Tuesday, December 22, 2009

When we last left our esteemed heroine…

…things were going pretty well. I think that general trend has continued. The proofs for Ancient Manuscript are out the door. GlamourMag manuscript is still hanging over our heads. They apparently sent it to an additional reviewer because of all the mathemagical things Jabba the Engineer included in the rebuttal. Speaking of Jabba, we found out yesterday that he and one of his post docs and at least one of his former students will all be at the small meeting my lab is going to in a few months. I informed Crazy Man that there did not exist accommodations large enough that I would be willing to share with Jabba. He’s a real piece of work.

I’m really excited about going to this meeting. There are lots of people that I’m interested in doing a post doc with that will be there. I’m thinking now that Jabba being there may be an additional advantage for me since he knows people that Crazy Man doesn’t, since they travel in very different circles. Hm…I’ll have to think more on that.

I did manage to get some potentially exciting data for my abstract. I’ll have the data from the repeat in 15 minutes or so. I really really really really hope it looks good. If so, I’m going to be really excited! In other lab news, we still haven’t figured out what is going on with Duckling 2’s reagent. Crazy Man made her a whole new panel to screen and still nothing. It’s really starting to make us all a little crazy. Duckling 1 may also be having a similar problem now. Apparently nobody thought it was a good idea to test a new batch before using it for umpteen dozen experiments. Sigh.

We had a new rotation student start a few weeks ago. He’s actually in a program we don’t usually take students from. Nevertheless, Crazy Man thinks he’s brilliant and the greatest things since sliced bread because he’s interested in signaling. (What am I??? Chopped liver?) Crazy Man’s crush on this guy wouldn’t be so bad if he was actually as good as Crazy Man thinks he is. But he’s not. He is SO NOT. And he’s irritating on top of it. Rather than listening to what we think he should do, he does whatever strikes his fancy. For example, he was doing a western on lysates from a cell type he’s never used for a protein he’s never looked at with an antibody he’s never used. As you can imagine, it’s my favorite cell type, protein and antibody, which I’ve blotted with a lot. Like a LOT A LOT. Did he listen to me when I told him how long to do the exposure? Of course not. Was I right? Of course. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I’m trying to be patient with him, but I made it very clear to Crazy Man when we talked about this guy rotating that I do not have the time or mental capacity to hold someone else’s hand right now. This kid needs a hand-holder whether he realizes it or not.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Good news!

Ancient manuscript got accepted. GlamorMag manuscript has been resubmitted. I’m waaay internal on that one, but Crazy Man has been taking a very active role in the resubmission. Translation: he’s been talking to me about it nonstop for weeks. I’m sure we’re all super glad that’s done. Fingers crossed that it gets accepted. I’m optimistic.

We finally found a tiny, tiny difference in Duckling 2’s reagents. Today we find out if correcting that difference fixes everything. I’m also optimistic about that.

I’m still super optimistic about the grant related to Duckling 2's project. The grant based on the Golden Child’s project is out the door, but as I've said before, I don’t think there’s a chance in hell it gets funded. Ever. Grant number three is likely commencing this week. This one is based on Duckling 1’s project. I think it may be the most likely of this batch to get funded. I’m considering volunteering to take charge of this one as well, mostly because I think Crazy Man is completely burnt out, and I’m tired of hearing him whine and be pitiful.

I think other FGS has finally found a little motivation. We both have lots of bits and pieces of data about a certain protein and its regulation, all of which is sort of tangential to our other projects. I’ve been encouraging her to do a few more experiments and call it a co-first author. She needs a first author pub to defend (co-first counts), and I need to dump this data somewhere, so our powers combined and all that.

I also have some exciting experiments planned for this week. If I manage to pull out even a smidgen of data I’ll have something to write my meeting abstract around. I’m also getting a cool new reagent this afternoon. Hopefully I can do 3 quick experiments with that and finish out another first author paper. I think things are really starting to look up.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


The crazy just keeps coming! Here’s my update on the things I had to get done in the next two weeks from my last post:

  • Grant got out. I think it actually ended up being pretty darn good.
  • I decided to table the meeting abstract until the late deadline. I won’t be eligible for a travel award, but I might still be mostly sane.
  • Gave my talk and it went surprisingly well. Very poor faculty turnout though, which was kind of disappointing.
  • Decided to put off committee meeting until I have a bit more data for the project I was originally planning on talking about, especially since Crazy Man hadn’t asked about it,
  • Didn’t really generate new data for my talk. I ended up talking about a different project. But I did discover that I have some pretty cool data while putting my talk together. I actually made some summary figures that were pretty nice.
  • Crazy stupid experiment hasn’t happened yet. I tried to optimize some conditions. Failed. Psycho Engineer is really trying to push forward the resubmission, which has turned into yet another epic battle of wills between him and Crazy Man. I just sit back and watch.
  • I did manage to revise and resubmit Ancient Manuscript, resulting in a wonderful trip to Lush.

