Friday, 27 April 2012

How to organize like a rockstar

Ok, I may not be a rockstar in the traditional sense since I don’t play music, or even in the nerdly sense since I mostly study corals, which aren’t exactly rocks either…but, close enough. Some people (read: my husband) think that my organizational skills are lacking, but that’s just because they don’t understand the nuance of how amazing they actually are.

Here, I’ll share with you my most guarded secrets in organizational awesomeness.

1. A clean desk is a sign of laziness. If you can see the material the desk is made from, clearly the person working at that desk is not busy enough. My desk, on the other hand, is always covered with a nice smattering of books, papers, post-its, pens, empty coffee cups growing mold, etc. This also gives you an air of eccentricity, which is always a plus for a scientist (Einstein was too busy to comb his hair, and you should be too).

2. Piles are key in my book.
  a. There should be one non-critical pile. You should peruse this pile once every few weeks when you have an odd moment, and try to make it smaller by throwing things out that are no longer relevant (expired coupons and such), or at least rotate things into a different order.
  b. Make a pile of articles and/or books you are meaning to read. I find this more effective than putting them in an electronic “to read” folder, because it’s harder to let grow ad infinium. Thus you may actually read the articles.
  c.  One pile should be devoted to time-sensitive material. Don’t forget to look through this pile daily. Try not to put your coffee cup on that pile.
  d. Never put anything away unless you wish never to see it again. Bills stuck in a drawer are a guaranteed way to bring the collection agency to your door.

Photos are great ways to keep records...if you can remember their intended purpose.
3. Post-its are awesome. Stick notes related to things you must do on the wall or on the edge of your computer monitor. It feels awesome to crumple them up and recycle them when you’ve completed the task, and in the meantime, adds to your “I’m super busy” look.

4. The inside of your wrist is a more discrete and less-likely-to-be-washed-off spot for quick notes to yourself on-the-go. Sure, you could write yourself a note on your iPhone, but really: are you going to remember to look at said electronic notes?

5. The best place for addresses, phone numbers, directions, etc. is on a random scrap of paper hidden somewhere in your “critical” pile. Definitely do not bring those things with you when you are on your way somewhere. It’s way more fun to utilize your mom (see previous post) to help you figure out where the hell you are supposed to be going when you are halfway there.
Colors add fun to tedious lab work! (Boring people might use these to differentiate samples via color)

6. Name your computer files after your mood. Aren’t you going to remember what “aaarrrrgggh! these data are driving me insane” means more readily than “data to crossdate”? Sure you are! This makes using the “find” function way more awesome, too.

7. Name your specimens in as confusing a manner as possible. For instance, make sure to use letters that sound very similar to one another, so when referring to SS-4-E and XS-4-D, no one can understand you. This makes you sound smarter.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

How to inefficiently shop for groceries

I like to go shopping without my husband, because he’s too focused. He actually wants to leave the store with the things he went in to get, with money left over. I prefer to leave the store with things I’m desperately excited to eat. Something we do multiple times a day should be enjoyable, after all.

Here is the best way to shop (assuming you are going to a large grocery store. If you are doing the whole veggie shop – bakery – deli – butcher – etc. thing, all the better):

1. Go when you are hungry. This means you will buy too much, which means you won’t have to run out to the store again for some time. You will also probably have food threatening to spoil, which will inspire you to cook, invite over friends to help eat the food, or learn preserving techniques. In the worst case, you’ll have fodder for the compost.

2. Start in the produce section. First focus on things that are locally and/or organically grown. These things taste the best, so grab as much as you want. Try to buy something you haven’t eaten before, and may hate. Avoid things totally out of season. Hothouse tomatoes taste like crap.
Even better: grow stuff in your garden. Preferably things you like to eat; probably not radishes (though they are really hard to kill, so you can feel really accomplished and then pawn them off on friends!)

3. Move to the bakery. Lift and gently squeeze each loaf (maybe using one of those bits of paper for sanitary purposes), and find one that is heavy for its size and feels soft on the inside but crunchy on the outside. If you succeed in finding a good artisanal-style loaf, buy several. You can always freeze them. Then please mail me one. The bakery bread here makes me cry.

4. Go to the cheese section. Don’t look at the prices; just buy whatever looks good. If it ends up costing you your entire paycheck, just eat pasta for a few days to make up for it. Similarly, you can mail me some cheese. Also a burrito…but that’s off topic.

