Tuesday, June 28, 2005

teaching notes

I've survived the first two (and hardest) days of teaching the workshop. The interpersonal issues have all but melted away and everybody is busy scrambling to to stay on top of things. It's really physically demanding to be teaching from 8 to 4 and pre- and post- assessing for an hour on either end. It's 8 o'clock now and my big plan for the evening is going to be bed. But all told, I think things are going well. I still have some deep reservations about how the workshop is structured, and the heavy emphasis on inquiry teaching to the exclusion of giving content, but that said, I am actually quite happy with how today went. I'm definitely learning a lot about a teaching, and having the science education experts there is actually great -- they can coach me from the sidelines -- of course, it must be frustated when they spell out for me how I should lead a discussion, etc., and then I can't quite make it work. But hey, I'm trying really had and this is all new stuff for me.

So one of my emphases this summer is teaching (obviously): both learning how to do it and figuring out whether it is something I really want to do. With the vast experience of two days now behind me :), I am reminded of a few things I already knew about myself. I don't enjoy constantly interacting with people all day long. Not to say that I am a trench-coat wearing loner lurking in the shadows, but I need time to process information that I am taking in, and I find it really hard to do while having a conversation with some one. I guess I don't learn well from talking. And I'm finding that being around people for 10+ hours a day is disrupting my internal dialogue/thought processes. I miss the normal voices inside my head! Also, when the teachers were doing their inquiry projects today, I really wanted to be doing the experiments too, not overseeing logistics and wandering between groups making sure things were going well for everyone. I wanted to be making the measurements and seeing the results. And that's exactly what I get to do in research.

I'd like post more on my headlong plunge into inquiry education some other time. But for now, I'm going to enter some field data and read a very technical journal article. In other words, it's time to do what I know I am comfortable with and to relax for the evening.

P.S. Congratulations to the new parents! I'm glad everyone is doing well, and I'm tickled that your little girl is a redhead. I can't wait to meet her.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

super-stressed

I've been an absolute stress case all day - my stomach is tied up in knots about the teacher workshop (starts tomorrow!). I didn't want to come into school today, but finally had to this evening to redo a graph that needed to be printed on 11x17. But first I had to turn around and go home and get my office keys (stupid rental car). Stress begets stress. At the moment my mind is starting to relax a little (listening to some emmylou harris), but my heart is racing from just reading through some of the agonizing emails that have flown into my inbox this week.

I think I would be stressed enough about teaching this stuff even if it weren't for the personality conflict at play here. Thankfully, I am realizing that when I teach my college class, I will be the final arbiter of teaching decisions and I will not have 2+ science education experts breathing down my neck and critiquing my every word (or lack thereof).

Apparently, my decision not to send a hasty email back to the education PI (who actually isn't a PI) was the wrong one. Then she got steamed about my lack of response and has made some other hurtful comments about me....principally implying that my lack of teaching experience is a disaster. That leads me to two comments: The first is the perennial catch-22: how is one supposed to get experience if every job requires it? The second: I wasn't asked about my teaching experience when I was recruited. If it was such a major requirement, then the person who hired me should have bothered to ask.

Here's a snippet from the science PI to the ed non-PI re: my lack of response to the nasty email.
"I think the tone was so strong that it rather puts off a response. No response may *be* the response, although entirely unrelated to the content of the conversation which may get lost in the taken-abackness regarding the tone. See, an aggressive tone does not invite dialogue. It invites defensiveness. This is a hard lesson that I have learned over the past 20 years, that women (in particular) get shut down when I simply do my hardball Q&A that doesn't really reflect anything except my intense interest in the question at hand, but comes across as The Hostile Prosecutor."
There are so many levels from which to look at this issue. For example, how different would our dynamics be if one of us were a man, instead of it all being between women?

Right now, I'm really deeply appreciating the science PI sticking up for me. We'll just have to see how the week goes. Keep me in your prayers.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

a beautiful day in the field

...did me a lot of good. I'm feeling much more relaxed today, and however next week turns out, it will have been a good experience for me. I've just got to try to remain unflustered if something goes awry in the midst of things.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

update (see previous post)

As of 5 o'clock today, the education PI has managed to offend just about everybody and has apparently also threatened to interrupt in the middle of teaching if we are doing something "wrong." But the science PI mounted a splendid defense, that, unfortunately had no effect on the education PI.