Of course, 25 new kinds of crazy have cropped up in the mean time, not the least of which being that I broke my shoulder. Doing any sort of bench work is a real pain when you can’t raise your arm more than, oh, say, 20 degrees to the front. A week after I slipped and face planted into the wall I can get my arm parallel to floor with only moderate pain. Doing lab work sucks. Physical therapy starts next week.

I think I’ve decided that Duckling 1 is not unteachable. Rather, I’ve come to the conclusion that she simply can’t multitask. At. All. As in, doing PCR to genotype 10 mice is a full day’s work. The sad part is I think she’s operating at full capacity. Since she’s new in the lab, her success rate as far as real experiments still isn’t very high, and Crazy Man is really pressuring her to generate all this data for this grant resubmission and she really doesn’t do well with pressure.

Speaking of Crazy Man, he has been in fine form lately. And he has decided that we’re submitting another grant on Monday, and the one related to Duckling 1’s project two weeks after that. The first one relates to Golden Child’s project and I firmly believe it will never, ever get funded. Period. I think the grant on Duckling 1’s project probably would do well if it had all the data he wanted. Too bad it doesn’t. And probably won’t unless I do all the experiments. Which isn’t fair to me or Duckling 1.

And now, me and my broke ass shoulder are going to attempt to do some science. By the way I do NOT recommend trying to do cell culture with your non-dominant hand.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


· Golden Child gave a talk today. It was pretty good (for him). He still said “um” an obscene number of times. Duckling 2 stopped counting 15 minutes and 200 ums in. I’ve decided that at his next practice talk, it’s a drinking game. Every time he ums, I drink.

· I am developing a terrible headache, which I really do not appreciate.

· In the next two weeks I…

o Have to finish writing a grant, that is clearly not Crazy Man’s top priority. (That’s another rant for another time.)

o Have to write an abstract for a meeting that I really, really, really want to go to, but don’t have any good data for the project I’d like to present.

o Have to put together and give a 30 minute talk.

o Have to have a committee meeting (although I’m thinking of putting this off at least a week or two.

o Oh yeah…have to generate some data for said 30 minute talk.

o Do crazy stupid experiment for resubmission of GlamorMag Manuscript with our collaborators. It’s not going to address the reviewer’s comment, even though it’s the experiment the reviewer suggested. The question is valid, but there’s really no way to address it. And definitely not this way. But nobody listens to me. Damn engineers! (And Crazy Man)

o Revise and resubmit Ancient Manuscript.

And that’s all in addition to my regularly scheduled experiments. Which are not going well. At all.

· I’m beginning to wonder if Duckling 1 is unteachable.

· A new batch (or 3) of a critical reagent for Duckling 2’s project no longer works. No differences between the batches by mass spec…sigh.

· Crazy Man needs to learn to not talk to me about signaling first thing in the morning.

· My department chair, who is also on my committee, informed Crazy Man that we should all show up for a faculty candidates seminar. He said he didn’t care if we slept; he just wants bodies in chairs. I’m told there will be food.

· I feel like a cow. I think it’s time to seriously start working out again and paying better attention to portion control. Maybe I should set some specific goals.

· I still haven’t blocked Other FGS’s baby blanket. The little one is only 4 months old. And it’s been done for weeks.

· I’ve been sitting here contemplating something positive to close with. Options are limited. I ate a really good apple today. Is that positive? Oh wait...my last post was about depression. I'm still doing better! That's positive! Not 100% good yet, but definitely getting better. So there! :)

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Over the past few weeks (months?) I’ve been slowly becoming depressed again. I was aware of it this time, which is progress I suppose. I didn’t really do anything to try to stop it, but I did recognize it this time. Too bad that won’t spontaneously generate data for the seminar I have to give in three weeks.

Today was far and away the worst I’ve been. I didn’t want to move. I didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t even want to play mindless computer games, which is something I usually do a lot of when depressed. This attitude dragged on all day, but I did manage to get into lab for a few hours and actually accomplish some things. (I’m still working on a conversion factor for when Duckling 1 tells me how long something is going to take her. I think things take about 1.75x longer than she tells me. Which is about 15x longer than they would take me.)

