can get out to the cricket hunting grounds by dusk. Hunt crickets until 10 pm. Bring crickets back, run more experiments, wrap up by 1 am, try to unwind for 20 minutes, try to sleep as much as possible. Repeat.

I'm adding tons of photos to the album. I want to run around more at night, to try and get pictures of the tarantulas out here (big, black, hairy, fast!). There are also some amazingly huge wolf spiders with abdomens the size of a quarter, that hang out in the same cracks where the crickets hide. They are so cool, but also shy, so it's hard to get pictures of them. We've gotten to watch the wolf spiders and the deer mice eat the crickets. There are lots of toads out, too. The nights are busy out there.
rebeccmeister: (cricket)
Projects with the big crew:

Monday night: thorough coverage of our mark-recapture areas. The weather stayed reasonably warm into the night, so teams were able to gather up a lot of crickets. I stayed behind to run a set of 9 pm crickets.

On Tuesday, we concluded that one of the paint types we'd been using for mark-recapture was not good for the crickets. Crickets painted with Testor's enamel paint were noticeably more sluggish than unpainted crickets or crickets painted with the acrylic paint we'd been using in the lab up until then. We also concluded that we were reaching a point where we weren't learning a whole lot more from repeatedly re-surveying our mark-recapture area, so we decided to switch gears for our evening plans. Oh, we also went to the beach in Santa Barbara, which was a much nicer trip than our trip to Pismo Beach last year. Not only was the beach less crowded, almost everyone actually went in the water. I should have gone for a fuller swim, but oh well.

So then, Tuesday evening, we formed four small teams and headed out in four different directions to get a better sense of the broader population structure out here. I also wanted to encourage everyone to help me collect up as many long-winged crickets as possible, because they're much more rare than the short-winged crickets and are a huge limiting factor for the circadian experiments. In order to give everyone extra incentive, we decided there needed to be a prize for the team that collected the most long-winged crickets. Casting about for ideas, I settled on a prize of a cake of that team's choosing.

It worked! Mk and I wound up hiking up a road in a valley along the southwestern part of the reserve. C and P were supposed to hike along the corresponding eastern edge, but when they reached the gate for that road, C observed two sets of predator eyes shining back at her: either coyotes or mountain lions. So they wisely stuck closer to home. B and CH headed north, and L, G, and Ms headed south.

The cake bribe worked. C and P won, and we came in second, but I still feel like a winner given that I wound up with 6 long-winged females with pink flight muscle. We set them up for a noontime circadian experiment.

As is typical for field experiments, we're making a ton of decisions on-the-fly out here, so part of the reason for trying to thoroughly blog about everything is to try and remember why those decisions were made (and also try to retain shreds of sanity because there is major Thought Tragedy of the Commons* out here).

After the noontime data collection, I became concerned that catching crickets, holding them overnight and through the next day, and then running them, was affecting their metabolic rates. The noontime crickets had higher respiration rates that are comparable to the respiration rates I've observed so far with laboratory crickets, whereas the 9 pm crickets tended to have about half to two-thirds the respiration. We aren't really aiming to study metabolism under starvation conditions, so that was a problem.

Thus, last night, we changed things up again. At 9 pm, teams set off to the two locations out of the four that had been the most fruitful on Tuesday night. Larger groups seemed prudent after the creepy nighttime predator eyes (and a note: nighttime fieldwork is a whole different ballgame than daytime fieldwork!!). I stayed back at the ranch house to prep supplies for another circadian experiment. At 10 pm, teams returned with their haul up to that point, and I wound up setting up 1 long-winged female, 6 short-winged females, and 6 long-winged males for another run starting at 10:24 pm.

At noon, I trained Mk how to help me run the experiment, so she also helped me with the evening timepoint and we turned that crank as best we could. [Interesting tidbit: a large proportion of the crickets have some sort of mite hanging out under their wing covers. I need to photograph them.] We wrapped up by around 1 am. Teams went back out at 10 pm for a second search shift, but temperatures dropped substantially last night, so the crickets weren't all that active anymore.

