Saturday, December 24, 2011

God Jul

A little thought at this time of the year.... Since in Swedish the season is called 'jul' and 'God Jul' is what you say.. and no one really feels offended by God Jul since.... it's not a religious thing per se. Let's ignore for a second the pagan thing since most people don't think it is pagan and we're not thinking about the 'blot' (sacrifice at mid winter) - and we are talking about Santa Claus all the time... although, in Sweden we are refering to 'tomten', which is different than the guy in the red suit flying all over the world.

See, we're different. We have these 'tomtar' and 'nissar' who lives under or on top of our old type houses. They take care of the house and the animals, and you want to be friends with them... and if you're not, they can make a mess of things...

All over Sweden right now you'll see these 'straw goats' (halmbockar) which also is part of tradition. You were scared of the 'julbock' before since he came to your door if you had been bad, and took you away (or beat you). So, not coal in a stocking but being abducted ^^

And since most people around me here in the States are "considerate" and say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" (since Christmas is Christian and religious and not everyone likes that), I've replied with "God Jul". They might not know the meaning, but no one can say it's inconsiderate to religious or non-religious people.

As for the rest of this holiday weekend, I am having a lot of "firsts"... I have decided though, that there will be some traditional Swedish 'julmat' a day close by since I really miss the herring, the snaps and the Jansson's temptation.

Next post, Gott Nytt År :)

Monday, December 12, 2011

seeing dead bodies

One of the things I have realised I am grateful for from my undergraduate days has been my anatomy class. Maybe not for the obvious reasons, it was very good to learn about the body and the organs, but rather the time we went for autopsy and the viewings of dead people. Our professor, a very sweet old man in his 70ies, stood in the cold room before the autopsy and showed what people look like afterwards, when sown up and ready for viewings. He stood next to a body and lifted the hospital blanket (typical yellow one) and lifted the dead man's arm and started talking in a soothing voice on how there was nothing scary about touching a dead body, no disease spreading from the cold skin, just another day... and that this was normal, something that happens to all of us in due time... "avdramatiserat" as we would say in Swedish ("less drama?").

Then the class moved into the anatomical theater and proceeded to view the autopsy, without much drama, more in the mood of reverence and interest of our own endings. I still remember my fascination when looking at the brain and seeing exactly how big a liver is in a full sized human.

Anyway, I've come to realise - maybe even more here in this place where "viewings" are customary the day before the funeral, since this is not the case where I grew up - that I am grateful that my first time seeing a dead body was without any drama, no emotions of knowing the person, and that I didn't have to be scared when it was time for me to see a relative dead in front of me. Some of my friends back home have never seen a dead person ever. And when death happens now, not only do they have to deal with the grief, they have some apprehension and fear about seeing "the first dead body" too, with all the thoughts and fear that might come with that.

I won't say it's easy to see violent death, I don't think so - nor do I doubt that you might not ever "get used to it", but a dead body in itself doesn't scare me and for that I am very grateful. And that it happened during a university class where we were fortunate to have an old man talking about it with all the confidence and calm that "this is the way of life, we all die in the end".

At this particular day I wish one of my friends would've had that experience so it wouldn't have been as a tough time... or maybe I am only rationalising too much? What are your thoughts about it? Am I from an odd place, as it seems many a times, where we don't experience death to the same degree that other places do. And that it is one of those things where "shielding" might do more harm than good? (I sometimes think so, since it is inevitable after all. No one can escape death, no matter how much we might wish for it to be so.)

Friday, December 09, 2011

positive or negative?! who knows...

After one day in the life of living with the "cruel mistress we know as science" [Cath], this Friday brought some unexpected joy and giggles (hmmmm).

You know when someone all of a sudden sends you an email, or you're at least cc:d on it, stating "We got the results from the testing by Company P and they say it's negative! But what should it be?!?!" And three scientists respond with the description of the cells and "it should be like the wild-type"... but you think that it should be negative based on the vector and what's in it?

Yes. That'd be my morning....

And after calling several companies that make said vector and cells find out that everyone of them gives"It should be positive" as a first response, but when you ask "really, based on that the insert is in the middle and it has a repressor..." they change their tune to "hm, let me put you on hold and check that out for you". And after a few minutes' wait (2-10) they come back and express "indeed, it should come up as a negative..." You don't say? (insert little dance of joy and giggles)

Now, I only have to wait until the big meeting later this afternoon to share my joy with all the other email recipients ^^ *

You don't have more fun than you make for yourself some days :)

Happy weekend indeed!

*might be slightly sarcastic here. I'll most likely be quiet until we arrive to the row in the paper work dealing with the "negative result" and then say "as it should be based on the manufacturing"... who knows though, I might have a smile on my face since it is a positive result for us...

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Long day's journey into night

That feeling when you have spent too many hours in a day, too many days in a week, and too many weeks in a month working on that assay to get those results that will get you all you wanted... and the data comes out looking, not bad, not even "the opposite of what you wanted" but, baffeling and very odd.

That feeling... when all you thought was that it would make sense... that the day was "just another day in the life"... and then you have no answers. And you know that tomorrow you will embark yet again on the "trying to make sense of the data" - at least explain what went wrong; what happened; WHY does it look like that....

And you can get just a tiny smidge of tired...

That feeling though, after leaving the lab and the analyzing, when you open a door and realise that there is a lovely smell of homemade cooking, sounds of humming and happy times, maybe a bubble bath and warm and fuzzy slippers..... yes, that feeling can really make a tiresome Thursday turn into "tomorrow will be a new day with happy possibilities of making it all work".

Sometimes it's just those happy times!

Sunday, December 04, 2011


It's that thing about secrets. You all of a sudden get them, from someone else - or you make something that you want to keep a secret - and then they tend to haunt you.

As for this, it's not as much secrets I guess as "being someone's confidante" - I really can't think of an English word for it. In Swedish I would think of a word, but in English I'm currently drawing a blank. Anyone have a suggestion, I'd be more than happy to exchange the 'confidante'.

Anyway, the last couple of weeks my head and ego have been boosted - to a sort. I'm feeling grateful that I have friends who really confide in me, their thoughts and feelings, and who wants me advice (feedback might be better wording here) on their current situation - don't get me wrong. It is just that right now I'm feeling slightly confused and conflicted. Not to mention a lot of thoughts and feelings, and I shouldn't and won't betray their trust. So, all in my head.

I won't make an analogy about "confessions" since I'm not trying to pretend I would have help from God or some Higher being, but rather my own thoughts about some dicy situations and that I am not entirely sure on what to do.... nor advice (if I end up doing that, which I'm hesitant to anyway) but rather what to do with all my feelings and thoughts after "their ventings" (or what to call it) since it is more of being a sounding board and trying to give some questions to help them navigate what ever they are trying to sort out. It's about "being there and listening" and not giving judgement nor advice, but to just be there for them. And the last few weeks, it's been quite heavy stuff that makes me, not only think about my past, but to that whole "what would I do" and "what I am currently doing with my life" and also having to face that I'm not good with this whole "there is nothing I can do to fix the things" - I can 'only' be there for my friend. Ah well, meet type A - Dr chall. Happy to be of service.

I don't feel comfortable writing more in detail here - maybe I shouldn't even post this (but since this is fairly generic, maybe it is acceptable to write this little rant here?*)?

In short, I'm tempted to dig a hole in the ground and shout the secret(s) into it and put the soil back in. Then again, in the story that really didn't work out that well.... so, maybe I'm left with voicing it out in the night to the stars, face the scary and hope and cross my fingers and toes (and/or pray) that things will work out.

Right now though, I'm truly thinking and hoping that if only people could think and care about someone but themselves (I see the irony, don't worry) most of these secrets (situations) would've never happened. And truly, many people wouldn't have been hurt.

As I'm thinking more about it, maybe I simply needed to write it down here and post it for a second or so before removing it and get some of my frustration of the whole situation out?

*Most of them revolve around family, and how to go from this to something in the future... as I am trying to explain, mostly to myself, I'm usually pretty good with this due to my training but convergence of the season and multiple things are slightly overwhelming when coupled with some IRL things in my own life... ah well, I think this post in itself helped a lot. Will see how much remains after a night's sleep ^^

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

responding to email after midnight...

... I wonder what they will say tomorrow (today rather) since I've answered emails regarding tomorrow now (almost 00.30 where I'm at)? ;)

Interesting. If nothing else, it goes to show that I might be a slightly later person getting into work in the morning (not at 7 am as some of my coworkers) but then again, I seldom leave before 5.30-6pm... (read often after 6.30 pm) and read email at home when I'm trying to wake up at 7 am... wonders of email, right?

