Monday, April 28, 2008

Still the same, only different

The theme for this month’s Scientiae is our changing views of ourselves and our careers as we progress through life.

I wasn’t originally planning on writing an entry for this month.  I’ve been in a sort of writing and thinking funk.  I really just want to do and be done.  Contemplating things too much just seems to get me angry/upset/sad/frustrated/etc.  And I’ve been trying to maintain some sanity. 

However, there are some awesome bloggers out there that have already posted some seriously awesome entries, and so I was inspired. 

Ever since I was little, I have had no concept of being unable to do something.  I was fearless as a child, and I believed I could do absolutely anything in the world I wanted to.  I saw no reason I couldn’t be good at everything.  And for a while I was.  I did it all.  Because I could, I guess. 

Then I started college, and I decided that maybe I should have a little more focus in my life.  I realized that at some point I would need to get a real job.  I was interested in science, so I got a work-study job in a lab.  Seven years later, I’m still here.

During my time in the lab as an undergraduate, I thought things were great.  I did experiments that mostly worked, I generated a nice body of work for my honors thesis, and was rewarded for that having it declared worthy of “highest honors”, which means publication quality.  (I’m still trying to get one more repeat 3 years later.)

During my time as an undergraduate, I was also largely oblivious.  I didn’t see the obvious gender discrimination that went on.  I didn’t understand how and why the other people in the lab struggled with career decisions.  I always just imagined that I would go to grad school, get a post doc, get a faculty position, get tenure and ride off into the sunset.

Since I started graduate school, all of that has changed.  I still want all those things.  I still very much want to be the very best at everything.  It’s kind of a complex I’ve developed.  But I’ve also begun to question myself.  Can I actually do this?  I want to have children, and lately, I want them sooner rather than later.  How is that going to work?  Can I be a great mother and a great scientist at the same time?  The more important question is do I want to? 

I’ve begun to see the discrimination that consumes the scientific world.  Sometimes I feel like it’s smothering me, and that there’s no hope of ever changing anything.  I just feel so tired of constantly worrying about how I’m being perceived, how my career decisions are affected by my gender, how everything will be impacted when I have children.  I get so so tired of it all, and I wonder if it’s really worth it to keep pushing ahead.

On the other hand, I really don’t think I could live with myself if I chose to go a non-academic route.  I believed that when I started undergrad, and I still feel that way now, even though I’ve begun to realize how difficult that path is.  But I’ll keep pressing on.  I have to.  There may come a time when I change my mind.  Until then, I keep telling myself that I can do this.  I have to remind myself of that a lot, but I’m starting to believe it.  I’m really starting to believe it.  

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


We seem to have another stomach virus running amok in the lab.  I feel very nauseated right now, and I am not enjoying it.  I sort of feel like I'm just waiting for the inevitable.  And it ain't good.  Apparently this particular bug took out Post-doc dude's daughter's entire room at daycare plus 3 teachers.  Yuck!  Do not want!  I hoping it's just the fact that I had coffee this afternoon that is upsetting my stomach.  However, I also feel like I have a fever.  Not a good sign.  Maybe it's just warm in here.  Happy thoughts...

In other news, Crazy Man seems to be in a good mood this week.  Maybe he had a fun weekend, I dunno.  Other FGS has been giving him hell this week.  It's kind of amusing to watch.  I think her goal is to yell at him every day.

In other other news, I've been being very productive in lab!  Nothing to show for it yet, but hopefully something soon.  Since I achieved my goal of going an entire week where I started doing lab work before wasting time at my computer, I got a trip to Lush this past weekend.  I got 2 bath bombs and a bubble bar.  MMMMMMM!!!  If I keep this up for a whole month, I'm getting a new laptop bag.  Speaking of bags, this post cracked me up!

Hmmm...maybe the nausea is all in my head.  Distracting myself by writing this post seems to have helped tremendously.  I'm going to try to eat something.  Hopefully that will go well.  Happy thoughts, happy thoughts...

Friday, April 18, 2008

Grrrr!!! Pet peeve!

Stupid stupid stupid rotating student (that's not coming into lab until like 4 every day) keeps stealing my timer.  MY TIMER!  The one that has my name on it and sits on my desk.  It bothers me when it's not where it belongs.  Sure, it's a little OCD, but I WANT IT THERE!  And every once in a while (like NOW) I need it.  And it's nowhere to be found.  I want to kick him in his face.  But not with the shoes I'm wearing.  With my heavy hard shoes.  It's been a long week...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Reason #7...OMG!

