Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New year – old year

I thought about writing a “what happened under 2008 recap” and looking at my blog posts etc… then I spoke to my family to wish Happy New Year (since the time difference makes it funny) and then we started talking about Gaza/Israel.

Did I mention I came from a political family? Did I mention we discuss things a lot. Did I mention we all have a temper? Anyway, in this we don’t feel too different but it kind of did upset me. And especially in light of the news that we can see on the telly and in the newspapers. And with “we” I mean both the people back home and me behind the borders of US. Sometimes it is more obvious than others that The Power to Control Media is the Power who Controls the world. (Yeah, not exactly rocket science nor am I the first one who says it. Still though, worth repeating.)

Then one can read the silly things in the Swedish media about “the most powerful people [in Sweden]” and then think about all these news that never see day light. (The guy who got arrested for drugs in the middle of the night club…. The movie/new papers/TV industry which is controlled by ONE major company …. The mindless right winged high school girl who is considered to be “the power factor” among people under 30 [let’s just say I am terrified that it might be true. People are sheep, indeed] … and other things that have left me quite speechless the last couple of days.

Anyhow, this was supposed to be a post about my “2008 memories”. I’ll make a brief list, in bullet points, about my 2008, or rather the things that have made a mark….

* Post doc – do be or not to be? For at least another year, I will be one.

* Life – in the end of the tunnel there is a shiny warm light with comfort and love! Do not doubt! It’s true. Have faith!

* Family – whenever you need them, they will be there (again)

* Friends – without them you are nothing, they will be there when you need them (again)

* The Pub – where everybody knows your name….. ;)

* The punching bag/the other people in the class – you will need those gloves and that jump rope
* When all else fails; a book, a bottle of wine and some leaf raking will do the trick. Promise. At least if you add on a few hugs.

* One of the top 5; the going away party that was the best thing ever! (ok, so I didn't leave.... no-one is sad so... be happy instead.)

* Another top 5; Love. (It's funny, when you least expect it... it pushes itself into your eyes and heart...)

For my 2009…. What do I wish for?
* Less doubt (about me, my work and all the other things)
* Less worry (by jolly yes, no more sleepness nights about the “uncertain future”. I am starting to realize that future = uncertain = life . Now I just have to remember and believe it.)
* Less food ( I had to, but at least less bad food….)
* More happy (yes…. Remember to laugh and be happy, to live life and see the happy in things and not worry to death)

I think I have made my point. And let’s hope that I can make these things work. Not because they are my resolution… but rather since I actually think I’d be better off if they happened. [maybe even people around me too… who knows?]

With that, I wish you all a very HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

..trying to forget work harder than I remember it. I have now not been to work for (ehh... never mind, it's like 30 hours which isn't really anything) let's go with a while and I know Monday is coming up.

So, what to do? Watch movies, TV series (eat a silly amound of Christmas food and chocolate) and go for a run (for at least 25 mins... wow...) . Excellent! (imagine Burns doing that in Simpsons, or who ever it is that rubs his hands together and hizzes out "excellent" - maybe one of my friends back home?). 

I can recommend nothing else, but I can state - if anyone thought it was a good plan - that watching The Shining when you are alone in a house and the rain and thunderstorm warnings are in effect, well that is just EXTREMELY STUPID. Lucky me I only kind of glanced at maybe 3 minutes.... or so.... car crash anyone? "Don't look" ... or those real ER shows with surgerys when you have finally made that nice dinner plate... haha, failure.
It's a much better plan to watch Family guy and round up with Aslan getting killed by the White Witch... not to mention a few back episodes of Eleventh hour (oh Rufus) and Leverage (new series, not sure that I am that crazed but it sure beats The Shining) to get into a Holiday mood, wouldn't you say?!

Best thing of the night? Realising exactly how scared I am of those HORRIBLE roaches one can find down here in the South. I'll give you the image. You are comfy in the comfy chair, bare feet and listening to the storm outside. Trees are knocking on your windows, rain is sloshing down hard and you have a nice cup of mulled wine in your hand. And this is the time when you see something LARGE crawl on the floor just on the left/front side (think 11 o'clock) or the comfy chair. Did I mention you are bare foot? And that you are waring a skirt? And that it is a huge orange glowing roach.... and you are in the middle of a storm.

Yeah, this bug* girl is not really a bug girl. I really wish I could stop being the saddest example of the scared screaming girl when there are bugs around but seriously.... I can't stand roaches. Nor earwigs for that matter. But roaches here are kind of ENORMOUS and just supersuperfast... (One reason I would never mind trying out for Fear Factor. "hey guys, here is the roach tank. You just have to get in there with a bikini on" or "you just have to eat these live earwigs" yeah. right. not. even. thinking about it. True examples though. crazy people.)

Well, lucky for me I could rush up, get my shiny shoes (with a solid sole) and the Raid (commercial warning). Yeah.... and that roach was toast. I refrained from stomping on it. (I still haven't decided if the thing I was taught earlier is correct or not - that squished roaches give away pheromones to their families and friends and bring more roaches to the 'corpse'. Any takers?! Urban legend?) Probable more cruel though, I stood and watched it fight and finally turn belly up and die after taken quite a swig of the Raid coqtail (yes, I squirted a lot of it on it. Sorry. No love lost for 2 inches long orange roaches inside of the house, rain hiding or not.) Then it was the hard thing of disposing of the body... I really need to work on that yuack factor but I truly almost shook when trying to grab that thing... 

And now I will try and refrain from thinking about all those things (work, roaches, The Shining) and go to bed so I can get my beauty sleep. Maybe an episode of Family guy will help?

nighty night all. Hope you have a great Xmas holiday. (and soon a Happy New Year... sooon)

*In my old lab my prof always talked about "the bugs" when we discussed the bacteria.... it also makes it easier to laugh about "bugger the bugs" when the bacteria failed to grow on time. Easily amused, that would be me and him - yes.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas stress

So, my brain has (un)officially taken a break. I am suppose to work this week, apart from Thursday and coming in a short short while on Friday but my brain has already checked out (for the Christmas holiday!). I am staring at my notes “to do this week” and I feel like I just want to go home, like the rest of the people I know who have been off at least since Friday….

I’m not really whining, I chose this, I know. I am merely stating that it is a problem when you are supposed to work; actually trouble shoot two things and then clone a third thing, that your brain wanders off and isn’t focused on the task at hand.

What’s on my brain? Oh let’s see…..
* How to make Southern dressing…. (corn bread, chicken and celery. How hard can it really be?!)
* Cook a turkey (what temperature, which size, what kind of thing to you need… How hard can it really be?!)
* Do I really need a ham [for my own tradition] and in that case, where can I find one that is smaller than 12 pounds….
* Christmas presents, need wrapping, Do I really need to wrap Santa’s gifts to me? Maybe I should just never mind the whole present idea and leave it to be “a new Christmas with no presents and not too many expectations at all” (good luck with that.)
* Should I try and plan a trip to Church on Christams eve or Christmas morning? (I’d prefer morning, the trip at evening time messes up everything else, but all people I know are there on the Eve…. And really, is it that important?!)
* Calling people from home and wishing them Merry Christmas. (When? How? Why?)
* Should I send thos christmas presents I have bought but not really sent yet, and now there is now chance ever they will make it on time? (or just leave it til I go home and maybe even not give them then?)

But the main thing today is to stop the brain from going into repeat mode of “this was not really what I thought it was going to be and why isn’t it like I thought it would be and how can I make it what I [thought I] wanted it to be”. Complete waste of my time since there is nothing, absolutely nothing, I can do about this. It is what it is and more than half of it is the pressure from “people around who are asking a lot of inconsiderate questions or telling statements*”. I know, it is in them rather than in me but I am such a good internalizer that I start fretting and thinking I should do the same thing they do. The same thing they want. Funny that my Myer-Briggs doesn’t show that though… not really anyway. My work persona is slightly different from the Piglet-inspired-like Eeyore who dwells in the middle of me.

And by the way, who cares what other people think anyway?!?** Or if you get any Christmas cards or phone calls? And before you tell me, I know this is pity party and that of all the times in the world, Christmas week is not the time to ask things of other people (friends and family) but seriously, it is hard not to when it is so obvious being so far away from the lot of them and all by choice …. Let’s talk about that another day. The beating my body takes from my brain for “choosing to move and make things complicated”.

For now, I’ll focus on the cloning issues that I really need to resolve (Wake up Brain and smell the coffee) and of course, how much food do I really need to buy and can I make the dressing the same day (most likely yes) and the cookies I can bake tonight or tomorrow…. And the meat balls will be done on the 24th, since I need to find bread crumbs somewhere in some store around where I live. Seriously, it shouldn’t be as hard as it’s been so far.

With this lovely and seasonal stressful blog post I wish you all a Merry Christmas :). And don’t forget; it’s not about who has the most clean/decorated/fancy house or the most expensive presents, it’s about love and family and friends …. And all the other people in the world.

* One small example "Oh, it must be so hard for you not to be with your family for Christmas. You must miss them very much". well.... let's just go with "duh". Key thing for me the last couple of weeks have been to think, when these things are said to me, "this is in their heart, their deepest fear". I don't know if that is the "correct" way of dealing with it, but it has helped with some of the worst comments...

