Roommate searching

It’s that time of year when I have to look for roommates on Craigslist. Over the past couple years, I’ve gotten better at reading between the lines when it comes to Craigslist replies. Sometimes, it’s blatantly obvious when the replies are spam or really belong in the “seeking women” section. Some other replies are a bit trickier, and the true nature of the replier only becomes obvious if you think it over a little.


Instant red flags are the mass copy/paste replies and the request to reply to a gmail account instead of the Craigslist-generated email.

But ignoring that… her openness to admitting to loving belly dancing and pole dancing is a little wacky. Well, I guess it’s not too unreasonable since a lot of female-oriented dance-for-fitness classes are trending these days.

But also ignoring that…. She likes reading the Bible and Book of Mormon. Ok. People who actually like reading usually list genres or authors. No one ONLY lists religious texts. Why would you name-drop the Bible/Book of Mormon unless you wanted to make a point? The point that “Camilia” is making is that she is a) a person of quality material who has values, and b) she is Mormon, and the subtext is that she might be open to a polygamous relationship.

“Camilia” is interested in movies, cooking, roadtrips, and camping, which are relationship hobbies.

I also love the request to exchange contact information in case there is an “agreement”.

Not a real person.



We have shrews! I generally don’t hate animals, but I dislike mice. Maybe because it’s hard to love mice when you have to “sac” them for experiments and pull out zeir bones. Our lab isn’t even very mean to mice. All we do is put them to sleep. The mice in some other labs probably all have PTSD. No one likes being mean to their animals, but it is a necessary evil. If you like having insulin for your diabetes and treatments for your cancer, then you really have no say against animal research.

I don’t like mice because I work with them, they eat my food, and they poop all over the place. But shrews are cool! I saw movement in my grocery bag, and this little guy was chirping away, turning my bagels into bite-size pellets. He must have been pretty stoked. When he realized I was there, he left my bagels and just pattered away alongside the wall. It was more of a jog than a scurry. Shrews are not furtive at all. There do not hustle.

Or maybe they’re just slow.

I’m almost positive this one was a Northern Short-tailed Shrew. How can you not like these guys?

They are active all winter, which is hard to believe with all the snow that’s fallen. Well, it’s hard to believe how anything small can survive a winter. Part of me wants to wait until the snow melts to set up the traps, but the poop and the missing food is pretty gross…. Shrews leave poop in wet chunks, not in nicely compacted grains like the mice do. Anyways, shrews also use echolocation. When I picked one up yesterday, the little guy emitted a series of squeaks with a frequency that definitely went beyond our hearing range. That was a little painful.  ALSO, These guys are one of the only toxic mammals found here. Their saliva contains an enzyme that breaks down proteins, which is used to paralyze prey. I didn’t know this when I held one yesterday. Oops.

So I set up traps yesterday even though I think shrews are cool. (They are, when they are outside.) My roommate wants to get a cat instead of setting traps so that the cat can kill and eat the shrews. Unfortunately, pets are not allowed in this apartment. Also, letting your pet eat wild rodents is disgusting and probably not good for its health.

One of the traps grazed the shrew, but didn’t snap him. The poor guy was so disoriented that I could pick him up without any resistance. My roommate strongly insisted that I throw him outside so he could die “naturally”.

Live traps are just as lethal this time of the year, because where else are you going to relocate a small rodent when there’s 4 feet of snow on the ground? Maybe she just really wants a cat.

Return to blogging

I was in high school when social networking became popular and “blog” was coined as a word. MySpace, Livejournal, and Xanga were popular with teens. (unfortunately.) I had a Xanga account in high school. I followed my sister, my friends, and two grad students who liked birding. Back then, it seemed that everyone who could type and use the internet had a blog, which often took the form of an online diary/brain dump. Blogging isn’t as ubiquitous now. Most people follow the famous bloggers instead of their friends.

In my freshman year in college I thought I’d continue the tradition, but with a change of scenery. Thus, this site.

As a teen, I was eager to show the world how deep and unconventional I was. This makes me glad that Xanga has been upgrading to version 2.0 ever since 2013 (and is still in phase 2 of 4!). Blogging is almost like getting a tattoo. You make an idea in your head permanent and visible to others, and then you regret it ten years later.

I will probably have my face in my hands when I read this stuff at age 40. Oh well! I had some fun reading my own entries I made 6 years ago. So what is the point of this? I don’t pretend to be good at writing. I can form sentences. I can also add. (Sometimes even in my head.) That’s about it. I’m no good at creative writing or poetry.  I’m restarting this site to keep track of the thoughts I think and the things I do. I like the anonymity that the non-social-network part of the internet offers. Facebook has turned into a tool for tracking people you no longer keep in contact with. I want to improve my writing speed, quality, and style.


So in the past six years, I graduated college, wasted a year of my life, and ended up in grad school. I still don’t really know what I want to do with my life. I haven’t birded in a while. I haven’t played the piano in a while. I ride bikes a lot.