So, at least I am not alone in taking the criticism. And at least I am leaving for the field at 6:30 tomorrow morning and will be out of email contact for at least 12 hours.

An email I can't send - but I can post

The setup: S an/d I were asked to be the -ology content teachers for a two-week workshop for middle school and high school teachers on the ology and ology of western Oregon. The idea is that the workshop will both improve the teachers' content knowledge and improve their science teaching skills. This means that our content is supposed to be structured on "inquiry-based learning." Sounds great, right? That and I'll get paid >$2000 for 8 days of contact time. There are two PIs, a science educator and a scientist. The two PIs seem to have their own (acknowledged) communication issues. The day-to-day activities are being coordinated by a science education graduation student, who is wonderful.

The problem: When S and I were recruited we were told that our job was to deliver content, but we were never told what content we were supposed to deliver. Our early meetings had lots of dialog like this:

PI: "As you've seen in the schedule, you'll be doing the ________ activity in Day 2"
Us: "What schedule? We haven't seen one. What sort of ______ activity?"

As we've gotten closer to the workshop (it's next week), most of those issues have been resolved. It turns out that they had a general framework in mind, but not the implementation. So it fell to us to develop lesson plans within that framework, targeted to meet broad objectives in the state science benchmarks for grades 7-12. That leaves a lot of wiggle room for how to actually meet those objectives, even within a framework of inquiry learning. Keep in mind, that we have no training in 1) curriculum development or 2) inquiry learning. When we've brought that up, it's been summarized as "treat the students as a blank slate. in inquiry learning the idea is to let them explore a subject, form their own questions, and then give them the content" That's it.

So S and I have been working remarkably hard (forsaking our other committments) to develop curriculum for this workshop. I've spent the 6 days working full time on this (never mind I'm not getting paid). As I finished a piece of curriculum I would send it the science education grad student and get feedback from her.

On Monday, I got ambushed by the scientist PI (who got ambused by the ed PI) about why I hadn't been showing them the content that I was developing. So I figured, "OK, you didn't ask for it, but here you go" and I sent off what I'd developed.

Crisis: Yesterday around noon, I sent off the last piece of material for day 2 (of 4 days we need to finish by this evening). The science ed PI emailed back an hour or two later with some comments on the material and a request as to why I had scheduled the activities in a particular order and how I thought that such-and-such a piece was meeting the objectives. Never mind that I hadn't made the schedule, and that the piece in question is one that was suggested to me originally and was used last year. So, being a good professional, I wrote a calm email back (to all involved parties) and defended the status quo. I pointed out that, furthermore, I didn't have time to make major changes now, or the rest of the days wouldn't get finished.

The first round of reprecussions: At 5 yesterday, I got an email back from the science PI saying "Superb answer. Stick to your guns!" At 5:30, I got an email back from the education PI saying "I don't think you would really need to change anything if we rearranged the order of things." I disagree, because I need to teach the teachers how to read the graphs before I ask them to spend 2 hours interpreting them, but I decided it wasn't worth replying. And I went home for the day and came in this morning enthused about moving onto day 3.

The second round of reprecussions: At 9:30 this morning, I got another email from the education PI, saying that I had no basis for using the phrase "blank slate" because nobody came in as a blank slate. Recall, that the phrase was borrowed the education people in the first place. She concluded by bluntly stating that the schedule would be rearranged whether I liked it or not.

Next Steps: Science PI says "good job stick to your guns" while education PI tells me I'm fucking up. How am I supposed to take that? Especially in the context of not getting paid for the curriculum development in the first place, and this being the last day I can work on this stuff. It's taking all my ability to be a grownup not to send back a really nasty email to the education PI. But I know I'll say something in a way that I regret, even if the sentiment is genuine. And, frankly, I don't have the energy to continue the discussion. After all, I've still got two days of curriculum to finish and only 6 hours to do it in.

I'll keep you posted on any future developments.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

found in my rental car

Still having writer's block, so for lack of anything original:
"Education is your passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today." - Malcolm X

Monday, June 20, 2005

good news popping up all over

Not much to report from the Northwest. Still busy prepping class for next week. Had dinner with a friend tonight who just started teaching a summer term college course...after day 1, he's already exhausted. Starting to get a little nervous about mine; I wish I could work on it, but I've got to get this one out of the way first. Never mind, actually accomplishing any research.

