Friday, December 4, 2009
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
- I want to live where I'll be happy, near home. I want to have mountains and ocean and sun and rain and snow and feel like I have the conveniences of civilization without living anywhere near a mega-city. Professors that are just starting out need to be free to move to the best job, not the best location, and PhD positions with private industry invariably put you in mega-cities.
- I have no desire to be a book-keeper or accountant, especially one with no training. It's amazing that without financial training professors are expected to juggle budgets, manage grant money, and find ways to magically make money appear and disappear in different places so that labs can have a functioning staff and equipment.
- I want to be happy. It's sad and hard to admit but I don't think many professors I know are very happy. I know a lot of it is connected to current budget crises and the added stress of pay cuts and a uncertain future for the University. I think they are frustrated and unhappy, and kind of stuck because of the massive investment they've made too their programs. It's a lot like the stress of being a small business owner without having much control over improving the situation.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Friday, October 9, 2009
Friday, July 31, 2009
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
I know every graduate students main concern with cooking "from scratch" and generally eating well must be the time it takes, followed by the cost. I thought it would take me too much time to prepare meals if I removed all processed foods from the grocery list, but to my surprise even when cooking more elaborate meals from scratch on the weekend it rarely takes me more than an hour from start of cooking, to meals eaten and dishes washed. Many days it's a lot less time because I incorporate left over side dishes (or main dishes) into the meal, which shortens prep time. And there are always lots of leftovers for tomorrows lunch box, eliminating all top ramen consumption.
Three investments that save lot of time and money, if you can afford them:
1. Crock pot.
How to use: add meat or veggies or beans, add seasonings and water, turn on and ignore for hours. Beans are the ultimate graduate student food. I know that amanda has mentioned it over at A Lady Scientist but it can always be said again. Beans are an excellent food source and can be purchased very cheaply from a number of places including in bulk at many grocery stores. You can't beat the crock pot for good bean soup (don't forget the split peas if you like that creamy stew texture.) Beyond the beans, start buying meat whole when possible (ie buy the whole chicken, not chicken breast one night and drumsticks 3 nights later) and toss all the bones and leftovers bits in the crock pot with a wedge of onion and few bay leaves and a few hours later you've go the start of a really great soup. A post doc in my lab told me you can also use your crock pot to make to-die-for hot breakfast cereal (start it before you go to bed, eat in morning). I tried this last week and it rocks!
2. Bread Maker.
How to use: Toss in all ingredients (maker usually has it's own specific order for adding these) hit the start button and ignore until the smell of fresh baked bread becomes distracting. A lot of people would argue that bread is so cheap that this is pointless. I disagree. I grew up strong and healthy on homemade bread and you really can't beat whole grain bread with no preservatives for taste and healthiness. Humans have survived on bread longer than any of us can remember, and it wasn't until modern food industry pumped it full of preservatives and removed all the healthy benefits of whole grain that we started thinking bread was bad for you. I just got a new bread maker to replace the used one I wore out (after 9 years!) and haven't calculated the cost of any of the new recipes I've been trying, but I did once calculate the cost for a rye loaf I used to make all the time. It cost $0.40 to make a large loaf of rye bread, 40 cents! and took me 2-3 mins to set up and toss the ingredients in. I don't know of any place you can buy good rye bread that cheap!
How to use: Keep as full as possible for energy savings. Avoid cheap to free ancient models advertised in the paper because your electric bills will sky rocket! We have a small chest freezer (5.3 cu ft.) and we keep it full year round. This is especially good for meat-eaters, and enables you to buy large quantities of meat from local farmers when it's in season, then enjoy for months to come. If you don't have any farmer friends you can buy from, go to the local farmers market and meet them. I can tell you that the meat you can buy at the local grocery is not the same in taste or healthiness. I would categorize a lot of meat for sale at our local chain grocery as processed food, which doesn't fit the food culture I'm adopting. But if you're of the vegetarian persuasion, fill it with the over abundance of summer harvest. Cooked squash can be scooped into a ziplock freezer bag and frozen flat, same goes for fresh summer salsa, steamed spinach, and a number of other items. And if you like to forage (like me) try the same trick with steamed nettles or field greens, acorns can also be frozen whole for later processing.
Monday, April 13, 2009
- Read first. Start reading your first day and never stop.
- Go by the guidelines. Get the graduate school guidelines for thesis format your first week (and read them thoroughly)
- Write early. Begin writing your thesis before the end of the 3rd month (even if it's just outlining research questions and methods)
- Make deadlines. After you've gotten into the writing groove (say 4-5 months into your degree) start making yourself deadlines for chapter drafts (and hold yourself to them even if it means putting in extra hours or putting off other work).
- Edit often. Have your drafts edited by your professor as often as you can. This may be the most difficult of all due to the busy schedule of all professors. A professor should never take on so many students or extra responsibilities that they can't assist each student in thesis draft editing. Sometimes a thorough edit (by someone other than the author) is the only thing that can move a draft forward. Make it worth their time by working hard on your draft and workout the deadlines with them a head of time so that you aren't giving them a draft when they are to stressed to give it proper attention.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
A few definitions:
"Healthy diet" - for the purpose of this experiment a healthy diet will consist of whole food products prepared mostly at home (so I can be assured of the ingredients) most of the diet consisting of plants and limiting meat consumption to a side dish status.
"Satisfying" - for the purpose of this experiment I will rate how satisfying this diet is by how easy it is to ignore the grilled cheeseburger smell emanating from the fast food joint I ride past each day.
I never thought it was possible for someone like me (limited budget and over booked schedule) to change my western ways and reject the convenience culture. I do little things, like shop at the local natural foods store and the farmers market, and I've been raising my own garden since I was 19 years old, but I've never before actively tried to alter my way of eating.
Attempting to do so while I'm a graduate student seemed like a very dumb idea at first. Economics being what they are this really started as an endeavor to save money, and one of the best ways I've found to do this is buy whole foods and cook from scratch. Funny enough this is way healthier that eating top ramen everyday, and fits nicely with goals of producing (or foraging for) your own food or buying it locally. Doing this eliminates processed foods and "food-like-products" from your diet and saves a ton of money in the long run.
This is week two of the experiment, and surprisingly it hasn’t been hard to stick to. I haven’t had to commit any extra time to cooking or eating, just a little forethought. I’m much more satisfied after eating, and I haven’t been craving processed foods. The ease of this type of eating has been a real delight, and actually makes me think that changing my food culture (because that is what I feel I'm doing with this experiment) may be possible.
As an after thought…….
A few good food related things I’ve been reading lately
- Animal Vegetable Miracle – Barbara Kingsolver (book)
(An unusual book, but well written, scientific and short. Worth getting from the library.)
(Michael Pollan is always good, not so scientific in this one. But more logical than any diet, nutrition, or lifestyle book I've ever browsed. And a good motivator if that's what you need.)
- Evolution, consequences and future of plant and animal domestication - Jared Diamond (Nature article, August 2002)
(A short and fascinating article by the widely read Jared Diamond. This was assigned reading for a biotech class, and I throughly enjoyed it. I thought it complimented my other current books well, especially "In Defense of Food".)