Tuesday, October 31, 2006

random meme (but at least I'm not complaining)

As seen at The Clutter Museum and Minor Revisions. To get the creative juices flowing...

Explain what ended your last relationship.
Let's see, the "Chilean asshole" and I had nice summer romance. He moved back to Miami for the school year, invited me down to see him, and then explained that he didn't want to be more than friends, while we were on a moonlit beach.

When was the last time you shaved?
Pits - yesterday. Legs - last Wednesday?

What were you doing this morning at 8AM?
Getting ready to walk the Princess Pup.

What were you doing 15 minutes ago?
Contemplating the student letters of recommendation that I am supposed to be compiling for a prof's tenure file.

Are you any good at math?
Better than most. But it took me a long time to conquer my fear of it, and I often skip over the equations in journal articles - at least until I realize that I really need them.

Your prom night, what do you remember about it?
Lots of fun getting ready for prom, not that much fun on the actual night. Six of us - three couples - two platonic, one romantic. The romantic couple broke up on prom night and left separately. I refused to dance with my date - lest he get any ideas. Actually, I'm not sure I danced with anyone. But I still fit into the dress pre-pregnancy (barely, but so what).

Do you have any famous ancestors?
My mom's family has been in the US since pre-colonial days, so there are some noteworthy figures associated one way or another with the family (the population was a lot smaller then). but no one really famous.

Have you had to take a loan out for school?
Nope. Lots of scholarships and fellowships saved me.

Do you know the words to the song on your MySpace profile?
I don't do myspace. Although I have downloaded some songs from indie artists there.

Last thing received in the mail?
election propaganda

How many different beverages have you had today?
Milk in my cereal, cranberry juice, water, peppermint tea, apple cider (and I haven't even had lunch yet)

Do you ever leave messages on people's answering machine?
Yes. It puts the ball in their court and means that I don't have to keep calling back until I actually reach them. Sometimes I am actually disappointed when the person picks up.

Who did you lose your CONCERT virginity to?
The Whitlams or Area 7 - I can't quite remember which occurred first. But I had a very sheltered childhood so I was 21 when it occurred.

Do you draw your name in the sand when you go to the beach?
Not usually.

What's the most painful dental procedure you've had?
I had major jaw surgery when I was thirteen - to correct a rather large overbite. The surgery (and preceding wisdom teeth extractions) were when I discovered that I am allergic to opiates. No fun at all.

What is out your back door?
My deck. My big back yard. Lots and lots of leaves at the moment. And often the Princess Pup.

Any plans for Friday night?
fish works until 8:30. I'll probably clean the kitchen or work on a quilt until he comes home. Then we'll watch a movie and I'll go to bed after taking two tums. That's about as exciting as my Friday and Saturday nights get anymore.

Do you like what the ocean does to your hair?
Not a fan. But the ocean is too cold around here for me to want to swim. Plus, I've always been a bit unnerved by ocean swimming since the jellyfish incident.

Have you ever received one of those big tins of 3 different popcorns?
Yes, but they are always stale. We have two tins still around our house. One has Christmas puppies and we use that to store dog food. The other is by the woodstove and holds recycled paper for burning.

Have you ever been to a planetarium?
Yes. But not recently at all.

Do you re-use towels after you shower?
Yes. It's wasteful to wash towels every time. As opposed to post-doc, I also make my guests reuse theirs. I guess I didn't think that anyone (except when at hotels) got a new towel every day.

Some things you are excited about?
Mini's arrival. Getting a paycheck. Getting a job interview (please?). Getting my next paper submitted. Getting a new president in 2 years.

What is your favorite flavor of JELL-O?
Generally not a big fan of jello. Will eat it if fish makes it, but that happens maybe once a year.

Describe your keychain(s)?
I've got a black fob for entering my office building, a bunch of keys (duh), a blockbuster card that I don't use, a co-op card that I do use, and a short section of bicycle chain to remind me of my cousin Nick.

Where do you keep your change?
My wallet. I try to spend my change rather than breaking bills. fish keeps his in a German beer stein (note for burglars) and actually accumulates quite a lot.

When was the last time you spoke in front of a large group of people?
A week after my defense I spoke to about 40 people, my defense had probably 60. But I've spoken in front of much larger (and televised) audiences, just not recently.

What kind of winter coat do you own?
The more relevant question for this neck of woods is what kind of raincoat do I own. I own 3 raincoats. One is a bright yellow jacket from Sierra Designs that has been to two continents. One is a green REI raincoat with a fussy zipper, but that has served me well through many many field excursions and dog walks. And the third is brand new. My other two don't zip up around my belly anymore, so I'm hoping that this green XL men's jacket makes it through the pregnancy and winter babywearing.

What was the weather like on your graduation day?