What's your work place policy?

(As for me, I've been realising that sometimes my response email is sent at "a strange time" to what others seem to think is "appropriate time" although I usually don't think about when I read my work email and respond. Well, I guess a few times it's been deliberate since I've been stuck working late and therefore to prove (yeas, I know the silly assumption here) that i've actually - GASP - been working outside of the thought of 7am -6pm hours....)

Monday, November 28, 2011

I'm missing

I really miss those times when I could vent science questions with my friends and co-workers (ok, post-docs and grad students and other scientific community ppl). It seems like those days have passed... or at leat deminished a lot. People are either too busy or not interested... not to mention the confidentiality problem for me to say something specific to "no one special" or here....

But I remember the times with coffee or a beer (or two), sitting and talking, moving from subject to subject - passing fast through some thoughts, lingering on others... and getting ideas... and more often than not, re-enforcements that "no, you're not lazy, it's just not that fast to investigate that questions" or "resolving that validation will take time".

Today is one of those days, it would've been so nice to step out of the office and go for a scientific beer and a good science venting. Alas, my circle is smaller, many have family and lives before holidays, responsibilities outside of work etc so I think the venting will have to be me in the gym..... and my head trying to see the answers of way too many questions to be answered in only a few days. Good thing I have time after work out to write summaries and suggestions, sleep on it and move from there tomorrow. Maybe an earlier phone call to across the Atlantic will do the trick? If nothing else, head tends to clear up after work out.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

must do now!

Funny, it's always like that. I need to leave early for once and of course there are a lot of "could you take a look at this" and "could you find that".... and I stayed late last night to fix all stuff...

Ah well, I am not in the mood to whine - but I think it is very typical.

Very soon, a 4 day weekend! I can't begin to express how happy I am about it. Looking forward to a lot of relaxing, some books, long walks in nature and just enjoying life in general. I'm thankful for the people around me who I call friends and family. And especially this month, when not one but three of my friends (or extended friends) have lost a parent...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

thoughts on mentoring younger ones...

I mentioned some of this before. First I got asked in the spring to be a mentor "from the industry perspective to undergraduates and graduates" (and as it turned out to be even post-docs), secondly I got invited to give a career talk at a high school in the rural south... I won't say I wasn't flattered, I was, even if it was a rural high school "who had never had a female PhD in Biology to talk for the seniors", which was one of the main reasons they wanted to bring me in. I am still flattered that people think I can give advice, answer questions and be a (some sort of anyway) role model... And I like it, don't get me wrong, since I often have easier times connecting with younger people than for me to network with older peers (sadly, since I would most likely benefit myself from being better at that aspect).

I went to the high school and had a great time. Good questions about "what did you take as an under-graduate student", "what made you go for a PhD", "what kind of career options do you have right now" and other questions along those lines. And of course, in my opinion one of the more funny questions "have you actually worked with HeLa cells?" and when answering "yes" getting a gasp and awe from the audience. Yes, that hasn't really been one of the more common responses... (they had read a book about immortal cell lines, not the book I thought about "Henrietta Lacks" but another one.) We did avoid talking about the ethical issues about that specific cell-line, and focused a bit more on the "bang for your buck" - or what one would call it talking about getting a degree and paying off your student loans in the long run... "Why choosing the major like you did and not?!"

I did admit, more than once I'm afraid, that when I chose my undergraduate subject and my masters, I didn't really consider my student loan vs my future salary. I went more with what I liked at the moment and thought I wanted to learn about, trying to fit it all together. I did mention my "on the side studies" in philosophy, political science and some other "not fitting with science major" subject since to me those have been very valuable in my decision of choosing not to pursue those subject. Albeit, I didn't do that on my "main" student loan but rather on my extra curriculum (taking about 125% classes for a few years - I was/am a sort of over-achiever). And when it comes to my PhD and my projected future salary vs student loan; I didn't think about that too much either. I went with "at the time it was a subject I loved, I thought I was doing good at, and I wanted to work with it (microbes) in my future. I wanted a PhD to show that I could tie several years of research together in a thesis and finish it". Yeah, I might not have been the poster girl for "thinking ahead what kind of job I wanted" and choosing my PhD.... especially not in these times. (Granted, when I started my PhD I thought I'd be on the TT right now, alas that changed somewhere in the beginning of my post-doc years.)

That was something I mentioned at both talks though, maybe more at the conference in spring since that was a lot of master students thinking about going for a PhD "since they wanted to work in industry" - and I said "I don't think that is necessarily a straight line between industry work and success and a PhD". And most especially not now, in the midst of hard times getting a job after a PhD. I'd be the first to admit though, not qualms about it, that my opinion might be very coloured from the fact that about half of my graduate friends don't have a permanent job even after 5 years after our graduation. And that not half of the ones without a permanent job (or whatever to call it) is within Academia with grants and fellowship etc. No, about half of my former graduate colleagues are in limbo. In between "maternity fill-ins" (something that happens back home - equivalent of 10-12 months of temporary work) or temporary positions at consulting business... and the other half are divided between 2 years fellowships (maybe prolonged due to publications or similarities) or a permanent governmental/industry positions.

All in all, it leaves me with a bit of hesitancy saying much about the future. Granted though, the high school students seemed almost to have a better grasp of the fickleness of getting a job in the future than the master students or the post-docs. That in itself might have been what made me the most curious. The amount of times I heard from people who had spent the last 4 years pursuing a graduate degree (being a masters or a PhD) telling me how much industry wanted the PhD and that was their only way in there... Not to mention the whole "but I've worked so hard and have good grades and surely someone would hire me because of that". And the high school students asking right out "which is the way to go to get a job after college?" with less of an asking about the degree required but overall help to choose majors to go on with "succeeding".

How to say something about "it's not all about what you do and know, but rather who you know and coincidence and hard work networking, that will get you where you want to be"? Yeah, I might sound bitter saying that, but truth to be told - I don't really think the whole "working hard will pay off since you are clearly good at what you do" will be enough anymore (if it every was?)

It was though, a very valuable time for me since as always, it is eyeopening for me to see me with the eyes of other people. And that the things I've encountered and lived through, even if I consider myself to be quite on the younger side of life, have shaped me more than I would like to admit and like. Not to mention that those experiences can help other people, if nothing else; I still firmly believe in the statement that you should choose whichever subject as an undergraduate that you find attractive and think you'd like to work with in the future. Not necessarily have a full grown plan (as I had at a time) since you never know what you might meet in the future, or what kind of opportunities open us, but go for what you feel passionate about while trying to keep some other venues open (like having an other subject as second - chemistry/poli sci/etc) in case you realise a few years down the line that you aren't as passionate about the main subject as you thought....

Though, of course, I'm trying to find a way to incorporate my love for microbes into something that can be viable for my future.... and I do still think that the main course of choosing makes more sense (to me) is "I'd rather regret the things I tried than never try it at all since I think I'll be more likely to regret the things I never gave a chance...".

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

sort of word bingo

"If you have the right mind set, we'll make this work"

"You aren't interested in working with it?"

"Why not give reuslts in three days?" (Because the assay takes 14 days.... and a result after 3 days will prove nothing.)

"We need this now. We need that then. And most of all we need all that last week." Of course you do...

"The decision is all based on what Dr chall gets as results on this assay. No pressure..." (Funny enough, I sort of like these open pressure things since at least I know what's expected right off the bat. I know, I'm crazy... hopefully noone will try and test just how much I can be coaxed into.)

Attitude, it's everything. If you really wanted to, you could do it. Right?

(As a side note. I'm sort of envious of a few of my former collegues in post doc land who has gotten funding from many sources. At the same time I think about my other friends who are presently "between jobs" even with their PhD and/or post doc and other experience... The old saying seems true right now; "To those who have, give lots. Those who have nothing, all will be taken away" ... )

Thursday, November 03, 2011

not exactly the evening I had hoped for

Imagine a weekday evening, "little Saturday", and you meet up with a friend for a drink. You sit down and have some food, at a new bar that opened a bit back, and have a beer or two. You talk, vent science, discuss future plans and hopes... You finish the food and after a few hours, you call it an early night and go home. A nice evening out with friend. Nothing big with that.

Yeah, if only.

Imagine an evening, you go to a newish bar with a friend. Have a beer, some food and then when you return from the restroom your friend is starting to behave a little odd. You end up in the night, not only driving them home, but also carrying them up the stairs, tuck them into your bed and watch over them since someone at the bar slipped them drugs.

Yeah, not really the night to want.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Hockey pool Week 4 (WOHO for me!)