Crazy Man just came in from his previous meeting to have lab meeting.  We've (allllllll of us) have been drinking margaritas.  None of us are toasted.  I don't really even have a buzz.  We had a very limited supply of alcohol.  

Crazy Man flips out.  He says he doesn't even want to have lab meeting if we're not going to be serious about it.  WTF?  We joke around sometimes, but we're always serious about data.  We've been really good for a really long time.  There have been lab meetings where we would make faces at each other and crack each other up.  But we have always been critical of data and think critically and make good suggestions.

Which begs the question: What the hell is wrong with him???

Reasons 4-6 my PI is making me crazy

#4: He comes into the lab (5 minutes after our grant discussion meeting was supposed to start) with Jackass Professor.  They’re kind of chatting with us, and Crazy Man says to other FGS and me, “I told him what you guys said!”  (We explained to Crazy Man months ago that Jackass Professor was not going to be on our committees because, well, he’s a jackass!)  How out of line is that???  I work in a very small subfield that I intend to stay in.  It’s entirely possible that Jackass Prof will be on a hiring committee or reviewing my grants or whatever somewhere down the line. 

#5: We’re resubmitting a manuscript originally written by and full of data generated by Former Tech Dude.  It was rejected when it was originally submitted maybe 8-10 years ago.  Crazy Man believes it was a mostly political issue at the time (and I believe he’s right).  So maybe a year ago, Crazy Man asked if I would rewrite some of it, insert new references and generally freshen it up so we could resubmit it.  I agreed, and am now a very internal author (which is fine for the amount of work I’ve done).  We got back the reviews, which were generally positive (except for one reviewer that clearly just didn’t like the model and made up crap alternative explanations) at the end of August.  I did a few quick experiments to address some comments and wrote the rebuttal letter.  All of which I sent to Crazy Man on December 7.  He got around to reading it yesterday.  That’s right, yesterday.

When I got into lab this morning, I had two emails from him.  The gist was that he wanted me to go ahead and resubmit the paper.  Except that he had been the one to originally upload all the stuff, and I don’t have his login.  Upon tell him this, I get, “Are you sure?  I uploaded it?  Why did I upload it?  Golden child and Post-doc friend uploaded their own papers.  Why did I do it? Golden child and Post-doc friend did their own.  Why did I do Former Tech dude’s? Golden child and Post-doc friend did theirs.”

Seriously.  He’s so hyper and that’s how he responds to things.  So I inspected all the figures and put all the figures, the revised manuscript and the rebuttal letter in a folder on the lab flash drive for him.  If it takes him more than 10 minutes to deal with it, then karma’s a bitch, isn’t it?

#6: Crazy Man has been giving other FGS helllllll!  And it’s making me crazy.  She’s planning this paper where she’s comparing the behavior of cells from 3 different transgenic strains.  One of these strains we recently acquired from another lab on campus.  However, these mice are around 8 months old.  Which is super old for the types of studies we do.  There’s also some evidence these mice are infected with something, which is obviously bad.

So other FGS setup breeders with the ones we have, and contacted other people that have this strain to see if she could get some younger mice.  She’s getting cells from these other mice next week.  And she can get them from two other labs, so it’s very unlikely that she won’t get the cells. 

Crazy Man had a fit when she told him this!  He couldn’t believe she was going to wait a whole week.  He absolutely freaked out on her, and it really ticked me off.  We’re talking about a week here!  She may seriously hurt him before she finishes up.  Seriously.

And that, boys and girls, is why I’m on margarita #3 before lab meeting starts.  

Monday, April 14, 2008

My new productivity plan

I’ve been really slacking off lately.  It’s been a combination of my attitude and laziness and the attitudes of other people in my lab.  So I have concocted a plan to get me back on the straight and narrow.

Step 1:

Start lab work BEFORE sitting down at computer.

My usual routine has been to come into lab and spend at least an hour or so sitting at my computer, drinking my tea and generally letting my brain warm up.  I am not at all a morning person, so I convince myself I need some time to get going.  That’s out.

Step 2:

Make a to do list for every day.

I’ve gotten pretty slack about this lately, and I need to do better.

Step 3:

Actually do things on said to do list.  Really.

Step 4:

Set goals.  Short term and long term. 

Step 5:

Make a plan for how to achieve goals with concrete milestones.

Step 6:

Take over the world!!!

Seriously, I think I need to be much more specific and concrete with the things I need to do.  I think deadlines, even if artificial, are key to me convincing myself to actually do something.