Do you sleep with the door to your room open or closed?
Open – Princess Pup wakes me up to go in and out if the door is closed. Much easier to leave it open. But our guests may think it's odd.

Monday, October 30, 2006

good and bad

It really is all complaining monday.

The good: my abs haven't hurt yet today (but I haven't walked around much).

The bad: I'm not getting paid tomorrow.

There's more but the bad above is the worst of it.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Aches and pains

One of the things they don't tell you about pregnancy is how susceptible you become to pulling your abdominal muscles with the slightest movement. A simple sneeze, getting out of a chair the wrong way, or even walking too briskly all put me at risk of abdominal pain.

Friday morning saw me in a hurry to get to my aqua aerobics class. I was walking across campus, and I must have done something to displease my muscles, because I started to notice a pain in my right side. An hour in the pool only intensified the pain, and by the afternoon every step caused a grimace. Saturday was an absolutely gorgeous day, and I couldn't resist a quick hike in the woods with NewGirl and the Princess Pup. All was going relatively well until we headed down a hill. By the time we got back to the car, I had exclaimed out loud several times. I spent the rest of the day very quietly, and I sent fish out with the dog this morning. This afternoon I dared to make a trip to the store (bad idea) and just before sunset, we took the dog for our "short loop" (~1/2 mile). At exactly the half way point, the muscle pulled again and I limped home, stopping to bend over periodically, and noticing that my back was getting rather sore to compensate for the bad posture.

Other than not moving at all for the next several days (sure!), I'm not sure how to make things feel better, so I guess I'll give the doctor a call tomorrow when I get a chance. I'd like to know if its okay to use a hot pack on the abdomen or whether that would raise the baby's temperature too much.

The other main ache of the weekend came in the form of fish's job stress. I haven't blogged much about his job situation, but basically what started as an ideal career job has degenerated into a lousy retail position with a sort-of title but no responsibility or authority and long hours on his feet. There's also no promotion potential within the company because everyone in the store has more seniority than him. This sounds like the recipe to start looking for another job, but because of where this one started, he actually makes more than he could in retail elsewhere and the career-type positions for which he is qualified are almost universally require 1+ hour commutes each way. So he feels dissatisfied and trapped, and I feel like there is nothing I can do to help make it better. We can't go without his income; we aren't making ends meet as is. Which of course is another big source of stress for both of us right now. At this point our options are for fish to get a second job, trim expenses significantly (and all the easy trimming has been done), or to deplete our savings indefinitely.

Which is why I spent my afternoon/evening applying for jobs. As far as I can figure at this point, I've got until about June to land a tenure-track or other permanent job in academia or government research. At that point, I'm going to have to call it quits and start looking for industry jobs. It seems sort of harsh, but we sure as hell as can't afford to stay here and getting another post-doc somewhere else would only put fish in limbo for another couple of years. And that's not fair to him.

So it's too bad that the job ads seem to be slim pickings this year. Ideally, I'd only be applying to places that were a good match professionally and/or geographically, but instead I feel like I've got to go after anything that wouldn't make me miserable (I am not meant for a 4-4 teaching load somewhere in the hinterlands of Texas). So today finds me revamping my cover letter and research interests to fit into with the liberal arts college philosophy and pondering how I would contribute to diversity on campus.

This coming week is a busy one, so at least I've gotten a jump start on prof. me's "all complaining monday."

Saturday, October 28, 2006

New look

Click on over from bloglines and tell me what you think. I can't get the whole blog republished successfully (there's some sort of problem with one of my recent posts), but the index should look new.

Why am I so much more willing to do this on a Saturday evening than to actually do work?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Appreciating the beauty of everyday

I managed to sneak out of the office this afternoon and enjoy a rare late fall, sunny, crisp day. I had errands to do downtown and in every store the salespeople were helpful, friendly, and interested. The lady at the quilt store recognized S and I, was amazed that we were done with the last project (a group quilt for MicrobeGirl's baby), praised our fabric choices, and encouraged me to bring in this quilt when it is finished. I dropped off my dissertation to be bound and one of the women there asked me how I got interested in -ology. When I told her, she and the other clerk told me about their experiences with -ology. The shoe saleslady was patient as I tried on 10 pairs of black slip-on shoes and agreed to let me take home a pair to try out for a day or two. These interactions in locally owned stores in Utopia's downtown reminded me why I like this city so much.

Then I went home and was greeted by an enthusiastic PrincessPup. We went out to mosey through the field near our house, gaze at the fall colors, marvel at the textures of fallen leaves and dried grass, and soak in the sun and the smells of fall.

When I got back to our yard, I noticed two late-blooming roses. One merely a bud. In the full size photo, you can see that a spider has made a cobweb from the tip of the bud to the leaves down the stem.