After lab, TM had gone to the grocery store and I was sitting here grousing. I was eating some cheesecake in the hopes that would make me feel better, but even cheesecake wasn’t cutting it. I finally made up my mind that I was tired of this, and got up and worked out. Even though I may have yelled obscenities at the TV while I was working out, I do feel better. Not great yet, but better. And that has been enough of a spark to make me want to make an effort. The hopeless feeling has abated! And I’m going to Lush this week! Here’s hoping I’m on the upswing again.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

RBO Crazy

Crazy Man sent me an email this morning:

  1. Have you resubmitted your paper yet? (Um, no. Here’s the revisions…you said you wanted to see the final changes.)
  2. Can you and Duckling 2 write a grant? Send it to me by Friday. (Wait…what??? Friday, as in the day after tomorrow Friday? As in I have to give a talk and be at a symposium all day on Thursday and you want me to write a grant and get it to you by Friday? Is there any wonder why I call him crazy man???)*
  3. Duckling 1 said you’ve been helping her a lot with (technique she isn’t done with safety training for). Thanks for that. (Well WTF did you expect me to do? Even though she can’t close the refrigerator or find the chemicals on the alphabetized shelf…)**

* I do tend to binge-write much like I binge-read. I like to be thinking about things for a while and have a general outline and then just sit at home in my pajamas and write the whole thing in one fell swoop. Or maybe more like 3 days of that for an R01. I can handle an R21 or shorter private society grant in one day, which is what this one is. Last time I did this I condensed a 12-pager (that I wrote in one sitting) down to 5 pages and got it funded. J I’ve been thinking about this one a good bit, and honestly, I’m pretty excited about trying to crank it out and have it be really good just to freak out Crazy Man. I think he expected me to tell him he was crazy. I almost did. But I’d rather write a grant than practice the talk I’m giving tomorrow. I think I may be as crazy as he is.

** Duckling 1 is another story for another day.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Target fail!

I went to Target today to pick up a few necessities. (You know, like 3 different kinds of shampoo. Seriously.) I meandered back towards the Halloween stuff to look for some fangs to complete my costume(Vampire Pam!!). First I passed a row of Christmas cards. IT’T NOT EVEN OCTOBER YET!!! We haven’t even gotten out the Halloween decorations yet! But whatever…one aisle of cards. Next aisle: what remains of the clearance school supplies next to WREATHS! CHRISTMAS WREATHS! NEXT TO SCHOOL SUPPLIES. And the whole back wall was Christmas lights. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas, but seriously? It’s September. It’s not even really chilly yet. And what made me the maddest was that I couldn’t find any fangs. How can Target not have fangs for Halloween. Hmph. I was not pleased.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Oh glorious DivaCup!

mrswhatsit has an awesome post up about how much she loves her DivaCup. I too love love love love love my Diva. In fact, it may be the greatest thing ever! Check it out.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Oh, the drama: Happy Ending

After I had finished purifying cells on Wednesday (after being Golden Child's lab bitch on Tuesday), I came to my desk and there was a plate of cookies and a card. Duckling 2 made me cookies and gave me a thank you card to say that she appreciated all my help. I teared up a little. It didn’t solve any of the drama, it didn’t magically give me any more time to do my own experiments, but it did make me feel less used and abused, which made my whole day brighter.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Oh, the drama: Part 2

I had to spend a whole day this week taking care of the Golden Child’s crap. He’s out of the country, visiting the Golden Wife’s family. Which is fine. In theory. Except that he was gone for this same reason for the entire month of December, and now he’s gone another week plus. Not to mention the days he took off for the wedding. Sigh. That all ticks me off, since our graduate program handbook clearly says we get two weeks of vacation time. It dawned on me today that he’s taken more time off in the past calendar year than other FGS gets to take for maternity leave! Ugh!!!

But what’s even worse than the frivolous amount of time he’s taken off is the work he left for me to take care of. I don’t mind taking care of somebody’s cells while they’re on vacation. It’s typically not a big deal. The instructions he left me said that he has this one cell line he wants to scale up, so he asked me to plate up all the live cells I got back and said that it would probably be “a lot” of plates. It ended up being something like 70 24-well plates worth of cells. I don’t know about the rest of the world, but when I’m doing somebody else’s work, “a lot” is maybe 10 or 12. It’s definitely not 70. So I asked Crazy Man if I really needed to do all those plates and he just looked at me like it wasn’t a big deal. So I flipped out on him. Again. Sigh.

After all that, I finally made it back into the lab, and I had an email from the engineers…they wanted cells Thursday, in addition to the Wednesday and Friday ones I had already agreed to. I told Crazy Man that and again he gave me this attitude like it wasn’t a big deal. I got spectacularly pissed. And then I got over it. I still had slightly less than 70 plates of cells to deal with and it just wasn’t even worth my effort to yell at Crazy Man.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Oh, the drama: Part 1

I’ve had a pretty nasty couple of weeks. We’ve had all this drama with our collaborators about getting this paper out and getting scooped on paper number 2 so now we’re trying to get that one out and I have a big problem with the authorship on paper number 2 and it’s just been drama, drama, drama. Which is not so much fun.

