Life of Megan

Monday, January 31, 2005

From skiing to physical therapy

Just to clear things up, the physical therapy was not a result of a bad skiing experience. It just so happens that I went cross-country skiing yesterday and then went to physical therapy (PT) today.

Anyhow, Sunday, Jud and I went cross-country (Nordic) skiing at Greek Peak, which is only about 20 minutes from Ithaca. It was an interesting experience. The skis themselves are really long, and the boots are much more like normal boots than boots for downhill skiing. The actual motion of skiing is just like the Nordic Track machine. You sort of walk/skate in the skis while swinging your arms. I don't think I ever did figure out how to use the poles effectively, but Jud looked like he knew what he was doing. The most difficult thing about cross-country skiing is maneuvering on hills. If you don't use the poles effectively, you end up nordic-tracking for a while, just as if you were on a machine. Because the skis are so long, it's difficult to turn when you are going down hill, and you generally break/turn with the inside edge of the skis instead of the outside edge. I think I am more sore today than I would have been if I'd gone downhill skiing, but I am significantly less bruised. I did manage to fall so that my knee hit the edge of both skis, but it was the right (noninjured) knee, so no major complaints here, except for the bruise I keep forgetting I have.

The big experience today was visiting the physical therapist for my ITBS. I learned a few stretching and strengthening techniques but spent most of the time walking around, standing barefoot, standing in my orthotics, and standing in my shoes with the orthotics inserted. My feet were examined from all angles. I am glad they are not as blistery as normal. Anyhow, it seems that my orthotics aren't quite sturdy enough, so I will be getting new ones. At least this time the insurance covers it. It doesn't seem I'll be allowed to run in the near future, but I am on the road to recovery. It looks like I'll be spending a lot of time in the pool.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

A post about nothing

Jud's roommate Mike came back from Winter Break with Seinfeld, vol. 1 & 2, so we've been watching a bunch of the classics when we have nothing better to do. Some of these episodes never seem to air on TV in reruns, so I'm seeing them for the first time, and it's a side-splitting experience.

Anyhow, Jud and I were at the grocery store looking for doughnuts to have as dessert last night, and the grocery store was strangely empty. There weren't any good doughnut flavors, and we were arguing about whether tiramisu or eclairs would taste better. Then we saw it, resting proudly on a table near the strange Jewish deli section that features a variety of dried fish: Babka. We've all seen the appropriate Seinfeld; Jerry and Elaine fight the bakery lines trying to pick up a Babka as a gift to the host on their way to a party. Jerry goes on and on about the beauty of the black-and-white cookie, only to become sick (for the first time in seven years) as a result. When their number is finally called, the woman in front of them has gotten the last chocolate (or cinnamon) Babka, and they're left with the inferior cake. In the meantime, George is proud of a Gore-Tex jacket.

Clearly, Jud and I had to buy a Babka. We couldn't remember whether cinnamon or chocolate was the preferred flavor, so we went with chocolate. We planned to watch the episode while eating the cake. Sadly, the Babka episode was not featured in the first three seasons of Seinfeld. We watched an episode called "The Set-Up" instead. It was hilarious, and the Babka was delicious. No wonder Jerry and Elaine were willing to go through so much for a little cake.

Friday, January 28, 2005


Jud and I were arguing about whether a self-balancing unicycle is really a unicycle, and it led to our looking up the definitions of unicycle and bicycle on (Hey, we're nerds; what can I say?) It turns out that the definition of bicycle is quite specific:
A vehicle consisting of a light frame mounted on two wire-spoked wheels one behind the other and having a seat, handlebars for steering, brakes, and two pedals or a small motor by which it is driven.
Go figure!

I want my Jetson car!

Yesterday, I shoveled and kicked and picked at ice for forty minutes trying to free my car, which I had been forced to park in a snowy spot on a downward slope a few days earlier. The air was really dry, so my asthma was bad, and I ended up calling Jud to have him pick me up. I felt like a complete failure, but I was determined not to let the snow beat me the next time.

