Thursday, December 08, 2016

the importance of saying Thank you

I wondered out loud in my office a few days ago "Am I completely out of touch with people today since I feel like I grew up in a time VERY long ago". I was of course referring to the obsessive way I was raised to say "thank you" time and time again. After dinner, say "thank you for dinner" (note, regardless if it was good or not, you thank for the fact that you got food that someone else prepared).  Someone holding the door for you when you walk through it? Say Thank you. Getting your change back from the cashier? Say Thank you. Someone giving you a ride so you don't have to walk to where ever you want to go? Say Thank you. Someone giving you a compliment? Say Thank you. Are you asking for a favour at work? Say Thank you*(and please).

You get the picture.**

It ties into one of the first lessons I had learning English as a girl in middle school. There are two words to use in English (in Swedish we use Tack for both). (It is similar in German; bitte and danke). When asking for something in English: add a please. When you get something: say thank you. For added politeness, don't say "I want" but rather "I would like" since the latter is more polite. (For emphasis, this is the same in Swedish "jag vill ha" vs "jag skulle vilja ha").

Anyway, my little December rant today is a simple vent since I have seen this increasingly over the last couple of months. You see, I work in a "helper" capacity. People usually contact me when they want something. It could be data, cells, project planning, making a meeting invitation or simply answering a question on how to change an Outlook invite without cancelling the whole thing.

What I'm noticed over the last year though is the decrease (non-existing?) notion of please, would you, and of course thank you. There's a lot of "I want" and to be fair, sometimes a (sloppy) "thanks" in the end (although when it's part of your signature, I'm not sure it really means anything specific). Funny enough, I sometimes get these emails and part of me wants to respond "I would like to help you, however since you wrote it more like a demand (and you're not my boss nor my work group) I will add your request to the bottom of the pile". Of course I don't do that, it would be rude. But I feel a need to vent and add a little please of my own. If you interact with any undergraduates or any people in general, maybe see if they can use those little words that really mean a lot....

Thank you for reading this and other rants I post on this blog.

*'Thank you' is more formal but also more thoughtful than the everlasting 'Thanks' that is tossed around a little more. Although, I'll take 'thanks' over nothing anytime. Just sayin'

**There's a little longer context that I would like to write one day, I need to work on it though since it ties into class, upbringing, use of emails as a written telephone call or note rather than a letter etc....

Monday, December 05, 2016

post half-marathon confession

So the half marathon is over. It didn't go as I'd thought, although it didn't go as bad as I let on to my friends when they congratulated me after crossing the goal line. I did better than my first half, and listened to my body so all in all - a win?!

My main issue with this race and timing? That I haven't explained that I've had two surgeries these last three months so my training schedule have been..... slightly impaired. I haven't even run longer than 10 miles the last six months. I haven't mentioned the surgeries to anyone really, I'm a little private that way. It would've made it easier to understand for some of my more competitive family, friends and coworkers. Also the main reason that I told myself not to push through the pain when it occurred after 7 miles in the race. I had set as my main goal for this race "get through the race without injuries and hopefully enjoy it".

Everything started glorious. Weather was cold but great. My microfiber towel that I have as a second layer in front of my tummy (what ever works for you to make you feel good is a smart solution) was protecting me from the strong wind gushes that got the temp down to 2C/38F. My speed the first 7 miles were excellent and on par with a PR, yet my pulse was a steady 145bpm. Alas, as I hit my stride my feet started telling me something was wrong. On top of both feet having the toes go numb, it was almost as the socks were crumbled up between the toes and the balls of the feet. I even ended taking off my shoes, only to notice that there was no issue with the real socks. (Hello plantar fasciitis nice of you to join me in the race.) And then the hip flexor began to send tingling feelings on one side....

It was really hard for me to tell the people I ran with "I'll be falling behind you and take it slow for a while - good luck with your run". Not only because I'm a proud stubborn person, but mainly because I am pretty sure I could've ran through the pain and made a better time. However, I probably would've ended up with some sort of injury and that was what I had promised not to do..... "no repeat of piriformis debacle a few years back"

After a slow 3 miles my feet decided that they were good - I will never understand how things like that just resolve while running. I plugged in my headphones and turned on the music list that I made especially for the last 3 miles. Cranked up the volume and ran fast while the rain came down. Finding the endorphins while I pushed through and finished strong.