Well, to be modest and all (well, not really) I was the best person to post the update from week 4 since I got the most points this week :) Lavaland is still the overall leader, followed by Bob and Ricardipus... but I got a whopping 50 points this week mostly due to the Finnish goalie star of the Predators: Pekka Rinne! (as a side note, almost as much as the first 3 weeks together... hmm... ^^)

Anyway, to go back to review mode. Most people this week got 30-37 points, a close range, even if the overall board has spread out... We're still hunting for the first three spots though, right!?!

(as for the ugly pic, yes - I still haven't figured out Numbers that well....)

Tonight, I'm hoping the Leafs will repeat their lovely performance in NY earlier this week when they WON! It's looking like a great start of the season for a Toronto fan (pride before fall and all... ;) ) )

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Planning is something I love (or rather love following plans, or need to?)

I love planning. I love making lists. And then, of course, I love crossing off the things I've done on that list. And to get a feeling that all of the stuff is acomplished.

Some people have told me, or asked me, if I sometimes add non-important things on the list in order to be able to "cross at least something off". My usual answer is no. I usually only make lists with the important* things. And then I like the time line.... (like project manager-like programs I guess)

Those lists save me a lot of time. I write the different projects I am involved in, I make some notes about What is wanted; What is needed in order to make it etc.... I finish my week (or day) with making a note of what I should do first thing in the morning, so I don't have to think about it when I get in the next morning.

And then my life is organised and I guess I feel a little in control. (<- key word there)

Lately, I've been feeling a little drained when the day is ending, my head has throbbed and I have felt out of whack. It dawned on my yesterday, after ending in a grumpy tirade to someone who really wasn't to blame for anything and I realised that I had no idea why I was going on on him. flash! The last couple of weeks (months?) has been very up in the air aka "new prioritizings on projects" on a almost weekly (or sometimes even day to day) basis.

Yeah, a little too much change... At least not in combination with "you need this done by week 3, this is prio1" that changes into "no, you need ThisBthing done by week 2"... and back again... and so on... And especially not if my life outside work is unplanned or changing on a day to day basis as well. I like my routines in one of these places... Work outs that day and this day, meeting friends there and there, plans followed through... Planned dinner and lunches and not "take out food which makes me stressed about not being in the gym as much".

The good thing with my grumpyness? That I have realised that my lists and plannings have been very eye opening for certain people and that maybe I can embark on something "new"... maybe. All of course, considering if I can survive these next couple of months which now seem to be "insanely packed with very important things that need to be finished by Xdate." I'm having a manical smile and looking at the lists I have already compiled - ready to go out to the people affected so they can add some of their stuff, as well as check some off - so we'll be ready to start steam rolling through the bullet points and achieve some results.

Yes, I might need to rename list maker to Organizer (just like my girl friends referred me as when talking about my "job" as wedding coordinator brides maid ;)) after all, it does sound much better than "she's the Bossy one" ^^

*important = things I need to do but not "eat lunch", "make coffee" but more "grocery shopping" or more likely "prep Assay A - solutions to make A, B C; buy powder B, check machine for time, fix form for final result"

Monday, October 24, 2011

maybe it's something in the air?

The last couple of months a few of my friends & acquaintances have been ending up with difficult discions and situations. I don't know why, maybe because several of us are in our mid 30ies and academics and now getting sorted out with "family-of-our-own-life" so we are indeed a few years behind on the "breaking loose from parents and starting our own lifes?" but still....

It's been quite a few who have cut contact with their own parents (or, in some cases, their in-laws). And some whose parents have decided that "they don't want any more contact since the children aren't abiding to the parents' wishes and rules". Some of them are one-sided from the "children", some from the parents, and some seem to be mutual "let's not pretend anymore"...

To me, it's been a little strange to watch from the sidelines since most of them are still in the same country as their parental units. Not expats (if that's the word?) like myself going through the "why don't you come home more*". Then again, one of my fellow former post-docs is going through the "well, guess I won't have to bother with them anymore" as not in the same country... still though, most of them are in the same countries.

I can't help but wonder if it's just me not thinking about that this would be a problem... but it's always been a problem but the distance between children and parents (nevermind if it is an ocean or "just" a few kilometers in another city) is increasingly putting a new pressure on it. Afterall, it's not too many generations ago (2?) that immediate family stayed close by eachother and lived and socialised together. Then again, maybe I just thought "it was going to work out since everyone are willing to adjust and compromise since family is important".

Ha. Don't worry, I can see the rainbow, roses and fairytale frame too.... not the reality one. It just leaves an unsettling emotion in my tummy...

*vacation is counted in hours here... not weeks...

Monday, October 17, 2011

best behaviour on display

I'm proud of myself. I have been able to not only be quiet (for me, it's sometimes hard), but also slightly smiling and saying "but of course" and then continued being quiet for a little while now.

Then I have finished a couple of reports, pointing out in what I would say might be the crux of the matter, interpretations of the data assembled and possible solutions (if that is something to be desired). And now, keep going until decisions are made and voiced.

Let's just go with that I haven't been this happy with my background in "scheming*", "temper check*", "planning ahead*" and last but not the least "scientific arguing with facts, data and statistics" (rather than anecdotal "I had feeling this was what we did").

I think I'm deserving a little drink after workout tonight, even if it is Monday. Or rather, especially since it is Monday - four more days in the week....

* all slight ambiguous traits from role playing games character traits....

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

replicates/duplicates/averages - they're not the same

Those unspeakable moments, what would you do without them? I might not have had too many of them, or thought about them as much, had I not been a a)female (or do I mean feminist?) b)non-American (rather from a Scandinavian egalitarian country) c)in a place where we're under a lot of stress at the moment. And, I wouldn't be who I am if I didn't throw in the blanket "other things I can't write about since in the end I have a job I wouldn't like to loose".

Still thought, there are some things that clearly makes it more obvious than other times.

As in I'm good, not even kidding myself here, in coaching others in these situations. Yes, I would know what do to and how to phrase it to be in a good standing. However, coming to me and what I do..... well, let's leave it at "sometimes I am just not up for being the quiet cute girl in the corner even when it should be my best mode of action. I guess I can at least be happy with that I have not lost my integrity? Although, I wonder when I forgot my game playing mode? I have been entertaining the idea that "we are all looking for the winning solution here". Clearly, as stated in so many real life conversations, we were not. We were looking for an easy solution. Really, it shouldn't surprise me - still it does though.

Certain things really tick me off. Like people not taking responsibility for their actions. And maybe blaming someone who was never even involved in it to start with. Or pretending nothing ever happened... Or when you need to depend on other people and they fuck things up (and keep quiet about it) and you're left with a mess... coupled with never admitting that it was never going to be done at all but rather hidden in a corner, hoping (?) that it would go away by itself... I don't think I'm too unreasonable to state that it would be so much easier for everyone involved if the hiding and pretending could go away.

Then of course, it is that beuatiful insight when you realise that someone have mistaken (?) 'replicates' - 'duplicates' - and..... 'averages' .... when they have done their statistical analysis.... Let's not even complicate things with degrees of freedom, it's really not necessary.... Why not just put all the points in a heap and make the cutest line you can make? I mean, that's what you really look for, right?

Thursday, October 06, 2011

woho!! :) (hockey)

It's a win! The Leafs won against the Habs!

And for the time being, while watching that Canucks vs Penguins game, all is ok in my little world. Sure enough, Canucks could look better.... (update in the middle of 3rd; they're looking a little happier now) But Leafs won!! I was really not counting on it - so sue me, come back when your team hasn't made a substantial mark for more years than you've been alive (1967 - last time Leafs lifted the cup) before you laugh ;)

It will at least be a good night on the east coast way of teams. Maybe I'll go to bed as a happy west and east coaster?! :)

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

it's soon holidays... right?

I was the one who said the strange words a while back... "so, we're doing this study starting then and there. Oh, I guess there will be no Thanksgiving holiday then." It was an obvious statement based on the schedule in front of me - alas without dates but days spelled out in order.

And the next meeting was about these things "that needed to be done yesterday but we sort of didn't think about it until tomorrow".... Sound familiar to anyone?

I don't write grants but my deadlines seem to correspond right now with other people's crazy time. I sort of looked forward to Thanksgiving (American), since it would mean 4 days off in a row (wow!). Especially since Christmas break this year was looking like 2-day weekend, as usual. But now, well - I dunno.... I guess I'll see what kind of holidays I will end up having.... There are some important deadlines that just have to stick. And it's for a good thing so...  Really, I shouldn't care too much since I had a few/several years without either holiday off - but that was as a post-doc... I didn't really expect anything else, and I could plan my own schedule actively. Now, it's more of a reactive thing, and maybe that is the root of my frustration in reality?!?!

