Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Elli unleashed

De-lurking from the blogosphere to try and get a non-studying-for-quals life back.

This topic actually comes at a very apropos time - I have my qualifying exam in just a couple of weeks (less, actually...oh god, aah aah aah), and as a result I have been spending most of my waking moments studying or trying to reboot my sanity before/after studying. The studying itself has actually been kind of pleasant - I have an inordinate number of Useless Science facts crammed into my head but it's nice to see things coming together into stories, histories, big pictures, etc. The sanity-restoration is also nice. Dr. Superwoman is fabulous - she's on my committee, and half of her studying advice was "Go running. Eat healthy every night. Do yoga and practice relaxation techniques" (she knows I have a tendency to flip out like mad before exams) So that's actually been very nice. I feel very focused, and life has been pared down to one simple goal: my qual.

However, right now everything I'm doing is funneled into one of the hoops I must jump through for grad school. The studying, the running, the whole grain dinners, the yoga, is all good and healthy and oh-virtuous-me, but it's all pointed towards "pass your qual".

So at the moment I would like to be unleashed from my grad school bindings. I would like to not have a qualifying exam that stands, solely and strongly, between me and my Ph.D. I would really rather not have to slog through my last few classes. I would really like to be unleashed as a Real Scientist. I have scientific ideas that I'm excited about and would like to pursue, and that have been put completely on hold as I study for a test. I have collaborations I'd like to pursue, data I'd like to get, etc. In many ways I'm just anxious to start my thesis, but ideally I'd do this without all of the paperwork and hemming and hawing, and just applying for some grants or funding like the Grown-Ups so I can get going already. (I know that this opens up the wide and wonderful world of funding rejections, but at least I'd have only myself to blame rather than letting everything hinge on advisers or departments that can't get their act together!)

I suppose I should have a little more fire or rage or vim 'n vigor in here: I should want to be unleashed to give that sexist professor a good verbal smackdown, or to dress how I like and talk how I like in an apartment full of guys (i.e., none of this "skirts are unprofessional" business), or talk about unleashed my personal life from my professional life. But I'm a grad student. I'm a grad student because I really really really want to do Useless Science. At the moment I still feel like my hands are a bit tied by all of the trimmings of pre-quals grad school, and that by spending my days studying and pining wistfully after the research I like so much, I am simply treading water. I can't wait to finally get some forward momentum again!

The upshot of this is that the frustration does eventually turn into motivation - let's get this qual studied for and passed so that I can finally get unleashed from the pre-Ph.D. trappings of grad school and start doing science already!!*

*re: "doing science" - I really want the "Stand Back - I'm Going to Try Science!" T-shirt here.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The ethics of witnessing a scoop?

This one is actually an ethical dilemma that's been bugging me.

One of the professors in our department, Dr. TallGuy, has been working with a summer student (REU-esque, though not an REU in this case) on a project that she presented this morning - in the interest of euphemisms, let's call it measuring how cold rivers are in different states. It's interesting, it's neat, I liked her presentation, she's done good work.

But. My adviser, Dr. Awesome, at a different department, is ALSO working with a summer student. And unless my memory deceives me, she is ALSO working on how cold rivers are in different states. She's checking out the silt content of the river, and our department's student is measuring the current of the river, but they're mainly both measuring temperature, which is what a lot of people who wants to go swimming in a river care about.

In short, I'm watching a scooping in action, and I don't know who's about to scoop who.

I want to write to Dr. Awesome and ask him a few scientifically curious questions about Dr. TallGuy's students work, since I'm kinda interested in this stuff and it's similar to work I do. But I have a feeling that by doing this I am basically saying "DR. TALLGUY IS ABOUT TO SCOOP YOU." This really isn't my intent - but at the same time, I feel like I should let him know. I don't have any similar sentiments towards Dr. TallGuy - I'm not going to go to him and say "Dr. Awesome at Other-Department is working with a student on this stuff too!" So I guess my loyalties lie with Dr. Awesome. What should I do? Could it possibly get out if I tip off Dr. Awesome and he winds up scooping Dr. TallGuy? Conversely, if Dr. TallGuy publishes first then Dr. Awesome could easily guess that I knew what he was doing and might wonder why I didn't warn him. Plus, there's two undergrads involved here - they both deserve some papers.

I think the way to go might be to stride ahead with the email to Dr. Awesome, asking the questions that I have and thus revealing what Dr. TallGuy is working on. He and Dr. TallGuy get along and could exchange emails on the topic. They could probably figure out a way for the research to not overlap too terribly. And hopefully Dr. Awesome will answer my questions and say something like "Hey, that's kinda like what me and my new student are doing, but not exactly. I'll refer her to Dr. TallGuy for some advising." One can hope.

Still - I feel like I'm sitting on some sensitive information here. Is there a good way to deal with a situation like this? It's times like these when I am made very aware of the fact that I'm a little kid that's just gotten into the big kid's game - eventually I'll be equipped for dilemmas like these, but for now I have a lot to learn.

I am locked out of my laptop.

I'm writing this from one of the generic desktops in my department. Why is that, you might ask?

Elli is locked out of her MacBook Pro.

MacBooks latch shut, and have this little depressy-button-thingy that releases the latch. Normally, a MacBook owner poked said button-thingy and the screen obediently springs open.

Not so for me. I hit up a coffeeshop this afternoon and took my MacBook out of its little cushioned case. Unfortunately, when I poked the button, nothing happened. I poked again - still nothing. I poked it with my mechanical pencil. No dice. For about ten minutes the rest of the coffeeshop got to watch as I fruitlessly took my pencil, pocketknife, earring back, and various (unused) utensils to this mysterious button while the rest of the laptop sat there like an obstinate turtle.

Back in my office, I upgraded to pens, an unfolded paperclip, various lab toys, and even a pair of tweezers.

I cannot for the life of my coax the damn thing to open. Has anyone ever run into a situation wherein their MacBook Pro suddenly decides to go into hiding? Is it shy? Did I catch it with some porn up on the screen? Is it protesting until I give it a better carry case? Is there a MacBook Pro union representative I should be talking to?

What really kills me (aside from the whole "all of my work is on there let me in you Apple-emblazoned little bastard" business) is that I was just singing the praises of Macs this morning - the little magnetized power plug, the hot corners, the camera in the screen. And now I've apparently been foiled by a little plastic widget-y thing that just won't unlock. I feel you watching me, Bill Gates.


UPDATE: I have indeed succeeded getting into the laptop, using what sounds like a similar approach to Jeff's suggestion - getting in and jimmying the little plastic tabs. I opened it, immediately sftp'd all of my important stuff over to my work desktop, then cautiously closed it again, but the problem seems to be gone now. Hooray!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Weirdness scale

I'm polling you guys on this one. How weird is it, on a scale of 1 to 10, if one of your officemates:

1. completely totally ignores the standard "don't talk to me" signs such as wearing headphones, typing away at lightspeed, staring intently at your computer, and/or resolutely ignoring her as she chirps your name, until ignoring becomes impossible and you are forced to answer a burning question like "What's the web address for Google maps?" (Elli's head: "try Google")

2. drops everything to intently monitor every conversation you have. A friend comes into your office and you talk about, say, moving, or losing your keys, or a conference they went to or whatever. Your officemate drops everything she's doing, takes off her earphones, swivels partly around in her chair, and stared unabashedly at you both while you talk. Once your friend LEAVES and you are finally getting back to work, she says "What was all that?" and hashes the nothing-to-do-with-her conversation back out for way too long to be normal. (odder: you're making a quick cell phone call and the moment your voice starts up she turns around and stares at you, steadily and unblinkingly, while you talk.) (Elli's head: "don't even pretend the noise is bothering you. You're wearing ATC-esque noise-muffling headphones and you've been reading Ph.D. comics for two hours. By the way, I'm propping my feet up on my desk to block your face because it is REALLY distracting to have you stare at me while I talk.")

3. similarly monitors anything else you're up to. You buy Skittles and open the bag. Ooh, tearing noise! She turns around and stares at you for way longer that it takes to process the fact that yes, you are eating a bag of Skittles (Elli's head: "My God! A bag of Skittles has appeared in my hand! You may be wondering how this happened. But have your own bag of M&Ms right there. You bought them from the vending machine downstairs. This mystery, it is solvable. And how the HELL do you hear this stuff through your super-sexy bigger-than-your-head noise-blocking headphones, anyway?")

4. thinks that it is a really good idea to cut into a conversation you are having with your adviser (about a deadline you are scrambling to meet) to tell you that man, she just is kinda bored and really has time to kill and there was this guy on the bus this morning and do you know if craigslist might have any small tables on it that she could look for? (Elli's head: "can you not use Google*? Are your conversation monitoring skills suddenly broken? Can you not tell I'm really busy? Can you just...oh my god go away")

I know she could just be shy, or searching for acceptance, but it's...just...weird. I'd really rather not be stared at on and off all day (and no, she doesn't have a crush on me - I don't get the "I like you" vibe OR the gaydar vibe). Am I being unreasonable? Does this get better? Or is it legitimately kinda weird?