Happy running list when wanting to run fast and nice. A lot of it is about the drums and base that touch my heart and keep me with adrenaline :)

  • Jekyll&Hyde - Fiver Finger Death Punch
  • Deep Six - Marilyn Manson
  • Square Hammer - Ghost BC 
  • I think we're alone now - The Birthday Massacre 
  • Move your ass - Scooter "it's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice"
  • Dot your eyes - Fiver Finger Death Punch "it's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog" (also printed on my computer for inspiration when times are hard)
  • You're going down - Sick Puppies
  • Throne - Bring me the horizon

I had dreams about finishing under 2:15, alas - 2:24 was my final time. I'll take home that my first 10 km was a PR for me (my gps kept track) and if I would've run the 10km it would've been enough to be best 22 in my age group. Now I face the music as settling to be happy about that I had more people behind me than in front of me, and that I'm uninjured. Small mercies.

Maybe the biggest achievement is that it's my third half-marathon in four years which means I'm keeping up the fitness. I should really celebrate that more and not focus on the time and feeling like a slow poke.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

running confession

I'm trying to be brave non-stubborn and accepting, and actually heed my own sayings. It's hard. I've been training for the half marathon coming up soon. I haven't trained as much as I would have wanted, some medical things came in the way and I had a spell of not exercising for about a month due to it. With that also came a very sad excuse of gaining a few pounds which made sad thoughts in me (I thought I was over a couple of those sad "I'm so fat that it's a disgrace" thoughts*). Anyhow, I ran 8 miles today and I got some aches in my legs, but not breathing problems, but it made me more aware that I should really focus on getting through the race uninjured. Time shouldn't matter. the important thing apart from non injury would be to "enjoy the race" as I say to people. Easier said than done for this competitive person..... there is always another race, another possibility to do better. I however only have one body and the piriformis injury really sucked and took too much time to even half-heal (still feel it if I don't do rehab exercises every week).

I guess I can aim to beat my first half-marathon time? Or "just finish the race with a nice whole body". That's a challenge for sure. Let's hope I'm up for it!

*I know that my body issues are bigger than "just lose the weight and all will feel better". I've done a lot of different things in my life, and I know that my personality is - shall we say - a tad bit on the perfectionist side. There was a time when bulimia was present, and then there was that other time with some other "great body" but it didn't solve the berating thoughts. It is, as some people would recognize, a slightly larger issue than becoming thinner and cute on the outside. Although, at times, I wish I would think that would solve all my issues. alas, it is what it is - I'm doing so much better nowadays and should stay with the present day and happy.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

scatter brained - november edition

I have had so many thoughts for blog posts the last couple of weeks. I was going to write a second part of the "unmentionables" and maybe even a third one. Then I had an experience at work which led me to think about data processing in the age of next gen sequencing and bioinformatics in a multidisciplinary team with PhDs, PharmDs, VMDs, and MDs... then I experienced a (water) weight increase going on a temporary medication and thought it was very scary (who knew going into surgery would lead to a 7 pounds gain in a day? clear not this PhD.) Went running and for my training - hello half marathon very soon - that my feet and plantar fasciitis are not super cheery about.Then the election happened and I found myself being some sort of cheer-leading person at work.

  • "It will take time" - in regards to repealing ACA/Obamacare
  • "He [Trump] has been a plutocrat without any extreme Christian-right views before, maybe he will keep women's health choices free"
  • "There is a constitution that is written to keep power overhauls you are being scared of right now"
  • "He [Trump] has to work with both the tea party and the other GOPs in the congress, maybe the division between them will lead to some working with the democrats"
Alas, latest days have showed me that I was never good cheerleader material, rather a "digging down into the trenches and fight" kinda girl.

Also, one of my huuuuuuge triggers? Hypocrisy in my face. Call a spade a spade. Or in this case, call a neo-nazi movement for a neo-nazist (or fascists....) movement and not "alt-right" or some other useless euphemism for shiny white men with short hair who screams loud, waves right arms in the air and want anyone who isn't white male to "accept the ruling of the power race". 

Not even touching on the fact that everyone and their mother seemingly aren't interested in anything but power, money and potential places in cabinet - and therefore toss ALL their precious values and morals out the window. Somehow it feels even more horrible when it's the highty, mighty, christian right-wing people who preaches about "morals and family values" but in the end have no qualms jumping into bed with anyone as long as they gain something on it. How about those spines? How about actually reading that constitution and look at other democracies and see what is not considered alright in terms of mixing personal gain and national securities & politics.

