Thursday, August 23, 2012


So I've spent a bit of today thinking about goals and drive and ambition and making the right choices in life. I have to admit I've sometimes wondered whether the career path I've set myself on is the correct one. I worry about not being able to find a job when I graduate or being stuck in academia forever. But at the same time, I'm confident that at least, going the electrical engineering route is a better choice than sticking with physics would have been... not that I have anything against that great area of study. In fact, I have quite a strong nostalgic fondness for it, and I'm very proud of my physics degree. But there's no denying that jobs in the field are few and far between, and I certainly don't see myself as the sort of physics prodigy that would rise to the top of the field of job-seekers. I always floundered when things became too abstract and theoretical, and while I enjoyed math for my part, I never quite got it in the way that I observed some of my classmates getting it. Unfortunately, I seem a bit too rooted in the world of the tangible to ever be able to fully harness math the way a good physicist (and especially a good theoretical physicist) should. So I'm going to try my hand at applied science and see if it's a better fit. So far, I am enjoying it-- but I'm still longing for the outdoors whenever I'm in the lab on a sunny, breezy summer day, inside looking out. 

The only real goals I have right now are my riding goals. I want to be the best damn amateur I can be. I have long and vivid daydreams about buying, training and selling Thoroughbreds off the track-- that's the kind of racket I want to start someday (with, hopefully, an electrical engineering job to offset any, um, “unexpected” failures in the “selling” portion of this plan). I think I've (almost) come to grips with the fact that I'm never going to be an Olympic grand prix rider. But I don't think that precludes me from being a great trainer, and that's what I plan to be!  While I do struggle to identify as a physicist or an electrical engineering student at times, I don't think I've ever doubted that I am a rider (I won't go so far as to tack "good" to the front of that just yet).  And y'know, that self-assured feeling is pretty darn sweet :)

As for the lead-up to my departure... looking forward to finishing work next week and planning to cram in as much time with Haajes, the polo horses, Garrett, Canelo and friends as I possibly can.  Five or six more hours in the day would be nice...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Mud runs and Muggles

I seem to be following an alliterative theme with my blog titles, so I figured I'd stick with it.

I forgot to do a weekend recap in my last blog post-- a key component of modern-day bloggery!  So-- to recap-- on Saturday morning I ran the inaugural Dirty Donkey Mud Run at Spring Hill with my faithful compadres Lisa Smith and Steph Rowan.  I won't lie-- I was a bit of a nervous nelly prior to starting the race, especially as I initial'ed my way down the waiver -- risk of death and serious injury, obstacles not limited to barbed wire, fire, sudden drops into water, extremely uneven terrain... yes, I had visions of myself breaking an ankle on some kind of random hillock in my path and being unable to go to Argentina. Not an attractive prospect.  However, I rallied up my courage and set out.

It was a blustery morning, quite nippy actually, but undaunted, we set off in the 11 o'clock.  Basically, the run is a 5k trek around (and up, and down, and up, and down, and up again) Spring Hill, with 13 or so obstacles in your way.  Jump off round bales into mud pit.  Over and under hurdles.  Crawl under net through mud.  Attempt to cross mud pit hanging from a series of ropes.  A truly gruesome slip and slide which incorporated icy water and a series of rocks.  A "Dumpster Dive" wherein the dumpster was filled with mud.  You see the basic premise.  And y'know... it was a blast.

Myself, Lisa and Steph following our triumphant finish!

Lisa also managed to fundraise almost $300 for MS research, so it was gettin' dirty for a good cause.  Also, free chips at the end.

A s for the Muggles part... well, I'll preface this with a disclaimer: I'm a pretty big fan of Harry Potter, and on a whim I decided to send in application to be a guest student on one of Mugglenet's Harry Potter discussion podcasts. I received a really nice e-mail reply suggesting that I might very well get the chance to do it! I'm one part nerves and one part ridiculously excited at the prospect. I'll say no more about it here.... :)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Pre-practice Pondering

Hmm, what a day thus far! It's been cooking in the Nanosystems lab today-- we're sputtering some metal contacts, three layer films so it's a bit of a puzzle to figure out the proper carousel order and what not so that everything gets deposited in the right order... fingers crossed I did it correctly... we also mixed up another batch of etchant, since odd, baffling chemistry-effects keep messing up our solution! Do I understand these chemistry effects, you ask? Absolutely not! 