This afternoon was a good reminder to me to appreciate the subtle yet amazing sights, sounds, smells, and interactions of everyday. I hope that I can carry this sense of appreciation and joy into the days ahead.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Women in Science Update: Blogs Only

I am still woefully behind on these women in science updates, but it really is time for me to clear out my saved bloglines. I don't think I've done one of these in well over a month, so I am just going to give you post titles grouped by blogger. If I've missed anything written by you or your friends/enemies please let me know. I've tried to tag posts that have appeared in the past week or so.

Adventures in Ethics and Science
(recent) Stereotype threat, women, and math tests
(recent) Science kits that teach stereotypes
Getting along vs. fixing the problem

Women in Science Part Duex
(recent) Women in science

Bitch, Ph.D.
Space Chicks
Are you sitting down?

Dr. Mom
Women in Science Update

Dr. Shellie
Not feminist enough?
Talking about bias

FairerScience Weblog
A Eureka in St. Paul
Alien and other women in science
The X-Gals
(recent) Great Title, Good Content, But People Please Watch the Vocabulary

Green Gabbro
Well I never

Lounge of the lab lemming
Women in pseudoscience
Name Game Update
(recent) Name Game 3

Unsung Heroines

Women leadership and Newsweek

Post Doc Ergo Propter Doc
(recent) When life gives you lemons
Another Article

Science + Professor + Woman = Me
Women as bad investments
We don't want to?
(recent) Desktop Kids
(recent) What is on your computer desktop? (polls for women and men)

See Jane Compute
News Flash: Gender Bias is Alive and Well

Slow but Steady

Thus Spake Zuska
Stop me if you've heard this one
L.A. Engineer (almost)
Who's not a leader?
Resources for Parents
AWIS Washington Wire and "Beyond Barriers and Bias" report
The Kings are Always Angry
(recent) Morals vs. Pragmatism
(recent) Morals vs. Pragmatism Part 2
(recent) Censorship

Really disturbing blog and comments (the Althouse/NYTimes/NAS post)


Phone calls

Five Minutes Ago

(ring ring)
Me: Hello...(pause)...Hello?
Caller: Hi this is "Steve" from the Government Grants Center (noise of a call center in the background)
Me: What do you want? (I get inappropriate sales calls more than anyone else in this building)
Caller: I wanted to let you know that your family has qualified for an $8000 grant from the federal government
Me: Look, I don't know what you are trying to sell. But you've just called a professional line at a federal office building.

(fastest hang-up in the world)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


I set a goal for myself: get the next paper ready for submission.
And a tentative timeline: submit by next Friday (11/3)
And I broke it up into tasks.
This morning I picked a task and got started on it.

Yes, I read a bunch of blogs and scoured the craigslist postings for changing tables, zooper strollers, and medela breast pumps, but I also found my notes on how to put confidence intervals on these statistical analyses and did the calculations.

Now I am going to pick ChemGuy up from the airport. He's here for a few days to use some equipment that they don't have set up yet at his post-doc palace and he's staying with fish and I. Hopefully he'll also get a chance to meet with my undergrad about some of the chemical details in his thesis. (poor undergrad, he's taking the GREs on Thursday)

And then when I get back from the airport, I am going to ignore the earth moving equipment outside my office (vibrating the floor and desk) and I am going to figure out how to revise the text and figures of the paper to incorporate the new confidence intervals.

It feels good to do science again.

Monday, October 23, 2006

liminal stages

I'm still having trouble figuring out how to be productive as a post-doc. That big PhD project hanging over my head really helped me get things done for 6-12 months and now I need to find a way to channel some of that energy into new projects and getting old ones out the door.

Along with the liminality associated with work comes a "bloggy funk" (to borrow/adapt a term from yami), that I am also trying to figure out. I can totally identify with what sftr is going through right now.

But until I figure out what is going on, you all are just going to have to put up with sporadic, contentless-posts.

So today's post will borrow from post-doc and her Plan and her Plan update. A while back I presented some resolutions for life post-PhD, and I figured that since we are about a month out from my defense, I'd let you know how they are going.

1. Work no more hours than those for which I am being paid ...become more efficient during the time I am working. Certainly not on a day to day basis, but maybe on a week to week basis I am averaging about 40 hours - and my efficiency level is not bad, but the productivity thing is awful. (see above)

2. I will not eat any more home-cooked dinners in front of the TV. This has actually been surprisingly easy to implement. Since fish and I eat apart 4 nights a week (his work schedule), I have always chosen to read on those nights. So the other nights, one of us cooks dinner, we dish it up and sit down at the table. We end up having a nice conversation, and sometimes we even manage to do the dishes in a timely fashion. Yay, us.

3. I will attempt to spend at least one hour per week doing outdoor yard/house maintenance or improvements. I got a slow start on this one, but if you count moving things around in the garage (and from house to garage), I've managed it the last three weekends (and now we have a much more organized garage). Unfortunately, the ever shortening daylight hours and the more-frequent rains mean that this activity is limited almost entirely to weekends rather than giving me small chunks of garden time during the week.