Lots of good news from my friends in the first few days. One announced that she is pregnant with her second, another got engaged on a mountaintop, and a third finally set a wedding date after being engaged for several years. Congrats to all of you. Anyone else want to surpise and delight me?

Hopefully something will inspire me to post in the next few days. Any suggestions?

Friday, June 17, 2005

brain exercise

This teaching stuff takes a completely different set of neural connections than my normal routine of data analysis. It's kind of fun but definitely exhausting.

lesson planning sucks!

I think this is going to be a recurring theme this summer. For the past 8 hours I have been trying to plan a two hour lesson for my teachers, and I am nowhere near done. The idea of this teacher workshop is that it all has to be inquiry based learning, which means that in 5 hours of teaching per day, I can only have about 45 minutes of me just getting up in front of the blackboard and imparting wisdom. Not that writing lectures is easy but it's a lot more straightforward than trying to come up with hands-on projects. I have been trying to find the appropriate time-series data sets so the teachers can do this project, and it is a royal pain in the ass. And then, once I get the data, I or someone else will have to make the appropriate graphs for the teachers, because many of them don't know how to use excel. Bah humbug.

At least it's friday. But then again, I am planning to work most of the weekend since my husband is gone. So it's not really much consolation that it is Friday. At least it's raining. That I way I don't mind being indoors in a windowless office!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

holding up my end of the bargain

warning: rant ahead

I was in the field the past two days, and this afternoon at 3 pm and two hours (one site) short of being done with my work, i allotted to skip the last site and drive home (2.5 hours) instead. My dear husband was going to come home and we were going to have a mid-week evening together. We're in month 6 of him being gone for work 4 nights a week. Our evening together this week was particularly important because he is going on vacation next week to visit his parents, leaving early Saturday morning and not returning until late the following Sunday night. I can't afford that long of vacation time right now, and he's using all his, so we won't get another day off together until at least September. So excluding two ships passing in the night, this evening was our one chance to be together in the next three weeks. Now granted he's got a 7:30 am meeting 2 hours from home, but that last field site I skipped can't be put off much longer. And since I didn't get it done today, that means that next week I'll have to drive 2.5 hours , work 2, and drive 2.5 hours home. When you add in dealing with gear on either end, that's a full day of work. So I traded a whole day for an extra 2 hours with him this evening, but he wouldn't trade a 5:30 am wakeup call for an evening with me.

To give him credit, he has offered to come home tomorrow night. But that doesn't help me get my lost time back, and right now I just feel like snubbing him and making plans with a friend instead.

Am I over-reacting?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

call of the wild

When it's cold and rainy outside, it was easy to decide that this summer I would not spend much time in the field. So I filled my summer with teaching, writing, and side projects (see previous post). But there is a certain amount of field work that must be done, and so today I went out to check on my sites and download data. And right now I'm kicking myself for not just committing to another summer in the field. I can think of nothing better than spending hours everyday in woods and water. Hiking in the woods, wading the streams, gaining insight into the landscape.... Of course it doesn't hurt that in the evening I'd come back to a relatively plush field station, to take a hot shower, cook a simple dinner, hangout with fellow graduate students, and even check my email via the new wireless internet hookup (as I am at the moment).

I'm helping another grad student get started in my field area, and I am realizing how much I've learned about about this place...who to talk to, what roads to take, where to get a good burger, and what the places look like at all times of the year. And it's a little sad to realize that my time in the field is drawing to a close, and that from now on its going to be just a few days here and there and not the full scale immersion that it's been the past two summers.

I know that the work I really need to do these days is mostly in front of a computer, and there's no reason for me to spend this summer in the mountains. But I don't want to become one of those scientists who gets into the field only a few days each year. I'm not ready for that yet. So I think what I should do this summer is spend time in the field when I can -- doing work when I need to, and finally getting to those hikes that I spent the last two summers wishing I had the time to do. Maybe on those hikes I can draw inspiration from the landscape that helps me make sense of the data on the computer. And then I can call a hiking trip to my wilderness paradise a good day at the office!

Monday, June 13, 2005

inspiring or depressing?

