Monday, November 8, 2010

The one shamrock to rule them all

When I passed my comprehensive exams in 2009, my advisor gave me a purple shamrock. It wasn't that it was a luck thing, it was mostly that it was probably the closest plant she could find to hot pink. For the most part, she supports my decision to be out of the closet about my love of hot pink (though she doesn't necessarily support me when I argue for hot pink archival storage mediums, but otherwise, she indulges me). But in addition to it's near-pink awesomeness, I have discovered that this plant has magical powers of prediction.

Up until this point in my life, I have failed to keep any plant alive for a sustained amount of time. I generally kill mint within a week or two, and I have been told that mint is like a weed and generally very hard to kill. I'm simply a horticultural failure. (It goes without saying that I'm also a failure at fish since they seem to prefer suicide over living with me.) So when my advisor told me that shamrocks can be high-maintenance (as in I have to water it and keep it's temperature moderated - things I don't even do well for myself), I figured this wasn't going to bode well for my innocent little purplish Shammy the Shamrock.

But surprisingly, for months and months - over a year, in fact - my shamrock thrived. We had some unfortunate experiments with trying to have Shammy live outside and lessons in "What happens when I don't water you", but he's always bounced back. And eventually I started taking better care of him.

Then something sad happened at the end of the spring: Shammy started to die. His little shamrocky shamrock things pulled out of the soil and no new ones popped up. One new shamrocky thing did sprout at one point, but didn't last for long. I was heart broken; Shammy seemed dead. And, rather suspiciously, so did my dissertation. As soon as Shammy's shamrocky fronds respirated their last breath of carbon dioxide, all progress on my dissertation halted. I didn't recognize this correlation at first, it wasn't until the fall that I saw the direct connection between Shammy's health and the health of my dissertation. Meanwhile, I fell into my smut, crotch rocket, and 4x4 ridden mid-dissertation crisis. See ya, dissertation!

But as is the academic cycle, conference season rolled around and I was mercilessly forced to say an emotional (and temporary...I hope) goodbye to my beloved smut and figure out how to do science again. As I got my act together and started to read articles, put together presentations, remember how to count, and learn how to pronounce big words again, Shammy started blooming. One morning I woke up and Shammy was popping up little shamrocky frondy things! And now that conference season is over, and I can focus on my dissertation again, a new frondy thing has sprouted. I have hope of actually graduating one day again.

Empirical evidence obviously indicates that Shammy really is the Paul the Octopus of my dissertation.

And now I live every day in fear he's going to die.

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