Friday, March 26, 2010

got reminded

It's funny, every once in awhile I get caught up in "silly" things and then thrown back into reality a bit later. It's hard when all news channels (they call themselves news at least) talk about Tiger and his women, Jesse and his women and some about the women betrayed (and a swiff about the health care reform and how it will affect you in the future) to remember that the world economy (OK, Europe but it affects some other countries too) is actually having one of the bigger problems in a very long time.

Greece hasn't been on the US news that much. And it's not reported as much as I thought it would be. If you glance at the European news, like the BBC America yesterday morning, they have more in depth news about it. The reality of what might happen with the EU if Greece fails. How other countries will have no choice but to help out, for the sake of themselves. And that if Germany and France do not cooperate, the EU might fail completely. Spain is on the agenda next, with their high unemployment especially for young people. And at least two countries in the EU are going to have general elections this year...

And this is not even mentioning the research budgets and cuts that have been implemented over the last year. The reality, as I heard it last month from a fellow ex post-doc who applied for an assistant professorship in a smaller place with research possibilities, was that for that one position they had received 300 applications, of which at least 200 were "eligible" (having a PhD I guess?). My friend stated that it was out of their hands now, but it didn't feel that promising... and this was not even a big university where the competition had been even harsher. The two applications they sent to those places came back with "we have professors applying for our assistant professorships you applied for and all of those have grants already, cheaper for us". How can you compete with that as a senior postdoc? (You can't, if the university want to save the most money etc...)

I realised again that my choice of work right now might not be that bad and in the long run it might be the best for me. It's all about perspective and reality.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Let's talk about Sex (well Herpes really)

A report/an abstract was presented last week, although I heard it on the radio a bit later for the first time and I thought about writing about it but got lost in my whining... One of the interesting things would be the large disparity between women and men (most likely because women tend to be more susceptible to STDs and transmission due to our mucosal layer in our private parts...)

Anyway, I was a bit surprised on the numbers of people infected. First, it doesn't look that bad, until you break it down and see something way more disturbing.

So, numbers; 1 in 6 Americans between 14 and 49 is infected with herpes simplex (HSV-2)
Women are more likely to be infected than men - 20.9% compared to 11.5% - almost double the prevalence.
African-Americans are three times more likely to be infected than caucasians - 39.2% compared to 12.3%.

It is when you combine the second and third statement the disturbing statistics come up. Like a very nice Venn diagram I would think? The prevalence of HSV-2 in African-American women is 48%! That is enormously high, imho, when looking at one group of people. Especially when talking about a disease/virus with no cures... and a clear affect on the health of people.

This is also alarming since it has been shown that people infected with HSV-2 (especially women) are more susceptible to HIV infections. (I haven't read up on the causes apart from the fact that HSV affect cells and the immune system which most likely makes the threshold for infectivity by the HIV virion lower. Again, I'm not super sure on the mechanisms behind it, although the papers are there where the linkage of more suceptibility to HIV due to infection of HSV-2 are researched.)

I guess I shouldn't be too surprised really.... probably since the warnings about HSV and infection have traditionally been aimed at men (mostly with a preference to other men) and some women in the "high risk group". Then again, that might have been mainly in my own old country? I did notice that HSV-2 is the first STD in the USA according to the study.

It reminds me a bit about living in Canada and realising Hepatitis B was a big concern as an STD... I was really not use to that. Where I come from I knew it all about chlamydia and condyloma (genital warts caused by some HPV types) and that HSV-1 was a common cause of cold sores.... and that if you as a woman giving birth and had an ongoing HSV-2 infection it could spread to your baby (and the baby would be at risk for a systemic infection and be really sick).

Anyway, I thought about this since where I currently reside there is a high prevalence of teenage pregnancies... and not a high prevalence of condom use (or advocacy for condom use). Heck, the first time I was looking for condoms to buy here I went to five different stores and never saw any.... I ended up at the dodgy gas station where I saw some for sale (by that time I had already visited my home country and brought back some "real tested ones tat I trusted") but I wonder where regular people find them?! My guess would be that the prevalence of HSV-2 is higher where I live than in the middle of the hicks due to this lack of condoms and preaching of safe sex.