Maybe a Thanksgiving miracle? Or a Holiday present?

I'm taking a few days off, going into the woods to enjoy the real world and see the trees - the red colours contrast to the European yellow autumn as per Finnish and Israeli researchers . It'll be good to escape the reality and look for calm before going back to the slight fight mode and the idea that it's not alright to just accept anti-democratic ideals and especially not to fake it and call it normal.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

the women vote - the USA election

It's finally here - Election day in the USA. Time to end the crazy. Or, like I said the other day, time to move along and see what kind of congress, senate and president will get elected. The crazy won't end, but I sure hope that the language and hate that has increased steadily over the months will stop. I know that it probably won't, I'm too much of a realist to really think otherwise - but I'll hope for a while.

I also think that in order to move away from this pathetic excuse of lies and demagogue, to move into something more positive we need to understand what has happened. It's easy to think "they're just stupid idiots" (those who like and vote for the other side, well - in this election it's Trump). This article in cracked lays out 6 reasons why Trump has made headway in the (rural) USA. It's not going to help to call them dumb to vote, it won't really build anything for future. Then again, if people threaten you with guns, slurs and bullying - that's not conducive either so.... "when they go low, we go high" [for the next four years?]*

Because if Hillary wins tomorrow, Trump (and his friends) won't agree quietly. I'm quite sure it will be a dragged out lie fest, as the whole campaign has been. If Trump wins, I guess it can be over Wednesday morning and we'll wake up to a new country that will be quite different 100 days after 1 january. Reading the article gives me a little reminder on how complex the whole thing is, and that me being slightly elitist at times with all my history knowledge isn't helping the debate move forward (maybe a little though? At least I know most of the times someone is lying to my face and spewing hate, fantasies and hogwash....)

Second thing, this might cheer you up, is an article from The Atlantic in regards to the voting demographic and that HRC is carrying more women votes than ever before "Hillary Clinton appears poised to break that record: Almost all pre-election polls have shown her leading among college-educated whites. She seems virtually certain to at least double, if not triple, the widest Democratic advantage ever among college-educated white women, which was Gore’s 8 percentage points in 2000. As of Saturday, the ABC News/Washington Posttracking poll gave her a thumping 25-percentage-point lead with these women.

Of course, what made me pause was that married white women choose Trump. ("Even more worrisome for Trump would be erosion among married white women, who have preferred Republicans in every election since 1984 and gave Romney a 25-percentage-point margin last time.") Although, single white women choose Democrats. I live in the south and I have spent the last six months realizing exactly who around me vote and like the Trumpster. It's been.... .straining on some of my relationships, at least on my part.

You might think "oh she's only talking about white women".... well, it is my demographic - white, educated women (although I'm an immigrant so I guess I might end up in another bin IF I ever take the plunge to apply for citizenship [topic for unmentionables part X].

Well, the third link is this one here in The New York Times. (please note, you can read it for free for three days - 7,8,9th November. No article restrictions.) It's about the demographics of the polling and the election. I must admit that I had really missed exactly how 'weird' [again with the bins to generalize the people in] it is...

First, this is the voting-age population divided into these categories. (I was a little curious on why there wasn't a divide on college/non-college for non-whites but apparently the difference in these categories is neglectable?)

Then you move to the fall out between the groups and who they are polled to vote for. (I'm still hesitant about this, even though I heard a detailed description on how the polling is weighted etc.)

And then the icing on the cake. The reason why so many talk about "get out and vote" - the people who could've voted last election but who didn't. And in this election that will really make a huge difference. Remember, Florida got decided on 537 votes last time it was contentious.... crazy when you think about it considering how many people live there.

I'm going to bed now and hope for some sleep since tomorrow I will be staring at the voting counts and hope for one thing specifically: that we don't get a senate, house and president who are all the GOP (Trump with a GOP there any hope then?) I really fear for this country if so. If Hilary wins and the house and senate are GOP - i guess we can look forward to grid lock and people claiming that they are responsible by "blocking everything since they don't get their way". Come to think of it, that's probalby the most likely outcome in general since it seems like that's an acceptable way to "govern" nowadays.

