Actinometry geekiness and some deep, dark desires.

We have two lamps. These two lamps are crucial to the semiconductors project, in which we are testing how TiON will photochemically react to degrade several pollutants in water.

Now, I don’t know the technical names for these lamps, but I think one is a mercury arc lamp. It shall be known as the Trash Can Lamp, because the merry-go-round reactor is set up in a trash can with a felt covering to keep out other light. It (theoretically) has a strong ultraviolet (UV) output.

Our second lamp shall be called the Little Lamp. Its output is mostly in the visual spectrum, and we suspect very little hits the UV ranges. It’s in a cardboard box, also with a felt covering.

Actinometry is the use of chemical means to determine the intensity of a light source. Essentially, we mix up solutions (pyridine and para-nitroanisole solutions) whose rates of degradation under UV light have been studied. Then we stick a batch in with our lamps and take samples periodically for the next few hours. The samples are run through the HPLC to determine the remaining amount of pyridine for each timepoint. It should decrease.

I’ve been doing this for the past three days. (Hence the blogging increase.)

Our Trash Can Lamp, which should have been able to completely degrade the pyridine in 90 minutes, didn’t even half-life the solutions on Monday. Low intensity output, then. This means we need a new lamp, and we need to critically examine its power supply before we use it in either Jenn’s or my/P.’s experiments.

Tuesday, the Little Lamp ran our samples for five damn hours, and didn’t degrade it appreciably at all.

So yesterday I ran it for about six hours. Day three of “warm up lamp, make reaction solution, get solution in box/stirrer on/light focused, take time point 0, calculate the intervals for sample taking, read chemistry papers and blog until next time point, hoping Dr. M. doesn’t pay me a visit with actual work for me to do.” Because I’m low on mental energy for real chemistry this week. I’m apparently low on energy for math this week, too, because I basically sat through a 1.5 hour meeting with the cool Regressions Guy yesterday and stared at the backs of my hands. I don’t even know that I have the energy to do computer things this week, aside from starting my little workout blog Tuesday.

My mind is on social things and non-technical things and life things. I want to help C. do whatever it takes to make herself a little more at peace with herself and her situation, so her work will go smoother and life will be better.

I want to work on my own social situation, so I’m not so tense and pissed at home life and so that I’m not trying to take it out on the track (and my legs) every morning. This will either require a point-blank discussion or some mental restructuring on my part. The last time I tried the “mental restructuring” bit (or really, just the “keep it to myself” bit), I ended up living out of the Thorn office. I frequently find that in order for a discussion to do any good, the other person would have to change their mentality/actions, and it’s just not my place to ask that of anyone other than myself. So mental restructuring it is.

I want to get over this damnable crush so that I can stop being shy and feel comfortable entering a new friendship with no expectations other than a good, easy-going time. Because going into a relationship with crush-esque types of expectations or assumptions is bad news all around for getting things off the ground. We’re both strong-willed, determined people fully capable of reading people and situations. Should things reach a point where they could become something more than friendship, which is rather unlikely, I’m sure we’re both qualified to notice it and act on it. Until then, we have a good time.

See, now I feel settled enough to pay him a visit. This whole blog thing has its benefits.

I want to read. Not papers on photocatalysts, but Wolfram and Schilling-Estes’s book, and then Chomsky’s book, and then Pinker’s other book that I picked up.

I would like to actually stop working at 17:00 for an entire night without feeling the press of the mere handful of weeks remaining to my summer to get so many [unspecified] things done.

I would like to climb behind the wheel of a car, roll down the windows, get music going, and hit the highway–go up to whatever exit is thirty-ish miles up the highway, then come back. I want to cruise, even just to Wal-mart, with wind tickling the back of my neck and in companionable silence with some friend. Actually, I just want to fucking drive. I can run until my legs and feet are shaky and my lungs have collapsed, and it doesn’t replace the feeling of highway driving.

I want to go out and be rowdy with friends. Coffee dates with the girls seem to induce more stress than they resolve, and they’re really rather calm, mature events. I want to pile into Michael’s van with various Charlotte friends, buy doughnuts, waste gas excessively driving around town, and generally be loud and raucous and immature and tell dirty jokes and do whatever it is we do when we get together (which is what, exactly?).