It's tough out here, when all our best efforts just can't quite net the numbers we need for this kind of experiment. I sort of expected that, and figure we're learning a TON out here anyway, so I'm still optimistic we'll be able to get some good papers for our efforts, even if they aren't quite what we set out to do. We shall see.

I am still feeling grumbly about that rejected manuscript, although this morning as I revisit the comments I'm coming to terms with it all. Gotta get up, dust off my fragile, bruised ego, and keep going.

*Thought Tragedy of the Commons is [personal profile] scrottie's term for what happens when one person tries to hold onto their thoughts about what they're going to be doing next, by saying that thing out loud. When they do, they disrupt the peaceful thoughts of the other people around them, who often respond in turn by voicing all their own thoughts out loud. The net effect can be complete disintegration of one's internal monologue and will for doing things, especially if one is a rather sensitive introvert.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
That feeling when you're vindicated, but not in a good way.

[Just got some manuscript reviews + rejection back, which were utterly unsurprising to me, but I must assume are surprising to a coauthor].

That feeling when the news arrives when you're already very, very tired and emotionally out of whack.
rebeccmeister: (cricket)
Sounds like the Mesa Fire got tackled very quickly, and for good reason. The Whittier Fire seems like it is hitting a point where things aren't quite so hairy, so it seems they managed to divert crews and stop the Mesa Fire.

Apparently there's a downed drone somewhere near the reserve, and there are concerns about the state of its battery and the associated fire danger, so people are going out on a mission in the morning to track it down.

Here's the thing about this place: there are lots of lovely, wonderful things about it. As I think about it, if I ever lived here, I would go utterly insane. I can't fully articulate it, but it has the same kind of sunshine as Arizona, but isn't quite so hot, so it doesn't have the cleansing feeling of full desert. Plus, there's all the smoke hanging in the air from the fires. I require clouds, rain, and gloom.

The big lab contingent arrived today, so I suspect I'm going to be even more scatterbrained for the next couple of days while everyone runs around. It's very good for everyone to see the field site, though, and the reunion aspect has been especially fun.
rebeccmeister: (cricket)
Apparently there's a new fire 7 miles from us, as of right now. Stay tuned. Safety first.

This is all predictable, after the wet winter. It's unusually hot here. I believe that yesterday Santa Barbara County declared a state of emergency, what with two large wildfires, the Whittier fire and the Alamo fire. The Whittier fire is finally looking like it's winding down, but at the research station we're still basically just sitting on top of a huge pile of tinder.
rebeccmeister: (cricket)
Yesterday was warm, so it seemed like there were more crickets out and about during our evening surveys.

I was going to run circadian crickets last night, but in the evening B came into the house with a worried look on his face. When we went out to the table on the porch, the deli cups that had held the crickets for the experiment had been knocked over, and a lid was missing. Out of the four crickets I'd set aside, the long-winged one was the only one that was totally gone.

Later in the evening, when I went out to put out crickets from the day's haul, I startled a rat, who raced off the table into a big, open grating at the edge of the porch.

We are now keeping the pint cups underneath a larger bin, with a rock on top, and I'm now being more careful to seal the lids closed.

Other wildlife: lots of very large wolf spiders (abdomen the size of a dollar coin), a handful of tiny mice (one of which was spotted eating a cricket), lots of toads and tree frogs, rattlesnakes, and an alligator lizard.

It looks like the Whittier wildfire is drawing to a close, to judge by the decrease in smoke and bright spots that we can see at night.
rebeccmeister: (cricket)
After Friday's long hike (losing track of days of the week already, here...), it seemed prudent to make Saturday a low-key day. Besides, our conclusion from the hike was that we're stationed in the part of the reserve that is the most crickety, so we don't really need to go too far.