What ever happened to the good old ways - you know the times when people who were elected and chosen to govern took pride in working together and making compromises to make progress. Maybe it was all a dream as well?

*sad story of my experience with dealing with bullies. The way the bullies stopped? Well, one time it was my big brother showing up at the school yard telling some of the boys that if they touched me again, he'd come with his older friends and beat them up. They boys never touched me again.
Another time, calling another boy's mother and threatened with calling "the friends at the police and social services". He never did anything again either. Or when I finally lost it with the girl who had it in for me and punched her in the face. I got in trouble (of course) but she never did anything again either. All these instances show me that maybe you have to have some power behind the stance for it to be taken seriously? Or my experiences were a little too bleak and are outliers?

Although, consider how Trump dealt (or not dealt rather) with the confrontation with the billionaire Bloomberg.... Trump couldn't really get to Bloomberg since he is richer and has a lot of pull himself. The usual tactic didn't work.

Monday, October 31, 2016

unmentionables - part 1

After listening the presidental debates, then touching on similar things in an ethics course I’m taking and furhtermore talking to a coworker about their elderly parents, I realized yet again that there are a few things we never talk about. Things I don’t really even talk about with my friends either. Maybe not only things as salary increase development over years, politics and ethics like abortions, death penalty but in this context I was thinking about bodily functions.

Everyone who has had a baby seemingly are talking about bowel movements and food intake, sleep patterns and such all the time. When you care for an elderly parent or grandparent, the bowel movements come back up on the table since a lot of medications do affect BMs. There are diaper weighing for both young and old. Or you can watch american commercials since there are a lot of "opioid constipation" and related medications for that. Similar thought on periods, it seems like not being about the talking part (especially not with males). There was the collective gasp when the female swimmer in the Olympics stated “I swam slower today since I was in pain, I got my period yesterday”. Since “talking about periods in context of female sports” is not super common, unless of course you mean (over)training and losing body fat can lead to you losing your period (often discussed in gymnasts). I personally felt a little odd wanting to talk about periods when I was starting my long distance training a few years back since I was not too hot on running with a pad, nor a tampon… plus the fact that my body sometimes felt horrid running (hello achy nipples during PMS) but didn't expand on it since I didn't find a good space to talk about it. Maybe something to take up here later on?

Coming back to bowel movements, or like I like to call it: “the pooping”. It didn’t really occur to me that what I grew up with (a fairly liberal view on body in general) that is was odd to have an idea that you should keep notice of how often you poop, or if everything looked ok, and that this was an important fact in how you were feeling in general. Or that your family made comments about it and noted when you went to the toilet (or not). This was especially obvious in the summer times when my family went on vacation. We’d go hiking in the mountains, sometimes where there were no toilets but rather you dug a hole in the dirt, or we went to the summer house where we had an old school outhouse. Same thing happened in winter times with longer ski trips where you are out all day (sometimes days) with less access to toilets and you don’t want to take off the warm clothes to expose the booty. All instances made it on the “have you pooped today/before we leave” discussions prevalent. It was another one of those things that came up in scout/military training since especially when you are out walking with teams and with backpacks, you can’t afford someone getting sick due to not having regular BM. And trust me, if you ‘hold it in’ for a few days, you probably will experience cramping and sometimes fever and illness. Not a pleasant experience, for you or the people around you.

Part of why I think about this now? With my current job I’ve read up on cancer, a lot of cancer stats that I didn’t know before. (I’m not sure that I want to know all this either tbh, hello hypochondriac.)  Colon cancer is an interesting thing, 3rd most common cancer and comparing international stats and incidences. And in the USA, the variance between states is pretty high

The highest incidence of that type of cancer is in Korea (45/100,000), although looking at the state stats you can easily see that the southern states beat that with an average of 42-49/100,000 (yey for USA being so large and diverse that their overall average* is lower than you would think, depending on which state you live in.)

One of the ‘obvious’ but not evidence based ideas is that obese people have a larger incidence of colorectal cancer. It’s also been linked to sedentary lifestyle, and less fibers. You see where I am going with this? After having had the opportunity to listen to a bunch of people who have been ill through my volunteering, where people have opened up about their own and their relative’s ailments, I’d very very tempted to say that a lot of it seemed to be linked to how they were pooping, and how the poop looked. Not that they seem to have thought about it too much. (Again, I’m damaged from my upbringing where all of this was discussed – also in terms of outdoors long distance skiing.)