"In research the horizon recedes as we advance, and is no nearer at sixty than it was at twenty. As the power of endurance weakens with age, the urgency of the pursuit grows more intense... And research is always incomplete." - Mark Pattison (English educationist, 1813-84)

side projects (or why that paper isn't getting written)

I am running around like a crazy woman right now, going from project to project, fighting only the fires that are sparking and ignoring the smoldering embers for now. Why? Well, my excuse du jour was the rear-ender that happened to me on Thursday afternoon and the ensuing whiplash, car repair, insurance mess that has tied up much of the last several days. (Don't worry, I'm okay but my car's about to head to the shop for a week.) But there's a larger picture here, too, and it has to do with the alarming number of side projects that are taking over my life. Forget working on my dissertation research, and even forget playing in the sun, we're talking things that make me a better job candidate in the end, but at the moment are making that end look very distant. So what am I talking about?
  1. advising a senior thesis next year, (and since he's at field camp for 6 weeks that means I've got to make some arrangements for field and lab work for when he gets back)
  2. teaching my first college class second summer session (right now that means trying to finish the syllabus and lab manual and bone up on some of the material)
  3. team teaching a 2 week course for middle-school and high-school teachers (right now there are too many cooks in the kitchen, but it will be a good experience for me to be forced away from the lecture format right at the beginning of my teaching career)
  4. being co-PI on a grant that probably isn't going to be part of my thesis
  5. getting side tracked on a very interesting little problem that might make a nice tidy little paper someday in an obscure journal, but again, not part of my thesis
Can you tell I'm having fun?

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Scientific ethics - a "corrosive" problem?

Nature is reporting this week on a new study showing that 1/3 of NIH grant recipients surveyed admitted to some level of scientific bad behavior (ranging from outright falsification to publishing the same data in two places to rejecting a datum based on gut instinct). See their story here. (You may need to create an account, but its free). Out of sixteen offenses surveyed their top ten were considered worthy of punishment at an institutional level, while the bottom six were more along the lines of carelessness. Some of the offenses were specifically things related to human subjects, but others were pretty applicable to anyone. The results were included in an editorial by the authors that some of the "corrosive" behaviors may be the result of competitive funding and work environments. While part of me wants this study and its topic to get more "airplay" and fire up some real discussions about the way science is funded and careers are tracked, another part of me doesn't want this to become another public smudge mark on our profession (much like the recent Yucca Mtn scandal).

But, at the very least, their queries can provide some useful fodder for self reflection. They were yes/no questions, whether you had engaged in any of these behaviours in the past three years. The questions are (BC Martinson, MS Anderson and R de Vries, Nature 435, 737-738 (9 June 2005)):
Major transgressions
  1. Falsifying or cooking data
  2. ignoring major aspects of human-subject requirements
  3. not properly disclosing involvement with firms whose products are based on your own research
  4. relationships with students, research subjects, or clients that may be considered questionable
  5. using another's ideas without obtaining permission or giving proper credit
  6. unauthorized use of confidential information in connection with one's own research
  7. failing to present data that conflict with one's previous research
  8. circumventing certain minor aspects of human-subjects requirements
  9. overlooking other's use of flawed data or questionable interpretation of data
  10. changing the design, methodology, or results of a study in response to pressure from a funding source
Other transgressions
  1. Publishing the same data or results in two or more publications
  2. Inappropriately assigning authorship credit
  3. Witholding details of methodology or results in papers or proposals
  4. Using inadequate or inappropriate research designs
  5. Dropping observations or data points from analyses based on gut feeling they were inadequate
  6. inadequate record keeping on research projects

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

My encounter with an outstanding woman scientist

The alumni magazine of my alma mater just came out with a profile of six outstanding women science faculty. Their introductory blurb ran:
"So members of the "gentler sex" are less capable than their male counterparts of high scientific achievement? Harrumph! We didn't have to look far ... to find six female scientists who are standouts in their fields."
Among their honorees is my undergraduate thesis advisor, one of only four people (and the only woman) to win the young scientist medals from both of our major professional societies. She is an incredibly driven woman, who demands high standards of excellence from both herself and her students. That can sometimes make her hard to work with, but it has produced excellent results for her career. Research is her focus, 110%. She is doing innovative work and is not afraid to put out big controversial ideas if that the way the data points her.