I can ponder all of that and then some more once I finish these things on my list to do. Right now though, it's analysis time! Start chugging away on those bullet points on the to -do-lists.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

i update but not showing up in the blog lists....

I'm only writing this since it's really annoying to me. I just posted a blog post and I can see it clearly but it's not showing up in the blog list as updated.

I've quit copying and pasting from another "notepad" but write my posts in blogger window (that was suggested to being one of the problems) but since that doesn't seem to be the thing..... I'm not saying I have a lot of readers - as you my lovely group of follwers know - but it isn't really helping to keep you if you don't see that I have finally posted something new....

well, it's in the list now..... 56 mins later... I guess that is ok, sort of.... at least it's not a day behind....

private, not government, leads to what?

It's not the best title, and as former ScienceBear wrote on her blog, it's been very busy and even when I have had the time to "save draft" with some thoughts and ideas I have obviously not done anything with it. So, today I'll try a new approach and just make a short post about something I read this morning in the paper. I think that if I link it, it's free for access....

The main problem I have with this, not surprising maybe since I grew up (and was groomed) in a country with a kind government that promises to take care of you and your family, might be that I like some things to be state driven. I don't view the government as evil per se and I might even like the State a little too much...  Then it's my background (PoliSci and philosophy) where there are some thoughts about "what are the minimum requirements for a state to function?" and "what are the responsibilities for the state towards the people?" among other things that pop up when I read these kind of articles.

Personally, I have a hard time with this "long term storage" of people. I don't really distinguish between being locked up in a hotel (nice) or "behind barbed wire in a camp" (not so nice). It's pretty obvious what kind of image the writer wants you to get, and in this case I would've liked not to have that image since it takes away the focus on the real problem imho. "Who is responsible, when the system was built with control functions for the state driven things (prisons for example) but now shifted into private driven things?"

(I'm sure the questions can be formulated way way better but I'm under time contraints...)

I mean, it scares the beejeezus out of me to think what would happen if I end up in one of those private run places since if something were to happen, as history and experience show, there is no system in place for accountability since "we are not responsible since we bought the service from them" and "we only provided the service they wanted to buy" ... and then go on and on and on since most likely you (the 'little people' as so famously said by BigCo CEO) don't have the money or resources to go to the legal system, which you wouldn't have had to if it was the state.... since that system is in place....

Not to mention what a waste it is to keep people locked up/detained without decisions for several years and leaving them in limbo. I mean, not only thinking of these people, but from "my view as a citizen", but how much money is thrown at these private companies to keep these people in a secure place and they need food and living space etc but won't be able to work or provide for themselves. Although, I guess having these detention centers with "have to work to be here" might be very obvious why these campscenters leave a bitter taste in my mouth. Then again, I am a huge proponent of calling a spade a spade and not spray rose scent on a wilted flower to make it seem nicer....

Only a few thoughts on a Thursday when I am staring at my assay C, which will have to be qualified and cleared for usage within too short a time and I am not really sure on how I will make it work since I do have some* other things to do as well....

*a few more projects with deadlines looming before Xmas. There's nothing like projects all converging at the same time, right?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

is it called "feeling smug"?

After a workday of 11 hours for the first time after being home in the sick bed I wanted to go home and sleep. Or I wanted to grab a beer on happy hour with some friends... but instead I realised that the gym and I had a long overdue date. Said and done, I changed at work and went to the gym for a work out.

Now, feeling slightly sleepy and delightfully tired in my muscles, I am also feeling a little smug and content that I did do what I knew I should've done. It is really that easy for me to try and get back into work out mode after a long "vacation" away since the time in far away country consisted of walking, walking (some train rides) and more walks, alas no "real" work outs.

So, now I only need to go back to the gym Saturday or Sunday. Although, it is football Sunday.... hmm... football and beer is looking very tempting... maybe work out first and relaxing afterwards? ^

Monday, September 19, 2011

How sick do you need to be to stay home?

I have a hard time being home on a sick day. Somehow it's always "do I have a fever?" and if that's not the case, I buckle up and go to work. Being a grad student and a post doc in these cases made it slightly easier since then I could even go into work when I had a fever - experiments depending. In short, I am not good at admitting defeat to my body.

This morning I woke up with stuffed nose and red eyes, throat itching and sneezing and a massive head ache to go with that. I decided not to be a silly person (like I was Friday since I knew I had to finish some experiments and thought it would be a "quick day in the lab" - yeah, not so much) but called in and then promptly fell asleep and woke up in the middle of the afternoon. Clearly I needed some sleep?!

Now I wonder if I should stay home tomorrow as well or buckle up and go in and do those assays that are needed to be run? I should wait until tomorrow morning to decide, of course, but I am a little curious on how people think about this "sick leave"*. When do you stay home and how sick "should" one be for it to be ok?

(I am a little surprised myself for wondering but I've realised the older I get, the more it seems to be OK to go into work with coughing, sniffles and looking positively "not well". Anyone else on the "as long as there is no fever" train?)

*I'm lucky in this country since I have both vacation and sick leave, on different accounts so I don't loose pay if I am sick. That said, it's not that I think I want to waste any days since they might come in handy some time... and if I'm not sick I'm not allowed to take them off. Obviously, since they are sick days.

On another note. Anyone has any ideas on why my posts show up on my blog, but not on the RSS feed?!? Or at least not more than randomly and several days later?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

depending on machines...

Sometimes I get reminded why depending on anything, but most often machines, is an irritating idea. Especially when I live where I currently do. This morning for example, getting outside and preparing to go to work, when my car made an interesting sound when I turned the key in the ignition....

Yes, it was that sound a boat motor makes (my first point of reference when I tried to explain to a mechanic what had happened) when you pull the string (ok, so I never had a big boat) and it huffs and puffs but does not make the "connecting" sound... as when the motor actually starts...

No, my car didn't start. And I yet again was happy that I live within walking distance from work so I wasn't totally stranded. Well, I didn't walk to work this morning (making everyone happy at work since I wasn't too late, and the added joy of making a little bit of fun of little me) but rather walking home and enjoying the lovely sunset. Sure enough though, I missed my country from farfar away too soon... there I wouldn't have been eaten alive by vicious mosquitos and sweaty in the warm weather but it didn't rain or was a thunderstorm.

Now, I only hope that I can get my car fixed sort of soonish though, since even if I can walk to and from work - no car seriously diminishes my options on buying food, meeting with people and living my life... alas, it's not a disaster - but considering the US dollar value in the exchange rate I don't really look forward spending too much on repairs since my 'vacation' did end up being if not too pricy still fairly expensive ^^ ah well, perspective is a good thing right? I only need to remember that a car is not an option where I live - it's a needed thing to function - at least when your bike has two blown tires and you haven't fixed it yet (either).

And I thought I was a planning girl.... duh.... well, time to do laundry and unpacking since a vacation seems to lead to lots of those things to fix before home looks like 'normal'.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

things that happen in vegas...

...stay in Vegas... maybe the same in other places? (aka "across the ocean in far-away-country") :)

Random pieces from the last couple of days left me with a very interesting night mare the night to last. Not only involving lots of people I've met with but also fairly commonly known stressors as "not being dressed enough in public" and "babies screaming and creating panic" ... not to mention people being angry and upset with (dream)me. Very realistic to me, and I had to think about it for a second when I woke up - if it was real or not. All in all, a great relaxing night for my brain I'm sure.

Then there are those times where I feel oddly giggling. as when I left one friend from one of the poshest addresses in town in a cab to go to another friend in a not-so-posh (read "poor") part of town to pick up a bag and hang out a bit. Odd, yes. Both are really good friends of mine. But oh so different lives they live....

And the oddest questions yet; "...So, are you married, having a boy friend, single or?? And by the way, do you have any siblings?" It's not illegal in a work related interview, but not appropriate... but who am I to say?

Weather wise it's interesting; one day 85F and sunny, the other rain and 55F and windy.... and my jogging shoes are not good at keeping water out ^^

I'm looking forward to the football Sunday - I can watch it from the living room!! All in all, awesome times - if not a little tiresome with all meetings, networking and friends and family.... but oh so nice!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

decision making

A few weeks ago I went to training - hiring training - and a few of the comments there got me thinking about "gut feeling" and being a scientist. Or maybe more to the point, gut feeling and my basis of decision making (as a scientist). I would think that most of my training in grad school was "it doesn't matter what you think/feel but what the data tells you", aka "override gut feeling until you have data dots to prove it". That is; that gut feeling is fine, but you really need data to support it - otherwise it isn't "true" but "just a feeling" and that’s not valid until you can prove it.