4. At least once a month, the Princess Pup and I will get in the car and venture out of the neighborhood for a walk. Surprisingly, I've totally failed at this one. I've taken her on some decent length loops (45-60 minutes+) leaving from our house, but I haven't really managed to leave the neighborhood. Not to make excuses, but my limited energy has really put a damper on my desire to climb mountains. And this weekend, the pup has been a three-legged dogs - it appears that she pulled a muscle in her front right shoulder and has been hopping and limping for the past several days (although she seems to be improving).

5. I will read, for fun, from a book (not a magazine) at least once a week. Check. Sometimes it's not very long, but I am doing it. Right now I am towards the end of John Muir's mountaineering essays (with Thin Ice coming up next).

Thursday, October 19, 2006


It's been one of those days when I've been at work for hours and I've dealt with things both work-related and not, but I feel like I haven't made any progress on anything. Emails read, endnoting done, benefits choices scoped out, but not one piece of science accomplished. When I whine later about how I needed to get another paper out by the end of the month - remind me of this wasted day.

Anyhow, Bitch PhD has this interesting pointer to the National Advocates for Pregnant Women. If I weren't so lethargic I would check it out.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

WIS: Small Conference edition

This conference is small (~100 people) mostly faculty and post-docs from across the US and all working in a specific discipline.

And the conference population is mostly male (90% +). So of course in service of my blog readers I've been thinking about gender issues when not totally preoccupied with ology.

  1. The institution where I am now is over-represented in the conference population because it is local. And the most striking effect of that over-representation is that the attendees from Utopia are ~50% women. Which makes me wonder whether women in -ology don't travel to conferences as much as their male counterparts (because of family obligations, etc.)? Or whether Utopia has really been quite exceptional in recruiting and retaining female faculty members and post-docs? Unfortunately, a quick survey of the literature will tell you that the explanation is the latter rather than the former. Another reason Utopia deserves its pseudonym but a bit disheartening as I contemplate moving on.
  2. The women at the conference seem to be paid equal respect and listened to as befits their expertise. However, the official after-conference social activity the first night was a pub crawl (along with complementary conference-emblem emblazened mugs) which is such an innately male thing to do that I wasn't the only woman attendee who commented on it.
  3. Of all of the women at the conference that I have talked to (and I've talked to most) only one woman has any children. The other female post-docs and jr. faculty attending are universally single (in a universe of 4). I'm finding that my thinking about time frames for research and collaboration and travel are biased and filtered in a way that is not common even among my female colleagues.
  4. The best thing about being at a predominantly male conference. No line for the bathroom. ever.
And now I've got to get back to it.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Financial frustrations

So I finally got an offer letter on Friday offically offering me the post-doc that I started a few weeks ago and having been counting on since May. The salary that they are giving me is $1000 less than I remember being told I could expect to count on. $1K might not sound like much but I am already being paid substantially less than I could expect to get as a post-doc elsewhere and less than I could have gotten from gov't jobs with just a M.S.

Now I know we don't go into science for the money, but this is leaving a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. I feel somewhat taken advantage of and it makes me wonder what else is going to come out not as expected. My boss probably doesn't know anything about this because S is the one who deals with our budgets and this comes down to basically my word against hers. I know that if money weren't an issue my boss would pay me quite a bit more, but I am not sure there is anything he can/will do at this point if I approach him. So is it worth approaching him?

Now that I think about it this is not the first time something like this has happened to me. My fellowship covered 3 years of grad school but the fourth year my advisor and I wrote a proposal to get me a research assistantship. Our proposal aimed a little higher than we could get from our funders so when we had to trim some K it came out of my salary and I went from 12 months of funding to 10 months, with the promise that we would "find" something to cover me. Well, I "found" something myself - the teaching gig, but my boss and S had no role in that.

As much as I like my research group the longer I stay here the more inequities I am noticing. It makes me feel less attached to the idea of staying here past next summer. That feeling is being greatly amplified by the conference I am attending this week where I have to tell people that not only did I do my PhD with my boss, now I am his post-doc. I think if I want to advance my career and make it past this miserably low salary point, I need to move on sooner rather than later. On a purely personal level, I'd be happy to stay in Utopia for a long long time. I'd love to work only part-time. But those aren't realistic options as long as I continue to be the primary breadwinner in our household. And Mini's impending arrival only makes dichotomy between personal desire and economic reality more stark.

Aside from the above thoughts which seem to be occupying an increasing amount of my head space, today was a pretty good day.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Comfort meme

As I am working on another job application, I thought that a break from this cold, dreary afternoon would be nice, and what do you know writer chica and jo(e) have a "comfort meme" going.

