Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The last hectic days

Pregnancy pains and school stress have lead to a major loss of sleep the last few nights. And I really haven't managed to cross out anything significant on my to-do list.
  • Write abstract
  • Write acknowledgements - need to add funding sources
  • Write "Contributions of Authors"
  • Compile Table of Contents
  • Finish writing Introduction chapter and draft and format Figs 1-3
  • Get reprint permission from publisher of Chapter 2
  • Complete revisions on Chapter 3 from A, C, S
  • Get and complete revisions on Chapter 4 from G, S, S
  • Get and complete revisions on Conclusions chapter from G
  • Compile and format bibliography
  • Compile and format appendix
  • Proofread pre-text, intro, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, conclusions
  • Format chapters uniformly (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Format Chapter 3 figures - still need to fix one minor thing in Table 2
  • Format Chapter 4 figures
  • Compile complete PDF and paginate
  • Send to committee
I've been working on extensive revisions to Chapter 4 - creating new figures, restructuring the paper, clarifying muddy writing and muddier thoughts. I'm nearing the end of it though - some comments I can't deal with until after my advisor actually get to talk about them, but that won't happen until after the diss is with the committee. So tonight I am lugging home the laptop to start compiling the table of contents (i.e., listing section headings, figures, and tables, but not adding page #s) and maybe finally take a crack at the abstract. Then, hopefully, I will go to sleep and stay that way all night, with no pain from my hips and no stress-induced insomnia.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

gotta love those administrative people

To me: We have just received an invoice from Staples charged to ..., 8/5/06. Could you please explain the purchases for me to code them: tower cd mesh small black, 50 pk slim jewel case 4, thesis paper white, 3tab folders, hanging folder, staples."

My reply: "Generally all of these things fall under "office supplies" purchased to help me organize the final stage of my dissertation writing and get it printed out.

Specifically. The "tower CD mesh small black" is a container for holding CDs. Currently it is holding about 25 CDs containing backups of data files and presentations. The 50 pk of slim jewel cases is for holding all those CDs that get made while backing up data, etc. The thesis paper is for printing my thesis for the library copies. 3tab folders and hanging folders are for organizing journal articles and paper files. I don't remember purchasing staples, I think that is the name of the store. :)"

I think this tops the time I had to explain to the same person that I bought topographic maps so that I wouldn't get lost when hiking in to remote field sites.
It's probably not good to have a day where you only write or revise a few words, when your dissertation is due in one week! Eek!

Environmental Consequences of the Israeli-Hizballah war

I was heartbroken upon hearing this story on NPR last night. Here's ATC's synopsis:
Israel's bombing last month of a Lebanese power plant has caused the largest oil spill ever recorded in the eastern Mediterranean. The Lebanese government, aid agencies and volunteers are now trying to clean it up. But the spill of more than 10,000 tons of fuel oil has already killed birds, blackened the sand -- and settled onto the sea bottom.
The reporter said that clean-up efforts are only now getting started - in part because the Lebanese government had to get Israeli permission to do reconnaisance flights to check out the extent of the spill. And it's already spread into to Syria's territorial waters and is heading north to Turkey. It may be the size of the Exxon Valdez spill.

I could editorialize here on the wantoness of Israeli foreign policy or the consequences of war or ... but I'll leave it to you to draw your own conclusions.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Number memes

I missed the 2s and 4s meme a few weeks ago, and I know have I done memes featuring other numbers, but Dr. J tagged me to do this 3 meme. Plus, it comes at a perfect time. I am at that point in the day when I don't want to start revising the next section of my paper, yet I can't quite justify going home since BusinessMan is still at work for a few more minutes. So here goes.

1. Three things that scare me:
snakes (for as long as I can remember)
crocodiles (only since my trip to Kakadu)
the takeover of America by the extreme religious right or Islamic jihadists (both of which seem to spell the end of women's liberties)

2. Three people that make me laugh:
Annie at Mamapants
Garrison Keilor on Prairie Home Companion - he just gets the midwestern culture so right
Bill Watterson through Calvin and Hobbes

3. Three things I hate the most:
(hate's a strong word)
wars and the agressive political actions that lead to them
dealing with medical insurance
feeling inadequate

4. Three things I don't understand:
why the American public seems to think that one cannot reconcile evolution and religion
why growth is necessary for a healthy economy (despite my A in macro-econ)
people who leave their curtains closed all the time (this includes you, BusinessMan)

5. Three things I'm doing right now:
listening to Pandora
snacking on peanut butter crackers
avoiding work but stressing about it not getting done

6. Three things I want to do before I die:
raft the grand canyon
go to Antarctica
watch my child(ren) grow up

7. Three things I can do:
complete my PhD (just watch me!)
get pregnant
spoil my dog

8. Three ways to describe my personality:
(those who know me, please help!)

9. Three things I can't do:
roll my R's
roll a kayak
blow bubbles with gum

10. Three things I think you should listen to:
classical music (really, give it a try)
your heart

11. Three things you should never listen to:
(never? that's a strong word, again)
discriminatory talk
bad advice
anyone standing on their head (I dunno, just making this up)

12. Three things I'd like to learn:
how to roll a kayak
how to cook Indian food
how maintain a clean house in less than 10 minutes a day despite the best efforts of your husband, pets, or kids

13. Three favourite foods:
ice cream
mac 'n cheese

14. Three beverages I drink regularly:
(actually, that's about it these days, but before I was pg, I drank a lot of tea)

15. Three shows I watched as a kid:
Reading Rainbow
Knight Rider

16. Three people I'm tagging (to do this):
writer chica
propter doc

Friday, August 25, 2006

11 days left, what more to say?

