Thursday, September 24, 2009

So where's the body?

A usual morning. Alarm rings, peel myself out of bed, shower, make the oh-so-terrible five minute walk to the office.

I drop off my bag in my office, find my keys (how do they always end up at the bottom of the bag?) and head down to lab.

The door creaks open, I blindly reached for the light switch, and -

Who DIED in here?

The workbench closest to the door was spattered with red, the trash can was full of crumpled white paper towels soaked in dark brown. The floor was smeared with stains, syringes were scattered across the table, and random bits of tubing draped from the chairs.

I first wondered if everybody was okay - accidents do happen in labs, much as we try to keep everybody safe on campus. Nobody was collapsed in a corner that I could find in my hasty sweep of the lab space, so there was no need to call Medical. Then I figured maybe it was premeditated. A late night crime of opportunity or passion, hastily mopped up with towels ripped from the closest dispenser.

And what situations might drive someone to the brink, to spill blood in such a sacred space as the lab?

Could it be a lowly undergraduate assistant, slaving away at their work to take their mind off recent drama with their significant other? The spurned lover turns up at the lab, determined to confront the undergraduate. In the throes of a broken heart, our protagonist launches the closest piece of glassware at the supplicator, the shards slicing upon impact. Let us hope in this case the incident led to remorse by the undergraduate and a happy reconciliation.

Perhaps it was a graduate student working into the wee hours of the night. An intruder, intent on expensive and untraceable lab equipment, tries his luck in the basement lab space. Little did they know the graduate student's experiment was in process, critical to his graduation. Underestimating the intensity of the graduation instinct, the intruder was met with a violent and bloody retaliation from the riled student.

Perhaps a student from a neighboring lab was pressed under an impending deadline, and needed to use some equipment. Desperate to complete their paper or grant proposal, they sneak into lab and try to borrow ours. Unaware of the particular quirks of our equipment, perhaps a finger or arm gets in the way of a piece of machinery. Our last-minute researcher cleans up as best they can, and chalk it up as a sacrifice to a greater cause.

Maybe it was the professor himself. Angered at the state of research in his lab, he takes it out on someone - anyone - who is holding him back. The safety officer, continually snooping around for violations. The accountant, always asking for triplicate copies of every receipt. The admin, constantly creating more useless paperwork to be completed. Shoot, even the department brass - never giving him a moment's peace to think about the research problems, or the lab space to pursue those problems, or allowing even one day without meetings to actually be productive.

Fortunately the mystery was solved when my labmate arrived later in the morning. Apparently a mishap occurred with our fluid testing setup - a testing setup which runs red dye through manufactured parts. One channel was blocked so the dye backed up, creating a pressure high enough to burst a seal and sending fountains of food coloring spraying off in various directions.

Not nearly as interesting as I'd hoped. I was already thinking of ways to bury the body.

What irritations do you worry might eventually drive someone in your lab to violence? Who are you concerned will one day take a long, ragged breath and snap?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Presenting My Company Idea

I have one of the coolest classes this semester - Starting a Company 101. In the beginning of the class, we all had to submit an idea for a company, and three of us gave practice elevator pitches for our ideas. The whole class rated the 177 total ideas submitted (from 120 people in the class), and the top 25 ideas got to give five minute pitches in front of the class. I submitted three ideas.

TWO of my ideas were in the top 25 - how cool is that! To give credit where it is due, the two ideas were actually rather shamelessly stolen from my dad. So, my dad's ideas are awesome!

There were two other people with two ideas in the top 25 (both engineers, ahem) and we all were instructed to just pick the idea we liked best.

So I chose the idea I liked and on Monday I had five minutes and one PowerPoint slide to convince the class that my idea was a good one. Five minutes is not a long time, but it's long enough I need to think about what to say and not just wing it like I did the elevator pitch.

I structured my shpiel with only three points: 1) I have a customer 2) they have a problem 3) I have the solution. I thought this would be the strongest way to present the idea. You have to start with the customer because that is the one key element that every single business needs to even be called a business. For my particular idea, I already have a first client in mind that is ready to buy my product, and then I have the target market in mind to expand the business. Then after establishing a customer, you have to show that they have a need. Without a need (even if it's a need they don't yet know they have) you will never make a sale. Finally, I showed that I had a way to satisfy that need that nobody else is satisfying.

I was one of the few people who actually had proof-of-concept for their idea. Most of the ideas were along the lines of, "It would be great if _________, and I'd really like people on my team who know how to make that a reality." My pitch was, "I've made this a reality, I'd like people to help me do something with it." Guess which one people responded to?