Maybe skip this aisle.

5. Buy chocolate, cookies, and/or ice cream. These are essential. Actually, maybe do this before all the rest, so you don’t possibly forget.

6. Investigate the non-cheese protein options. Seitan and firm, flavored tofu are winners. Think about getting all pioneering and buy some dry beans. If you eat meat, I suppose you can buy some, but make sure it’s happy meat (pasture-raised and all that). Check your fish card and buy some sustainable fish, if you can find any. If not, tell the seafood people off, or just give them dirty looks.

7. If you feel tired, pay and leave the store now. You’ve got really all you need. But if you like, continue wandering aimlessly around looking at everything on offer and grabbing things that appeal, like pasta shaped like little flowers. Specifically hunt for jars of interesting pickled vegetables or exciting-sounding jams and spreads which you can stick in the cupboard for a rainy day. Avoid things in cans, and things to which you add water and instantly have a whole meal.

Success! You have just spent an inordinate amount of time, and possibly money, but you have purchased the very best things to put in your body. It’s totally worth it, and you can feel all self-righteous!

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Call your mom for everything

In my family, this is called “pulling a Jessica,” since it’s my standby to get through almost any situation.
My mom is the original Siri. Chances are, your mom would similarly get a kick out of you calling her to ask for such things as:

1. Where your next class is. Instead of being all organized and printing out a map of your new university campus, or embarrassing yourself by asking an upper-classman for help locating Biology 101, just have your mom logon to the university website and look at the map to guide you.

2. How to get to the Boston airport from an unknown location somewhere on Cape Cod where you’ve found yourself in the dark and rain with no street signs. Your mom can try to locate you on Google maps by your explanations of what you see. It’s cheating to use GPS, after all.

3. What you should do when you’ve gone through customs in Heathrow airport and forgot to pick up your baggage first.

4. Why you are currently driving over a bridge when you thought you were just going home from your mom’s office the way you came, and there was no water crossing on that trip.

Help! How do I get my truck out of the mud? I forgot that it doesn't have 4-wheel-drive!

5. Why there is suddenly snow on your drive from San Diego to Santa Barbara. (Hint: you forgot to turn in Los Angeles and are going over the mountains into the central Valley. You are semi-screwed.).

6. The phone number of your friend who you are supposed to be meeting but whom you cannot find.

7. What to do about the fact that you appear to have dengue fever and there is no qualified non-drunk doctor on the island to assess your % likelihood of dying without intervention.

8. Whether it’s normal that your hand/eye/head/etc. is swollen/blue/red-speckled/etc. or if you need to go to the hospital. (It helps that my mom works with a few MDs, who now know my entire medical history based on these phone calls).

Some of these things could be solved independently by nifty things like GPS or googling the answers yourself, but that’s not nearly as fun.

My mom, reading up on answers to questions I might call and ask her at any moment.

Friday, 20 April 2012

How to construct stuff like a champ

--> 1. Never use the right tools. This will lend a much larger sense of accomplishment when the task is completed. For instance, use the file bit on your nail clippers to shape a penny into a slot-head screwdriver, rather than going out and buying an actual screwdriver. Sure, you won’t get as much leverage and it will take much longer, but then you can stick your penny-screwdriver in your wallet and be ready for anything.

2. Never measure anything. This will allow your creations to have their own unique character. Who wants a perfectly square bookcase? That’s boring!

3. Use whatever you have around the house, along with the cheapest accoutrement you can find, to accomplish your task. For instance, I could have purchased a plastic mobile hanger that clamps onto my baby’s crib for $10 online. Instead, I spent $4.90 at the hardware store to buy plastic clamps and metal 90-degree angle thingies. Then I took apart the broken clothes-drying rack sitting in my laundry room and built something way more home-made!
4. Use ribbons or other embellishments to hide bits that look ugly, or that are not structurally sound. Please see disclaimer below.
5. After you have put together your masterpiece, leave the room quickly. If you don’t hear any crashing noises for some time, you may indeed be able to use your item! Be sure to give it at least a day, if not longer, before actual use. My mobile example was up a month ahead of my due date. Since it didn’t collapse before then, I assume it won’t fall on the baby.

Disclaimer: following these tips might lead you to create items that may collapse. Please don’t build anything requiring actual stability (like a shelf to hold your grandmother’s ashes in a breakable urn), and don’t place these items in a place where they may hurt someone if they fall apart (like above your couch).