Sometimes I just wish we could talk more openly about these things that can be prevented if caution is taken, and that some teenagers would not have to be infected...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"just marry rich and be a real woman"

This would be one of the reasons I am extra tired today. Oh, and the comment "a man who vaccums looks a bit... strange... don't you think". Made in context of this show.

And people tell me that I am overthinking life and the meaning of it*? When most things I end up reading nowadays, in the news papers and other places, qoutes things like that and the Forbes' questionaire about which age is best for women to have children in (note; it does not consider things like "having a stable relationship and life partner" or "financially ok", just have children as a woman). Yeah, let's not go there since it is a sore place for me.

I had a longer post written in my head about a conversation that happened at work the other week, but decided to erase it. Why? It became too personal. In short, I turned into "the child" in a Q&A from some people, who are all parents... and since I was a least 15 years younger and with no children of my own, I could answer to why their children (most under the age of 25) were behaving as they were (of course, I couldn't but hey, who cares - let's stereotype a bit more). It spilled into a longer discusssion about "letting your parents down as a child and you should really think about them and their feelings" [the parents' feelings that is] and that "you have a PhD so you haven't let them down" until someone in the group reminded the rest of them that I was in fact on the other side of the pond compared to my parents, and childless on top of that, so maybe I had let them down on the most important part; grandchildren and being close for the comfort of my parents/family.

That killed the conversation. Go figure.

And I had some food for thought about my up-coming parental visit. I'm already knowing part of the discussion, and I don't have any good answers. I'm trying to be a good person here, ok. If "being happy" would be enough, it would be nice.

Clearly, I should have found my life partner in my early 20ies, then been married and pregnant by 25 and then it would have all sorted out. (I wouldn't have said no to meeting the man of my dreams then, but it didn't happen. So sue me.) Oh, and I should have been pretty too. And snagged a rich husband. Who wanted nothing but to take care of me and support me while I used the vaccumer. Well, I ended up with brains - like the PetShop Boys' song Opportunities - and missed out on going looking for looks (since I like brains *zombie*) and I did not stumble into any rich men who wanted to marry me.... guess I should have foreseen the future a bit better by 23?

Can you tell I'm most likely in the beginning of having a midlife crisis?

[an update/clarification. I would have loved to have met my Significant Other at 23. And I would have loved for our love to be strong and having children. It's just that I didn't meet that person then, and therefore I didn't get children who know are in kindergarden or so. It just feel a bit personal in the whole debate when it comes to "why don't you have XYW" and I don't feel like saying "because I wasn't attractive to anyone that I was attracted to in my 20ies?" Somehow it feels a bit too much to explain my choices, or lack thereof, to people just because they want to make a comment or ten of my life.]

*if you have the answer for what the meaning is, and it's not 42, please let me know. It'd save me a lot of grief.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

working out to the FOOD network

I have wondered a lot of times at the gym when I walk in and there is a FOOD network show on. Who wants to watch "peanut butter gooey cake" or "Paula what'shername cooking with Butter, butter and did I say butter?" or "let's deep fry these veggies and throw together a nice potato gratin with extra cheese"?!?!?

I don't know, maybe I am strange but watching food makes me hungry and feeling fat at the same time. It's the guilt trip of a life time. At least for me. And most all of the times, it's the skinny ones who put the food thing on. I guess maybe they only watch food and not eat it?! (I know, over simplifying but seriously.) The other options seem to be sports (any kind) or news shows. I'm more of a "something that keeps me guessing so I don't think too much about the pain".

Today though, I had to warn one nice older man on the treadmill next to mine. I had ended up watching "Real life in the ER" with a botfly like concept in the head of a girl... (She thought she had bugs in her head.... the doctors she had seen prior did not see any bugs and talked about maybe she needed a shrink. This ER doctor did see some bubbles (!) from small holes in her scalp. And then all of a sudden, a black headed worm... and then some more. Oh the horror.) And on top of the bugs in the head, there was a man coughing blood from swallowing a push pin, and a teenager having a blood clot in his brain. I felt pretty bad about having the "quite nasty show" on, while he watched the ancient cities and societies on Discovery next to me.