**if you can’t see Irony, I’ll let you know it is there. Dripping of this sentence like a pig on top of a fire pit. Huge amount of grease…

a little update on the pity party. This entered my mind; "It's only after you've lost everything that you're free to do anything." I guess that would make it a bit easier?! But I don't really agree since it is very exclusive and you would have to have no relationships at all. And wasn't my whoel, whining about the "people around me" and "the ones I love"? Ah well, it's cloning time. Extra points if you can identify the movie.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

confusion and insecurity

If you want to be confused in Christmas times, why not try and solve some questions you have regarding your student loan…. Or try to understand why in its infinite wisdom when all other interest rates in the world are dropping, the Swedish interest rate for the student loans is increased….

Then again, let's not. I am very tempted to once more adhere to one [of many] advice that I received prior to leaving my loving country to go on this post doc. What kind of advice? Very simple, when I called and asked about some rules and “what am I supposed to do when I am now moving across the world on this very temporary visa etc?”.

The answer, from the Social security equivalent (Försäkringskassan) as well as the Unemployments department (Arbetsförmedlingen) and the Union for PhDstudents in natural sciences (Naturvetarförbundet) was, from all three places, “Don’t make any changes now since we don’t know what will happen when you come back. Just continue to pay what you pay and we will see what happens*”.

And, more importantly for me who always have been a very good girl and made the descisions like you are supposed to, “Do not tell the governemt more than what they need to know”. In other words, when I asked what to do the anser was; “don’t tell them you are moving out of the country until they ask you”.

Huh? So, now when I approach the magical “2 years out of the country” and my student loans are going to be recounted for pay back it is with a bit of a dread I am waiting for the letter this January. (The pay back is recounted every year based on my income two years ago…. Since I am old and only have “middle old loans”) Why? You see, if you live abroad you have two choices, either pay 5% of the loan or ask to pay 4% of your income in the foreign country. In my case these amounts are almost identical so the easiest way is by far to pay 5% of my loan. My problem? That I never “moved out of my country” official (since people told me three times not to make any difficult changes since it is harder to move back afterwards**) so I am assuming right now that it will be a bit of an problem?!

Of course, this was one of the questions that I asked at the time and got the reply “Don’t do anything prior to the fact. Wait for the governmental part to react and then solve it. It is hard to change it before the issue has been brought to our attention”. Personally, I find this approach very silly and strange. Not to mention very stressful (did I mention that I hate to do “wrong things” or mistakes?)

Anyway, I guess one of my stops on my way home this spring will be to visit (or maybe call but that will take ages on the phone) the agency and ask what on earth I shall do. I will of course then already have gotten the magical letter telling me how much I owe. And yes, no matter what that letter will be I am very tempted to pay in the full amount to start with and be done with it. Why? Because I am still paying off it and I will be rid of the whole thing by the time I am 65 years old…. See, one of the good things that happened with the “middle loan” is that it was a set time limit on when to stop making payments, never mind if it is paid off or not. Then again, maybe they will change that too…. In the state of “interest for the country” or something completely random?!

So, the person who hates insecurity more than I can explain, i.e. me, is going to have to wait until end of January to be able to solve all this…. And then probably wait some more. And trust me, someone will find a way to make this my fault I am sure. (Did I mention that I have been dealing with my own Governmental departments before and that it is a hassle… and you need to have a lot of patience…. And not try to be efficient since that never ever works.

Right, I guess the only thing that I can be happy about is that how ever I calculate I always end up with owing less money than I have in my special bank account back home for “paying off student loans in 2009 and 2010” which should mean I am in the good zone. Or, maybe I am just not good at math?!?!?!

Then when I get back I will try not to think too much about the things that happened with the tax return last year when someone deducted too little for the foreign post docs from Northern Europe which led to a back tax of more than 1000 dollars for certain people.... this year I have been kind of promised that it won't happen again. Let's just hope, shall we? (I have recounted but I am not that familiar with the US tax system so I can trust that it is really right.... but the other person responsible has also checked so I should be good. Should being the operative word here. I'm hoping.)

* I am, due to personal reasons, thinking about giving this up though. The only thing that keeps me paying is the fact that I know exactly how hard it is to get access once you are out. It is more than working full time for 6 months in order to go back into the system but if you are already in there you can still access things like…. “a special looking for employment place” and other “networking sites”. I don’t know though… there is a price… but at this moment I have already given them so much money that it would be a complete waste of not continuing I guess?! It’s hard in any event. I’m trying not to burn bridges, that’s all.

**the very fun part in all of this is that at the moment I have a right to stay in the States for exactly 30 days after my contract is up. I have a right to move back to my country, although I have no right to social security or really any planned medical/surgical treatments for a year [due to all the people who move away and not pay taxes but then when diagnosed with cancer/other expensive illness move back and want treatment] and no right to maternity leave. All this will be ok after a year of work…. Or maybe a year of residency if I am looking for a base line… I guess the funniest thing was when one of the people I talked to explained to me that since I didn’t own any property in my old country I could be denied to come back! I told them that that sounded very, very, very strange since I am still a citizen of my old country and we always have right of residency. That’s when they told me the whole “no right of anything else though”….

It is best to never leave, even if it means social security/unemployment than trying to survive on your own. Let’s just say that I am still a bit iffy about the last part…..

Monday, December 15, 2008

All work and no play…

I woke up and couldn’t sleep last night between 3.30 am and 6 am…. Ironically, since I really need to sleep these days. I have been working a bit too much lately, and strange hours, which makes me a dull girl/woman/scientist. (pick the word that fits the best.)

My mind was reeling into what I used to call “over drive”. And at the fun hour like that?! Isn’t that just great?! Now, what I refer to as “over drive” means “the hope and dream that I could plan my whole life and feel safe and have it all planned out and how would I plan the rest and what will happen in four years and where will I go and what do I see and how can I make that…. [ad infinitum]”. Well, somehow I wonder why I haven’t learned the idea that planning isn’t really the key to it all… and the future can’t really be planned and safe and all those other things I was contemplating last night.

Trust me, I should’ve gotten the memo real well. (Or is it ‘good’? I always seem to have a problem with when to use well and when to use good.)

Anyhow, I digress – I lay in bed trying to tell my brain to SHUT UP and let me enjoy the sleep and the dreams and when I finally fell back asleep, yes an hour before the alarm woke me again, I ended up with a nightmare. (Partly about getting my wallet stolen with my credit cards and pass port and phone and could I remember someone’s phone number with out the phone…and did I really exist since I couldn’t prove my identity without any of the cards… or a quarter for the phone… etc. The whole thing was an evil dreamabout stranding me in the middle of a department store packed with [selfish] Christmas gift shoppers and nowhere else to go…. See something I might not have done yet? Christmas shopping.)

Absolutely lovely. And don’t you just love when your subconscious is repeating things to you when you sleep, and when you know that you have ‘forgotten’ about it?!!? Due to this nightly endeavour, I am now trying – for the third time today - to make sense of the sets of data assembled during these 13 days of constant working. Let’s just say that I have tried and tried again to divide them into the correct groups so I can make survival and weight loss curves and draw some conclusions…. And let’s say again that I can’t seem to get them right.

And what I need to do is to make sense of that as well as running a bunch of gels and go back into cloning mode… you know, things that take kind of long time since you need to understand where you left off and did that sequencing come back?

I also realize that I am whining and not really making a good blog post either. All work and no play makes me…..cranky. (at least I am not crazy like Jack yet. More tired and sad and did I mention cranky?)

I’ll just try and make something the next 90 mins before I will leave and come back tomorrow and make the nice graphs and show my PI.

Plus, I hope I can sleep tonight. If nothing else I am sorely tempted to try and have a drink and see if that helps….. which probably is a really stupid plan but if my mind could stop shifting into ”Future, what will happen in the future? What do you want to do when you’re done with your post doc?” and stay in the NOW….. I would be a happy person. And a less tired one as well. Today I think I have found a good correlation… tired = cranky.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

4 hours = loosing 5 lbs

So last weekend, the weekend prior to a very intense experimental period that rendered my PI to tell me “that’s an awful lot of experiments in a short time you are cramming in there”*, I spent the night between Friday and Saturday in my bathroom looming over the sink and the ‘white friend’. When I was finally crawling back into bed I noticed two things; first - my stomach muscles were achy from being intensly used for the long time and second I was really going through my head what kind of microbe that could be causing my distress.

After spending a few hours trying to ignore the Thirst, (if I was a vampire I would now understand the idea of Thirst…) since my stomach did not agree with the rest of my body that I actually could benefit from drinking even just a little tiny bit of fluids, I came up with my three potential culprits. The only thing that did not make sense was the incubation time. Oh, and since I had spent the whole of Friday cooking lunches and dinners for “the intense experimental period” I wanted to know if that was contaminated and I had threw away 5 hours of cooking…

My potential culprits were; Staphylococcus aureus, Campylobacter and Salmonella (as we will see I think the perpetrator was something completely different and not food related). All three of these are nasty when in food… and all three include the symptoms of nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping, diarrhea to a certain extent.