It’s really been stressing me out because my part in this whole little scheme is to purify cells for the engineers to work their magic on. This process takes me about 2 hours and requires a transgenic/knockout mouse as the source of the cells. I’ve been purifying cells for these collaborators basically since I started in the lab. I usually do it once a week and we’re all happy. Now, because of aforementioned scoopage drama, they’re trying to do every conceivable experiment NOW. Which has translated into me purifying cells 3 times a week for the last three weeks. Needless to say, do not want.

What’s really getting ridiculous and why I’m getting progressively more upset about this is that most of the experiments don’t need to be included or could be added in response to reviewers if needed. Meaning there’s no reason for me to be spending 6 hours a week purifying cells.

The real reason I’m getting upset about what a chunk of my time this is taking is how the authorship has panned out. Last draft I saw I was fourth out of seven. That’s despite the fact that I purified every single cell used in every single assay (not to mention breeding and genotyping the mice). There’s one whole figure (of four) that is entirely my biological data. One of the people that’s ahead of me has been in the other lab literally a month. As far as I can tell the two people between the first author and me have contributed one line on one panel of one figure each. Crazy Man and I agreed when we discussed this. And yet he continues to be bullied by our collaborator. He’s not standing up for me, and that both pisses me off and hurts my feelings.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


  • I’ve been having really strange dreams lately. Last night Sarah Palin and a couple of monkeys were trying to attack me. Over the weekend, I dreamed about a girl in the lab next door being dressed up like Yoda and my doctor telling her that somebody had died. Oddly enough, one of my high school band directors was also in that one.
  • I totally face-planted in my back yard yesterday. I was just walking around checking out the flower beds and the garden, stepped in a hole and kersplat! I managed to not hurt myself, so it was hysterical. TM was standing up on the deck at the time, and he said, “You were just walking along and talking to me and then you were gone!”
  • This! Can we talk about how I’m going to be running around the lab all day today singing that last little bit?
  • Furthermore, this!
  • Even furthermore, I want these. Although I can’t decide if I want the black or the magenta…
  • Oh yeah…I’m supposed to be editing a paper. Which I should also blog about. There’s about to be an authorship discussion about how I should be second author instead of 5 or 6 deep, or maybe co-first author (for whatever that’s worth). There’s also some getting scooped issues that I want to think about. So there ya go…coming soon. Maybe.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Looking Back

I had a sudden and very strong urge to write (something, anything!) just now, so after staring (and glaring) at all my outlines of papers and deciding none of them were worthy of any serious writing (yet), here I am blogging. Do I look busy? That’s the look I was going for.

In my last post I wrote about looking forward and becoming excited about the future. Because I’ve been doing a lot of introspective thinking, I thought I’d do some looking back at where I came from. Therefore, I give you Random Stories: rural south edition!

Story 1:

Last month, we visited the old home place (deep in the rural south) to attend BIL2’s high school graduation. As we were driving into town, the Rascal Flatts song “These Days” was on the radio. (Complete lyrics here.) The pertinent part:

Yeah, life throws you curves

But you learned to swerve

Me, I swung and I missed

And the next thing you know, I’m reminiscing

Dreaming old dreams

Wishing old wishes

Like you would be back again


I wake up in teardrops that fall down like rain

I put on that old song we danced to and then

I head off to my job, guess not much has changed

Punch the clock, head for home, check the phone just in case

Go to bed, dream of you

That’s what I’m doing these days

TM says to me, “Well that’s not depressing at all.”

I replied, “Yeah, it is pretty depressing. It does remind me how happy I am that we got the hell outta here, though.”

Story 2:

The next morning, we woke up bright and early for BIL2’s graduation. This is the third year in a row that we’ve gone to graduation, thanks to BIL1 and Little Bear. It’s always a typical high school graduation, but it never fails that there’s something that deeply disturbs me. This year, that took the form of the principal’s speech.

The principal now was my AP calculus teacher my senior year. He’s one of the best teachers I had, and an engineer by training. (I still don’t know how he ended up in the black hole, but I digress.) His speech was all the usual yea yea rah rah, life’s a journey, this is a beginning, blah blah blah. And then he said, “How many of you will be scientists? Doctors? Lawyers? Teachers?"

I started thinking about that question, considering mostly my classmates. We were a bright group, on the whole. Where are we now? To the best of my knowledge, there are two of us in the life sciences (TM and me), one engineer, one lawyer, one person in a history graduate program and maybe eight or ten teachers. I don’t know of any alumni of that high school that have gone to medical school. Ever.

