Getting somewhere.

I got a job! I take my last test on Wednesday next week, and start my job the 28th. I am now soliciting suggestions for what to do with my week of true freedom. That is all.

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It’s baseball season! I’m pretty pumped to check out some games in the Bay Area. Fortunately, we have both the Giants and the Athletics, and on Wednesdays you can get super cheap tickets to the A’s games for about $2.

To celebrate, check out this awesome color footage from the 1939 World Series.


It kind of astonished me that we could look back and see life in 1939 in color. Of course, as I just learned, that technology had already been around for 20 years! So I went on a little YouTube hunt to see what else is out there. There is a lot of color film from the WWII era out there, but less from earlier on. Regardless, you can still find lots of footage from the previous decades. My favorite short clip is this screen test of Clara Bow throwing a fish!

Lastly: Ten minutes of really quality color shots of London in the 1920’s it’s definitely worth watching, though you might want to put on some music to accompany it!


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Ready about? Ready!

Exciting news! I finally managed to get myself down to the Berkeley Marina and joined the Cal Sailing Club. I paid my $90 (for 3 months) and basically now I can take as many lessons as I want, I just have to show up. Basically, THIS IS AWESOME! For three months I can sail a ton and learn techniques and such from more experienced club members. Everyone at the club is also super nice.

My first lesson today was in a Bahia Laser (see:, which is a smaller boat than I have sailed before (and not a keelboat). At first I was a bit nervous, since it’s been a while since I’ve been sailing, but I remembered a lot of the terminology and technique pretty quickly. There are a number of new things to deal with that are different from what I’m used to, so I’ve got a lot to learn… but its already SO much fun.

The hardest thing will be coming up with enough excuses to take off and go sailing…

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Use your mind-grapes to read the following with your best Jimmy Stewart voice:

“Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, “In this world, Elwood, you must be” – she always called me Elwood – “In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”

That particular quotation is from the movie Harvey, which is basically about a man whose best friend is a 6′ tall invisible rabbit named Harvey. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.


I love this particular quotation, because it reminds me that there are so many important things in life, but it’s so easy to get your priorities confused. It’s easy to spend your time pursuing knowledge or status, trying to be right all the time, or making yourself appear superficially better than you are. It’s not wrong to try to be right, or to legitimately make yourself into a more capable person, but its all to easy to become consumed with these things and forget the pleasant parts of life:

Spending time in good conversation, going on adventures, doing something nice for someone you may never see again, and keeping a positive attitude towards life in general.

In particular, I’ve had a hard time keeping a positive attitude these last few weeks as I considered my future and climbed stress-mountain (thankfully my exams are over for now and I’m on the descent). So I’m trying to resolve anew to be oh-so-pleasant for both myself and those around me. I recommend you join me.

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Someday when Maury Povich passes away, I hope his obituary writer is a scholar of Latin phrases. “Memento Maury” would make just about the most pithy, and probably the best obit ever… just saying.

In other news… I have this intense desire to celebrate Presidents day by staying home and doing crosswords all afternoon. Sadly, there is homework to be done… sigh…

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In a rare move… I’m posting a link to something that I do NOT consider worth reading. I’m normally a big fan of the NY Times “Room for Debate” series, in which hot topics in politics, culture and the media are approached in a series of opinion pieces by various experts. Today, however, I have been sorely let down by this publication. Today’s edition claims to debate the origin of the unusual illegal trade in Tide brand laundry detergent. The unusual story was originally chronicled in a New York Magazine article that I linked to on facebook. Here’s a copy of that link: Suds for Drugs. You can also find today’s Room for Debate here, though again I don’t recommend you waste your time.

My mild anger with the opinion pieces stems from three failures: First, the editor failed to secure a variety of experts to speak intelligently about this topic. There are three in this edition, when normally there tend to be around 4 to 6. Today’s ranks included a “laundry expert at” and a sociologist who was an advertising consultant (!) for Proctor and Gamble (not for their Tide product though). Perhaps this speaks to the relatively insignificant amount of debate to be had on this subject. More importantly, the second failure is that there is no significant debate taking place. In a series centered on opposing views, one would expect there to be at least some noticeable disagreement, and yet nothing of consequence is actually disputed. Finally, and perhaps most annoying to me, is that this opinion piece utterly fails to bring any new opinions, relevant facts, or insights to the table that were not previously presented in the original article by Ben Paynter. One wonders what merit, if any, this opinion piece has.

Regardless of what I see as a major misstep on their part today, I still find the series to be a generally great read, and would encourage you to check out some of their other discussions. Skip this one though, and read the NYMag article itself.

