Thursday, March 29, 2007

Mom headlines the VU webpage

today we have a bit of fun for a change! Mom is currently headlining the Vanderbilt University homepage. and yes, she really is that dynamic in daily living.

also, my brother has been released from the hospital. we are not sure yet what is going on with him, but stroke, heart attack and brain aneurysm (i.e. actively dying) have all been ruled out. (thank you-know-who.) now the questions remain: did the episodes truly resulted from hypertensive encephalopathy or is the hypertension a red herring? why is Brian having fairly marked hypertension when he was normotensive just a few months ago? is Milla Jovovich as badass in person as she is in the movies? these questions and more to (hopefully) be answered in our next episode...

this quote, courtesy of my brother, after a long discourse between his doctor and me regarding SOTA (state of the art) for hypertension and lightheadedness/presyncopal episodes:
"Your sister sure knows an awful lot about human medicine for a veterinarian."

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


things continue to be crazy here. as much as i would like to continue keeping things close to the chest, i feel like-for my sake-i have to abandon that approach.

in addition to the Defense and the cat and the apartment demolition, things have actually been more than a little bit stressful on the personal front. three weeks ago, while on choir tour, Mom had a drug reaction to a new medication. she had a grand mal seizure, necessitating hospitalization. at that time, it was discovered that she also had severe hyponatremia (low blood sodium), probably secondary to a long-term reaction to her blood pressure medication. she was released after 24 hour observation but has had severe rib and back pain since that time which is only partially controlled with pain medications.

as you can imagine, this has played havoc with her morale and really negatively affected her ability to believe that things are eventually going to get better. waking up in the hospital all 'broken' again with no understanding of why just harkens too strongly back to the accident.

Roland and i decided that a surprise visit might be just the thing to improve morale and so i flew home Thursday for a long weekend visit. Roland met me at the airport after running to the grocery store. Mom suspected nothing and it was just wonderful to surprise her so!

Friday was a great day of fun and frivolity. Saturday we completed an epic amount of chores before meeting up with Kelly and Bill for dinner. it was spectacular to be all together again. actually the whole weekend was quite special and lovely for us all. Sunday, unfortunately, Roland lost his balance working in the yard and fell - bashing his head against a concrete water diverter. in addition to abrasions on both forearms, he sustained a cut down to the cartilage of his left ear and a 3 inch full thickness laceration (to the bone) on the back of his head. this sent us back to the hospital - after two hours and three frustrating attempts to get him seen at an urgent care center. Roland ended up needing a head CT - which thankfully was normal - as well as 4 stitches in his ear and roughly 10 staples in his skull. he was quite the trooper about it all. we finally made it home for dinner just before 10pm. Roland noted that now he and Mom will have matching scars since his laceration is the same place she had her craniotomy.

Monday, Mom had an appointment with a physical therapist about her side. as ever, getting things sorted out for the appointment was an epic ordeal, but the appointment itself was very helpful. it turns out that, during the seizure and associated fall, one of Mom's ribs got jammed in a cocked back position. it is not moving normally with the rest of her ribs, which is causing high shearing pressures on the associated muscles. the therapist was actually surprised that she was doing as well as she is. the good news is that it should be completely fixable with appropriate therapy.

with my Defense fast approaching, i flew back last night. Trav met me at the airport and brought me home. he had straightened and stocked emergency rations and got me the most lovely hydrangea. it was all just so sweet of him!

this morning, i headed in for a recheck appointment for Zaney before planning to buckle down on my Defense preparations. partway through the appointment, i received a call from Mom that my brother was being hospitalized for severe dizziness. it turns out this is the second episode of dizziness he has experienced in the past couple weeks. thus far, all tests (blood work, EKG, chest radiographs, head CT etc) are normal with the exception of moderate hypertension. although his blood pressure does not seem high enough to be causing his symptoms, they are trying treatment of it first, since they can find nothing else wrong. we will just have to wait and see what happens. brain MRI may be the next step.

because i was concerned about missing something given my state of mind, another doctor is taking over on Zaney. i feel terrible, like i am letting my friends down as both a friend and doctor, but i cannot risk overlooking something.

now i am home, receiving intermittent medical updates and trying to get cat vomit out of the couch. as you can imagine, i am no longer particularly in a place to work on my Defense. with only a week remaining though, i haven't much choice. i could contact my committee about rescheduling, but honestly i need to do this. rescheduling would just make me feel even more like i need to just give up on my life and career so i can care for everyone else. if i have to cancel the Defense, i suspect i might not reschedule. ever. i might just give up.

