On Graduating from School and Getting a Job

I was crawling through my archives this morning and came across this little rant that I wrote years ago, during my first, horrible, post-grad school job at the Cornell University Library. I know several of you Gentle Readers are in school right now, and I thought you might enjoy the sentiment:

First of all, and lets just get this out of the way: a full-time job is actually a pretty shoddy reward for 2.5 years of graduate school stress.

Yes, I’m grateful and all, glad to be here, nice to meet ya, etc. but frankly, I think I was looking for something along the lines of “congratulations on your degree, here’s your houseboat, now get out of here you scamp.”

I suppose having a stable schedule and slightly-more-realistic paychecks is reward enough, but lately I’ve had to face what seems to happen any time you put enormous effort into something. Which is, a rather slow transition into something different that requires enormous effort.

Like learning not to scream when someone suggests you attend the Metadata Working Group Meeting.

Breaking news! Sheep Escape!

This morning as I was driving to work I became embroiled in local Farm Drama.

Let me back up.

Photo by Cryptia 30 Apr 07, 10.59PM EDT.

I live, at least for the next week or so, in upstate New York. Among other things, such as a dearth of decent tamales, living upstate means being surrounded by rolling hills and farmland.

There’s a big contingent of young hipster organic farmers in the area. I live across the street from a small sheep farm. The woman who owns the farm has about 20 sheep.

Depending on which field they are in, I can hear them through the open windows in the morning. It’s nice.

This morning I drove by the sheep farm and saw a distinctly sheeplike rustling in the tall grass next to the road. Two lambs had wiggled through the gate and were standing wide-eyed on the wrong side of the fence.

I pulled over and tried to find the farmer, but her truck was gone. It was up to me. The occasional car whooshed past the loose sheep.

I was wearing Work Clothes. I wasn’t prepared for any sheep wrangling, but I decided to try anyway.

The whole thing ended anticlimactically. The lambs were so terrified to see me walking toward them that they wiggled back through the gate. Problem solved. I left a note and went to work strangely pleased with my ability to frighten sheep.

An Interview with Myself

Bowing to the demands of my own powerful curiosity, I have agreed to give an exclusive interview to myself. My publicist disagrees with my decision, but I believe I have a strong connection with myself and I think I can be trusted to report my answers fairly.

Q: Hello Erica. I’m glad you agreed to this interview. You have been pretty reticent with the press lately. What’s been going on?

A: There have been major changes in my life this year. I haven’t felt it was appropriate or respectful to write about them here.

Things have settled down a bit recently. I’m no longer engaged, and I’m living in rural Ithaca near some friendly horses and sheep.

Q: Wow. Do you want to talk about what happened?

A: No. Thank you.

Q: I hear you are moving to the Bay Area in the next few months?

A: I’ve been looking at the Bay Area and NYC as possible places to relocate. After visiting last week, I decided to move to San Francisco.

San Francisco is one of the geekiest, friendliest places I’ve ever been. The city is beautiful, I’ve got good friends, there are interesting projects, and I’ll be among my fellow dorks.

I’m really looking forward to learning the city, starting a new job, volunteering at 826 Valencia, and being immersed in the calm, weird, sunny West Coast atmosphere. Come visit. Bring chocolate babka.

Q: Where are you going to work?

A: An excellent question. I’ve interviewed at a few places where I would like to work. I will know more by next week. Stay tuned.

Q: Don’t you like Ithaca?

A: I love Ithaca and I adore my job at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which is why I’ve been here for four years.

However, that translates to about 40 years in Internet Time. It’s time for me to start a new project. I might return to Ithaca someday, once I’ve made my fortune. I’d like to live on a big farm with dogs, books, a wood stove, and all my friends.

Q: Ok. That covers the big topics. What else is going on?

A: I’m having the best year of my life. This weekend I swam in a waterfall, watched a turtle lay eggs, drove a sports car really fast, petted dogs, helped a friend find tractor parts, drank local beer, picked flowers, was charged by a deer, and met one of the first US African refugee coordinators who was working in Botswana in 1965.

Q: Well, thanks again for letting me interview you, Erica.

A: I’m welcome. Thank me.