This blog will not have a specific theme. It will be a brain dump!

Summer Biking Adventures

I’ve been riding my bike around a lot this summer. Well, my sister’s bike. Mine is currently somewhere in Troy, NY. It’s currently sitting in a pawn shop, in the garage of someone who got it at a pawn shop, or it is being used as the getaway vehicle of a sixth grader who has mugged someone. It got stolen by Troylets four days before I left.

I’ve been through 4-way intersections with lights. I’ve biked through a small roundabout in Carlisle. I’ve been on 50 mph roads (Great Rd/2A). Whenever possible, I try to ride my bike instead of drive a car. And I can navigate and read maps! So I’ve made some progress since those <1-mile trips to NARA park. Although, I’m still pretty bad at making left turns, especially in heavy traffic.

I biked through Great Brook Farm State Park in Carlisle, the other day, and saw my first Indigo Bunting! I have yet to make the trip to Great Meadows, though. The distance (8 mi) is not a problem. What is a big deal, though, is this:


I also have a problem carrying water. My (sister’s) bike doesn’t have the screws for a water bottle cage, so I’m stuck carrying water in a fanny pack.

A more pressing issue– There’s something wrong with the rear derailleur. It’s bent, and I can’t change into my lowest back gear without getting it caught in the spokes. In addition, I can’t shift into my second highest back gear, and one of the back sprockets has a missing tooth. Also, the front wheel keeps rubbing against the brake. I fixed this problem on the back wheel, but I can’t seem to fix it on the front.

A less pressing issue– As I’m increasing the length of my trips, I’m running out of safe routes to travel. Intersections, I can manage if there are not too many cars, but I don’t want to deal with ramps onto 495 or Rt. 2 on weekdays.

Bikes and Birds

I birded almost every single day after going to Prospect Park that first time. I’m almost glad I didn’t go to Oakwood Cemetery; concentrating on one location allowed me to create a semi-complete list of birds found at Prospect Park. It’s a shame I only have less than two weeks’ worth of data. I think that next year, I’ll go during the school year, probably even during the winter. I think it’d be neat to create a year-round history of the park.

Also, I added a new bird to my 2009 NY State list every time I went there. I also left RPI with three lifers (Red-bellied Woodpecker, Great Crested Flycatcher, and Carolina Wren) on my list. I know, I’m slow. But that’s mostly because I wasn’t really able to go out often before college. Ah, freedom.

Also, apparently, no one in Troy birds or uses eBird. I recorded (on eBird) the first Chimney Shift (!) and Ovenbird in the county.

And now, updates from MA:

My family got a plot of land at the Acton Community Garden. I’ve always wanted to grow my own food. I think that I’m also going to try to get a good history of the community garden, which lies right next to Icehouse Pond.

I’m working on a biking project this summer. My goal is to be able to ride to Great Meadows, have enough energy to bird there for a couple of hours, and ride back. I want to get to the point where I’m using the bike as transportation. It’s a 11.6-mile trip, not counting the biking/walking during the birding, which is not supposed to be bad, but I have zero biking experience, and I don’t want to be completely worn out before birding. I’m starting small– I did a very hilly 5.6-mile loop in the backroads in North Acton/Carlisle today, and it wasn’t so bad. The hills just kind of sucked, plus I think there’s something wrong with the gears on Tiffany’s bike.

I can’t believe I didn’t think to use the backroads last summer. The backroads open up so many possibilities! I just don’t want to ride on Great Road, where the speed limit is 40 mph. I also can’t believe that Great Meadows NWR is about 5.5 miles away from my house, and I’ve never been there. Unacceptable. I will remedy this this summer.

Digiscoping by Binocular

I practiced digiscoping with binoculars today. I don’t want any more crappy pictures of cool birds, like the Red-bellied Woodpecker set I took on Wednesday. Digiscoping is basically shooting a picture through a spotting scope lens. You can take advantage of the magnifying power of your lens and the camera’s optical zoom to get high magnification. (Your final magnification is the power of your lens multiplied by the camera’s optical zoom. My binoculars are 8x, and my camera is 3x, so that makes 24x the highest magnification that I can get, which is decent.) Depending on your equipment, you can get some pretty high-quality images (and save a ton of money on telephoto lenses).

There are three huge challenges to this (due to my equipment) that usually don’t present with digiscoping in general. First, I’m using binoculars, and they have to be manually held to the camera. Second, my binoculars are out of alignment, so aiming is hard; what you see out of one barrel is not what you see out of the other barrel. Third, my camera is old and has a viewfinder instead of an LCD screen display, so I have to guess and set the binoculars to be slightly unfocused if I want a picture that isn’t a complete blur when using the 3x optical zoom.

View from my room. I practiced digiscoping on the lampost.
View from my room. I practiced digiscoping on the lampost.
Lampost at 8x
Lampost at 8x
At 24x. The aim is off because my binoculars are out of
At 24x. The aim is off because my binoculars are out of alignment.