Friday, December 29, 2006

Musical Incentive

Yesterday I sent the lingering paper off to its coauthors for one last look before it gets submitted. My hope is to get it submitted before Mini makes her debut (whenever that may be). So as a reward for my productivity, I am treating myself to music from iTunes. The last time I did this was when I submitted my dissertation to my committee, so I am thinking I can make a tradition out of it. For every paper submitted, I get an iTunes shopping spree.

Here's what I got:
  • Silver Springs - Fleetwood Mac
  • Little Lies - Fleetwood Mac
  • The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald - Gordon Lightfoot
  • Christmas Dinner - Peter, Paul, and Mary (I actually cheated and bought this on the 22nd)
  • No One Has to Cry - The Fixx
  • Don't Get Me Wrong - The Pretenders
  • I'll stand by you - The pretenders
  • So & So - Kim Richardson
  • Nothing compares 2 U - Sinead O'Connor (I wanted Streets of London, but iTunes didn't have it. Hate that!)
  • Beds are Burning - Midnight Oil
They are a small departure from my normal Lilith Fair-type and sixties folk choices, but they'd tickled my ear for the last couple of months on Pandora and wherever else I'd ran across them. Actually, "Edmund Fitzgerald" has special personal meaning for me, and I'd grown up with the sheet music on the piano; "Christmas Dinner" comes from the Peter, Paul, and Mommy album that I had as a kid, and "Beds are Burning" is the fault of my friend Erik, an inveterate music reviewer who reminded me that I liked Midnight Oil both when I was in high school and when I lived in Australia. But the rest are things that caught my ear in the past 6 months or so.

Anyways, my musical incentive prompts two questions:
  1. Why do I have a hard time spending $10 on iTunes when I can easily blow that in a week on hot drinks?
  2. What do you to do reward yourself for getting a paper submitted?

Of penguins and polar bears, of warming and freezing

Science stories that caught my eye or ear this week and that those of you on vacation might have missed.

Penguins
A biologist, a geographer, and a geologist proved that interdisciplinary research can generate some really fascinating results. This week, the journal Geology reports on their findings: A 45,000 year record of Adelie penguins and climate change in the Ross Sea, Antarctica. They used radiocarbon dates from penguin remains to construct a chronology of penguin habitation and ice sheet advances.

Polar Bears
Despite disavowing human-induced climate change and refusing to take actions to mitigate the threats posed by a changing climate (whether human or not, it's happening), apparently the Bush administration thinks it should list polar bears as threatened, specifically because melting Arctic sea ice is jeopardizing the bears' access to food. Listen to the NPR story (Climate Change may put polar bears on threatened lis) and see also the NY times article.

Warming
Speaking of meltic Arctic ice, CNN.com is running a story on the loss of a big ice shelf from Ellesmere Island last summer. I remember this generating some (scientific?) media attention when the even was first detected, and I'm not sure why it's in the news now. My guess is that the researchers have a paper coming out now.

Freezing
Some sleepless NPR staff member happened upon an error in the NWS forecast for San Jose this weekend. Apparently, a computer glitch caused the temperature to be forecast as -30,000 degrees (measurement scale not specified). It was a light news day, so they ran with it, talking to a local meteorologist and physicist about the consequences of such a chilly day. I'm so glad the physicist brought up absolute zero, and I can't believe the meteorologist didn't.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The (other) impending arrival

Like most daughters, I have had a tumultuous relationship with my mother. In some ways we are so much alike it's almost unbearable, and in other ways we are quite different. She has a very strong personality, that's only been amplified by years of hard knocks. My parents split up when I was 8, and my mom raised brother and I alone while teaching in a female-unfriendly science department at a 4-4-4 public university. She worked incredibly hard to raise good kids and be a more conscientious teacher than many. Along the way, I think she lost the ability to speak softly and let things roll off her back. Or maybe she didn't have those traits to begin with. But she is also strongly maternal and very family-oriented. The loss of her mother in October 2005 and the consequent estrangement from her siblings (as a result of a very ugly and protracted estate situation) has occupied much of the last year for her, a year that was also her first in retirement. She's been on anti-depressants since this summer, but was hoping to get off them this winter.

With that as background, let me share that she is moving to Utopia for the next three months. She has a short-term lease on a furnished townhouse and she is planning to take a couple of classes winter term at the unversity. She is also looking forward to "being grandma." Basically, the arrival of the first grandchild provided an amazing excuse for her to leave behind her regular life for a while and to try something new in a place she has connections. I agreed to have her here partly in the hope that she would be helpful around the house, etc in the weeks after Mini arrives. But mostly, I thought it would be a good idea for her to get out of the rut she is in, one in which she calls me every few days to tell me about the latest disaster with her siblings and often degenerates into an angry, crying mess. Since college, I've had with multiple weekly hour-long phone calls where she does most all of the talking, because she doesn't have any other adults to talk to. She was so busy working and mothering all those years that she doesn't really have any friends. Well, she had her mother.