Today, I went home early to attack the snow. This time I had remembered to stock my bags of salt at my apartment (they had been rather useless in Jud's car's trunk), and it was still light out. I worked for an hour. It was too cold for the salt to help much, but it did seem to give me some much needed traction. Finally, some guy came out and pushed while I slammed it into reverse, and we got me free.

I suppose I'll improve as I park more often in snow (or at least learn to shovel immediately). In the meantime, I want my flying-saucer car! We'd only have to dig out three small points, and we'd never have to worry about whether the roads had been plowed and salted. The engineers of the 60's and 70's have completely failed us. ><

At least several R&D divisions are working on this project now.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Cornell's biggest class

I can't stand big classes, and I don't handle crowds well. So what was I doing on Wedesday afternoon, fighting for a seat in the balcony of a large auditorium to attend a two-hour undergraduate course with 700 other frustrated, rapidly overheating students? I was eagerly anticipating the first lecture in what has long been Cornell's most popular course: Introduction to Wine. This is a course that is almost impossible for most people to join, just because their pre-registration date falls too late in the proceedings. This is a class where you are marked early if you have to leave early to go to the bathroom and where you are put into a "penalty box" if you arrive a few minutes late. This is a class that includes tastings of more than 70 wines.

At this point, I think 90% of people who may ever read this post understand completely why I would bother with this course but would, nonetheless, be happy to know that it's pass/fail only.

But apparently, as I learned Wednesday, 39% of American adults (over 21) don't drink alcohol at all. So here are some of the reasons I have for taking the course that have nothing to do with free (and mandatory) alcoholic consumption in the middle of a college class:

  1. I enjoy wine and want to know more about it.

  2. I want to be able to distinguish flavors among wines.

  3. I want to confirm that wine experts do admit that wine does not go well with all foods.

  4. I want to learn to appreciate white wine.

  5. I want to get the most bang for the buck.

  6. I want to say I've passed one of the many rites of passage for Cornell grad students.

  7. I want to appear calm and super-smart if I ever have to meet with government officials over dinner.

I loved the first course meeting. The professor is energetic and entertaining ("Are there any of you who have never had a sip of alcohol? Come on, now; we need your seats!") We watched a video that involved both a Swiss sommelier ("Now, the narrator of this film is Swiss, and what that should tell you right away is that he will be entertaining . . .") and Whoopie Goldberg. Our $30 lab fee bought us not only samples of more than 70 wines but also a "wine kit" consisting of three small wine glasses that say "Cornell wine expert" encased by foam in a sturdy plastic box. Our textbook is "Wine for Dummies." They promised to try to find seats for all the lefties who requested them. What more could you want?!

Well, that's all I have to say about wine at this time. Needless to say, it looks like it'll be an interesting semester for me.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Classes started today

Well, my spring semester started today at 8:40 when I stepped into my first class of the new year. Maybe I'm a big geek, but through all these years of school, I've always had the same feelings at the beginning of new classes. It's a strange mix of anticipation and anxiety. Will my prof be nice? Will the course be useful? Make sense? Be labor intensive? Will I make new friends? My mom must have taught me well because even today I worry about looking nice for the first day back. I was wearing a nice red sweater.

The first class of the day was "kinetics, diffusion, and phase transformations." The professor seems hard but friendly, but, over all, the class scared me. We'll be having weekly quizzes and homework assignments. This is good for tracking progress but can cause problems when research is supposed to be the main emphasis. The scariest part is that some of the classes will last from 8:00am - 10:00am because our professor will be missing several lectures. Why can't professors find substitute teachers? When all your lecture notes are already available, why can't the TA read them to the class?

Later I headed off to "solid mechanics II". This seems like it'll be my "easy" class and my "fun" class, to the extent that graduate level classes can be either "easy" or "fun." Solid Mechanics is handled by the theoretical and applied mechanics department. Most of the profs in that department look like they're runners. We learned about how human bones are tricky materials to analyze in the context of solid mechanics and spent some time with good old Saint Venant.