Staph was the one I liked the most since the toxin renders a rapid illness with fast loss of water/fluids and ‘attack vomiting’. It is also over once the intestines and stomach are ‘cleansed’ of the toxin since that is the source of illness. Campylobacter is a bit nastier (imho) since the bacteria adheres to the intestine wall and grows there, making it a prolonged infection. And Salmonella is also alive within you when it causes disease and can, in bad cases, be transported into the blood stream… Both the latter are commonly found within bird intestine and most poultry meat has campylobacter on it according to CDC. Since this was last weekend, the Turkey Eating Festivity, I thought about the birds and shuddered.

My fears got bigger when I realized that I had fever (another symptom not that common with Staph toxin) so I was starting to envision the worst scenario; the bloody stool samples that would make it a more definite campo/salmonella infection. Both things I dread and hate, not the least because I have too good knowledge about potential side effects of both the infections, not to mention that they would render me in bed for at least 6 days which would interfere with my experiment!

After receiving word that not all the people at Thanksgiving dinner were sick I started to feel a bit more nervous about my own cooking, I have yet to be sick from my own cooking. Maybe because I am franticly washing the cut board with HOT water and dish soap after having fresh chicken on there? Lucky for me I’d had a ‘taster’ of all the food (exception of the veggie soup) and since that person was healthy and happy I ruled out that too.

I was left with what? A baby. Yes, the sad truth was that the common denominator between the people who had gotten sick at the party was that we were all “outsiders” who did not live with the cute 18 month old baby who had crawled around and been smiling and drooling everywhere. (I guess it didn’t help that I had had her in my lap for a while singing silly things?!) Looking through the “common diseases from babies” I realized that it would must likely be a virus, duh. Maybe it was a rotavirus, maybe a calicivirus/Norwalk virus that some of the other family members would be less susceptible to (or already been sick earlier on). The good thing with those kind of viruses are that they tend to clear the body quite rapidly. The bad thing, apart from being unable to actually do anything but wait for them to clear, is that they are extremely contagious.*

I still was a bit hesitant about the whole thing (did I mention that I was going to have an intense experimental period and wanted this weekend to rest and be happy…..) and kept feeling my back pain as a sign of Campylobacter (I must have said a thousand times “what if I get Guillain-Barré syndrome?” or maybe “this will lead to early on arthritis”) and dreaded the trips to the toilet in case the bloody diarrhea would make an appearance. I don’t think of myself as a hypochondriac but I do acknowledge that the “potential effects” is what makes me nervous so not knowing what it was made me thinking of all potential horrible things that could happen later on.

After fighting going to bed for too long I finally caved in, taking a few ibuprofen for the fever (“Staph don’t normally give fever, what if I am sick until next Wednesday? Who’s going to look after my experiment?!”). I slept like a dead person. I woke up 13 hours later completely fine. No fever, no back ache, no nausea, no nothing. I didn’t really eat much food during the next couple of days but focused on bringing back fluids to my body, but overall I was fine after the hibernation in bed.

I feel so ashamed to be reduced to a whimpering youngster but stomach issues are one of the few things that really make me helpless…. and since I was now well I could start my 15 days long experimental period on time. And maybe more importantly, all the food that I cooked that Friday was good to eat, I’ve enjoyed it during the week! And I am truly Thankful that it wasn’t anything worse than this.

*the only thing that might hamper the diagnosis is that calicivirus is usually as contagious that all people sharing a place will get sick if one person gets sick. Then again, not sharing a bath room helps tremendously. Or use bleach/cleaning products extensively. And repeated washing of hands, refraining of touching or breathing directly at people (read; lay isolated in your bed and don’t expect visitors) helps too. Most importantly though, no fingers in mouth or nose and always, always wash your hands after being to the bathroom. ;)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

All these networking sites…

I wonder, after looking at Nature network, Facebook, BioMedExperts and Linkedin, if all these networking sites really work? Do people find new “connections”? Do they get a job easier? Or is it just more of a “virtual friendship thingy”? You know, like having 10 pairs of pants in the closet although you only really use four of them. Two are too small, one pair is falling apart and three of them are actually too big nowadays!?! But would you throw them away? No, “you never know” and it feels safer to have them there. Like you feel that you have a lot of clothes, albeit never use them. Like having a bunch of ‘connections’ although you wouldn’t tell many of them your inner thoughts.

When I started using Facebook (later than others, earlier than some) I was struck by the whole “should I add X as a friend?” dilemma. Should I accept anyone who asked for being my friend? (The more friends you have, the more popular you are.) Or should I only accept people who I really know and care about? (Hello, you only have maximum 15 friends?) I ended up somewhere in between. I accepted old high school people, who asked me. And then got surprised when they didn’t say a word, even after 10 months. Why add me then?!, I thought.

I have kept the number of “fun party pictures of me being very drunk” to a minimum. (Mostly this is easy since I tend not to turn up on party photos.) And the few party photos you can see me at, I’m not [that] drunk at (nor good looking). So, I think Facebook is fairly safe for “people at companies that I would like to work at” but I view FB as a social interaction, not primarily a “networking in order to get a job”.

Linkedin is a bit different. More professional (less funny applications) and just data and almost like having a CV posted with some more freedom to add and take some stuff out. I did get an email a few months back from a head hunter who found me on Linkedin… but it didn’t lead anywhere but at the time it got me happy since that was the first time a headhunter had let me know that I had an interesting and good CV. It also gave me some new thoughts on what I should present on Linkedin and what to write as “goals” and “achievements”.

BioMedExperts leads me to think “wow, I have few papers” and “wow, I have a paper with BigWig who has published 145 papers”. I don’t really know what to do with it, but now I am there so it seems like I can just see what happens in the future. I know that you are suppose to be able to write emails and interact with other people in your field, but I am so terribly shy sometimes so that won’t happen…. At least not until February when my first author paper from my post doc is supposed to be published (as if it would lead to a major difference?). Then I might get a bit better profile than now… you know, all those different bars that show how much of an expert you are in different fields?!

And then it’s Nature Network. I like NN a lot. I mostly like the idea of reading people’s blogs and the forums where you can find different articles and new science etc. sometimes I fall into the whole “I want to live in London/Boston so I could meet all these people”. Sometimes I’m just envious that some of them write really eloquent blog posts. And sometimes I’m just happy that I can write some small comments back and have a break in my experiments during the day. I am not sure that I dare use it as a “Hi, I saw your profile on NN and was wondering if you might have an idea about this that I am working on since I am working on an closely related research” (But my, I have been tempted big time. And maybe even asking “can I come by next time I am in town and have a coffee?”.)

Where am I going with all this?! Well, mainly it feels like a bit of a strange thing, this with all these networks… (one of the reasons I haven’t jumped into Second Life or twitter or something similar.) I am friends/contacts/connection to a number of people on each place. They aren’t the same, although the different circles overlap and I am a bit curious to see what kind of Venn diagram I would get out of it. Especially since NN and BiomedExp are mainly scientists; Linkedin has a bit wider net and Facebook the widest one, for me at least. I still wonder if the connections on Linkedin will help in the future – “hey, I saw that you know X – who’s a good friend of mine – and I am looking for a job in your sector. Would you be willing to meet up with me?!”

I guess I should remember what happened earlier this year when I did exactly this to a good friend of mine. He is older, more established, than I am in a sector adjacent to me. I looked through his connections, found three interesting names (working at places where I kind of wanted to work). Ponied up and emailed my friend, asking if he would mind talking to his friends about best way to approach the job market in their companies. Slam dunk. Not only was he happy to talk to his friends, he was happy to help me by giving them my CV and telling them how wonderful I am… and then I contacted them and got more info from them about “how to approach their bosses/HR”.

Well, I didn’t get a job [yet] in their companies. It was more the fact that they couldn’t hire people than that I wasn’t interesting to them (not to mention the fact that I was on the other side of the planet and didn’t have a fixed date when I was coming back…). At least that is what they told me, and considering that they emailed me suggestions and other people to contact about jobs, I believe them.

Which leads me to my final paragraph. I know/knew my friend very well so I didn’t have that much of a problem asking him, but how close do you have to be in order to ask? I have heard, so many times that I would be a millionaire if I’ve gotten a cent for each time, “just call them up and ask for 5 minutes of their time”. I don’t know about you, but for me that is soooo scary and also a bit pushy. I am currently looking at some companies where I think I would like to work and am therefore trying to understand how on earth I will get my foot in the door. To be fair, all the people that I have met/interviewed with/talked on the telephone after meeting them have given me very good feedback and letting me know that I am an interesting person who they want to keep an eye out for. But how do I get there? (To the personal meeting.) Especially since all the companies keep their employer list securely hidden behind the doors of HR and if there is one thing I don’t believe it’s the “Application letter to pass through HR” and I can’t really call the switch board and say “let me talk to the person in charge of X”, can I?!

And I know some of the names since I have done the search on Linkedin and found a few names of people working at some companies here in the city where I would like to work. The only question I guess, is how much guts to I have?! Or would it be very strange and pushy and rather not an interesting person at all who called/emailed?!

With that question and ponderings I leave to go out and make the best of an ELISA on my bench…..

Monday, November 24, 2008

PM's wife or President's wife - and careers

The New York Times about Cherie Blair's comment to Michelle Obama and her new life as the First Lady. And they state “Her European counterpart have taken a different route…” pointing to Cherie Blair and Carla Sarkozy*.