Lately, I've largely been blogging under the assumption that if you can't say something substantial, it's better to say nothing at all. Which is to say that I have not been blogging as much as normal. This trend is compounded by the fact that the thought of any extra time in front of my computer is totally unappealing. But now it is 6 pm on Friday, and I am about to leave my office having had a fairly productive day.

Here's the vital stats:
  • Write abstract
  • Write acknowledgements - need to add funding sources
  • Write "Contributions of Authors"
  • Compile Table of Contents
  • Finish writing Introduction chapter and draft and format Figs 1-3
  • Get reprint permission from publisher of Chapter 2
  • Complete revisions on Chapter 3 from A, C, S
  • Get and complete revisions on Chapter 4 from G, S, S
  • Get and complete revisions on Conclusions chapter from G
  • Compile and format bibliography
  • Compile and format appendix
  • Proofread pre-text, intro, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, conclusions
  • Format chapters uniformly
  • Format Chapter 3 figures - still need to fix one minor thing in Table 2
  • Format Chapter 4 figures
  • Compile complete PDF and paginate
  • Send to committee
Tomorrow, I embark on the quest to fix Chapter 4. Naturally, I still don't have any comments back from my advisor and my co-advisor so helpfully gave me some comments without actually reading the paper (at least I know what he thinks I should emphasize). But S had some great suggestions for reorganizing the paper that should help the reader out. So I'll take her suggestions and those of the co-advisor and proceed. And I think I'll take Sunday off, because without more input from my advisor on the intro, conclusions or Chapter 4, I really can't make much more progress. It's a funny sort of hurry-up-stress-out and then wait cycle I am in right now, and I can't wait to get out of it. 11 more days. 11 more days. And then maybe I'll get my life back.

I'm going home.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


I slept poorly and woke up a sore back. I can't quite stand up straight and if I try to walk favoring the sore side, I throw out my hip and shoulder. Now I am at school, working on the ol' revisions, and the heating pad is helping my back but making me sleepy. Would someone else like to take care of my body and life for me today? I think I need a vacation from it.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Two weeks notice

Two weeks from today my dissertation must go to my committee and all of the appropriate paperwork must go to the graduate school. I am making incremental progress, though not at the speed I had hoped.
  • Write Abstract
  • Write Acknowledgements
  • Write "Contributions of Authors"
  • Compile Table of Contents
  • Finish writing Introduction chapter and draft and format Figs 1-3
  • Get reprint permission from publisher of Chapter 2
  • Complete revisions on Chapter 3 from A, C, S
  • Get and complete revisions on Chapter 4 from G, S, S
  • Get and complete revisions on Conclusions chapter from G
  • Compile and format bibliography
  • Compile and format appendix
  • Proofread pre-text, intro, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, conclusions
  • Format chapters uniformly
  • Format Chapter 3 figures
  • Format Chapter 4 figures
  • Compile complete PDF and paginate
  • Send to committee
In my defense, in the past day or two, I've also filled out the paperwork to be paid hourly for September (my fellowship is up), found out what I need to do before I can officially start my post-doc, gotten the exit forms from my department, helped make a figure for a paper on which I'm 5th author, watched Serenity (there's a female mechanic) , and eaten too much pizza.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Update: 16 Days Left on the Dissertation

  • Write Abstract
  • Write Acknowledgements
  • Write "Contributions of Authors"
  • Compile Table of Contents
  • Finish writing Introduction chapter and draft and format Figs 1-3
  • Get reprint permission from publisher of Chapter 2
  • Complete revisions on Chapter 3 from A, C, S
  • Get and complete revisions on Chapter 4 from G, S, S
  • Get and complete revisions on Conclusions chapter from G
  • Compile and format bibliography
  • Compile and format appendix
  • Proofread pre-text, intro, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, conclusions
  • Format chapters uniformly
  • Format Chapter 3 figures
  • Format Chapter 4 figures
  • Compile complete PDF and paginate
  • Send to committee

Well, it took me a lot longer than I had hoped to cross something off the list. But it's the last piece of substantial writing that I need to do. Let's hope that there isn't substantial rewriting involved when I get things back on Chapter 4.

Yesterday wasn't at all productive because I tried to work at home and it was too darn hot and I didn't feel like doing work. Then my stomach, the dog, and writer chica all interrupted me in succession when I actually decided to get serious about working. Not that I minded.

Today was more efficient when I was actually working, but the day involved a thesis defense (I can do way better than that!) and a long catch-up coffee with NewGirl. Henceforth, NewGirl will be called the amazing, super-productive, take-charge enthusiastic girl, or, more likely: Enthusiasm! (Yes, the exclamation point will be necessary). She deserves a new blog name not only because she is approaching the one year mark of grad school, but because NewGirl did not adequately convey what I love about her personality.

But despite the asides, I did manage to finish the text for Chapter 1. It requires three figures, which if I arrive early tomorrow morning and work quickly, I will manage to get drafted before my advisor leaves for the plane. One is done already, and the other two should just require some modifications of files I already have.

Now I am going home to steak and corn-on-the-cob. I'll bring my Jump Drive and folder of necessary edits to Chapter 3, but don't expect me to get anything done. We'll probably watch Serenity.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

the early bird gets the name

My dad's wife's eldest daughter had her first child today. I wouldn't even mention it except that not only are my dad and his wife crowing about the arrival of "their first grandchild," but the little girl is named Rebecca Elizabeth. Two of the first names that were on our short short list for a girl. Urgh. Suddenly I am hoping that mini is a boy. Only 24 more weeks until we find out.

Off to a Saturday morning meeting with my advisor.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Quote meme

'cause I just wasn't meant to work on the diss. today.