She arrived my junior year, and I think she is the only tenure-track female faculty member in the department. Since she didn't have any grad students yet, she actively recruited the undergraduate majors to work with her. She was doing work peripheral to my area of interest, but it offered a chance to work in a real research group with an active, invested mentor, so I signed on to do my senior thesis with her. I had one semester to do my thesis, so I spent dozens of hours each week in the lab. I devoted two full days a week to lab work, plus time spent learning background material and writing the thesis itself. I also served as an unofficial TA for her class that semester. All of this put me in good steed with her, and for a while I thought about doing graduate work in the lab, but decided against it because it wasn't a good fit and I realized I couldn't maintain that pace of work for 5+ more years. (One of the few good professional decisions I made at that time)

After I'd made a mess of my MS program, she offered me a lifeline, a once-in-a-lifetime trip to an exotic locale as a research assistant. That trip turned into my M.S. project, and the soul searching I did in the wild led me to where I am today. Not to mention that the technique I learned for my senior thesis has turned out to be an integral part of my later research projects, and is fairly rare in my field and hopefully be useful as I enter the job market.

So I owe her a lot, and she just goes to show that women can be top-notch scientists. So take that, Larry Summers.

requiem for a swallow

I lost a pet this morning. Well, maybe not a pet exactly, but a member of our household. One of the swallows who nests under our eaves was murdered, almost in front of my eyes. I'm done crying now (or maybe not as my eyes moisten) and I just feel numb.

Let me tell you how it happened. It's recycling day, and I was out on the driveway with the paper recycling and my neighbor girl walked by on her way to school. Since she dogsits for us on a regular basis, and I need a sitter next week, we started talking. As our conversation finished, I noticed her family's cat stalking off my driveway back to it's yard...with my swallow in its teeth. The other neighborhood swallows were whirling around in the air, and as they settled back onto their respective rooftops, I saw that all of the roofs had a pair, and ours now only has one swallow. I approached the cat in its yard, thinking, hoping that the bird was only injured and I might be able to save it. But I saw that the bird was not moving, and that it's head was inside the cat's jaws.

I'm tearing up again as I write. This is not the first felony committed by this cat, but it certainly the most audacious. Only last weekend my husband had to remove a cat-mauled bluejay from our backyard, and our other neighbors have a small graveyard for the birds their grandson has found dead in their yard (and yet they've just bought chickens, how daring). And I knew that the swallow chicks, that are soon going to be hatching, will have a low survival rate as they take their first flight out of the nest, and into the jaws of the waiting felines. But to see this bird killed, unapologetically, in front of my eyes...it's atrocious.

And now I am left with a dilemma. As many of you know, I'm not a friend of in-town outdoor cats. Indoor cats are fine, in fact, I've loved several of them. And I can see that barn cats have their place. But a cat that lives in town and is a "pet" merely by virtue that someone gave it a name and collar and it shows up every couple of days to be fed and maybe to lounge on a front step, this is not a pet by my definition. If that cat is a pet, then my swallow was a pet. We grew gardens to nurture insects for swallow food, and there are special horizontal boards nailed to our eaves to provide nesting perches (right in front of our picture window). So why is their cat allowed to murder our bird?

But how do I solve this? How do I approach the neighbors (who we like and who we depend on for dog-sitting) and say, "You have to do something about your cat. Keep it indoors, or ..."? And this cat is not the only one in the neighborhood (maybe just the most obnoxious). There are at least 3 cats on our block, and at least three houses that are opposed to them (us, the chicken owners, and one house down). Not only do the cats kill birds, but they defecate in our gardens, torment the dog, and, while lying in the street, refuse to move for oncoming vehicles. My husband has suggested live-trapping them and taking them to the humane society, but this seems like a sureway to create bad blood. So I think we will talk to the owners of the killer cat, but I'll bet that this ends our dog-sitting relationship and leads to some angry feelings. Does any one have any other suggestions?