So after morning pitfall trap checks and miscellanea, it was time for another trip into town. On our first trip, L pointed out a sign for U-Pick berries right as we crossed highway 154 to take Edison Street into town. We had enough to do that time that we didn't have the capacity to stop. This time, however, we did.

And now I'm having some strongly conflicting emotions. On the one hand, I'm utterly ecstatic to get to eat fresh raspberries and apricots and blackberries, and to buy farm-direct vegetables. YAY! On the other hand, it's tremendously difficult to quell the urge to Pick All The Berries and Jam All The Things. This has bumped Sedgwick from, "Ehh, this field site is fine" to "OMG OMG I LOVE THIS PLACE." The woman running sales said that with the highway closures for the fire, traffic has been dead and she hasn't had customers, but it isn't a big deal because she has a lot of other things to do anyway.

I am trying to work on a horribly overdue manuscript review, but the exhaustion from fieldwork and dealing with logistics and lots of other human beings is making it very challenging to concentrate. In the evening, two students from a collaborating lab showed up, so there's been a lot of "Getting to know you" and such. Also a lot of intense mentoring of the current undergraduate and post-bac who used to work with me. Those are important, but draining. We're currently at 7 people. On Monday there will be a partial changing of the guard, and we'll be up to 10 people until that Thursday. The good news is that I think we're reaching a point where we'll have fairly quiet mornings and a mid-day break, which I desperately need.

We're starting to converge on a pitfall trap method. The first night, we netted a total of 1 male cricket across 5 traps. The second night, we got 5 crickets, all of which were in the 3 traps that held recorders that played back male cricket chirps and not the 2 empty traps. Last night B had the idea to take some of the males that we collected during surveys and put them out in the traps that don't have recorders in them. A team also went out and set up additional pitfall traps in another location, so we're gradually extending our reach.

Long-winged crickets with pink flight muscle are still incredibly scarce. I want to try and walk around right at dusk, but I won't get to do that tonight because I need to run the cricket oxidation procedure at 9 pm again. I'm still optimistic about working with our ongoing collection of last-instar crickets.
rebeccmeister: (cricket)
I'm trying hard to keep up with photo uploads, but I doubt I'm going to do any photo blog posts because there are just too many photos. If you're inclined, you can check out the photo album here.
rebeccmeister: (cricket)
4 reasons why it's easier to run the circadian experiment here than in the lab at Berkeley:

1. Kitchen's right here, so I don't have to prepare 3-5 meals in advance and cart them in with me.
2. Bed's right here, so I can sleep in a real bed without an added commute.
3. We are collecting the crickets in the evening and then running the experiment the following day. While we hold them, we're giving them water, but no food. So I don't have to arrange to take away food several hours before the experiment. This means I won't have to get up early to take away food on any days where I run the noon timepoint.
4. Our schedules are consistently night-shifted, so sleep is much more consistent.

Main reason why it's harder: Very, very few long-winged crickets with pink flight muscle so far. But L pointed out that it's still worthwhile to run the oodles of short-winged crickets to get at least some sense as to metabolism in lab vs. field. And while we're getting some exercise, it's in smoke-filled air (Whittier fire), and it isn't rowing. Also, it's unsurprisingly hard to find any quiet space whatsoever to gather my thoughts.

Cool things observed during last night's circadian trial (9 pm timepoint): one female with a spermatophore, two short-winged females with underdeveloped ovaries, which means they're on the younger side, which is good. The 5x Granny Lamp works decently well for field dissections, which is great.

Yesterday during the day: hiked 11 miles, north up the main road to Gate 2 along Figueroa Mountain Road, then back down along Lisque Valley road, pausing to listen for daytime crickets every so often. Figueroa Mountain Road gave us better views of the Whittier Fire, which grew a lot bigger yesterday. It appears to be a favorite among local cyclists (argh should have brought my bike for multiple reasons). The others learned about how stupid it is to hike in the middle of the day in the summer in a climate like this (I knew but participated anyway because I'm stupid and was curious about the terrain). Lots of spots along Lisque Valley Road looked like decent cricket habitat, but we didn't hear anything. It appears that even the most desperate of males stop chirping during the middle of the day, from around 11 am to 3 pm, perhaps due to the heat. We confirmed this by listening near the fields where we've been doing our nighttime surveys towards the end of the day. Still, I feel like we learned a lot, and it also looks like our trip could add a lot of info to Open StreetMaps.