1. Comfort beverage: Chai tea, chamomile tea, or hot chocolate with whipped cream

2. Comfort chair: I sit on the couch propped up with lots of pillows and a blanket wrapped around me.

3. Comfort read: Cookbooks. Short stories. Things that are satisfying but don't require a lot of time committment.

4. Comfort television/DVD/music: Gilmore Girls. Sarah McLachlan. Bach's Cello Suites.

5. Comfort companion: The Princess Pup - always excited to see me, her soft fur calms me as I pet her. She'll also cuddle up behind my legs when I curl up on the couch.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The last word on the dissertation

Sciencegeek inspired this post. Go over to her place and congratulate her on completing her draft.

The Stats:
  • Number of pages in whole dissertation: 196
  • Number of pretext pages: 17 (those before the introduction that don't get numbered)
  • Number of pages in the bibliography: 14
  • Number of references on the last page of the biblio: 1 (of course)
  • Number of figures: 30
  • Number of tables: 7
  • Number of times I used words that annoy Sciencegeek's supervisor:
    • As such: 0
    • Being that: 0
    • Therefore: 3
    • However: 26
  • Similar words that would also probably annoy him:
    • Thus: 23
  • First person usage in the body of the dissertation:
    • we: 77
    • our: 18
  • The last word: processes
Today I am making the photocopies that will become copies for my advisors, a committee member who requested it, my mom, and my department. Then I will take them to get bound. And then this whole thing really will be behind me.

Friday, October 13, 2006

still a whirlwind

Anyone who thought that my life would slow down after I finished my PhD doesn't know me very well. Last Friday at 9 am I handed in my dissertation to the graduate school adn was officially done. By the end of the day, my advisor had handed S and I a new project with a deadline this coming Monday. So the past week has largely been spent working on that - a kind of nice mixture of theory and data and tedium - but frustrating because we are getting ready things ready for a talk he's giving and he's completely out of communication - won't be back until the morning of the talk. And if his plane's late, I suppose I'll be giving it. Granted I did manage to sneak out early two afternoons this week (I've been so tired) and get in an aqua and a yoga class, but in order to do those things I've had to almost completely drop blog-reading, writing, and my normal fun work diversions - even email. Next week I'll be attending a conference for four intense days. At least it's in town so I don't have to worry about travel or sleeping in a strange bed. Along the way I've also applied for my first federal job (well, actually not - but my first federal job at the PhD level). But I think I'll save the thoughts on that process and my general job search ramblings for another post. I've got dishes to do before fish comes home.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Women in Science Update: News Link Dump

I'm hopelessly far behind on the women in science updates so what follows here is my start and then realization that if I didn't just cut and paste, I'd never get it written at all. Apologies for the formatting but there are some good links below.

A recently released National Academies report found bias against women in academic science and engineering. It’s been generating a lot of press Here’s a link to the actual report: Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering.

Another National Academies report from earlier this year dealt with a similar topic: To Recruit and Advance: Women Students and Faculty in Science and Engineering.

Here’s a roundup of the reporting/editorializing/spinning. Please add more links in the comments.

New ADVANCE awards announced for Iowa State, Cornell University, and others.

One way that I stay on top of the news about women in STEM is to have Google send me an alert once a week. Usually I integrate them with the bloglines that have talked about WIS stuff, but I am so out of date that I am just going to cut and paste the google alert text this time.

Workshop to tempt girls to study engineering, science
Ottawa Citizen (subscription) - Ontario, Canada
... and the University of Ottawa -- will host Go Eng Girl, an event aimed at encouraging young women to consider careers in science and engineering. ...

Battle of the Sexes in Science: Media Pundits Defend Gender ...
AScribe (press release) - USA
... difference between test scores in Japan, and while in Iceland women do better ... unanimous in its objection to feminine inferiority in math science and engineering ...

Boys are acting up as girls pore over books
Portsmouth News - Portsmouth,England,UK
... The school has also changed science lessons to try to get the most from both male and female pupils – the boys will now do hands-on experiments in almost ...

Chutes and Ladders
The UCSD Guardian Online - San Diego,CA,USA
... percent, and physical sciences roped in one woman, for 13 ... you will see more boys than girls interested in science.”. ... Part of the reason women and minorities ...

Women, science, and the gender gap
Boston Globe - United States
... (Asian-Americans are virtually ignored in all the talk of minority women in science.) Instead, it upholds an orthodoxy of female victimization. ...

Numbers Are Male, Said Pythagoras, and the Idea Persists
New York Times - United States
When I was a physics major in the late 1970’s, my very few fellow female students and I had high hopes that women would soon stand equal with men in science. ...

Study: Women Get Short Shrift in US Science, Engineering Fields
CIO - Framingham,MA,USA
... “The underrepresentation of women and minorities in science and engineering faculties stems from a number of issues that are firmly rooted in our society’s ...