He must have liked it though, because when I left the machine to go home (oh sweetness I can't walk right now) he said he'd like it on since it was pretty interesting when the other channel went into commercial breaks ;) (Yes, he did ask if I by any chance was a doctor or something like that since I had a big grin on when the worm was drawn out.... microbiologist sure :) )

This bickering said, I am now finding myself watching the food network before I go to bed. It's the "Ultimate Recipe Showdown" - great ideas for dinner and stuff (at least today!).

Bad thing? I'm hungry again but now it is time for bed! Happy sleepy time!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

the immigrant

I had a whole post written but then it disappeared.

Anyway, the gist of what I wrote was this.

I hate to beg. I hate being treated like a lesser being. I hate people who take advantage of the lesser beings and therefore does not do their job.

But most of all I hate that some of them change when they are told I am Dr X and work at prestigious place Y and they really like me... (and these people can tell me "you don't look and sound like an immigrant" - really? now, do I want to know what an immigrant looks and sounds like? Most likely not, especially since this is a diverse country. And it is mostly given as a compliment...)

I hate the feeling in me that tells me that if I wasn't white and Dr and backed by some bigger place - I'd be on a plane away from here.

Did I mention I hate feeling vulnerable like that? Like a beggar standing looking around for small tokens. I guess this is one of the things why I always have tried to be self-supported and have a savings account.

But this time, I can't fix it. Only the evil lazy people can. (At least I can pay someone else who might not be as evil, and as lazy, but lucky me that I have money for the extra expenses.) I need to get lazy evil people to fix it. And it needs to be done quick. Guess the frustration?!

That's all for now.

I just don't like people who change demeanour because someone is a doctor or someone is important, or someone just is looking at them when the work. Guess who's still naive and wants to do a good job whenever?

Monday, March 08, 2010

silly slut on women's day

I wrote a post a while back, one of those I don't post since they end up too much of a diary entry than a science "related" post, that I named "rather a silly sleepless slut than stupid". I tried to ramble about scientists and the connection to the brain and mind, and that everything we are is linked to the intelligence and creativity of the ideas thought up.

...then of course, it could be something about being form where I am where swearwords and cursings are more to do with being "an idiot" and other "non-sexual connotations" and you don't care what your mother is doing and with whom. I tried to make a coherent post about this being linked to several things about women and their rights, not to mention older views of relationship and commitment. Back in the viking era, the wife of the Lord was in charge of the farm and the serfs and all, when the man was gone raiding.... and then there was this idea of handfasting, where two people could live together - as married and share a bed - for a year before deciding if they were going to go on (disclaimer; if there was a child made in all of that, they had no choice, since marriage was to protect the children and ensure them of a father etc).

And this is not even mentioning the tradition of having women making their last name as "daughterofX" and therefore making it more important of the old family, than adapting the name of the husband. Something that was also common in the aristocracy up until the 19th century- you know, after the Age of Enlightenment - when things started to change.

Anyway, why I thought of all this, yesterday was brought on by a discussion about cleaning the house, vacuumers and the traditional role of a woman. Yes, I might have failed in the cleaning department of where I live. Apparently something that was told to me earlier in my life did stick to my brain; "you do not need to be perfect and have perfect home and a perfect career". Still, the cleaning is going to have to be solved. However, in the course of the discussion I was brought to the attention that the International Women's day is not a common knowledge here in the US. Funny enough, I probably should have realised that, considering the socialist history of the day and the not so socialist history of the US. I did not.

So, I am embarking to work today, having an feeling that there will be no women in red socks, no flowers, and probably no men who are preparing to cook for their wives or celebrating them and the progress made in the world....

It might be interesting?!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

winner of the NFL challenge (the one we who didn¨t tie did)

The end of the NFL challenge a long time ago... sorry for not posting it earlier.