I also tried to make my short speech honest and concise; telling a story. I wore a nice skirt and blouse, and tried to show the "quiet confidence" that I have been told I possess.

It must have worked - both of the professors (they co-teach) came up to shake my hand after the class, and commented that I had presented nicely. That was flattering, but the real result showed in the cluster of people that gathered to talk to me. It literally formed a line - I practically had to take numbers! And I've also gotten a bunch of emails from people in the last two days asking to be on my team.

It's a good feeling. It's one I'm not used to.

I'm a little scared about today. Today the class period is entirely reserved for team formation. This consists of all the things I am not good at. Mingling with strangers, being constantly evaluated on non-tangible criteria, and promoting myself and my own idea. It's also a little stressful because the professors keep harping on the fact that the team is the most important aspect - sometimes more important than the idea.

Wish me luck - I'm on my way to choosing teams... and for the first time I have to be the one picking players, not waiting hopefully to be chosen...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My Little Black Book

I have a little black book, I carry it everywhere. I take it for granted - it's just always there. If I take it out of my bag during the day, it sits either on my desk or beside me on the bed.

It's my day planner. I've used different brands and tried different formats and configurations over the years, but I've fallen in love with the Moleskine brand. I started using one when I was 15 - I hardly remember what life was like without having my days laid out in front of me.

I lost mine last week.

I turns out I can't live without it.

It's not that I can't remember what I'm doing each day. Each DAY I have covered. I might even be able to keep track of a whole WEEK. But I write things down in the planner that are happening weeks - months! - in advance. I can't synthesize the long-term with the short-term. I know what I should be doing tomorrow, but I can't keep track of what I knew four weeks ago that is NOW coming up tomorrow.

It's driving me nuts. Everything I've supposed to know between now and December I've lost. I can recreate most of it, I'm sure, but it's the not knowing that kills me. I like the security of knowing I KNOW what I'm doing - I feel in control of things. Now I'm all discombobulated.

I didn't anticipate being this unraveled.

I'm using this opportunity to give online calendar tools a try. I've heard great things about having an online calendar, and it's not like I don't spend 16 hours a day with my laptop anyway. But so far I'm frustrated, because it's not what I'm used to. I have to scroll, and I can't write in the margins. Sigh.

On the other hand, if this is my biggest problem I guess my life is going okay.

At least I think it is. I wouldn't know if I'm missing anything!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Curried Mahimahi with Mango Chutney, Snow Peas and Green Onion Rice

Trader Joe's had mahimahi fish on sale, so I followed a recipe from my Cooking Light cookbook for Curried Mahimahi with Mango Chutney.

I didn't even know what chutney was, but I managed to find it in the grocery store and it is DELICIOUS. A blend of sweet and spicy flavors, littered with mango pieces. The topping for the fish in the recipe called for a mix of the mango chutney, coconut, and raisins, which sounds odd but turned out lovely. Made me feel very gourmet. The fish was breaded in a mix of flour, curry, and a couple other spices and pan fried on the stove.

I added steamed snow peas as a side, and cooked rice with a dash of salt and a handful of chopped green onions.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Assembly? Didn't you mean DIS-assembly?

I have the best classes ever this semester. My first class is an entrepreneurship class, and my second class is about mechanical assemblies. I know non-engineers have a hard time understanding engineering classes, because when I talk about this class I get comments like "Assemblies? What is there possibly to learn besides how to stick one thing to another?" And the answer is, well, yes that's all there is. But sometimes it's very hard to get one thing to attach to another, and even harder to get 500 things to attach to each other...

I get the same look from non-engineers when I say things like, "Fluids class" or "Vibration class." Yes, I spend WHOLE SEMESTERS on topics like that. And I LIKE it. And that's why I'm an engineer, people, because normal folks wouldn't scan through the class catalog and say - ooh! Statics! I should totally take that! The study of things that DON'T MOVE OR DO ANYTHING INTERESTING AT ALL.

Ahem. Moving on.

So the assembly class has a project - each team has to pick a product, and during the semester we will analyze this product and how it is assembled.

My team chose a tape measure. We mostly didn't want to choose anything with lots of electronics, because none of us are interested in analyzing a circuit board. And we also wanted something with a manageable number of parts, not a camera with 300 little screws... So a tape measure it is.