Speaking of which - at the last minute we got a GPS at REI, right as we were heading out of town. Based on [personal profile] scrottie's recommendation, we got a Garmin etrex 20x hiking GPS. (also, I've used his GPS before, so I had some familiarity with how to operate it). I am SO GLAD we got it. Totally worthwhile, and now I'm tempted to keep it instead of passing it over to the lab and getting a reimbursement for it.

Double nighttime surveys last night. Nighttime temperatures have been on the low side, compared to what I remember from last year. Yesterday I finally had the presence of mind to put an iButton outside near the crickets we're holding, so we'll have more information about daytime and nighttime temperatures in the shade, at least. We have been able to collect around 80 crickets within an hour, among 4 people. We saw much less activity during our second survey, from 11 pm - midnight, but part of that may have to do with the fact that we still had all the crickets from the earlier survey in captivity. We're having reasonably good luck with mark-recapture within our two survey plots so far - "classroom" and "garden." They're maybe 1/8 of a mile apart, and there isn't any evidence of movement across that scale yet. Collections are female-biased, because the females are running around, looking for males, while the males establish territories at the openings to burrows, to amplify their songs. When we get too close, they will abruptly stop chirping and dive into their holes.

As we add more people to the team, we'll keep adding to our survey areas, which will hopefully help with getting more crickets for my experiments, too. We're also keeping all of the last-instar crickets we collect, so we can wait until they emerge as adults and see what ratio of long-winged to short-winged crickets we get. That should tell us more about why we're getting an extreme short-winged bias again (same pattern as last year) - whether it's because the long-winged crickets are off flying somewhere where we aren't catching them, or whether there just aren't all that many long-winged crickets out there under the current conditions.

Other interesting wildlife: one rattlesnake (of course B pestered it more so he could get video of it rattling), a couple of big frogs, a tree frog, a mouse (eating a cricket!!), lots of large spiders (maybe tarantulas, but not all that hairy??), lots of black widows, lots of darkling beetles. We hear coyotes a lot at night.

Pitfall traps have been highly unsuccessful so far (1 male out of 5 traps). I think they're going to require a bunch of tweaking.

A lot of the long-winged males I've checked for flight muscle status also have a whole bunch of parasites glommed on to their armpits.

Today we'll take it easier than yesterday, probably with another trip into town for groceries and such.
rebeccmeister: (cricket)
The 3 of us make for a really nice fieldwork Dream Team.

The drive down took about 5.5 hours, hitting periodic random traffic congestion, as one does in California. With an extra 1h delay at the car rental, load-up at the lab plus 3 houses, and a stop at REI for a GPS plus lunch, we didn't get on the road until 12:30 pm. Still not too bad.

I am SO GLAD I got to pack all the lab supplies. Last year was a nightmarish giant pile of stuff, whereas this year I know exactly where everything is / is supposed to be. Everything got packed very neatly into the 12-passenger van, with ample room to spare, and didn't feel like a hellish mad scramble. I have a certain hatred of stuff-piles stacked so high that things slide all over.

So far I think the cricket population density is on par with last summer. C and A got here a couple of days before we did, and in one evening were able to finish collecting what they needed, so they offered to help us. In an hour, the 5 of us collected ~80 crickets, heavily biased towards short-winged males and females. All of the 10 long-winged crickets we found had histolyzed (white) flight muscle. So we'll have to keep easter-egg hunting.

Today has involved a debriefing with one of the reserve managers, picking up some additional supplies in town, getting meals and groceries squared away for the next couple of days, setting up the full respirometry rig, and beginning to test out pitfall traps. Tonight we'll repeat our population survey (mark-recapture with last night's crickets) and will hopefully work towards gathering up crickets for some initial metabolic experiment test runs tomorrow.


