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!