Indian woman scientist honored
IndiaPost.com - Union City,CA,USA
WASHINGTON: In a unique honor, Indian woman scientist Mala R Chinoy has been chosen for the 2006 Science Spectrum Trailblazer awards for her pioneering work in ...

Eliminating Gender Bias, a new report from the National Academies
Technology News Daily - Scottsdale,AZ,USA
... Among science and engineering Ph.Ds, four times more ... doctorates are less likely than white women or men ... Previous studies of female faculty have shed light on ...

Study finds US bias against women in science
Reuters - USA
... Female minorities fare the worst, the study found. ... "We found no significant biological differences between men and women in science, engineering and ...

UA Awarded $3.3 Million to Increase Participation by Women in ...
University of Arizona News (press release) - Tucson,AZ,USA
... Foundation (NSF) has awarded a five-year, $3.3 million grant to The University of Arizona to increase the participation of women in science and engineering ...

First woman tourist in space
The Sun - UK
THE first ever woman space tourist today blasted off on ... to convince hard-line clerics that women are not ... she said she hoped to inspire girls to study science. ...

Eurweb.com - Los Angeles,CA,USA
Mae C. Jemison, the first woman of color ... conjunction with the citywide Chicago Science Expedition: Two ... distinguish this wonderful celebration, Women of Color ...

Women take over academics nationally, but not at CMU
CMU The Tartan Online - Pittsburgh,PA,USA
... about how to treat women in the university’s male-dominated fields. Part of the difficulty in recruiting female students in science and engineering, for all ...

Careers In Science, Women In Research: Audrey Penn
“My medical school class was only 10 percent female, and there were only one or
two other ... Careers in Science Women in Neuroscience Research brain image.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Must read

The New York Times has an amazing piece on elephants, society, psychological trauma, and our human responsibilites to them. If you care anything for animals (or even for humans), you need to read this piece.

Here's a teaser:
"[Elephants] have suffered, we now understand, not simply because of us, but because they are, by and large, us. If as recently as the end of the Vietnam War people were still balking at the idea that a soldier, for example, could be physically disabled by psychological harm — the idea, in other words, that the mind is not an entity apart from the body and therefore just as woundable as any limb — we now find ourselves having to make an equally profound and, for many, even more difficult leap: that a fellow creature as ostensibly unlike us in every way as an elephant is as precisely and intricately woundable as we are."

Monday, October 09, 2006

I usually avoid the political but...

Kung Fu Monkey: Lunch Discussions #145: The Crazification Factor is too funny (and scary) to pass by.

Back to the regularly scheduling programming soon.

I get a kick out of you.

Times when I get kicked by Mini:
  • when I am hungry
  • when I have just eaten
  • when my bladder is full
  • when I have just emptied my bladder
  • when I lie in bed trying to fall asleep
  • when I roll over at night
  • when I bend myself to an acute angle
  • when I watch TV
  • when I read a book
  • when I sit at the computer
Times when I don't get kicked by Mini:
  • when I have just taken a shower (the warmth causes sleepiness?)
  • when I am walking the dog or being active
  • when I am feeling kicks and offer to let someone else feel them
  • when I am sound asleep (at least I don't feel them then).
When I comment on how active Mini is, some people seem to interpret it as something that must be uncomfortable or annoying. Sure, it may be a bit uncomfortable at times, but it's nothing compared to what it will be. And it's incredibly reassuring to feel the kid moving around in there. Plus, I keep thinking how easy it is to deal with Mini now, safely tucked away inside of me, as compared to when he/she is outside in the big scary world and equipped with a powerful set of lungs for crying.

Lately people have been noticing than I am pregnant and commenting that I seem quite large for my due date. On the other hand, an almost equal population of people doesn't notice that I am pregnant and when made aware of it, they will ask when I am due and then say that I am quite small for being this far along.

I guess it's all a matter of perspective.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

A1 and A2 and bonus

A1: As of the time of this post, Thin Ice had pulled ahead of Water Follies by a small margin. As soon as I finish my current book (John Muir's Mountaineering Essays) I'll move on to story of Lonny Thompson's work recovering ice cores from alpine (including tropical alpine) glaciers threatened by global warming. A couple people commented that these books didn't sound like much fun - well, I think they are. Or at least interesting - and a nice contrast from the escapist fantasy I had been reading. It pays to be at least somewhat up-to-speed on the science that makes the news (even if it is outside my field), so that when someone asks me to express a learned opinion I can attempt to do so. And getting my facts from a well-written "popular" science book is a lot more fun than trying to read journal articles.

A2: Let's just say I am environmental scientist of one stripe or another. I do work in one corner of the environmental arena, but my personal interests are much more diverse. So I am just as apt (or more apt) to blog about a news story or article outside of my actual specialty than to write about the things I am paid to think about. Also, I wanted to know whether any of you had figured out who I was based on my blog - and I got my answer. I don't think this info is really going to change anything that I blog about on a day-to-day basis. And I haven't decided whether I am going to prune my archives - I was thinking about doing that anyway to mark the transition to a new chapter in my life.

