Mr. Noodle

Mr. Noodle
Mr. Noodle

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Grad School Interview

Just a few minutes ago I was informed that I have an interview with the graduate committee at the University of Utah to discuss my prospects/plans for grad school. I applied for the MS non-thesis option, as I was advised to by one of the professors I have met here. But in my letter I indicated that I would be willing to consider pursuing a PhD if I could convince someone to support my topic. It's a controversial topic that very few people are talking about, and that is, something like: environmental sustainability in health care/informatics or applying permaculture design to healthcare informatics design.

I'm not off my rocker, but these are things I am passionate about so I thought I would bring it to the table and see what happens. My interview date has been set for February 7th, so that means I have three weeks to put together a coherent pitch about why this is a topic worth studying.

I'm still working out how I would even go about studying such a thing, but certainly an audit of some kind would be in order. I have been working this out in my Morning Pages these last few days and it's going to be time soon to do some mind-mapping. Both of these topics are very broad and require a lot of information, so I have brought home some books from the library, will read them and take copious notes, and of course see what turns up in a web search about this topic (not very much that I have seen).

It may be that I will need to start a separate blog for this, should I get the green light on it. This is all contingent on funding, too, not only do I have to convince a professor who will be my supervisor that I am not crazy and that this is a topic worth pursuing, I will also have to convince the people with money to award me grants to study and that I am a good investment.

Interesting to note, they have two options for those pursuing a PhD: you can either write the book-style dissertation or you can write three publication-ready articles to be submitted to academic journals. I think I will have a hard time deciding which to select. I think the exercise of writing a dissertation would be a good one, but, as I didn't get any experience with writing papers during my Master's, I think this will be an excellent skill to hone as a student. 

Meanwhile, I will take myself to the weekly research seminars up at the U (an eleven-minute train ride) and slowly get to know people.The presentation today was amazing, it was a video of a presentation at a health symposium presented last year where the keynote speaker discussed the economics of health care. If you ever get a chance to hear James E Orlikoff speak, I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

December 26: The Day we entered Texas

You don't realize how big Texas is until you have to drive across it.

 Driving through Houston was kind of insane.

 Lots of flat. We were in the flat part of Texas.  Apparently that's funny.
 The tiniest acorns I have ever seen!

 At this rest stop, Dan could not believe how big and tall these RVs were.

 Oh no! We had a tire blow out on the trailer on a stretch of highway that was mercifully not very busy. It was 13 miles west of Ozona, TX.
 The view from where the blowout was.
 This is what happens when you put more than the recommended weight and drive faster than, say, 60mph, as the friction heats these babies up. Both tires were steaming when we stopped.
 We had no choice but to unhook the trailer and drive back to Ozona and find a tire shop. Thank the heavens it was the day after Christmas, we had no trouble finding one.


We spend that night in Kerrville, Texas, where we had amazing Mexican food for dinner. Probably the best beef tacos we have ever had. There was an entire avodado in my salad!

With the blowout, the trip became very tiresome (no pun intended), and Dan decided he would at some point pick up another extra tire for when the other one was about to go. At every gas station and rest stop, the bulge got a bit bigger.

To be continued...

December 25: the second day of our road trip across the country

Apologies for not bringing this out sooner. Photos!

 Breakfast at McDonald's on Christmas day, because that's what was open. We were still in Georgia. Or Alabama? I can't even remember now.

 We went a bit out of our way to pop into Florida, mostly because I had never been there. We gave Pensacola a miss, ho hum.

 And we were soon back in Alabama anyway.

 Mississippi didn't take long. An hour?

 The photos might be out of order here but this is where we had lunch, in Alabama. Great themed restaurant, excellent food, MASSIVE burgers. I bought postcards here too.
 A wall-table. Up at the bar they had several different seats - a horse saddle, a pilot chair, motorcycle seat, theater seat, etc.

 Sam in the footwell of my side. She preferred to be down there during the day, for some reason.

 Maybe this is Mississippi. Goodness, this part of the country is so flat and marshy, it's hard to keep them all straight!

 We did not stop to see what Woolmarket was but I assure you I was curious.
 Here we switched the map from the Southeastern States to the Southwestern States.

 Any time we stopped for gas, Sam jumped into Dan's spot.

 We spent the night of Christmas in Baton Rouge. That is a horrible place to find food in a restaurant on Christmas day. We weren't going to wait half an hour at IHOP, but it soon became clear that very little else was open. The Burger King was open but they were only doing drive-through service. We found a Jack-in-the-Box, but they were slammed with customers and getting every single order wrong. From the time we walked in to the time we got our meal, 40 minutes had passed. Dan figures the guy who took our order couldn't actually read.

  Baton Rouge did sort of redeem itself the next morning with the coffee shop we found. Great muffins, good juice, excellent coffee and great service!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

we interrupt this blog post

I know I promised to post the rest of our travel photos "tomorrow" a week ago. And I will, possibly later today. Where does the time go? I'm going to tell you a little bit of news, then I'm going to go outside and shovel snow, then I'm going to decide what we are having for dinner and make a shopping list. I'll walk to the grocery store two blocks away through this blizzard, and then come home and start cooking. Or maybe I'll get another blog post in first.

The news: We have been here for eleven days now. Surely the weather is colder than we are used to and there has been snow on the ground the whole time. I don't mind, it's just one more new experience. Well, not new, I did after all grow up in a place that has real winter. But it's been twenty years since I really lived in a place that has weather like this and that it is a normal thing that will stick around longer than a few days.