*my most I'm-a-bitch pet peeve is definitely being asked stuff like "Do you know if the course schedules are online?" or "Do you know the email address of the assistant deputy computer guy's secretary's babysitter?", especially from someone with one hand on a computer mouse. My way of answering them would be to perform a five-second Google search - which begs the question of why THEY'RE not doing it instead of bothering me. How have they gotten to a Ph.D. program without this skill? If I'm not too busy I sometimes actually bother with the search and answer them. Keeps them thinking that I'm a mad computer ninja, when really I've typed "course schedules" into the department website's search box.

okay, I lied: RBoE

I said I'd start writing more regularly, and then all hell broke loose. I really have no reason to suspect that said hell will quit breaking loose, but at least it's all getting to be the GOOD kind of crazy. So I leave you with Random Bullets of Excuses:

  • had what should have been a short travel trip to a small and enjoyable conference last week. got stranded by the travel situation from hell, spending the night in a godawful hotel on my own dime, and then living one of those Dateline specials where you sit in the plane on the runway for four hours with no air. I was debating forcing my way off the plane and just getting a rental car for the longest drive of my life, but it was utterly unaffordable.
  • reading Harry Potter, of course! That series...I'm not sure if I quite qualify as "obsessed" but I was totally in the (crazy-mobbed and NOT AIR CONDITIONED. GACK.) store at midnight, although I did not have a costume...
  • got some totally awesome results in one of my projects and am currently writing the fastest journal paper of my life with Dr. Superwoman. Which rocks (yay authorship!), but means I wake up at 5 in the morning going "oh god, I need to include figures with thicker lines. Where did I save the figures with thicker lines?" Sometimes I think it's good for TB that he doesn't live with me right now.
  • getting ready for an orgy of moving. To keep a very very long story short, a bunch of the grad students are moving again, and a lot of us are exchanging our places: Persons A1, A2, and A3 are all leaving Enormous House but their roommate, A4, is staying. Persons B1 and B2 and Elli want to move somewhere together, and get along well with A4. Persons C1 and D1, who both have one-bedrooms, are dating and moving in together. So, at least on paper this all works out really neatly. C1 and D1 can move into place B. A1 is moving into place C. A2 is moving into place D. A3 is moving into Elli's place. And B1, B2, and Elli can all move into Enormous House. But: everyone has different move-out times, C1 is a bit of a dick and holding up A1's move until late on moving day, which holds up the move of Elli and the B's. People have dropped balls on things like apartment cleaning and cable service and furniture acquisition. And for some reason I am the only person who thinks that eight anal grad students moving all over town on a tight and poorly-structured schedule probably shouldn't attempt to share ONE small UHaul. $30 for one day is not really something you need to split eight ways. Are you confused yet? Right. Wish me luck not killing anybody on the 31st/1st.
  • getting excited for TB's visit in a couple weeks.
  • getting stressed over classes starting again in like a month. What the hell was THAT? That was a summer???
  • desperately avoiding thinking about The Exam Which Shall Not Be Named. You know what I mean. Can someone please tell me a story where NOT studying for your quals/comps/prelims/whatever you call them is a really good and reasonable plan that ends with much passing and celebrating and a nice shiny Masters? Please? (lying is acceptable).
In the meantime, I'll try and get through these next few things and start posting more regularly. If nothing else, there should be a nice highlights reel from moving day. Thanks for your patience!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Aw, shucks!

I disappear and become a bad, bad infrequent blogger, and instead of all of you ditching me, the fabulous Addy N. has nominated me as a:

My first blog award! *small wriggle of excitement*

/begin{shameless self-promotion}
She says: I really enjoy reading Elli's blog about her experiences as a graduate student. I think she is much more together than I was when I was in grad school! I think blogging is a great outlet for all of us working our way through research and writing. Keep up the great work, Elli!
/end{shameless self-promotion}


I'll take this as a kick in the behind to start writing more regularly! (and, "together"? Clearly Addy N. hasn't seen me on my "where are my keys?!?/I'm locked out!!!/Call the building manager!!!/No, just break in!!!/, the keys are in my pants pocket" days :P) Office space issues have finally been worked out and my summer is kicking into high gear, so I'll have plenty of fodder for posts.

For now, I get to tag five people! Woohoo!* Some of the people aren't actually on my blogroll yet, but I'll be updating that soon. And I KNOW some of these are repeats, but I can't help it - their blogs are just too cool:

ScienceWoman: I know girls my age who read chick lit over and over because they dream of being fashionable professional shoppers in The Big Apple, just like the main character. ScienceWoman's blog is my chick lit - I read it over and over because that's what I want to be doing someday!!! (so if the large number of multiple hits from one person were freaking you out, never fear, it's just me geeking out in the archives :P) Even though it's not all fun and games, it's a great example that a woman in science can make life work, and work well!

Jenny F. Scientist
: it was reading her blog that gave me the idea to start my own. She writes extremely thoughtful and relevant posts, and I'm always happy to see a new post pop up over there.

Female Science Professor: again, a blog I see as a role model. And she has this creepy clairvoyance in constantly writing about issues that are on my mind at the moment. She has a lot of good things to say about being a scientist AND a female scientist at that, and I learn a lot by reading her blog.

: I like birds, I like to laugh, and I love how she writes. I'm an archive-crawler (this is an amazing way to procrastinate), and her archive is a blast to read. I think this about many bloggers, but with StyleyGeek it's the most prominent - if she ever wants to ditch this whole Ph.D. business she'd have a great career as a comic writer.

Geeka: I stumbled across this blog more recently, I think thanks to Scientiae, but it's really fun to read. She's also a great writer, and since I work in a very non-labby discipline, reading about biomedical stuff is both educational and fascinating!

Thanks to these and all of the other blogs I read. They're inspiring, reassuring, and sometimes downright hilarious, and it's been awesome to have a sort of therapy/support network spring up as a result of blogging, whether its via carnivals or comments or just poking around. It helps me keep going - I really think it makes me a better grad student to realize how many of us are out there and how many people have faces the same or worse problems as me and come out the other side doing great! So thanks for the awesome pink button, and please, everyone, keep writing!!!

*As a disclaimer, I'm new to all these new-fangled bloggy technologies, so I'm "tagging" by linking to people. I FOUND my tag during my regular reading of Addy N.'s blog. So apologies if I do this wrong.

Monday, July 9, 2007

a fantastic no-work-allowed day

I had originally planned to take a day off about a week and a half ago, but have been straight-out busy instead. The Office Space Follies had devolved into utter madness. I've been advising my summer student counterparts like mad. Finally, I was scrambling to get a journal paper submitted on which I was first author - super-exciting, but as it's my first first-author paper with Dr. Superwoman, I've been very very anxious to do a top-notch job. But on Friday the office-space situation finally got sorted out and the more demanding summer student, Chill, finally hit her stride and bopped of to do a bunch of work on her own. And yesterday I clicked "Submit" on my paper! WHEW! On top of that there have been lots of minor tiffs and snafus with research, my office, TB, and my upcoming move, and I've been working away on my latest presentation which is coming up in a week and a half.

So today was no-work day - the first REAL one I've had in what felt like years. (no work-related emails, no presentations or papers written, and I even stayed away from looking at new journal articles)

I woke up and actually managed to get myself out for a long run (4 miles - for me that's long!) I got myself my favorite granola bar flavor and yogurt for breakfast (everyone go get a Dulce de Leche Luna bar - makes for a healthy part of breakfast and it tastes better than most candy bars). I put on my Anne of Avonlea DVD and worked on my latest crafty project - I'm not a big craft person, but I'm pretty decent at hemp jewelry, and I've had an awesome bead sitting in a drawer for months that I've wanted to make into a necklace.

The major highlight of the day for me was getting a massage. I've had exactly two massages before this one in my entire life, and they were student massages from a health center near my undergrad campus. But I LOVE them, and I swore I'd get myself one once I had my summer pay and some free time (I know that TB will be pleased that I've started outsourcing the whole backrub deal - I harass him for them endlessly whenever he's around). After two straight hours of office hell finally got resolved on Friday, I finally just picked up the phone and called the awesome-hippie spa my adviser had told me about for an appointment.

I was totally amazed. I got a robe and shoes and the best tea I've EVER tasted (licorice root and mint - SO GOOD. Go get some!), a foot bath-and-massage, and an AMAZING full-body massage. They even give you a little aromatherapy thing in the massage room, along with the sort of meditation music that I love to listen to, no matter how much people make fun of me. And a swanky shower afterward with all of their fancy (way-too-expensive-to-actually-buy) products available. And the whole thing came to less than $100 - or would have if I hadn't bought a big jar of their tea. Worth it.