A3: Anonymous wrote "Do you have the order 1. scientist 2. woman or 1. woman 2. scientist?" I am not entirely sure what anon was asking, but I guess I'd have to say that I view scientist as a modifer of woman. I was born a female, but I chose to become a scientist. Would it matter if I had answered differently?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Q1: What should I read next?

Today and tomorrow I am going to be fairly busy printing out my thesis, handing it in, and doing some other necessary (and deadline-driven) tasks. So I thought I'd put out a couple of questions to keep you occupied.

What should I read next?
Thin Ice: Unlocking the Secrets of Climate in the World's Highest Mountains
Silent Snow: The Slow Poisoning of the Arctic
Water Follies: Groundwater Pumping and the Fate of America's Fresh Waters
Free polls from Pollhost.com

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Reading for pleasure: His Dark Materials

At 8:30 on Saturday morning I sat down at the breakfast table with The Amber Spyglass, the final book of Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy. At 4:30 pm, I put the book down and took the dog for a walk. In between, I read.

So obviously the books are captivating and hard to put down. They are written for young adults so the reading is not difficult and, most of the time, the plot propels you forward. But I did have some quibbles that prevent me from raving about how wonderful the books are. Sorry for all of the die hard fans out there.

Spoiler alert: I've tried to minimize the spoilers below but maybe something has slipped out uninentionally. Please forgive me.

The first book was immensely satisfying. Even though it ends with the main character making a leap into the unknown, it felt like a complete, self-contained book. The heroine, an ~12 year old girl named Lyra is michevious and adventurous and has a mysterious past - just the way you want a heroine to be. The "bad guys" aren't clearly defined but only emerge as Lyra discovers new facts about them. The setting, in a world much like 19th century(?) England, felt comfortably familiar but with a few twists to remind you that this is not the England you might be used to. The people have souls (daemons) that reside outside their bodies in the form of animals that take the form of their true character. Children's daemons change, but adults are fixed. And that difference is crucial to the strange adventures in which Lyra finds herself.

The second book did the least for me - it seemed to bring dozens of new plot strands and characters into play - without making it clear (even by the end of the book) how they were all connected. The third book suffered from some of the same problems of over-abundance of characters and plot lines, but most of them were resolved by the end. As they should be in a trilogy. But still there were characters who had major chunks of their story missing - they had knowledge that was never explained or ended up somewhere without it being clear how or why. I felt that the writing was strongest in the first book and weakest in the third.

One thing that I really didn't like was having children as innocent victims. I get enough of that on the news and as an expectant mother hearing about bad things happening to kids gets to me in way far beyond what it ever did before. I'll admit to shedding some tears in the first book. However, I liked how the child protagonists had such independence and free will. I didn't like that epic battles between "good" and "evil" were to be waged by iron and machines. I felt like so many parts of the plot hinged on deeds mental or magical that having an old-fashioned blow-em-up sort of showdown was a let-down.

What I did really like was the way science was crucially interwoven with the story. Human's attempts to understand the universe and their place within it and how that gets entangled with religion is ultimately what the trilogy was about. Sciency subjects from dark matter to evolution to global warming and polar bears fleeing melting icecaps all made their way into the book. I don't think that someone would learn science from reading these books, but they couldn't help but think about it.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I thought I was going to have a good post today but...

instead I have RBOC.
  • In a last gasp of dissertation torture, I have spent the entire day working on a single paragraph of the revisions for Chapter 4. I absolutely don't care any more. I have no desire to write a well crafted paragraph that synthesizes the literature on the subject (most of which I haven't actually read). Instead I wrote crap that addressed about 1/2 the things that I think co-advisor wanted me to address.
  • Chapter 4 is so monstrously long and unfocused that major sections are going to have be completely revised (or cut out completely) before submission to a journal. This partly explains the above bullet, but I have no desire to revise for submission at any point soon. It would help if my co-authors actually took some responsibility for the paper at some point before submission.
  • Mini's kicks are definitely getting harder. My new favorite way to spend an evening is feeling the kid kick and squirm. Last night we saw my belly move for the first time.
  • So far, the hardest of my post-PhD resolutions to keep is an unexpected one. TV-free dinners are fairly easy to implement, reading for fun is taking care of itself, etc. But I am finding it hard to get an hour in the yard each week. Between my energy levels and physical restrictions (e.g., not climbing on the roof to clean the gutters) and the shortening daylight hours, I'm only managing about 15 minutes.
  • I've actually got a reading for pleasure post in my head for tomorrow. Let's see if I manage to get it written.
  • Tomorrow my advisor (who has been out of town since my defense) and I are meeting to discuss my post-doc work load, etc. I think I need to write a position description, but right now I am too brain-dead to do so.
  • Crap, I just realized that S and I didn't establish who was going to pick up our shared veggies today. Phew, she's home and she's going to do it.
  • I missed the season premiere of Gilmore Girls last week and I'm looking forward to tonight's episode as much to see how the new writers manage as to how the plot has progressed.
  • I think I might just call it a day, go home, have a snack, and take a nap until fish gets home.