Well, the president’s wife is not the same as the pm’s wife. Not really. The head of state is the Queen…. Not the PM. But sure, we could argue that for a second. Cherie Blair worked as a lawyer when her husband was PM. They also had a number of kids. And it wasn’t as strange that she worked while having kids.

Here in America, it is not as common to work and have kids. One kid maybe, but not several.

And I challenge anyone to see that the main problem with Michelle Obama “putting her career on hold while Barack, her husband, is President” is that they can not shift back afterwards since the kids will have grown up so there will be another issue.

It’s like in Sweden, when the four parties in Government chose their four people to work together. Of course all of them were men. The second person in each party (!) was a woman, but see that didn’t really help now when the four first people were to get together….

It is the same thing with this. It doesn’t matter if Mrs Obama chooses to stay at home while her husband is working as a president (I find it fairly reasonable to be honest, for the kids at least). The problem is that there aren’t exactly that many women who get to make her husband’s choice… or husbands to make her choice.

I though about a similar thing last week, after being cornered with four older women who were all talking about loosing weight and becoming “rejuvenated” and since I was not only the youngest but also clearly the heaviest, I sat quiet and listened. Afterwards I realized a sad thing, I don’t think their main problem of finding a husband (as two of them really want to) is their weight. Nor their age. No, there was something much more disconcerting that entered my mind – something fueled by one of those Swedish investigations in Swedish… “Highly educated women have a harder time finding a significant other”. You can exchange highly educated women with “high income women” or “high performance women”, it still holds ‘true’ to the polls. The richer you are as a women, the more successful, the harder to find a man for you. For men it is reversed….

Why? Well, something to do with ‘the statement that men want to feel in charge’/in power? And that women want to feel taken care of? I don’t know, but in general and with society today, I think it is a valid point. (Or maybe not valid but something that rings true and accurately describes influences today.)

The funny part may be that I have a bunch of men around of me who state “I wouldn’t mind being a stay at home man/dad”. When it comes to reality though, I am not sure they would really do it. Why? As some of those men, who said all those things and then the children came and they had an option to stay at home and be the “stay at home dad”…. And it didn’t happen as much, partly since it was really hard work and “I need to feel needed at work”, partly because they realized that it was nice to earn money on your own and not live of your wife.

That said I know that I wouldn’t like being a stay at home mother. Or a “kept woman”. I like earning my own money, feeling that some of these are mine and I can decide on my own what to do with them. I guess I might be a bit paranoid about being left without any money, 401Ks or things? Or maybe I just like making my own job and being outside of the house?

And since I am not yet as old as the women I sat next to last week I might be able to make it work? (It would probably help if I lost some weight and kept the wrinkles away from my face.) And the other main difference between us was that even if I had the highest degree, i.e. being the highest educated woman around the table, I probably was the least earning one…. With my meager post doc salary it is not too much to guess since they were all lawyers/CEOs/managers or like that.

Ah well, I’ll get back to thinking about Michelle Obama and really hope that she gets a good job when she gets out of the White house. And that it is interesting that Hillary was the first First Lady who had a career prior to entering the White house. Maybe that can make us all realize exactly how few years things have been a “reality” and why it is needed not to stop working for “everyone can make an individual choice but it is not individual until it is really a choice”.

This woman will now reenter the lab and try to make yet another experiment, which will bring her closer to that coveted “getting out of post doc card” ;)

*I left Carla Sarkozy out of this mainly because she/they don't have children and are recently married... most 'problems' arrive when the children arrive. That is when the idea of "someone being h0ome with your offsrping" is a crucial one. For obvious reasons.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Another anniversary

So, maybe most important for me as a European – 11 November 1918 – 90 years ago was the Armistice (of Germany or Compiègne) of the First World War. By some called The War. And by some called “the start of it all”….

In my book, The war with the ending in the influenza pandemic – The Spanish Flu, the start of the time when more than 60 million people of the population of Europe died within 5 years. (Estimate 50 millions during the Spanish flu 1918-1919and 16 millions in the war 1914-1918… and add on the people in Russia during their Freedom war and the Finnish liberation….) Like the plague in the Dark Ages, but different. One major factor that the pandemic hit so hard was the war. The war had left people very fragile and susceptible for infections. And of course, we did not have the antibiotics* yet.

And the times directly following this was the “happy 20ies”, at least in the Allied countries. The situation a bit different in Germany, that gave away most of its assets as it was “the main cause of the war” according to the Versailles treaty, and in all of them when the 1929 hit low bottom.

My country was starting the urbanization at this time. We might not have been active part in the First World War but we had our own small revolution in 1914 with “the Courtyard Crisis” [Borggårdstalet] where our King made the last intervention in Parliamentary politics. (He is still Head of State, but can not interfere in politics….) and we had some people dying in the pandemic, although we weren’t part of the war.

I am digressing. What I wanted to remember, apart from the appalling images of the trenches and the staggering number of [young] men dying, is that in the aftermath of it all, something very important happened. Important to the point that Europe stood before a new world war within 20 years from the ending of the old, the countries were not only suffering from a financial crisis and economic harsh time but also lacking in people and having a tough time with hope**.

And at the moment we are waiting for a pandemic (it is overdue, should have been here a few years back), some countries (like the US and UK) have been fighting in wars that have put a toll on both economies as well as people, the financial crisis (I don’t really have to explain that one) and the decreasing amount of antibiotics working against our most common bacteria to cause lethal diseases… a dystopian cocktail. And on top of that, a hefty dose of scapegoats, or Boogey men, to throw into the mix.

I think it might be the best to happen if we learned from our past, the history, and really tried not to repeat the same sad mistakes again.

Then I remember the folly of it, since I am a scientist who do actually repeat the same thing over and over again and do sometimes see a different result. That of course, is what we in science call, things that happen that we can not explain. I do not think that it is wise to apply it to the outside world and expect the same result. So far history has shown me that repeating mistakes only leads to even bigger mistakes in the long run.

With that I will go back to trying to understand why the experiment I repeated did not give the same results as expected….

*It is important to remember though, that even in this day and age – with antibiotics and all the treatments available in the world – the mortality during influenza seasons and complications like secondary pneumonia is still fairly high. And add on top of that, the antibiotic resistance spreading and we might not be so convinced that we are in good hands the next time the pandemic influenza comes around.

**I don’t necessary think that the President Elect will make all the promises he made, nor that he can but the idea of making people believe in themselves, in their country and the future – that might not be a bad thing at all. Hope instead of Fear. Not a bad thing…

Sunday, November 09, 2008

problems with mac.

if anyone knows how I can copy and paste text from Pages into Blogger.... I'd be extatic.

As of now, I can only write directly into this window but not copy and paste from another source on my Imac. Annoying is just the first name. THe text I past end up "underneath" this post window and there it disappears. Very strange.

Anyone know how to do this? 

Friday, October 24, 2008

bragging rights and the serious talk

It’s going to be a quick thing here. I thought I would be more efficient at work today but it has been brewing for awhile and I have failed to write.

I have bragging rights!! For the second week in a row!!! Over here !
Thanks Cath!! I at least say something fun to someone. (end self depreciation)

And that brings me to the second thing. Since we are a team of hockey interested scientists [Scienctistmother, Okham and Cath] funny enough we all seem to be Canadian (apart from me, who isn’t a real Canadian) and maybe one who is in the works of becoming a little more Canadian, we have been exchanging words over the last couple of weeks (months? years?)

Anyhow, I have received a bunch of scorn from some since my heart is given to the Maple Leafs. They haven’t done a terrific job so far, but I have been a loyal fan for a number of years so I have trouble quitting now… although the t-shirt has not been worn for awhile, more about that further down.

Granted, I am not “one team girl”. (If you find this disturbing, well go with the analogy of children. You can have several and you love them all equal, or so they all claim… you get the picture. If that doesn’t work for you, well – then I am a sort of small cheating or at least ‘spicing it up” woman. Deal with it.) In fact I have another two teams in my heart since the first crush established itself like 17 years ago. The Canucks are there, after I lived in the city and breathed the air and skied the hills and rode my bike on the other hills…. How could I not be infatuated?!

And then, as of this last year the only US team I think we be possible; the Red Wings. Why? Well, the team is practicly Swedish – wouldn’t you agree? ;) (I will forget that little short desperate fix I needed to have when I got my only hockey game IRL so far in the South, but one does not talk about personal indiscretions so let’s leave that.)

So, with this all should be fine? Right?! I have one major team, and two on the side. One in the East, one in the West and one in the US. All should be fine and dandy. One thinks.

The problem? Well, I would say that the last couple of weeks I have turned into a fan of signs. Like, if you are interested in hockey why don’t you wear a sign of that team on your lapel so I can know that we… well, let’s say, won’t match!?!

Otherwise it can happen that you find, in the middle of an otherwise lovely conversation, that the other person happens to be an old fan of the… Frogs… one of the “other old teams who started the Cup”… the really “we don’t like anything from Toronto so why don’t you crawl back under that rock” (right back at you!*) “well, we’ve won the Cup more times and by the way** when was the last time you won?***

And if the conversation happen to take place during the first meeting between Maple Leafs and The Canadiens (which the Leafs lost with like 1-6) you quickly realize that there will be no repetition of this during the hockey year. Well, not unless you want to have a very sulky person who someone else is prodding and fails to realize exactly how bad mood one can get into. (I am just saying that mocking the loosing team is not, I repeat, not a _safe_ thing to do if you want to still be on the plus side…which for some would be breathing... others be able to eat proper food. I'd better stop now before it turns PG13-rated.)