I guess I feel like my summer is slipping away very, very quickly, and I have little to show for it. I knew this was a possibility with the research taking up a seven-week block of my summer, and I still signed up for it, but I’m feeling rather down anyway. I need a form of release, and, apparently, either running isn’t getting it for me, or just an hour isn’t long enough to get that release. I might try an hour and half to two hours on Saturday when I’m free to romp without a time restriction.

Things will come to a head soon, I’m sure. I will either get nasty and bitchy with someone and get my ass handed to me, I will get into a physical fight (unless Luke is up for another round, this is unlikely), I will work off my tension in some unforseeable manner, or the summer will end and school will begin.

But I do feel better just writing about it.

Is your conversation offending me? Perhaps I should speak up

(Initial note: Mae has a blog. Let it be known.)

So a recent dispute between C. and Mae has me thinking. (This is a good thing, although there may be some controversy.) Yes, another dangerous thought “thread” has forked off.

The question: should we censor the topics of discussion to avoid possibly offending a friend who refuses to speak up on her discomfort?

(And I’ll add to that that it’s even unknown whether the topic of discussion is offending the woman, or if she’s just tired of the topic being discussed. She just doesn’t speak up.)

For instance: Some woman is Catholic. Let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, that she has stereotypically “Catholic” viewpoints on things–she’s rather conservative, feels that homosexuality condemns its practitioners to hell, and holds an anti-abortion stance.

Now, should her friends avoid discussion of liberal politics, gay rights, and baby killing (I jest, I jest) in order to avoid offending her, since we know her opinions are going to be different than ours?

I’d say no. I may very well be projecting here, but I hope like hell that none of my friends would ever say, “Oh, wait. Let’s change the discussion to bunny rabbits and hot men. We know Lissa isn’t a fan of reparations, and since we are, we aren’t going to talk about it in her presence.”

I am not so easily offended. I want to be challenged. I want to hear others’ opinions on things. It gives me food for thought, even if my opinions ultimately don’t change.

And if we should hit upon a topic where even the mere mention of an opposing opinion is enough to send me into an unpleasantly incoherent tizzy, I will speak up to move conversation to something else. If I choose to sit silently and fidget in my seat, then I am accepting that the conversation will continue until those are still involved with it tire of the topic.

It is no one else’s responsibility to so carefully watch for my comfort. There is a line between making sure that, “Yes, Lissa really did want to go out to coffee tonight rather than work at home,” and, “Let’s not say anything that might go against Lissa’s current grain in thinking.” Mollycoddling, while cute evidence of a mother instinct, I suppose, becomes tiring and wears on everyone.

Even if I don’t feel like being challenged on a particular issue, again, it is my responsibility to either speak up or wait out the conversation.

But then again, I am most likely projecting. Maybe we should watch out for any possible differences in opinion and steer clear of those to avoid potential conflict between friends. See all those “possible”s and “potential”s? If you don’t speak up, no one knows, and everyone is walking on eggshells to avoid deep, thought-provoking discussion. This leaves conversation to mundane topics, and that is one thing that makes my bosom heave with sighs of boredom.

This woman could, however, simply be tired of all the political talk at the coffee table. I know I am. But since C. and Jenn derive pleasure from their conversation, and I don’t have anything better to talk about, I sit and listen, or stare into my drink. I choose not to speak up and to let conversation flow.

Maybe this is a matter of “the desires of the many”. If two out of three people are having a good conversation, it’s (usually) no strain on me to let them get that out, and to sit that round out, for lack of a better phrase. The purpose of the social outings in question is, after all, to relieve some stress. So let them relieve it.

Steve Pinker’s Words and Rules

In Words and Rules, Steven Pinker provides a well-rounded glimpse into linguistics, history of languages, language families, childhood speech errors, neural networks, and various other related topics through the examination of regular and irregular verbs.

What one might consider a rather boring topic on the surface (“j’ai, tu as, il/elle/on a…”, anyone?) is presented in such a manner as to make reading the same lists of the families of irregular verbs (in four languages, no less) several times bearable and even interesting. I found my interests leaning towards the history of languages and language families discussed throughout the first five or six chapters and my attention waning on the last two chapters, “The Black Box” (modern brain imagery techniques) and “A Digital Mind in an Analog world”, but this book was an interesting, fast/easy read that, if nothing else, provided a stepping stone for my budding interest in linguistics. Pinker sites well and often as he touches each topic, allowing one to obtain numerous references for further reading. His writing style is light and humorous, with personal anecdotes to break the monotony of seeing the same lists of verbs (simply rearraged) repeatedly. All in all, a very good read.