It took me a little while to get over feeling slightly guilty about the whole experience - there was this woman about my age rubbing my feet and holding up little aroma bottles for me to sample, and it just felt ridiculous at first - I kept trying to remind myself that I've had the month from hell and paying for a pleasant experience once in a while doesn't make me a pampered spoiled horrible person. Nobody I knew growing up ever went to a spa - they were ridiculous places for detoxing celebrities or stuck-up women whose kids were being raised by nannies. So I felt weird going to one - I got along just fine without a fancy spa visit for 23 years, so there was no getting off on "I NEEDED this". I wound up asking my masseuse how she had gotten into this field and why she did it, and it was very cool to hear her answer - her biggest bonus was how portable her job was, and she was telling me about being able to find work in places like France and England and Alaska (random!) because, as she puts it, "my hands go wherever I go!" Eventually I started feeling like a client instead of an entitled snob, and was able to really REALLY enjoy the experience.

I left with my entire neck and back feeling like butter and my feet feeling amazing. I went to my favorite coffeeshop and got my usual sandwich and read, then came home, messed around with my hemp twine projects some more, and re-read part of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (I've got big plans for a complete reread of all six books by July 21st - less than two weeks away!!!) I had some ridiculously-good tomato-basil quinoa that I had never made before for dinner and finished my book. Which brings me to now - I made myself a mug of that tea, and I was happy to come across one of my favorite, if slightly silly, programs on Animal Planet - it's the one where the Australian guy is basically be Steve Irwin transported into pre-historic times. I know it's a slightly strange program, and not entirely great from a conservationist point of view (at one point he tries to feed a Miocene-era herbivore a 21st-century apple, that sort of thing), but I love it - yay wacky prehistoric animals!!!!!!

Tomorrow it's time to get back to advising, presentation-writing, studying, and the whole rest of the mess, but I earnestly do feel like taking a day to actually take care of myself is going to make me a better student, in addition to a happier person. Living by myself has the simultaneous benefit and downside that, when I go home after a day of work, there's nothing much to do except more work - come home, eat dinner, and sit back down in front of the computer. I get a lot more done, but I start to feel extremely unbalanced, doing nothing but thinking and sleeping and thinking some more. So today I finally took a chance to take a break from the academic end of things and take care of the rest of my life a bit.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007


Is it bad that, when my new officemate asked me if anyone had plans for the 4th of July, I looked up at him and said, really confused, "What, Wednesday?"

Friday, June 29, 2007

Teh Tehsis: Post #1 of a zillion...

A couple of days ago I had a huge, long, fantastic meeting with Dr. SuperWoman, my main research adviser here at Hot State University. We've been saying for a while that we should really talk about my thesis, and haven't gotten around to it (we've been trying to get a paper out the door all week, and I've just started a new and hairy method of analysis that's involved lots of help and discussion). Finally, at that last meeting, she said, "Well, we could talk about it now", and *boom*, we were off.

To my astonishment, I thought for about five seconds only to realize that I'm *ALWAYS* thinking about this. I have a couple of sub-disciplines in Useless Science that fascinate me, and since I have a rather unique research history I'm very anxious to combine the two disciplines to answer some very popular and hotly-debated questions. I've already done a relatively large amount of work in both fields, and I know that the question I'd like my thesis to answer will be a big deal, and of great interest to lots of people. I've had this idea for a while, and it pretty much evolves with every passing day as I think about it little by little. And it's not changing - it's just becoming more detailed and thought-out

By the end of that meeting I had described a semi-detailed plan that she loved, we had talked about the sort of proposals and field work I'd need, we had even pieced together potential future committee members and set a timeline for when I should plan on giving my "proposal defense", as we call it. I was bouncing on my bike seat the whole way home, squeeing with excitement, and buzzing all over my apartment. Even when I managed to settle down and get a little work done, I was ridiculously pumped. No way drugs can do this. When I tried to go to sleep, I got back up and banged out the outline that was zooming around my head before falling asleep. I cannot WAIT to get this up and rolling - yeeeeeeeeeeeeee...

Now, I'm planning to propose my thesis sometime early next year - that gives me plenty of time to piece together a really thorough and detailed proposal, do background research, and begin planning what my realistic goals are for the project. This puts me about a year and a half ahead of the standard grad student timeline in my Department. Looking ahead, it seems that I'll be finishing sometime in the four-to-five year range.

O readers, tell me: what will I do wrong?

There's no WAY I'm the first Ph.D. student to think "I already have an idea! I'll finish in four years!", nor will I be the last. I am not particularly smart. I am hardworking and motivated, but so is almost everyone who goes to grad school - that's nothing special. I've lucked out so far with extremely supportive advisers and projects that I love and am passionate about. Given the long-distance situation with TB and my general eagerness to get to a more solid and flexible place in life, I've definitely got plenty of reasons to push toward finishing early. Right now, I see no reason why I can't, barring some unforeseen tragic event. But I don't have that much faith. I'm not special. Why should I expect to do what so many people, who are probably smarter and harder-working and better scientists than I, don't?

Tell me: what's going to derail me? Will I have the committee from hell? Will my field work fall on its face? Will I get SCOOPED? (this is another reason why I'm in such a rush - this is an exciting question, I've never heard anyone ask it before, I want to be the one to answer, and there's no WAY that nobody else has noticed how interesting this subject is). Will I break up with TB and fall into a long bitter depression that strands me here for seven years? Anybody? I figure if I know what might happen - if I know what the typical roadblocks are - it might give me at least a little extra time to prepare for and accomodate them.

Help! Things are going too well! Something is going to break any moment now! (how sad is that? Even when grad students are happy, they're stressed about being happy).

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

raaaaaar, people-eater!

Because I see all the cool kids doing it. And my curiosity overcame my usual dislike of these surveys. ENTJ! Who knew?

Your Score: Dictator- ENTJ

60% Extraversion, 53% Intuition, 66% Thinking, 60% Judging

Have you no soul? It's clear you have no heart and that your blood runs cold, but really, do you have even one redeeming factor?

Sure. You're a natural born leader. So was Hitler. You just don't like people, do you?

You don't play games. You take charge. And there's very little room for mistakes in your world. You're forceful, intimidating and overbearing.

Heard of the word "patience?" Trust me, it's a word and it's something you're sorely lacking. Believe it or not, you're not always right. Learn to have some patience for those who think differently from you, knobflap.

From the way people's knees knock when they see you, you should have realised by now that you're not exactly a "people-person." You're more of a "people-eater." You just ain't tuned into people's feelings and probably couldn't care less whether you were anyway. Maybe you're not from this planet but the rest of us are.

Sure, you're intelligent. So what? You have some semblance of power. Big deal.

At least people LIKE the rest of us.


If you want to learn more about your personality type in a slightly less negative way, check out this.


The other personality types are as follows...

Loner - Introverted Sensing Feeling Perceiving

Pushover - Introverted Sensing Feeling Judging

Criminal - Introverted Sensing Thinking Perceiving

Borefest - Introverted Sensing Thinking Judging

Almost Perfect - Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Perceiving

Freak - Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Judging

Loser - Introverted iNtuitive Thinking Perceiving

Crackpot - Introverted iNtuitive Thinking Judging

Clown - Extraverted Sensing Feeling Perceiving

Sap - Extraverted Sensing Feeling Judging

Commander - Extraverted Sensing Thinking Perceiving

Do Gooder - Extraverted Sensing Thinking Judging

Scumbag - Extraverted iNtuitive Feeling Perceiving

Busybody - Extraverted iNtuitive Feeling Judging

Prick - Extraverted iNtuitive Thinking Perceiving

Link: The Brutally Honest Personality Test written by UltimateMaster on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Monday, June 25, 2007

In a brief break from your regularly scheduled blog...

First off: I hate reality shows.

I ESPECIALLY hate shows like "America's Got Talent". The talented people are extremely run-of-the-mill mediocre, and the rest are just there for the absurd point-and-laugh entertainment that so many Americans apparently love.

I also tend to have rather picky music tastes.

Now, take a break from reading and watch the video. Be sure to stretch your "wait, WHAT??" double-take muscles first.


Did you watch it yet?


I have been prowling the internet on and off ALL AFTERNOON looking for an mp3 version of this performance by Cas Haley. It has been in my head since I stumbled across an America's Got Talent rerun and fortunately suppressed my "ugh, click away" reflex long enough to hear this guy. This was the first time I'd heard the song, actually, and as is typical, "the first album was better": I downloaded the original by The Police and can't even get through it - I want the Cas Haley version!!

Will it get me to watch the rest of the show? Noooo. Frankly, I suspect that after that performance he should have no trouble getting signed in some way, shape, or form, regardless of what a contrived NBC reality show does with him (that said, Today-Show-style publicity and a million dollars can't hurt, right?) What it will get me doing is buying his band's music/CDs/whatever. Damn.

I'm not saying he's, you know, the next Bob Marley or anything, but he has an extraordinarily unique and pure voice, and his pitch is better than about 95% of the money-sodden pop singers bopping around with an entire studio's worth of electronics behind them to keep them in tune. As a still-not-quite-former music geek, I get super-excited when I hear stuff like this. As you can probably tell.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Random Bullets of Summer - New People!