And as her arrival has approached and the pieces fell into place, I started to look forward to her presence. Maybe it was the holiday without family or maybe it was nesting, but I started to think how neat it would be to have her around for help and company in those weeks between when fish goes back to work and when I truly get my feet back on the ground. I knew I would need to set limits about when she could visit and to make sure that she was actually doing extracurriculars besides being Grandma. But those seemed reasonable. Usually my tolerance for my mom's visits is on the order of 4-5 days, but I was starting to think that with these arrangements, it might be something like 4 or 5 weeks before she drove me up the wall.

But today she and I got a piece of unwelcome news that changes both of our feelings about her stay in the PNW. Her sister, the chief antagonist in the family drama, has apparently moved to a town about 10 miles from Utopia. Apparently, she has been living there for months without telling the rest of the family. Her son, my cousin lives in that town, and my aunt's presence says quite a bit about why he hasn't returned my emails or calls this fall.

So now my mom feels she's not getting to flee the family situation and that she'll run into her sister at every inconvient opportunity. And I feel like it's just downpoured on my parade. I won't be getting that helpful grandma figure I was starting to look forward to. Instead, I'll get the child-mother, alternately furious, frustrated, and forlorn. And I don't want to be dragged down there with her.

I'm not looking for any words of reassurance or indigination from this post. I just thought you all should know about the probably addition to the regular cast of characters on this blog. Because I'm sure this won't be the last thing I have to say here on the topic.

inappropriate request/out-of-character response

I just got an email from a prospective student saying that the director of an interdisciplinary graduate program (IGP) on campus had suggested that I " would be interested in answering ... questions about the program."

Here's the thing. I wasn't in the IGP. Sure it's a related field, but it didn't exist when I arrived here. And even if it had I wouldn't have chosen it, because I learned a hard lesson during my MS that IGPs can have a lot of hidden pitfalls.

And the director of the program should have known that I wasn't in the IGP. She's been the director since the inception 3 years ago, and I never even expressed interested in switching into it.

So I sent the prospective student an email back explaining that I wasn't in the program and giving her the name of someone who was. I also gave brief answers to the two questions she had that weren't program specific. She seemed like a nice enough person, I didn't want to be rude.

And then I left a voice mail for the IGP director, explaining that I wasn't in the program and couldn't answer questions about it and I wasn't interested in talking to prospective students unless they were planning to work with my advisors.

It pissed me off. Probably more than it should have. But I'd just gotten some upsetting personal news (more on that later) and it's not the first time that the IGP director has shown a remarkable lack of good judgement and tact. To demonstate:

Two years ago, when the program first started, she asked me to be part of a keynote panel for an on-campus event. I agreed, as did 3 other female grad students. We put together and gave talks and then answered audience questions. There was only time for 4 panelists during the event. At the event, as she was introducing us, she said: "Thanks to these ladies for agreeing to be here today, I asked Guy1, Guy2, and Guy3 to participate, but they were all too busy."

Ugh. Well, hopefully in dealing with today's situation, I've been blunt and irritated enough that she'll just leave me alone from now on.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

willing to move North

So I have applied to one tenure-track faculty position in Canada and am contemplating applying to another one. I have no personal hesitation about taking a Canadian job; I grew up close enough to the border that when travelling internationally I have been able to "pass" for Canadian. Professionally, I see Canadian -ologists producing excellent research and interacting with American colleagues.

But I am not very familiar with the Canadian post-secondary educational system, and I wonder whether there might be requirements for faculty that differ from those I am used to here in the US. In some senses, this question doesn't become important until I get offered a position and need to decide whether it is the right one for me. But it may also matter in terms of the application I submit. For example, at one of the universities, it says that passive bilingualism is a condition of tenure. Does that mean that I should address it in the application? (And what is passive bilingualism anyways? I don't speak a lick of French, but I am willing to learn if need be.)

I also wonder how much effort to put into these Canadian applications. They very clearly say that preference is given to Canadians and permanent residents. I have several friends that have gotten Canadian professorships, but all but one of them are Canadian citizens. Is that because not very many Americans try for Canadian jobs or is because the bar is so much higher for non-Canadians?

So I guess I'll send off a few this go-around and see what results. It can't really hurt, as long as I am also making sure to apply to plenty of American universities as well. And in an interesting twist, the Canadian school to which I've applied is actually farther south than the American job which I most hope for this year.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The day after...

So Christmas has come and gone...Normally it is one of my favorite holidays (the music, the candles, the spirit of giving...), but this year I had a really hard time getting into the spirit. I was just so tired and preoccupied. And fish has been preoccupied and exhausted from work. Plus, for the first time, we were neither traveling nor having visitors. We didn't even have any extra time off. So no lights or tree were put up, only one batch of Christmas cookies was made (and those on the 24th), only a handful of decorations were put up (on the 23rd), and the gift giving and getting was minimal and last-minute.

