It’s winter break now. My first semester of grad school: Complete.

I got so wrapped up in grad school that I didn’t make any posts my first semester. My apologies, dear readers: I let myself get so completely engrossed in Grad school that I didn’t have time for A. Single. Post.

‘Woah!’ you might be saying. ‘That’s so hardcore!’ What can the first semester of grad school possibly entail that she didn’t make a single post?

To give you a better idea of how ridiculously busy grad school can be, please first allow me to elaborate on the process leading UP to grad school. I’d never moved out of state as an adult, and had to move my cat and all my stuff all the way from Seattle to Boston. This entire process was about as stress-inducing as painful as being forced to listen to Nickelback – loud but low quality, acoustic Nickelback, and you have a migraine. And you just got fired. Did I mention it’s Nickelback?

The Geneva Convention is mere months away from officially declaring Forced Nickelback Listening as Inhumane Torture. (photo credit:

While still working full time at a tech job for extra monies, I had to find a place to live in Boston, without leaving Seattle. I didn’t have time or money to lurk around Boston and search leisurely for housing. I’d spent all of my savings (and then some) on grad school applications and visits, so I had to spend an inordinate amount of time writing and replying to housing ads, with the two caveats that a) my future roommates wouldn’t meet me ‘til I move there and b) I have a giant Maine Coon cat that needs his own space, because I’m allergic to other cats. Finding a place took FOREVER, but I finally found a great space with fellow rock stars. One of my new roommates is a physicist. Very metal.

Meanwhile, I also had to pack all my stuff so I could ship it via Amtrak, since I don’t own or want a car. Amtrak is also the cheapest way to send stuff, as long as you’re willing to part with all your furniture and appliances. I sure was. And I shipped all my books via USPD Media Mail, which PS, is the cheapest way to send books. Save that hard-earned cash for rock shows, my friends.

On top of my full time tech job, I was also working 10-20 hours a week in the lab so I could get all my SCIENCE ready to ship from my old lab to my new lab. This took a ridiculous amount of time. Friends stayed with me until the wee hours of the morning, helping to wrap stuff in parafilm and put labels on tubes. Much like our hero Ronnie James Dio, before his tragic death from stomach cancer, I was barely sleeping and probably looked like hell.

Because on top of all that, I also had to receive a last minute physical, acquire proof of immunizations, AND purchase things and pack a different set of clothing, food, and equipment for Burning Man, which I attended up until the day before classes started. I’m apparently too metal for grad school orientation; I was playing poker on a sunken pirate ship while my fellow students were learning about degree requirements.

I put in my last day at Giant Tech Company, then the two weeks leading up to Burning Man went like this:
– post a million Craigslist & Freecycle ads to get rid of all my unwanted appliances, furniture, books, etc. Write replies as needed.
– pack all the rest of my belongings to be ready ready to ship before Burning Man.
– for Burning Man, pack costumes, a week’s worth of food and water, and everything else one needs to survive in the hyper alkaline desert.
– get extremely angry at the nurses at New University that won’t accept the fact that MMR’s in Washington state ALWAYS INCLUDE mumps and rubella vaccines so my measles titer IS actually proof of my mumps and rubella vaccines AHH I HATE YOU I CAN TELL YOU LISTEN TO TERRIBLE COUNTRY MUSIC
– locate and send appropriate paperwork to my new school so I can, you know, get paid.
– in the lab, duplicate several hundred cultures so I could send a complete set to my new lab. This requires the following for each individual accession: autoclave pda and pour plates and slants, label plates, use sterile technique to transfer a plug of the culture from slants to plates, parafilm, wait 3-5 days, label slants, make duplicates in slants, parafilm, wait 3-5 days, put in fridge, remove labels on old tubes, autoclave old plates and tubes, wash out tubes, repeat.
– try to spend as much time as possible with all my friends that I was leaving behind. The best theme of the moving away parties was King Kong Ping Pong Ding Dong Ching Chong Ling Long Ting Tong Singalong, because that’s just how I roll.
– freak the hell out because I was starting grad school the day after I got back from Burning Man.

Then I went to Burning Man, and it was amazing, and I got to camp within viewing distance of Death Guild’s Thunderdome:

Two Men Enter! One Man Leaves! (Photo credit: Don Louv)

Death Guild is clearly the most metal camp at Burning Man, and though I haven’t applied to be in their camp yet I figure it’s probably only a matter of time. I was part of a Barbershop Quartet of Quartets the year before that performed “Take Me Out to the Death Guild.” They loved it so much, THEY gave US free beer.

When you finally get to the front of the line, they strap you into a bungee harness and give you a padded bludgeoning stick. Last man standing wins (more or less). (Photo credit: Don Louv)

If you’re not a Burner, you should know that this is practically unheard of from Death Guild, who are the meanest, darkest bunch of Burners around. Death Guilders blatantly accept alcohol bribes from contestants that want to cut to the front of line to fight in Thunderdome. Like I said, only a matter of time.

On Sunday, the day the Temple burned, we packed up our camp so we were ready to drive out as soon as the structure fell. We drove for 17 hours back from Utah, with only one near-catastrophe when the breaks went out in the RV. I had just enough time to take my first shower in 9 days, then I grabbed my cat from my now-old house and hitched a ride to the airport for my red-eye flight to Boston.

On the way to the airport, my cat Max peed on me. Thus on the plane, I got to be the girl that still had playa in her hair and smelled like cat pee, trying desperately to shove Max in his carrier under the seat in front of me. It technically didn’t fit because I was on some cheapo airline with sub-standard seat sizes. The attendant reminded me 30 times that he wasn’t allowed out of his carrier and that the carrier had to fit under the seat, but finally noticed I had Exhausted Crazy Eyes and finally gave in, allowing the carrier to extend slightly into my feet room. I hadn’t been expecting my vet to have no openings in the last 4 days I was in town, so Max didn’t have any tranquilizers. He was upset, but surprisingly quiet, and I went to sleep.

While I slept, my restless cat had been shimmying the lock from inside his carrier.

Max sometimes expresses his displeasure by bringing giant live rats into my home. My friend’s hand for scale.

A few hours later, around 3 am, I woke up with a jolt as Max finally unzipped the lid and leaped from the carrier and into my lap. I was shocked that he had managed to actually undo the locking mechanism and pry both sides of lid-zippers open blind, from INSIDE HIS CARRIER. And so exhausted, in the dark, unable to find the light switch buttons in my cheap undersized seat, I spent upwards of 15 minutes wrestling my panicked, 17 pound cat back into his carrier.

My neighbors did not wake for this. Thankfully, no Angry Flight Attendants noticed either.

Now too paranoid to go back to sleep, I spent the rest of the flight re-reading journal articles that my new PI had written until the plane landed Tuesday morning. I took the subway to my new house, met my roommates, and spent what was technically the first day of classes buying cat food, litter box, toilet paper, me food, etc. I went to sleep on a futon that my new roommates had put out for me, since my stuff wouldn’t be there for two weeks.

Welcome to your new place. You have no furniture and only a week’s worth of clothing, but an incredible amount of unused closet space.

My first day of actual class was Wednesday, the following day. But that’s a story for tomorrow.


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