Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hello Sun and Clear Waters

Miss Outlier is off to Belize to go scuba diving. Because she can. Do I need any other reason?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Hiking Trip

Two weekends ago, I went hiking in the White Mountains in New Hampshire. I had a great time with friends, and although I wimped out and went with the "moderate" hiking group instead of the "advanced" hiking group (I mean, come on, my pride couldn't let me go with the "easy" group...), it was still plenty of miles for me. My legs have been talking to me ever since that trip. They have decided to unionize to prevent that much climbing in a short amount of time. For fear of a strike, I have ceeded to their demands and in the future every hiking trip will be punctuated with forced, 15 minute breaks every hour and a half. Mosquito repellent shall also be carried in my hiking backpack, and liberally reapplied at every mandatory rest stop.

Stupid unions. I'd trade in my legs for another pair, but that's not allowed under the new terms either....

I can't take credit for the following pictures, as they were taken by a friend with a nice Nikon camera. But the memories are mine, so I feel I can share. No people are shown because they don't know I have a blog, and I don't have release forms... :)

Our cabin:

Where we refilled our water:

Swimming Break:

Top of the mountain:

I can't lie, this made me really nervous to watch...

I love New England!

Panorama (you can open this up to a big picture in a new window if you like):

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Weekend of Ocean


Saturday morning I went scuba diving for the Great Annual Fish Count. I thought that this was a silly event designed to get divers to all dive on the same day, but no it's really a serious thing! The New England Aquarium has divers count what kinds and how many fish they see, and they collect the data every year for a variety of dive sites to track the fish population. I had to fill out a whole form including depths and temperatures and habitats and everything. I was given a chart of popular fish types, so I could match what I saw to the proper fish species.

Kinda cool, I thought. Although I only saw about five fish, so my form was pretty sparse...

Then at the end of the day, the aquarium holds a BBQ for the divers and a raffle for prizes. You get raffle tickets just for filling out the fish count form. I won a subscription to New England Dive News, which is nice, but I had a 33% chance of winning a wetsuit and I didn't get one. :( Next year!

The actual dive was not what I expected, actually. This was a shore dive - which means you enter from the rocks at the edge of the ocean, instead of jumping off a boat. Never tried that before, and it's really awkward and funny-looking to watch divers crawling or sliding on their butt to get into the water. I thought I was pretty graceful, but then at the end a wave caught me and I flipped end over end. Okay, okay, I'm in, I'm in! :)

I've never been cold water diving before, and it's been two years since I last dove. So it was first time in this climate, first time at this dive site, first time entering from the shore, first time in a 7mm wetsuit, first time with a hood and gloves, first time using a dive flag, first time in two years, and... Yeah. I should have taken a refresher course.

I really underestimated how tough it was to get accustomed to everything. With the thick wetsuit and gloves, I couldn't feel anything, and with the thick hood I couldn't hear anything. Then the visibility was really poor (under 10') so I had trouble seeing my buddy, and my mask fogged up so I couldn't see anything anyway. I was already feeling claustrophobic, and then because I had to stick so close to my dive buddy (due to poor visibility) I managed to get myself tangled in the dive flag line. My buddy didn't notice because she was looking for lobsters. But then in trying to get myself untangled, I only managed to start floating upwards and I couldn't stay down (I think now that I wasn't carrying enough weights - again, first time so I had to guess on the weights).

It was really scary. I'm afraid to say I sort of panicked. The one thing you are not supposed to do while diving. I was never in any real danger, because my air supply was always fine, but I was just scared.

So this particular dive was a little awkward, but I think the next time I go will be much better because I will know what to expect. Onward!


In the morning today, at 5:30am, the fire alarm went off. Gack. I am SO not EVER prepared when the fire alarm goes off. I always peel myself out of bed, put on some clothes, and waddle my way down six flights and outside. And it never fails that I end up standing on the sidewalk next to some tiny girl who managed to get herself dressed, fling her hair back in the cute bed-head ponytail, and appear bright eyed while waiting for the firefighters to give the all clear.

I will not miss this part of the dorm when I move.

Oh wait, I'm moving to another dorm... sigh.

But this afternoon I went sailing with a few other friends. This I love. I know how to work all the lines without getting tangled, my friends are also good sailors so we can do the whole gracefully-shifting-weight-while-tacking maneuver, and we totally owned the river today.

Life is good! When we really caught the wind, three of us have to hang off one side of the boat to keep us from tipping over, and I get to fling back my arms and scrape the waves with my fingertips.