So, I have six evenings for sure this coming year that I know who I won’t be spending them with. I know that the taunting will end in blood shed, or at least very bruised egos and maybe a remote thrown through the TV. (And that would be a shame since it is such a nice TV.) By the way, no one ever said you had to agree did they? And no one ever said that it was ok to goad or taunt without repercussions, right?

With that note I will leave to do all the things that I have procrastinated about. And dream about three weekends from now when the Talks are over and I am gone from the city and work for a whopping five days!! Schheezz… I can hardly wait. And then I can start planning the vacation home trip in January/Feb/whenever it will be.

*I kind of found the architecture of the city intriguing… but now we were talking about hockey. And that’s serious.
**well, duh. Are we really going to measure it that way? Really?
*** I know. Awhile back.. .like… ehh… 1967? But this is what I mean, you stick with your team anyway. Because they are, your team.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

that meme about 6 things/quirks

Since Cath was so kind to tag indirectly ;) and I am procrastinating a presentation and somewhat big lab book entry.

1. I hum to myself – mostly when I am concentrating and doing things like pipetting/the dishes or just reading in general. [These things would make me one of the typical people that Ford Prefect talks about in THHGTTG – “people talk so their brain knows they are still alive”] I have also been known to have a tip of my tongue out the side of my mouth when I am focusing on something specifically hard.

2. I blurt out questions at random some times, without explaining my line of thoughts or even warning that I have a question. This can be a bit embarrassing at times, since people don’t see how I got to that question or how on earth did I think of that?! And some would even compare me to the three year old with “how does that work?” and “Why do people do those things?”.

3. I have a certain thing for “sappy movies with no real story” (think Lifetime Movie Network and Lifetime etc). There is something with those college movies and the “look like normal people” thing and some love on the side. Instead of reading Nora Roberts, one can now see like a thousand of the movies. I nearly ended up as a stable/horse girl on a ranch in Montana after one “Nora Roberts marathon weekend” on Lifetime last spring :)

4. I check doors/lights/stove before I leave the house… and the gas in the lab before locking the doors at night. _if_ something were to happen…

5. I love playing strategy boardgames, especially Risk and Britannia that have a secure place in my heart. Nowadays though, it’s mainly Diplomacy online that lures me into the deep trenches… it is easier to play online when you are on the other side of the planet from your former game friends.

6. I can not shower with the bath room door closed if I am alone in the apartment/house since I am too scared that someone will sneak up on me. That also means that the shower curtain will never be completely closed, and that I will see the door way from where I am. Oh, and I never leave the shower curtain completely closed when no one is in the bath/shower either. Surely you have seen “the Shining”?

I don’t like force tagging people… and “random people” wouldn’t be random if they all were people I read blogs from so… following the example; any blogger who reads this who has cats!

Monday, September 15, 2008

In Swedish

About this “feminism” and [some of] the conservative women and their views regarding Aplin, motherhood and children. But most of all about why I don't understand how a whole column about "the bad about the leftish women bashing Palin" can turn out to be bashing the leftish women, when the whole point and main argument in the column is "why women need to not bash other women". Hallå?!

And if I get the energy to translate it all to English I will but now I have to write something in Swedish since I will go absolutely crazy if I don’t comment this in the Swedish newspaper Svenska dagbladet.

”Därför är framgångsrika högerkvinnan Palin från arbetarklassen så provocerande. Hon visar att det feministiska vänsterprojektet inte behövs för att hjälpa kvinnor att bli jämställda. Kvinnor kan erövra makten alldeles av sig själva. En hockeymamma från landet, som aldrig gått på genuskurs och aldrig hört talas om Underordningen kan ta sig fram i maktens korridorer. With a little help from family and friends. I USA är sådant fullt möjligt. Där lämnas människorna i fred i sina hem, byar, småstäder och del- stater, skyddade av konstitutionen mot statens klåfingrighet. Jämställdhetsministrar och genuspedagoger lyser med sin frånvaro. Ändå är USA världsledande på kvinnor med makt i samhället. Sådant svider i skinnet på genus-Sverige. Därför ska Palin fulas ut. Annars kan ju svenska hockeymammor få för sig att de kan bli något, av egen kraft. Och en framtida svensk Sarah Palin kan få för sig att lägga ner alla onödiga och dyra genusprojekt.”

Allvarligt talat, vad i hela friden babblar Fru Claesson om? Eler ja, det vet jag ju men jag kan säga så här; Sverige behöver fler kvinnor som arbetar som inte tar ut 13 månaders mammaledighet själva och lämnar männen åt jobbet. Däremot är det en lögn att det är så himla bra i USA med mammor. Det är sant att det finns fler kvinnor i näringslivet och inom företagen. Det är däremot inte så att dessa kvinnor har tid med sina barn. (Och senast jag läste Fru Claesson sa hon tydligt att ”barnen behöver sina mammor” så i all ärlighet måste man nog kräva viss KONSEKVENSANALYS av debattören.)

Och att säga att USA är jämställt (min fetstil i citatet) är att vara sjukt vindögd och naivt lurad. Eller i och för sig, man kan ju definiera om jämställd förstås. Går det med demokrati kan det väl gå med jämställdhet också. Och så får man jättegärna ta en anomali och framhäva som ett exempel på normalitet. Det är bara det att det inte riktigt ger samma smak av sanning som man skulle vilja.

Kortfattat om Sverige och USA och kvinnor med barn.
I USA är det inte ovanligt att gå tillbaka till jobbet efter 5 veckor när du som kvinna fött barn OM du nu går tillbaka till jobbet vill säga....
I Sverige är det inte ovanligt att stanna hemma HELA föräldraledigheten när du som kvinna fött barn.

I USA är det en brytpunkt, även för medelklassfamiljer, att ha två barn och stanna hemma eftersom barnomsorg är så otroligt dyrt. Så, om du är höginkomstagare och kvinna OCH VILL JOBBA kan du ju hyra en nanny som tar hand om barnen (vilket Fru Claesson i detta inlägg verkar tycka är bra, i sina gamla inlägg tycker hon det är dåligt: ”män kan inte ta hand om barn, enbart kvinnor har dessa genetiska förutsättningar”) men det innebär inte att kvinnorna har bra kontakt med sina barn, eller papporna för den delen heller.

Vore det inte bättre om man hittade ett mellanläge som vore bäst för såväl barn som vuxna? Att tro att man "väljer" när det är 2 månader (om jag är snäll nu) eller vara hemmafru är lite naivt och stor tilltro till "fritt val". Att tro att arbetsgivaren inte tar hänsyn till att du som 25-40 årig kvinna utan barn inte kan tänkas ta ut 13 månader och sen större delen av alla VABdagar är även det lite naivt.

Således är inget av länderna särskilt underunderbart för jämnställt men åtminstone så kan man i Sverige säga att vi har ett val.

Kortfattat från min sida, jag börjar bli redigt förbannand över att det hela tiden är en lösning för ”kvinnor och familjesaker” att man köper in tjänster utifrån snarare än att ”den andra partnern” ska ta och kompromissa och fördela.

Fast mest av allt är jag förbannad på att vissa skribenter ändrar åsikt, ljuger och förenklar verkligheten och därmed omöjliggör en diskussion. (jag skulle så himla gärna vilja ha en sansad diskussion om Vad man kan förvänta sig av sitt liv om man nu får barn?! Både som pappa och som mamma. Och de som tror att dom kan göra EXAKT samma saker och prioriteringar som utan barn kanske inte skulle ha dom där telningarna...... just a thought....)

ok, have to go now and will try and translate this soon enough. but at the moment I am just so... ehh... upset that I can't make that happen.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Exchanging Sundin for Lidström?

I don’t know.... why would you want to move away from your team since 15 years in order to go to.... their worst fiend?!?!?

I would have understood Vancouver (yes, playing with Näslund and the other 4 swedes would be a thrill, especially Näslund). I would have understood Detroit (hey Stanley Cup now I can finally touch you. Oh, and I’ll follow in the footsteps of Salming.) But Canadiens? Really?

I know he did his first time in NHL in Quebec Nordiques (1990, first European to be first over all first drafted in the NHL) but that team morphed into Colorado Avalanche, not Montreal Canadians. Although I guess they spoke French too... and came from the same province... But Montreal? The team and city that Toronto hates. The francophones and their interesting architecture. The rivalry.

Yeah, if nothing else; why would you want to trade to a team who will not win the Stanley cup either? And you get the kicker of being hated by the whole old city. I mean, this is not even considering that he could have traded in the early summer and given The Maple Leafs a shot at getting some new talent and some money. But no… wait until it is like three weeks to the first game and not decide.

Sometimes I hope that the last season was the last season. Period.

At least then I could wear my number 13 shirt with leafs on the chest with pride. Now? I might just go for that Red Wings team. After all they have more Swedes than most teams have together…. And their shirts looks more fitted than the huge number 13 in my closet.

But I will miss the first love. Always.

