Monday, October 31, 2005

October's horoscope and this week's forecast

According to United Airlines, my October should have looked like this:

"If you're coveting sleep time, it's not just that you need physical rest; your subconcious also needs those Z's. Don't be shy. The sky is the limit these days, so expect nothing less. By month's end, your geographical scope will broaden."

I'd say they pretty much nailed that one. I need time off work to recuperate from my time off work, and I've been to the east, midwest, and west in October. May November be less eventful.

On my plate this week: visiting colleagues today and tomorrow, giving out halloween candy (so I don't eat it), giving a talk at a 2-day conference, and working through the comments i just got back from third author. Oh, and applying for 3 jobs.

Tomorrow is the 1-year anniversary of my oral prelims. And still the defense seems so far away.

Sunday, October 30, 2005


The hits just keep on coming....on our way to the airport, while waiting at a stoplight, our rental car was rear-ended. Everything is relativelyOK, and we made our flight, but this state is a no fault state, meaning that our car insurance will go up again!

Saturday, October 29, 2005


Why am I such a lump? If I start to think of all the stuff I need to get done this week, this fall, this year...I get almost panicked. But 99% of the time I feel like a useless energy-less lump. Today I picked a fight with Husband for no reason at all, and I am feeling very resentful toward my stay-at-home mother-in-law, who apparently is "overwhelmingly busy" with her myriad of redecorating projects. Maybe if I could actually get a routine, spending a week or more "in the office" and at home in my own bed, I'd feel better, but for the foreseeable future I'll be spending far more time away from home than at it. And those job app deadlines keep getting closer.

Sorry, I'll have a better post on Monday.

Friday, October 28, 2005

family matters

I've been in the Midwest all week - dealing with the whole gamut of emotions from the whole crazy collection of family members. You'd think that death would be sort of a final thing and that things would be sort of 1-D: you grieve, you move on. But it turns out that today felt like I was chasing a constantly moving target while the ground underneath my feet felt like quicksand. My family has elevated bickering over the antiques to the level of grand opera. While sparing you all the horrific details, my mom and her siblings have decided to honor my grandmother's death with a drag-down knock-out legal and emotional fight over her inheritance. My mom and her sister, in particular, have always had a dysfunctional relationship...but this is particularly painful to behold (and be dragged into). Because of my family history, I am completely conflict averse, to the point of paralysis. By late this afternoon, I had horrible abdominable pains that were entirely psychological in origin, because when I curled up in a ball and hid in the rental car, they eased up. After returning to reality they came back. Finally I couldn't take it any longer and my wonderful wonderful husband helped me escape the city. I feel awful though leaving my brother "holding the bag"--having to take care of my mom for the next few days, when he has even more pressures in his life than I do right now.

It was hard going to Gram's house and realizing that I no longer had any reason to go through that neighborhood, one that I have known my entire life. And when I first arrived at Gram's house, it was "the way it should be" - the way it is in innumerable memories of my childhood. But by the time I escaped this afternoon, the pillaging had already begun and I felt like Gram's dignity was being desecrated by the desperate materialism (albeit emotionally-driven materialism) of the generation above me. I don't ever want to be in that house again. I want to leave my memories of Gram's house untarnished.

So I escaped to my in-laws. As we drove out into the prairie, with the familiar cornfields and dotted with lakes, I felt the tension starting to rise from me. And this evening, at my in-laws, I even managed to get in a few good comebacks. It's nice to be here with this nuclear family who are rejoicing at having their eldest son home again, if only for a few days. I know they have their own problems, but they are not currently in crisis, and for me that's comfort enough for now.

As I made the decision to escape to my husband's family rather than to keep bearing the cross of my family's dramas, I felt like I was taking another step in securing/bonding my husband and I together as the most important family unit. Not that I no longer have need of my mom and brother, but that I have another, separate but equal family now with Husband.

One last parting thought, from the blue collar sage at Gram's funeral: "Be kind. Every person is fighting their own battle."

I need to remember that.

Monday, October 24, 2005

leaving on a jet plane...

why am I always?

As S wisely told me this morning: "Your world has subtly shifted, it's normal to be freaking out." Just wish that I wasn't being ambushed by so many things at once. 'Twill be interesting to try to integrate me being in work crisis mode with dealing with my grieving family with a supposed-to-be relaxing weekend with the in-laws. It's too bad I won't likely have internet access this week, because I'll bet I'm going to have some great things to share.