Last year we had to stay in tent cabins because the ranchhouse was undergoing renovations and refurbishment. The cabins had healthy black widow populations (though no one was bitten), and we cooked in an outdoor kitchen adjacent to a classroom space where we worked. Showers and toilets were in a freestanding, rustic structure. It was pretty good for a fieldwork setup, all things considered.

This year, we're the first research group staying in the ranchhouse as the renovations wrap up. And OMG it is POSH. Apparently the UCSB donor who funded the project will be staying in the master bedroom on occasion. It has a panoramic view up the Reserve's central valley. It's fully air-conditioned. There were some interesting decisions during the renovation, such that certain bathroom fixtures are still adorably historic, and all of the new windows are still single-pane. Sad to see so much energy loss.

Still, there's countertop space in the kitchen that is PERFECT for the respirometry rig, and we're using the dining room for staging other projects and plotting and scheming about how to take over the world. The living room contains the most enormous television I have ever seen in my life.


Jul. 10th, 2017 09:00 am
rebeccmeister: (Default)
Family was in town Saturday, so in the morning I set off to visit the fabric store and then acquire groceries and beverages to feed everyone.

One of the things I'll miss when I move away from here is the local fabric store, Stonemountain & Daughter. Most fabric stores make me want to spit in disgust, or they're specialized for quilting and don't carry any other, practical, workaday fabrics. Not so with Stonemountain. I was able to choose among multiple different kinds of pillow ticking, and they have an extensive selection of twills and denims.

Saturday afternoon was devoted to cooking and a brief introduction to sailing for my Mom, [personal profile] slydevil, and [personal profile] sytharin. I fed everyone pizza, salad, and daffodil cake, taking advantage of all the wonderful things getting ripe in RAC's garden these days.

Sunday morning, [personal profile] scrottie and I went over to the BAP to assess the state of the algae. It was thick enough that I proposed to S that we devote our time and energy to weed-clearing instead of paddling the plastic sit-on-top kayaks. Let me tell you, that was an adventure. I wasn't sure about how much we'd be able to accomplish, but I was somewhat optimistic. Altogether, we managed to clear a narrow launching/landing channel right next to the dock, and started to open up a narrow channel out to the open space created by the waterskiing boats. Very, very few people are visiting the boathouse and trying to get out on the water these days. I have no idea how things are going to progress or when there will be a chance of being able to row again.

In the afternoon, we came home, had a late lunch, and I tackled my next sewing project, combining two old down pillows into one new, fatter down pillow. The first night of sleeping on it was HEAVENLY.

I have today and tomorrow to gear up for fieldwork. It's going to be a crazy week. There's a wildfire close to the field station, so who knows what will happen.
rebeccmeister: (cricket)
My brain is complete mush today.

But I needed to squeeze in a Skype meeting this morning with my long-distance undergrad, who has been determinedly plugging away at learning the basics with R. We have two main tasks left with the current stage of data analysis, which we basically need to translate from English into syntax. The first is figuring out how to read in a bunch of files from a bunch of directories. This should be straightforward.

The second task is one I'd been scratching my head over. When recording cricket activity, I set up the timelapse video to record 4 crickets at a time. Our tracking software assigns individual numbers to individuals, but for various reasons individual crickets wind up having between 1 and 10 different numbers assigned to them. So, how to separate out data for each individual cricket? I'd been thinking of coming up with a method to subset the track files by the assigned ID numbers. This would require figuring out how to import a ragged data file, then figuring out a kind of complicated reference scheme.

But then today C pointed out that because the crickets are spatially separated from each other, it would probably be a whole lot simpler to just subset based on each cricket's xy coordinates. We don't expect cricket 1 to ever show up in the area occupied by cricket 2, unless something went seriously wrong with the setup (nothing did).

Foreheadslap to self. Good job, undergraduate! You rock.

