making waves

the wanderings of a California beach girl

Summer Food, Fun, and Friends

So far, this summer has been a lot more fun than last year. Campus is quiet (until all the high school campers came…), and everyone just feels more relaxed.

My Latin partner was in town this week, too! He has been travelling the world for the past few months and has amazing stories from Thailand, Singapore, Australia, and more places that I’m not remembering right now. We swapped stories of our international travels at a Prohibition-themed party complete with a live band and a speakeasy entrance (my life is cool, no?).

There are quite a few ballroomies left in town, so we have weekly dinner to keep in touch and show off our kitchen skills. Last night we had homemade butter chicken, vegetable fried rice, and apple pie. Then a group of us went salsa dancing after. I had not been salsa dancing since before I left for Rwanda–over 6 months! Needless to say, we had a blast. It is wonderful to have a group of friends that loves to dance!

Speaking of dance and friends, I am making the long sojourn to NYC on Friday to buy a real pair of dance shoes at Worldtone. Ones that don’t mangle my feet every time I try to cha cha. What makes this even more exciting is that I get to take Lara back to Ithaca with me for an amazing weekend filled with desserts, dancing, hiking, festivals and food!

I occasionally work this summer, too.ūüėČ

I’ve moved!

Nope, still in Ithaca in my same ol’ house. ¬†My¬†online¬†home has moved. On a whim I searched for SarahLuna.com just to see what would come up.

And what do you know??? It is run by a witch. Not even kidding.

Since that is not how I want my name to show up when people search for me, I immediately bought SarahVLuna.com and started a web presence there.

I’m going to do the majority of posting over there from now on. I will focus on how to work less and enjoy life more in grad school. The inspiration for this direction comes from reading blogs like Nerd Fitness and I Will Teach You to Be Rich. These amazing resources encourage people to take control of their health and their money.

My focus will be on undergrads and grad students who believe they have to constantly work to stay ahead. After 6 years of higher education, I no longer believe that. Constant, mediocre work does nothing except exhaust the worker. It is focused, excellent, limited work that makes a difference.

If you’re interested in what I have to say about that, come over to SarahVLuna.com and take a look around!

Putting the Plan in Action

I’m the type of person who automatically feels better with a plan. I woke up to the 6am sunshine streaming through my second-story window and thought to myself: Hey, I can make it to the library by 8!

By 8:10 (ok, it took me a few minutes to actually¬†get out of bed), I had happily situated myself at my favorite dual monitor desk in Mann Library. I dedicated the first 50 minutes of my day to the “other” category: email, Google Reader, and Facebook. ¬†Mostly I spent the time responding to an email from my friend Amanda in Tanzania.

At 9 o’clock precisely, my lab mate Julie arrived, and we began our session. Today was a SAS day. Computer programming, in other words. Yes, that’s right! Nutrition grad students work with statistical programs! Learn how to learn how to code.¬†It will make your life so much easier. I had a deliciously productive 91 minutes of dissertation-related work.

As soon as I left Mann, my personal productivity ceased. I’m “in charge” of three undergraduates this summer, and I met with one of them today to discuss how to clean data. We have ~200 files with ~60000 lines each; it’s a long and tedious process. Half way through explaining, I realized that I could probably write a program to deal with all of this if I were willing to put in the time to learn how.

I had to weigh my options. Do I spend 20 hours of my time learning how to write this program (and then teach it) or do I spend 150 hours of my undergraduates’ time (and sanity) by having them do the entire process by hand? I decided to go with the first option 1) because that’s what I would have appreciated as an undergrad and 2) I like situations that force me to learn new skills.

Well, that took up the rest of my day. I’d probably still be working on it except that Mann closes at 6 during the summer. I was home by 6:15, ate a leisurely dinner outside, called my family, did some non-school reading, and still have time to practice my Spanish before bed.

What did the timer say? For my ten hours on campus, I spent 15% of my time on dissertation work, 68% of my time on non dissertation work, and 17% on other. Hmm.

Clearly, some adjustment is necessary.ūüôā

Productivity Challenge: What happens when I bill hours?

Summer has traditionally been a difficult time for getting things done. ¬†Between the fair weather, lack of structured classes, lack of evening activities, and the generally relaxed feeling in the air of a campus devoid of undergrads, I’ve found myself stuck in a sort of “slowness to start”. I’ve tried to combat this by scheduling daily 9am study sessions. But on days my study partner can’t make it (ie when I don’t¬†have to be on campus) I say to myself: “I can work just as easily from home, right?”

Well, I¬†can, but I¬†usually don’t.

I couple of days ago, I found this blog post about time management for academics (or people with a lot of freedom in their schedules).  In it, Cal Newport talks about the importance of fixed-scheduled productivity:

Fix your ideal schedule, then work backwards to make everything fit¬†‚ÄĒ ruthlessly culling obligations, turning people down, becoming hard to reach, and shedding marginally useful tasks along the way.

I had tested some of these approaches last summer (such as only checking email once or twice a day) and during times of high stress and found them to be very effective at increasing my attention to my Most Important Tasks.

What I really enjoyed from this article was the example of how Jim Collins¬†tracks the amount of time he spends on work. ¬†His goal is to dedicate 50% of his time to creative work, 30% to teaching, and 20% to everything else. This isn’t some fluffy metric either. He uses a stopwatch to keep track.

I decided that this was just the approach for me. During summer weekdays, my ideal schedule is to get to campus at 9am, walk home around 5pm, and have my evenings be completely free. 

My time management goal is: 60% on dissertation-related work, 20% on other projects, 20% on everything else. 