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At both ends

It’s been a very busy weekend for me, and it’s not over yet. But first, Id’ like to do something different. For your listening pleasure, I have included a playlist of songs that I’m listing to this morning. So listen along with me if you like (It will open in a new tab):
Sunday Morning Playlist Click here, then click ‘Play All.’

This weekend my sister, brother-in-law, and their kids came to the Bay area for a brief visit en route to Hawaii. We spent an evening in Berkeley, and a whole day in San Francisco doing some touristy things: riding the cable cars, chinatown (including the fortune cookie factory and a bit of dim sum), and Grace Cathedral (which was particularly stunning). However, the best part of this trip was by far renting bicycles and riding them from Fisherman’s wharf up to and on to the Golden Gate Bridge. The sky was clear, and just about the best weather we could expect for January. After a return to Berkeley and a nice dinner you would think I would be done for the night. …. But no.

The “next level” for the night was preparing for this morning’s brunch. In partnership with the skillful Daniele Monahan, I managed to put together a presentable looking spanakopita for brunch this morning (Pro-tip: you don’t need to pre-heat the oven to 350 when you aren’t planning on baking your dish for another 10 hours at a different house…)

Anyways, the time is just about nigh to bake that beast… so here’s wishing everyone has a wonderful day… and continue to enjoy the tunes!

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New Year

Current Plans

As I’ve told a number of people in person, but failed to publish online, I haven’t completely severed my ties with graduate school. In December I became aware of a potential “plan B” for being a student, which I am now pursuing. I’ll continue taking classes this semester (in fact I’ll take a rather large load of classwork) and being a graduate student instructor, but I won’t be working in a research lab. If I successfully complete my classes, then I’ll be able to leave at the end of the spring with a coursework-based Masters degreee in Chemistry.

Honestly, I am still unsure of whether this is the best move for me right now. The degree itself won’t be worth that much more than a bachelors, but it provides me with an income and something to occupy my time for the next few months. Following that, who knows!

Here’s a short list of “also-ran” ideas for what to do next:

-Mountain-man / hermit




-Revolving door repairman

-Stand-up Philosopher

-Subway operator

Which do you think I should try next?

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Just the facts:

I love chemistry, but I’m leaving graduate school this month. I’m going to try and find a job in the Berkeley area and stay here for a while.

Just the FAQs:

Wait… WHAT!?!? …Why? Well…. that’s not much of a question, so here’s not much of an answer: It’s complicated. There’s no single reason for this decision. Grad school is a lot of work, and I think I rushed into it a little too quickly without really being confident enough in my skills, or sure enough in my commitment to warrant working so hard. Yes, I want a Ph.D., but I need to make sure I want it for the right reasons (and no… I don’t know what those are). I am well known, at least to myself, as a bit of a commitment-phobe. So the thought of spending five years laboring towards a degree I’m not certain I need just screams anxiety to me.

When did you decide this? About a week ago.

When are you leaving? I’ve stopped working in my lab already. I’ll be finishing up my teaching duties and exams over the next two weeks, but I’m not actually going anywhere since I’ll be back in Berkeley after Christmas.

What do you plan on doing with yourself? Right now I’m applying for all sorts of jobs, from baker to lab technician. I already have joined a tutoring service that operates throughout the bay area, and will hopefully be able to make a little money off of that while I find a more traditional job. Long-term plans are less clear. I anticipate that I might make some attempt to return to grad school after a year or so. However, I might just end up doing something completely different.

You should consider working for a different lab! Maybe you’d like it better than the one you’re in now. That’s not a question… and that really doesn’t have much to do with why I’m leaving either. I like my lab and the people in it. ’nuff said.


Don’t you think you’re making a huge mistake?  I guess we’ll find out.

Want to talk about it? Well, I just did. But we can certainly talk more if you want…

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Now it’s real

An imposter no more: I’m definitely a graduate student now! Before, I wasn’t so sure, but now I know. I’ve just had a major milestone in my academic career over the past week. I took my first two exams in graduate level courses, and came through still swinging on the other side. Another major milestone in my life happened this morning: I got a C on a test (and a low one at that). Now before you unleash the flood of sympathy (I realize most of you are, by this point, searching for your “world’s smallest violin” that you bought years ago and have been saving for exactly this occasion) let me interject that I am totally ok with this! Sure, I would have been happier with an A. Who wouldn’t after all that studying? Seriously though… I came, I survived, and I STILL feel like jumping right back into my studies and adding a whole new level of complexity and work to my life. That last bit, my friends… THAT is how I know finally, for real and for keeps that grad school is for me.

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