We did attempt to have two days of fun though. We took the Princess Pup on one of her favorite walks, baked cookies, played Uno, cooked a turkey and stuffing, opened presents, watched bad Christmas movies, and went to the movie theatre. So it should have made good memories.

But somehow I am left with a feeling of disappointment. Maybe it was the lack of buildup, or the lack of relatives, or the lack of post-Christmas vacation time, but somehow I'm left feeling like I lost a holiday and a weekend. And now it's the workweek again, there are things to be done, and the house is a mess (I opted to forgo the usual weekend nagging and cleaning).

On the plus side, I took the pup to the vet today and the vet gave her basically a clean bill of health. The vet trip was triggered by a Meibomian gland tumor, but as long as it's not bothering her eye, it's fine. And most of them resolve on their own. I asked the vet how long I might expect a dog her size to live (she's 8), and he said she should probably live to 15 or 16, as long as we keep her weight under control. And that means that Mini will grow to know (and long remember) the Princess Pup, so that makes me happy. I remember my mom's graduate school dog, so I think it's pretty cool that Mini will remember mine.

Hope your Christmases were more memorable (and in a good way) than mine.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Non-holiday baking


These aren't at all Christmas-y but I made them last weekend and really enjoyed them. Plus, they're reasonably healthy. So I thought I share the recipe here - consider it an early New Years Resolution gift.

Banana Oatmeal Muffins
1 1/2 cup flour
1 cup oats
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 eggs
3 medium mashed bananas (~1 cup)
1/4 cup applesauce
1/4 cup milk
Mix the dry ingredients together and make a well in the center. In a small bowl, beat eggs until frothy. Mix the applesauce, bananas, and milk into the eggs. Add the wet ingredients to the well of the dry ingredients and stir just to moisten (it will be lumpy). Fill greased or lined muffin tins ~3/4 full. Bake at 400F for 20-25 min.
My note: These would be good with some crushed pecans or walnuts in them to give them some crunch.
Recipe source: Lois Gaudette in "Fruit of the Spirit"

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Solstice reflections



"As we enter this season we need to remember that darkness is essential; it contains the seed of light. It is not a time of perils, danger, or despair. It is a time of waiting, nesting, comfort, nourishment, and, ultimately, integration. It is a time for uncoiling rather than unraveling. Opening to the light symbolizes awareness, knowledge, and consciousness. It is what nature asks of us at this time of year. It is the season of samadhi. Stand still, if only for a moment, unfazed by the storms of life, and absorb it.”
- Julie Lawrence

I think I’ve written before about how the advent season seems like an apt metaphor for pregnancy. This quote too spoke to me on many levels and seemed appropriate to share with you on this, the shortest day of the year (in the northern Hemisphere).

I also wanted to acknowledge the winter scene above and the one that I am currently using as my banner have come from the digital slide file of Yellowstone National Park. The picture above was taken by Sam and Mary Cissel in February 1992, and my banner image was clipped from a picture taken by DL Coe in 1961. There are dozens of other gorgeous winter scenes in the files - I am sure you will find one that inspires you.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Trees + Wet + Wind = Blow Over

One of the most lasting effects of last week's wind storm will be the loss of numerous trees throughout the region. While the two big cottonwoods in our backyard only lost small branches, a lot of large trees in the area were completely uprooted and knocked over. One example is this large tree in the park near our house.


Sure, it was windy, but why did some trees fare worse than others?

  • Trees sway back and forth in the wind, as stress is loaded and unloaded from its trunk and branches. The mechanical properties of the tree (set by size, species, etc.) control the sway period, and trees with high heights relative to their basal diameter will be more susceptible to wind damage. So some species will tend to be more wind resistant than others, and big trees will respond differently than little trees.
  • As the tree roots move in response to the swaying, trees with shallow root systems will be more likely to pull out of the ground than deep rooted trees. So again, there is a species difference in the likelihood of toppling.
  • But even in trees than normally have deep root systems, if there is a shallow water table (i.e., it is saturated near the surface) at least part of the time, root systems will be a lot shallower, and there will be an increased probability of blow overs. Additionally, when soils are saturated, positive pore pressure reduces the cohesive strength of the soil, which probably makes it easier for tree roots to pull out of the ground.