  • The summer students are here! I "have" two (each of my advisers has a summer student that I get to help): Pixie and Chill
  • Pixie is fantastic (and adorably tiny, hence the name) - she's very methodical, very sharp, is clearly happy to be doing her research, and has somehow been convinced that I am extremely cool. I actually advise her here and there - she'll bring me a problem, I'll look at it and think of something she can try, and I tell her to try it. She does and comes back - usually the problem is fixed, sometimes it's not, it's all good. I LIKE advising!
  • Chill needs to chill. Simultaneously, she has that sort of lazy monotone in-the-throat manner of talking common to droves of college girls across the country - the "I'm-too-cool-to-use-my-diaphragm" style. You know what I mean. She is very into an extremely small obscure niche of Useless Science that she stumbled upon via a research project at her undergrad, and has already told me that if she can't study her niche and ONLY her niche, she doesn't want to study Useless Science (which to me means she's not really interested in Useless Science - she just hit on a project that was easy a while back and doesn't want to leave her comfort zone. Grad school will be a rude awakening for her). She'll periodically roll into my office asking where our adviser is and then stay to chat because she finished all of her work because she's done this a hundred times before and she wants to do stuff but she's bored bored bored. Meanwhile I am literally up to my elbows in my current project and busy as hell. Telling the overwhelmed grad student who's trying to get a paper draft edited that your life is hard because you're bored - during your summer vacation - is not a way to get on said grad student's good side.
  • The grads and summer students have hung out in a group a couple times, and one guy still hasn't deigned to engage me in a real conversation. Apparently since I'm not a dude, and also not hot, I'm not worth getting know. It's not much of a loss - he seems like an ass. Still - that sort of thing never boosted anyone's ego...
  • The rest of the summer students are cool. Pixie and a few of the other girls have somehow anointed me the advice-giver - they've come by looking for directions around campus, ideas on where to go out for lunch, Advil, questions about grad school, the works. And if I tell them I'm busy, they smile and head off to ask someone else! Simple! And they're so fun they're usually a welcome distraction from "why do my figures still look awful" hell.
  • The new grad students are starting to arrive! There's one in my office. She's nice enough. She's also bored. She has some work to do, but it's not remotely urgent or time-consuming. So she likes to chat. A lot. A LOT. Remember how I'm up to my elbows in work? I'm not really in a chatty condition. I've taken to wearing my headphones constantly, even if there's no music on, as a "Don't bug me" signal. This works maybe 80% of the time.
  • With the beginning influx of new students, the Office Space Follies have gone to hell in a handbasket - people are being kicked out of offices, fighting furiously within offices, begging for new office space, the works. Does this seriously happen every year? I'm still hunkered down over my space, which thankfully is mine and all mine and not about to be messed with - but I think next year I'm going to see if we can't get everyone kicked out of their spaces and just draw names out of a hat. Sure, I might get stuck with a tiny crappy space surrounded by chatty first-years, bt at least there wouldn't be this incessant bitching.
  • Finally, even if a couple of them are annoying, it's kind of nice to be surrounded by chicks. It's a welcome change for Useless Science, and a nice environment to be working in! Here's hoping every single one of them is someday a professor and I can walk around going "I knew Dr. Pixie when she was an undergrad!"

Monday, June 18, 2007

It's true!

Elli is alive!

Apologize for the crummy lack of posting - this comes on the heels of my resolution to post regularly, if not daily, this summer. It's been nice to see that people actually occasionally read and listen to what I say, and writing in here has gotten me to explore my own views in more detail. So sorry! Come baaack! I won't do it again!

I can chalk up a hard week of absence to the virus from hell. Are there seriously viruses out there that aren't the flu but manifest as a demonic head cold coupled with inability to keep down any consumable including water? Sucked. I don't really have an excuse for the rest, other than "trying to feel human again". Post-sick is almost worse than sick - after losing a crashing twelve pounds in forty-eight hours I've taken license over the past week to eat whatever strikes my fancy in order to feel better, along with skipping my morning jogging and napping whenever I can (and I'm not a napper). So I feel human again, but I also feel fat and lazy. Blah.

Interestingly (and probably stupidly), I was working my ass off the whole time as soon as I was able to drink water and eat toast. I've been working like mad to polish off a project and a pseudo-related paper, and also preparing to move at the end of the summer (apartments AND offices) and starting to piece together bits of ideas for Teh Tehsis. I got a shitload done, but this is probably why my recovery has been unnecessarily slow. High/low-lights of that weird hazy productive time:

  • I gave a fairly big talk recently. I had prepared for the talk furiously up until I got ill. Fortunately I was at least healthy enough to show up and give the presentation (anxiety about getting healthy in time for my talk totally didn't help the healing process). I gave the thing on a truly unnatural amounts of drugs, having practiced only a couple times in the preceding week, and I'm still getting compliments on the talk - everyone said it was fantastic and well-done and extremely composed. Clearly I need to start pounding antibiotics and barely-over-the-counter-decongestants before every presentation. Or maybe just a hip flask would suffice.
  • So far my office move looks to be fine. There's a vacated space that I want and have dibs on. But some of my friends aren't faring as well - one poor girl has the current resident of an office practically blackmailing her into not taking a space in his office that should really be hers for the taking. The reason? As he explained to a buddy, he wants to leave the space open for a first-year (the space is way too nice for a first-year), to "meet new people". Coming from this guy, this translates to "the girl who wants the space isn't hot enough or single enough and I want to mack on hot incoming first-year girls". He's 29.
  • TB sent me a box of powdered soup and a stuffed frog, along with a sandwich and hot cup of tea in the form of those little plastic food toys that come from kids' Playskool kitchens, with a note saying that this all would have gotten here sooner if he had been around, and he hoped I was feeling better. TB's a great guy, but mushy little gestures like this are pretty rare - a smart tactic, because getting that package utterly made my day.
  • Four of my college friends are engaged. FOUR OF MY COLLEGE CLASSMATES ARE ENGAGED (to be fair, two of them are engaged to each other, but still). I heard about all three engagements in a 24-hour period. I'm not jealous - it's not time for me to be engaged right now by a long shot - but, gack...I'm going to be buying people Pyrex cup sets and cheese slicers off their wedding registries while I eat ramen out of a foam bowl and IM TB while sitting around in my underwear. It's not lost on me why the TV shows I watch feature lots of commercials for and weight loss pills. I can remind myself that I have a boyfriend all I want. It doesn't get me a cheese slicer. (what does help is compiling a new draft of my paper-in-progress and seeing "Elli T. Blogger" as the first author. Booyah!)
  • I took this weekend as an official "stop and recharge" time, and geeked out furiously by watching the U.S. Open and calling my dad whenever one of the golfers made a particularly dramatic shot. My parents both loooove golf, and I was actually a pretty decent player in high school before I dropped it out of, unfortunately, dorked-out shame once I got to college. I haven't played much since except for swinging a club with my dad when I'm home, but it does mean that I tune in for the majors and call my dad hollering when someone holes it from the fairway or misses a putt by an eighth of an inch. Plus hey, it's Father's Day. The two of us got a kick out of it, anyway. My dad's awesome :)
  • Thinking on it, there may be a connection between foam ramen bowls, dating website ads, and spending a weekend day calling my dad to shout about Tiger Woods' putting...
Anyway, now I'm healthy and hopefully tomorrow I can snap out of "pizza and websurfing" and back into "veggies and running and blogging" :P I'll be writing!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Grad Student Musing #2

You know you're a grad student when you go out to dinner after work...and walk into the (semi-nice, birthday-boy's-choice) restaurant wearing cutoff shorts and carrying a backpack.

(once...just once...I'd like to have sufficient warning to show up at a restaurant in real clothes and carrying a purse!)

Monday, June 4, 2007

If a grad student works, but nobody sees her do it... she a slacker?

I woke up this morning to pouring rain, quashing my initial plans for the day. I decided to head into work early, and go to the gym this evening instead of running this morning. I sat down with my breakfast in front of my computer and decided to check out a couple files that I'd need for a big to-do list item today. Three hours later, I still hadn't gotten up but I had crossed off the huge to-do list item in grand fashion - data found, corrected, analyzed, plotted, the works. I showered and made myself lunch and now I'm waiting for the next bus, as it is still raining.

On the one hand, I got a TON done - this could have theoretically taken all day between the distractions of officemates, free food, lunch breaks, etc. On the other hand - the other grad students have been in the office, my advisers have possibly been by looking for me...I can't help but feel guilty that I've been working at home, even though I seriously think that I couldn't possibly have been more productive (apparently my ideal work environment involves natural sunlight, open windows, my Anne of Green Gables DVD, and sitting around in my underpants. This should make things interesting as a professor). When I meet with my adviser on Friday, she's going to care that I got a bunch of new data points into our paper, not that I got the points while sitting in my apartment.

I know I'm being ridiculous - I don't feel nearly as bad when I'm at work and websurfing. Why is that?? What is there about a physical presence at work that makes us feel so assured that we're Getting Things Done, regardless of how much we actually do?

(the upshot is that this has further confirmed my belief that, with sufficient planning, I can blow this popsicle stand and work remotely if necessary)

Friday, June 1, 2007


I want these. Oh how I want these.

Made all the better by the vague sexual undertones? ("wait...head??...")

As seen at Feministe.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

"I Want to be a Scientist When I Grow Up!"

I am hungry to be a scientist.