But I suggested that before we make a final decision, we might want to make sure we could take the tape measure apart and put it back together again - because if we can't do that, it's going to be very tough to analyze.

Really, of course, I just wanted to know what was inside a tape measure. And I think that a good study of assembly should start with disassembly - right? right? Of course I'm right.


Now you know.

And that middle reel? The one marked "Do Not Open - Highly Stressed Spring"? (Not my hands in the next pictures, by the way - I got a considerably hairier labmate to hold the parts for me....)

I am particularly proud of the fact that although the middle reel also said in bold letters "Not Repairable," I did indeed re-wind the spring and reassemble the thing. And no, I didn't have any extra parts left over. :)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Elevator Pitch

My minor is entrepreneurship, so this semester I am taking a business class which is basically Starting a Company 101. I am fantastically excited about this class; the teacher is engaging and knowledgeable and the material is fascinating to me. During the course of the class, the students will be divided into teams which will each develop a business worth 50 million in three years.

Our first assignment was to submit an idea for a business. Makes sense, I thought. I have many, many ideas for companies, but unfortunately I am only allowed to submit three ideas. I did my best to choose the three most promising, and with some trepidation I sent my pitches off into the cloud.

Everyone's ideas were available during last week to the whole class, and we all got to rate the ideas and comment. As I was looking through the ideas to rate them, it was painfully obvious that this was a class of business people. So many of the ideas were "Wouldn't it be great IF....." type of ideas with no way to make it into reality. Like, we should revolutionize air travel. Yeah, we totally should, because that's not capital intensive at all. Or, wouldn't it be great if we could have an online way to do all our healthcare records, so it's easily accessible to doctors. Um, yeah, and possibly accessible to more nefarious eyes as well. Fanciful ideas for mobile apps abounded, but I subscribe to TechCrunch so I recognized lots of those mobile app ideas that are already under development. Even if they weren't, who in this class could possibly make a website, let alone write a piece of software? My personal favorite: "The Rod of Moses" which would be able to turn urine into drinkable water. Yeah, buddy, let's see the engineering basis for THAT trick.

So I was pretty pleased with my three ideas, which I think have a firm basis in reality and which I have the necessary expertise to actually pull off. But my ideas have only been rated 3.2, 2.9, and 2.2 out of 5 by the class. Not great, I thought, but on the other hand after seeing all the ideas I'm not sure that I trust these people's rating skills anyway. :)


Today in class, I arrived and sat down with a few minutes to spare. The professor walked over to our side of the room, and asked "Does anybody over here have an idea?" Not wanting to be the overeager volunteer, I stayed quiet. Absolutely nobody raised their hand or made a sound.

Wait, did I miss something? Was not our last assignment to SUBMIT and IDEA? How do none of you have an idea? Is this a TRICK QUESTION, for crying out loud?

So I raised my hand and said, "Yes sir, I have an idea." "Fantastic!" said he, "Please come on down to the front."

Come down to the front? What now?

The professor gathered two other students and had us sit down in three chairs in the front of the room. "Now everyone here has an idea, right?" the professor said. Myself and the guy in the middle nodded. "Wait, I need an idea?" said the girl on the end. Um, HELLO honey, yes you do. It turns out this girl was "very excited to be working on an idea", all enthused and all of that, but had "nothing IN PARTICULAR in mind." Go sit down, my dear, apparently it WAS a trick question for her...

It turns out the professor wanted us each to pitch our idea to the class in a one-minute segment. Now, I know enough about business to know that this is called an elevator pitch. I also knew that I did not have one prepared. But, I figured I only have a minute so I only have enough time to pretty much blurt out the idea and why I think it's important. Can't possibly be that hard.

So I had to go first.

I was facing a class of 120 students, the vast majority of whom are business students and most of whom are in suits. I spent the day in the machine shop, so I tried to pick the aluminum chips out of my hair and wipe my hands on my jeans before I started. I took a deep breath and stood up.

I introduced myself, and used my most charming and confident personality while I explained one of my ideas to the class. I was short and sweet, although I stuttered once or twice. I was allowed to take one question, and then my turn was up and I sat down.

After the other two guys had given their pitches, the professor announced that he was holding a vote - which one of these students, he said, would you want to work for? Which idea do you think wins?

Ack! You gave an awkward engineer a single, lonely minute to impress 120 business suits with a highly technical startup idea, and now you'd like to submit her immediately to a popularity contest? Do you want to send me into THERAPY? But I suppose in the brutal world of business, this is how it goes - there are winners and losers and you have to deal with painful, honest evaluations of you and your work at every turn.