  • I'd put the blame on a shallow water table for the demise of the tree in our park:

As you can see from the pictures, even though the tree was probably 40+ feet high, its major root system extended less than 2 feet below the ground surface, and the water table (post-storm at least) is even shallower.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

RBOC

  • Too much data processing can fry the brain and prevent the formation of coherent blog posts.
  • Skookumchick once again brings us news of reporting on women in science. This time she highlights the bizarre title of a recent NY Times article. FemaleScienceProfessor has also responed to the article.
  • One of my favorite science blogs (written by 2 women) has debuted a new science magazine: Inkling Magazine (On the Hunch that Science Rocks). It looks very cool and interesting, much like the pithy and humorous news tidbits that I've so enjoyed on their blog, Inky Circus. In their inaugral issue, you'll find articles on reinventing the red planet, explaining the vampire myth, and cell division, amongst other topics and sections like "green and crunchy" and "fun with food." You'll also find an essay by Thus Spake Zuska blogger, Suzanne Franks. So go read and enjoy.
  • My christmas shopping is now 3/4 complete. I'm going very minimal this year - just presents for brother, Mom, Dad, and fish. Dad's getting a basket of diabetic-friendly PNW specialty foods (ordered over the internet, arriving next week), Mom's getting a digital camera (thanks to brother for doing all the work), and brother is getting an ingot of Wood's metal. 'Cause that's what he wants. Every year his presents get more obscure (last year it was a welding mask), but that's fine with me because I always learn something along the way (Wood's metal is cool because it has a super low melting point) and he does most of the leg work. Now I've actually got to brave a store to get a present for fish.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Computer woes

My laptop worked fine last night (as evidenced by the blog posts), yet this morning it seems to be missing its system config file and won't boot to windows. Where do those files go overnight? I'm so tired of dealing with laptop crap. If it's not one thing it's another. For example, when I got to my office I turned on the backup laptop that we have, in part, for dealing with situations like these. The power comes on but the screen stays dark. I had to reboot about 10 times before I got the screen to display. So as soon as the first laptop is fixed, now the second one has to go in for repair. I don't think I'm physically hard on laptops (although both of these have endured plenty of field work in the past), so why do they insist on being hard on me? Does anyone else have these routine hardware and software problems? If I end having to buy a new laptop (out-of-pocket) to work at home with, does anyone have any brand recommendations? Macs are out.

Blogger Beta Banner problems resolved

As some of you noticed, I got my blogger beta template problems resolved this weekend. Thanks to helpful comments from Propter Doc and Skookumchick. I used skookumchick's code to put the picture in as the background, e.g.,

"#header-wrapper {
width:760px;
height:197px;
margin:0 auto 10px;
background:url("http://bp3.blogger.com/_tlbBVz9vEmQ/RX8voKvunaI/AAAAAAAAAA4/HPkXVSZClJg/s1600-h/w.jpg");
border: 1px solid $bordercolor;
border:1px solid $bordercolor;
} "

But the picture still didn't show up. Turns out that blogger wouldn't show pictures posted in blogger beta (for some idiotic reason). So I had to open a flickr account to post the picture elsewhere on the web and then link to that. This was really the only part that I figured out on my own.

Then, since I had text on my banner image, I wanted to get rid of the text generated by the widget in page elements. But I couldn't completely delete it or my title wouldn't show up in bloglines. So I made it as small as possible (using the edit colors and fonts page) and an innoccuous color (thanks to the tip provided by propter doc). I left the description blank and figured out how to remove the border under #header using the edit html.

Finally, I widened the columns to fit the prenatal ticker and the width of my banner. I couldn't figure out how to the get the ticker where it used to be, so I just pre-dated a post and stuck it there.

These obviously aren't the most elegant solutions, but I hope they help anyone who wants to do something similar.

Oh, and please tell me if you find something hard to read, not showing up properly, or too wide for your screen. I'll do my best to resolve those issues.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

It's out!

My first paper is officially published. As of this morning. 366 days from submission to publication, and I managed to sneak in a 2006 date. Now if only the next paper were actually submitted. At this rate, I'll be lucky to have a 2007 date on my CV. But for now I celebrate. And walk the pup; she's been patient all morning.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Inequality on the ground and in space...

At the conference I am not at this year, FemaleScienceProfessor relates how a cabbie assumed her husband was the scientist and she was in town for the shopping. She has a great reply.

NPR ran a story this morning about how many female astronauts can't do space walks because they don't make the space suits in small sizes. I would have written something about it, but Skookumchick beat me to it.

I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your fence down

We lost power for 3 hours last night - other parts of town lost power for at least 11 hours. I learned that a big disadvantage of electric stoves is that if your power goes out as you are cooking dinner, you can't do much. But we did build a fire for some warmth and light and took an early evening nap as we listened to the wind howl and rain pound.

At some point during the evening, the wind blew part of our fence down allowing the Princess Pup access to the neighborhood this morning. I'm not sure how we are going to repair the fence any time soon - it looks like the ground was completely saturated and the posts just ripped out of the ground. On my drive this morning, I noticed several trees and branches blocking roads and stoplights without power. I'm at work now and can't check my email because the servers are still down.