30 seconds

Driving home through rural Ithaca I saw, within 30 seconds:

  1. A snapping turtle crossing the road, long prehistoric tail dragging behind her. The turtles are laying eggs this week wherever they can, including parking lots, trails, and ditches.
  2. A great blue heron
  3. A vole running across the road. Voles are apparently susceptible to some sort of brain parasite that makes them go nuts and do stuff like this. A few weeks ago, cow-orker Mary Winston and I watched one running in a small circle for five minutes. I finally caught him and put him under the dock so he wouldn’t get stepped on. It was all very Wrath of Kahn.
  4. Two horses and riders walking toward me in my lane. Can anyone tell me if that is standard horse-in-street protocol? Because it was hella surprising.

30 seconds. Ithaca.

Jr. Beekeeper’s Association


Maggie and I visited the bees this weekend. She’s five and wants her own hive. No one ever told her that she’s supposed to be afraid.

We cleaned the hive, inspected for mites, and took out some honey frames. Her family watched proudly from a safe distance, and took this picture of Maggie pointing out a drone.

Life is good.

Amish Pony Cart and a Premature Deploy

Today was big and full. I’m tired, so here’s a list for you. Bullet points are less intimidating.

  • I crashed our application today by accidentally deploying to Production rather than my localhost. Oops. But then I fixed it and felt all cool with my mad Linux skillz.
  • I’m staying out at my friend’s farm, and this morning I woke up to giggling girls downstairs, local organic bacon and fresh bread, fresh carrot/ginger juice, friendly German shepherd dogs, showtunes, and the nicest snowy upstate NY vista you could hope for.
  • Within 12 hours, I asked for and got $5000 from my bank for a new car. Frightening.
  • I helped my friend’s daughter watch Sesame Street.
  • I helped my employer research how to sell animal sounds for Second Life folks. Advice welcome.
  • I drove out to Amish country in a veggie oil-burning truck and saw a tractor museum while helping my friends pick up a forklift that they bought on Ebay.
  • We got pulled over for speeding, but were let go because the cop liked the veggie oil truck.
  • I waved at Amish children playing in the street with a Shetland pony cart.
  • I watched the sun set behind as a mile-long V of migrating geese flew overhead.
  • My cow-orkers grilled outside at lunch for the first time. Someone brought venison. Fun was had.
  • The pond outside my work window froze last night, and dozens of geese spent the day sliding on the ice with huge leathery feet.
  • I received a kind text message.
  • I set up my new laptop.
  • I helped make a timeline for an NSDL grant.
  • I patronized a 4-H bake sale and volunteered to do a beekeeping talk.
  • I learned that rolling back to a previous version in Subversion is a pain.
  • I stopped taking pain meds and the Frankensteinian curved laceration on my right shoulder has proven to be no trouble at all.

Goodnight. More adventures tomorrow as I travel to Pennsylvania to pick up a car and my motorcycle learners permit.

Stay tuned.

Teenagers at the Library

Even nature sanctuary libraries have problems with unruly teenagers hanging around in the parking lot. These geese are at the awkward stage between being yellow fuzzy poofballs and tall feathery adults. As a result, they listen to emo music and wear heavy eyeliner. Someday they will grow up to be bankers. In the meantime they cause trouble and occasionally mess up cars.

Letter to the Deer that ate my Tulips

Dear Deer,
You may not remember me, but we met one evening after dinner. You had hopped into my backyard and were chewing on my rhododendrons. I had stepped outside to refill the bird feeder when our eyes met. I’ve always admired your grace and fortitude. Your ability to leap tall fences and survive harsh weather leaves me without doubt that you are a strong, adaptable animal.

Which brings me to the subject of the 45 tulips that were recently growing in front of my house. I don’t mean to imply that you are responsible for their recent disappearance, but the circumstances give me cause for concern. These tulips were from the Netherlands, brought to me as a gift, carted by hand through customs in an overloaded carry-on. Every day I looked to see how tall they had gotten. As they grew, I sprayed them with liquid capsaicin to make their leaves unpleasant tasting, not because I don’t trust you (because I do, deer) but to prevent any accidents. I didn’t want you to mistake my tulips for, say, the salad bar at Applebee’s.

This morning I woke to discover that all of the tulips had been eaten. Someone (and I don’t necessarily mean you, deer) had chewed them to the ground. If it’s not too much trouble, I wonder if you could describe for me your whereabouts during this event? I happened to notice some unusual footprints in the mud, a product of the rain which also washed off my pepper spray. They look cloven.

Would you mind clearing this incident up? I hate to bother you, but as you can see, the evidence is troubling.

Sincerely yours,