In other news, I have polo practice tonight, which I'm quite excited about. I felt like I had a good game on Sunday, but nothing really came of it! I'd like to score some goals before I leave for Argentina, to get a little confidence boost. I can't believe that in two weeks I'll be in Buenos Aires... when I think of it I get a little knock-kneed, so best to concentrate on the formalities for now! I still have a week and a half of work to get through, which involves compiling our findings from over the past two months and hopefully (hopefully!!) finding a perfectly Ohmic and agreeable metal contact to GaN. Fingers crossed... 

Canelo's family left this morning to return to Mexico. It's always sad to see them go, and I'm hoping that they'll be back next year. It's so bizarre to think that there's really only three weeks left in polo season. Where does the time go? Seriously. Last week it was early April and I was lunging Haajes in the pasture... and suddenly it's the end of August and there's a nip in the air in the mornings!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Pondering packing

Ah. So T-minus two weeks, three days... I've been scrabbling around trying to make preparations while simultaneously trying to cram in as much stuff at home as possible. For one thing, I need to be prepared to start at the University of Manitoba when I get back, so even though getting back to school is pretty far from the forefront of my mind, I've really got to force myself to organize some of those details before I head off. At least I've got registration out of the way; I registered for my first three graduate courses on Tuesday. Materials Characterization, Analysis of Electronic Materials and Microelectronic Fabrication & High-Voltage Technology. Goes down smooth, doesn't it, the list? Like cream soda. 
Though actually, I'm downright nervous about facing my first semester in Electrical Eng. I feel a bit like an imposter putzing around the lab. I've really got to make sure I take along some reading materials to Argentina and do a bit of self-directed study. No excuses... though I'm sure rousting up the incentive will be a challenge.
As for preparing for my three-month sojourn... I've been trying to make a list of necessary items to take along, and as expected, I've been royally useless at it. I keep forgetting key things (contact solution, soap) and adding on bizarre extraneous details. I'm certainly well set up when it comes to my riding gear, though. I may have to spring for another pair of breeches, however... my secondhand Ariat ones decided to completely disintegrate on Tuesday, and I just tossed them-- they never fit properly anyway, and had about four separate holes, which seems to indicate that more are likely to appear! The only other necessary purchase is going to be a good raincoat-- from the sounds of the current weather down there, I will need it quite desperately! Though hoping the weather may take a turn for the better.

Speaking of weather, it'll be so odd to miss the first snowfall. I don't think I've ever missed it, my whole life... autumn and early winter are definitely two of my favourite seasons, but not favourite enough to outweigh my excitement at heading somewhere that will be warming whilst Winnipeg is cooling...

The other (crucial) component to my packing needs will be which books I want to take. They need to fulfil the requirements of being light, compact, enjoyable and lengthy enough to sustain me. I was pondering re-reading ASOIAF... but we shall see! 
Anyway, I suppose I should get back to sifting through the literature hunting down potential ohmic contacts...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Some introspective stuff, so I start off strong

I do have a tendency to start these blogs and then let my posts get fewer and farther between, and also shorter and vaguer, until they're something like "Feb. 12/2007.  It's not really true, is it?  Exhausted" and I expect myself to remember what the hell I was on about.  It probably seemed like a big deal at the time.

Anyway, the gist and thrust of this blog is that I'll be heading to Argentina (for three months-- "three" was taken on blogspot and I had to make do with the numeral, which looks kinda tacky but whatchagonnado, if I was more creative I'd have had a better blog name from the getgo).  I'll be working at this gorgeous showjumping training facility outside of Buenos Aires called Rancho Pampa, and I'm equal parts nervy and thrilled.  I leave in a little under three weeks, but I figured I should get this blog habit going.  I'll start off with some self-involved whining.