And the damage isn't just local. From the news reports, it looks like ~300,000 people in Oregon and ~1 million people in Washington lost power. And thousands will be out of power for a couple of days. Apparently this was the third worst windstorm in the past 40 years. Pretty cool.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

That Crazy Northwest Weather

And those crazy northwesterners who get all excited about it...

Here's what just came through my email: "Weather advisories for the ... area forecast heavy winds and rain tonight and tomorrow, with wind gusts reaching 50 miles per hour. Previous windstorms have been responsible for damage and power outages on campus. Please shut down all personal and all non-essential electrical devices and loads by the end of business today. This will reduce risks associated with restoration of power and services. Should you have questions, please call ... Facilities Services..."

In the area where I grew up, 50 mph winds would be considered a breeze.

But also in the forecast are floods. The image on the left are the flood predictions from NOAA's Northwest River Forecast Center as of 4:30 pm today. Click the image to get current predictions. Red areas are places that are flooding or are forecasted to flood. Orange areas are/will exceed bankfull (the river is out of its banks, but no economic consequences), and yellow and green areas will get plenty wet.

And while I grew up in an area with some notable floods, around here they are quite exciting. And we've already had a couple of good ones here this fall. If this batch lasts into the weekend, maybe I'll try to get some pictures. I do enjoy a good flood.

Oh, and starting later tonight, it's supposed to be a blizzard in the mountains. It never rains but it pours.

Women in Science - a few things of note

I started to work on this post a week ago and never found the time/energy to finish it off. While I'd like to keep providing my readers with updates on all the women in science news and blogs, it's just too much of a time and energy committment right now. I guess I'll have to stick to the first person perspective for at least the next couple of months.

Women in Science Update - Asking Life's Persistent Questions

Would this work?
From Miss Prism: "Inspired by the X-Gals, many wonderful women's science blogs, and maybe perhaps a soupcon of beer, a pond-crossing friend and I have been chatting lately about the possibility of creating some kind of online resource / community / wiki type thing for women scientists (grad students, postdocs and beyond)."

Why are we still reinforcing stereotypes?

BrightStar points us to a product that does just that in her post (I'm pretty AND I do math!, 11/10)

Who can challenge the status quo?
"Those who are in the community have a lot to lose by challenging the status quo. Those who are no longer in the community can speak out without the same risk of losing their standing -- but, having no standing, they are also in a position where the community can safely ignore them." from Janet's post "Making Repairs, Staying Afloat"(Adventures in Ethics and Science, 11/15)

Is gender bias in STEM a myth?
"Over at the Cornell American Online, Rachel Brenc, a first-year student in engineering - oops, I mean, freshman - has written a little piece that ought to be titled Why There's Nothing Wrong With White Male Domination Of Every Institution In Our Society As Long As I, Personally, Have Never Experienced Any Discrimination Of Which I Am Cognizant Because I'm Just Going To Quit Working As Soon As I Get Pregnant Even Though I Love My Engineering Classes And I Will Just Cross My Fingers And Trust God That My Husband Doesn't Leave Me Or Die Or Get Disabled Or Laid Off Because I Think There Is No Discrimination Against Women And Those Ladies Who Wrote That NSF Report Are Just Whiners, Not Hard Workers (Who Know Their Place, In the Kitchen With The Babies) Like Me" from Zuska's post: Let Her Eat the Opressors Cake (11/17)
What will MIT's Tonewaga do now that he suddenly has more free time?
SciMom comments on Susan Hockfield's lack of public condemnation in her post "MIT's Tonewaga steps down." (11/18) Susan Hockfield is the president of MIT, and SciMom comments "As a woman in an extremely powerful academic and scientific position, I thought she should have been more vocal than she was."

Why does the attire of women doctors deserve such scrutiny?
"I think that we should take the fact that patients prefer to see doctors in white coats to casual clothes as an opportunity to question what authority "looks like," rather than as a carte blanche (pardon the pun) to criticize what people are wearing." asserts Skookumchick in Strut your stuff (11/21). But the author of any essay in the NY Times doesn't take the high road, calling the attire of many women doctors inappropriate.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Blog Year in Review

The meme seen everywhere today (first seen by me at Dr. Crazy's):
  1. Harken back to your archives.
  2. Collect the first sentence you wrote every month for the whole year.
  3. Entertain us.
January: "I've known what next year's resolutions will be for weeks...well, they are not resolutions exactly but more like the areas on which I want to focus my energy in 2006." I got #1 (earn a PhD) out of the way, but #s 2 and 3 are more debatable (have a healthier lifestyle, help my husband lead a happier life).

February: "Dr. Free-ride has put together another great edition of Tangled Bank, the carnival of the sciences." Of course I had to promote my one submission to Tangled Bank. These days I rarely have the energy to read blog carnivals, but I should note that there is now a physical sciences one (Philosphia Naturalis) as well as the more life science oriented Tangled Bank.