the thought of giving up just feet from the finish line brings me such exquisite sorrow, i cannot bear to face it.

so cross your fingers and pray i can do this. i just really need a win, since life is apparently never going to ease up on the bit.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

step 2: check!

completing a PhD is kind of like completely an epic backpack - a Pacific Crest or Appalachian Trail backpack. it doesn't proceed as one would expect and years can be spent struggling without achieving any appreciable progress. there are heady moments when one finishes writing a grant or gets results back from the statistician, but more often days are filled with abusive reviewer comments*, incomprehensible experimental technique failures, and long periods of slow slogging.

to keep from getting lost in the hugeness of it all, i made a 'To Do' list when i started the PhD. this list broke down everything for every project in play and planned and i update it regularly. it is this list that has kept me going, because a PhD is huge, but 'Finish literature search' and 'Follow-up with statistician' are manageable. recognizing this, i have taken the same approach to the Defense. step 1 was getting it to my boss. step 2 is getting it to my committee. step 3 - prepare slides for my talk, study and plan follow-up experiments so i can field potential questions best. step 4 - defend. step 5 - either celebrate or fall in front of a truck (or perhaps one too many margs to temporarily drown my sorrows). the steps definitely help, especially given my new friends Insomnia and Probable Gastric Ulcer.

yesterday morning i turned my dissertation in to my committee. to celebrate with me, Mom sent me these lovely flowers. they really brighten up the place and my spirits. i started my slides yesterday, but didn't push myself too hard. i was pretty fried and figured it would be better to recuperate than work inefficiently. the weather was nice enough that i was also able to fit in a 7 mile bike ride in doing errands. today i have an appointment to recheck my 'niece' Zane and then home to work on slides and future research 'directions'.

Rainbow trouts
Originally uploaded by jacquichris.
last night i did finish the fish socks. they are Knitty Pomatomus pattern using Marks and Kattens Clown on US 1s. i think they turned out very nicely and take pleasure in thinking of them as 'Rainbow trout' - even though no one else seems to appreciate the almost humor. cast on the yarn for a sock swap sock. pretty excited about it, and i think i ended up with just the right yarn.

have to get back to work now... sigh.

*anonymity can release otherwise normal people from social constraints, allowing them to say things both undeserved and beyond the pale.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

speed socks

Cowgirl slipper socks
Originally uploaded by jacquichris.
Monday night i made the other cowgirl sock while puzzling through a problem. they are in fact quite yummy. they are the Cowgirl slipper socks from Interweave Winter 2006 edition knit in Ry Classic Silk Wool DK in Brownstone. in the non-digital world, they really are the color of New England brownstones. keep your fingers crossed that they wash well.

also, sorry about the missing info on the country socks! i forgot to transfer it over from the photo file! those socks were made with adapted use of the Country Socks pattern from Nancy Bush's Folk Socks. i knit them using Ecco Extrafine merino in #201.

been working on the fish socks. once you get your head around the pattern, they are actually quite fun to knit. a little hard on the arms maybe, but that probably is more that i am obsessively over-knitting. eventually i will sleep again and maybe not look like the undead snowpeople on Kylie's Christmas stocking, but right now i knit.

got the first comments from my boss re the dissertation. not too bad. only two things that i will need to sort out. won't get the comments on the three remaining chapters until Friday (at the earliest). it is due to the committee Tuesday. things may be tight...

also got the galleys for a scientific article that has been in press for almost a year and is a chapter in the dissertation. one thing particularly entertaining about peer-reviewed publications is that the journal takes 2-3 months to get back to you about anything (at best) but you have to respond within 48 hours when it is your turn. [grouse grouse grouse.]


you are right. i tend to respond at that speed anyway. hate having things on the To Do list. but still, it is the principle of the matter.

Monday, March 12, 2007

big day

today is an exciting day. today i officially no longer have to view Mr. Head like this:

today is officially his first non-radioactive day. this means i no longer have to play extreme nuclear Russian roulette with the 100+ year old plumbing and can dispose of his urine normally.

hoo rah!

TraV and i both spent the weekend feeling pretty crappy. we went to Denver Roller Dolls showdown against Kansas City on Friday. i worked on a 'Comfort Scarf' i got from Carodan Farms. [the yarn is sold at cost, you knit the scarf and then the scarf is packaged in a gift bag and provided to a local cancer center.] the yarn i received is a lovely red long eyelash yarn. unfortunately, as the scarf knit out, i realized i hadn't picked big enough needles and it was looking disturbingly like Elmo meets Silence of the Lambs. i frogged it Saturday, and let me tell you that was fun.