When I was a little kid, Scientist was an extraordinarily romantic notion. I've mentioned before that I was drawn to all types of Useless Science from a very young age, and they all seemed to have fantastic jobs associated with them. Marine biologists spent all of their time on boats and in mile-deep ocean rovers discovering new species of squid. Paleontologists lived in tents and always had a half-excavated dinosaur under the nearest tarp. Astronomers lived on mountaintops and peered through telescopes every night while their data analyzed itself. Archaeologists traveled all the time and had Harrison Ford hats. Everyone was perpetually on PBS, and everyone was undyingly passionate about what they did.

Well, the PBS cameras haven't shown up yet and I'm surrounded by grouchy grad students, so that bubble has definitely been burst! But we've been asked how we are hungry, and I'm still hungry to be a scientist. The dramatized notion of what this means is long dead, replaced with the land of tenure, publication counts, field work, funding, and conference proceedings - and in all of its administrative gore, I still want it.

I have finished just one year of grad school. I am just shy of 23 years old. I am definitely a fledgling scientist when it comes to years of experience in research, paper-writer, advising (I've just started helping my adviser's summer student this past week, which is a whole new experience), time-management, committee-work, grant proposing, etc. Right now my age and my training level effectively invalidates any of my efforts to be really taken seriously as a professional in most people's eyes, even if I'm sometimes right. And I realize this.

What I'm really eager for is to get the necessary experience under my belt, to the point where I am looked at as a Scientist rather than a Scientist-In-Training, where my intellectual ideas are educated enough to be given weight and my contributions are treated professionally. I really seriously adore what I do, and when it all comes down to it I just want to reach a point where I am participating fully in my field. Even if this means less time doing research and more time spent on committees, it will mean that I am a professional in my discipline. I may still be a young professional. I may still be an inexperience professional. I may still be a "female" professional, something which I think will actually become more emphasized as I progress through graduate school and post-docs and the surrounding population of females is depleted at every turn. But I will be a professional. I would like to naively hope that at some point I will step back and look at myself and realize that I have become what I wanted to be when I started down this road as a college freshman.

This whole feeling simultaneously inspires fear, skepticism, and excitement.

On the fear side, I know this is partly driven by a desire to "arrive" as a Real Scientist in order to examine what sort of lifestyle it demands and decide once and for all if this is what I want, which is a decision I can't make as a beginner-grad-student.

The skepticism comes from those early PBS-Scientist days: when we're pre-teens and teenagers, we all desperately want to be "grown-ups", because everyone knows that when you're a grown-up all your problems are solved and all of your anxieties magically evaporate. As the equivalent of a Useless Science preteen, I'm hoping that this isn't just another version of "I wanna grow up". I KNOW that being a post-doc and a tenure-track professor can be incredibly hellish and that people look back on the straightforward graduate school years with longing. But it doesn't stop me from wanting to cross over the point where I am taken seriously as a scientist.

The excitement is really the best part. When I considered the "How we are hungry" question, this was the only answer that I could even imagine, and there's something extremely reassuring and pure about that fact. I'm hungry for lots of small things (more time with TB, a car, a tomato-and-mozzarella sandwich...), but what I am hungry for more than anything else is what I am working towards harder than anything else: to reach a position where I am building a life, professional and personal, as a Scientist. Not as a student. Not as a scientist-in-training. Not as someone whose hopes and dreams can be brushed aside by people with dismissals of "Oh, you're still too young to know what you want" or "Wait 'til you see what science is REALLY like, then you'll be sorry". As Elli the Scientist.

Now about that sandwich...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

I Salute You, Burrito Guy!

This morning poor TB unloaded on me with some industry idiocy he's been dealing with - people who can't get their shit together, can't get simple tasks done, can't take direction, can't check their egos at the door, and have no concept of urgency, of getting work done when it needs to get done, or of helping others.

About an hour later I got a similar rant from a friend I talked to over IM - she's working as an intern at a biochem company over the summer and already has some awful stories about the people who are supposed to be her mentors and superiors basically behaving like petulant children.

Then I went to lunch with a few people, out to a fast-food burrito joint. There was one guy in charge of making the bulk of the burritos. You know how these places work - you fire out an order as rapidly as possible, bits of chicken and tomato cubes fly through the air, and a burrito lands in your hands about 2.3 seconds later. Well, this guy didn't disappoint. I placed my order, had it repeated back to me perfectly, and then got to watch him work. The dude absolutely FLEW. As he fielded about 15 orders from grouchy hungry people he was also refilling bins of ingredients as he ran out, restocking the drink fridge, and helping out a guy who was experiencing some sort of chicken-grilling crisis.

I would hire this guy to do ANYthing. He was a machine. He was better than a machine. Let's see what he did that the average MBA dolt can't seem to manage:

  • he completed the task assigned to him. I wanted a burrito. He gave me a burrito. And it was a good burrito.
  • he could hustle. Fast turn-over is an advertised product of a fast-food place. I got my burrito quickly, and so did all of the other people in line.
  • he could identify what needed to be done, and then he'd DO it! While he was working he emptied his bin of rice. There was no "someone get me more rice". No staring at the empty rice bin and wondering who to ask about it. No, "well, the rice bin is empty, so clearly there's nothing more I can do today." He looked around, realized he was the person who should get more rice, and got more rice. Problem solved.
  • he could take instruction. When asked to help the guy at the grill, he did.
  • he could give instructions. He didn't just drop what he was doing to help Grill Guy - he called over a girl (who was looking rather listless over by the lettuce) to please help him out so his job wouldn't go neglected. And he wasn't an ass about it - it was "could you help me for a sec?", not "hey lazy come do what I tell you!"
  • he was a considerate and professional human being. He moved quickly when necessary, he spoke clearly, he listened, and he did it all without a hint of attitude. No "mumblemumblewhat'dyousay?" No morose slouching. No eye-rolling or bad attitude. He wasn't a forcedly-perky "Have a scrumdiddlyumptious day!" type of employee (you know the type - they're threatened on pain of death by their managers to wear 37 pieces of flair and smile dammit smile at every customer who rolls through) - he was just awake and paying attention to what he was doing.

Now I'm sure this dude has his bad days, where he grumbles at customers and rolls his eyes when he runs out of rice. But bad days are one thing - adopting shitty work habits as a way of life is quite another. This guy gets it. He's capable, he understands what "work" means, and he knows how to behave in a professional setting (and when the fast-food burrito shop is treated as a more professional setting than an industrial biochemistry lab, there are problems with the world). Please, everyone - hire Burrito Guy.

Seriously - can we require all MBA candidates to take a semester of "Burger King Drive-Thru 101" before they're allowed to receive their degrees or start working? In addition to puncturing inflated egos and giving some of the more spoiled ones their first-ever taste of a summer job, it seems like they'd learn some of the vital skills that help someone succeed in business. Or at least make them more tolerable colleagues.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

An Apology to Professors and TAs Everywhere

(Inspired when Addy N. directed me to Rate Your Students, my most recent source of blog-crack)

Please - PLEASE - know that there are students out there who agree with you. Who hate the lazy, grade-grubbing, plagiarizing, Daddy-dialing little bastards who populate our classes. We want to learn. We want to be good students. We want to be respected as intellectual beings. Heck, we want to do good work and want you to like us. When those things happen your job is easier and our grade just might be shinier. Everybody wins!

I apologize for the kids who plagiarize and then act like they don't know what it means. Isn't that an eight-grade vocabulary word? I apologize for the guy in the front row who asks pompous tangential questions in a painfully loud voice just to prove How Smart He Is to his peers. I apologize for the Little Grade Grubbers who ask why they got a 58 instead of a 60 on their exam, or the PreMed Grade Grubbers who gulp and sob over a 98 vs. 100 discrepancy when you are already a generous grader. I especially apologize for the Beastly Grade Grubbers who call in Mommy, Daddy, the Dean, Daddy the Dean, or all of the above, in an attempt to prove to you, by sheer display of Other Grown-Ups, that you're being unfair. I can't really apologize for the kids who forget their pencils, their paper, or their pants, or who answer their cell phones during class, as this level of rudeness really is beyond my comprehension. I simply wish for your sakes that they disappear.

I apologize for department chairs who base your worth on the evaluations of bitter D students who just wish you'd inflate their grades a little more because really, who does it hurt? I apologize for the favoritism shown to professors who can't teach for crap but hand out A's at the drop of a hat. I apologize for any persons in power who treat a university like a business and think that "the customer is always right" when in fact "the customer" is a spoiled dumbass who thinks that their tuition is seriously paying your salary. And the powers-that-be believe them.

But hey, this isn't all because we, the decent students, feel badly for you, our dear professors. We're the self-centered know-it-all spawn of the baby boomers, after all - we apologize because we hate the awful students too. When Johnny Moneybags the Third needs a two-week extension on his paper draft because his business-major self has had a stressful Greek Week at the frat, it hurts us all. Their 20-bullshit-excuses-per-week dilute the one situation per year that some of us really do need a break on. My idea throughout undergrad had been to never EVER ask for an extension unless it was a ridiculous level of emergency, precisely because I figured that when I finally needed help, the professor would know it wasn't "just another excuse". With someone as stubborn as me, this wasn't the best policy.* I eventually figured out that most of my professors are not ogres with hearts of stone - provided I don't pull an "i need an extension plz its rly important" stunt every week, they'll look at my past record and help me out if it's reasonable**).