Then when you interview people for a position, sometimes your gut goes "Hm, it doesn't feel all right here" ... and then my brain tells me to override the feeling until I find the reason (cause) of my feeling*. And after that I can make a decision. At the training though, many people did voice that gut feeling was the way to go, "after all, gut feeling tells you something that your brain might not recognize in words but transforming into a feeling" ... but unless I get the brain to tell me what it is, I am not comfortable with making a decision based on my feeling. Why? Probably because I think that if there is a valid feeling I would know what I based it on and therefore rule out the bias “I really like X so I’ll go with gut feeling on that and miss the data that tells me something else too”.

Like if I get results from an experiment and it doesn’t really look what I thought but gut tells me that there is something interesting there. What to do? Go and retry it and see if the result is the same yet again, if it is… data is data, right? (Hm) Or the experiment is not the right one?

Another thing that was pointed out to me during the training was "past behaviour predicts future behaviour". As in, you ask the interviewees about what they did at a certain time to know what they what they may (probably) do in the future. I understand the thinking but it goes against part of my beliefs that people can change and that what happened before might not be what happens in the future but sure…

In short, I left the training thinking a little too much about what to base my decisions on and if I trust my gut feeling or not. Especially since a few ones I’ve made in the past based on “gut feeling” turned out not the best ones, whereas most of the decisions based on “facts” and “data dots” (aka ‘list technique’) have turned out more favourable. Of course, I might only remember the bad gut feeling decisions (since they ended up fairly badly) and not take into account all the “regular happy ones” I’ve made – but I’m not too sure.

I’m revisiting this decision making basis again now because there are a few doors opening and I am going to have to make a few decisions in the near future. And it’s not as easy as saying choose yes or no for door B, then move over to door W and say aye or nay etc… No, rather it is “if you choose door B, door W will not be an option anymore” as in “it’s opting out of one thing when choosing the other”; and that leads me to have to weigh in a lot of other factors in my thinking and gut feeling is apparently one of them… If it would’ve been an experiment I would’ve made n=3 and see what the outcomes were and choose accordingly. However, I wonder if I should think of this round of choices as the last in a series or if it is an independent test altogether – no previous action will indicate the outcome…. Or just solving it all like the Gordian knot?

I know for sure that the option a friend of mine offered is a definite no though. After all; “just accidently close door W and then decide if you want the other doors” is not my style of things… even if it would be so much easier for this decision process … I guess I will know more in a few weeks… either or.

*I honestly think this would be one of the reasons I stayed through some harder things since I have decided that I don't care what I feel, I'll finish the task and then care about the "feeling" ... maybe I'm just too stubborn?

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Last Circus

Every once in awhile you see that movie preview that make you go "That's a movie I' really want to see" and you get your hopes up. Then (as I've realised way too many times in post doc city) I come to realise that the movie will not be shown at the local movie theater... It's most common with independent movies and, since I'm in a slightly not the biggest city of the southern US, European movies (unless if they're British/UK).

I saw Beautiful over Christmas, back in Europe, and the preview of "The Last Circus" (really "The sad trumpet" - Balada triste de trompeta) makes me wonder if it will be as devastatingly sad (yet good) as that one? I might have some prejudice against Spanish movies, which imho seem to have a hefty dose of 'realism' or depressing feelings, as with other independent movies and from Sweden, France and some Scottish and British movies. (I'm leaving Fassbinder - German - altogether outside of this, but if you are in mood for some serious movies; The Decalogue is good.)

But back to the movie in question... It seems to have love, sad romance, war, friendship, family and - maybe mostly my "don't look but still I do" nightmare food - Clowns. Yes, the main characters are clowns in a circus. Good food for nightmares in my book. However, the preview show a clown with a machine gun going slightly crazy... apparently that catches my eye?

Not sure if my fear (apprehension) is based on It (Stephen King) or simply because they have a painted face which makes it impossible to know who is really behind the makeup mask? That usually a good way to get me thinking bad things (yes, Jason I'm thinking about you and the old time hockey mask).

I guess I will try and watch it in Europe when I go there soon... although I fear it has already been shown and stopped at the movies there. Maybe only dvd/streaming will be my alternative?

Anyone out there who has seen the movie and have some thoughts?

Monday, August 08, 2011

but it's not even 10 am Monday yet?!

Some days would've just been better to stay in bed.... It's not even 10 am on a Monday, the week hasn't even started really, and I am ready for it to be Friday afternoon. Or, better yet, beginning of a long vacation (yeah, that's not happening).

It's been a couple of rough weeks at work, LOTS to do - new things to invent, tweek and fix - and most of all, stress from others spilling into your own work. This on top of being in the middle of transition with new people taking over from people who left... I thought I was doing fairly good with it, and I probably was... until one of my crucial assays decided to take a little vacation and not work as well anymore. And that would be the assay I'm alone of being qualified on, so there is no backup person (yeah, we're training someone but they're not there right now....)

So, for the last couple of weeks I've been doing and redoing (and redoing and redoing) this assay. The part why I am ready to accidentially hurt one of my hands so I can not perform it for a few weeks? That half of the problem is that my assay readout isn't reading what "they" want to to be.... Guess what though? That's not due to the assay, or my performance. It is all in the samples I get...

Oh joy and happy times. It is good that I got some good ego boosters last week in terms of emails telling me happy things. One of my first students I mentored back in country far away have landed an awesome job and wrote to thank me for all the good advice and teaching I did back in the days of undergraduate for them... And a post doc wanted to pick my brains on industry and interview techniques and she got a fly out interview based on her good phone interview we pep talked for.

So, I guess I should relish in "those who can't, teach?" since clearly I can do something.....

Well, nothing will be better by me being grumpy this morning so I'd better get right at it and go chugging at that assay. Yep, yet another day of "assay from hot place" and no refuge insight yet.... I might feel better if I make plans to go out after work and have a little break with friends?! There is nothing a little laugh can't help with, right?


Wednesday, August 03, 2011

mentoring and small talk

One of the major things I talked about during my mentoring session at The Big Conference (TBC) where they had asked me to participate in their mentoring program as a mentor* turned out to be small talk. What I mean with that? It started out as simple (ehh) questions like "how did you get your job in industry?" but more often than not "what's the biggest difference from being/working as a post doc?". Most of these types of questions for me would mean that I end up with "small talk" or "it's not what you do, but how you report/tell/talk to others about it and interact with your co-workers". With that I tried to point out that my post doc was fairly lonesome, as in - I had my own project and could plan it the way I wanted to do it since most of it was up to me (as a type A control freak that worked out really well). I didn't collaborate that much, and I didn't have a tech running my stuff but rather that I did the hands-on work as well as planning it. That meant I could work late nights to get the results if I wanted to, or when the machine was available...

Furthermore, most times it was not the chatterbox in lab in the morning so when I came in and started to set up my stuff at the lab bench most people would not talk too much to me but rather see it as (at least that is how I see it) as "oh, she's setting up her stuff and is busy, better wait for a bit to chat". In my "new" job, that isn't the thing really since we have cube land and more (as I would think it is for most people) "chatty". Why I keep bringing it up? Because I might seem like an extrovert at parties and such, but in lab and when I'm working I tend to be focused, thinking and planning; not as easily moving from "work mode" to "chatty mode". It's one of my "less great areas" I guess? Or one where adapting to the work culture is more an issue.

It's been one of the biggest adjustments for me, to leave my train of thoughts and answering questions about all and everything (sometimes work related, sometimes more interpersonal chatty things) without sounding short and getting people offended (it's many people who takes this as a snub off and that's not a good thing, of course).

Nothing big for some I'm sure - I was merely answering these questions from my personal view, which I think was the main reason for being a mentor... but still, it showed me that I at least know my weak spots. Which brings me to the crux of the matter. Many of the graduate students, and undergraduates and post docs, were fairly keen on telling me "that they didn't have that problem". In fact, many of them stated they didn't have any problem whatsoever.... You know, in the terms of telling me that in fact they didn't think they'd have a problem getting a job after uni at all....

And some of them might not, they were a diverse group after all. And some of them, I'm sure, with a stellar publication record and perfect skills etc. Nevertheless, I started to wonder somewhere in the middle of the session how to explain (or express might be a better wording) that their attitude imho was one thing that wasn't going to make it. Just because you are good (or great) at what you do, doesn't mean that you will get what you want in the end. Sorry, but that would be my experience... It's like that old saying about fair - life isn't fair... even if I'd love it to be, but it's not.