Take care of yourselves.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

gram died

My gram died last night after being ill for a long time. Our family was prepared for this to happen, but you are never really prepared. I don't really feel like talking about it now (or ever) but I just thought I should warn you that I will likely be away from school/blogger this week as I go home to the Midwest and comfort my mom.

Friday, October 21, 2005

quick picks (things I'd like to write more about but don't have time)

  • Am home from trip. Thanks for suggestions for improving my mood while on travel. Was in serious funk, but Wednesday's walk to the Mall and visit to the Holocaust Museum really improved my mood (sounds strange I know), because then I was least seeing the city not just the inside of a hotel.
  • After flying all day, husband picked me up at airport and took me to dinner. Then he dropped me off for a symphony concert with S. While I would have appreciated the concert more with less jet lag, great classical music always has a way to transform my spirits and cause me to spontaneously smile. And I woke up last night with Holst's Mars and Jupiter running through my head.
  • Getting paper edits back from people. Am finding that I am having a hard time working on the seemingly endless revisions, but having an even harder time getting started on next phase of research.
  • Speaking no data abstract got accepted for a talk at the major December meeting. Am speaking right after one of the big names in field. Getting scared...vowing to work weekends.
  • Have decided to apply for "reach" faculty positions. Whatthehell, mightaswell.
  • Went to departmental mentoring lunch today....would have been much more useful if I were a M.S. student who didn't know what I wanted to do with my life, because mentors were all industry or gov't people. One woman spoke frankly about the problems she's had with being a woman in a male dominated industry. Frankness was appreciated by the all female audience in my group.
  • Science magazine has a great profile today of the Class of 2005, i.e., new faculty members in the sciences. Representing the U.S. they picked a lesbian couple with a 10 month old that managed to get positions in separate departments at the U of Colo. Inspiring, but rare?
  • My grandpa who lives in a nursing home about 2 hours away (but who I never see, because he doesn't know who I am) is in the hospital with pneumonia and not doing well. Sounds callous, but don't care all that much (long story here), except that my dad is obviously very concerned and is flying out. So I will be going to see that side of my family and my dad tomorrow. And bring along the laptop and journal articles for the inevitable down times in the hospital waiting room.
  • Husband still unemployed - contemplating taking seasonal retail job. One of the jobs that the state employment service tried to match him with is his old job! Those bastards. They just hire people, chew them up, and spit them out. But husband still seems to be in remarkably good spirits...though less than last week.
  • Speaking of, need to run to grocery store and get ingredients for dinner that husband will be cooking tonight (inspired by Martha!) and spend QT with husband and dog to make up for this week's absence and my neverending work obsession.
  • have a good weekend

Monday, October 17, 2005

the ups and downs of business travel

Some of these are general things for me, others are specific to this annual pilgrimage to DC.


  • get to sleep in king size bed crosswise
  • chance to see new places
  • get to eat in fancy restaraunts (often on someone else's dime)
  • a break from the normal routine
  • get to interact with new people
  • earn extra money
  • get a break from dog walking, dish washing, being a good wife


  • can't fall asleep for hours because of jet lag, paper-thin walls
  • spend all day in conference rooms, hotels, and restaraunts, and when I can escape feel like I'm seeing a version of the city Disneyfied for tourists
  • eat way too many calories, can't drink city water because it makes me sick, and thus I have to look like a snob as I order bottled water
  • nagging feeling that I am falling farther and farther behind in normal routine
  • have to try to remember names of people I may never see again
  • tempting to spend extra money
  • miss dog and husband
I wanna go home!

Question for the masses: When you travel for business - what do you do to make the ups outweigh the downs?

Meme too

I started this when I should have been working but I'm finishing it a day later - is that improvement?...a meme seen lots of places but most recently at See Jane Compute. The idea is to google "[your name] needs] and see what results you get. So here goes.