We call it the black hole for a reason. If you don’t get out as soon as you can, chances are you won’t. Some of that is cultural. Some of it is educational. Kids in this school system simply can’t compete with students from other schools in the state. It makes me sad. Perhaps I should say it still makes me sad. It’s been bothering me since I was one of those kids.

There aren’t a lot of opportunities for these kids, even the very brightest. I wish there were something I could do to fix it, or even help just a little. Through TM’s mom and the teachers that we still keep in contact with, we try to provide encouragement. We share our work when we can. We chat with our siblings’ friends. It just seems so futile sometimes. It’s so hard for me to encourage these kids to go into science when I know what a struggle my (and TM’s) early science classes were in college due to my woefully lacking high school education. It’s hard for me to tell these kids that they can do anything they want to do.

The whole situation just made me very sad because I thought of all the friends I had in high school and where they are now, and I see a whole lot of wasted potential. A whole lot. I had hoped things would improve over time, and some things have. Unfortunately the net outcome seems to be unchanged. They’re still putting up billboards when an athlete gets drafted* and trying to pretend like those of us that got away never really existed.

*My MIL has threatened to buy a billboard when I finish my PhD…the very thought makes me snicker.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Looking Forward

Things are generally going well with the ducklings (aside from a few tiny instances of the Golden Child being a total jackass).  They are very different personalities and also very different in their work styles, both of which are causing me to have to adapt.  Needless to say, I’m learning quite a lot from that, and I think I’m actually starting to get the hang of changing my style to help them as much as possible.

Duckling 2 walked up to me the other day and said, “LJ, what are we going to do when you leave?  You’re like the lab mom.  You know how to do everything, and you know where everything is.  What are we going to do without you???”

Excuse me while I have a teeny tiny moment of arrogance, but she’s right.  There’s not a protocol done by anyone in our lab that I can’t do with my eyes closed.  The only reagents and supplies I can’t find are the ones we’re out of.  Heck, I even know where to find secret stashes of important stuff.  I know when we’re running low on something, even if I haven’t been using it. 

Thinking about Duckling 2’s comment really made me feel pretty darn good.  I realized that maybe I am actually pretty good at this whole science thing.  It also made me feel like I’m approaching to point of being ready and able to move on.  Now I have a little tiny flicker of a flame telling me that maybe I really have learned a lot here, and maybe I really will be ready to go forward soon to learn new things and force other labs to bow to my will.  Maybe, just maybe I am finally getting the hang of this!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


As of next week, we will have two new graduate students joining the lab.  I have decided to call them my little ducklings, since they’re each going to be taking on about a third of my projects.  (Which is indicative of how insane my lab life has become.  That’s right…I have enough crap going on to happily split between three of us with very, very little overlap.)  Of course, they’re also going to be my little ducklings because other FGS will be on maternity leave soon and the golden child is clearly too important to help lowly new graduate students.  Which leaves me. 

I feel like I should be a touch upset about the whole situation.  I have no doubt that it’s going to be a lot of extra time and effort for me.  Duckling 2 is fairly independent and I trust her to do most of the experiments I think she should be doing in the next month or so.  Duckling 1, however, may be a bit high maintenance. 

When Duckling 1 rotated in the lab, Post-doc Friend was supervising her.  After Post-doc Friend left the lab, Duckling 1 was sort of left to me, but I did a horrendous job training her.  It was just an out and out failure on my part.  She learned really only one of the many techniques that we use, and it’s one that any monkey with a pipette can handle.  This coupled with her personality as well as the pace at which she works have led me to believe that she will be a bigger drain on my time.

When Duckling 2 rotated in the lab, I did a much better job.  I learned from my mistakes with Duckling 1, and she had a very successful rotation.  She generated some really cool data that I’m excited about, and I’m really glad that she’s coming back (and not just because despite thinking the data’s cool that I really don’t want to go there myself).  I think she’s inherently more independent than Duckling 1, which is why I think she’ll be less of a time sink.  She also learned many more techniques when she rotated, so there will be less introductory time required.

Despite knowing that supervising these ladies is going to be a drain on my time and resources for a while, and despite my general bitterness about the golden child and his contributions and focus, I’m excited.  Duckling 2’s rotation was the first time I had really mentored someone, and I am realizing that I really enjoyed it.  I’m hopeful about the ducklings starting in the lab.  I’m hopeful that I will be able to teach them and train them and help them avoid mistakes that I’ve made along the way. 

