Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The strange Swedish tradition...

This article: Sweden's bizarre tradition of watching Donald Duck.... has a slightly arrogant, yet sort of accurate, description about one of the oddest traditions in Sweden. Everything makes more sense if you remember/know that there was only one TV channel in Sweden until 1969 and then another one open and then there were two until.... 1987. Yes, when I grew up there were two channels, an agreement not to show American cartoons (unless on Christmas) although the last thing sort of deteriorated a bit in the early 1980ies since I know I saw some stuff Saturday mornings for 15 mins.... (and no commercials) I do remember the other animations I did see though, in black and white until a colour TV entered into the house in 1985 maybe?

It was a lot of cartoons with origins from France, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and other countries before the Berlin wall disappeared. We also had some Swedish cartoons, dolls and other children's show - but not too many. However, I was fairly happy with all of this - but Donald Duck in Christmas was awesome. And it never did bother me that it was the same show (with one exception in the end) every year.

I guess not having a VCR or DVD at the time made it more interesting since I couldn't see anything apart from when they showed it on TV?

With this little memory recount I want to say "From All of Us to All of You" a Merry Christmas and hope that the holidays are good to you. For me, I always enjoy rest, relaxing and reading books. Family is lovely, food is great and rest is excellent.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

christmas cookies with a science twist

I love these....

More of these (Drosophila cookies anyone?) and lots of non scientific geeky ones can be found here: NotSoHumblePies

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fat girl with the cookie

I realize that it is way too early (and most likely wrong) to say something like “I’ve made a mistake” when it comes to job choices and reality. However, the last couple of weeks have been like a fat girl trying to defend the choice of eating a cookie in front of a swim suit collection and other people trying them on, trying to suck their stomachs in and telling everyone else that they are fat although everyone knows it the fat girl who can’t have the cookie since she is the one who is fat.

Bad analogy probably but that is sort of how it feels, looking back. I don’t have a good name for what I am doing now. I don’t have a fancy title. I am not tenure-tracked. I don’t really do research, as far as “real” researchers see it, but as far as Joe Schmo looks at it I am. As of now, there is no “professorship in the future”. There is “an unknown future, with more open doors” though.

I think half of this strange feeling would never been here if my papers/articles were done, written and accepted. If the old place was “done”. If I was sure that my name would be the first one in line of the authors, even if it looks a lot like the remaining experiments (done by someone else) will give excellent data that fits in perfectly in what I have done so far… and I am not in the lab anymore and last time that happened, well – I wasn’t on the paper in the end. I don’t think that will happen now, but the order of the names may or may not be as I want them. And my paranoia is increased due to lack of addressing the questions that are sent in emails… however, I would think that it’s just me and not real. And when the writing process starts I would assume it will feel better…

And in any event, this is not as much a question of “did I do the right choice here” but “what is it really that I am feeling missing?”.

Partly what I am missing is the same thing that I didn’t like before. Working with driven people: driven people who want to publish, to contribute to the larger field (they want fame and fortune too) and can plan their own stuff and are not only at work to sit out time. Of course, I feel more like (again) I am the one who is naïve since I know that this is not the “truth” of science in Academia today. I know that my main reason to leave my post doc, at the time I did, was because it would’ve been up within the year anyway and the job I got wasn’t going to be around in a year. It was other things too. Like a little nagging feeling that however much I wanted to do science, I wouldn’t be the recipient of the ever so needed grants…. Not within the next couple of years anyway. And the whole “buddy complex” is not including me as much, I haven’t been involved in major collaborations where people seek out me or where I did seek out other people. I was quite happy in my little lab with my bench and my research on a smaller scale trying to sort out my problems.

And then of course it was the “outside circumstances” like visa and living in another country and personal life etc. all adding up to thinking “new avenues to pursue might not be that bad. After all, another route gives more options later in life”.

However, after being questioned for a number of times “oh, you couldn’t hack it” and “what is that” [as a response to my current job title] I have the fat girl feeling… and I have “defended” myself. All this tells me that I am much vainer that I would’ve hoped for. And that I am one of those who places emphasis on job title, professor title, research fame and glory … that it makes me feel important and worth something. And now, being in a middle ground for research I realize that my thinking is actually pretty disgusting and pathetic. I have somewhat become what I didn’t like in all these “slightly arrogant professorship aspiring people I have met during my years as a post doc”.

And I need to reconnect with myself and realize that I miss research, the Academia, the 10% when the experiments did work and everything was hunky dory glory with sugar on top. And this is OK and valid. However, I need to remember the other things too; the not having time for friends and family, not sleeping that much, feeling sad when the four weeks of experiments did not work and threw it all in a fit, never knowing when I could go home since it depended on when the bacteria had reached their good OD… etc. etc…

For right now, after the talk I just listened to, I realize that I crave the attention of giving a good talk based on my research that I devoted a lot of my time to over the last 4 years and hearing people applaud it and ask questions to me, since my opinion matters.