March: "As seen over at AAYOR (and probably elsewhere, I am seriously behind on my bloglines)" The US map meme - a reminder of how much of my blogging is just ideas stolen from all of you and of how much time keeping up with all of your blogs can take if you let it. But usually I let it - sometimes at the expense of my own posting. People just have such interesting things to say!

April: "Where in the world did March go?" Gosh, I have that sensation almost every month. This was one of my goals and accomplishments posts that I try to do at the beginning of most months.

May: "This is what my desk looks like when I am working hard." A post about the mental agony and physical consequences of working through reviewer comments. Right now my desk is almost as messy, but I'm not really doing anything hard. Maybe I'm just a poor housekeeper.

June: "With all the work and travel I have in the month ahead, I've decided to go on a bit of a vacation from blogging." A wisely planned vacation from blogging that coincided with a bunch of work-related travel and the fatigue of early pregnancy - and to prevent myself from saying anything about it before I was ready.

July: "Happy Canada Day." What follows is another list of monthly goals.

August
:
"I promised myself I wouldn't blog today until I had written at least a couple of good paragraphs of my current paper." That's the start of a post about the final weeks of dissertating and the frustrations that lie therein.

September
: "(Scientific vocabulary increasingly eludes me or fails to capture what I mean, so I am turning to other fields for help. The final paragraphs of my diss will be titled "denouement.")" 3 days before my dissertation went to the committee. I was on an emotional roller-coaster.

October: "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." My first science post to come up in this list - reinforcing exactly how little I blog about science around here.

November: "What a great way to start the day. A colleague just sent me this bit of scientific fun."
I guess this counts as 50% silliness and 50% science.

December: "This week has been a blur." Dude, this year has been a blur.

To summarize and quantify: If we accept the assumption that these twelve posts are a representative sample of my blogging over the past year, then the following is true:
  • 25% of posts are goals or other lists (probably an overestimate)
  • 25% of posts are about writing science for publication or dissertation and the resulting emotional fallout
  • 17% of posts are bemoaning the passage of time
  • 12.5% of the time I actually write about science itself (probably an overestimate)
  • 12.5% of posts are memes or other silliness
  • 8% of posts exist solely to promote other people's blogging (and my own)
  • 8% of the time I'm on blog-vacation (hey, that's less than the president)
In reviewing these 12 posts, I didn't find a very compelling reason to regularly read this blog. So why do you all keep doing it? And what do you want the breakdown to look like next year?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Help! Blogger beta problems

I'm trying to make a new layout in the beta format and I am having terrible troubles getting my banner image to show up. First it showed up too small and now it won't show up at all. Anyone who could help is most appreciated. The image I want to use is located here: http://bp3.blogger.com/_tlbBVz9vEmQ/RX8voKvunaI/AAAAAAAAAA4/HPkXVSZClJg/s1600-h/w.jpg

Thanks in advance!

Equal opportunity for interviewing

I find myself in an interesting situation. I was recently offered an interview at a university where I think I'm a good match. The catch? They want to interview me in January. And I can't fly in those few weeks before my due date.

I offered to come in December or February but they are already on break now and they said that February would be too late. I also offered to speak to them by phone at any point. The person who contacted me said s/he'd talk to the search committee and see what they could arrange.

I'm pretty sure that since they wanted me to come to campus, they have to at least follow through with a phone interview. Of course, it'd be nicer to have a campus visit, even though the thought of travel sounds particularly unappealing right now. But I'd bet that affirmative action laws require them to make some accomodation for me. I have a call into my campus office to find out.

They can of course discriminate against me all they want after they've made some arrangement to satisfy the affirmative action requirement. And there's not much that I can do about that. But you'd think that someone offering to travel and interview either in her 8th month of pregnancy or with a brand-new newborn would be demonstrating a level of committment and enthusiasm far beyond what your typical candidate displays. So we'll see what happens...

Monday, December 11, 2006

Baby guessing contest.

Here's your chance to guess Mini's birthday, gender, and birth weight. The person or people who get closest to the correct answer will get a special reward from Mini after the big event (and it won't be a poopy diaper).

To enter the contest, put your guess in the comments. Remember, I want to know
1. birthday (I'm due January 27th)
2. gender
3. birth weight

Good luck!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Pregnancy update: 33 weeks


Since there are at least a few of you who seem interested in the ongoing growth of my belly and the imminent expansion of my family, I thought I'd provide an update. The photo above is about a week old, but you can see it has grown substantially since last month.