Friday, September 05, 2008

TLR, PPR, cytokines and signaling

I am a microbiologist. The last couple of weeks however (ah, who am I kidding – lots of months of my post doc stint) I have been trying to become more of an immunologist. Let’s just say that I have never really been a fan of signaling pathways. And what is immunology? That’s right, signaling and reactions to that (inflammation and activation of different parts of the immune system).

My latest thing is TLRs*… or really, trying to figure out why this TLR # is involved in this, and why it isn’t. The hypothesis was “it should be a better outcome, let’s just try it”. The outcome turned out to be the complete opposite. (Not really surprising to anyone who has done those “this is the last control experiment, let’s just confirm the hypothesis”.) Don’t get me wrong. I am all fun and games about this since it means that I might have discovered something really new. Then again there is always this thing that I have misunderstood something. Since we are talking about TLR, PPR**, PAMP***, MyD88****, NfKb***** and the lots of the rest of the proinflammatory cytokines - and last but not least T cell activation and MCH recognition – this is not at all something impossible.

Personally I find it interesting that my reaction to signal pathways (let’s be honest here – mainly immunology and T cells, CD4, CD8, TLR, Il12, Il1, TNF-a and all the other abbreviations and letters that immunologist throw around for fun) is similar to the majority of adolescent students when presented with math and math problems. “I can’t do this. Huu… let’s run away and not think about it. Really, who need this anyway.”

Anyone with a brain can see though that this approach isn’t really helping me get any closer to finishing the paper/project and understanding the bigger picture. Hence, what to do? Well, I guess the drawing I am doing at the moment with the nice little receptor on the cell membrane getting attacked by parts of TLR# activation parts from the bacteria is one way. The other? Use the lovely [true] immunologists who scurry around me in the corridor of the Big Institute.

Here is one of the pictures I am trying to interpret and build on…. Can someone say “black box” and “we don’t know if this is an indirect activation or a direct activation of NfKb”… but sure enough, it is interesting. To a point.
(courtesy of wikipedia and not really a picture I am using but it seems better to use this one due to copyright and journals etc...)

*Toll like receptors, membrane spanning receptors
that recognize structurally conserved molecules derived from microbes once they have breached physical barriers such as the skin or intestinal tract mucosa, and activate immune cell responses. They are believed to play a key role in the innate immune system and are conserved in all vertebrates as well as invertebrates. (Even in some part as smaller molecules in bacteria and plants – although not complete and functional.)

Some of these TLRs are found on macrophages, monocytes and dendritic cells and are receptors for interleukins…. And this is in part why they are called TLRs, they give rise to a signal cascade and in the end usually cytokines are produced. There are 13 known TLRs, numbered TLR1 – TRL13.

TLRs got their name (and was discovered) partly by Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard who received the Nobel prize in 1996.

Personally, I read about her when she started the Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard foundation in 1994 to support German female Scientists with children… it is mainly childcare and stipends to facilitate some kind of maternity leave and having children as a researcher without a stay at home wife.

**Pattern recognition receptor; are proteins
/receptors expressed on the surface of cells of the immune system.They recognize molecules that are produced by pathogens (and shared between many speices) although different from molecules made by the host as well as molecules produce by cellular stress. TLRs are a type of PPRs, although all PPRs aren’t TLRs.

***Pathogen-associated molecular patterns, are molecular motifs that are found on pathogens. TLRs, and other PPRs, recognize these PAMPs. LPS would be a typical PAMP from a Gram negative bacteria. Lipoteichoic acid (try pronouncing that if you can) and peptidoglycan would be typical Gram postivie PAMPs. And then of course viral and bacterial DNA and RNA are PAMPs as well.

****Myeloid differentiation primary response gene (88); a universal protein that is used by all TLRs
(except TLR3 which is a tad bit different and therefore is called the MyD88indepoendent activation pathway) to activate the transcription factor NfkB.
My personal note would be, an important part of the signaling pathway I am trying to understand. There are interesting deficient mice … and MyD88, as far as I understand, is important to apoptosis and pretty much lots of cell signaling.

*****nuclear factor-kappa B is a transcription factor
that is found in almost all animal cell types. It is involved in cellular response to stimuli like cytokines (my thing at the moment), bactieral and viral antigens and stress. NF-κB plays a key role in regulating the immune response to infection.

So, back to drawing the signal pathway and trying to get why on earth removal of one TLR would make the outcome worse… it seems a little counter intuitive at the moment, I must say.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The strangest election in history?

I am dumbstruck. I have gotten something right. I said a long time ago that maybe McCain would pick Palin, that’d be cool. And now he did it.


I mean, wow.

This is cool and completely strange. First Obama vs HRC. Then McCain vs Huckabee. Now Obama vs. McCain. And Biden vs Palin.

Sweeet, it’s a first for so many things. The oldest, the youngest (VP, don’t know about the youngest Presidential candidate – wasn’t JFK younger?), the first African-American, the first female runner up as presidential candidate, the first republican female VP, the first Alaskan, the….well, you get it?!

And the thing I am currently musing about? All the “conservatives” (as in historically keeping it all intact and the same as its always been) who will have to choose from a lot of strange things. Either:

The young [A-A] senator who wants change together with the older white guy who’s been in Washington for ages and ages.


The oldest presidential candidate with a history of going his own way and not toting the rightwing path with the youngest VP candidate from Alaska who happens to be a mother of five.

Yeah, this media coverage will be interesting. If not crazy it will still be strange.

I feel a bit like when I stayed up all night to watch [part of] the Wall come down in Berlin in 1989. Something might be on the way to change?!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Thanks for this! :)

I am long overdue with my posting but I want to post this first. My little (gloomy) heart is warmed and happy about the two links for this, from RESEARCHERS (Dr J and Dr A) and MicrobiologistXX.

It made my day, and frankly quite a good week too. It feels very fun to know that someone reads what I blog here and soon I think it will be more of the science and thoughts and less of the venting (“some of the stuff I don’t like about the lab I’m in”).

And I know that you’re supposed to tag 7 new ones, but all blogs I read has already gotten at least one of these … unless they’re in Swedish which, by obvious reasons, aren’t open to a wider audience.

Tata for now, it’s ELISA time. There is that entry about the elephant in the [science] corner that I promised, as well as a new entry about my [thoughts about my] future. They are on their way… soon…

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Seducing boys club

Read about this book today (at YFS and CandidEngineer) and laughed when I realized that it was exactly what I have been prepping for this week. The interested reader would ask; “for what?” and I would look at the wardrobe that I have been enticing for the last couple of days….. low cut tops. Not _that_ low cut, just much more ‘feminine’ than I usually wear in lab.

Why? Well, I have realized that my dear PI and I need to have a chat. You know, like an open one to one conversation about my research and “where this is going”. And maybe more than anything “when is my contract really up and when do you want me out?”.

I’ve been a very nice girl to this point. (Yes, this can be read as “a very meek little scared girl not wanting to upset her bossyboss”) However, I think this would be called “passed the point of what I can deal with” and then comes the action. Or at least the “demands” and not playing the nice post doc but rather admitting that this post doc knows that she has a value and that her VIP PI* would actually need to keep her for awhile since he doesn’t have anyone else who can do the interesting study now... or the post doc can just leave since really- there are limits to what one can put up with.

Of course, this might be a lot of hot air, “a lot of smack” as one can say in this American accent over here …. Then again, I am starting to recognize myself** somewhere in this mess. Due to things I won’t go into my personality has been slightly shoved under a rock for a good period of my time here in the lab, but lately there has been a break through. Something has snapped and is peeking through stating “don’t you remember, you don’t take this but rather DEAL with morons like that quickly before the festering starts”. It feels great, and I just hope that I can catch him in the lab tomorrow since I don't want to wait around for yet another week.

So, I’ve been traipsing around my work place in order to see if I can have a little talk with my boss…. Hopefully I can manage that tomorrow, because if nothing else – I’m getting scared of ruining my nice clothes in lab (no, not wearing much lab coats….) And if nothing else, if it all goes to shit*** I guess I'll deal with that too. I just want to see some of my experiments through but really, I think that the chance of this last alternative happening is kind of slim... he has been dropping hints pointing the other way the last couple of days.

Now I'll leave the lab though. Have to pick out the outfit for tomorrow. Dressed for success, as the say in every movie ;)

*just had to make that abbreviation since that is the hothotair in the air ballon…

**myself = as I was a few years back in a good environment where my personality could and was encouraged to show through.

*** "you have to leave in three weeks, sorry nothing I can do about it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mish and mash…match?

Ended up with reading and skimming a lot of articles in the Atlantic yesterday. (It’s called trying to work but failing miserably and realizing that going home and recuperate might be the best way of dealing with occasional sadness due to lots of work, not enough sleep and just the overwhelming feeling of “what on earth will I do soon?”). Ran into this article about settling and making decisions. It was interesting but I don’t really know what to think apart from a little feeling in my tummy thinking “rubbish”. Then again, I am stil in my early 30ies so according to the author this is what I should think…

I ended up going home and having a glass of wine and sleeping for 9 hours so I think it might have been a good plan.

Today has been a fairly good day, even productive in some ways. The paper we (I refuse to say I) submitted in May came back today; minor revisions and then accepted! Yey! That meant a bunch of statements/questions whereas half of them could be answered by saying “it is stated in the test but the result is not in that particular picture since it wasn’t significant” and “nice suggestions, however that particular experiment will take at least 4 months and will not give as much answer to our statement/hypothesis as the time spent”… kind of anyway. But I am sure we can answer them satisfactory and then there will be my first “real” (as in really mine) publication in my post doc.