Attention whore. My secret persona… good thing I didn’t expect Santa to bring me lots of gifts this year anyway :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

teen mom

It's has nothing to do with science but MTV is showing Teen mom, a show about women who give birth to their babies the get pregnant with in their teens (read: before high school graduation) and their relationships and their options to life. One couple is opting for adoption for their baby, two others are trying to stay together with a new little one between them and the fourth one is a single mom staying with her mom. (I might have missed someone here, since I am not a regular viewer. At least one of the moms "lost her virginity to a guy who promised to stay with her and then she got pregnant".... and some of the dads think a strip club is a good thing to do in the evening apart for hanging out with their child....)

It's interesting though. The show is focused on the moms, some of whom are not really eloquent or nice to their loved ones... Although, for me it is especially intriguing since some of my friends (with PhDs mind you) have talked to me the last couple of months in terms of "I was an idiot, I should've just gotten preggers as a young girl and had my children then. it all would've worked out"... on that, I have nothing.

This show makes it a bit easier on my "I have nothing" since they have nothing. some of them have nothing in love or money and therefore can't go back to high school, the can get their GED but, that's not the same. One of them just started crying since she said "I screwed up my own life..." and she is 17... well, let's hope she and the others get it together. The men, I don't have anything positive to say there either....

It's good for me to remember this though, when talking to my friends about the whole baby at any cost discussions. And what the dad is for... among other things.

The other thing, which seems very inappropriate right now, is that I am SO excited about Datbreakers coming to the cinema in January. Sam Neill AND Willem Dafoe in a vampire movie. Yeah, I am so there :)

obviously this is a cue to go to bed and sleep. I just need to see the end of Teen moms and resist the urge to go to New Mooon in the movies. None of this really hard, but I am starving....

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Nobelprize and Swedish golf clubs

It’ a bit of a mix this one. Today is the ceremony for the Nobel prizes in Sweden. All of them in Stockholm, apart from the Peace prize which is handed out in Oslo. I find the prizes in physics, medicine and chemistry the most interesting.... actually before the literature one the last couple of years. I guess it might be because I find the literature ones harder to relate to these last 20 years since I have read a lot of the “old” ones from the 40ies and 50ies.

Anyway, I digress. The interesting thing about today is one article that the prize winner in 2000, Dr Arvid Carlsson, writes in one of the Swedish papers “I wouldn’t have gotten the Nobel prize (if I was a young Swedish scientist) today”arguing about funding and the conditions of young scientists today. He talks about the Swedish situation, although I would think it is slightly similar in some other countries considering the situation in the US and the UK. It’s interesting since it proves, yet again, that the scientists and the politicians/Funding masters do not have the same concept of reality or how to reach greatness.

One of the main arguments from Dr Carlsson is that he would have never gotten the Novelprize today, since back in the day he was given funding that was sufficient for two technicians, a few PhD students and another person helping out when he was a young scientist changing (!) fields. And this group was the founding core of the research he later got acknowledged for in 2000. And as he says, “a young scientist today might get money for a research technician but that is not enough”....

Let’s hope that the research climate of funding could be discussed (again) soon since, at least in my very humble opinion, the present system isn’t really working. If nothing else, I can tell by looking at the three biggest funding agencies in Sweden and look at who (and which groups) they have decided to fund. Let’s just go with that it is not as easy as it once was.

The other thing on my mind has been the latest week of jokes sent to me, via email and other people. “I hope you don’t have a golf club in the house...” (to which I responded, “as far as I know it shoudln’t be a problem unless someone is cheating?”) I’m not really into the whole “the world needs to know and we all need the update of what goes on in that house” if it wasn’t for a few things. First of all, when you get involved in selling things based on your character (your morale and your life values) then you need to realize that this might follow you if/when you make a mistake. Maybe it would’ve been better to be viewed as a “slightly good person but no one is perfect”. Even then, it might be a hard sell to be exposed as someone with 5+ excess people in your marriage (that the other person might not even know about on top of it), even without the concept of having one extra wife for more than half of your marriage.

It’s all good though, and I wouldn’t have given it a care in the world if the wife was in on it. Some people argue that “she would know about it and then it is ok”. Sure, if she knew she might have thought this and that - but as far as I remember since this whole thing started with a strange car crash in the middle of the night and those elusive golf clubs.... I guess she wasn’t in on it? That said, I don’t find the jokes fun (I’ve been told that I don’t have any sense of humour before) partly because I don’t like physical violence between spouses fun. I also understand that there might be a bit over reaction to think like that.

Anyway, what I was thinking about when I started writing this post was more along the line of “the higher you get on the ladder, the mightier the fall”. And I really hope that this situation does not escalate into something where people do things that are irreversible. I get that feeling when the vultures are circling and other stars have been circled before ending with loosing more than their hair.

One interesting thing though, the only woman so far, involved in all-the-high-stakes-men-having-affairs-being-exposed-in-the-press-the-last-couple-of-years, NOT to “stand by her man” was also the richest one.... Mark Sanford's wife, who isn’t only an heiress but mother of their four sons. (She moved out of their house and took the children with her after lots of things were revealed.) All the others have stood there and said “I support him” or something to that effect. Never mind what I think I would do (I’m not an heiress but then again, I haven’t married into money either), I find it intriguing that the money/marriages these families/men have are so much about money and pre-nups that people do not talk more about business arrangements rather than love. I might be the greatest cynic, but it sure looks to me like “if we marry and you give me children and the illusion of a happy marriage, I’ll give you a lot of money when we divorce later on after I have spread my seed a bit more - after all, that should make both of us happy in the long run, right?