Monday, June 06, 2005

cold feet

So a group of professors and grad students (including me) was supposed to be going to the Cascades for a two-day field trip/retreat leaving tomorrow morning. But the forecast is for rain and snow, and so instead they decided to just go to a nice restaurant for dinner tomorrow night. I'm disappointed because the trip was supposed to be the culmination of a quarter's worth of reading and thinking about the science of the area. But, truthfully, we never really got energized on the reading and thinking end of things, so the trip was going to be a combo of some hikes (and arm waving) and a party at a cabin. But that almost makes the cancellation worse. Instead of finishing the year by re-energizing our group, we are finishing with a whimper. What will happen next year?

I wasn't part of the decision to cancel, because I was actually in the field today. The average temperature couldn't have been more than 40, and there were alternating periods of sunshine, rain, snow, and hail. The dog got so cold I had to blast the heat at her in the car on the way home. So, while I am disappointed in the decision, I am actually thankful that tomorrow night, rather than being in a tent with a wet dog, I will be in my own bed (and maybe even with my husband). And instead of two days in the field, I will actually be getting work done at the office. And there is no shortage of work to do. And, maybe I can use the change of plans as an excuse to sneak off early one day and work on the next round of baby blankets (she had better not be early). And maybe this will really get jonesing for camping this weekend (just have to convince the dh). I guess all is well that ends well.

Stay warm and dry.

writing exams is a lot of work

I spent two and a half hours this afternoon writing 8 exam questions for the teacher's institute at the end of the month. I think they are good questions, many with diagrams, but that's over 30 minutes a question. The hardest questions to write are the multiple choice questions, because you have to come up with three plausible wrong answers. My only solace is that maybe I can use them for my college course next month (or at some indefinite point in the future). So at thirty minutes an exam questions, and 8-10 hours prepping an hour lecture....my time is solidly booked for the next three months....but wait, I still have to do research! I didn't think it was possible, but my respect for college professors who are good teachers and active researchers is growing by the minute.

Random event for the day: Stopping to let a male peacock (with full plumage) cross the highway!

Friday, June 03, 2005

A dialog between dog and owner: a play in 10 acts

Act 1: (6 pm) The homecoming
Dog: (exuberant) She's home!!!! (bounding onto the couch) Feed me feed me feed me. Walk me walk me walk me. No, walk me longer, it's the favorite part of my day.
Owner: It's so wonderful to come home to someone so excited to see me. And most days I don't really mind the walk, it's a good chance to shift gears, get outdoors, and talk to my husband.

Act 2: (7:15 pm) Dinner and a play
Owner: Ah, finally some dinner. I just want to sit down and relax for a little bit.
Dog: It's a beautiful evening. Come play stick in the back yard with me. please please please
Owner: Oh, all right. It is a nice night (though a bit chilly), but if you start to lose interest, I am going back in the house to eat my dinner.

Act 3: (8:15 pm) Downtime
Owner: I've got to get some work done on the computer now.
Dog: You're boring. I'm going to go curl up on the couch and nap.
Owner: You're such a good dog, so understanding of the human schedule, and much less demanding than when you were a puppy.

Act 4: (10:15 pm) Bedtime
Owner: (climbing into bed) OK, come on up.
Dog: (jumping up on the bed and curling up behind the owner) Bed time, at last! I was tired, I just kept falling asleep on the couch. You stay up SO late.
Owner: (snuggling in with the dog) I'm not a big fan of the dog hairs all over the bed, but it sure is nice to curl up with a warm body when my husband isn't here.

Act 5: (2:45 am) Barking fit
Dog: (barking wildly and leaping off the bed) Cats outside! Cats outside! Let me outside to bark at them! Let me outside to bark at them now!
Owner: (suddenly roused from a dead sleep) What the $%@#? Damn, dog. (grumbling as she walks down the hallway to let the dog out) It's the middle of the night and I'm supposed to be get at least 3 more hours of uninterrupted sleep, and I know that's not going to happen now.
(5 minutes later Dog wants to come back in the house, owner gets back up to let it in, dog curls up on bed and is instantly asleep, owner takes 20 minutes to fall back asleep)

Act 6: (5:20 am) Sunrise
Dog: Wake up! Wake up! It's light out, so it's time to get up and have breakfast and play and go for a walk. Wake up! Wake up!
Owner: No. You can't have breakfast until 6 am, well, 5:50 at the earliest, you know the rules. Go back to sleep.
Dog: No, I won't. Wake up. Wake up.
(This continues for 20 minutes until Owner gives up and gets breakfast for Dog)

Act 7: (6:45 am) Alarm goes off
Owner: OK, now I'll get up.
Dog: You're finally getting up? Oh boy. Oh boy. Let's go for a walk!
Owner: We'll get to your walk in its own time. First, I need to have breakfast and take a shower. And you know how slow I am.
Dog: (under her breath) Couldn't be any slower if you tried...I'll be patient, but I'm going to keep letting you know I'm there. Would you please put my collar on me?