As seen all over the place. Go here and get random quotes til you find "5 that you think reflect who you are or what you believe."
  1. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric. - Bertrand Russell
  2. If I have learnt anything, it is that life forms no logical patterns. It is haphazard and full of beauties which I try to catch as they fly by, for who knows whether any of them will ever return? - Margot Fonteyn
  3. Words, once they are printed, have a life of their own. - Carol Burnett
  4. Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions. - Oliver Wendell Holmes (this is my favorite quote ever, how fortunate it should show up here)
  5. The animals of the planet are in desperate peril... Without free animal life I believe we will lose the spiritual equivalent of oxygen. - Alice Walker

Thursday, August 17, 2006

woo-hoo! uh-oh!

Woo-hoo: Volcanogirl just called from the airport. She's coming into town and she wants to hang out this afternoon. I haven't seen her since Memorial Day and I've missed her horribly since she left in December. She'll be here in 2 hours.

Uh-oh: Having recently perfected the art of procrastination, I don't have my intro, conclusions or abstract done for when my advisor is in town for one day only (tomorrow). I guess I better get busy concluding my conclusions so that it, at least, is done.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Women in Science Update

From the blogs:
No nym has a guest post over at Bitch PhD on the follies of one of the female characters on MythBusters.
Yami has a post on publication and citation rates of female earthquake engineers.
Propter Doc has another take on the responses to Ben Barres' Nature article.
Skookumchick points us to an article in the Economist on "The Mismeasure of a Woman."
YoungFemaleScientist tips us off about an editorial in Nature Structural and Molecular Biology about a woman professor and her career struggles.
twf recounts her recent general exam experience and muses on how academia self-selects for those with no outside responsbilities.

From the news:

L'Oreal has announced its 2007 competition for postdoctoral fellowships for women in science. It's pretty nice to see a cosmetic company advancing real women and the fellowships sound pretty nice. They have a pretty snazzy website too. Applications are due October 31st.
A self-promoting press release from West Virginia University nonetheless highlights the rapidly growing number of women in Forensic Science.
A recent study has shown that boys and girls would prefer to tackle different subjects in their science curriculum: "When asked what they would prefer to learn about in science classes, female British respondents in an international research project said they were more interested in learning about health-related issues, while boys favoured "destructive technologies and events". ... However, King's College London chairman of science education Professor Jonathan Osborne said school science curriculums mostly focused on the subjects the males were interested in..."
The Subaru Outstanding Woman in Science award for 2006 went to Elizabeth Cochran, who's PhD research focused on earthquakes. This award is given by the Geological Society of America each year to a young woman who's doctoral research has had a significant impact on the field. I'll be expecting Yami to get it in a few years.
Nancy Olliver Gray, president of Hollins University, issues a call for a movement for women in math in science and calls on women's colleges to take a lead role.

Spotlight Blog:
This week I'd like to highlight Dr. Mom, My Adventures as a Mommy-Scientist. She's newly on the tenure-track "with two kids and a husband in tow." Lately she's been describing her adventures setting up her new lab space and trying to get proposals written. She also had a really fantastic series on getting your first paper written (pay attention, Holly!) that she was working on when I was working on my first paper. She was also the first woman science blogger I found - it's hard to believe I joined this community less than a year ago.

The Princess Pup turns eight

Today marks the eighth birthday of the Princess Pup. I find it hard to believe that the little ball of fur Annie and I brought home at the beginning of our sophmore year of college could already be a middle aged dog. I'm really hoping that this year marks the midpoint in her life, because I can't imagine mine without her. Nothing like a beloved pet's birthday to remind you of your own mortality, I guess. (children's birthdays are probably worse, huh?

On a happier note, the Pup and I celebrated the day in style. I sang Happy Birthday to her as we cuddled in bed this morning, gave her some dog gravy on her breakfast, and then BusinessMan and I took her for one of her favorite walks. I was working at home today which meant that she had free roam of the house and yard all day, she supervised my laundry loads, and she got to lick the cap off my yogurt cup at lunch. This afternoon I took her for a walk in a different part of town than usual. We got to see (and smell) cows, meet another dog, and go for a siwm (she not I). The we went over to S's to drop off the veggies, and the Pup got some love from S's two year old son. Now she is demanding I that I go to bed, because she wants to curl up on our clean sheets. She doesn't know it's her birthday, but I still feel good about being extra nice to her today, because she is an extra nice part of my life every day.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Things I want to know

(I've written 909 words in my conclusion chapter so far today, so I deserve a good long blog session).
  • If my diss. is in my manuscript format and coauthors are acknowledged at the front of each chapter, do I have to change "we" to "I?" What about the in press paper? Then it won't be the same as the published version?
  • Would any man consider it a pleasant break from diss. writing to hang laundry on the line?
  • On a related note, how does one end up with half a clothespin?
  • How long is a conclusions chapter supposed to be if there are conclusions at the end of each chapter? Are my 910 words 25%, 50%, 75%, or 90% of a suitable length?
  • What's supposed to go in my intro chapter anyways? I know it is supposed to tie the papers together thematically, but besides a paragraph or two doing that, what else should I write about? And how long does it have to be?
  • Will the Loacker (hippie Nutella) that got too cold in my fridge ever be easily spreadable again?
  • Does Loacker on whole wheat crackers count as a healthy snack?
  • Does anyone know of any pregnant post-doc bloggers? Links encouraged.
  • Would it be bad luck to dedicate my thesis to my unborn child? Would that somehow jinx the pregnancy or turn the kid off to science and school forever? Or will it be something they think is pretty cool when they grow up? Opinions seriously wanted here.
  • If I am going to make minestrone-like soup and plan to include fresh spinach, do I need to cook the spinach first (how?) or can I just throw it in raw and boil it with the rest of the veggies? Soup making starts in 1.5 hours.
  • What's wrong with my RSS feed? I subscribe to my own feed in bloglines just to make sure its working and none of my recent posts have appeared. I have a red exclamation mark next to my feed (as does Dr. Shellie by the way).
(Drat, that took far too little time. I suppose I'll have to go back to the diss now. Maybe I'll work on the acknowledgements and contributions of authors sections.)