This, my friends, is what grad school is all about.

And the moral of the story is that Miss Outlier is much more comfortable above the ocean than under it.

Friday, July 24, 2009


I am super excited about tomorrow - I am going scuba diving for the Great Annual Fish Count! There's really no point in counting fish, it's just a silly reason to get a bunch of divers out along the Cape Ann area on the same day.

I was certified a couple years ago, but I've never been diving in the cold northeastern waters. So I bought myself a thicker wetsuit and boots. Apparently you can't use the same wetsuit for the Caribbean and northern US - it's a bit chilly up here... I was balking at the price of 7mm new suits, but it turns out one nearby dive shop had a used equipment selection. I went to see if I could find my size, and lo and behold I found a brand-new wetsuit in my size, discounted a ridiculous amount because it was an overstock they had too many of. Score!

I rented the rest of the gear today (I get an awesome rate from the dive shop that has an agreement with World's Best School). I could have rented the wetsuit and boots as well, but everybody pees in their wetsuit, and I don't know if I'm comfortable with that... :) Besides, the owner of the dive shop said that wetsuits are the most risky thing to try to rent, because they may run out of sizes on popular weekends.

So look out, fish! Prepare to be counted!

That's me at Turks and Caicos Islands. Maybe I'll get my dive buddy to take a photo tomorrow - but even if they did, you would just have to trust it's me. With a hood and full wetsuit and boots and gloves, it could be anyone!

Thursday, July 23, 2009


I have begun packing. I am slapping tape on boxes left and right.

Yes, I look like that. My pink lingerie set is my favorite moving attire...

I applied and interviewed and have been hired for an RA position next year, so I am moving this summer into the undergrad dorm in preparation for all the new students to arrive in the fall.

My moving date is next Tuesday, and I plan to have everything packed by Monday so that the actual moving day is as painless as possible. My mother and sister are helping me move (thank you thank you!), and everything will fit in one small UHaul truck trip. I've never had anybody help me move before, and I am looking forward to having extra pairs of hands.

Also, this time I have an elevator in both old and new rooms, and that is a fantastic thing.

And while I am packing, I am tossing junk. The more I toss, the less I have to pack, right? My rule is that if I haven't used the thing in a year, I don't need to keep it (aside from a few keepsakes). I don't own any major furniture (just a couple nightstands and a set of shelves), so the majority of my belongings can be summed up in four words: clothes, shoes, tools, and books.

I'm not sure how it's all going to fit in the new place, but it's about the same size so I guess it won't be too hard. I'l have to figure out how to do laundry, how to set up my kitchen.

But we all know what the real first priority is going to be: setting up the TV and internet in the new place!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Gives New Meaning to Work/Life Balance

We have a homeless graduate student living in the building.

The top floor of my building has only one room - a conference room. Hardly anyone goes up there, they tend to use conference rooms on the second floor. But one professor is currently writing a grant, and he needs peace and quiet and PEOPLE PLEASE LEAVE HIM ALONE kind of space.

So he's taken to writing in the top floor.

Oh, yes, I forgot to mention that the conference room also has a kitchen attached to the back of it, and a bathroom with shower behind that. Don't ask me why, ask the inscrutable wisdom of the original designers who also designed the building to HAVE NO RAMPS into it. Which might be useful when MOVING EQUIPMENT.

Ahem. I digress.

The past few days, perhaps for the past week, the professor has arrived bright eyed and bushy tailed at 7am to write his grant. Laptop gripped to his side, he waits for the doors to the elevator to open (what, you think he walked six flights?). The doors slide apart, to reveal the immediate tripping hazard of a graduate student lying in front of the conference room door.

"Just catching a couple winks," the student blearily mumbles. (I kid you not, this actual quote comes straight from the professor).

Caught off guard, or perhaps just too far gone into the grant writing process to care about students anymore, the professor can't summon anything more than a brisk "hello." Then, a dismissive step over the prone body of the student into the conference room.

If I were the student, I might be miffed. I think this one was just a bit embarrassed.

To the student's credit, he is probably only between apartments or something for a short time. Nobody knows who he is, but he did pick the best spot to be homeless (given the kitchen and shower and all). He's always gone during the day, but must make it back at night, because the professor wakes him up in the morning.

So what is the proper protocol for this? How long should this go on before someone is notified? Who do you even notify for this? Should I care? Should I go out of my way to meet this student just for the novelty of it?