The professor wrote our three names on the board, turned around and said, "Okay now, the TA is going to help me count hands. Who likes Miss Outlier's idea and wants to work with her?"

This is the moment on American Idol when the last contestants are clutching hands, certain that in a few short moments someone is going to break into tears. Balancing on the wobbly line between success and failure, about to be shoved one way or the other by a merciless group of your peers.

And do you know, I peeked out from the hole I had just dug in the floor to avoid judgement, and I saw that something like 60-70% of the class had their hands raised.

"Umm, you got that?" said the professor to the TA. The TA just laughed, and the teacher put >50% on the board. The other two guys got 10% and 10%, respectively. (Yes, I see the discrepancy - I am aware. I repeat, it's a business class - the numbers don't have to add up...) It was an incredible ego boost to see that people liked me, and thought that I both presented myself and my idea well.

"And you are a PhD student?" the professor asked. Yessir. "In the engineering school?" he asked credulously. Yessir indeed.

"Wow," the prof said, "that's rare."

Yes, what can I say, I am an outlier.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Underwater Hockey

My usual gym class on Tuesday nights has been canceled this semester. I play basketball once a week, but I like to have at least one other exercise activity - that way if I miss one, I've still done SOMETHING!

So I have joined a team that plays underwater hockey (purely coincidentally, of course, on Tuesday nights....).

Say what now?

It's this thing.

I learned about it from other people who scuba dive, and a lot of the people on the team are scuba divers. Basically, you wear a mask and fins in the pool, and you hit around a puck on the bottom. The quirk is that everyone has to breathe at some point, so there is some strategy involved in which players are at the surface taking a breath and which are available for passing and defending on the bottom.

My first week I was terrible - they play from 8:30 - 10:00 pm, but by halfway through I was breathing so hard that I could barely make it down to the bottom before I would have to come up for air again. Last week was much better, and we practiced some exercises so the beginners (there are a bunch of other new players as well as myself) could learn techniques.

I'm excited about this new adventure, and the players are a friendly lot.

To new activities - cheers!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Cabbage Rolls

I had a whole head of cabbage from the CSA, so I made cabbage rolls.

I didn't realize until after I started peeling apart the cabbage that there are a LOT of leaves in there. I ate this for a week straight!

And, the plate presentation:

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

3rd Year Grad School vs. 3rd Year Undergrad

In the course of my odd school career, I attended three years of community college before moving to a large four-year university where I spent another three years. In total, it took me six years to get my bachelor's degree. But I usually think of my undergrad years as those three years in university, as that was more the "classic" college experience.

My third (senior year for me) year in undergraduate school was my favorite year socially. It struck me the other day that I am coming up on my third year in grad school, and I feel a very similar way.

My first year in a new place is always awkward - it takes me a long time to make friends. In undergrad I didn't feel like I had anybody closer than acquaintance status until the end of my first year. My second year I spent getting to know those people better, expanding my circle of friends, becoming comfortable. But by my third year, I got to step back and finally enjoy and relax into those relationships I had built. When I walked into any class on the first day of a new semester, I knew most of the people, and it was easy to form project groups and study groups. On the weekend, I didn't hesitate to call people up and have them over for dinner, or suggest a night on the town. I was often invited to join in social activities, and I accepted when I could. It was so comforting to know I had people there for me - and I happily helped out my friends in return.

It's been similar in grad school. My first year was a little lonely - it was discouraging to start from square one again in making friends. But I am fortunate to be surrounded by incredible people, and in World's Best School the population is used to social awkwardness, so I wasn't much out of place. :) This past year (my second in grad school) I did the same thing I did in undergrad - I worked to grow the relationships with people I knew.

It's the close personal friends that take the longest for me. The ones that you can call at midnight and you know they'll pick up. You don't call your math class partner when you need three eggs for cookies, and you don't send an email to your research group when you need to vent. You call your personal friends. I wrote about this, that I felt lonely without this last category.

But I think, now beginning my third year here, I am finally where I was my third year of undergrad - I finally have those kind of friends. For example, I recently stepped out a limb and with some trepidation invited a bunch of girls out to a girl's night - and you know what? They were all thrilled to come, and we had a fabulous time! Or take last week, when I attended an incoming graduate student welcome event. As I wandered about, first somebody would stop me to chat, then someone else would pull me into their circle of conversation, then someone else would invite me over to talk. It felt really good to be welcomed on sight by the current grad students, many of whom I am good friends with. Not only do they know who I am, they LIKE me. Who'd have thought?

