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Friday, February 29, 2008

Writing date review

The writing date only lasted 3 hours, but it took me 3 days to get around to blogging the update about it. Typical.

The best news? It was successful! We met, got caffeinated and started writing. Each of us wrote around 400 words on our projects. I think the key was the environment combined with the goal. That makes sense, it was there in the Chronicle article laid out for us. It is comfortable to write in your office or at home surrounded by books, papers, and other resources. Without those things, there is nothing left to do but write. To be perfectly honest, I didn't really enjoy the writing without all of those things. I like getting sidetracked and following a thought through a trail of 5 pdfs. But it worked and the old Scmiance paper grew and grew. I also got distracted by email for a few minutes but the furious typing by my friends quickly got me back on track. Strength in numbers!
We are going to do this regularly so it will be interesting to see if it becomes more comfortable and/or stays as productive. The only difference will be where we sit. The back corner, near the window seemed great but it was frickin freezing, Mr. Biglesworth.


Monday, February 25, 2008

The Morning Paper

I read an article in The Chronicle recently about setting writing dates. It really reminds me of all those suggestions trashy magazines have about how to ensure that you work out for your Best Beach Bod Ever! You know... you will feel guilty if you back out on a friend that you arranged to go to the gym with, but you will happily hit snooze and back out on yourself.
Well, I am tired of backing out on myself, not feeling productive when I write and want to be more supportive of my friends so we are trying it. Tomorrow morning at 8:30-ish, Sneks, Hamster_grrl and I are meeting at chain-cafe-with-excellent-orange-scones. We will have 3 hours of writing. No gossip, no email, no problems with calling each other out for sneaking into email or staring off into space. I sent off revised-manuscript-version-4 to my coauthor today so am free and clear for the next project, although there are still two in the running for my attention. Check back tomorrow to see how it went!


He's baaaa-aaaack

The cat came home from the vet hospital today*. First order of business was a bath. The Elizabethan collar has been on since Thursday. I swear he groomed for 3 hours! Then, there was a lot of sniffing and exploring of places he peed last week before curling up on his favorite perch (the back bedroom overlooking our little courtyard).
Surprisingly, the smaller cat didn't seem phased by his going away and if anything, is perturbed by his return. She enjoyed getting all of the attention. The dog (who the sickly cat smacks whenever he gets the chance) is the MOST excited about his return. Wagging the tail, bouncing around, he is happy to have the whole pack back together!

I am just relieved that this adventure in pet health emergencies is over. Also, that they didn't shave his butt. They do for the surgery we avoided so I wasn't sure if they would for his procedures. They shaved his arms and neck, for IVs and blood drawing, but no rear end. As funny as it would have been, it would have been too sad and pathetic to even be cute.

* No pics, camera battery failed.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

East Coast Women in Science

There will be a Women in Science and Engineering Conference on March 14th at Princeton. There are skill building sessions and panel discussions. Plus, it is free!

From the website:
The purpose of WISE is to create a forum where women in science and engineering can come together to discuss issues that they face in their respective fields, both as an underrepresented minority and as individuals.
We hope to provide information about the pros and cons of working in industry vs. academia as well as the pros and cons of choosing to go to graduate school or directly into industry. We will also discuss about how to manage the work-life balance, both in industry and academia as well as how one goes about making her career choices.


Friday, February 22, 2008

Cat hospitalization

This end of the cat causes problems.
Thursday night we had an emergency trip to the vet hospital and our cat will be there through the weekend. During the third round of antibiotics for some sort of urinary problem, he got much worse. He was blocked and unable to pass urine. This leads to a back up in the bladder the kidneys will basically stop functioning because they have nowhere to send all the toxins from the blood. All the toxins will add up in the blood and kill the cat.

Treatment includes sedation (risky in cats that are already having issues with blood concentrations), catheters* and possible surgery to widen the urethra. The worst part of all of this is that it is an emergency! They need a decision RIGHTNOW! Sign this paper and they whisk the poor cat away.

So far, they say he is doing well. He pulled the catheter out yesterday despite the lampshade collar he was wearing. The vet had to re-sedate him to put it back in. He was blocked for a while so his original unblocking was difficult but he is expected to fully recover and come home from the hospital early next week. A closely controlled diet should help manage the problem in the future. Hopefully we won't have to think about surgery (or think about the alternatives to the cat having surgery) until at least one of us makes more than our measly grad student salaries.