What my grandmother told me ages ago still holds true I guess; “Be careful not to mistake money for love, and be sure not to give it all up* for a man who can leave you bitter and poor. Have some insurance, like your own money or career and then hopefully your relationship will be one between partners where both of you want the other one to be happy.”

And I get reminded that I didn't see that show "The Good Wife" that is all about this.... maybe it is on hulu for me to recap?

*no, she wasn't talking about sex, she was referring to the over all picture - with morale, status, self worth.... that kind of "all"...

Monday, December 07, 2009

tired rant

Well, ain't this fucking fantastic? I end up with 2 points in the NFL pool this weekend. TWO! I have NEVER been this bad. I think it would have been easier to pick random and not even given it a sensible thought. I know, I take this a bit too serious but really? 2 lousy points. And last week I was shared first... with 12 points... yeah... pride and fall and all

Then the stuff just came tumbling down starting last week. I know I have said it before but either I need to remove my feelings or people will just have to stop telling me "truths". This chic doesn't want to know. Not now anyway. It's a bit stressful trying to be perfect (family things, friends, worker etc) and I know that I should just keep on walking.... ah well, all will be better on the other side of Christmas, right?!

And I guess the good thing is that I realize how much of my performance anxiety is linked to my former life. Dear gosh, writing papers... yeah, not my thing if I don't get any feed back. Writing in the blind, not so much. Writing summaries and analyzing data, sure I can do that in my sleep.

By the way, if someone writes you an email, please answer their questions if you write back. Don't avoid answering the questions FIVE emails in a row when other stuff are getting asked. I mean, that makes some people nervous, and some people upset. And if you cc someone, let them at least see the first email in the row so they understand what's upsetting.

Ah well, I'll go back doing my chores and not thinking now. Need to finish stuff... and avoid getting nervous about this article stuff. It's not like I am the only one responsible, right... (hollow laugh, real hollow)

It will all be better after Christmas. And next year has promise to be better than this one, that was better than last year that was a thousand times better than the year before that.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

bent shall be crooked or something to that effect

This "The horror of Horace" might be one of the best things I have read the last couple of weeks, no months actually. It is a sarcastically written piece in the debate back in Sweden of when children should start to learn English in school. Currently I think it is 9 years of age, I was 10 years old when I first started saying "hello, my name is ..." and "it's raining cats and dogs outside" and the question is now if the children should be even younger. (Note; school starts when you're 6 years old... and it's been suggested that children should start English at the same time as Swedish. The people opposing this states that most research indicates that it is best for a child to know their native language well before learning a new one... whichever category you may be in, I am in the "not at the same time as Swedish corner" since I think the article is pretty much spot on how many people actually come off as to me.... when it comes to English and word knowledge etc.)

The whole thing can be summarized fairly well in the title: Many Swedes say that we Swedes are not so good in English as we self believe. But they who say so are not so good in English themselves,

It would be up until I was visiting the UK as a teenager when I found out exactly how hard it is to get certain things right. And today, in my everyday life as "living in the English speaking country as I do", I still have horrendous problems. Three things stand out (to me at least, I probably have more problems than those, but those are the most obvious ones). Prepositions, like "in room temperature" or "at room temperature".

Then there are the "proverbs/sayings", ordspråk in Swedish - the thing that is called "wordspeech" in the article (somewhere here was when I started laughing when I read the thing). "Water on a duck" (it's a goose where I come from) or "better safe than sorry" (nothing like that at all) or "the gaggle of geese" and a "school of fish" (the last isn't really the same, but sort of and there are geese...).

And the last one, the adverbs.... when it is well and when it is good? When can I say poorly and when is it poor. Sometimes I do remember the rules and how they were told, but most of the times I just go with what ever feels right. (And we all know where that may lead us? Into the article or lots and lots of "so" (), which is so (sic!) nice in Swedish... not as much in English.)

I wonder though, if it is as funny in English as it is when you can see the Swedish behind it? Does it look only like a person not knowing English at all has written something crazy and wierd? Or does it have some charm to it? If you dear native English speakers could give me a hint if it is funny for others than this Swede or if it is just another example of peculiar humour..... ;)

...and if someone can tell me the proper proverb/saying for "it shall be bent in time, what crooked shall be" as mentioned in the article, I will be VERY happy. Maybe something with "sooner rather than later?" but it doesn't quite capture the actual thing...

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

how stupid can you be?

I'm sorry but this is the most stupid thing I have seen in a long time. The story in the Globe and Mail I mean, really? You are taking a swing at your OWN goalie? And then the kicker, nothing is done from the NHL since it is "better handled inside the team". Yeah, they better handle it.

And it is not even my team.... the Florida Panthers... but I like Vokoun. Or just dislike "within the team wacks on the head from stupid teammates who go unpunished".