Monday, July 20, 2009


I have recently added another new hat to the list of millinery I can wear. I have been fortunate to be called in to consult on an engineering project where my expertise can be used.

My first thought was - wait, I have expertise?

Well yes, it turns out after a lifetime of schooling I have learned a few things that can be useful to people actually working outside academia. Who knew? Miss Outlier, Consultant.

I have several points I'd like to make about this:

1) It is fascinating to work on a project in industry and observe the interactions between the engineers on the project, and the interactions between the engineers and management in charge of the project. The engineers on the project make decisions much quicker than I am used to in academia (where everything must be studied and analyzed before progressing). But in the real world, often it is quicker to go the "try it and see" method than to work out every detail from theory. And the management on the project (as opposed to my advisor who wants to hear the technical details) do not care about details except a few: progress made since the last meeting, expected completion timeline, and cost savings created by the project. Which is to be expected - managers have many projects in the pipeline, and shouldn't have to worry about the nitty gritty of each one. It's the engineer's job to get it done, I gather.

2) I am pondering: is this consulting something I should inform my advisor I am doing? I spoke with a labmate of mine, who works for my same advisor, and I found out that my labmate did some consulting last year. And apparently, my advisor was initially against it - he thought there wasn't enough time for my labmate to work on both research and consultation projects. Once my labmate proved that he wasn't neglecting research, my advisor was comfortable with the arrangement. But I haven't even broached the subject - perhaps I should? Any comments, internet?

3) In the real world, money is different. In the sense that I am worth some. :) And also in that people are not afraid to spend it to get things done. A lot more zeros get tossed around on the end of numbers than I am used to seeing. It's a little scary, but I have to remember that it's just a different scale. Because as a grad student, your time is not worth two turtles. But to even have a conference call on a consulting job, think about the salaries involved to have a handful of high level managers and a few engineers take an hour to work on something. The time value of money has just shifted drastically, and I'm learning to adjust to it.

When I see that first paycheck roll in I guarantee the adjustment won't be hard...

How to Make Friends and Influence People

Miss Outlier has been camping in New Hampshire, thus the lack of updates. But I am back now, successfully having avoided a sunburn (although not an entire mosquito squadron worth of bites).

I'd like to tell a story from the prior weekend. Every week I have dinner and bible study with friends from church. This particular dinner, there were a lot of new faces, so we went around and did introductions. I explained that I am Miss Outlier, I am a PhD student (yee-ha!) in Mechanical Engineering, and I build cool stuff. Someone was brave enough to ask me what my research is on, and I gave my best two minute elevator pitch about what I do in layman's terms.

Polite smiles greeted me around the table. If I get bewildered stares, it usually means I was too technical. Polite smiles means they understand, they just can't fathom why it's interesting. Why in the world, they think, would someone spend two or three years heating and squashing little bits of plastic?

So I tacked onto the end the sentences that people usually find more interesting. "My specialty is machine design. I build machines that make nano (*technical buzzword*) sized plastic chips that can be used to test for malaria (*third world application buzzword*) or to study cancer (*save the world buzzword*). Also, I use a robot arm in my lab (*random coolness*)."

But man, this was a tough crowd. Nobody was impressed around the table. Oh well, I thought, can't win them all over.

But later during dessert, the girl across from me was complaining about her bike - it was not working properly for some reason. My ears perked up, and I asked "Is it possibly problem X?" No, she said. "Perhaps problem Y?" Well, now she hadn't though about that possibility. The girl asked me if I could take a took.

So after the meal, I went outside and poked a bit at her bike. Turns out the problem was simple, and I was able to fix it with a bit of whacking (always whack whatever is stuck, it looks official and hardly ever hurts) and an adjustable wrench from a sad-looking IKEA tool set (seriously, why even have a tool set if it only has three things in it?).

You've never seen a girl more excited than that bike owner to see her bike working again. The host, (who had donated his sad IKEA tool set to the operation), suddenly remembered that his bike needed help as well. So he wheeled out his bike, and I fixed his simple problem as well.


Suddenly everybody was excited. You can fix BIKES? was the refrain. How COOL! One girl said wonderingly, can you even fix *gasp* OTHER stuff?

Well, yes. (See my post on vacuum cleaners). In my head I was thinking, I really didn't do very much to those bikes, it only looks cool because you didn't know how. Similar to how a magician feels, I imagine?