I TA'd a couple times. Fortunately, since I was an undergrad TA in a class of relatively smart kids, they knew enough to take most of their bitching over my head. I didn't get much more than a few "wait, do we get our lab books graded THIS week? I forget" emails, and a couple exciting excuses for missed labs (personal favorite: "I fell in the river and my roommate was in the shower with her boyfriend so I couldn't shower and had to go to Health Services because I came down with pneumonia." #1 - was "with her boyfriend" really a necessary detail? #2 - ostensibly you could have emailed me while waiting for said shower sex to conclude. #3 - kid, if you fell in the local river you'd have a lot more than pneumonia to worry about). I know I would lose it if I had to put up with a lot of the crap students fling at their teachers.

And finally, I personally apologize for any time when I might have BEEN that student - emailing about something I could have answered by looking at the syllabus, writing a grumpy evaluation because I thought I should have done better in the class, or maybe asking a question just because I wanted to prove to you that I was Listening, Attentive, and Smart. I hope you took off and bitched about me as you rightfully should have, and I hope that I have learned from my mistakes!

Elli The Student

*What I learned: don't sit through a two-hour exam instead of going to Health Services for a UTI. You will fail. You will wind up in the hospital. This does not make you smart or dedicated or a good student. This makes you a dumbass kid who isn't taking care of themselves properly.
**the worst example of "oh god my professor's going to kill me" in recent memory came from a kid in my officemate's lab section, who called him, from the hospital, after being run over by a car, to explain that he could finish prelab assignment in his hospital but wouldn't be making it to lab the next day as he was in traction but he would try to get the prelab faxed to our office sometime the next day and he was so so sorry for the inconvenience and if they wouldn't accept it late he'd understand that his grade would have to suffer and of course he would provide the university with the necessary hospital information and when should he try to make up the missed which point my officemate cut him off and started hollering "For the love of god, forget the damn prelab. Rest, get better, turn it in whenever, and we'll help you reschedule your lab when you're healthy!"

Saturday, May 19, 2007

This girl is freaking awesome.

She's 18, and she just summited Everest. She's now climbed the seven summits - the highest peak on every continent.

Take a couple minutes to check out the rest of her website. There's a bunch of news stories going around on her right now, but I think her website says it all the best. And yeah, she's also an all-state oboe player. And a dancer. And a great writer!

I simultaneously feel extraordinarily boring and lazy, and like maybe I should put "climb ONE of the seven summits" back on my life list.

Seriously, though: goddamn. Everyone should go read about this girl; the more I read, the more incredible this is! What a great role model for kids, women, men, ANYone!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

competitive feminism?

I was waiting by the hallway printer this morning, trying to coax one of my old papers out of its leisurely innards. The paper was printing slowly enough that I got to skim each page before the next one emerged. This was a two-year-old paper that I was third author on, so as I read I came across occasional scientific facts I didn't remember. In this vein, I stumbled across something that was extremely cool and tied into research I am doing now. I chuckled at myself, rolling my eyes at the fact that information I had been hunting for was sitting right in one of my own papers. Clearly, my memory sucks.

One of my least favorite grad students, DramaGirl, was walking by at the time. She shot off some "You look amused" comment (she has, in the past, criticized me for looking happy while in grad school, so alarm bells should have gone off right away). Since the comment sounded harmless and even friendly, I replied, without thinking, "Yeah, it's just sad that I can't remember what's in my own papers."

DramaGirl has now informed the other students in her year that I am a bragging little snot, so enamored with myself and the fact that I've published sooooo many papers that I like to flaunt the fact that I can't even remember what I wrote.

When I initially heard this I felt awful. I don't like people with inflated egos and would hate to get one myself. After all, who was I to toss out such a comment? Didn't I think about how it sounded, or that I was insulting her, or...

Then I thought about it again. It's not my fault that I've published a few papers (not really "soooo many" in my book), and since when is publishing someone's fault?? True, I didn't think ahead before I opened my mouth but hey, if a professor or an older student had said it it would have been fine. And it's not my job to accommodate her insecurities - professors call students stupid, for gods' sake, so her angst about someone else's publication record is definitely not my problem.

This girl has groused to other students about how she used to be "the best" student around here because she had a couple published papers, but now I had come along and was "beating her" by having more published papers and "competing with her" by coming in as early as she does.

Yeah, it doesn't make sense to me either. "The best"? "Beating her"? What is this, third grade? Do I get my name on the blackboard with a star next to it if I publish another paper? This level of competitiveness and cattiness is quite foreign to me. There are not a finite number of department Ph.D. issued every year. If I come in at 9AM that doesn't prevent her from coming in at 8:30AM. And our subfields are about as different as they could be, so it's not like we'll be competing for advisers, postdocs or jobs. As far as I know, she's smart, a hard worker, and a better student than me. It's our personalities that rub the wrong way. She hits an alarming number of behaviors or personality traits that I just do not click with (some of which I'll certainly talk about in the future), so I mostly try to avoid her. Unfortunately, one thing she does which I hate is seek out excess drama and conflict, so she does NOT try to return the favor and avoid ME.

DramaGirl is a Feminist, as she will readily and eagerly tell you. When her old adviser suggested she do more analysis and wait a while before publishing, he was being sexist. When our summer students stats came in and were largely males, she bugged individual professors about going down the waiting list until they found a girl who wanted to come here for the summer. At the same time, accomplished or assertive females who aren't her are "bitches", dorks who work too hard, or "playing the gender card to get ahead" (that's a direct quote). I am completely convinced that, had I been a male student, she would not have gotten pissy and spread this information around.

I'm not the feminist police - I hate hearing that women who wear skirts, shave their legs, or give blow jobs are "fake feminists". But labeling yourself a feminist because it makes you sound politically aware and then putting down other women to make yourself the most accomplished girl in the room makes her, at the very least, a damn poor feminist. Despite DramaGirl's feminist self-identification, she carefully parses her world into "male" and "female" categories, and only appears interested in making sure she's at the top of the "female" pecking order. It's some perverse kind of feminism I see once in a while in academia - she tries to make herself the most accomplished female around on the theory that, the next time a department is looking for a "token girl", she's first in line. Never mind that this reinforces all those damn notions of tokenism and "women" being a separate, lesser applicant pool that gets dipped into out of charity - this is how her world works.

(hey, I can be jealous and competitive with the best of them, but I'll go after the males too - the minute I read Anne of Green Gables and watched Anne studiously compete with Gilbert Blythe all through her schooling, I've had me a role model :P)

Either way, I now like her even less. And the net result has been me thinking that, if everyone is going to think I have a huge ego, I might as well work on cultivating one - they'll get to be right, and I'll get to practice my self-promotions skills well before I have to start applying for postdocs!

Monday, May 7, 2007

Random Bullets of Aaaaargh

  • I am studying for the most useless, pointless, waste-of-time "final" exam ever (administered before official finals week because our professor is as sick of the class as I am!) The professor hates grading and has not given us our other exam or half of our copious amount of homeworks. He will most likely not grade the final and assign final grades by throwing darts or rolling dice. Most of the other students are slavishly copying their notes over and over - because if it didn't click after the sixth time, the seventh time's the charm?? I am grudgingly studying our old (uncorrected) exam problems, but I have, you know, Real Science to do (my research is making me explode with excitement, and I have a presentation I'm itching to get rolling on). Memorizing and regurgitating is not a good use of my time right now.
  • I have been waiting for a while to hear back about a research proposal I submitted to our department. Supposedly the decision was made a couple weeks ago. There is no news - nobody has gotten any emails or letters. Other students who put in proposals have advisers on the committee who tell them, "Oh, you got funded and approved!" I tried hunting down two people who I peripherally know that are on the committee. They have both been in hiding all day, and were also in hiding all day Friday. I hate that.
  • Dr. Talks-A-Lot is also not in today. I had lots of questions for her that I'd prefer to get answered sooner rather than later. Damn.
  • Apparently the bank down the street closes very early on Mondays. I foolishly went by there a little after lunch to deposit some reimbursement checks that came in a cool ten weeks late (no, really), and was met with perky ladies smiling at me behind the locked door and shaking their heads - no, they closed two minutes ago. No, I can't come in.
  • TB is out of phone contact for the next few days. Which is never any fun. He was also rather mumbly and grouchy last night, and would only tell me that he and a (female) friend had gone to see Spiderman 3 and vent about their lives. Am not exactly jealous of the female friend, come she gets to hear about his day and I get "*grunt* Movie was all right...I'm working right now, sorry I can't talk...*grunt* Now I'm going to bed."?
  • My mother is on my case about visiting home. Weirdly. She wants me to focusfocusfocus on school and research, but thinks that when I next manage to scrounge together free time I should come home, rather than going to see TB or sticking around to get work done. Sigh.