More importantly, the hope that I’m feeling is also for myself.  It’s another little bit of warm fuzzy goodness that makes me think that I really do want to be a PI.  Science has got me down lately, but I’m trying my best to retake control.  I keep trying to remind myself why I’m here, why I love this and where I’m going, but that can be hard.  It’s little tidbits like this that are keeping me afloat right now.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Identity Issues

Last weekend we traveled back to the old home place for Mother’s Day and to celebrate TM’s grandmother’s 90th birthday.  G-ma’s birthday party, a little afternoon reception, was at her little church in this little town* in the middle of nowhere.

It was lovely, and there were a substantial number of little old southern ladies, and I was on my best little southern belle behavior.  I was raised to be a good southern girl, and I can rock that role with the best of ‘em.  Heck, TM’s aunt (that has a degree in home economics from a large SEC school but doesn’t know how to pin a corsage or cut a cake properly) complimented me on it!  I had some serious lulz over that.  

So when I was in between being introduced to every little old lady in the southern half of the state, I was sitting quietly acting like the nicest, loveliest lady in the place* and clutching my pearls as appropriate** and whatnot, I got to thinking.  I was astonished by how different the person I was in that setting is from the person I am most days. 

For that audience, if anyone had asked what I do, I would have simply said that I was a scientist.  My feeling is that would be frowned on.  Maybe I’m wrong.  However, it wasn’t an issue then, and I doubt it ever will be, because none of those little old ladies would ask me what I do.  For some reason, that leaves me with a sense of loss.  I do still have some love for small town life and southern gentility, and I suppose it makes me a little sad that I’ll never really fit into that world again. 

On the flip side, it also makes me wonder what tiny bits and pieces of myself I’ve lost to get to where I am now.  I wonder if scientist me and southern belle me are just different sides of the same coin, or if I’m just playing the roles as needed.  Neither feels fake in the moment, but when they’re juxtaposed so closely it makes me wonder if either is real.  Perhaps I’ll make like Scarlett O’Hara and think about tomorrow at Tara when I can stand it. 

*Population 5000.

**Which I’m SO not—I wasn’t even wearing pantyhose!

***No I’m not making that up.  

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Me and the boys

It’s not at all unusual for me to have very vivid dreams that I remember very clearly.  The dream I had this morning set me to thinking.  In my dream, I was celebrating my 50th birthday, although I looked like I do now.  I was celebrating by going around some sort of outdoor market or festival type thing with a bunch of guys I knew from high school.  That’s the part that got me started thinking.  (The weird part was that I was filling my pockets with honey, there were some amazing sesame meatballs and I was renting a chainsaw for some nefarious purpose.)

Anyway, I was thinking about the fact that here were 6 or 8 smart guys that were good friends of mine and none of my girlfriends.  That’s a little weird, right?  So I got to thinking about which of my girlfriends I would have expected to be included in that particular group.  The conclusion I came to was none of them. 

I almost feel bad for even saying this, but there just weren’t any girls that I went to high school with that were very smart and ambitious.  There were a few that were bright, but me and the boys, we were on a different plane all together. 

Once I got to thinking about it though, I realized that it really always was me and the boys.  On our quiz bowl team in elementary school, it was me and 4 or 5 of the boys from my dream.  In middle school it was me and a couple of those same boys fighting to win the spelling bee or the geography bowl or whatever.  In middle school and high school it was me and a couple of those guys on the math team. 

At the time, I never really thought that much about it.  Those guys were my friends.  Heck, I dated several of them along the way and ultimately married one of them.  Now I think a bit more about gender issues and disparity since it’s such a part of where my life has gone. 

Now I’m trying to decide if growing up like that has helped or hurt me, as far as my ability to handle gender issues in science.  I almost always feel reasonably comfortable being the only woman in a professional gathering.  But I wonder if that level of comfort causes me to overlook some things. 

I also wonder if those experiences have conditioned me to expect less from other women because that’s really all I’ve ever known.  Growing up I never really questioned it.  It just was.  I had female role models that were strong and amazing women, but never anyone that was truly bright and ambitious.  I know there are plenty of brilliant women out there.  That’s one of the biggest reasons I initially fell in love with the blogosphere.  Sometimes I just wish there were a few more brilliant women scientists in my real life.  

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Clawing my way up and out

Things had been going really well for a while.  I had a great talk with Crazy Man about  a paper we’re trying to get out.  For the first time ever I felt like he was actually talking to me as a colleague, and I really liked it.  I even started writing a blog post about it, but that got abandoned mid-sentence a paragraph in, and for the life of me I can’t remember why or bring myself to finish it.

I had also put together a plan to finish experiments and start writing papers.  I’ve been working on a lot of related but distinct projects and I thought things were finally going to start to coalesce.  So I had outlines and timelines and I was really excited.  At some point that all fell apart too, and I haven’t been able to regroup on all of that yet.