GRAD carnival is up

The 1st Monthly Carnival of GRADual Progress is up over at StyleyGeek's place. If you are a grad student or a recent grad and you haven't been over there to see the whining, tips, and celebrating, head over now. After all, the dissertation can wait a few hours, right?

Monday, August 14, 2006


Yesterday, BusinessMan and I bought a package of Dove chocolates, and I've had about 4 of them so far. The foil wrapper of each chocolate includes a "Promise" message on the inside. Two of my chocolates have contained the message: "Don't think about it so much."

That message has so many dimensions for me right now. It could mean that I need to stop agonizing over each sentence and each word of my thesis and just get the draft finished. It could mean that I need to stop worrying that the doctor will find something wrong at my next OB appointment (in an hour or so). It could mean that I should stop stressing over finding the perfect stroller, especially since the kid won't use it for 6 months after he/she is born. It could mean that I need to stop getting frustrated at the growing pile of dirty dishes in the kitchen and just recognize that I am doing what I can do and that Businessman has a different housekeeping style than I. It could mean that I need to stop counting the hours until my thesis draft is due and just work on writing it.

That's all.

ETA: Apparently, the real meaning of the messages was "Better keep them out of the Pup's reach or she'll devour them all." Which she did while we were at the Dr.'s office. Speaking of such things, Mini's heart's beating 145 beats per minute and our "big" ultrasound is scheduled for two days after my thesis gets turned in.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

How to finish your PhD in a reasonable number of years

My upcoming defense will be almost exactly 4 years to the day after I started this Ph.D. program. This has prompted some reflection on how I’ve managed to get it done. Well, and the upcoming Carnival of GRADual Progress may have made me want to blog something that others might find interesting. Or maybe not. Anyways, what follows is my advice for getting your PhD in the shortest amount of time that still allows some sleep and a wee bit of a life. Unfortunately, not all of the advice is that which I would give my hypothetical future grad students, either because taking short-cuts to minimize time might cut into the quality of their experience or because as a selfish professor, I would want the best possible science to occur. Hence, things I’ve done are getting a :) and things I wouldn’t tell my grad students are getting a :(.