In short, it is a grumpy whiny day. On the bright side, I did have a tofurkey sandwich, veggie chips, and dark chocolate for lunch today (mmm), and I have some boil-and-stir vegetable risotto to make for dinner. I think I might throw in the studying in a couple hours and spa out - shower, paint my toes for no reason, do yoga, and read (I just got this book via ScienceWoman's recommendation, and it's wonderful).

Friday, May 4, 2007

Damn paradox...

I need some help convincing my body that, if it goes jogging in the morning, it is more productive and focused for the day. It seems to think it should sit in my apartment and try to get stuff done until it's time to shower and go into work, rather than waste time by something so silly as exercise. It refuses to believe my theory that losing a half-hour or so to jogging every morning is worth it, as I will gain that half-hour back later in productivity. Never mind that I lose ample time every morning/evening to websites, blogs, email, bad TV, reading, etc. It's the running that manages to get cut out of the day.

I am at one of those funny points where I have lot of work that is hard to do, but interesting (in other words: starting one paper and polishing another). Once it's done, I get to work on stuff that is a lot less hard and interesting - proposing a contributed talk for a meeting, putting a couple presentations together, gathering my thoughts for my next project. Good stuff. There are no data snafu's causing my problems - it's plain and simple lack of motivation that means I don't get enough done in the day.

And the way to get more done in the day is to take a half-an-hour away from it every morning and go jogging.

I believe it. It's my legs that don't. :P

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Work, Life, Vagina: Pick Two

The Boyfriend and I have been dating for some time now. We joke about getting married in that "oh gosh what a scary ridiculous thought" way, but really, it's starting to occur to both of us that such a future could actually be likely. We're not married, or even engaged, but we're Seriously Committed.

Recently, an opportunity has come up for TB to relocate to College State in the future, and he has asked me to go with him. It would be a temporary relocation (one year), and would happen after I had gotten started on Teh Tehsis. I have friends, family, and ample opportunity for collaboration in the state, and I like it there. I have plenty of time to plan such a move. Logistically, this is doable, and my adviser is on board - she's been looking up connections she might have and groups I could work with, suggesting fellowships or grants I can apply for to fund me during my PhD thesis, etc.

Despite this, I have heard a deafening litany of concerns from my parents and my older advisers about how dangerous this could be for my career. Forget that I have over a year to make sure that this move goes as smoothly as possible for my professional life. Forget that a five-year long-distance relationship WOULD be dangerous for me and TB. They are Worried.

My older advisers/colleagues (many male, some female) ask me why TB (who they have never met) can't move himself out HERE, why he can't put HIS entire career on hold and mark time until I'm done, why I can't just plan to finish my thesis faster and then move to where he is (yeah, I loved that one). The emphasis is largely on him - "why is he making you do this? Why do you have to move to where he is? DANGER DANGER ACCOMMODATE A MAN AND YOUR HARD WORK WILL SPONTANEOUSLY VAPORIZE!" My mother in particular is terrified that this might be a death knell for my career. Keep in mind that I have an older sister with a husband AND kids AND a career, who is an excellent role model. She's still convinced that any decision I make that might factor in TB is a bad decision, made for foolish emotional reasons that will just come back to haunt me. She also wonders why he can't "get some job in his field where you are" and follow me.

I do understand that these worriers come from a different time, when women following their husbands was the status quo and they were widely expected to put their careers on the back burner. I know that times haven't changed as much as they should have. But it's curious: everyone who is worried about me has told me that I am "very talented", "brilliant", "valuable", "passionate", other recommendation letter superlatives, etc. - yet apparently they think all my talent and brilliance and value and passion can be wiped out in a flash by the mere suggestion of a committed relationship. The implication here - saying that I shouldn't consider such a move, that TB should move to where I am, that he should put his career on hold - is that he'll be fine and happy and none the worse for wear even if he throws roadblocks in front of his future, but I'll be doomed if I so much as consider a future that isn't maniacally devoted to work, work, and only work. Plus, I highly doubt anybody would corner TB and say "Why can't your girlfriend just hold off on her degree for a while and get some job? Why can't she just transfer to a school closer to you?" They might think it, but it's way too un-PC to actually say "your girlfriend should follow you". How can someone get off on saying "your boyfriend should follow you"? The person who can more easily follow should do the following, or ideally a compromise should be reached. End of story.

I seriously suspect this is partly because he's in industry, and academia often sees industry as this magical land where the work is easy, the money grows on trees, and the employment opportunities are perfect and omnipresent. I've also found that academics perceive their industry counterparts as lacking ambition and drive - I suspect that because TB is in industry and I am in academia, I am seen as being more committed to and ambitious about my job. He "just works". Never mind that he is busting his ass, devoted to what he does, and working longer hours than I am. It's just a cushy easy little job, after all. Meanwhile, I am *~*researching*~*, I am *~*getting a Ph.D.*~*, I am *~*passionate*~*. I am enduring grad school for this, and everyone knows grad school is the hell of all hells! [eye roll] The result is a belief that he should prostrate himself at the great altar of Academia without regard for his career future. After all, if he really cared about his profession, he'd be a grad student in it! [snort]

I also think that this is good old-fashioned sexism dressed up as "concern". I'm foolishly trying to "having it all", I can't possibly have a job and a partner/family/life AND a vagina. I've decided to be a woman in science and now I better not want to be anything else. Clearly, they see female intellect as tenuous and easily derailed by frivolous distractions, rather than a tool I can wield to help build myself the life I want. I also see some really ridiculous condescending crap going on here: "You realize that if you have a family, it makes it harder to work." My gosh, if you hadn't told me, I never would have known! I never pay attention to these things! I'm just a little 22-year-old woman with a Bachelors of Science! Thank goodness someone keeps me posted! You tell me I'm smart, but clearly my intellect is narrowly confined to that thing I have a degree in, and doesn't translate to any kind of knowledge about other things, such as My Life.

I know this isn't a new experience for Women In Science, but it's a new experience for me, and it's alarming. The people whose opinions I value, who are in a position to help me and support me, who tell me I'm a smart and capable woman, don't trust me with my own future. How does one respond to that??

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Blog repairs and Office Space

I have been out of the loop lately and just finished a post I want to submit to Scientiae. Of course, it's the 1st of the month so my timing is less than ideal, and I am sitting on the post until tomorrow so it can go into the carnival on the 15th.

In the meantime, I fixed my comments so anybody can leave one, not just registered users. I also cleaned out some old drafts I have sitting around.

The Office Space Follies are imminent and promise to be violent - we've had a spat of recent dissertation defenses (all successful! w00t!), and as a result offices will be opening left, right, and center. I had previously planned to just stay where I was, but now the prospect of a windowed office beckons. We have an unprecedently large (and, oddly, all-male) incoming class, and we can't just stuff them into the basement. Best of all, two grad students who share an office have just had a drama-choked "I don't want to be your friend anymore!"-type spat, and have made it clear that they will not continue their professional cohabitation.

I've cooked up that future Scientiae post and have posts in the queue on professional dress for meetings and seeing some fellow grad students write their first papers. So I'll start writing more - I swear!

Friday, April 27, 2007

She's a hypocrite, but it doesn't make her wrong.

Ugh. Check out this story about MIT's now-former Dean of Admissions. I had thought it was just a small news story (I found out about it by someone passing me a Boston Globe link), but now it's hit

I read a book a while back, "The Overachievers", that quoted this woman, Marilee Jones, a LOT, and it intrigued me enough to read about her a little. She seemed to be a very down-to-earth woman and a good admissions officer to have at an Ivy-League-type school whose admissions process must be overrun with freaked-out parents, anal overachievers, legacies, etc. And now it turns out she lied about three degrees she didn't have.

It's really too bad, since, as the article says, she really did seem to be a voice of reason for kids and parents in the college admissions process. Lots of excellent advice along the lines of "stop bolstering your resume and go play outside, for gods' sake." "The Overachievers" was a fascinating study of how freaked-out college admissions have become, and while admittedly all of the administrators quoted in the book were pretty chill (not the vicious "3000 AP classes or die!" beasts high school students make them out to be), she stood out as the best one.

Sucks that someone who emphasizes relaxing about your resume went and falsified hers. Like, hardcore falsified.

Mostly I'm just wincing and waiting for the backlash. A friend who went to MIT for undergrad passed this on to me, and he's livid. He pointed out quite rightly that if this was a politician they'd sweep it under the rug, issue a public statement, and happily bop along doing their job. He also pointed out how ridiculously emphatic people are about degrees. According to him she had done an excellent job during her time at MIT, the students were fans of her, and admissions had really benefited from her influence. Ostensibly, she was a great person for the job. Yet she still felt it necessary to lie - drastically - on her resume to GET that job. And MIT went for it. Because what mattered wasn't her abilities - it was the shiny degree(s) after her name.

I agree with him and understand where he's coming from. Still - way to screw up your message. Yes, students should chill out about their resumes, and yes, there is too much emphasis on numbers and degrees...but now her motives have seriously been called into question, which is enough for some people to stomp all over her otherwise good ideas. Plus, how long until some Larry Summers peon chimes in with "see? Teh Women don't deserve jobs they get! They lie! Even when women *appear* to be qualified, they're really just lying to break into our hallowed halls of education. Cuz bitches is crazy."