If nothing else it gave me a good foot to start, I mean continue, writing my second article and get it all together.

Now I’m off for a small celebratory pint of beer. Tomorrow the “thank you emails” to the interview people will be sent. Have to work on them a little more though, more selling and less “thanks for being so nice of meeting with me and spending some time and money on me”… self assured… sure.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

England on SALE


my gosh, everywhere I look are these SALE signs. What's a poor girl, deprived of her cell phone and computer (read; all outside contact) to do when trying to relax and not think about the job interview yesterday? I know, go shopping!!!

No shoes so far. Good on me. The need for a few new books however can be discussed. As well as that t-shirt with the logo and Union Jack... but they were really nice, the books seemed good for the Atlantic flight tomorrow and there never will be an outofdate for a Union Jack, right?

And then the real strange buy, the nice pinkish/white coat in WOOL.... wit embroyderies on the sleaves... let's just say that I know I will move to colder places and then it will be used. And really, it was 70% of original pricing. And it was NoaNoa... what's a poor girl to do indeed?

And I guess I really shouldn't have gone into the Monsoon store with SALE and 70% off on the door. But the long dress was very flattering in the neckline. And I didn't buy the blue dress at NoaNoa eve nif it looked very good on me,not to mention that that one I could've worn in my present home town at this very warm moment. The long one, not so much... but maybe I am wrong?!

I forced myself to take a look at my bank account and realise exactly HOW MUCH I have spent. shheesh... haven't had a vacation in a long time. Haven't been in the UK in a really long while. Haven't really spent money on things that I will never use (I will use the coat later this fall), and like the clothes I bought before I went here (the so called "in a panicy state of mind before the job interview") these will all be added on to the clothing account for the year and then, all of a sudden, it doesn't look too bad. I can just say that I haven't bought that much clothes this year, nor last one.

And really, there are just that many washed out black tees a woman who wants to try and look professional and 'older' can have.

Some of the clothes does make me cringe on the "frumpy" factor but I think it is all in my head. (It's more correct to say that they are more 'mature' and not jsut tees with nice little logos and statements on. You know, the kind that could be argued to be more "teenager" or soemthing along those lines.) After all, none of the people I have talked to today or yesterday believed me when I said that I was a PhD since more than two years back..... well, the job interview people excluded I guess.Since my youthful apparence is working out, maybe it isn't a bad plan to work the more mature clothes..... time will tell I guess.

Time to go for English Tea and Scones!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Word/sentence of the day

welcome to join the lab for tea in the afternoon

I think this trip and interview will be very good for me and my view of science. If nothing else, I might really remember that this Big Institute and my department isn’t necessary how research is done everywhere in the world. That is, it doesn’t have to be rude, harsh and ruthless with a bunch of egos who battle the world and each other with knives in the back and hidden agendas. Then again, that is the way of the world so why not in science?

But I have to say, even if the world might be harsh and science may be ruthless, with tea in the afternoon, all can be handled well.

Tata for now.

Friday, June 27, 2008

in my mailbox this morning

"We were impressed with your application.../.... and would like to schedule an interview".

At least some people think some of the stuff I have done isn't totally uninteresting… and I have an interview. Let’s hope I have time to prepare good answers to all those questions they are bound to have.

The thing I am nervous about? It’s going to be a phone interview… and I who like to read body language…

Ah well, what’s the worst that could happen? (don’t answer that!)

Friday, June 13, 2008

A wish about raising boys

If I had one wish come true regarding the whole gender-equality debate, I think it would have to be ”Please raise your sons to have a good relationship with their father and give them opportunities to express and feel emotions, not being scared and suppress them.”

Maybe then it wouldn’t be quite as hard for a man to loose and cope with loosing his father.

It will be an early “go home” day today, have things to do (the fact that I have done this a few times now so I know the practical things that happens when people die, at least that is something – I can help a little)– as a women who is used to communicate and express thoughts and feelings. I just wish that some would do the same and not hold back the tears and deny the feelings. Hopefully, all in due time. There is no stress in grief.

Enjoy the weekend people and I’ll be back with more thoughts on the world and things next week.

Monday, June 09, 2008

what should I be....

You Should Get a JD (Juris Doctor)

You're logical, driven, and ruthless. You'd make a mighty fine lawyer.
What Advanced Degree Should You Get?

hm, ruthless? After only five questions that comes up? huh. Imagine that.

reading skills in women...

This link from Science shows a study about gender gaps and math skills…and this link (although in Swedish but it gives good links in English) gives some more thoughts about equality. (In short, the gender gap might be less in math but when ranking the difference between genders and reading skills they don’t seem to lessen as math skills do).

This brings me to the (not new to me) thought that maybe step two in the gender battle (or equality battle or what ever one should call it?) would be to try and encourage boys to be more open into to “traditional female areas” as we have tried to move girls into more “traditional male areas”? I know that this has been tried in the whole debate, talk about men being home with children and trying to work it out how to make it more appealing for men to turn into women areas… and that it has been hard… but still, reports are numerous (at least in Europe when looking at Academia and universities) that women are the majority of the students now and that boys are often in the lesser quartile in high school.

This in turn gives way to the “poor boys we need to look after them more as lonely PhD students” as I think I have mentioned before? Anyway, I would like to think that we will all be better off when the time is when we can focus on what each and every child and person would like to do and not stop and reflect on which gender we are in order to treat the symptoms.

And in the end of this rant, since it is late and I am tired and maybe a tad bit incoherent, I would try to raise my boys (when or if I have them) to read and be more open to feelings without necessary dosing them in pink, fluffy dresses and my girls (same disclaimer) to calculate and not only wear blue working pants and breaking their arms climbing a tree… just trying to do and expect the same from them and let them know the different avenues that are open to them in life.

Considering this said, I don’t think I am as much as a cynic as some would portray me to be…. And I am not delusional and think it will be easy, but I think it would be harder to try the “traditional” route, at least in my heart.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Secrets are necessary

“She wanted to turn away, as one does if accidentally intruding on someone in a private moment. One says nothing, and both parties pretend it did not happen. It was the only way to make civilized living possible. There are things one does not see, words one does not voice, and if they slip out in a moment of heat, they are never repeated. Secrets are necessary.”

“…is that one’s person’s protection, may be another person’s imprisonment; or one person’s idea of freedom another’s idea of license. If we refuse to look at anyone else’s pain because it is different from ours and makes us feel uncomfortable – or because it is the same and embarrasses us – then we are neither a liberal nor a generous society, and we will slowly suffocate ourselves to death.”

From “Half moon street” by Anne Perry, “A Charlotte and Thomas Pitt” novel, set in 19th century London.

It is interesting to read these novels set in mid 19th century London where the author brings in lots of old history as a back drop for the crimes happening. Really, stating it is a backdrop is quite unfair since more than half or the charm of the novels is the fact that it brings the life and society of old times to mind. And in several of them the dealings with liberalism, voting for the poor and crucial happenings for women and their lives are the main frame and not unusually the actual motive for the crimes investigated.

I love reading books that make my mind work and challenge me to think about ideas and statements that we may or may not take for granted today, especially the lives of the wives and women in history. What things that were considered normal and “as a matter of fact” where indeed we now have come to discard a whole heap of them as “superstitious” and “discriminatory”, not to mention “cruel and very unjust indeed”.

It also brings a certain discomfort – in the light of previous discussions this week – that so little has changed in minds and lives of many people. That it is obvious that history still has a firm grip of us and our senses of liberty and freedom (or lack thereof). I guess it may sound pompous and pretentious but if nothing else it makes me understand why it is so important to continue and challenge (my own) preexisting notions and facts.

As said by a third character in the book: “The image that has the power to disturb is the only one that has the power to change. Growth is often painful, but to not grow is to begin to die.”

Although, I might not fully agree I think there is a risk in complacency and that stagnation sooner or later results in decay and turning back to the way things were when maybe they were not better but rather worse.

If nothing else this has been more and more obvious when I look at some of the laws and regulations that will be passed (or hopefully I shall say, will Not be passed) in the Swedish parliament very soon before the summer vacation. Namely the so called “FRA law”, which will allow a governmental agency to sift through and screen all electronic communications crossing the nation’s borders in search for whatever (that means general screening without a court order and general meaning anyone). The idea is for security reasons, and more than anything it reminds me of the proverb “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions” [and may I add, the naivety of trust in ourselves and the people ‘governing’ us to do what is perceived to be “the right thing”.]

I guess it doesn’t matter for the time being that I started out thinking about the history of “women’s liberation” and ending up with “people’s freedom”; it is two sides of the same coin. It might not be that all people are doing what they should do or even what is good for themselves but really, it might be better for everyone if we allowed the freedom to doom ourselves rather than protecting and suffocating the lives of a few who might be oppressed by the good intentions of what is believed to be the “right way of doing things”? Sometimes I feel like we exchanged the society ruled by nobility to a society ruled by “who ever holds the cash”, i.e. the power to do what they think is right for the rest of the people.