  1. [Sciencewoman] needs a job. (spot on!, the only thing that would have been better for #1 is "needs to stop procrastinating and finish her Ph.D.)
  2. [Sciencewoman] needs a room. (as I am currently on a business trip without my husband, I am not sure how to interpret this one)
  3. [Sciencewoman] needs a group of at least 6 people (for what I'm not sure, perhaps this explains #2)
  4. [Sciencewoman] needs to be where the action is. (I guess that's true, but then again maybe not, I think there's enough underlying this one to provide material for a whole post. Remind me of that.)
  5. [Sciencewoman] needs your support. (actually I am okay, thanks to my friends, you are all wonderful)
  6. [Sciencewoman] needs this yesterday. (what? what did I forget? I think it should have said, "needs to get this done yesterday")
  7. [Sciencewoman] needs to provide the current working draft. (to her 3rd author and S to edit? Done!)
  8. [Sciencewoman] needs love. (that's why I've got a dog)
  9. [Sciencewoman] needs help to free the musical spirit of Azerbaijani youngsters. (apparently I have some pretty specific, niche needs that I didn't know about).
  10. [Sciencewoman] needs help!!! (exclamation points NOT added for emphasis)

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The "old-girls" network (or: the importance of academic girlfriends)

I found this speech via Bitch Ph.D. and it is definitely worth a read. In turns depressing and uplifting, it recounts one woman's experiences going through the lifecycle of academia, and it is a call to action for us to mentor our sisters, because one day we may be the ones who need a helping hand.

Good night.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Bird's eye view

Written over Ohio, on Friday...

En route from Seattle to D.C. today, I’ve had the rare pleasure of a day-time transcontinental flight, with a window seat on a largely cloudless day. From the moment we lifted off over the intricate estuaries and islands of Puget Sound, and floated over the complex ridgelines and glacial valleys of the Cascades, I’ve been entranced. Our route took us over the fantastical Channeled Scablands of eastern Washingon, where I spotted Grand Coulee and Dry Falls, and the ultimate prize, a patch of giant current ripples. We flew over the Idaho Panhandle, over Lake Couer d’Alene, where natural levees marked the routes of tributaries well out into the lake. (Aha, google just taught me that there is a dam resulting in the natural lake level being artificially raised.) The mountaintops in Idaho and Montana were frosted with snow and the broad valleys had tightly meandering streams winding through them. I caught a glimpse of Flathead Lake to our north, with the distinct line of the Minaret Mountains on its east flank. Our pilot helpfully told us that Flathead Lake is the largest U.S. freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River. As we moved into eastern Montana and North Dakota the landscape became more barren, with stream networks slowly inching their way headward in the flattened landscapes. We crossed the dammed Missouri River at the North Dakota-South Dakota border, just as I happened to look up from the presentation on which I was working. Into Iowa and Illinois, what caught my eye was the regular geometry of the irrigated fields superimposed on the deranged drainage left behind by the glaciers. I looked up again as we crossed the Mississippi River, with its elaborate pattern of islands created and drowned by the dam we flew over. I saw the suburban wasteland of Chicago meld into the high rises of downtown, only to be abruptly stopped by the vast blue expanse of Lake Michigan. Now as we fly over Indiana or Ohio, stringers of puffy cumulus clouds are becoming more dense, building in height, and threatening to cut off my personal theater. But I still haven’t seen the Appalachians! Oh well, there is always the flight home. I hope I’ve got a window seat.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


10-12-05 4 pm. My husband was fired. He says he feels great...that a whole lot of pressure and anxiety have been relieved, that he feels better than he has since June. On the other had, I feel like shit.


Thanks to single girl for inspiration on this one. She's in the midst of applying for internships at the culmination of her Psych.D. education. And in an upbeat post that minimized the pain of applications getting lost, etc. she filled us in on the important dates she's set for herself.

So here are mine.
  • 10-14-05: Date I leave for DC and by which the paper is going to be to third author whether I sleep between now and then or not.
  • 10-17-05: Date while I am in DC by which I have to submit the powerpoint for a talk that isn't being given until 11-2-05. How annoying!
  • 10-31-05: Date of next gyno appt.
  • 11-8-05: Date of big deal seminar for government agency whom I may someday wish to work for and in front of whom I certainly don't want to fall on my face.
  • 11-18-05: Application deadline for job that I really really want.
  • 12-5-05: Start of conference where I have to give a talk or poster on a topic for which I have no data.
Beyond that I have no idea...but I guess I could add: 9/1/06: date at which fellowship runs out and by which I would like to have defended and gained employment.

Good god, I have a lot to do. Let's not post on this topic again. Days are better when they are not taken all at once.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

thank you

I have been overwhelmed in the past few days by the tremendous outpouring of support from my friends and readers of my blog. Thank you all for keeping my husband and I in your thoughts. I just want to let you know that we are okay - my husband's job is still tenuous, I'm still overworked (aren't we all), and we won't know anything about baby stuff until the end of the month. But a delightful visit from Geobabe, comments, emails, and phone calls from ya'll, a little retail therapy (in honor of husband's birthday), and one completed job application later, I'm feeling a lot sunnier.