It's more about how to play the game and have the small talk and other "trivial" things in line to get things rolling your way.

The same thing happened when many of them asked me "is it too early to start looking for a job since I'm not graduating until January next year?" (this was late spring/early summer). My response was, and is now, that it is never too early to cultivate your contacts. I know, it sounds so trite and cliche but really - I think that in today's world it's not about "looking for a job right now" as much as having people you know who can keep an eye out when it comes down to it and then approach you with "we're looking for someone who can fill this position".

I guess what I was and am trying to say is that half of the time my friends and myself have been looking for jobs, it's been extremely helpful (and pivotal) to have that head start of being in "some one's mind" when they start looking for someone to fill the position. It's also one of those things that I am trying to remind myself of, that the "dream position" might not be there for you right now but in awhile... and then you'd want to be in on the action once it opens up.

I'm not saying this only because I've "heard" it, but since that was the way I got my present job. I had looked into the place I'm currently working, met with some of the Big people there and talked about "what did you do to get your position and what would you recommend me to do in order to move into industry". This was way before I actually applied or anything, just doing the dreaded cold call and coffee chat without any asking for work things. Just talking and having a "mentoring" like kind of conversation - since most people like getting the opportunity to talk about themselves and how they got to where they are now. And it's helpful to know what they did in order to get there, if nothing else - you get to practice that small talk and net working (all big words, and BS warning, I know).

*As a side note, when I got the first email request about mentoring I thought they wanted to know if I was interested in being mentored. As it turned out, they wanted me to mentor... goes to show where I am in my "head" about being asked things from professors and professionals... well, I'm learning that ego boosts are good to take in and process. And also, maybe more important for me as a professional, that I am viewed to have some experience and good advice. Not that I didn't think so (in my great moments) but it's still a little uncommon to get requests. Then again, the more I looked through my emails I realised that I have actually been contacted by quite a few with questions and advice... I guess I never really understood that post-docs that I had worked with asking me things would fall into a slight mentoring category?

Friday, July 15, 2011

view from a mountain (sort of top)

sunset during one of those lovely weekends away from the city.... :)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

On a mountain top

That's where I'll be this wekeend - this loooong weekend here in the US. One of those things I missed the most about being a post doc was that I was always (ok, most of the time) in lab during weekends, happily making experiements and taking data points... but that there was little time (or energy more like it) to go somewhere and relax on the weekend, or for a few days. Most times I was happy to go home and do laundry, cook some food and go grocery shopping. Oh, and read books in bed. Just sleeping was also a wonderful thing.

In my present job, I've been able to not work on the weekends. Yey. It has lead me to not only have a social life (yes I know, quite the difference ...) but also to work out really regularly (with subsequent weight loss and looking - if I may say so - much healthier and glowy) and - like I'm doing this weekend - going out of town to enjoy the wildness outside!

The comments from my co-workers have been in the line of "Again? Weren't you away that weekend in April, and in May and your relatives were here a moment ago and you left town then too" ... Why, yes I was.  And I will go away again in a few weeks (canoe and rafting!). And then there will hopefully be something fun i September again.... and probably some sort of trip outside of town for Thanksgiving. And then there is Christmas and I am not having more plans than that.... but Florida is looking pretty interesting. Or a simple repeat of last years' Christmas back in Sweden. Who knows?

It's been like when "before the post doc" and stuff happened. Like a "regular" native of my old country. Weekend trips to the country side, or going hiking for the Saturday and enjoying the forest and not having cell phone reception... And during this time thinking a little about work (it's hard to disconnect all the time) and more thoughts on life and what the future plans should be (children? moving? what kind of work to get?) but most of all it's been a very good reminder that life is so much more than "wake up, go to work, maybe have a beer/exercise, go home, read some, go to sleep" please rinse and repeat.

On top of this nature reconnection that I have been enjoying lately, I've been involved in social work, or what ever to call voulonteering at hospitals/hospices to help people who are in a dire situation and in need of some contact with people who need some care? It's been extremely rewarding to be able to give help and support to someone who is in a dark place and know that what ever little I can do will hopefully help them through what ever the hardships they or their loved ones are going through.

In short, I might not know where I am going in the future - but I feel pretty good about the current situation where I've managed to establish something outside of my lab life.... not to mention that I have been able to help some people through hard situations. It's all about relationships - and what you can build together.

I'll stop with my happy glow ranting with a little cute tidbit; "If you have no regrets, you need to get out more." :)

Next blog post will probably be something of all the things I ended up with on my mentoring session...

Saturday, June 18, 2011

sleep on it

It's funny that I can keep going and have things to do every day, weekend and the weeks just go by in a blur... and then when I stop and reflect - say in a hotel room at a conference in another town where I'm alone - I notice how drained I am and how much I needed that time away from the regular tempo. And then, while mentoring people who are "younger in their careers than me", I realised that I have actually learned a lot through the years. And more surprisingly to me, others seem to like to get advice, suggestions and thoughts from me about things like career and life in general.

Nothing earth shattering of course, but it is good to look at yourself from the outside at times and remember that even if I think my life is pretty messy and not successful, others might find some minor things as acheivements .... and that I should really be more happy with what I've accomplished and where I have ended up in life (both physically and mentally really).

It's like the old "sleep on it" and let the dream world sort out the thoughts you might have and see it from another view - and the world is much clearer afterwards.

Now, it's only up to me to try and do some of all the things on my list, since my day off have left it painfully obvious to me that my home is in sore need of a cleaning, as well as my thoughts. Nothing like a little good alone time to get things in perspective :)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

tonight's the night....

I realised today that I'm more nervous/excited about the game tonight than I actually thought. I got taunted today by a co-worker and wasn't too good about it - granted, I kept my mouth shut and didn't say anything apart from "I don't have a grey scale". Which to me mean that I either say good things or very very bad things.... and at work, that's not where I want to be - bad words that is.

So, if nothing else - please Canucks, win tonight so I can wear the nice shirt tomorrow and enjoy the happiness of celebrating the Canuck win of the Stanley Cup!

Considering my luck though, I am scared they will burn and fall in their own  home town since it would mean SO much if they did win.

A little more than an hour to game start...... oh the anticipation. In four hours, I guess I'll know if I will be a happy gal tomorrow :)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Too fast, too slow – just not proper timing

Sometimes I wonder why people bother with scheduling a “time for deliverance” if they have no intention of keeping it, nor use it. Lately there have been some snafus both in my private life as work environment… for example; say that you order something online and the delivery time is estimated 10-14 days…. But in reality it’s dropped off outside your door* after 3 days, on a Friday … and that you might not be home all weekend but there is no parcel when you get home Sunday. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to get premium shipping for the same price as “standard”. However, now I’m left with nothing at all since I don’t have a parcel to show. Only hope would be that some kind neighbors took the parcel in order to give it to me later (insert “that’s not that likely”smile). But sure, it’s not their fault since I should be happy it arrived earlier than expected… I’m just that person who would something like 3-14 days since it is apparently possible for that?! And before you ask, since it was the “standard shipping” it shouldn’t have required a signature as receiving…

The other thing would be slightly more costly (after all, what’s a ‘bridal party gown’ compared to precious protein? Nothing really). So, if you are shipping things on ice in the hot summer… and you want the compound to remain frozen and not semi-thawed or completely thawed… I wouldn’t recommend sending it on a Friday without a courier and proof of pick up/delivery. I certainly wouldn’t pack it on ice, leave it in the “postal room for shipment” and assume someone is picking it up on a Friday afternoon to deliver it to the recipients on a Saturday…. And especially not if you didn’t contact the recipients and let them know that there will be a sensitive parcel arriving on a Saturday in a long weekend when many people take the chance to take off 3 days in a row. I guess the only ‘less bad thing’ was that since the delivery failed on the back end the recipients didn’t have to pay for not receiving it, but the compound is wasted and destroyed. 3 days in a non-climate controlled area with dry ice that’s evaporating would do that to something that needs to be frozen before immediate use.

Ah well, lucky it was an alternative dress on sale so in reality it's not a disaster but still, it would be nice to get what you pay for.... I guess I'll knock on some doors later on and see if someone might have caught it?

If nothing else, I still need to reschedule the fitting for another bridal party gown (thankfully this one is not online but in a real store) since I clearly lost my mind and scheduled an appointment for Wednesday 6.30 pm. The huge problem with that? The final game 7 in the Stanley Cup finals starts at 7 pm…. Yeah…. Not the best timing ;) Now, where is that phone…

*sometimes this happens, rather than bringing it back to the postal office/delivery van/somewhere else, the parcel is left on the porch/right outside the front door... it's all fine if you are arriving home within an hour or so but a weekend.... unattended.... in this town? ehh..... not so likely...