I'd have to say that the honeymoon period of the pregnancy is definitely over. I have less and less energy each week, so that work is taking more and more of that finite resource even though I am not accomplishing a whole lot. A lot of mornings, I'll wake up feeling OK, but by the time I get through breakfast and a shower, I feel ready for a nap. Of course sleeping is pretty darn uncomfortable, so I usually just soldier on into the office. By 6 pm I usually have no energy at all - so evening committments are killers (like the childbirth class). I snuck out early a couple of afternoons this week, and those days really helped me recharge, even though I never succeeded in getting a nap or really any time to myself. If I manage to make myself a decent dinner and clean it up, 7:30 finds me half-comatose on the couch with a book or the remote, waiting for fish to come home from work. Then I usually manage to have a second wind (or third? or fourth?) from about 8:3o to 10:00 and we'll read a section of The Baby Book or some children's classic to the tummy. At night I am usually getting up to pee about 4 times (everytime I roll over) and although my hips are somewhat less sore than they used to be, sleeping on my side is still agony because my ribs get so sore. And rolling over is a mammoth chore, especially when you add a pillow between the knees. So when my alarm goes off or the dog whines, I usually get up with little hesitation.

I've got a nice crop of red stretchmarks on my lower belly, one boob, and my hips. Tums are my most frequently consumed food, and my prenatals recently started making me nauseous. One of my boobs leaks a lot of colostrum, and I've had a few embarrassing leak-through incidents. Many of the maternity clothes I've been wearing for the past couple of months are now getting to small, and I am moving into the big stretchy pants phase. Tying my shoes is a challenging task, but most of my shoes don't fit anyway (ligaments stretch all over the body causing your feet to widen and/or lengthen). My hair is incredibly lustrous and full, but I've got to get a haircut. My belly knocked a full cup of tea into a laptop keyboard on Thursday (no damage done).

But despite the complaining, it is the most amazing thing to feel Mini move inside me. She's getting quite big: "This week your baby weighs a little over 4 pounds and measures 17.2 inches from the top of his head to his heels. His skin is becoming less red and wrinkled, and while most of his bones are hardening, his skull is quite pliable and not completely joined" according to Babycenter. I feel kicks and hiccups almost every hour and I can sort of tell which position Mini is in by their location. Other people can sometimes see my belly move from several feet away. I love rubbing my belly (especially where I can feel a bony area) and singing it to it. Fish talks to it at bedtime and we read stories. Snowmen at Night is really really cute.

The focus of our thoughts and energy has definitely shifted from the pregnancy to the baby. We are in the process of getting our house ready. Fish gave up his dresser so that I can get Mini's clothes cleaned, sorted, and put away, and hopefully craigslist will yield a cheap changing table in the next week or two. We're planning to use a co-sleeper for the first couple of months, so if we don't get a crib before Mini arrives, I'll be OK with it. We had a wonderful baby shower last weekend, and my incredible friends gave me some really amazing stuff, so now we know what we need to get in the next few weeks. We have our infant car seat riding around in the trunk, just in case Mini makes an early arrival (plus, we've no place else to put it). Tomorrow we are rearranging our bedroom to make room for the co-sleeper.

I've decided to try for a natural (non-medicated) childbirth. I'm not wild about drugs getting into my baby's bloodstream during a critical time, epidurals sound really drastic to me, and I'm allergic to most narcotics anyway. We are planning to have a doula (labor assistant) help us out with suggestions of relaxation techniques and positions to try and to provide some been-there-done-that support, since fish, no matter how much he cares, can't really understand what I will be going through. I'm trying not to stress too much about the labor because I'm thinking about it like a wedding. I know that sounds funny, but people put all this stress on the wedding, when it only lasts one day and the marriage is the thing that lasts a lifetime. Same with labor versus the baby. And just like I got engaged to have a marriage not a wedding, I got pregnant to have a child, not to labor. It's only 48 hours or less anyway. (hopefully less).

Woo, that was a long update. And fish's alarm is going off - time to start cleaning the house and watching some football.

Friday, December 08, 2006

luck of the draw

Sometimes you can carefully tend field-deployed data loggers, checking on them every month or so, being vigilant about recording site conditions and collecting supplementary data, frequently looking over the collected data for potential problems, etc. And that doesn't guarantee that the data you get out of the dataloggers will be of a decent (usable) quality. Such is the problem with the datasets that I am working with now - ones that were supposed to be part of my dissertation and that tooks months and months of my time over the past four years.

Othertimes you can ad-hoc throw something together in a few days, deploy data loggers remotely for a few months, make several careless errors after retrieving them, and still retrieve good quality data. That's the auspicious result of my recent adventure and my pre-doc post-doc work.

Which one of these datasets will, in the end, yield a compelling scientific story that gets written up for publication? It's way to early to tell. I don't want to give up on the first dataset because I've put too much blood, sweat, and tears into it, but if the second dataset reveals its mysteries easily, it will make a much bigger contribution to my research portfolio (and my CV). Sometimes I guess it all boils down to luck.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

ipod meme

First seen at Propter Doc's (also seen at Holly's, Brazen Hussy's and elsewhere)

Silver ipod mini in a translucent blue cover, 1 year old.