I’ve been feeling pretty down the last 3 weeks or so.  I don’t feel like I’m in control.  I’ve been gradually realizing that I have stopped doing little things that make me feel in control.  Little things like cleaning the house and doing laundry and working out and reading blogs that give me a sense of control and accomplishment.  I’ve simply been letting essentially everything go, which is doing nothing but making me feel worse. 

I’ve been trying to make a summary/model figure that Crazy Man suggested for this paper and I just can’t seem to make anything I like.  It’s frustrating me. 

The Golden Child and I have been on the edge of a knockdown drag out for a while now.  Crazy Man came in Friday while the Golden Child was gone and told other FGS and me that we should try to be nicer to him.  I almost lost it.  I don’t get angry often, but I was beyond livid then.  Ugh…that’s another story for another day though.  At the end of the day though, Crazy Man finally realizes why I’m so frustrated and how far my frustration has progressed, and he doesn’t seem to think I’m being unreasonable.  I’m going to try to be more patient with the Golden Child.  We’ll just have to wait and see how that goes.

I’m still not feeling super, and baby fever has been flaring up a bit, which doesn’t help.  I’m trying to get things under control.  I finally folded the month’s worth of laundry that was on the couch.  I scrubbed the bathrooms.  I scooped the litter box.  My calendar and my outlines are in my bag.  I found some new papers I’m excited to read.  (I actually started reading a review yesterday and got a new idea for a mechanism to explain some very old data.)  Honestly, I don’t feel motivated, and I don’t feel very excited about science right now.  But I do still feel driven.  I have a lot of data that I hope is going to translate into a lot of papers.  There is still a flicker of excitement in me somewhere.  Now I just have to keep pushing through and find the motivation to do what needs to be done and fan those flames.  If for no other reason than I want to have 3 times as many publications as the Golden Child.  Hehe…I guess I’ll take motivation from wherever I can.  

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A few points about reviewing grants

I thought I had written about this same grant that I was critiquing again yesterday before, but perhaps I haven't.  I can’t remember.  All that’s really important is that I’ve always thought this project was utter nonsense (and at least two other people from my lab agree, not to mention the reviewers of the grant the first time it was submitted), and neither of the boys wants to hear any criticism of it  Anyway…enough preamble, it’s storytime!

Crazy Man and the Golden Child sent this grant to other FGS and me Friday evening and wanted our comments back by Monday.  This in and of itself is absolutely ridiculous.  Bother other FGS and I are very careful and, um, particular editors of grammar, style, mechanics, etc., in addition to actually trying to provide good feedback on the content itself.  Point 1: I am not spending my weekend reading your grant, just because you decided that was a good time for me to do it.

I actually read the specific aims page on Saturday while I was in lab.  I had very good intentions (but then got sucked into reading a bunch of fanfic…that stuff is like crack and I have an addictive personality…).  I knew I was in trouble when I read the aims page and my first reaction was: What. The. Fuck.  Point 2: If somebody that is very familiar with all the work and background relating to a grant, the specific aims page should not leave that person scratching their head and wondering who the hell thought this was a good idea.

So then I put off reading the rest of the grant until Monday morning.  I figured, based on my previous experience in this lab with grants written by Y-chromosome carrying individuals, that most of my stylistic editing would be ignored.  (The Golden Child once said to us, “Style doesn’t matter anyway.”)  I figured it would be a quicker read if I put my OCD aside and only commented on content.  Point 3: I was wrong.

Four hours later, I had made it through the preliminary data.  Literally.  And I skipped the background and did absolutely NO nitpicky editing.  Point 4: Boy, was I wrong.

By the time I was reading the experimental plan for the second aim, I was threatening to gouge my eyes out with a pen.  I think I did beat my head against the desk a few times.  I still haven’t figured out the point of the second aim.  It makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever.  If I had read this grant a few weeks ago, I would have suggested completely dumping the entire second aim.  It’s that bad.  Point 5: Get honest feedback from people before the grant is completely written and on it’s way out the door.

I’m curious as to whether they actually took any of my suggestions.  Some of them were obvious controls that should have been included in the preliminary data.  Some of them were places I had MAJOR issues with the interpretation of the data.  Some parts I thought were completely incoherent.  Neither Crazy Man nor the Golden Child has asked me any questions about any of them, and some of my comments definitely warranted at least a little discussion.  I’m getting to the point of being really frustrated that I’m asked to spend my time critiquing things, but then my comments aren’t being taken seriously.  Point 6: Don’t piss off people that will give you honest feedback. You may ultimately get some feedback that’s way more honest than you wanted.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Book Meme!

BBC Book Meme
As seen everywhere.
BBC Book List
Apparently the BBC reckons most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here.