This startup is a VERY good idea. I need to pay a visit.
rebeccmeister: (1x)
Another overnight in the lab last night. But I got data back from efforts on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and the data look really good, which is what usually happens with pilot experiments with too-small sample sizes. Still, it's a start.

I managed to stay out of the lab until 12:30 pm, by heading to the BAP at 10 am to row. I'd originally intended to meet up with the Serious Double at 6:30 am, but stayed up too late reading a trashy fantasy novel, and really needed the sleep anyway.

It wound up being a good thing that I'd waited. The weeds have gotten so bad that the only open water is a narrow channel barely wide enough for one boat. It's like rowing on a river that requires constant steering and vigilance.

Algae at Berkeley Aquatic Park

Algae at Berkeley Aquatic Park

So it was way less stressful to be out there by myself and not have to worry about dodging other paddlers or rowers.

I should have put on sunscreen.

I also met up with [personal profile] scrottie for dinner at a nice restaurant on Gilman Street, Lalime's. S had poked around on the internet and discovered that they included the Tell-Tale Tart from Boulevard Brewing on their bottled beer list. I was delighted to have a chance to dine there because I bike past the restaurant on my way home from work every day and it had piqued my curiosity. It was an extravagant dinner by our standards, but we relished it. I don't dip into the foodie culture out here very often, but who doesn't appreciate the occasional beautiful and well-cooked cuisine?

Last night's overnight trials were a wash. One of my minions was very very eager to help out with the late-night timepoints, so it was his trial-by-fire time, which meant several screw-ups and the stress that accompanies that. I cannot simultaneously concentrate on high-precision tasks and think and verbalize in the face of mistakes, you'll be surprised to learn. The net result was we achieved the same amount of data that I would have gathered had I done everything by myself, but with less sleep and more stress to go along with it. If I'd done everything by myself, I would have just split up the crickets across two timepoints, which would have made for a really busy but productive evening. It all just reinforced my notion that for projects like the circadian experiment, adding extra people ("help") is counterproductive. On the other hand, my minion now has a much greater appreciation for everything that's involved in running a highly precise and time-sensitive experiment. Now he'll be back to a less time-sensitive project and I hope he will have more patience for it. Many aspects of science are tedious, so one must get used to it.

One other surprise happened: in the spring, I interviewed another potential undergraduate researcher, and was disappointed to discover he was already doing research in another lab and looking to piggyback even more research experience. I decided I had to draw a line - involvement in two labs at the same time is too much and can lead to a lot of awkwardness. I encouraged him to stick with his existing research, but said to come back if he decided to transition out of that project and was still interested in working with us. And yesterday, out of the blue, he showed up! During our initial interview he struck me as someone who has really great potential but hasn't had access to great mentoring, which is something I'll do my darndest to supply.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
Two of the rowers that I coached in Texas are getting married this month. I won't be able to attend the wedding (fieldwork), but while riding in to work today I contemplated what to write on the RSVP card. My father's simple declaration, "Blessings," comes to mind. This couple brought a lot of blessings to the rowing program in Texas, and they are both the sort of people for whom I wish continued blessings.


It is taking a lot of time for me to just think and process things so I can get back to a point where I can focus and analyze data and write. Yesterday I just sat and didn't really try to do much beyond cricket care and the evening's circadian experiment. I just couldn't. I'm not quite at one of those stages where I _utterly_ loathe myself for frittering away time on the internet, but I do keep circling back to that thought of what kinds of actions have more lasting and fulfilling impact, wanting to reinvest myself in those actions.

With data analysis and writing, I also have to remind myself to be very patient. I want to get more stuff out the door, and soon, but I'm unwilling to send out poor work. There are a lot of decisions to make on things that don't have clear-cut answers. This slows me down, and then I get distracted by how many of my peers spend a lot of time tooting their own academic horns on social media about the stuff they've published. [And let's just note here that it's the male academic peers who seem to do the vast majority of this - the female academic peers tend to engage in different ways] And while I should spend *some* time trying to keep up with the current literature, I should also try to avoid spending too much time on it. I'm far enough out of routine to have lost track of how to manage these things.