You can't imagine the transformation that came over everybody. Suddenly there were ideas flying around the room for inventions or things people had always wanted to build, and there was such great conversation about everybody's interesting ideas.

So the moral is - if you want to impress people, get on the host's good side, and jump start the conversation, better table the technical whizz-bang explanations and just say: You know what? I can FIX stuff. Is there anything broken around here?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Something's Wrong With the Mirror...

Yesterday I went sunglasses shopping. I have a rule that I never buy sunglasses for more than about $15, because I find the time it takes me to lose a pair of sunglasses is strongly correlated with how much I paid for them. A $5 pair from Wal-Mart I can manage to hang onto for three years. I splurged for a pair once, and dropped them in the river the next week.

My current pair I've had for about two years, and they've been through a lot with me. But have you ever seen old cars with terrible window tint jobs? You know how the tinting starts to crackle and peel off the windows? That's what my sunglass were doing. People, the sun was peeling off my glass.

So I need a new pair.

I was standing in the mall, in a store where they were having a sale on sunglasses (score!). I tried on pair after pair, and nothing was working for me. I was confused why none of my selections was looking right. So I peered closer...

And they were crooked!!

Well, SOMETHING was crooked.

I stared and stared, trying to figure out what was off... was the mirror warped? (Not an unlikely possibility, as every woman knows who has used the mirror as an excuse for an unflattering outfit in the dressing room...) But no, that wasn't it. Were the sunglasses twisted? No, because every pair had the same problem.

Then I considered that every face is not perfectly symmetric.

So maybe my ears are not parallel? Or my nose is crooked?

I narrowed my sunglass choices down to my favorite two (and do you KNOW how hard that is to do with no second opinion from a shopping buddy?), and as I was agonizing over my final selection it hit me -

My EYEBROWS aren't even.

Oh for crying out loud.

So this morning I whipped out my tweezers, and look out now - me and my new sunglasses are totally hot and stunningly even. :)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Soup and Salad

These are actually from two different days, but really, who cares?

Chinese egg drop soup:

This recipe used corn, which I wasn't expecting in egg drop soup, but turns out the recipe gods knew what they were doing, and it was great. The freshly grated ginger from the farmer's market didn't hurt either, I suspect... :)

Tomato salad:

Fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, juicy tomatoes, and balsamic vinaigrette. Delish!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Leveling Up

I've been slacking since the end of May. It was a real crunch point while I finished my Master's thesis and took PhD qualifying exams, and I don't think anybody can fault me for taking it easy for a while after I finished those things.

But life needs to move on now. It's been six weeks, and that is enough for me to completely unwind and recuperate. I've taken vacation to see my family, I've wandered around doing sightseeing I've always meant to do, I've read books for pleasure, I've done a bit of physical labor, and I've gotten in the habit of cooking delicious healthy meals. I'm ready to work again.

And I have the feeling I need to "level up" in my academic life.

As I listen to my labmates, and talk with my officemates, I'm realizing that there really is another level required of me for PhD work (as opposed to a Master's). I remember having this same realization as I moved through each point in my life - from highschool to community college, from community college to undergrad university, and then when I moved from a bachelor's to a Master's. At each point there is this feeling that the bar has shifted. Up. By a lot.

This bar-shifting used to really bother me - I would think, have I not done ENOUGH? Why is now MORE being required of me? Will I ever get to the point where I don't have to work so HARD anymore? Is what I do NEVER good enough?

But I think that line of thought just leads to bitterness with life. Perhaps I'm getting wiser (or just older), but I now realize this higher standard in each stage of life is not to point out my shortcomings, but allow me opportunities to grow as a person.

I don't know how to accomplish this, really. I can't just tell myself "Okay, GROW!" But I have to take a stab and start somewhere. So here are some of the things I need to start doing:

1. Start working again (not so much a part of "leveling up", but just because I can't slack off forever....)
2. Write down the long-term research goals I have, so I don't lose sight of those in day to day experiments.
3. Get myself current in reading literature (I haven't read any new papers in my field since last December when I did the lit review for my thesis)
4. Set up an RSS feed of new papers, so that I stay current from here on out.
5. Think about what I want to do for the PhD, and start a list of possible projects.
6. Gather initial research/literature on a few of my favorite possible PhD projects, to start narrowing down the list.
7. Network and get to know other people working in my field here at World's Best School. (This is actually a grave error on my part - since I've been here two years I should know the other labs working in my field, but I haven't ventured outside my own lab. Shameful, and needs to be remedied right away).
8. Work on getting out a journal paper or two. (I'm second author on one in progress, but I should be able to publish a first-author paper using the material in my thesis).
9. Start thinking on higher-level terms (see what I did there - ha!). Look for the bigger picture, and try to see how my work can contribute to the grand scheme of the whole field.
10. Stop checking email and Google Reader and Facebook and the news so flippin' often! Seriously. Such a time sink.