But do you know what truly blew my socks off, and assured me that next year is going to be awesome socially?

Friday morning is traditionally a coffee hour, a very popular event for the MechE department. I arrived last Friday morning for the first one of the semester at 8am - it's an early event - and when I walked through the door, heads looked up and smiled, and a few people actually cheered. I got FIST PUMPS, people. How much of an ego boost is THAT?

This next year is going to rock.

To friends - cheers!

Monday, September 7, 2009

CSA Special - Pasta Salad

I have joined a CSA - which means I have bought a share of a local farm's harvest. I worked it out, and it's substantially cheaper than what I buy at the grocery each week. Every week the farm gathers up the harvest, brings it right to campus (how convenient!), and people who have a share come by and claim their food. I have a fruit share, and a veggie share. I am sharing the veggies with another friend of mine, because each share feeds 2-4 people, and I can't eat that much by myself! I have no such trouble with fruit. I could eat my weight in fruit.

The food each week varies depending on the season, but this week's veggies were:

1 squash, 3 lbs. tomatoes, 2 lbs. bell peppers, 4 hot peppers, 1 head lettuce, 1 lb. salad greens, 1 lb. onions, 2 eggplants, and 1.5 lb. green beans.

Thank goodness my friend is coming by to take half of that off my hands! And the fruit was:

1 small cantaloupe, 1 small watermelon, and seven peaches.

I was invited to a Labor Day BBQ, and I volunteered to bring the pasta salad. Well, I intended to make a pasta salad, but it ended up being more a vegetable salad with a few macaronis thrown in for good measure...

Small red onion, bunch of tomatoes, half a chile pepper, red bell pepper, green bell pepper, can of whole corn, can of red kidney beans, minced garlic clove, and of course the pasta. All tossed in a dressing of vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, and 1 tsp. chili powder, and dash salt and sugar.

I had none left to take back from the BBQ. :)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Communication about Lab Direction

I realize PIs have varied management styles. I get along splendidly with my advisor, but there is one area where I feel he could be a bit more helpful. My PI does not discuss overall lab research direction with us, and does not inform us when (or if) he is hiring new people. Actually when I first began my graduate career, the current students in lab had no idea I was coming until I showed up one day in September two years ago (ack!) and joined the group meetings.

During my two years here, there have been three students in lab (small, I know): myself and two PhD students. One PhD student just graduated, and one is hot on the trail of a defense date. I was worried that I would be the only one left in lab this year.

But, it turns out that THREE new students are coming in this fall. Who knew?

One of them is a girl who used to be an undergraduate research assistant in our lab. The PhD student she was working under last spring didn't even know until a couple weeks ago that she was joining us! She will be continuing the work of the PhD she was working under, since he has graduated now.

The second student is only known to us current students by an off-hand reference the PI made one afternoon. We know it's a girl, but we don't know her name because the PI couldn't pronounce it. Thus we assume it's an international student, but who know what she will be working on. She hasn't shown up yet, but I imagine we'll see her pop in soon.

At this point I was really excited that perhaps this coming school year, we would be a lab of all three girls. How awesome would THAT be?

But just last night, I discovered that there will be a third student joining us. Do you know how I found out?

I was at a welcoming event for incoming grad MechE students, dutifully present as I am an officer in the grad student MechE club. As I mingled throughout the evening, I introduced myself yet again to a fresh-faced student, "Hi, I'm Miss Outlier. Are you enjoying yourself this evening?." As pleasantries ensued, I asked a standard question, "Do you know what lab you will be in?" Why yes, the student did. He quite calmly stated he would be working for my very own PI.

Well, news to me!

I said I was pleased to hear that, and looked forward to working together. "And what," I inquired, "do you plan to be working on?" "Solar cells!" he cheerfully replied.

Wait - what?

Our lab has absolutely nothing - nada - zip - to do with solar cells. We don't work with solar cell materials, we don't work with anything applied to solar cells - shoot, our lab is in the basement, we don't even SEE the sun! We work with plastic. We squash, heat, mold, melt, and cool all varieties of PLASTIC. Whither the silicon in that, I ask?

"Are you sure?" I plaintively asked. "Of course," said he, "I'm really interested in the project."

Yeah, you and me both, buddy.