  1. Know – really know – what you want to do before you start your Ph.D. This will hopefully help you avoid time advisor- or project-hopping, or worse leaving the program partway through. This may be particularly hard if you are coming straight out of undergraduate and the narrow specialization of graduate school seems so constraining. In my experience, the most focused grad students are the ones who have a M.S. or job experience or both. Of course, knowing what you want to do won’t negate the possibility that your project may morph before your eyes partway through. That’s just how science works. :)
  2. Know what programs – and what advisors ­– have a reputation for graduating students in a timely fashion. There is a big-name in my field who’s students routinely take 6-7 years to finish, even if they started with a M.S. Avoid people (and places) like that unless you have a really good reason for wanting to work with that one specific person.
  3. Get a fellowship. This single biggest slow-down I see among my fellow students (other than ski season) is having to work or TA all the way through. TAing usually takes ~15 hours a week and, when you are also taking classes, that doesn’t leave much time for research. On the other hand, a fellowship is paying you to do the best possible job of graduate school. And often it is paying you substantially better than you would make as a TA or RA. But getting a fellowship takes some advance planning. Some, like those from NSF, require you to have completed <1 style="font-family: Wingdings;">:)
  4. But if you don’t get a fellowship, get an RA that lets you work on your thesis. An RA is a research assistantship, usually funded by a grant that your advisor got. Basically, you work at least 20 hours per week on a research project. At some schools, almost all students on RA funding are using that project as their thesis, because their advisors specifically got the funding to fund a thesis project. Again, this means you are basically being paid to do the research you have to do to get your degree. At other schools, (insane) rules prevent you from using your RA work in your thesis. This is no better than TAing in terms of time effectiveness. The rules on RAs would be something to look at when applying for programs.
  5. Minimize the number of classes you take. Sure, there are a ton of courses that look interesting and may be helpful someplace down the road. But take what you need to meet your degree requirements and then stop taking classes. This gives you the maximum amount of time to work on your research. If the course listings are just too tempting, ask the professor if you can sit in on the lectures or formally audit. Then do the minimum amount of work necessary to know what’s going on in class. The point of the class is to give you the basics and expose you to a field; you can always learn the fine points on your own when you need them. :) :(
  6. Learn how to just do “enough” in your classes. Yes, the subjects are fascinating and you feel like you should maximize the material you get out of each class, but don’t. If you spend to much time doing all of the readings thoroughly and making sure you understand how to solve every last problem, you’ll never get your research done. The point of the class is to give you the basics and expose you to a field; you can always learn the fine points on your own when you need them. Also, figure out how to relate term papers and class projects to your thesis topic. Not only will it make your term papers easier to write, it may come in handy on your thesis itself.
  7. Don’t over-study for your comps/prelims. Set yourself a limited number of weeks to focus mainly on getting ready for your exams. Don’t allot a whole summer or term; you’ll get burned out and you’ll slow your research progress. I gave myself about a month. As my advisor told me, and his advisor told him: “There’s no way to study for these things, but you can’t not study.” The point is to reinforce the things you already know and to get them back up to the top of your brain so that you will be able to recall (most of) them under pressure. :)
  8. Winter break doesn’t mean a month off and spring break is imaginary. This is one of the biggest differences I’ve noticed between MS and PhD students. When finals end in the fall, the MS students leave and don’t come back until classes restart. Meanwhile, they’ve lost several weeks of time without distractions that they could have been using for research. Actually, I’ve gone home for ~2 weeks most Christmases, but I’ve always brought some finite piece of work that I need to complete as well as a stack of journal articles that I usually ignore. Ask my in-laws, I usually spend at least an hour or two every day of “vacation” getting some work done. :)
  9. Shorter breaks can recharge your batteries. I’ve also taken shorter vacations (like around my anniversary) and refused to bring any work along. And I generally take at least one weekend day completely off. These mini-breaks really help me sustain my enthusiasm, and they also help with that “having a life” thing. :)
  10. Don’t pick a research topic that requires multiple years of data. Long time-series or needing multiple field seasons can really slow you down. Let’s say you need two years of data to do a before/after study and the first year of data is worthless. That means you won’t even have results until after your third year of grad school is completed. And if you do field work, all sorts of natural factors (hurricanes, avalanches, etc.) can obliterate your field site and potential data through no fault of your own. (Unfortunately, I did not do this.) :(
  11. Pick a field site within a few hours of your university/house. Because then when you find that you’ve forgotten a piece of equipment back at the lab, you don’t have to hop an airplane (or pay overnight shipping) to get it. And I guarantee, that even if you have the best planned field campaign ever, as you write up your results, you will discover that you could really use a few extra measurements or some nice photos or something. I learned this lesson the hard way during my MS. :(
  12. Don’t pick your grad school location based on the skiing/surfing/rafting season. At least not if you know you’d probably end up participating in the sport more than 1 day per week.
  13. Limit your volunteer commitments. I know that saying this makes me sound a like a selfish person, but what I mean is that rather than spending one day a week working at the animal shelter, you might consider spending 1 week per year building an animal shelter in a hurricane ravaged area. You get an intense experience that helps with #9, makes you feel more altruistic, actually accomplishes something, and doesn’t take as much time. :)
  14. Commit yourself to externally imposed deadlines. Submitting an abstract for a conference is a great way to make sure that you have a chunk of research done a few months later. Going on the job market will sure light the fire for you to finish and defend. Getting pregnant, however, does not do the same trick as it will make you fatigued and less focused. :)
  15. Make to-do lists and set goals. Things that work for me: (1) listing my goals for each month at its beginning, posting them on the whiteboard by my desk, and then revisiting them at the end of the month; and (2) at the end of the day, especially on Fridays, make a list of a few (<6) style="font-family: Wingdings;">:)
  16. When you are not in the mood for writing, make figures. Or similar variations on the theme. Find something that you can be productive at and do that for a day or two until you are ready to write again. Variety is the spice of life. :)
  17. Finally, have a life. Life is too short and too precious and the world is too interesting to do nothing but work. Make friends, have a significant other, have a dog, develop a hobby. Time spent away from school work will make the time spent doing school work more bearable.

Friday, August 11, 2006

intentions, realities, and asides

Intentions: What I intended to get done:
  1. clean off my desk
  2. apply for the ADVANCE program at Rice
  3. blog substantively
  4. get caught up on professional emails
  5. go swimming
  6. start writing an extended abstract from the conference I attended in June
Realities: What I got done:
  1. cleaned off my desk, though you can hardly tell now
  2. spent the remainder of my $1000 ($550 on books + office supplies and a GPS)
  3. talked with my undergrad, a friend, and a visiting colleague
  4. applied to the ADVANCE program
  5. went over co-authors comments on Paper 2 with S (a coauthor)
  6. read blogs, read pregnancy bulletin boards
  1. Did anyone else apply for the advance program? What did you think about the question that asked why you wanted to attend? I was very tempted to write something like "Because it would be good for me, damn it!" But I didn't. Instead my answer referenced the offered sessions and how they related to my job search, etc. And mentioned networking. What would a good answer to a question like that look like?
  2. Yes, I realize that my posts now include more gentle cuss words than my gentle readers may be accustomed. I blame that impending dissertation doom and the overall macho culture of my field where swearing is part of every day field experiences (though that really hasn't changed as of late.) If you are offended, I apologize.
  3. Free grad school survival kits available online.
  4. I really loved this headline in Science this week: "NSF wants PIs to mentor their post-docs." Funny, I always thought that the supposed justification for post-docs was that they were to give the post-docs most experience and presumably that involves some level of mentoring. But apparently I've been delusional. It really is about cheap labor after all.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Off into the ether

I just hit send. The paper went winging its way to my advisor and my co-advisor, where it will sit collecting virtual dust in their in-boxes until it's far to late for their comments to be incorporated without driving me batty. But, hey, I've held up my end of the bargain. I don't suppose they'd dare tell me to delay my defense because they only had 3 weeks to read a chapter, would they? No, of course they wouldn't. They are reasonable human beings.

And tomorrow I'll work on the introduction to the whole darn thing. And maybe do some blogging of substance (to borrow a phrase from Trillwing).

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

This girl needs a list

Credit to profgrrrl for the title phrase.

What's left to do on Paper 3 before daring to show it to anyone else.