I predict the main backlash reaction will be some version of her lowering academic standards or tainting higher education with her girly womanly "stop taking the SAT fifteen times and go be a human being" message. We can't have anyone encouraging our academics to be balanced! That dilutes the quality of our institutions!!!


(and yes, i'm not dead! Things have been really really busy, but actually been going rather well, and we all know that none of us blog until we have something to complain about :P But never fear, classes will start winding down soon...and in a month or so we'll have summer students arriving. THAT'LL surely be fodder for some posts.)

Monday, April 16, 2007

Virginia Tech

I'm sure many of you have heard by now.

I can't imagine what these students, the families, and the Virginia Tech community must be enduring right now. I know that many people who only hear this or the news are still horrified and frightened. I think most of us do NOT hear this and think "oh god this will happen in my building tomorrow". It's a much more subtle fear than that.

Many of us see a campus as "different". For students at a school, your campus is very much a part of your identity and your center - it's not exactly "home", but it's something tighter than a conventional definition of "community". It's more than a neighborhood, or a collection of buildings. A classroom is a place to learn, or doodle, or sleep, or watch the clock until lunchtime, but is fundamentally a place of comfort - students are comfortable enough in the classroom to focus on more abstract concerns, be they molecules or naps or lunch with friends.

Incidents like this shatter this ultimately false notion of what a college campus is.
In this Virginia Tech engineering building, grad students probably showed up every day to sit at their computers, do research that excited or frustrated them, bitch about evil advisers, nab free food from the lobbies, and wonder about their futures as academics, as scientists, as engineers. Turning this wonderfully insular and learning-focused environment into a scene of fury, terror, and insanity is unbelievably alarming and obscene.

We do not expect that this will happen to us or our friends tomorrow - but we realize that it easily could have been, that our loved or lovably-hated campus community is obviously no different than anywhere else in the eyes of a maniac with a gun. We realize that our expectations and beliefs are meaningless in this harshest kind of reality. Most of us will go to school tomorrow, go to class, check on our experiments that worked or failed, and go about our day as students and academics. But we will do so with a jostled worldview, one where our daily surroundings are a little more raw.

I don't pray, and the words "my thoughts are with them" are too often thrown around - but I can't help but think of the Virginia Tech community today, and the students, friends, mentors, colleagues, and children that have been taken from them.

As other people are doing, I wanted to offer this space to anyone who may have thoughts or concerns they want share about this unimaginable tragedy.

Friday, April 13, 2007

"non-smoking" != "smoke"

someone is smoking cigarettes.
in our non-smoking building.
on my non-smoking hall.

Badly enough that i'm noticing, in my (non-smoking!) ROOM (and typically I can ignore small amounts of cigarette smoke as long as it's not all pervasive or blown into my face).

asshole. at least stick your nicotine-ridden face out the goddamned window.

I just got out of bed and dressed and trolled the hall until I worked out what room it is. I'm going to talk to the building manager tomorrow - although since the only place I can ever find the guy is on his smoke break out by the bike racks, I don't suspect he'll be particularly sympathetic.

I should really bang on the door and bitch him out...but, well, I'm in bed. And I think he's stopped by now. And I've seen the guy who lives in this apartment, and he's kind of large and scary. I don't exactly want to become the "small nerdy girl two doors down who lives and alone and now needs to be taught a lesson". Better to let the large friendly-but-scary-LOOKING building manager deal with him.

Still. How does "NON-SMOKING BUILDING" translate into "light it up, pal, stink up the hall, it's fine!" Grrrrrr.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

my boobs need your help!

I thought this might be the right crowd to ask about something like this...

I am looking for a bathing suit. Specifically, a bikini-ish bathing suit. I have a decent lap-swimming one-piece suit, but it is grandma-y to the point of ridiculousness (it has flowers. nuff said. I decided I wanted a bikini-type bathing suit. My last bikini died last summer, a "you've owned me for seven years and I thought I'd save you before I turned completely see-through" kind of death.

But I have a caveat - I want a bathing suit I can wear to, you know, do shit. Support isn't really the issue - STAYING ON is more the point. I am...not exactly large-chested, but I fall squarely into the category of "tank tops must have built-in shelf bras".

With this in mind, I decided I want a bathing suit with a sports-bra-style top. I saw a surfer chick on vacation once, wearing some fantastic bikini with a sports bra racer-back top; the idea stuck (it helped that she was ridiculously hot).

Ladies and gentlemen: they do not exist.

It took all of 30 minutes in a shop to realize that this wasn't a mainstream idea. Mainstream ideas appear to be Walmart-quality ass-cheap fabric going for $75 apiece (what asshole decided to price bikini tops and bottoms seperately? ARGH), with ridiculous huge plastic squares positioned in the cleavage or giant dangly faux-wood balls hanging from the ties. Why? Just why?

I can't find these online for the life of me. The closest they get are tankinis, which I've never really liked as they are neither flattering nor comfortable, and usually are just regular bikini tops with fabric dangling off the bottom. I can't even find sports bras, by themselves, that were designed to co-function as bathing suits (bottoms are less of a problem). Do they exist at ALL? Does anyone have experience with this kind of thing?

Monday, April 9, 2007

Family-friendly? LIFE-friendly?

Several posts have spawned some discussion recently on how universities should treat those with families, and those without.

A sentiment that is getting voiced a lot usually goes something like "Why should people with families get all the benefits? What about the rest of us? Why are they special?" First, a short disclaimer: they are not special, but their kids ARE special. Kids need parents, kids need care, and kids are the ones who are actually getting the fruits of these benefits.

That said, I do agree with the "What about the rest of us?" part, mostly because I am very young and don't see a family as being in my future anytime soon (it will be eventually, but I don't believe I need to wait until I am married with 2.5 kids to start having an opinion that matters). I agree with the idea that having children is fundamentally a CHOICE (or at least it should be); certainly one of the most important choices a person can make, but a choice nonetheless.

Saying this does NOT mean that being "family-friendly" is a problem - I wish every university offered the benefits that Princeton is suggesting. I'm just wondering why we should stop at family friend. Why shouldn't graduate students, faculty, or others in academia have the opportunity to - gosh - make choices about their lives?

Personally, the first thing that comes to mind is not support for children, but support for long-distance marriages. The fact that so many people in academia cannot live near their spouses is ridiculous to begin with...but let's say in ten years I'm married to someone who lives several states away. My family-institution should support my co-worker's need for flexible work hours and extra money to take care of his kids, but couldn't it also support my need for these same things so that I can see my husband? He may not be a child I need to take care of, but the two of us would, after all, comprise a family.

But then what if we're a same-sex couple that can't marry? What if we've been dating for ten years but just don't believe in marriage? Why should only heterosexual couples with children get help from their institution in supporting their personal lives?

What if I'm single but supporting an aging or sick parent? What if - *GASP!* - I'm single but have outside interests? The very phrase sounds extravagant.

Let me be clear: if there are two people in a group, and one has to stay late, the person who DOESN'T have someone dependent on them should not be the one staying. If I really really want to go to the gym, and my co-worker absolutely has to go assume care of his/her small child, obviously I would happily stay and take their place. I understand that a kid simply cannot be equated to a hobby, an outside interest, or even a relationship between two reasonable adults.

That said, support of academics having lives should not be stopping at the bare minimum required for an employer to seem humane. Support of a heterosexual employee with children is an excellent and obvious place to start - let's keep it rolling. How about some support for those two professors who are married but living hours apart? What about the single professor in his forties, overweight and fighting heart disease, who is finally dedicated to getting healthy and needs some extra time to commit to his food and exercise regimen?

Careful - don't think about it too hard. Eventually the powers-that-be might realize that academia has to commit itself to becoming something resembling a friendly place - and everyone knows that this will, as ScienceProf put it in the comments, "reduce academic standards". Happiness? Life choices? Work weeks of less than eighty hours? Pursuit of other interests? What kind of "academia" would THAT be?!

Monday, April 2, 2007

Desktop meme!

Like Addy N., StyleyGeek, and Propter Doc I also having nothing else to do (certainly not a class project, or paper editing, or silly little things like that). My MacBook Pro slowly cycles through a bunch of my pictures for my background (oooh aaah shiny) so I just nabbed the one that was up at the moment:

The winner is: Venice!!! Pretty classic picture (I found myself rooting for one of the cooler ones), but still nice to gaze at during a long workday. Bonus being that I've been there ^_^

I have gone the cowardly route and blurred out my file names (because they say stuff like "Useless Science Society" and "University of Hot State forms" and I'm too lazy to rename - or I'll just forget what their real names are...) I do realize that at some point I should address why I blog anonymously, but, as I seem so fond of saying, that is a post for another day.

And yes, my desktop is nauseatingly organized. This is because the last time I was desperate to avoid my work I cleaned up the orgy of .jpgs and .pdfs that used to obscure 90% of the background. Apparently that's how I relax/kill time. *sigh*