There is a lot to be said about being open about "what poop should look like", "how many times do you go" and note what a healthy bowel movement looks like for you. (they are not the same for everyone, although I would argue that if you eat average fiber and mixed foods, going to the toilet about once every 24-48 hours seem like a regular thing to do.) I also think this is one of the things that if your whole family has somewhat of a non-regular bm, how would you know what's "normal"? I've met people, through my volunteering, who think having diarrhea/very loose stool is normal since "they've never had anything else". And others who need to take laxatives all the time to be able to even go to the toilet. All of them make me sad since I really think this is an important issue and something that indicates that your body isn't all in balance.

My point with this blog post? (I became a little unfocused here in the end...) That there are a few "unmentionables" that I would've like to talk about and I wonder why I haven't talked about even with my close friends. After all, a lot of these things are something that we all do, every day or at least every month, and it affect our lives.

Next time, maybe periods when running/training for a race? Or erectile dysfuncion/lack of interest for sexual intimacy? Or less bodily functions as retirement benefits, the thoughts on taking care of your elderly parents or dealing with anxiety/lack of positive thoughts?

*I’ve had this conversation as in trying to link the disease averages etc with life style and cultural things, which is much easier to do in Europe (we have different countries) although looking at the USA there are some quite striking ‘cultural’ differences between states (sweet tea is an obvious food choice to symbolize it).

Monday, October 10, 2016

sometimes I feel like a cleaner & a fixer

There's a part of my job that I'm a little ambivalent about. It's the feeling that I sometimes resemble a fixer (or cleaner) more than a project manager. I am not brought in on the front end, where I can guide and be of assistance, but rather in the end when things haven't really worked out as they were supposed to. I'm then brought in to "fix it". I can, and I will most often, take this as a compliment. They trust me to clean up the mess and fix and show how to make it.

The only problem might be that I get frustrated since I know that I could've avoided the mess, thus the clean up, from the start. "If only they've given me".... like a few hours on the project planning and the scope. Ah well, it is what it is.

It has gotten me pause though, when I gotten time to think about it. This fixer business and the coordination idea. That I don't have power per se, but operate on "someone knows I'm useful and need me". That I get things to accomplish (and succeed) but not necessarily power and title to do it. The reflection on my childhood and the background where I was always a fixer, most of the time cleaning up and rewriting stuff that happened. Nothing bad survived the morning after, it was gone when afternoon came knocking. The secrets, hidden dreams that never got squashed since they were always adjusted and taken care of. The careful narrative of shiny, not the dimmed and dull, and if it wasn't right there was a price to pay.

I'm not writing it as a lamentation, just trying to explain that this is something that has popped up in my mind lately. It's like the half joke "if you want a keeper of secrets, get yourself a child of an alcoholic". They are, for better or worse, excellent in having a facade. Getting everything to move and shiny. And take on a lot of responsibility that most often isn't theirs to own.

Of course, I wouldn't have stumbled on this very blog post unless I went into my little mind to soul search just another time in the middle of the night. I have this one trait that I am both proud of and at the same time scared of. I think I mis-wired something as a child, but I can't be sure so I'm always reassessing and contemplating which switch I want to trigger for the future. You see, I'm loyal to a fault. I've always wanted to see myself as a loyal friend. You know the one who doesn't give up "because people can change". Or "I'm the one who sees their inner beauty". Or "they're not like that with me". Yeah. Right. You can see the fallacy quite easy. Not only that I'm getting myself in a better light, but also the illusion.

It's hard though. Realizing you have raised someone to a pedestal they don't fit on. And the fact that you yourself shouldn't give people too much unrealistic hope. Because in reality, people just do what is best for themselves. There are seldom heroes. And unless you are family, and most of the time not even then, they seldom do something for you if it cost them something. Nothing personal doll, just life. Better make adjustments to expectations and get on with it.

(disclaimer; i'm actually quite happy with my life at the moment. However, these smaller nightly thoughts of melancholia - lack of better term - are quite precious to me. It's like they are me, clarity and no barriers, getting the writing better. I don't know though, maybe happy blogpost is better?)

assimilation, integration - my thoughts as an immigrant

It's interesting, the talk about assimilation and integration back in Europe and also to some extent in the USA. I had a post about a lot of conservative idea of women before, this is a more of a general post.