How many songs: 778 at the moment because I just had to restore it to factory settings

First song: (is this alphabetical or what?) '97 Bonnie and Clyde - Tori Amos
Last song: Zombie - The Cranberries

Shortest: 14 seconds Waltz #1 (sam phillips cue from the gilmore girls soundtrack)

Longest: 13:54 Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor - movement 1 (performed by Joshua Bell)

Five most played songs:
Where Have all the cowboys gone - Paula Cole
I grieve - Peter Gabriel
Anji - Simon and Garfunkel
Glory of the '80s - Tori Amos
Watermark - Enya

First song that comes up on "shuffle”: The Boxer - Simon and Garfunkel
Number of items that come up when searching for:

"sex": 1

"death": 0

"love": 45

"you": 70

"me": 156

"cry": 4

December's goals

My lethargy in writing and posting this month's goals is something of a reflection of my current ambivalence towards work. Partly, it's that I don't have many externally imposed deadlines at the moment (except of course the big one) so it's harder for me to prioritize what I should be working on. Partly, it's that big looming arrival and the time off after it making it harder for me to feel committed to long-term projects. Partly, it's that work is taking more and more of my available energy to accomplish less and less and I just want to be at home putzing around my house. And finally, it's that a couple of things have been pushed off for several months now and I think I'll feel better when I finally put them to bed.

So here's the list:
  1. finish and submit next paper to journal (the one I was going to submit in October)
  2. review paper for journal (done, but late)
  3. Get the pre-postdoc data and take a look at it (also on the list from last month)
  4. QC and compile data from 2005-2006 for submittal to funder (new task, external deadline)
  5. develop plan for "unfunded mandate" work now that we're committed to presenting it in June (lingering on the list from last month)
  6. apply for jobs due in December, January, and early February

Monday, December 04, 2006

other people's writing

Major tasks in the past week have involved reading and critiquing other people's writing - in one case it was an NSF proposal and in the other I was reviewing a paper. Fortunately both are now submitted and I should be off the hook from reading other people's stuff for a few days. But for now, a few thoughts from my addled brain.
  1. Many people aren't great writers. Sentences that are too awkwardly constructed, or redundant show up with surprising frequency even in work that is supposedly ready for publication. Some people write around the point they are trying to make, leaving their readers to do the hard work of figuring out what they are trying to say.
  2. People have very different house-keeping standards from mine. References in multiple formats, Xs left as stand-ins for numbers (e.g., XX sq. mm), figures misnumbered or not referenced. I'm not sure whether sloppiness like this reflects the general way things go "out the door" from these people or whether they know that S and I are careful proofreaders who can't stand this sort of thing and won't let it slip through.
  3. It can be really hard to turn off the editor in me and focus on critiquing the science. And vice versa. Maybe it's because I used to be an editor, but I get so hung up on fixing sentences that I have to force myself to pay attention to the science at hand. But other times I am annoyed enough by the science that I'll let whole pages of bad writing slip by me.
  4. Giving constructive criticism is a lot harder than just noting awkward sentences, vague wording, or poorly-explained ideas. From my limited experience reading reviews, I know that I need to be constructive and specific in order to be helpful. But sometimes I feel like just highlighting an entire paragraph and saying "yuck."
  5. I'm still struggling with the level of detail that I am supposed to go into in various situations. Obviously, my level of investment in my research group's proposal should be greater than for the paper review, but what does that mean in terms of my comments? Do I have an obligation to try to fix every problem in the proposal but not in the paper? (neither of them involves funding for me) How about when the writing in question my undergraduate's thesis? Then where do I draw the line between teaching him better writing skills and rewriting too much?
  6. Reviews take a lot longer than I wish they did. Is this true for other people? I probably spent 1.5 days reviewing the paper, and by the end I was very cranky. Maybe it's because I picked all the low hanging fruit first and left the meaty scientific issues for the end.
Tomorrow I think I'll play with data.

celebration (hopefully not premature)

My data loggers are on their way back to me via FedEx. Now we'll just have to see what they contain. I'm feeling good.

Friday, December 01, 2006

what a week!

This week has been a blur. Sunday's adventure and the resulting fallout occupied the first two days almost completely and parts of the rest of the week. I tried to finish up a review on Wednesday, but instead got tasked to review/fix an NSF proposal our group is submitting today. It was a complete mess and took me half of Wednesday and most of the day yesterday to help fix. And I've got a cold and my mom is visiting. Now I'm going to take the afternoon off and try to get some rest. So for any number of reasons, blogging has not been a priority this week. Hopefully next week will be better.

Teaser: For those of you who know my real name, if you do a google news search on it, you'll get to read about the adventure.