  1. Expand the paragraph where I state the purpose of the whole darn paper
  2. Add two-three sentences at the end of the introduction to tie it back to my work. Also need to define some terms I'll be using throughout.
  3. I can't have a one sentence paragraph at the beginning of my methods, can I?
  4. Need a sentence or two comparing one of my results to those from "classic" environments or models.
  5. Crap, I still need a reference there. Either I find one or the whole dang paragraph falls apart.
  6. Two paragraphs in my results are filled with facts but don't seem to lead anywhere. Need good concluding sentences.
  7. Go to library and track down that reference that a friend from the east suggested (thanks, friend!) but include her abstract as a citation anyways. ETA: Aw, hell, her abstract is just fine for this draft.
  8. Need to create, add, and reference a figure 1c.
  9. Get the hanging indent to work in the references section. Make sure the in text citations are correct (should that comma be there?). Make sure the ref format in end note is generally correct. See style guide on S's desk.
That seems do-able for tomorrow right? I just need to write some creative, big picture sentences and sort out some minor details. I'd love to get it done tomorrow, because then I'll be right on schedule despite all my hand-wringing last week.

Although I haven't given any specifics about my paper topic away, it seems like its the sort of list that every paper is left with at the end. Don't you agree?

RBOC: T - 28 days

  • I've been working on the railroad all the live long day. (err, I mean the dissertation). Actually, I feel like I am making progress. If you ignore a few places where I have notes to myself to "write a few more sentences here" then I have a mostly complete draft of my third paper.
  • Re: someone's comment when I last posted on my (lack of) progress. At this university, you can turn in your thesis in "manuscript document format." Basically you have 3+ manuscripts on a common theme, bracketed by an intro and conclusion to tie them together. Manuscripts do not already have to be published or submitted, although they can be. They merely have to be deemed ~ready for submission by your committee. So, I refer to my major chapters as "papers" because, in the end, that's what they will be. The intro and conclusions only have to be a few pages each and I haven't started writing them yet.
  • I'm thinking about getting a co-sleeper. Anybody got any reccs? Or a used one for cheap in the PNW?
  • We have to have huge margins on all of our pages - resulting in a useable space of <6>
  • Latest sign of a growing belly: Endangered Species chocolate ending up on my lap, not my chair. This might be a good thing for overall cleanliness of my office, but it's still a shame that it smeared.
  • I'm in love with EndNote 9. I upgraded from 6 just before starting on this paper, and its making me have faith in the program once again, in terms of its utility for actually formatting your refs correctly. It's reference styles are much more complete and up-to-date, more easily editable (at least on my network), and it lets you edit in-text citations easily to take out the author name or add e.g., e.g,. I hope my good feelings about it last, because this paper has a doozy of a ref list.
  • I got a haircut. It's wonderful. Probably lost about 4". Absolutely nobody has noticed (or at least commented).
  • S and my advisor are still gone. Bigwig funding guy for a project they've been working on (or rather advoiding working on) just came by to find them, threatening not to pay them because he hasn't seen a product yet (months overdue). It's $ on the order of 10^5, and we're already having a money crunch around here, but there's nothing I can (or should do). It's just another reminder to me on how I don't want to run my lab.
  • My advisor will be here for all of 2 days before my thesis is due to my committee. How the hell is he supposed to give me helpful feedback before then. Why does he have to be gone the entire month?
  • Very few people comment on my women in science updates. Are they read? Are they interesting? Are they worth my time? Would it help if they were on a regular schedule, sort of like birds in the news?
  • Like how I worked a bit of pregnancy info into an otherwise academic post? That's what pregnancy brain will do for you.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Women in Science Update

Skookumchick offers us a primer on feminist science and technology studies, complete with reading list. She teaches us that ".. people combine feminist theory, sociology (particularly of gender), psychology, and history with the study of science, technology, and engineering. This work ... focuses some attention on how we (women and men) participate in this thing we call science and/or engineering. Scholars ... have argued that, for example, while scientists argue they are studying objects or organisms or processes objectively, they are overlooking how their own culture and the culture of science limits what they are able to see and understand." Thanks for the perspective, Skookumchick, and I hope to hear more from you on this topic!

There is a report in last week's Science on "gender differences in patenting in the academic life sciences." The authors start their paper by acknowleding that the gender gap in terms of employment in the life sciences is smaller than in the physical sciences, but say that little research has been done on gender differences in the commercialization of scientific results, an increasingly important source of non-salary remuneration for faculty." Their study encompassed over 4000 life scientists who earned PhDs between 1967 and 1995 and had at least 5 years of post-PhD academic publishing experiences. Of their sample, 13% of male scientists held patents, but only 6% of female scientists did. They examined non-gendered factors that might contribute to differences in patent rate, but found that "after accounting for the effects of productivity, networks, field, and employer attributes, what is the net effect of gender? There remains a large, statistically significant (P <> effect of being female. The parameter estimate implies that, holding constant productivity, social network, scientific field, and employer characteristics, comparable women life scientists patent at only 0.40 times the rate of equivalent male scientists." The researchers then conducted interviews with women scientists and found that two factors seemed to be holding them back: lack of contacts in industry (which the men had), and concerns that time spent working on the patent process would hold back other aspects of their university careers. What encouraged them? Male coauthors who pushed for a patent and formal institutional support. And the gender gap appears to be closing somewhat, with more younger women holding patents than their more senior female colleagues.

Yami's got pithy summaries of the letters to Nature that appeared in response to Ben Barres' commentary from a few weeks back. (reminder: Barres was the transgendered scientist who saw his treatment improve after he became a man.)

A new-to-me blog Dangerous Ideas, has a post about a soon-to-be released book by Danica McKellar (Winnie from the Wonder Years) called "Math Doesn't Suck" aimed at girls. Apparently, Ms. Keller is not only the author of a theorem, she is an advocate for girls in science.