We are enjoying our new surroundings and are making new friends. The "street" we live on, the one on our address, is not actually a street, it's a sidewalk off a street. I'm guessing it used to be an alley for horse-drawn carriages? At any rate, it means that all our neighbors are close but we have an amazing amount of privacy. With no cars going by, it is also very quiet, which I love. The place we were in before was noisy and not at all private, and I felt like a caged animal in that house. This house is much nicer than the one we moved out of. It's smaller, and far easier to keep clean. I can't tell you how happy I am about this. Sam is happy too, she has been more affectionate with Dan here than she ever has in her whole life.

So my first bit of news is that I have been requested to write a blog for a private company. It hasn't started yet, as the company isn't quite ready to get going, but when they are that task will fall to me. I'm pretty excited about that, it's a great company.

The second is that I had an interview with the Wasatch Community Gardens on Monday. I had contacted them in December, in applying for one of their intern programs. I am passionate about local food and I wanted to get involved with the local foodshed right away, this seemed the best place to start. After my conversation with the coordinator, we agreed I am a good fit and so will be their 2014 Urban Farming Apprentice, starting in a few weeks. Much of the things they want done are things I have done before, in terms of compost rehabilitation and soil building, and there will be some organizing too (yay! I love organizing).

The biggest news: I have been in touch with a few people from the University of Utah, having met a number of them at the AMIA Symposium back last November. After a meeting yesterday morning that I was hoping would result in a job, ended up resulting in an application to do a second Master's degree. I was kind of deflated at the suggestion ("but I already have and MSc in this field!") but it became clear that there are many more doors open to students. This is not to say there won't be work for me beforehand, and I am making my rounds and meeting all the people. There is a dearth of qualitative researchers here and I am SO EXCITED because I was warned all those years ago that there wouldn't be much work for people like me. There hasn't been. Until now. I am in the right place. So HURRAY! I have sent off my resume to a number of people and some of them have heard of me already. I'll go to the research seminars presented every week (the U is an 11-minute train ride from my station, which is only a block and a half away) and will get deeply reacquainted with what is happening in the field. Turns out there is a lot happening at the University of Utah.

It all happened so fast yesterday that I was still spinning by the end of they day, but it feels right. If I can turn that Master's into a PhD, I may do just that. This is a place I want to stay for a while, I can certainly commit to being in Utah for at least five years. More if things are good for both me and Dan.

Oh there is one other thing - we got fitbits! I heard about fitbits in November when I was at the Symposium and have been thinking about them ever since. Certainly with the stress last year and the difficulty exercising (due to crazy schedules and not feeling safe in our neighborhood), I have regained much of the weight I had lost back in 2011. But I did it once and I will do it again. This time it will be much easier (well, if weight loss can be easy) because it seems like a video game and watching the stats on my iPhone app is a data manager's wet dream. People are obsessed with these things. I hope I don't become like that. I'll let you know.

Still one other thing: Thanks to my Twitter buddy Donna Druchunas, there is a small group of us doing a group course of The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. I have owned the book since 1998 and have done the program a couple of times on my own, but it is nice to go back to it with a bunch of buddies and see how we do. I may do some blog posts specifically about that - I hope I have time because this kind of work digs up a lot of stuff formerly buried in one's psyche.

Okay that's it, I really have to go shovel snow. I will try to post photos later!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year! A snapshot of our journey to Utah

As my readers will know, Dan and I have moved to Utah. The move was for family reasons, but it turns out there is a lot of opportunity for both of us here. I was live tweeting our six day drive across the country and took a bazillion photos, so I wanted to post a few here.

We had planned to leave on December 23rd, a Monday. We weren't really ready until late in the day, and then the weather turned poor and it was raining buckets. Visibility was poor, the roads were flooded, and it would have been unwise to start our trip on such a soggy note. We pulled out on the morning of the 24th, Christmas eve.

While Dan was doing the final loading and hooking the trailer to the truck, a German shepard cross pup came along and decided Dan was his human. It was quite a conundrum for us - we wouldn't normally consider owning a dog (especially given how Sam hates other animals) and of course we were just about to leave for a 3,500 mile trip. He was so charming, this pup, that I think if we hadn't been preparing to move then we might have adopted him. As luck would have it, our next door neighbors (who work at the brewery) offered to look after the pup. They already have a dog, and the two got on well immediately. A few days later they decided to keep him, as he had tapeworms, was dirty and a bit underfed, so they knew they would take better of Paco better than his previous owners.

There was quite a bit of last minute stuff that needed to be attended to before pulling out of town. The trailer was quite heavily loaded so we needed to secure the hitch. The tires needed to be inflated, the truck fueled up. We finally pulled out of Kinston around 10:30am on Christmas eve.

My friend Irene in Connecticut crocheted Mr. Cupcake for me just before our big journey from Victoria to North Carolina earlier this year. Turns out he was to make another cross-country trek! Here he is saying goodbye to our neighborhood.

 Sam liked to be in the driver's side foot well, which of course is an inconvenient place.

 We visited this very same Flying J when we went to South Carolina/Asheville NC in October.

I can't be the only person confused by this. "Open" and yet bars. 

 The bars made it difficult to pull my coffee out without spilling.

 Regular gas, $2.99/gal.

 Hey, Georgia.

We stayed the night in Newnan, Georgia, at probably the dirtiest Motel 6 I have ever stayed at. Sam is pretty good in motel rooms, and we just needed sleep, so we made due.

Stay tuned tomorrow to find out how traveling in the deep south on Christmas day went!