Wednesday, June 08, 2011


I realised after writing my post yesterday that it wasn't really a good analogy or anything actually ;) After all, my story had no infidelity, no cheating, no nude pics and most of all, no hypocrisy either....

Just some texts revealing some details I might not had shared with my family since it is (was?) private and personal.... all in the context of "my diary is private, doesn't mean it's something illegal or wrong, just personal things". It's just been a lot of "revealing texts" in the news media lately...

And I realise that this disclaimer is fairly unnecessary. If nothing else, it points me to the fact that I haven't written real blog posts in a while and need to get going and produce something. After all, I have some thoughts and ideas to put on paper :)

Now though, off to work and get that assay working. At the moment too much variability between the triplicates of cells......

Tuesday, June 07, 2011 least I'm not in congress.. nor have a fancy phone...

Every so often something happens out of the ordinary.... 

Lucky me that I don't have a fancy phone with twitter, internet or photos on... nor that I let someone else borrow it too much.  However, if you happen to lend it to someone and they happen to open “new texts” that get delivered during the day… don’t be surprised if there is an awkward silence somewhere in there when the phone is returned to you ;)

I guess I’m even happier I’m not a celeb… not to mention that my family wouldn’t leak things on line ….

Well, that would be my excitement for today. It’ll last me at least a week ^^

[Avoiding the obvious hurt from yesterday when Canucks played abysmal AND Lava passed me in the fantasy league. Now all I can hope for is that Cath doesn’t do the same… I shouldn’t have played it safe with all those SJ and TB players…. :( bitter bitter me]

Sunday, June 05, 2011

hockey fail....

I think Lava will beat me in the last and final round.... I picked too many Sharks and Lightning players compared to the competition. Fail on me not to believe in the Canucks all the way (although in fairness, I picked more TB players so it's the Bruins I didn't fully believe in).

Hm, I guess if Krejic (spelling) doesn't score and Erhoff doesn't either (since Lava has him as a double pointer) I might be able to keep my 2 point lead.... However, I think an ice cube has more likelihood of surviving in the Southern summer heat than that ;)

Go Canucks! Looking forward to the games this week.

(Will update on Conference, Hockey and Life very soon. Have fun and interesting news to share. Or, at least interesting thoughts in my book ^^ Let's go with 'sports' bar in NOLA that closes at 10 pm on a Friday led to some odd stuff ... not to mention the idea of "are you the one who can teach us stuff about bioterrorism?" hmmmm - for clarity, the latter comment was in context of an anthrax seminar and food illnesses, even prior to this EHEC outbreak in Europe at the moment. )

Sunday, May 15, 2011

going to ASM in NOLA

Sometimes I just love abbreviations ;)

I'm going to the American Society of Microbiology General Meeting in New Orleans Louisiana starting this Saturday and going til Tuesday. I'm quite sure it will be a blast - not only some interesting sessions and posters - but meeting up with some old colleagues and some newer ones.... and some parties :)

[some things redacted since it was a bit too much info me thinks]

Anyway, it's going to be hot and humid with the added thing of potential flooding by the Mississippi river. Although, I doubt it will happen since they've opened the spill ways to keep the river from spilling over that big city and Baton Rouge. It's hard to see those smaller towns getting flooded though, since the water has to go somewhere....

Now, back to the hockey game while continuing to plan the packing and clothes choices etc.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Easter times and reconciliation

I've been thinking a bit about reconciliation. The Easter time has been surrounded by some thoughts about reconciliation, forgiveness and resurrection (the last thing is sort of obvious right?). Partly due to a few classes, partly since a former fellow grad student contacted me a few weeks ago. He never finished his degree. In his words, he was forced out - "thrown away". I would agree to a point, and at the time it seemed like a bad situation turning worse.

I was still a naive person at the time and thought the people in charge of the grad program would take responsibility for the grad students. As time went on, I realised that it was more to the grad students to prove they wanted to pursue their degree and solve the obstacles in front of them, not really their PIs/professor or their committee. To a point I still think that the "older people in the game" have responsibilities to tell students when they are facing a turning point (or an end point). To a point, due to my own decisions and choices, I think that a lot rests on the shoulders of the student, simply because that is the way of the game (life). You have to look out for yourself. You have to convince the "others" you are worthy... all easy and probably pathetic to say, but still i find it to hold more truth than I might want it to.

The old saying of "if you don't believe in yourself, why would I or anyone else?" is very true to my own experience as a grad student (not to mention post doc). That even if some lucky ones have a mentor who can guide them through the darker times of self doubt and questionings, it's still your own decision to walk the walk and make it. It's harsh. It's not fair. And it certainly isn't easy but in the end, if you don't fight for yourself, it's hard to find those others who do it for you.

He contacted me and let me know in no uncertain terms that he was still bitter about the fact that he never graduated. Not got a PhD, even if he put in the hours and the effort. I agree that the people in charge should've done more to help solve the situation. However, and I probably say this since I had to pull a few odd moves in the middle of my own PhD, it's also your responsibility as a student to listen to your peers and try and solve things - however unfair you might think they are. I've tried for a long time to reconcile with the fact that my professor is only human. And that with being human comes feelings of guilt, frightenesss of loosing friends and spinelessness. It's not an ideal situation. However, it might have nothing to do with you in the end. It's just the way it is, and you need to make the situation work for the best outcome for you (while trying not to overstep moral boundaries of your own).

Although, for you as a student especially, it might affect your whole life and career and you are going to live with the outcome more obviously than your committee.

Anyhow, reconciliation.... it's a well stated fact that you need to reconcile in order to not be bitter about things/situations. And get stuck in time, rehashing the same thing over and over but to no avail, will not get you forward. After listening to an hour class of reconciliation and the need for you to be open to talk to the person/s who with whom you have an issue with and try and solve it, I was forced to ask the obvious - the one thing I've found being the hardest part of the whole deal. "What if the person you want to solve the issue with isn't receptive or interested in talking about it? How can there be reconciliation in that way then? Since we need to solve it on both parties?" As in the more clearer (I wrote shorter, but it isn't, maybe more succinate?) version "maybe you just need to reconcile with yourself that you've done all that can be done and you just have to live with it and forgive (or forget but that's partly another story) yourself about the situation and move on?".

That is to say that if the person you feel grievance towards have no interesting in "solving" or reconciling or admitting any wrong doing, but you still need to move on and not stay in the bitter phase. Because the bitter phase only leaves you in a hard spot and not moving on. (Like the saying of "angry only leaves you with anger and resentment, the person you are feeling this about probably won't know or care, therefore you are the only one suffering".)

The class slightly admitted that this part is a tough one, it's the thing we might not want to accept happens many times. That the fight/struggle/situation isn't honest from both parts but rather one party feeling hurt and the other one not admitting any wrongdoing. But still both parties have to move on.

My fellow former grad student is still, after more than half a decade, bitter and angry about the whole outcome. I am sorry for it, and especially that he doesn't seem to see his side of the conflict. Not that he was the main "faulter" - there is seldom that easy of a wrongdoing after all - but that he places all the blame solely on "the others". I would be the first to say that "the others" did a number of things wrong. I would also say that there was an obvious miscommunication due to the fact that the graduate student didn't understand when things were going south.... much to other's as well as my own view.... but again, I can't really blame him for focusing on the good parts and keep going.

However, I would've thought the people would've made it much more clear with it was the cross roads and he faced it. Then again, they didn't do it with me either. I was just more resilient, and to be honest - more connected and faced it head on forcing things like "what do I need to do these next months in order to be in the program" and listened to advice, bit the bullet and fought through it. He choose (or didn't really accept?) to stick his head in the sand and go with "they never asked me outright to do this". (They sort of did, but he didn't see it that way. Hence the argument from me that they should've been more clear.)

Anyhow, all this lead me to think again about the power of reconciliating with yourself and forgive the situations that lead to sad and bad outcomes. And that you don't really have to forgive the people who make it happen to you, but you really need to let go of the anger and hate and move on - and most of all, reconcile with yourself that you did the best you could during the situation and it is ok. Even if it doesn't feel fair, proper behaviour or even right. It's simply the best for you to let go. 

Not saying it is easy.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

reminder hockey pool!!

I nearly died when I thought I'd missed entering my picks for round 2.

It's today!!! But the last game was yesterday! And the new game is tonight!!

