Grad Life: End of First PhD Term

Tis the season, to hopefully take a quick break from work and research! As the term ends, I’m busy wrapping up my TA duties, studying for exams, and prepping to meet with my supervisors to see where things are headed for the next term. A few other things have happened since drafting up these thoughts. Herein also wraps up my first month or so of living alone on purpose.

It’s also the season of reduced sunlight and impulse buys. Instead of talking about the silly things I purchased during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales, let’s address my increasing plant collection. I’ve been trying to purchase things more locally (which is quite easy when you live on the fringes of the largest city in the country). I swung by a plant studio to pick up a discounted snake plant (people really love quoting that one NASA study about air purification, but I assure you this baby plant does nothing to enhance my air quality) and a request plant (variegated string of hearts)! I was beyond delighted that the staff were willing to pull out various plants they had sold (and were in the midst of packing) when I started I mentioned that there rare plants that I had wanted to see in person before dropping several double digits. Also, I may have acquired a dragon-scale plant in questionable conditions from the Superstore (I haven’t stepped into one for years, I had no idea things were so pricy!) while buying basic home things like measuring cups (Fig. 1). I had previously purchased a very lovely plant from the same distributor die within a couple of weeks, so my expectations are low (string of turtles at half price, very sad). So far, so good though. The leaves are yellowed, and it seemed that it had been over watered for quite some time.

Figure 1. A giant dragon-scale leaf, leaf for scale. Some yellow tinges visible in dramatic lighting.

In roughly the same time frame, I remembered that Toronto was hosting a week long One of a Kind exhibit of sorts. Instead of swinging by to check out handmade pottery and buying art, as I was greatly tempted to do, I pulled out some of my ancient art assignments from highschool and stuck it on the walls. Now I have arty walls, very satisfying. The next thing is to deal with the generic looking, rather scratchy furniture that seem to be required fixtures in the apartment. I’d like a comfy, cozy chair. I think I have the perfect IKEA lounge chair now that there’s some room after cleaning up a few boxes off of the floor. Chances are that it’ll become the requisite “laundry chair”, where the “not dirty but not clean” clothes will go. I also think it’s time to look for a slim shoe tray thingy with the change of the season and the potential for the snow to start sticking around. I’d also love some more lighting fixtures or alternatives to the fluorescents for my main lighting. Bah. Fluorescent lights. Still. While I’d love to make the place a little nicer, I’ve more or less avoided bringing in anything new into my life in terms of decor and furniture.

Figure 2. Some old art on the walls. Non-optional couch that came with the apartment. Dragon scale alocasia sitting up looking pretty. If you wonder why my laptop and drink are on the couch, it’s because I often sit on the yoga mat on the floor next to the couch. :’)

Was I a sensible consumer during all of this? Not necessarily. There was some shopping I did in the lead up to the “big” sales, primarily because I wanted to avoid the feeling of being rushed. Some things that genuinely seem useful and have long term value include – a small cushion that can be heated, a desk lamp to hold UV spectrum LED lights for my plants (and for myself to have yellow lighting), and a giant – Costco sized bottle of concentrated dish detergent. It’s one of my life’s greatest banes to have to repurchase small bottles of expensive dish detergent every couple of months. On top of that, instead of taking advantage of the sales to replace my wireless headphones (slowly on their way out), my major electronics purpose was an e-reader (to replace the one I lost several years ago on a plane). Oh, and a new microphone since I spend a lot of time speaking online in comparison to pre-pandemic conditions. Overall an interesting mash-up of things I was interested in this year.

To side step again from the frenzied shopping season that takes place right around the US Thanksgiving and a lead up into the holiday season, here are some things I’ve been thankful for and am looking forward to: family that sends me food, a hand held coffee grinder, a holiday season full of cats and cat-sitting, and being on commission for a piece of art because someone decided they liked my style.

So here we are at the end of the term. I’ve mostly moved in and set up. Classes are just about done and I didn’t end of overshooting my allocated TA hours. Work is ongoing and I have finally made progress on my pet electronic project. I have found that my office neighbour is into plants and is willing to take care of them when I’m out. I’m generally pleased with how things are going despite the dim, dark days ahead.

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