Ready? Set? Level UP!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Going Flying

Miss Outlier gets to fly tomorrow! In a Cessna 402 (I think?), which is a little propellor plane, a short hop over to Lake Placid in New York. We're staying the night and coming back on Saturday. I am thrilled. This was my view last fall, the last time I got to fly in this plane:

I didn't get to touch the controls last time, but my pilot is a sweetheart so maybe this time?

Yay flying!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Professors Pushing Papers

Different PIs can have different lab styles. I was fortunate to find an advisor that works in a way I really like - he keeps a small lab, lets his students be independent and creative, provides help only when asked, and focuses on the research rather than pushing out papers. He doesn't care when I work or when I take vacation, and focuses on long-term deadlines and progress. On the downside, I don't get much feedback on my work this way. He doesn't correct me unless I really screwed something up, and I don't get praise unless I've been exceptional. But I'm okay with that.

I have officemates who work for another professor who is completely different - their professor has twice as many students, likes to be involved with all the details of the research, regularly asks for things to be done ASAP, and doesn't hesitate to ask students to come in on weekends or stay into the night to finish last-minute projects. This professor does really cool stuff, so his students don't mind the extra pressure to turn out hot science.

This other professor recently sent out an email to his students (my officemates) which is now infamous in the office.

The email requests all students to prepare three papers to publish. By the end of the summer.

The rationale provided was that the lab has not been publishing papers over the last year. By focusing on only the research, says the professor, no papers were getting written. But by pushing the papers, the professor thinks, it sort of automatically pushes the research as well, because you need research to have results with which to write a paper.

Oh, yeah this is not going to work out well.

The professor seems to have forgotten the L-O-N-G time lag that goes between doing hot science and publishing the paper. Without experiments in the pipeline, what does he expect the three papers (EACH student, mind you) to be about?

But I think actually this is standard practice for most of the labs I know. It's quite common for the PI to require or expect a certain number of papers per year from his students, and then the students design experiements and structure their efforts to work towards that. If the students know about this structure up front, it can be very effective. It's a little tough to spring all of a sudden, as my officemates are discovering. :)

Any thoughts from the blogosphere on whether PIs should push for papers, or stress the research directly and let the papers fall out naturally? Perhaps it depends on the tenure status of the PI?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Keeping Alive That 'Network' Thingie

Hope you all had a lovely 4th! I ate good food and hung out with friends, watched fireworks and got sunburned. I mean really, what else do you want from a holiday?

When I got back to the office today, I had an email pop up from an unexpected email address - my boss from my last internship. He was just checking in, saying hello and wishing me the best in grad school. He said the guys in the office would be happy to get an update from me, and - AND - I quote: "In fact, if you ever have an interest in getting back into the [cool engineering type] industry, I am sure that we would all beat a path to your door!"

How cool is that? Not only do my coworkers remember me, they apparently have forgiven the explosion in my test setup and still want to keep in touch! :) (See below for a picture of the kind of thing I worked on that summer. I lit one with a mixture too rich in hydrogen. Fun times.)

Well, ego boost aside, I realized that this is classic networking.

So many engineers I know dismiss the concept of networking as something the business people focus on, as a waste of time. We engineers are not built for mingling - receptions with appetizers and chit chat and rubbing elbows just generally makes an engineer's toes curl.

But I've tried to avoid falling into that trap. All the internships I've gotten have come through people I know, my advisors in undergrad and grad school have been through personal connections, and I've had a couple really neat collaborations through people I've met through introductions.

Although I know they are sometimes necessary, I still don't really enjoy attending meet-and-greet type events. But I tolerate them.

And I can at the very least return emails from old coworkers, and keep that part of my network alive. Never know when it might come in handy. I may want to blow things up for a living one day, and it's good to know I have someone to call!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Mad Circular Saw Skilz

Today I completely blew the socks off a couple guys I know who underestimated me.