Back to the nervousness :)

I think I might havbe picked like I am drunk, which I am not, but it's just not easy pickings [bad pun]. Will see how it compares to everyone elses !

Go Canucks! (And Red Wings!)

Sunday, April 24, 2011


I'm not too happy about the game tonight but at least I have a Canadian beer photo (not for tonight's game since I had this one the last game night when I cringed, cried and got upset about the poorly play from those BC people). I've not found any other Canadian beer in my local store (ScientistMother, I really looked) apart from Moosehead and Molson Canadian in three various flavour and the other option would be Rye'n coke but I'm really not liking that so I doubt there will be any Canadian Club or whatever they are called in my house ;)

For now I'm settling for Philly vs Buffalo and wondering if they will go into OT or if the Sabres takes it... Fingers crossed for Canucks tonight (and I guess the Predators before that).

Soon I'll write something not sports nor Wordless Wednesday - just need to sort out a bit of pseudo stuff since it's partly work, partly professional in general.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wordless Wednesday (OK, I might have a small problem...*)

(*too many shirts in my closet... or teams... but at least one of these was the end result of a bet... guess which :) not a fave of mine.... And the other one was just to try and adapt to being in the South... not one of my team(s) ;) the beer though, a must while watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs! My heart belongs to Canada! ... when it comes to NHL teams anyway... :D )

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

"I only read 5 books last week"*

"Predicting one's chances of developing a genetic condition, is like finding a penny in the ocean."

To quote Dr Reed, the prodigy doctor in the TV series Criminal Minds. He is scared that he will fall into his mother's condition, schizophrenia, and as he is in his mid20ies where the schizophrenic breaks usually happen he is starting to get anxious since it's nothing he can really do about it apart from wait... and hope it doesn't happen.

The idea that you know that you might fall into a place where your mind isn't your friend, that you might see or hear things that aren't real - but you can't discern which are and which are not.... and all you can do is live your life and wait for the years to pass and then maybe never have that break... not the most pleasant time, rather positively atrocious.

A friend of mine experienced his break at a foreign airport when he was 21. Not the best place maybe (if there really is a good place?). Although it did mean that he got under medical supervision fairly fast and could get properly diagnosed. We talked about it when he got back home. The feeling of not understanding what happens and all of a sudden having the intense feeling everyone is watching you, making snide remarks and not even knowing who is there for real and what you are imagining. He went on medication and for a few years he was fine. Then he decided (like many people who are feeling well while on medication) that he was cured and didn't need the pills anymore. (They had some pretty large side effects and he felt odd, out of place with them among other things.) Quitting cold turkey might be the worst thing you can do.... most medications need a weaning time... but at the time, I guess he didn't consider that part of it all. Or maybe just didn't care?

I wish there would be a good ending to this story, but this does not have that. His hallucinations told him he was useless and no good, that his family and friends would be better off if he wasn't there since he made us sad and disappointed in him. I once told him that I'd be ecstatic to move into his brain and fight those worthless, evil hallucinations out for good. Of course, I couldn't. Nor could he. I just wish that I could tell him that it's certainly not happier when he's not around, and that he is missed more than he ever thought.

The TV episode caught me a bit by surprise but I'd think my subconscious kept track of time better than I would have thought... Some anniversaries I would have hoped never to have to experience.

*Dr Reed states this as an indication that he is feeling out of wack since it's such a small number of books for him... and I thought it was one of those quirky and cute comments that some people say when they do not necessarily see why the statement is absolutely odd to others. I mean, I'd be happy to have finished 5 books last week... alas, I haven't had the time to read more than two...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wordless Wednesday (OK, some short words)

The two shirts I think I might be wearing come May :) The first one is more than 10 years old....

Friday, March 18, 2011

wordless Wednesday (a little later)

(I know, it's Thursday Friday but it is in the spirit...)

Update: it's Friday :) just didn't realise it was after midnight when I posted it.....

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

When a doctor goes to the doctor

(or rather “when this PhD goes to see an MD”)

It’s always interesting to me that I might be one of those patients. When I say “might” I honestly mean “am”. And "those patients", well you know what I mean... Luckily for me my general physician is a very nice woman, whom I’ve met in my professional occupation too so she knows what I do/did for a living and my area of expertise. This might help a little when it comes to my behaviour in her office, or so I certainly hope anyway.

First time she saw me I had a swollen throat and hadn’t been able to eat for two days… I also had a fever that made her wonder how I drove there (probably shouldn’t have done that though but at the time I wasn't thinking too clearly, duh) and when I explained that I wasn’t sure it was a bacterial infection and therefore didn’t see the reason of going to the doctor she just laughed and called me stubborn. (Well, that’s not a news flash really.) Then she gave me a wonder shot (aka cocktail) that I would’ve never gotten back in home country (“just go home and wait it out”) and sent me to bed for a few days. I got well and could eat the day after the shot. Sometimes I love steroids.

Anyhow, we’ve ‘known’ each other for a few years now and she knows that I am not a fan of going to the doctor; not even for regular check-ups when nothing indicates wrongness, even if she is really nice. This last time I went though, made me cringe on how bad a patient I am, and that she really is very good with stubborn, self-diagnosed people who are aware that something’s off and that they probably should’ve gone in to say hi awhile back yet still avoid the whole thing playing ostrich…

I tried to avoid it by hashing out some minor thoughts and concerns to a friend of mine who happens to be an MD, and she’d given me some ideas and suggestions for alternative things to take, e.g. drug X might not get me as many side effects as the generic drug C I had tried for a bit. Ok, I remembered her suggestions when I was at the grocery store the other month and walked up to the pharmacy section to look for my drug X in the rows of drugs… no luck. Hm, I thought, "maybe it is like those other drugs that you can buy [without a prescription] over the counter but you have to ask the pharmacist about them since you can make meth of them?" Said and done. Me walking up to the counter, looking at the three sweet young women behind it.
Me: “Hi, I was wondering if you have Drug X?”
Pharmacist 1: Yes, we do.
Me: “ok, I’d like the smallest box of them then please”
Pharmacist 1 looks at P2 and 3, slightly odd look on her face.
Me thinking "why isn’t she just giving me the drug? Smallest dose can't hurt, right?"
P2: Well maam, do you have a prescription?
Me: What? Eh no, the doctor told me to try drug x since I feel very strange on drug c. [Somewhere here I should've realised that I was going in the wrong direction... and I didn’t feel comfortable telling that it wasn’t “my” doctor but a doctor – since I started to sense something was off with the whole idea.]
P2: You’ve gone to the doctor but she didn’t write you a prescription?
Me: ehh... No. She told me that maybe drug X would work better for me and that I should try that.
P3: You need a prescription for that.
Me: (thinking out loud about the conversation I had with my friend) But she didn’t tell me that…. [thinking about my friend and wondering why she would suggest a drug that she knows is a prescription drug…]

By this time, I noted that all three of them are looking at me like I am was trying to sell them a story that was very unbelievable. If I wasn’t me, I’d probably think that I was either a bit slow, or just plain desperate for the stuff. All of a sudden I realized that they thought I was trying to score this drug… and that it is indeed probably one of the common ones to abuse as a prescription drug. Enter slight panicky mode for this particular PhD.

Me: never mind, I’m sorry to bother. (quick exit and walked away..)

I know that they stared at me all the way to the check out with my groceries. And I know that it was partly because I stated blushing once I realized that I must have looked like someone trying to find their dope. Needless to say, I did tell my friend that next time she suggests treatments/drugs I would be happy if she’d let me know if it is a over the counter one or a prescription one so we can avoid me looking like a dope head. Duh.

So, I had to go to the real physician…

I started explaining what I would call “symptoms” and described some occurrences the last couple of months (it “should’ve solved itself”) and the more I told, the more I realized how silly I’ve been. Ended with a sheepish smile and nervous laugh while she looked and said “so, you think it is what?”. And after I mentioned what I thought she leaned forward and looked at me “I agree with your self-diagnose and have these options for you. Which do you think is better?”. Needless to say, I had already done some research, knew a few of the drawbacks of some of the things and mostly (being the “it will heal itself soon enough/sticking the head in the sand” kind of person that I am) knowing the side effects (even the very odd and few ones)….

So, I wasn’t thrilled with noting that my body said “side effect” the first few days of my treatment. I am however, bright enough to know that it might be me being over sensitive to my reactions and not really the drug.  Me? Hypochondriac? Not liking to take drugs? Nahhhh. Then again, I have a hard time forgetting her sweet smile and face when she said ”you know, sleep deprivation is a form of torture so it’s not uncommon to feel insane after a long period of sleeplessness”. Did I mention that I like her a lot?!