Monday, October 02, 2006

not quite there yet

From: sciencewoman@utopia.edu
To: coadvisor@utopia.edu
Subject: introduction revisions

I am working on the revisions to my dissertation (due at the end of the week), and I wanted to thank you for your helpful comments throughout my chapters.

I am struggling with your comments regarding my introduction. I understand that what you are looking for is more conceptual motivation for the dissertation as a whole. I thought that is what I had done in the very first section of the introduction. The three main pieces of my dissertation are rather disparate - not really linked by a common body of literature. So I tried to link them in terms of understanding how..... I guess this didn't come through clearly, or was insufficient, in terms of what you wanted for the motivation.

In one place you suggested a literature review of .... - this sort of literature review is contained at least in part in the introductions to each of my subsequent chapters. It seems to me that including it in the introduction would not only be repetitive but would emphasize the differences between the papers rather than uniting them - as I was attempting to do.

Do you have any specific suggestions as to what you like to see changed/added to the introduction to better meet the goal of conceptually motivating the dissertation as a whole? Any comments you have would need to be transmitted to me in the next day or so, in order that I could attempt to incorporate in the next few days.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Fossil fun

My post-defense vacation included a trip to Eastern Oregon to witness the most complete range of Tertiary fossils found anywhere - the John Day Fossil Beds. Rocks ranging from 44 million to 7 million years old contain an amazing assemblage of plants and animals. The rocks and fossils bear witness to evolutionary processes, changing climatic and environmental conditions, and vast volcanic environments. While various Tertiary rocks span much of eastern Oregon, a wide array are concentrated within the three units of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. The units are widely spaced, so visiting all three in one day would be impossible (we actually only managed a drive-by of the Clarno unit on our 3 day trip), but the main visitor center is brand new and has an incredibly informative display of fossils, complete with painted murals and ambient sounds.

On the first day, our destination was the Painted Hills Unit. The red bands on the hills (below) are fossil woodland soils , while the yellow bands are fossil soils from open woodlands or wooded grasslands. The black streaks represent fossil soils that formed in water-logged environments.
At the Painted Hills Unit, the Bridge Creek Flora is exposed. It is a 34 million year old assemblage of fossil plants preserved in volcanic ash claystones. The assemblage is dominated by broad-leaved deciduous plants (alder, beech, etc.) along with roses, grapes, and dawn redwood, and most of the genera are no longer found in the Pacific Northwest. Instead, these forest types are now found in China - where the climate is warmer and wetter than eastern Oregon.

The next day we explored the Sheep Rock Unit of the Monument, spending several hours at the excellent visitor center and then wandering the Blue Basin trail through a fossil-rich badlands environment (below). The Blue Basin exposes the Turtle Cove formation, dating from 28-33 million years ago, when the area was covered by woodland and wooded grassland. This formation is fossiliferous and mammals, turtles, snails, and hackberries are just a few of the remains that have been found in these layers. Winter rains and summer thunderstorms erode the sediment layers exposing new fossils on a regular basis. Once exposed to the elements, however, the fossils degrade fairly quickly. Although the area is rich in fossils, they are hard to spot from the trail, and I made the one and only find of the hike. Two small fragments of fossil wood are directly below and below-right of my extra memory card.
After the hike, we drove to the town of Fossil (their gas station is called Fossil Fuel), where you can collect fossils (for a nominal fee) behind the local high school. We spent ~3 hours digging and looking at all sorts of wonderful flora from the Bridge Creek Flora and came away with some nice specimens of metasequoia, alder, and sycamore leaves and wood prints.
Our final adventure was to visit some living trees - a disjunct population of Alaskan cedar (above). Disjunct means that these trees are isolated from the main range of their species, and are able to survive only because of very special environmental conditions. These trees towered up to 100 feet over us and got up to 4 feet in diameter. We wandered through the natural cathedral and contemplated climate change on a range of time scales.

35 million years ago, eastern Oregon was warm and wet - today it is a desert with frigid winters. 15,000 years ago glaciers covered the area where we visited the cedars, and they were left in a pocket of cold air drainage as the climate warmed into the Holocene. And what will happen to the cedars as climate warms even further, thanks to CO2 levels that haven't been experienced in the past 25 million years?

References: various NPS brochures, signs, and exhibits; Trees to Know in Oregon, 2005 (OSU extension service); Oregon Geology, 1991, v. 53, p. 75-80