So, we have a new student (male, bugger it.... just kidding, of course) who will be working on an entirely new area of research. This makes me very curious as to what the second girl student will be working on - something else in a new research direction? It's a little disconcerting, and I wish the PI would tell us where we are headed.

How does your PI communicate overall lab business? Does it come up in group meetings? A mass email? Rumors passed around at the water cooler? Not at all?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Overcoming Highschool Fears

I finished moving in a month ago in my new job as an RA for one of the undergrad dorms here on campus. Last week all my undergrads starting moving in, and now pretty much everybody is here. Classes start next Wednesday, after Labor Day.

I didn't anticipate how nervous I was going to be to meet all these girls (it's an all-girls dorm). I feel like it's a highschool popularity contest - will they like me? Will they feel comfortable talking to me? Why have I suddenly gone all awkward and shy? Why is this odd squeaky voice coming from my mouth, and why are my hands squeezed together behind my back? In short, people, why am I ducking and weaving to get to the shower in the morning, hoping none of the girls will pop out of their rooms and see me stumbling down the hall, rubbing my eyes, wiping the drool from my mouth and trying to smooth out the cowlick in my hair? I shouldn't be HIDING from my own girls, this is ridiculous!

Part of this nervousness comes from just the way I am used to living. I like to come home to my own quiet place by myself, fix dinner, put my feet up and watch TV and putter around on my computer for a little bit. I enjoy being social with my friends and sometimes with people in general, but being social tires me. I need to be by myself to recharge. So it's just daunting for me to think about coming home, and leaving my door open to a typical loud, noisy undergrad dorm.

Last night I came home after playing basketball, and I sat on my bed to work. Well that idea turned out just like you might suspect, and I ended up falling asleep. At about 9pm, a knock at my door woke me up. And I had the strangest reaction - I panicked. "Ack!" I thought, "I can't answer the door like this - I have pillow creases in my face, there are dirty dishes in my sink. I'm just not ready." And I thought to myself, maybe I'm not cut out for this job. If my reaction when my girls want to talk to me is to panic, this really isn't the place for me.

I was then fully awake, so I popped open my computer to check email. And I sat there on the bed, in the dark (so the girls wouldn't know I was home), and I felt so guilty. And I thought - you know what, I'm better than this. I've passed highschool, and frankly this is ridiculous.

So about 15 minutes later I opened my door, and wandered down to the kitchen. And wouldn't you know, there were a bunch of girls in the kitchen, and as I passed by they said "Miss Outlier! We're so glad to see you, come on in!" And do you know, they had made cookies for me.

Wait - aren't I supposed to be making cookies for them?

The cookies were delicious, and I sat and talked to the girls for a half hour or so, and played a card game. I got back to my room later, and I had a huge sense of relief. I got over my silly panic. They like me. They even made cookies for me, which is incredibly sweet.

This morning when I ran into other girls in the bathroom, I didn't duck and weave to get away. I knew their names and said hello and I didn't even worry about my cowlick. This job is going to turn out okay after all.

Monthly Sample: September Edition

I have decided to begin a monthly feature. I find that in the middle of a time of intense busyness, or intense stress, I think to myself that life is going to end and I will never, ever again have a full night's sleep. Then when life is good, I think to myself that oh, goodness, it wasn't that bad, and isn't the sun beautiful today?

So I would like to document, for my own purposes, how I am doing each month. I will note the level of my happiness, stress, and busyness (which I believe are unique, independent but probably correlated factors) on a scale of 1-10 each month. A monthly sample, if you will.

And being the engineer that I am, there is really only one thing to do with a monthly sample.

You chart it.

And so, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, I present the MatLab-generated control chart for the three main inputs in my life:

Now technically, this is just a run chart (not a control chart), because I'm not controlling anything and I don't yet have enough data to set proper control limits. But bear with me. I whipped this up in 15 minutes, so give me a break on the formatting - next month I will get the fonts bigger and all that. The only data so far on here is three points - one point for the month of September on each chart (happiness 8, stress 6, busyness 8). The other months are just placeholders, I will fill them in when we get there.

All I really want to note is that yes, I am quite happy. I am doing fun things I enjoy, and there are no deadlines looming in my future. I am stressed because I have too much to do and not enough time to do it. That fact happens to be correlated with busyness being high (given that it's the beginning of the semester and I'm doing orientation events for both undergrads in my role as an RA, and new graduates in my role as an officer in a graduate student club).

Ooh, the statistics we could run on this stuff....

Another day. For now, my dears, Miss Outlier is firmly in control.