In the end, I wonder about the truth of the saying “Real [true] power is never given. Real power has to be taken.” I guess it might be in the lines of Machiavelli, Marxism or plain anarchy? Needless to say, I miss my old university nights with red wine and night time discussions about freedom, liberation and philosophy in order to keep myself from feeling alone and powerless about the boundaries of the world I live in today.

It may seem strange to say that today has been one of the best days for a really long time and I am still smiling and feeling something very close to profound happiness. Even I can’t phantom why, but I’ll be satisfied with keeping this feeling and moving on to the other chores I need to do. And of course, try to understand how much of this is based on the fact that last night turned out to be a marvelous evening in the lab… talk about being high on research.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Scientists in regular news papers

I wondered again yesterday why I didn’t study economics or finance or something else that the people who write in the ‘real’ journals and papers studied [if they did at all]. After all, it seems like the people who are most responsible for letting us know their opinion, affect and rule (very loosely term here) us are almost exclusive non-science people. I guess I should clarify, almost never ‘natural science’ or biology/chemistry/physics/math… but really, they seem to be either MSc in political science/finance/MBA or they are famous and/or politicians.

Why not (you might state)?! Why would they be [b/c/p/m] when we are talking about important stuff like education or general politics or economics or moral issues?

Well, I understand if we leave the scene and let the ‘experts within each subject battle it all out’ BUT that is not the case with what it going on. I read papers and articles about “how to change the school system to make it more equal”, “should we have a public service television”, “is it really discrimination this immigration problem we have” and lots of other things (“should we subsidize child care/family leave or not?”) but almost never are the people who argue for their stance ‘experts’ in the field. Or at least not what I would call experts (partly because we don’t run a country solely based on economical decisions but rather a choice of what to spend the money on and why, based on feelings etc.) . Who are they then, if not MSc in finance? Well, they are just regular people (ok, however regular people involved in the politics/journalism/business are) who are interested in the life around us**. You know, the thing we call society, and being part of the ‘public debate’?!

The only discrepancy I find is that when a scientist not from those fields expresses an opinion or writes an article about “why we should do this or that” the main argument against them is always “you are not of this field. Don’t hide behind your PhD in [obscure chemistry related subject] stuff and voice concerns about this since this is “social sciences.””

Funny enough, I agree on some level that it annoys me that some scientists/Profs/PhD-students use their title to somewhat say “look, since I have this degree I am clearly smarter than you and therefore I can say things about any subject with authority even if we both know this isn’t my real subject”. [This stand point could need a discussion relating to it, since I am on the fence about this, to my own chagrin.] On the other hand, I do think that society, and especially the debate about what kind of society we live in and want to live in, should be the responsibility of everyone and you should feel obliged to be a part of that discussion.

Maybe if more chemists/biologist/math/physicists would voice their opinion and show that we too are regular people and not just quirky researchers in a lab with white coats torturing animals or staring at diagrams of electrons and their move through vacuum, the rest of us could be looked upon as proper people with a valid right to speak our mind?!

I wonder if this concern is really true or if I am over sensitive but surely it seems like most scientists stay within their field and only really are found in the papers to debate “the funding issue” or maybe something directly related to their science like the Climate change if you are a biologist….

**for the Swedish readers, I need to mention that Dr Rothstein do voice his mind in every aspect and no – I don’t agree with him using his professor’s title to make a heavier stand point. But just imagine, wouldn’t it be interesting if there was anyone else apart from Rothstein and some of the other Dr in ‘nationalekonomi’ who could state opinions and the news papers would actually publish their stances?

***I might be a tad bit over reactive about the subject today since I didn’t manage to do things I set out for myself prior the weekend… just in case my post is unclear that is (and yes, I’m like an elephant “I never forget!” ;) )

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


I am trying to work, I promise. It's just that my head is bored trying to figure out how on earth the data dots should be combined in order to make a nice graph - or at least something that makes sense for people who hasn't studied the raw data in detail for the last.... Let's say three months to make things easy.

I was actually trying to find an old Arne Anka ("Sometimes one wonders if one lives in a country or in a joke") but I stumbled upon this picture in my archive. I really should have put down where I found it. My guess would be somewhere in an EU report about women in science…

I am still thinking about the future by the way. Go figure. Tomorrow I will see what both sides say when (if if if) I get a hold of them on the phone. Wonder if it will make things more clear? Let’s hope so.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Tonight’s the night….

Let’s hope that we are talking about an end tonight. Stars vs Red Wings. I want it to end with a win for Red Wings in Dallas so this scary semi-final thingy can be over and done with.

I realize that I have to confess.

Yes, I have succumbed. I have strayed from the path… the path of the teams from Canada and the beautiful Maple Leafs… To the only other team one can root for as a Scandinavian expat, namely the Red Wings (no, that very short infatuation with a certain hockey team from the south last year doesn’t really count). The Wings has like 7 Swedes… the Mule being the one who are missed dearly at the moment. Come back tonight!! Play with the guys!! And WIN FGS!

I am ashamed for switching allegiance, don’t get me wrong. This is not something I am too proud over… and I have lost sleep and I did blush when that Red Wings shirt was found on my body that other day. However, my teams (the dear Leafs and Canucks) are not in the final rounds so… I am not really betraying them. I do acknowledge that it might be considered cheating… but just a bit… like a stolen glance on the side… or a little innocent flirt ending with a kiss on the cheek… or – ok since you twitch my arm about it – behaving maybe a tad little bit like a hussy* but I mean, what is a poor hockey fanatic to do when there is a final to be played and a team to pick?! And the favorites are missing out since they didn’t qualify and therefore leave me totally alone?!?!?

However, the main concern for me at the moment is “Where will I be able to watch this very important game tonight at 8 ET?” And maybe more important for the discussion above, “What am I willing to pay in order to see the game?” (No, I don’t have the only TV channel that shows it and the few people I know with the channel are – you guessed it – men…. )

Pah, I’ll wait and see if something shows up from the bottom of a good hearted person before I even contemplate the other options.

*(as someone said in another fora…)

ps. I feel the need to clarify that I would never ever leave my bacteria for something else, some other microbes like fungi or the field of immunology or likes like that. Never! I am faithful to the G+... and have only used the G- to produce smaller data dots and constructs so there is no need for you to worry about my real commitment. It’s just that the Red Wings has a good line up and they do really win… and the logo type isn’t too bad either.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Why men would benefit from having increased gender equality

I did end my former post about feminism and career choices by pointing out that in order to try and change our non-equal society, maybe it is not enough to adjust how we raise and educate girls ‘to take up more space and time and think about themselves’ but maybe we need to think about how we raise boys as being more considerate of others [you know, those traditional ‘female’ skills…].

It did occur to me as recent as a month ago when two male post docs in my department became dads for the first time. Let’s call them A and D for short. They looked upon their future roles as fathers from slightly different perspectives. A was a work the next day after his baby was delivered and has been in lab since… D looked at me with a little bit of nervousness when we talked about ‘what was going to happen after the baby arrived’ but said that he was going to take 2 weeks off [maximum to have here] and be at home. He further went on talking about how he would like to be there and raise his child and be an active part of the baby’s life. The same thing was what another friend post doc V did last year when he got a baby. His PI however was surprised and said [in a sniggering voice] “well, I wasn’t skipping work just because I had a new baby in the house”. I’m not sure how I would have responded to that so I am happy I didn’t stand in from of that PI…

Let’s just say that I think this illustrates one main problem men might have when trying to break the circle of being “a typical male”.

I furthermore attended a lecture a while back given by one of the Big professors in the field, he is now ‘semi’ retired but still haves a lab. He was asked what he would have done differently if he were to start his life all over again. His reply? (Well, it wasn’t all “I would have cleaned the house and made more washes of laundry” but still in the spirit of such…) “If it was something I would have liked to see my children grow up a little more. It was a stressful time, I had just gotten my PhD and started my tenure track research position and I just didn’t think about being home and being involved in the family. I guess my wife took a hefty load of it all as well as being one of my research techs in the lab – I am not really sure on how she made it; taking care of children, me and my lab”.

I don’t either. But I was happy to continue listening to his talk about the need to have a good life outside of lab “not because you don’t want to work but because you need to flex your brain. The best ideas can come while watching/listening to that opera, or playing with your kids, or explaining school homework to them. You never know what cross-links in your brain”.

Conclusion? Take home message? That if men would consider how much of the gender stereotypic behavior hinders them in their choices, how much of a box they are in, maybe they would be more inclined to see that working towards more gender equality would actually provide them with more choices and benefits. There are, after all, a number of areas where men are looked at with disdain and “well you can’t do that since you are a man” and at least I would be thrilled to not be judged like that based on the fact that I have XX or XY chromosomes.

I do think there it is important to remembering that we all – male or female – have things to benefit from not being recognized only as a “representative of our gender” but rather as an individual person with different goals and dreams.

(“The truth will set you free” – I just had to say it.)

[Disclaimer: Of course there are individuals that stand to loose power when adapting to this mind set. Namely the alpha males who thrive in our society today, the ones who aren’t involved in family life, more than maybe bringing home the cash, and rely on others to follow suit. The ones who would like to have this system very much left in place. I guess there is that thing though, you can’t please everybody but seriously – I do believe that the vast majority would benefit from being freer in our choices and a little less molded into whatever the gender role is. The issue and implications of class/socioeconomic status on this argument will have to wait for another post later on.]