"Having a urinary catheter is even worse than having to wear a sweater."

* If I spell 'catheter' wrong, the first suggested spelling is 'cat hater.' Have cats taken over Blogger spellcheck??


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I've been waiting

One of the most frustrating aspects of my research life lately has been waiting for data. When I left the desert, I left a lot of samples for the lab tech there to run (the process of leaving the samples could be a post of its own!). These samples make up the most exciting, sexy parts of my dissertation. I was very confident that my work would get done quickly, with few problems. We agreed on a deadline of Jan 2008.
Well, equipment broke and then other equipment broke and then this and that and the other. Now, 6 months later, I am still waiting for data*. There seems to be an 'out of sight, out of mind' mentality about my samples despite my persistant calls, setting of deadlines and general bitchiness towards folks I like and don't enjoy being bitchy to. One one hand, I will end up doing it all myself when I return to the desert, which will decrease my guilt about having a tech do a portion of my dissertation benchwork. On the other hand, the analyses might not work. Which will leave me with very little time to change direction let alone come up with new experiments or, you know- do them.
So, how do I get my samples? My new strategy is to ask for only small number of the samples completed. I can figure out my analyses on a small scale before finishing the bulk of them myself. But I have to get the small number of samples still**. I will see the tech at a conference in April. The head of the desert lab is aware of the issue although has not resulted in much progress. My advisor has no relationship with the lab so can't help me. Besides calling frequently and emails I am not sure what else to do. Any suggestions?

*Not just waiting, of course. There was the teaching and I am getting data on other experiments and even other aspects of that experiment.
**I with they could just send them to me but it is impossible to get them at my home university.

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Sunday, February 17, 2008


Last year's realization of light at the end of the tunnel is nothing compared to this year's realization that by this time next year, I should be turning in chapters and thinking about defense dates. Last year there was elation and excitment, this year all we've got is paralyzing fear.

Faced with this knowledge of what is right around the corner, I started doing some prepping over the holiday break. Organizing files, trying to clear my life of old (but nice) data and clear my desk of side projects. This is going well. I sent revised-version-2 of my oldest not-yet-published paper to my advisor on Friday. He called me at 10am on Saturday morning with excitment about how it has progressed but also 1 more (difficult) change to the introduction. I wanted to submit this by the end of the month. It should get submitted on time, providing my quals-taking co-author gives it her stamp of approval...

There is soooo much more to be done to deal with the major, fear inducing year ahead of me though. I need to start making small changes now. To begin with, I need to re-prioritize what is on my to do list and re-evaluate how I spend my days. Last month, New Years didn't really inspire much resolute change for me. Perhaps I was just waiting for it to be the Last Year in order to get myself on the right track...

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Journal of Research

We are watching tv while putting together what might be the world's largest wedding album. EVER. There is a commercial on for 'Random Workout Thing.' RNT claims to work all the core muscles as new research shows that normal crunches only work 2 of these muscles.*
They cut to a picture** of this new reseach. If you look closely while they zoom in on "2 muscles" circled in red ink, the top of the page says "Journal of Research."

Maybe if it were Journal of Research in Sports Science or Physiological Muscle Groups or the Institute of Ab Work it would be better....but JUST Journal of Research? It all just seems very made up. I'm just sayin...

*I don't know if that is true. Don't really care- I have one of those excercise balls.
**Not an actual picture, a computer generated page.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Number 1 Mistake

We have been having a little search here for a new faculty member. There seems to be one major mistake that some candidates have made. It happened when talking about future directions for research. They got stumped...and it was their own fault. They had something included in slides that they did not understand and could not explain. We saw this problem as part of a result and part of a technique but every time it was a major red flag for those, otherwise excellent, candidates.

In my own subfield, collaberation is very common. Not everyone is an expert in everything despite our best efforts to produce integrative results. While I would always assume that you don't put something up on a slide without understanding it, I know see that it can easily be done (looking back I am sure I have done it with my statistics here or there. I'm still too scientfically young to have collaberated on anything neat enough that I didn't do it myself). Also, it is a big deal.

So. Note to self someday: Only include things in your job talk that you FULLY understand and can discuss in detail. Even if it isn't your specialty or is just a tiny detail on a figure.

*Sorry for any spelling mistakes, spell check in Blogger is being all sorts of funny...

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