3Bulls gives us the rundown on salacious new details in the Karapova-Tonegawa fracas. Thanks to Dr. Shellie for the pointer. (reminder: The fracas is over the intimidation of prospective MIT hire by a senior faculty member).

Dr. Shellie unearths an article from a few months ago where the author suggests that while all non-tenured faculty feel pressure to be all work and no play, women faculty may be even less likely display "extracurricular" passions. Perhaps, they are too busy raising a family to have time to indulge other interests. Dr. Shellie asks you to agree or disagree, and presumably explain why.

Featured WiS Blog: Inkycircus is written by three women (Anna, Anne, and Katie) who are trying to start a science magazine for women. In the meantime, they spend their days finding all the interesting science in the news and then giving their readers quick and often funny summaries and context along with a link to the news story. They post multiple times per day (and they are on Pacific time!) but their posts are short and funny. Inkycircus is a definite must-read. Maybe you can even call it work - "staying current." I do.


sigh, back to work

So it's 1:45 pm. I've spent the morning cleaning up from yesterday's trip to the field, submitting receipts for reimbursement, approving figures for my paper in press, photocopying a journal due back to the library today, and reading your blogs. Now I am staring at the word document of my current paper and wondering what the hell it's all about and just what I am supposed to do about it. Can anyone else relate to my situation?

Saturday, August 05, 2006

New carnival - for grad students

As if we needed one more way to procrastinate, StyleyGeek is putting together the first issue of The Carnival of GRADual Progress.
This is intended as a monthly round-up of blog posts by, for, or relevant to PhD students. If you have written a post grumbling about your supervisor, pondering your thesis-related struggles, sharing techniques that have helped you survive grad school or just musing generally about life as an impoverished student.

The first carnival will be August 15th. I can't believe I only get two shots at it before my eligibility expires. For details, see the link above.

Friday, August 04, 2006

book meme

I've written 746 words since last I blogged - hopefully some of them will stay in the final draft.

I've been tagged by Shellie to do the book meme that's been going around. But just so you are warned, there's no way I'll limit my answers to just one book per question. Oh, and I suppose I have previously mentioned that I really like children's literature?

1. One book that changed your life?
This is a hard one to start with..."Anne of Green Gables" forever changed my favorite color. A couple of classic -ology textbooks strongly influenced where I ended up going to college (nerdy, I know), and where I went to college has strongly influenced what's happened since then.

2. One book that you have read more than once?
I've read a lot of books twice. If I liked the book on first reading, but felt like I was too wrapped up in the plot to appreciate the details, I will wait a year or ten and then read the book more slowly, savoring the dialogue, humor, foreshadowing, etc. A couple of books that I know I've read at least three or four times are "The Westing Game" and "Snow Treasure." The Westing Game is a mystery written for young adults, but with a complex plot, a full range of adult characters, and lots of puzzling details. Snow Treasure tells the true story of Norwegian children who sled Norway's gold right out from under the watchful eyes of the Nazi occupiers. Both of these are books that my mom read as a kid, and now both she and I revisit them every couple of years.

3. One book you would want on a desert island?
"An Island to Oneself: Six years on a desert island" Amazon is so handy sometimes.

4. One book that made you laugh?
Many of your blogs make me laugh. (Dr. J over at Alien Ted accomplished that this morning.) I'm also a big fan of Calvin and Hobbes, and collected into their treasuries, I think they count as books. I know other books have made me laugh out loud, but I can't think of them right now.

5. One book that made you cry?
Right now just listening to news makes me cry. Last night, I was at an outdoor concert and all the little kids just dancing in front of the stage made me tear up. But, you asked about books. The most recent book that made me cry was Pine Island Paradox, but again I think that was the hormones. (It also made me laugh.) I cry really easily, even when not in hormone-overdrive, so I'm sure a large number of other books have caused me to wipe away tears as well.

6. One book you wish had been written?
There are maps I wish had been published...again, not really books. How about "The complete practical manual for ending discrimination?"

7. One book you wish had never been written?
There are books that I think have done great disservice to people and places. Not only do they seem to be a waste of trees but they also seem to actually cause harm. Two in this category: Godless by Ann Coulter and 1000 places to see before you die (and its ilk). I don't object to travel guides, but someplaces are special because they are off the beaten path. And encouraging every Dick, Jane, and Spot to go see them kind of diminishes their beauty in my mind.

8. One book you are currently reading?
I finished Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass last Sunday (His Dark Materials book 1), and once I get my current paper done, I'll dive into The Subtle Knife (book 2). See, I pay attention to reader requests!

9. One book you have been meaning to read?
The Monkey Wrench Gang. Baby Bargains. I've been meaning to finish Reading Lolita in Tehran.

10. Tag 5 people to do the meme!
I haven't been paying attention to who has already done it, so ignore me if this is a repeated tag. How about some recent commenters I'd like to get to know better: Ceresina, Rose Connors, twf, Holly, and snafu. Everyone else should consider themselves tagged as well (yes, you Writer Chica). Please let me know in the comments if you take up the meme.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Veggie Box Blogging

(No I haven't written in my thesis yet today.)

Last week's plentiful purple veggies yielded us scalloped eggplant, steamed chard, green beans and bacon, sauteed zuchini and summer squash, and sliced tomato with basil.

This week our box contained: lettuce, red onion, blueberries, tomatoes, white carrots, cilantro, cucumber, squash, green pepper, green beans, corn, spinach, potatoes, and sweet onions.