I was supposed to have "computational materials science" later in the day, but, after waiting around for 25 minutes, we figured out the prof wasn't going to show. We tried him in his office. He wasn't there. Then it turned out that the MSE website said the course isn't offered this semester. I emailed the prof anyhow. The class is available. He was in Binghamton for a meeting and had apparently left a note.

I may try out computational physics, too, but taking four classes is suicidal.

Anyhow, so far, so good. At least I don't have the same sense of doom I had last semester. :-)

Sunday, January 23, 2005

The flip side of dead bowls

At the beginning of the year, I joined a dead bowl. You pay $20 to pick 20 people (plus the Pope) who you think will die this year. Johnny Carson died today. He was not on my list, and now four people are winning the bowl. Many people would say that it's wrong to hope certain people will die within a calendar year, but there is a flip side. Sure, I'd be pleased if Kirk Douglas finally kicked the bucket, but I am now mourning the loss of Johnny Carson. I really thought he had several years left.

Saturday, January 22, 2005


It has been snowing for more than 12 hours now without a single break. Sure, the snow has been light at times, but it's an impressive sight none the less. It has been so cold that it's coming down in individual flakes, quickly, so peering out the window, you see what appears to be a steady stream of white rain. It's a cruel paradox. The ski conditions are perfect, but it is just too cold to ski. If it were warmer, the snow wouldn't be as good. I guess it really doesn't matter because I'm sure skiing would inflame my iliotibial band even more, but you can't really look outside without wanting to play. I don't really know how much snow we've gotten because they keep plowing the roads, so you see either an inch or several feet when you go out. I think we have more than a foot in the untouched fields nearby, but I don't really want to test it. Running would have been so peaceful today. I wish I could go. My leg still hurts though. I've apparently developed a severe case. At least I can still go swimming.

Yesterday, we (Jud, Isabelle, and I) decided we wanted to know how fast water would freeze outside. It was -11 deg F at the time. I had some Gatorade, and I wanted to include it in the experiment. We had two identical plastic Clemson mugs (souvenirs from old football games) to use as containers. We put a cup of tap water in one and a cup of Gatorade in the other. We left the cups outside and checked them once every 10 minutes or so. The water formed a thin film of ice after around 40 minutes. We missed the 50 minute mark. After an hour, we brought the cups back in. Both the water and Gatorade had formed slushy consistencies and had thin layers of ice at the top and along the sides of the cup. The Gatorade had slightly less ice, but the difference was negligible for all intents and purposes. I guess if I do a long run in the cold, I can't necessarily rely on my Gatorade. At least I'll know it's cold.

Anyhow, the snow is supposed to continue until tomorrow afternoon, with total accumulations of 10-16 inches. It's a good thing our town has plenty of snow plows!

Friday, January 21, 2005


I thought I should include a photo or two of beautiful Ithaca, NY, so here goes:

Lake Cayuga, as seen from Taughannock Falls.

Looking down on Taughannock Falls.

One more lovely shot of Ithaca.

Stupid legs

Well, I ran the Phoenix Rock'n'Roll half-marathon back on the 9th, and I have been in pain ever since. Last year, I developed ITBS (iliotibial band syndrome) after running my first (and so-far only) marathon just over a year ago. Back then, I saw a doctor, did some PT, and got better in short order. Grad school knocked me off my running a bit, but I maintained a decent base and was able to build for the HM properly (meaning I increased mileage by no more than 10% per week). I felt great. But the long port-a-potty lines put me off my "mental game" before the race, and I forgot my all important ITBS compression band, which applies pressure to the ITB so that it does not rub against my knee and irritate things.

I have been hurting since, especially after a 7-mile run last week. I finally saw the doctor yesterday and am in line for 12 PT sessions, which start next week. I think I should be good for the Country Music Marathon (Nashville) on Apr. 30, but I just have to take things slowly for now. It's killing me because despite the frigid temps, I really want to be out there. The running bug bit me hard back in November. :-(

Thursday, January 13, 2005

First Entry

Well, this is my brave new endeavor to keep some sort of journal. Hello, world; here I come! Well, I should get back to work, so I'll write more later.