1) Look at the list and put an 'x' after those you have read. I'll bold those I've read.

2) Add a '+' to the ones you LOVE.

3) Star (*) those you plan on reading.

1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen+
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams*
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë+

11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

19. Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell+
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
26. Tess Of The D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy

27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving+
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
30. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery+
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
53. The Stand, Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens+
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl+
75. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie*

I think that's 27 total for me.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


I’ve been super busy the last few weeks working on some things that I think are super exciting.* This new work is only tangentially related to my “real” work, but the same protein is involved and I think there’s some totally awesome things to come. I also managed to give my yearly program seminar, have a committee meeting and go on vacation! Life has been good.

Back to the super busy thing…I breed a lot of mice. By a lot I mean that I have 12 different strains that I breed and genotype. Needless to say, that translates to roughly a shitton of time and energy spent on non-data producing nonsense. I also do most of the ordering for the lab, which has been unusually, erm, difficult lately (lots of backorders, the purchasing department generally sucking, among other craziness).

For the two weeks or so before I gave my seminar I was being incredibly productive. I had lots of different experiments going on and I was getting a lot of really good data. I’ve learned this week that I thrive on that kind of productivity. Apparently data sustains me in some way. It seems to keep me interested and excited and not depressed, even if things aren’t going 100% great.

So this week I’ve been trying to get back on top of my mouse screening and checking on backordered things and whatnot. I thought I could do this simultaneously with some simple experiments that don’t require a lot of hands on time. Apparently that is not the case.

I told Crazy Man (who has been unusually pleasant and quite agreeable lately) last week that I had been really busy, but I was still managing to stay on top of things. I told him that I hadn’t yet reached the point where I couldn’t handle everything I was trying to do. I told him that I hadn’t found my limit yet. However, I now think I’m teetering on the edge. The very edge.

I’ve been very frustrated this week because I haven’t been able to make the time to do the experiments that I want to do. I’ve been doing crappy genotyping (that isn’t working) and other crappity crap that doesn’t produce data. I have one first author manuscript that just needs to be rearranged (dramatically) before it can be submitted. I have an internal author manuscript that needs to be edited (dramatically, I’m sure). I want to work on those. I want to do real experiments, even if it’s just troubleshooting! I want to work on grants for upcoming deadlines.

I realized yesterday that I’m getting depressed because I don’t have new data. And although presently depressed isn’t a good place to be, wanting data is, I suppose.

Now if only the Golden Child’s wedding was over (seriously, don’t want to hear your 30 minute conversation with your crazy fiancée about a venue. Seriously.). And if only Crazy Man wasn’t so excited about GC’s project (which I think is booooring and mostly useless). If only I didn’t look at GC and feel jealous of the fact that all he does is experiments for his own project and none of the time consuming other crap (i.e. he breeds few and screens NO mice). If only I didn’t look at other FGS and feel jealous of the fact that she’s going to have a baby (despite the fact that I’m super super excited for her, and about the blanket I’m knitting her!). If only (many many others)… Perhaps I should find a little time to be happy with where I am and what I am doing, rather than comparing myself to those around me. I just can’t help feeling impatient though.

Hopefully, I’ll get things under control again soon. At the very least, right now I feel hopeful, and I figure that’s as good a place as any to start.

*When I was in high school, the cheerleaders did this super cheer: S-U-P-E-R super super is what we are! Super SUPER! It made me laugh then, and it makes me laugh now, almost every time I use or hear the word super. *snicker*

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Happy update

I smoothed things over with my mom shortly after my last post. She said she was just kidding, and in retrospect (read: when I calmed down), I'm sure that was the case. She has been paid back mightily by a plague of toddlers too. My cousin and his wife (eyeroll) are having her babysit again this weekend. We're not talking "watch the boys so we can go out to dinner" babysitting, either. We're talking full-fledged we're-going-to-dump-the-boys-at-your-house-and-run-away-for-the-whole-weekend babysitting. They suck. She might as well have partial custody of those boys. Hmph! Seriously, I would take them if they'd let me. Double HMPH!

In other news, science rocks my socks! Things have been going super duper fabulous, and I'm motivated and excited, and voluntarily working all weekend, and excited about giving seminar and having a committee meeting and and and... Sheesh! Like I said...excited! :D I was kind of beginning to think I was never going to feel this way again. And now, here I am. I'm excited about my project. I'm excited about doing experiments. I'm excited about finishing up in the not too distant future. I finally feel like I'm actually good at this and that I'm certain I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be.

I also found single serving containers of Ben and Jerry's last night. Giggle!!! What can be better than that???

'Scuse me while I go run half a dozen westerns. Before Monday. Seriously. :)