The corn on the cob is gone (with 45 minutes of arriving home). The blueberries are being consumed by the bowlful, and last night we finished last week's chard. Next up: green bean casserole (it's a midwestern hotdish), tutlebella's Portuguese potatoes with cilantro, and undoubtedly some tomato and cucumber salad. I'll have to admit that I haven't been doing so well on the lettuce front this summer; the pregnancy has meant that I often can't eat very much by dinnertime and raw greens are just an inefficient way of getting me the calories I need. Oh well, last summer we lived on salad.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Where have all my labmates gone? Long time passing...

(Having written 289 words (2 paragraphs) of my paper in toto today, I can now allow myself to write a post. But now I've forgotten my earlier good ideas to blog. I know, it's quality not quantity that counts for both the thesis and the blog. But here goes anyways...)

I'm alone in my research group these days. NewGirl hasn't been seen in Utopia since classes let out; she's got a massive field project. S left last Wednesday for two weeks with her folks and then a week of teaching. My advisor (needs a nickname), left on Friday for 3 weeks...his usual whirlwind of professional activities and family fun. And that's it. There's no other grad students or post-docs in our group. My undergrad was around briefly last week, but this week he's helping NewGirl in the field and then he's off for a month of field work with another research group (oh, to be an undergrad interested in everything...).

Which kind of brings me to Dr. Mom's question about the appropriate size of a research group. I think my advisor's current group size is too small (although he's got good reasons for this). When I arrived, I was one of 4 Ph.D. students in residence in our group. My third year, I was the only student (but we had a 3 month post-doc). Starting out with lab group "elders" was great. I had people who could tell me how things really worked, how to prepare for my orals, what professors to take/avoid. I work on a very different research area than they did, so I was never able to benefit much from their technical expertise. I've always thought it would be nice to have at least one other student working on a similar project, just so I would have someone to bounce ideas off of. S serves somewhat in this role, but she is involved in all our group's projects (she's sort of a lab manager), so on many topics related to my research, my knowledge soon exceeded hers. If my advisor was more hands-on, accessible, or simply in the same state more often, maybe my interactions with him would have quelled some of the sense of being alone in this research topic.

So, let's pretend I were a professor at a graduate-degree-granting institution. What would my ideal research group look like? Let's even pretend that funding, recruitement, productivity, and tenure aren't issues. I think I would want <3 M.S. students, because they require a lot of hands-on attention throughout. I would also want 2-3 PhD students, because they can work more independently much of the time and may produce more innovative research. I might sometimes want a post-doc to collaborate with. A technician/lab manager would be really handy for just making things run. And I'd want to provide some opportunities for undergraduates to work as assistants and maybe even take on their own projects. Hopefully, my senior PhD students would help mentor the undergraduates. All of sudden that seems to add up to a lot of people. If there were another professor in the department/uni who worked in a closely-related field, I might be tempted to down-size my lab group aspirations, as long as we could function somewhat as a larger cohesive unit.

What would your ideal research group look like?

(P.S. Bonus points to anyone who can identify the inspiration from the post title?)

(P.P.S. Crap! This post is almost exactly 2x as many words as I produced in the rest of the day. Why does this writing come so much more easily?)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

frustration run amok

I promised myself I wouldn't blog today until I had written at least a couple of good paragraphs of my current paper. And, well, it's 3:44 and I am finally allowing myself to blog. Expect the same tomorrow, and the next day, and the next...until this thing is done.

I'm having a hell of a time getting this paper written. Part of the problem is motivation. This is the first time I've had to go straight from one big writing project to another without some fun field work or data analysis to change the scenery. Also, this is the part of my diss. that I have always been least interested in. It's pretty esoteric. And then there's the pregnancy hormones which have the side effect of not allowing me to concentrate on anything at all. ever. Not that I am thinking about baby stuff all the time, because I. can't. concentrate.

Then's there's the problems with the paper topic itself. Like I said, it's esoteric. Basically, I have a bunch of observations of phenomena and then I'm going to wave my arms, cite some other people's phenomena observations, and link them all together as a process. And nobody's written about this process before (except in the most arm-wavy style). And even some of the subprocesses haven't been much explored.

Even before I got to the arm-waving part of the paper I was having problems writing. For a while I deluded myself into believing that I didn't have to arm-wave. Then the problem was that the paper wasn't leading anywhere and I wasn't sure what I had to talk about. I spent several days in this state, redoing an analysis and staring blankly at the computer. Finally, one evening, I got three good paragraphs written on a scrap of paper and I started to feel better.

The next morning I walked into the building feeling quite happy. My advisor was in his office and I stopped to chat. After briefly congratulating me on my paper acceptance, he asked me how this paper was coming. Actually, he asked me how well I was able to constrain the process (i.e., do the arm-wavy magic). Shit. I'd been pretending I didn't need to do that. But he was insistent.

Suddenly I went from feeling like I was 2/3 done with the paper to feeling like I was 1/3 done. I felt like doing an adequate job on the discussion was going to take me a month of paper reading and slowly writing. But in order to stay on the defense schedule, I had to have the whole thing done in 2 weeks. Eek!

I took the weekend off (RaftWoman's wedding party followed by His Dark Materials) and launched myself into writing on Monday morning. Except that I haven't. In the past two days, I've managed to produce about 1.5 pages and cross out two of the nine sub-processes I need to discuss. At this rate, I'll be really lucky to finish the discussion section by early next week, leaving me only a few days to draft figures, finish several other sections, and stay on schedule. And I'm starting to think that the amount of time I've allotted myself to write the diss. intro, conclusions, revise, and format is rather too little. Eek!

Anyways, I'm sorry for venting so long. This post has been building up for a week+ now and it had to come out sometime. All I can do is do the best I can do. If worse comes to worse, the defense can be postponed. But I'm not going to cross that bridge yet.