This afternoon I am off to theoretically help a middle school teacher improve her inquiry-based geology curriculum. I've got the introduction on my paper rewritten, and now need to redo the discussion section. Had hoped to work on that this afternoon, but the teacher visit got added to my schedule at the last minute. Also, I still don't have my normal computer back, and Endnote has chosen this time to be uncooperative (not integrating the refs cited in old version with those in new version). But tonight is gilmore girls, apple crisp, and clean laundry. And I'll be doing fine.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

down but not out

Husband took the scenic route through college, finally finishing his last course this spring at age 28. He followed me to Oregon and had an awful time finding a job in this over-educated, under-employed town. His first job was a disaster - I think he actually lost money at it. As that one fizzled out (they didn't even have the grace to fire him), he spent several months at home playing video games all day. I'm sure he was depressed, but I was trapped in a demanding field schedule, and I wasn't very understanding about how frustrating it is to be looking for jobs and not finding anything.

Fortunately, two years ago he got his present job on the basis of a good reccomendation. It's been another straight commission sales job, but at least this company treated him fairly humanely. He spends about 6 months working in the local area, and the other half of the year working about an hour or 2 away (over some treacherous windy mountain roads), so he spends 4 nights away from home each week. The separation has been really hard on me (especially months 4-6), because I feel like I am left with running the household and trying to manage my own work, and with no one to turn to for companionship. He likes his work area away from home, because he earns more money there, but he spends his evenings at the bar or sitting in a dingy hotel room watching crappy tv.

So that's the background, now for the present situation. Husband's company got bought this spring, and it with the purchase came months of agony over the future of his job. Would all of the sales staff be laid off? would they be assigned different districts? would we still have health insurance? After he finished up "Away from Home" he got assigned a new district, about an hour from home but no mountains. And with the new district, came a new boss, and 8 am meetings every day of the week. Never mind that they weren't paying him to sit in meetings, just comission on sales. And the new boss was awful - giving the reassigned reps the worst clients, demanding better performance than that acheived by his own staff, and constantly threatening to fire them. On top of the lousy boss and meeting schedule, Husband's company is not well regarded in his new district, making it even harder to maintain good sales numbers (i.e., income).

So we've been on pins and needles for several months now about if and when Husband would lose his job. A month ago, they converted all the commission reps to salary - a mixed blessing. Sure our income would be steadier but his earning potential is lower now, and it's much easier to fire a salaried rep than a commission one. Last week, they put husband on "probabtion" giving him one week to make extraordinary (and nearly impossible) improvement. If a miracle didn't occur, my husband was going to lose his job yesterday (his birthday, no less). The stress was even affecting me. Basically, my husband was telling me that I needed to plan on being the primary breadwinner for ... indefinitely, and that he really wanted me to get a tenure-track job somewhere straight out of my Ph.D. rather than taking a post-doc and saddling him with another move and another series of dead-end jobs.

On Thursday, husband's awful boss was fired. Husband did not get fired on his birthday. Things are still very uncertain. He has not been given our home district back, though other reps have now been assigned to work here. 8 am meetings are done for now. But I still feel like he could lose his job any day. He has a strong track record but his last few months have been pretty abysmal. I guess it'll depend on whether the new boss looks at his whole history or just the most recent campaign.

Husband and I took a stress survey a few months ago. I scored mildly above average, his score was in the health endangering category. His family is wrapped up in their own troubles, and haven't even called husband yet for his birthday (yesterday, remember). On top of everything else, we've been trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant. Last week, husband went to the clinic and gave a sperm sample. They say his count is low. Is there any wonder? And yet, my well meaning friends keep telling me not to be stressed. Husband is the one that needs the cheerleaders. I love him dearly and I hate to see him so stressed all the time. But I don't know how to fix the situation. It's not like he can quit his job - we need the health insurance and see above for how hard it is to find a decent job around here. I've been trying to be a good wife - I got him an ipod for his birthday - figured a tech-gizmo would cheer him up and distract him. Trying also to just be relaxed around him and do nothing (i.e., watch TV) if that's what he wants. But it's hard when I also am feeling all the demands of grad school. Sometimes I feel like it's just against the world. At least we have each other.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

say what?

