Monday, May 23, 2011

Workin' on a weeknight!

A monday evening post, since I am doomed to be up late working on a country report with the kid… I was planning on writing a post about about how people are herd animals, but that may have to wait, because I have to give thanks to my friend fairbetty, who has graciously mentioned my blog on her far superior one…I am soo flattered, I am not sure what to do, but I have heard that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, so I will imitate her last post with

7 things you don’t know about me!

1.       I am claustrophobic. Probably not exceedingly compatible with synchrotron work, but I really didn’t realize I was claustrophobic until I worked on the beamline.  I just thought I was American, with a really large personal bubble…
2.       I love sunrises, even if I don’t love getting up for them. The hush of the world awaking, followed by the morning avian serenade/cacophony always makes my early horse show morning.
3.       Once on a family vacation, I beat all my uncles and my dad at poker, deftly lightening their load of quarters. They never played with me again…
4.       I made college freshmen cry when I was the General Chem Head TA.  The waitlist numbering system was  a personal god to the froshies, but I was told it was not valid by the Chem department. And so I dispensed valuble lab spots by chance…ignoring sad stories.
5.       I have a hard time eating fruit. I had a babysitter when I was young who would force me to eat fruit after I had finished my packed lunch. I would plead with her that I was full, and she would keep shoving the fruit at me. Now as an adult, I struggle to enjoy fruits, and I have gotten better- I ate grapes and an apple the other day!
6.       I have started a couple of novels that I keep thinking that I might finish someday…
7.       I love speed (ok, you might have guessed that).

I promise, that poeple-as-herd-animals post is coming up!

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Calloway Chronicles

My most senior horse is 25. His name is Calloway, and he is quite infamous in our area for being an outright bastard when he was a school horse.  We met when I was leasing a suddenly lame horse at the university equestrian center, and I was offered  a lease on Calloway in exchange. The director asked me “How are you with bucking horses?” It was an ominous opening,  I answered with “I’m pretty good.” Luckily I wasn’t lying.
Calloway had developed a “fun” habit of jumping a fence, and while the rider was still out of the saddle for landing, he would lurch to the left and buck violently, which would neatly launch the rider skyward. He would follow these acrobatic feats with a victory gallop lap around the arena, before letting himself get caught.  I was informed of this right before my first jumping lesson on him. The challenge was set.
My instructor had set a fence of negligible height, followed one stride later by something slightly more impressive. The plan was to get him over the first fence, keep him straight , get over the second one and turn right as hard as I could before he could put his evil plan into action.  So off to the trot we went, approaching the miniature fence  on an arrow-straight trajectory.  He launched from a long spot, I stayed tight in the tack. We landed, I felt his right side tense and lean left, I sat and reeled him back straight to the next fence. He grunted, launched over the second fence, and in the air, I felt him start to flex left. We landed, I sat down as gently and quickly as possible, and he lurched left again. And he was denied again.  I assumed we had settled who was boss.  I had no idea that was just the warm up.
The next few weeks were fairly innocuous. I rode him, I jumped him, and we had no real problems. Until the evening lesson.  The evening lesson with the course. The course with the *duh duh duh* diagonal line.  It looked like a simple 18” vertical then five strides to a 2’oxer. No big deal for a 16.3hh thoroughbred who had previously been an expensive hunter, right? We approached the first fence with a verve that resembled a near-critical nuclear reaction. Took the normal long spot, then Cal leapt forward and bucked. I suddenly found myself without stirrups. Not one to give up, I pushed him on to the second fence; realistically, though at the light speed we were now hurtling along at, the second fence came up awfully quickly. After landing the second fence, Cal bucked again, completely removing the reins from my hands.  I was atop a madly galloping horse without any control, and I was not jumping off at this point.  As Cal began to embark on a premature victory lap, I reached down his neck, and I grasped for his windpipe. And I squeezed. At this time in my life, I had fake nails. I used them, and I shouted in his ear “Ho!”
We stopped, I won. He never behaved that badly again. We embarked on a relationship based on mutual trust after that day- I got rid of my fake nails, and he got rid of a crappy attitude.  We showed and worked well together.  For other people, however, he was still considered a liability for the university, so eventually I adopted him (well, technically, my boyfriend adopted him, but that is another story) and he began his second life at 21.  His transition from ring hunter to dressage horse is certainly enough for another blog.  And his current life, yet another.  To be continued!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

New Rule: Nobody Leaves!

A couple weeks back, I was using a a new and different beamline. It was quite the fantastic adventure- familiar in some ways, but yet exotic and challenging. It had been a long day- it had been “take your Child to work day,” so of course I spent all day keeping kids from hurting themselves with dry ice. Then I started on a benchmarking-type experiment.  I had been working with the station scientist, and we had gotten the experiment running, and then I said a dreadful phrase:
“You can head home, I think we are set, here.” So he did. It was late, we were tired.  And I went back to my beamline, and talked to the boyfriend, and then we realized that the experiment needed a slight modification. “No problem,” I thought, “ I can fix that.” So I sat down, and made my “minor”  changes.
“Hmmm,” I said to the boyfriend, something looks really wrong with the diffraction images, “I wonder..” my voice trailed off, as I walked toward the experimental hutch “….aaaargh!!!”  I shouted and cursed! The detector array had driven itself away from where it should have been, and was looking like it was trying to make a run for the door.
“Why did that motor drive????”  Umm, because you (or the buggy, alpha-version of the software) told it to. Duh. Upon opening the hutch, an obvious collateral damage victim was found- the Styrofoam-inlaid-with-Lead beamstop was hanging tenuously, gently resting on the top of a $200k detector. With much help from the boyfriend, everything was patched back together, and the experiment resumed, albeit a few hours later, with my kid eagerly watching and waiting for us to fix it and get home.

The next week, I was trying to use a spectrometer on that very same beamline.  I had witnessed a couple of uses, and had assisted on a few more, so I felt vaguely competent. It was the end of the day, and I had some more measurements to take,  so I said the words again:
“You can head home. I think I will be fine.” Two hours later,  there was a cursing and growling emanating from behind the laser curtain. The sample rig had collided with the camera, and I got to have a “crash” course in optical realignment.
So the new rule is Nobody Leaves.  I explained this to the boyfriend, and he smiled at me.  That smile that makes me feel like I am being slightly paranoid. 
Today I put the Boyfriend on a plane back to his native land for a much-needed vacation. I told him he should go, and have a great time, that I would be fine.  He is still in the air right now. I just got an email from our boss. Our NSF grant is not going to be recommended for awarding. 
The curse of "Nobody Leaves" attacks again. Only this one, we can’t fix. :-P