Electron Microscopy

Blast from the past: specimens and notebooks

Another thing I came across on the weekend while sorting through storage boxes was all my old thesis stuff. Two boxes, filled with notebooks, log books, specimens, and negatives.

specimens and photos

About half the thesis detritus: steel specimens, notebooks and (some) negatives…


So many negatives. Remember them? Much of my thesis involved looking at tiny bits of steel under electron microscopes and I have the photos to prove it.

The weird thing was I couldn’t throw any of it away. I went through those boxes fully intending to consign every last item to the scrap heap… but I couldn’t.

I started flicking through the ‘thinking’ notebooks (11 of them) and the literature review notebooks (6 I think) and the experimental log books… and was reminded of hours and hours and hours and HOURS of work (and sweat and tears).

Somehow I had consigned the 5-1/2 years of my thesis into an amorphous blob of ‘research’ (and pain) and hadn’t given much thought to what exactly I had been doing all that time. It wasn’t until the detritus spilled out over my parents’ kitchen table that the memory of all the days spent in the metallography laboratory, the numerous dilatometry sessions, the hours spent in the dark with electron microscopes… came flooding back.

It looked like such a lot of work. And it was not a little overwhelming to think I actually did all that, understood all that. (Because it’s, er, a bit of a struggle now!)

It’s ridiculous to keep it, of course. It’s long past the seven years I had to keep it. I’m never going to need any of it. I certainly don’t have the storage space. But for some reason it’s all still sitting in a pile in my living room.

One interesting thing that struck me about my old ‘thinking’ notebooks is how typical they are of the way I work now. All my thoughts, planning, results, hypotheses, to-do lists etc bundled together in dated order… One numbered notebook after the other. There’s liberal use of highlighters too. I started flicking through some of them and they felt immediately familiar. They could have been any one of my current WIP notebooks — although the subject matter’s a bit different!

Now I just have to decide what to do with it all… Any suggestions?


Inside the mind of a hoarder

Today I’ve been sorting through my filing cabinet and discovering all sorts of fabulous and strange artifacts I previously stashed away. Some are worth keeping, others not so much…

Very-Inspiring-Blog-Award2To help satisfy the requirements of the Very Inspiring Blogger meme — bestowed upon me by the wittily wonderful Liv Rancourt a week or so ago — I’ve decided to share with you ‘seven facts about me’ in the guise of seven of the more interesting filing cabinet factoids. I’m sure it will be most revealing of my character — heh.

1. Pages from The Age newspaper dated
18 February 1975

This had me stumped until I opened the pages to find a centrefold about the Kings and Queens of England. I don’t know when I decided to keep these pages (certainly not in 1975!), but I don’t think I need them somehow. It has, however, proved quite interesting to see how The Age looked nearly 40 years ago.

2. A piece of unused gift-wrapping featuring Mr Men

Honestly?! This was in the folder labelled ‘miscellaneous’ (as were many of these items) and I can only assume I thought it handy to have a pictorial representation… no, I have no idea what I was thinking.

3. Handouts on Electron Microscopy

Many of you may not realise that, not only am I an engineer, but I actually have a doctorate. Electron microscopy was a huge part of my thesis, and for one of the university open days we prepared handouts to explain what electron microscopy is. I used some of my electron micrographs (er, photos) on it. Here’s what a FLY looks like in the scanning electron microscope!

Images of a fly under the Scanning Electron Microscope (taken 20 years ago!)

Images of a fly under the Scanning Electron Microscope (taken 20 years ago!)


4. Correspondence with ‘famous authors’ – gasp!

Back when I was a mere 20-year old, I wrote (by hand — this was just before email came in) to a couple of my favourite authors, and was very excited to receive responses. Perhaps the most entertaining was my correspondence with Stephen Donaldson: first I wrote to him asking if he could send me a map for his fantasy works, Mordant’s Need; then, upon being told there wasn’t one, I created my own and sent it back to him requesting his feedback. He responded with a very nice letter saying I’d done a pretty good job, and hand-marked some minor changes. Gee, I was so excited! (To be honest, it still gives me a little thrill.)

5. A sketchbook in which my 11-year old self sketched pictures of a mythical school called ‘Kalmora’

I spent hours on this project. It was a girls’ school, and I worked out who was related (sisters had similar colouring), who was friends with who, and when my black texta ran out, all the black-haired girls left the school to be replaced with an influx of brunettes (heh). I drew them in class, on the netball court, in the schoolyard having lunch. Honestly, it’s hysterical. Here’s an example of my DREADFUL drawing skills! Note the emphasis is not on art, but on logic. Every element has to be present and make sense.

Drawing not my thing - will stick to writing!

Drawing not my thing – will stick to writing!


6. Every iteration (including hand markups) of every (unpublished) short story I ever wrote

These number only four, and I only ever attempted to get two of them published. The first is a disaster (the first page bored even me upon re-reading this afternoon), but the second is a piece of writing I’m really proud of. It isn’t a standard story structurally, which is its problem, and one day I may revise it or extend it or turn it into a novel. The thing is I love this piece of writing as-is and I still can’t bear to change it, after nearly 10 years and a few minor revisions. It crossed my mind this afternoon that I could share it on this blog, because it’s only about 2000 words, but I’ll have to think about that a bit further.

7. A folder labelled ‘research’

This turns out to contain a bunch of pamphlets, flyers and clippings about miscellaneous topics — from crystal healing to winemaking to decomposing bodies — that might come in useful when writing fantasy. (I have written a scene with a decomposing body, actually.) Nevermind that all this information is doubtless available from a Google search… Nevermind that I can’t actually remember what’s inside the folder anyway!


So there you have it. Some insight into the brain of a hoarder. But I confess it’s been quite fun to go through all this stuff — and that’s why I’ve kept it, after all. Not sure I need to keep every revision of every story, though…

The rules of this game say I need to nominate three others to play, so I’m tagging

The Rules

Display the award logo on your blog.
Link back to the person who nominated you.
State 7 things about yourself.
Nominate three other bloggers and link back to them.

Now tell me what’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever stashed away for a rainy day? When you came across it again, did you keep it?