There's still more "analysis paralysis" for choosing what to work on because I always have too many balls in the air. Do I work on data analysis for the circadian experiment, or do I roll up my sleeves to get back to work on the cricket lifespan manuscript?

Gearing up for fieldwork is yet another distraction. I have around four lists started, so far. I'm going to forget at least one thing.


Jul. 3rd, 2017 11:47 am
rebeccmeister: (1x)
It is time to start building up the mileage in earnest, in preparation for the rowing marathon in Petaluma over Labor Day weekend. Four days of rowing, back-to-back, feels really, really good, even with the BAP all choked full of algae.

I'm mostly doing steady-state rowing, emphasizing very good technique with drills thrown in periodically. For my body, a lot of the stabilizing muscles that contribute to a well-balanced and efficient rowing shell are muscles that are very difficult to train and coordinate properly via anything other than rowing itself. When I do enough rowing, I also observe more general postural/comfort benefits throughout the rest of the day. It is highly rewarding to work on extending the duration of time that I'm able to row cleanly.

The other major limiting factor for rowing a marathon is hand toughness. There, again, the only way to prepare is to row for long enough to challenge one's hands, but not so long that one develops endless skin rips and bloody blisters. So far, so good.

I won't row tomorrow morning because I'm also back to work on circadian experiments (ugh), but in the interest of prioritizing rowing to a greater extent, my schedule this week will look like the following:

Tuesday morning: erg
Tuesday - Wednesday: lab overnight + morning timepoint
Wednesday afternoon: row (hopefully during the 2-5 pm afternoon window)
Thursday morning: row
Thursday - Friday: lab overnight + morning timepoint
Friday evening: kayak

Next Wednesday, we're heading to the field for two weeks. No rowing there, so I'll just have to jog and do some strength-training instead.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
Last year, [personal profile] sytharin built a set of raised beds for the bike driveway for squeezing in a couple more tomato plants into the yard. Overall, the project was highly successful - the retaining wall along the bikeway absorbs extra heat during the day, which helps nudge things just over the edge into temperatures that will actually produce tomatoes in the Bay Area.

But one aspect has been less than satisfying, as illustrated by something that happened just today:
Tomato staking strategies

I have yet to see a prefab tomato cage that is actually large enough to do a proper job.

So, some other strategy was needed. After some thought, I decided to try out something I saw in a book that involved two large posts and string running between them. Step one, acquire the posts. Step two, hmmm, how to sink them into the ground?

After feedback here and talking to RAC, I remembered an implement that my father had at home - what he'd called a "wrecking bar." I searched around a bit and discovered that most people refer to a slightly different implement as a "digging bar," which is used for digging post holes and tamping soil around the post hole. As luck would have it, the local Ace Hardware had one for sale, so I set to work using it to dig some post holes.

Tomato staking stratgies

That black shaft is the digging bar. It weighs 16 pounds, and so most of the work is accomplished just by lifting it in the air and dropping it down into the hole, where the chisel-shaped end bites its way through the ground.

Here's what I was able to accomplish after a bunch of pounding (snicker):

Tomato staking strategies

Starting to right the capsized tomato plants...

Tomato staking strategies

And, all strung up (for now; ran out of string):

Tomato staking strategies

Now my shoulders and hands are very tired. I suspect I'm going to be sore tomorrow. But it was satisfying to figure out how to tackle this project.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
I spend so much time working on long-term projects. It's easy to wind up feeling discouraged by how long they take and how many wind up falling by the wayside.

For a while, I was knitting baby hats for friends with newborn babies. But after a certain point, my energy for knitting the baby hats just completely fizzled out. On the other hand, I still wanted to give [personal profile] annikusrex's kiddo a special hat. So I decided to compromise: I'd make a hat for Felix. Eventually.