Over the weekend, I was thinking about Step 1, and I decided I needed to come up with a way to reward myself.  I was struggling to come up with an idea, but just now it hit me.  If I manage to start my lab work before sitting down at my desk every day for a week, I get a trip to Lush!!!  Maybe after a month of success I get a new pair of shoes.  I haven’t decided that yet.  So I’m trying really, really hard to have a good attitude about this, despite blowing up everything I have touched this morning.  

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sunday lab time

That's right...I talked myself into starting the crazy man's experiment today.  But really, I'm doing it because I want to (and because I'm an incurable people pleaser).  I just can't help myself.  

I'm finding that I really enjoy being in lab alone.  There's been a lot of negativity in our lab for a long time now (and for good reason).  I don't think I really realized how much that's been dragging me down, even when my experiments are going well.  

However, today's experiment is NOT going well.  Most of my work is done with primary mouse cells, and they are usually limiting in number, sometimes making it difficult to do some of the biochemistry stuff I'm working on.  So I'm trying the preliminary stuff for the mass spec craziness in a couple of transformed cell lines.  Therefore, I should have cells coming out my ears, especially relative to how many cells I can normally get.

NOT.  For some reason, I have lots and lots of death.  Which means that despite having two giant flasks of cells, I may not have enough to do what I wanted to do today.  That makes me a little sad.  It's looking like, despite my best intentions, crazy man is just going to have to wait.  And he can't blame me for it.  Hopefully I'll have enough cells to at least do something, but we'll see.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Reasons my PI is making me crazy #s 3-5

Crazy man emailed me at like 7:30 this morning wanting to know if I had done this experiment last week.  Somehow this week I was supposed to go from one phosphatase activity assay that looked promising (that's right, not glorious, promising) to mass specing these two different time points to look for modifications.  Might I just take this moment to say, yeah right?

So I had this promising phosphatase assay.  That needs to be repeated.  It's probably the most variable, touchy, spastic assay I've ever (and hopefully will ever) do.  I seriously think it changes based on the weather, who's in lab, whether or not I talk to my cells...  Yeah, one of those.  Not only that, I also needed to do a western to look at at least 3 different known modifications.  Which I haven't done yet.  Which will also need to be repeated.  And at least one of those antibodies is also touchy at best.  Of course, it's been months since I've done any westerns, so I may have lost my blotting mojo.  

So he's asking me if have prepped the samples to send to mass spec.  Would you believe that's a resounding no?  Why haven't I done it?  Mostly because I was pissed that he spent half the week on vacation without telling anybody.  I have the cells.  I have the reagents.  I had plenty of time early in the week.  But I didn't do it.  Is that spiteful?

However, I did do lots of other stuff, not that I really have much to show for it.  The question now becomes how do I tell him that I haven't done this experiment he's been dreaming about?  What do I tell him when he asks why I haven't done it?  Each repeat is basically one day worth of work.  I could conceivably have my mass spec sample ready by the end of the week.  If I wanted to.  And that's assuming my first prep is clean enough to actually yield anything.  Which is doubtful at best.  Grrrrr!!!

And to top it all off, he seems cranky that I didn't meet with him yesterday.  I would like to know when exactly I was supposed to do that.  He came in a little after 10.  By 10:30, he was talking to the golden child, which lasted at least 2 hours.  Then he ate lunch.  After that, he talked to post-doc dude for an hour.  After that he talked to other female grad student for an hour.  Then he went to a seminar.  Then there were refreshments.  Then he wanted to sit in the lab and be buddy buddy with us.  Then (at 5:30) he starts talking to female post-doc.  I had been in lab since 8:30.  So when the hell did he want me to talk to him???

Annnnnnd he's reviewing grants for a society that we are funded by.  He's making each of us read one of the grants and share our thoughts on it with the lab.  WTF???  Why?  He made us do this last grant cycle, and it was dumb then and it's still dumb now.  I'm sure in his crazy little head, there's a reason, but he hasn't decided to share that with us.  GRRRRRRR!!!

He is not supposed to be able to piss me off this much first thing on Saturday morning.  I could go into the lab and do at least one repeat of the stuff I need to do.  But I won't.  That would be letting him win.  He will not control my life like that.  I'll skim the grant at some point.  Hopefully it will suck as much as the one I read last time did.  That one was easy to pick apart.  I am going to go ahead with the plans I already made and do some hardcore spring cleaning.  So THERE!  You will not win, crazy man.  You will not!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Some good down time


It it SO good to be getting in some serious relaxation.  TM is at a regional meeting that's being hosted at our university, so I'm home all alooooone!  Well, it's me and Mr. Lou, but he's just sitting in the middle of the floor, looking at the ceiling when it thunders.