Country socks
Originally uploaded by jacquichris.
i did finish up these puppies, which are much prettier in person than i was able to capture. and soft. so soft.

i also made un petit soupcon for someone special. it is a surprise so i can share nothing more on that front. i also started a pair of the Pomatomus socks, inspired by Lene. finally, i knocked out one of a pair of Cowgirl Slipper socks when my head was hurting too much to concentrate on a serious pattern. they are going to be just yummy to wear.

as you can imagine, i could not do this all on my own. fortunately, i had a lot of help...

Family knitting
Originally uploaded by jacquichris.

Thursday, March 08, 2007


Cabled socks for Mom
Originally uploaded by jacquichris.
man, i have felt weird all day. i felt like an overstimulated, overcaffeinated, vibrating at high frequency crystal chittering squirrel facing a tax audit with a sugar high. completely incapable of concentrating on my scientific reading, completely incapable of sitting still.

eventually i cemented myself on the couch with my legs pinned beneath me and a movie playing to knit like a maniac. i think i am better but, since my legs are still hopping like babies in a bouncy chair, the improvement seems relative. i wanted to get these socks finished so i can get them in the mail as a pick-me-up for Mom. socks at warp speed. good times. but they are done. i am really pleased with how they turned out. don't they seem like the happiest socks ever?

Mittens for Lappin
Originally uploaded by jacquichris.
these i finished over the weekend since i really needed to blow off some nervous energy. my boss questioned my decision to give them to him before my defense... what if i didn't pass? i might not want to give him a present then. i pointed out it may be too warm to use them by the time my defense is past. he agreed it was sound thinking, paused a moment, and then asked if they were a bribe. sheesh.

random aside to Denise: i have reviewed the PhD manners book, and pompoms are definitely acceptable! i am thinking crazy variegated stripey colors because it has been a crazy mish mosh of a PhD project. boy, is it exciting to know i have a cheering section!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

ambiguous? maybe not.

so, my boss has started reading my dissertation. i had told him i considered the protein results huge but i would not share them in advance. i, of course, have since worried that i overstated things and he would be disappointed in the results.

thus far today, i have received three emails from him. the first:

HOLY are going to be famous! WOW!

later dudettee....perseverance.....pays......wahoo

then three minutes later:
Will you be able to withstand the impulse to say I TOLD YOU Dr. AA?

and finally two minutes after that:
I am going to ask the person that asked me to speak to the nephrology group to let you and I do it together......I will give the lead in on the work that preceeded the protein stuff and then introduce you to DROP THE BOMB!

the question is, do you think i overstated things?

[insert picture of me smiling]

Step 1: Check

last night i got the first complete draft of my dissertation in to my boss. now i study and wait for his feedback. then frenetic revisions and dissemination to the committee March 20th.

for a variety of reasons, it is a relief to have it in...

Thursday, March 01, 2007

knitting and the chasm

the plumber and the tinner arrived early yesterday morning. after a long discussion regarding the relative merits of tearing a second hole in a potential load-bearing wall or the kitchen floor, they finally decided instead to expand the existing already large hole. happily, they were much more quiet than anticipated, and i was actually able to get some writing done.

also, this weekend i tried to knock out the mittens for my boss. can i just say the man has aberrantly large hands? i tore back once to increase their size, found they were still going to be too small, and decided to make fingerless gloves for TraV first since the yarn was turning out a pretty pattern in Black Watch colors. i intended to do those next, but whatever. they are very plain by his request so he won't catch them on things at work and shred them too quickly. they still seem to have turned out well.

Trav's fingerless gloves
Originally uploaded by jacquichris.
and no. i did not have my boss locked in the closet for measuring. i took a tracing of his hand and have been trying to make it 3D by scrunching up my face to blur the edges.

i did end up completely one of the mittens and the ribbing for the other, but i want to confirm fit before i make the second and add the finish detail.

i also set to work on a pair of cabled socks for a dear friend to whom i owe much since i had a three hour lecture to attend. they are snug but don't slip this way. the problem is that i ended up knitting on 0s instead of 2s as the yarn allegedly calls for and i am not going to have enough yarn. i went back four times to the yarn store before successfully being there when it was open.

Cabled sock
Originally uploaded by jacquichris.
in the interim, the owner sold all the yarn to a woman that will be opening a yarn store in a nearby town in a couple of months. now, that obviously won't work. so the question is whether i order another skein online and hope the lots are close enough to not be obvious or whether i frog it back and redo as a shorter sock. hmm.