So as it turns out, it may take a few years before he'll grow into this one:

Felix hat - front

Felix hat - back

It was fun and interesting to design this. The font is Monotype Corsiva.

It's not quite adult-sized:
Felix hat modeled

I also crocheted up a plant hanger while I was on the train. Overall, I'm ambivalent about it, but I might make another one anyway. You know, so we can get that whole three-level effect with a little path running down the middle.
Small plant hanger holding a fern


Jun. 30th, 2017 12:40 pm
rebeccmeister: (cricket)
We are back in California. Theoretically, I could have gone to work today. But I am still so angry about how much of my life got flushed down the toilet when those samples were destroyed. That was a lot of nights sleeping at the lab, empty evenings where I couldn't get more work done and couldn't go home. Mornings where I was too tired or out of it or jet-lagged to go rowing.

I feel like I had more time last year to help [personal profile] sytharin with the garden. It's hard to garden long-distance. It's hard to get exercise in the lab.

I have had to put other projects on the back burner while working on the circadian experiment because it is too hard to jump around and keep that many projects in the forefront of my mind.

So I stayed home today. Went rowing. Am getting caught up on the interwebs. And I'll probably run off on some errands in a bit. Work will still be there when I get back on Monday, and July is going to be hellishly busy.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
-The duct tape over the recycling slots was removed. As evidence, I observed the careful duct tape shapes taped to the wall next to the recycling. So maybe they're able to collect recyclables when traveling on one direction but not the other, or maybe some crews are more willing to deal with sorting the recycling than other crews.

-Seats towards the end of the car seem much more bouncy than seats in the middle of the car. On the train ride out, things felt pretty smooth when I was sitting near the central stairwell. On our return trip, we were seated in seats 3 and 4, at the very end without a footrest or tray table. We eventually figured out a configuration that let us sleep (to the degree possible) where [personal profile] scrottie curled up on the seats while I stretched out on the floor.

-I only got mooned once while traveling along the Colorado River.

-As usual, the scenery along the California Zephyr route was absolutely fabulous. I saw lots of deer and a couple of jackrabbits, and plenty of trees and train tunnels.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
[personal profile] scrottie has declared that he's going to change careers and become head director of tourism for Iowa. I'll let him fill you in on the kinds of attractions he's planning to promote.

Let me see here: On Saturday I arrived in Mt. Pleasant, IA, and hung out in the town square for several hours while S got the brakes replaced on Princess TinyHouse. This town square, like many, had a beautiful fountain in the center, lots of large shade trees, and plenty of benches to sit and enjoy it all. While I sat and read through my random magazine stack, lots of small children came up to the fountain to play in/around it.

Then S finally came to get me, and we drove back up near Coralville to spend the night at an RV park overnight. On Sunday, after some breakfast and regrouping, we headed to Agudas Acham Synagogue for [identity profile]'s wedding! I got to help with collecting up wildflowers to decorate the chuppah, which, with the help of many hands, came out beautifully. It was so great to get to meet everyone and her community in Iowa, and of course the wedding cupcakes were DIVINE. What a day. I'm so glad we got to come out.

Given various logistics, we decided to start heading back across Iowa that evening, and wound up camping at Elk Rock State Park. As others have reported, the fireflies seem to be fantastic this year. In the morning, after we were awoken by raindrops landing on our heads, we ate breakfast and continued on to Omaha, to visit S's brother's family. While in Omaha, we finally made it over to visit Lauritzen Gardens, which was everything I'd hoped it would be (yay, plants!).

Today we're back in Lincoln, hanging out at Meadowlark. We'll catch the train back to California this evening.

There are interesting subtle distinctions between Nebraska and Iowa. I have a slight preference for Nebraska because it has slightly more wide-open spaces - more of a "plains" feel to the fields, slightly greater reverence for trees. But that's hairsplitting. Either place has a certain air of peace and possibility that I just don't feel in places like Texas, Arizona, or California.


rebeccmeister: (Default)

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