That's right, it's raining!  A nice solid thunderstorm, but not bad enough to be scary!  I LOVE storms.  I seriously should have been a meteorologist.  Seriously.

It's really nice for me to just be able to sit here by myself and let everything out.  Tonight, I'm just sitting here listening to my various country stations on Pandora and crying whenever the mood strikes.  Oh, that's something everyone should know about me.  I cry.  Over most anything.  I've gotten much better at controlling it though.  So now I occasionally need these times where I just let it out.  So if a song comes on that makes me want to cry, I do.  That makes me feel better because a song usually makes me think about something that makes me cry.  Lots of times it's stuff I don't think about much, but I'm still having some sort of issue with.  

Decompression is good.  Letting my mind wander is good.  Rain is good.  

Friday morning haha!

Over at Respectful Insolence, Orac had posted a rather amusing entry about an Olmsted article that was something along the lines of a friend of a friend of a friend talked to some HHS dude who said the knew mercury caused autism.  Big fat eyeroll on that.  Anyway, some of the comments were mocking this and were quite amusing, but this one from Jolene Jolene almost made me fall out of my chair:

my ex-sister-in-law's third cousin-twice removed lives right next door to this Dr. Jay guys' talent agent and is able to lip read totally fluently. She said that she say the agent said that Dr. Jay has accepted an offer from MTV to do a totally sick reality TV series. It's going to be called "Pimp My Baby's Vaccine Schedule." My sources are totally reliable, why would they make up something like this? The other news I heard was that MTV also made an offer to David Kirby for his own show, tentatively called, "Pimp My Community's Odds of Suffering an Epidemic of a Vaccine Preventable Disease Which Could Kill Many Babies and Children and Those with Compromised Immune Systems." 

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


I HATE the smell of microwave popcorn.  HATE!  ABHOR!  I absolutely cannot stand it.  It makes me feel sick just thinking about it.  And someone in the general vicinity of my lab has developed an obsession for popcorn in the late afternoon.  And I HATE it.  Not only has someone been cooking their popcorn right outside my lab, today they burned it.  Hu-frickin-rrah!  That just makes it 10000 times better.  Grrrrr.  Blech!  Makes me totally ready to go home and smell whatever gourmet dinner TM is cooking for me tonight.  (That's right boys and girls...he cooks!  I take care of all things pastry and dessert, but the boy cooks up a storm!  Grin!)  

Monday, April 7, 2008

In which I explain reasons 1 and 2 my PI is crazy (and is making me that way)

I understand that many of us scientific types have our quirks.  I personally try not to intentionally do things that I know annoy other people.  Or in this case, really, really, REALLY tick people off.

My PI is crazy.  I told him that and he disagreed.  (I know, GASP!)  He tried to argue that he was clearly not as crazy and definitely not crazier than other faculty in our program.  I told him that they all have their eccentricities.  He refused to concede that point.  We (his lab) continue to call him crazy man.

Anyway, one of the many things he does that really, really, REALLY ticks me off (me and the rest of the lab) is that he doesn’t tell us when he isn’t going to be here.  He sneaks around and doesn’t tell us when he’s going on vacation or to a meeting or on a field trip with one of his kids.  No “I’m not going to be here next week, but I’ll be checking my email.”  No “I’m not coming in until late tomorrow afternoon, give me a call if you need anything.”  No “I’m going to be in Hawaii for a week so don’t even bother.”  NOTHING! 

I suppose he believes that if he’s not here lording over us that there will be no science done.  I’ve tried on many occasions to explain to him that we actually tend to get more done when he’s not around. 


He’s the type of person that gets bored sitting in his office, so he comes into the lab and wants to chat about last night’s baseball game or whatever useless thing he found on the internet.  He will try to have these conversations while I’m doing cell culture, which is annoying as crap because it’s hard to hear him over the blower and I’M TRYING TO DO AN EXPERIMENT!!!  Apparently this is unclear, even though I have asked him several times to please not talk to me when I’m in the hood.  In case it was unclear, this is yet another pet peeve.  He actually tried to have a conversation with me while I was sitting at the microscope counting cells!!!  Not like, “I wanted to tell you John called” kind of conversation.  A full-fledged argument about an important aspect of my project.  WHILE I WAS COUNTING CELLS!

Apparently on Friday, he mumbled something to his pet post-doc about not being here part of the week.  Didn’t say anything to any of the rest of us.  Because we’re clearly just not going to show up for work on Monday because he’s not here.  Son of a….  Deep breath! 