I love doing that. :)

Over the years I've come to learn about myself that if I don't do any physical labor for a while, I get antsy. Last week while I was away on vacation, I spent one morning working on my grandparent's farm. That felt good, but one morning doesn't really count, that's just a tease.

So I was itching to do some real work and get something tangible accomplished. A couple of my friends own a house nearby - they bought it as a fixer-upper and are now renovating it. I asked if they could use an extra hand with construction, and they said that more workers were always welcome. (I mean really, when would help not be welcome?)

Since today was a school holiday, I took the opportunity to work on the house with the guys. I showed up with nothing but my sunglasses and asked what I could do to help, and I could just see their brains working: "Okay, now what small task can we give her that she will be able to handle?" One of the guys was working on framing some walls, the other was working on air vents in the attic/roof area. They looked at each other, and I was afraid for a moment they were just going to have me hand them nails or something silly. Not that I'm a bad nail-and-tool-holder-and-hander-overer, I was just hoping for something more interesting....

As they looked around, scanning for a project for me, I saw a lightbulb go off for one of them. "Oh!" he said, "We need insulation done!" The other boy nodded vigorously, and I saw the thought processes whirr: "Okay, she should be able to handle this, the insulation just has to be stuffed inbetween the two by fours, and everything's already cut to the right size."

Well fine, I'll start with that.

I finished putting insulation in the walls of the back bedroom within a half hour, and I inquired about a staple gun or nail gun or something to attach the insulation to the joists. They let me have the stapler, but I saw the worried glances pass between them as I walked off with it.

I came back a half hour later with all fingers still intact, so there was a sigh of relief. But then an awkward pause: what shall we give her now?

Over the course of the afternoon as I proved myself I worked on more and more interesting jobs - I cut and trimmed pink foam insulation to fit in some tricky areas, I measured and cut two by fours for framing, I nailed in some dividers necessary to conform to the fire code.

By the end of the day, I had used such things as a tape measure, hammer, box knife, stapler, T-square, chop saw, circular saw, pneumatic nail gun. For each new tool I reached for, I was anxiously questioned: "Do you know how to do that? Have you used one of those before? Do you need me to show you how to run that?"

Answers being yes, yes, and no but thank you. Mostly I knew what I was doing. I needed a little help reloading the nail gun, but that was it. By the end of the day, they pretty much left me alone.

The guys bought me dinner to thank me for helping, and the day was pretty well summed up as we sat around the table in this comment:

"My god, woman, where did you come up with those circular saw skills?"

:) I'm an outlier, what can I say?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A New Skill - SEM Photos

I have recently added a new skill to my arsenal of hot science - the ability to take SEM (scanning electron microscope) pictures. For my non-science people, this is different from a microscope (uses light to see an object) or a profilometer (measures the surface profile of an object by actually touching it). An SEM provides an image of an object by measuring the backscatter of electrons beamed at the surface.

So for my M.S. I designed and built a machine that makes plastic parts, called microfluidic devices (the buzzword is lab-on-a-chip, because these microfluidic devices condense chemical and biological processes onto a tiny plastic chip). These little chips are about an inch by and inch and a half, and the pattern on the chip has dimensions about the size as a human hair.

I took one of the plastic parts that my machine produces and brought it over to the SEM machine, and had a friend show me how to use it. The part has the following pattern on it:

On the actual part, it looks like the following (I can't get a shot of the whole thing at once, unfortunately):

Since I work in a manufacturing lab, I am interested in quality and consistency over large runs of parts. So to test my machine, I make a bunch of parts and measure them all at the same spots on each part. Here are the spots I measure (I really measure eight spots, but these are the important three):

And so I figured I probably want to have pictures of those spots, not just data and x-y-z-coordinates. You need pretty pictures for papers and presentations, you know. :)

So here are pictures of measurement sites 1 and 2:

Although I tried to keep these parts clean, I didn't quite succeed. Note the big black spot on the above picture - whoops. Or here is a square with foreign material in it - possible skin cells, dust, what have you. Next time I will do better at keeping my part clean before I take pictures.

And just for fun, the Swiss flag:

Oh, okay, it's just a fiducial, not the Swiss flag...

Next time I'm putting "Miss Outlier" on the part somewhere so I get my name in teeny tiny letters. :)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


In keeping with my last post, this past week I took vacation from being online to travel for my family's annual reunion and to see college friends. It was awesome! I will be back to regularly scheduled posting shortly.

I may also post some pictures and tell stories from vacation - I have to wait until I can get my hands on pictures from the trip!