The winner is...... PiT with 8 points (really 9 but the first game was already in the works when she sent her picks so we decided to keep that one out of it). She was the only one to predict the Saints as the Superbowl champs.

After that we have a tie with 6 points and Alyssa and myself; our belief in the Vikings wasn't all met..... and then PLS who bet most of it on the Eagles and therefore ended up with 4 points.

Congrats to the winner PiT!!

Monday, March 01, 2010

it's March already?

I am a bit scared now. It's March already and the paper that I have been staring at (read; not done a thing at in a few weeks) is not nearly half done. I haven't heard word from my old PI though, but I know that I need to do the pushing. [whining]But there are some bigger things in my life coming up the next couple of weeks and I don't know how I will have the time to do it all[/whining]

I guess that means "step up and do it like when you were a post doc". This is also known as "not having weekends off to slouch, mornings to wake up slowly or time to just stare into space at work" ;)

On other news, since I am shocked it is already two months into the new year and I am not near my resolution of three months (something about exercising 4 times a week to loose the belly and get more harmonic). I woke up to this piece of news in regards to Utah women. (The first link to the New York Times is a bit more informative and the UK link is more... Independent?) In short, this may lead to that if you have a miscarriage in Utah, you might be prosecuted. It all stems from a rather sad and horrible story about a woman (teenage girl 17 years old in a rural eastern part of Utah) who paid a man to beat her up so she could get a miscarriage in the 7th month and not have the baby.... the baby was fine and was later adopted away, the man thrown in jail but as of the law today apparently they couldn't prosecute the mother ... (I find this a bit strange but sure enough, maybe it falls under the same ruling that you can't prosecute a mother to be for smoking/drinking/drug use here?!) The bill is partly written to make it illegal to seek for an [in Utah illegal] abortion in late term pregnancies.

I don't know but in my mind this suggestion aims a bit wrong - something about cutting the head of when you have a head ache!? Of course, the mother in this particular case seems to me to be in need of some psych help and that it shouldn't be applicable to "every case of a pregnant woman" but then again, I am no lawyer.... just a woman... And I haven't read the original thing just yet since lots of "opinions" are the first hits on google this morning... but as far as I can tell, we're back to the deal that Roe vs Wade does not really talk about the age of the fetus/determine the realms of the abortion since it is either ay or nay. In most European countries there are more of a "up until 12 weeks" discussion, and then in some other ones "up until 20 weeks with special consent". In the US it's different. Although, for my part - the thing that makes this bill a bit strange would be that you would have to report your miscarriage and that someone would know when you began your pregnancy. As I said, not really sure on how much is propaganda and how much is stemming from a conservative state legislature that have made some earlier decisions about individual freedom that I find less individual and more "in the name of the Father". Ah well, just wanted to point at a potential "up roar article" that's already moving through the internet with comments and misquotes etc.

And then there is this article in the Scientific American about post docs in the US. I haven't read it in full yet, since I started to get opinionated after the first paragraph and needed to go and do actual work instead. It looks interesting in any event, whether to agree or not... it's the old story about "too many post docs or not". The Chronicle has a shorted answer already here.

My bad in general is that it would probably do everyone a bit of good if we told undergraduates who are going into graduate school, or simply just telling graduate people to "have a back up plan in case you are deciding for whichever reason when you are done with your PhD/Post doc that Academia and TT isn't for you so you are not standing naked in a cold snow storm when it hits". (not to mention that your advisor may or may not help you out with a shield and a warm coat... some of them actually does that, some would rather not see you in the snow... end of ridiculous analogies for now.)

And as a final story, The Germans who are granted asylum in Tennessee since they want to home school their 5 children and since that is not allowed in Germany*, they moved to the US...

With that, I will go and try and plan my week in detail since I need to fix a lot of things in a short amount of time and if I don't get my hand on that data analysis sooner than later (since it is already way late) I will be a sad former post doc.

*You have to let your children go to a official school (it can be religious though, or public non-denominational) in Germany and not "only" home school them.