I busted out the stopwatch today, too. I had had it with myself this morning. By the time I got out of bed and got ready to work, it was 11am. ¬†There’s really no excuse for that. ¬†I started time when I was doing something directly related to my dissertation and stopped it whenever I was distracted (either with other work or dumb things like Facebook).

Guess what? Out of the 5 hours that I’ve been sitting at my desk today, I’ve worked on my dissertation stuff¬†for 144 minutes.¬†

So let’s see. Five hours is 300 minutes. 144/300 *100% = 48%. ¬†Ok, that wasn’t as bad as I thought.

The Challenge

A couple of nights ago, my law school roommate told me that lawyers have to account for what they do every 6 minutes, and that she had to take a bunch of accounting classes in the fall to learn how to bill hours. And it got me thinking,what if I had to bill hours?

So here’s the challenge. From today until August 10th, I am going to time myself during the work day to track my habits and see where I can be more productive. Then I will “bill” myself for every hour spent working on my dissertation stuff.

20 hours = a double scoop ice cream cone from Purity (yes, I’m silly, but I love ice cream)

There are nine weeks left until Beach Week. 360 work week hours (assuming 40 hours/work week). If I stick to my 60-60-20 challenge, I will have worked 216 hours on my dissertation.

Life isn’t always that neat and clean. My goal is to reach 200 dissertation-hours by August 10th.

If you like my challenge and want to try it, tell me what you’re doing!

Bridesmaid hair: What to do with crazy curls?

Like I mentioned before, I get to be a bridesmaid in six days. The bride, having crazier curls than mine, has been remarkably gracious in letting us bridesmaids choose a hairstyle that compliments us.

So what to do with field hair (my name for hair that has grown wild “in the field”)?

Especially hair that, when brushed, looks like this:

(I sent that picture to the bride, by the way. I’m glad she appreciates my sense of humor–one of the many reasons we’re friends)

I don’t know what I would have done before Google. One simple image search of “curly hair style” yielded hundreds of thousands of ideas. ¬†Here are my favorites. Oh! I’ll have a professional to help me, too, so I’m not limited by my questionable skills with a curling iron.

Option #1: Curly updo

 Option #2: Half up super curls

Option #3: All down

Comments? suggestions? I’ve just given you an excuse to browse all the curly-haired photos on Google. You’re welcome.

My venture into Victoria’s Secret

Next weekend, my good friend Allyson is getting married. 

This is my first time acting as bridesmaid. Allyson and I have been friends since freshmen year of college. ¬†She’s pretty special to me, and I want to make sure that I do everything just right on her big day. That’s been a bit difficult since I’ve been in Rwanda and India for the past couple of months, but she’s been more than patient with my delayed responses. She even ordered and mailed the¬†incredibly cute and impossibly high-heeled yellow shoes that I get to wear.¬†

Anyways…

Ten days before the wedding, I realized that I didn’t have the appropriate bra to go under my dress. Oh no!¬†I have to look perfect! I’m going to be in A LOT of pictures; I can’t be wearing a ratty old bra (and believe me, the third world is not kind to bras).¬†

First I tried looking at Target in the shapewear section. Fortunately my friend Julie was able to come with me to provide moral support and to listen to my mature comments about pasties. After rifling through bustiers, leotards, and shaping bras, I discovered that people my size don’t usually use products like that, and there is a corresponding hole in the market.

We had no choice but to enter the realm of Victoria’s Secret.¬†

Confession: I’ve never seriously shopped in Victoria’s Secret before. I was a bit lost.

Luckily we were greeted by a sales assistant who asked if I were looking for something in particular. I couldn’t tell if this woman was a college student or someone who just lived in Ithaca, but she was in her mid-20s with a slightly nasally voice who looked like she knew a lot about bras. I decided to trust her advice and let her help me.¬†

She started off by showing me the “Very Sexy”. Yes, that was it’s actual name. It had special¬†stay put¬†technology¬†to keep it from slipping down. As she explained the numerous functions of this bra, I couldn’t help but marvel at the use of the word “technology”. I mean, I’m glad there are people who think about this stuff, but I had to work really hard to keep a straight face. I don’t know how she did it.

Next, she introduced the “Very Sexy Bombshell“. This masterpiece adds two whole cup sizes and can worn¬†five different ways.¬†Whoa now. At that point, I was feeling a little intimidated, but I decided to give it a chance.

All I remember about the third bra (the “Very Sexy” something) was that it could be worn seven (seven???) different ways. My serious “I-can-shop-for-a-bra-like-a-grownup” face almost betrayed me. I really thought that someone was going to pop out wielding a camera and tell me that it was all a joke.¬†Seven different ways?¬†Let’s count them: normal, crossed in the back, strapless, one-shouldered, halter, narrow halter…and I’m out of ideas.

The assistant started a dressing room for me with those three bras. In a moment of smartness, I had decided to bring both the bachelorette party dress and the bridesmaid dress with me (I didn’t have to use the “Hey, Sexy, try me on” shirt that came with the dressing room). I had to struggle a bit adjusting the straps and padding. Every once and a while the assistant would ask how I was doing.¬†All three bras fit beautifully.¬†I was amazed (especially at the stay put technology). However, there was one bra that rose above all others (one bra to rule them all? ok, that was nerdy…sorry). One that took both dresses from pretty to omgamazing.¬†One that made me think¬†are you kidding me??? you’re actually going to buy this???

Yes, friends, I walked out as the owner of the Very Sexy Bombshell. It was by far the most expensive and ridiculous bra I have ever bought, but now I am equipped with the warrior of all bras (thing could probably stop bullets) and ready to fulfill my destiny as bridesmaid. 

My week in haiku

Yesterday
All my studies changed
Thinking hurts

I sat still
Staring as I heard
Excitement

Head reeling
Hearing ideas
Without pause