What happens when all the love is gone?

One develops some damn shin splints and sore feet, that’s what.

I need new shoes. Even walking, I can feel that the cushioning is gone in the toe/ball of the foot section of these, and my feet are starting to stay sore all day after my runs. They’re just cheap Saucony Grid Auras, but they’ve served me well for over three hundred miles. I need to acquire another pair, is all.

This morning, I walked 3.5 mi at a 15:17 pace on the track. I even remembered to reverse direction today so that I’m going clockwise. And I managed to keep count of laps.

I’m starting to wonder if there’s not some validity to the idea that treadmills (even set on 2% inclines) are somewhat less than adequate for running/walking because the motor does much/some of the “propelling” for you. For instance, on a treadmill, I can walk at a good 14:00-ish pace for over an hour, while my 15:17 pace today felt just as tiring. Likewise with running times/speeds, although I prefer road/track running to treadmill running because I can more easily obey what feels to be my “correct” stride length.

Now, were I doing exclusively treadmill, the difference wouldn’t matter because all of my progress would be “standardized”, if you will, to treadmill running. But for me to switch up treadmill work (hopefully only in the cooler months) with track/road work (as often as possible) will make tracking progress a little more difficult.

Just a stroll with a side of iron

I suppose another challenge in this blog will be to keep the titles interesting. How many ways can I label a weight-lifting workout or a run?

I got a half-mile into my first interval yesterday morning and felt a splint-like twinge in my left leg. Given that yesterday was my sixth day in a row of running, with two of those days being my rougher “weekend runs”, I decided to walk. I’d rather miss a day (or even the rest of the week) in running than to miss two weeks from splints or even longer if I let it compound into something more serious. So a day or two of walking is in order. I may even (*gasp*) sleep in one day, but I suspect that would do nothing other than make me lazy about getting at the ass-crack of dawn.

First mile completed in 13:30 (walking first and last quarter mile). Compare to Monday’s 11:13 (ran last 0.75 mi). Total distance: 4.25 mi.

Presently, I’m taking an iron supplement on top of multi-vitamin and vitamin C. It’s hard to say how evergy levels are doing, since I’m taking the extra iron to counteract a temporary iron loss and a [corresponding?] drop in energy. Early morning wake ups are doable, running is doable and with decent vigor, pleasant social interactions with my roommate are not. Could also be the job getting me down.

I always have trouble walking, even when I know I need to not run. I have all this energy, even at 05:30 and when it’s cold by my standards, and even though I know my hips will be hurting after an hour if I walk at a heart-rate raising clip. I still want to run.

Yesterday evening was weight-lifting. Using school machines, the “weights” are completely off what I expect them to be. Some of the machines are hella heavy in and of themselves, and others seem to lie outright about the weight being lifted over the pulleys, giving deceptively large poundage.

Bench: 15 pounds (6.80 kg), 1 set to failure, 10 reps
Lat pulldown: 108 pounds (49.0 kg), 1 set, 16+ reps
Shoulder press: 10 pounds (4.54 kg), 1 set to failure, 8 reps
Tricep pushdown: 48 pounds (21.8 kg), 1 set to failure, 8 reps

My current goal in weight-lifting is not particularly to build muscle mass–I have sufficient bulk (and muscle), thank you, and with my “mini endurance” running, I would be tearing myself up in protein requirements to come out on the plus side of that equation. Rather, I’m seeking simply to maintain muscle mass (to counteract the effect of the “mini endurance”) and build strength by doing a standard [to me] strength-building workout and increasing protein intake from old sub-healthy amounts to what a light meat-eater would have normally.

(Explanation of “mini endurance” running: I’ve read that anything over about a half-hour a day, three times a week is for more than simply staying [or even getting] in shape. Apparently, running an hour or more as standard procedure is enough to be considered “endurance”. My distances are low, but I am doing intervals for the entire hour that I can get in. Hence my term “mini endurance”–I don’t think I’m qualified to call myself an endurance runner yet, by any means. I’m getting there, though.)

Another challenge, I suppose, will be to kill the non-sequiturs and put in transitions between ideas.