August 28, 2007

A Personal Note on Where I'm At

I haven't lost even a little bit of my enthusiasm yet. I'm sure I will at some point in the next four years as I work on this last degree, but no burnout has yet set in after two whole days of official pursuit. Don't disillusion me just yet, OK? I'm trying to enjoy the calm before the storm.

I spent today reading for the most part. I plowed through ten papers specifically having to do with fungal molecular biology, phylogeny, and ecology as well as starting on some material on Bayesian analysis. I expect that I'll be spending much of tomorrow in the lab trying to figure out whether some mushrooms purchased in a market in Vietnam represent a new Lentinellus species. In between all this, I've been talking about possible avenues of exploration for my own work entailing genetic drift and the evolution of new insect/fungus relationships in isolated populations and seriously considering which genes to sequence and it's about time. I still can't get over that I've made it this far and that I'm here.

I'm seriously broke right now, of course, but I should be getting my first check in about two weeks. It's all spent already, of course. I'm trusting that this will all be worth it in the end.

One of the things making me happy, on the other hand, is the fact that the very first thing that new students in the introductory bio course I'm TA'ing for is the famous quotation of Theodosius Dobzhansky, "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution." I have been impressed so far with the biology curriculum at Clark and how they don't wait at all before they plunge right into teaching high-level material in evolutionary biology, much moreso than at my undergraduate university.

Speaking of which, I received something of a pitiful email today from Florida State. It was dated August 6, so I have no idea why it should show up in my email in just the past 12 hours, but here's an excerpt:

This message has been approved by John Carnaghi, Senior Vice President of Finance & Administration for distribution to all faculty and staff.

August 6, 2007

Dear FSU Employee:

As a member of the Florida State University family, you are probably aware that we are facing significant budget cuts as a result of revenue shortfalls in state government.

With our public higher education mission of providing teaching, research and service as our top priority, we must take immediate action to reduce our costs so that we can protect our educational and research programs and jobs across campus. Utilities are one of our most substantial costs, and an area in which we can work together to find significant savings. While this alone only covers a portion of our required reductions, it's important that we conserve energy and, in our situation, protect against other more onerous budget cuts.

For this reason, we have set a goal of reducing by at least $2 million the overall utility costs for all university facilities in the Tallahassee area, in Panama City and Sarasota, and at satellite facilities throughout the state...

1. The University will implement higher summer and lower winter space temperatures in order to reduce energy costs. Take this into account when you dress for work!...
There's more, of course, but this gives the gist of it. Even with the air conditioning the way it was, some of the rooms in which I had classes at FSU were still uncomfortable in the warm months. I find it sad that such measures are necessary not as voluntary efforts to conserve resources as an end, but because the university is faced with problems being able to afford air conditioning. The budget cuts down there seem rather draconian, and I wish everyone still there the best getting through what seems like a particularly rough time. I'll be dealing with my first northeastern winter in more than 15 years soon enough. I did break a sweat walking the mile from campus to my apartment today.

That's one thing I'm enjoying a great deal about being here — walking. On most days, I can simply put on a pair of shoes and go for a walk, even in late August. Sure, I might need a pair of snowshoes once winter hits (an average year here sees 68 inches of snow), but how much could a pair of those cost? I didn't get nearly as much walking in when I lived down south and I put on a few pounds because of it, nearly all of which I've since dropped. I never was one to go work out at the gym. Walking and hiking have been my main source of exercise my whole life. Who knows, maybe I'll get myself a bicycle, too... but probably not. It's probably safer just walking here, and in any case it only takes me fifteen or twenty minutes from my front door to my office now.

LL and I have found a good Chinese restaurant within walking distance, too, a place called Chopsticks. It's not great Chinese food, but it has been consistently good and so is now a regular spot for us. There's also a coffee house close by that has live music that we probably should get to more often; I may grab a stack of papers and head over there this weekend, in fact. We've been there a couple of times now and its a good neighborhood place and relatively quiet during the day, so not a bad place for study while fueling oneself with high-octane espresso drinks. There's even a place that sells cheap seafood just down the street. Lobster for $6.99/lb and crab for $2.99/lb; can't beat that.

I think we're getting comfortable here. Once our finances stabilize a bit, I think that word will describe our situation and attitude quite well. Until, of course, my advisor decides to really start running me ragged. He's promised that he will at some point. I'm sure he won't be much worse than some of the executives I dealt with back in my headhunting days and if he is, well... I know how to culture stinkhorns in petri dishes and where to hide them in his office. Mwahahhahahahah.

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