A grad student in my department sent out this email: "just in case you're maybe thinking about
grabbing a few more degrees while you're here."

apparently, I was cut out for: PhD in Liberal Arts (like political science, philosophy, or literature). "You're a great thinker and a true philosopher. You'd make a talented professor or writer."

I guess I'm on the right track, I do a lot of writing and I'm trying to become a professor. but I'm in the natural sciences and not the liberal arts. Maybe I missed my true calling and that's why I spend so much time blogging!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Why is it...

that when I have lots of stuff going on in my life and thus lots of things to write about that I can't find the time or energy to do so? Oh, that's right, it's the same reason that when I have emotional stuff to deal with, that it would be helpful stuff to write out/vent, I don't have the emotional or intellectual bandwidth to do it. Basically, when my life is worth writing about, I'm too wrapped up in it to be a good blogger.

So instead, I'll send you off to do some good blog reading: I've had time to read very few of these myself, but I wish I could, and maybe I will.
Well, I better get back to waiting for the doctor to call and working on my introduction. Talk went acceptably, and better yet can be crossed off my to-do list. Husband still has job as of 11 am. All in all, an unproductive but vaguely satisfying day so far.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

why do I waste my time?

Damn the people who invent such things. I'm supposed to be working on my research statement.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Day in the life

Following the lead (okay, shamelessly copying) a few other women bloggers, I present a special edition of "On being a scientist...". Sort of a quick-fix, just the facts version, sparing me (and you) any pretentious analysis or musings about my life. This is the 6-year old's diary version of my day.
  • Rushed through morning routine (shower, breakfast, walk dog, make lunch) to make it to school a whole 10 minutes earlier than usual.
  • Booted up laptop, still doesn't work, relinquished it to computer gurus at helpdesk
  • Read email, news, chatted with S, hoped for magic phone call from helpdesk with quick fix
  • Edited hard-copy good science/bad writing paper for 4th author credit. Helped S start listserv for our brownbag.
  • Went to gym with S and swam 500 m.
  • Ate lunch and reduced teaching philosophy to single page by removing paragraph on assessment. Delayed plans to do a job app swap with MR. Both of us behind.
  • put edits of above paper into Word. (Muttered obscenities about muddled writing, atrocious figures, and inconsistent editing) Ate two oreo cookies. went for 3rd mug of tea.
  • 4:30 Called helpdesk. Told computer guy to go ahead and disassemble laptop. Hell, hit it with a hammer. Just back it up first.
  • Couldn't face any more word documents. Started Powerpoint to work on seminar I was "invited" to give with less than a week's notice.
  • put some pretty pics into powerpoint and decided to blog instead
  • wrote crappy blog post and went back to powerpoint
And later tonight I'll go home feeling underwhelmed by my accomplishments for the day. My husband will have waited for me to come home, so that we can walk the dog together (in rain). But he will have reconfigured last night's pot roast into tonight's stew. Will take journal articles out of backpack to read, but instead get sucked into Fox's TV lineup and clothes folding. TV watching will lead to ice cream eating (despite vow to lose weight this month), and I'll go to bed feeling guilty about ice cream and journal articles. Dog will curl up with me and all will be right in the world.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

rainy days and computer woes

Yesterday, I went in the field with my undergrad to show him the sites for his sr. thesis. I decided to (gasp) actually try to do some work on this trip and not just be a tour guide, so I brought along my laptop to download some data loggers. It was raining, but it is Oregon in October. My computer got a little wet(ter) at each stop, and after the third stop was behaving very very badly. I (barely) accomplished what I needed to, shut it down, and figured I'd let it dry out before trying to use it again. Well, it has now been 29 hours since it last got wet, and it boots up fine, but I can't log in to Windows because it won't respond to ctrl-alt-del. I can't plug in an external keyboard, because I need to be in windows to tell it to pay attention to said external keyboard.

I'm trying not to freak out about this (yet), because hopefully the geniuses at the college's helpdesk can work their magic and fix it. Plus, I had paper copies of the things I needed to edit and read this weekend. BUT I know it will occupy at least a chunk of my day tomorrow to deal with it, which will put me behind in my goals for October. And that's a best case scenario. I don't even want to think of the worst case one. So I am majorly kicking myself for bringing my laptop in the field, rather than the designated field laptop with Dell's cure-all promise. At least I'm pretty good about backing things up. Except those newly-downloaded field files and the figures for my paper. I sure hope they can fix it!