Lately all I've been feeling is a series of emotional cliches. The funny thing is, I know this-- or at least, I recognize it-- but I can't seem to stop it. I've been roiling around in an angsty fog of malcontent and restlessness, and while I am welcoming the chance to combat it with my upcoming trip, I'm also terrified that I'll arrive and all the discomforts of being away from home will make my resolution dissolve and my heart long for the familiar and staid old things I left behind. And that my family and friends will console me but over my shoulder give each other small, knowing smiles, cause I was just doing the cliched young adult thing-- that is, feeling dissatisfied and setting out only to realize that all I ever wanted was at home, yadda yadda. But I guess I should just accept this risk as part of the cycle.

It's quite scary, really, the future. Because I sometimes feel, and have often in the past felt, that I'm merely observing the future from some point in the past, like a projection of what might possibly happen, and that if it should start to chafe or alarm I can spring back to that point and make another decision. But that's not the case, and I guess all these decisions I'm making are leading up to something. Probably more decisions to be made.

Is it equally cliched to feel simultaneously envious and panicky at the choices and paths of others? Because while I flounder around caught in between fearful dependence and a rebellious wanderlust, I'm watching my friends make mature adult decisions and get closer and closer to real, independent adulthood. They're buying houses and embarking on careers (not jobs) but more than that, it's all natural for them, and I can already see how some of them are the people they're going to be-- good people, strong people with a strong sense of self and confidence in their life-plan, or at least their life-path. And here I sit, with my $1000-a-month internship which should nicely transition into my $0-a-month working studentship, with the potential of a career and a house at least two years away-- if I'm lucky. So on that side of the coin I feel woefully stunted and childlike, all wayward and misunderstood and... I dunno... floating about grasping at straws. But on the flip side (to actually bring a metaphor to completion here) I feel epic relief that it's not me yet, that I still have time to just be a rider, to travel a bit maybe, to decide how I'm going to identify. To pursue my passion and learn what I want so badly to learn.  Because I can't keep on with this shuffling, staggering bit of juggling I've been attempting the past few years. I feel like a horseback rider and not much else. I'm happily delving into literature on MOSFETs and chemical vapour deposition, but am I ever going to smile broadly at someone, shake a hand and introduce myself as an electrical engineer (specializing in microfabrication and nanosystems research)? Maybe. I can't see myself with the confidence. But I can sure admire it in others.

Still. I don't want a house, not yet. I don't even want a career. I'm so scared of stagnation that I've made it preferable to be frantically treading water, expending energy and not getting anywhere. I never thought I'd be this kind of person. When my friends talk about the future I feel myself get all clammy and frantic, stretching my neck like I'm trying to break the surface of some inexorably encroaching wave of Adulthood.

Honestly, I think what I need is a Rest. And by a rest I mean I need to disassociate with all these stresses and do some repetitive physical labour that will let me collapse into bed at night without the opportunity for much thinking. Thinking doesn't seem to be quite the ticket for me right now.

And in an attempt to mollify my growing suspicion that this post was entirely and inherently selfish, here's an excellent website to explore: It makes me somewhat sad that we don't really write letters anymore in the way that we used to. (I mean humanity of course, not me, I may never have written a real letter in my life)-- not because I think they encouraged better writing or any of that nonsense, but because it seems that they left a better legacy than e-mail or any of this other modern stuff. If someone penned me a beautiful and poignant email (and I've had some good ones from friends in the past that qualify) it'd touch my heart and affect my life and everything, but maybe no one else would be able to enjoy it. And if I suddenly died and my inbox was left littered with correspondences to and from people I loved, I'd want the general public to be able to read them (this is all based under the assumption that I become some kind of Noteworthy Person-- or, better yet, a close friend of mine does, and in their biography I'll have a small epistolary role as a sage advice-giver or calming shoulder of support during their inevitable struggles on the way to glory), But who would be able to access all these nuggets of wisdom? No-one knows my email password (to the best of my knowledge). Perhaps I should impart it to someone, in secret, in case this happens. To all of you who keep up a lively and pithy conversation over email with people in your lives-- tell someone trustworthy your password, so that we can compile those emails into a book when you inevitably become famous for athletics or politics or literature, or maybe science (but it'd have to be darn good science to warrant a really in-depth biography that'll pique the interest of the masses. I'm just saying.)

Anyway, reading this over is making me feel slightly ill, so I'll sign off now.  I expect my next post should be more along the lines of "which of these sweaters should I take? Pros/cons plz" which will be infinitely more useful to me