Act 8: (8:00 am) The morning walk
Owner: Get your collar, get your leash, get your shoes on, get a bag, you better stretch...Oh there's your collar. Let me grab a jacket.
Dog: Well, it's about time. So many gopher holes to sniff, trees to pee on, dogs to watch (but never play with), places to go, things to see....what? we're home already?
Owner: I must do this, and this, and this, and this, and this, and ... But first, I better do that, and that, and that. Oh yeah, and I have to pack a lunch. I'm running late. I've got to go.

Act 9: (8:30 am) Departure
Owner: (pushing dog out the back door) Bye, dog. You be good today. I'll be home this evening. I love you, dog.
Dog: You're leaving me? Why do you do this every day? Do you spend all day going on walks without me? Don't you love me?

Act 10: (the work day) Their lives apart.
Owner: (generally content, but when she sees that it's a nice day outside, and she's stuck in front of computer in a windowless office, she's a little jealous of her dog)
Dog:
(we can only imagine...)

the value of a good advisor

Despite some earlier post about how I had "outgrown" the need for an advisor, I had a really good interaction today that reminded me that I still have a lot of "growing up" to do scientifically. I've been puzzling on a particular problem on and off for a couple of years now (even given a poster and part of a talk on it), and I'd been treating it as a rules-based exercise in optimization. My advisor immediately wanted to write equations for the processes, which is something I hadn't even thought of. I'm not sure the equations can be written in a generalized form, but it's definitely worth a try, and two heads are better than one.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Flashback to 3 months ago

Dear Readers:

I journaled this a few months ago on the plane flight home from visiting friends on the east coast. I've looked back on it a few times since then, and I thought it was worth putting in digital form so that as I retire this notebook (mostly full of equations), I can return and reflect as necessary:
I think one of the hard things about deciding when to have a child, as with most major decisions, is that you can't rationalize or reason it out. We train ourselves to make lists, weigh pros and cons, and as a scientist I favor the neat logic of flow charts and the unequivocal elegance of equations. But despite all the lists and pros and cons, you can't tame the desire to bring a life into the world, propagate the species, and quell the seemingly inexorable ticking of your biological clock. And babies are contagious; my mom was right on that one. They're so cute and helpless and smart and bright-eyed and innocent and full of potential. And watching my friends have them - and the obvious joy and wisdom that motherhood brings them - makes me jealous and want to keep up with the Joneses. And knowing that I am at least partially desirous of a baby because I want to keep up with my friends doesn't make me a crave a baby any less.

And it's not just babies that I want, it's children, too. I want to take them to the playground, stomp in mud puddles, and post artwork on the fridge. You can even sign me up for the sleepless nights when the kid has a fever and is throwing up. I can handle it. Someday I'll even learn to change a diaper.

It's funny because even in college, I never really gave much thought to having kids. I figured I'd aquire a husband along the way, but kids, I didn't really have a plan. And now I have a husband and a house and a job (sort of) and a kid seems like the next logical step. But just as I am finally learning to not rush through school, maybe i shouldn't rush to the next step in life.

And not because of any imperfections in our marriage, because I know that every marriage has them, but because I should slow down and savor this stage in my life. And there's so much I want to do right now: be more athletic and outdoorsy, learn to garden and do a few crafts; enjoy my friendships (including with my husband); and maximize my career opportunities. And not that having a baby will stop me from doing these things, but a baby will sure make them much easier not to do.

While there is no easy, "perfect" time to have a baby given my chosen profession; it doesn't mean that it can't be done or that I even have to follow the traditional career structure.

So I guess I'm back to "when it happens, it happens, and it will be fine." And in the meantime, I vow to enjoy life, play with babies when I feel the desire, and not to be constantly rushing after the next big thing.

But that's today. Tomorrow I might be someplace else entirely.