It just makes me really angry because he’s treating us like children.  He actually asked the PI whose lab is next door to check on us the last time he was gone.  I mean really! 

Of course, I have been here for 2 hours now and haven’t gotten out of my chair yet.  But I have things planned for today.  I have tissues to pull and lengthy experiments to set up.  Things that aren’t going to wait for tomorrow or Wednesday or next week (whenever it is he’s coming back).  My big experiment for the day will be running overnight, which is why I’m waiting to set it up.  I don’t want it to run too long.  So my sitting here is partially justified.  But crazy man, if you’re reading this, I’m doing more work today without you here than I would if you were standing here breathing down my neck.  So THERE!!!

Thoughts on an absurd subpoena

I don’t even know where to start addressing this whole issue of the subpoena that’s been issued to Kathleen Seidel and her Neurodiversity blog.  The whole thing is just so absurd I don’t even know how to digest it.  I’ve been letting it marinate and knock around in my brain for a few days, and I still don’t know what to say. 

I’m just flabbergasted.  I’m shocked at the fact that someone that is clearly unrelated to the case at hand was issued a subpoena at all.  I’m astounded at the impressively broad nature of the subpoena.  I’m dumbfounded at the sheer volume of information that Kathleen would have to submit if this subpoena were upheld.  Seriously, how many truckloads? 

And what about all the other bloggers listed on the subpoena?  If everything relating to Kathleen’s website is required, why not everything produced by every blog and website she’s ever linked to?  Why not just do a google search and subpoena everybody that’s ever written the word autism?

I have no doubt that the subpoena will be squashed.  However, the fact of its very existence is absurd to an infinite degree.  I hope that this can be resolved quickly, and with minimal expense to Kathleen.  (And I hope that scumbag of a lawyer gets kicked in the face!)

(See also Orac's open letter to Kirby and Olmstead at Respectful Insolence and Liz's list of blog entries about this issue.)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Links to the absurd

  • A blogger subpoenaed: Kathleen's Neurodiversity blog has been served.  (Curtsy to PalMD.)  ETA: Liz has a list of blogs addressing this issue and her take on it (she's listed in the subpoena).  Also check out the slightly longer version of my thoughts on this.
  • An "All time ass-whooping" for science?  See also Orac's er, um, comments about his broken irony meter.
  • Disgruntled Julie has a post about PIs being a little nutso.  (Of course, I have some much more hair-raising tales, but those will come in time.)
  • Really, how do people take Jenny McCarthy seriously?  I read somewhere a few weeks ago that she had posted some sort of call to action video on YouTube.  Not thinking clearly, I searched her name on YouTube.  You can imagine the types of things I turned up...
  • And because I was trained from birth to be a Braves fan: 

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

It's official!

I'm up and about and doing work.  Yeehaw!

On being in a rut

I am in such a rut!  I can’t seem to get motivated to do anything at all.  I have to give lab meeting tomorrow.  Hmph.  I have no coherent data.  Of course, having a coherent project might help that, but whatever.  I’m not bitter or anything. 

If I could get myself motivated to just DO something, anything, I think I would feel better.  Instead, I just keep sitting here, surfing the net, doing nothing worthwhile. 

I haven’t been sleeping well again.  This is a problem I have from time to time.  Probably a year ago I cut out almost all caffeine, and that helped.  For a while.  When I get stressed or even slightly depressed, the sleeping stops.  I think now it’s at least somewhat due to allergies.  Benadryl was good to me last night, but I still don’t feel rested because I haven’t been sleeping well for a couple of weeks now.

I know that if I could just get myself going again, if I could just manage to keep myself busy in lab, I would feel better.  I would likely start sleeping better.  Rationally, I know these things.  Practically, I can’t drag myself out of my chair.

Honestly, I think the only reason I manage to drag myself out of bed every day and even make it to lab is lots and lots of very gentle nudging from TM.  He loves his lab and his PI and his work.  And when I’m still in bed he comes and tells me “Wakey, wakey!” often enough that I eventually give in.  I’m very, very lucky to have him.

I know I need to get out of this rut.  I know it.  I know I need to fight against the clouds that are closing in.  I can’t give in and get taken over by my whiney, emotional side.  I have to fight it.  But I don’t wanna!  But I have to.  I must.  And I will try.  At least half-heartedly…

April Scientiae is up!

Check out the April edition of Scientiae over at Women in Science.  It's all about fools and foolishness.