As an immigrant in the USA I have a few thoughts on the topic. Granted, I moved "sort of by choice" (there weren't any jobs in my home country and I never expected to stay for this long), so I'm not a refugee. However, when it comes to the discussion about "feeling like a member of my new country" etc, I think my feelings and thoughts are valid since I'm not a full fledged member of the new country disavowing my old country.

First of all, let me state that I do think one of the key things for moving to another country (volunteering or refugee status regardless) is a language thing. I don't think you can ever integrate or assimilate without language. You need the language to share the feelings and thoughts and all the other things with your newfound fellow country people. The language, books and some other things are pivotal to understand and relate to your new people.

Do I view myself as an American? Nope. This was more than clear to me after an awkward conversation with someone whom I love a lot saying to me that I should root for USA in the World Cup of Hockey "since it's my country over a decade" and I'm just blatantly laughing in his face saying "no way, I'm a swede". I'd root for Canada before USA in hockey. Why? Because the idea of rooting for USA in hockey is to me, just not there. I wouldn't call it blasphemy but it's extremely awkward and not my choice. Plus I lived in Canada first, even though it wasn't for a decade, but that's not the point. Mainly, it's the idea that I'm not a real American since I'm not as boasting and encompassing the American spirit*.

Do I view myself as an half American - loyal to the American values? Yep. Absolutely. A lot of the core American values, I share. What do I don't share? I'm not a clear hard core Christian. I'm going to church on a regular basis but on an American faith basis poll, I'd probably fit as a "liberal christian who believes in pro-choice". Not to mention my feminist point of view on a lot of life choices and world views.

I'm also not an American citizen. Let's be clear about this. I'm having a permanent residence card. When I talk about assimilation and integration, there is a lot of sub-context. You can decide if that is influencing, giving my views more or less value or just making it plain subjective. I think I might move home to my native Scandinavian country in my life - in my mind, I haven't left my native country forever. I am not giving up my citizenship, but could tentatively add the American on my present one. Am I proud of living in the USA? Yep. Definitely. Do I love aspects of the country. Yes I do. Do I want to give up my native birth-country? Never. Sorry but I wouldn't do it**.

What have I done and what do I think you need to do to assimilate/integrate into another country where you live?

1) learn the language
2) learn the history of the country
3) get to know some of the native people and talk to them.... hang out....

in reality, I can say what I think is acceptable for me and what I'm doing:
1) celebrate 4th of July - it's a BBQ or a festivity, but it's important as a historic moment
2) try to observe Thanksgiving - it's an important family holiday where you hang out with people, eat and be social
3) Armed Forces - it's a huge thing, need to be supportive of the people from all over the country who signed up and give their lives for the ideals of the country.
4) If possible, sports is an important thing in american (south at least). Pick a team and hang out during at Saturday (college football) or Sunday (NFL football) or any other time when baseball or hockey are playing. It'll go ways to make you feel and be viewed as an American.
5) know the anthem and can sign it - even if you don't keep your hand on the heart while it is playing (I don't since I'm not a citizen but I know the song)
6) read the classics of the country - Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, Steinem, Plath, Kerouac, Haper Lee - that will give you an idea where a lot of the
7) if possible, root for USA in bigger sports arena - like Olympics or World cup or any other bigger sports part

but if I was forced to say ONE thing to keep me assimilated or integrated: language and history or the country. Without that, I don't see how it works.....

*American spirit = influenced with how I viewed  USA growing up and all the different aspects that was ascribed to the country. "boasting, vivacious, great, no excuses for themselves, loudmouths" etc whereas a lot of virtue was called for "humble, quiet leadership, responsibility, understatement" and other more British words in context.

**we could make this interesting with some the background of military stuff that i was involved in before leaving my country but hey.... water under the bridge.. i wouldn't give it up since my family/parents are still alive and I would go back to take care of them and that is contingent on my keeping my citizenship and being a native.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

having a p**** makes me being something in relation to a man

You know the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back? Yes, that hit this morning for me. (Although to my Swedish mind it was a drop that caused the cup to spill - proverbs lost in translation... )

I recently participated in a scientific symposium, realizing that maybe I needed to count the blessings and be happy that at least two of the speakers (ten) were POC and adding into the mix that four were non-native English speakers. Although, all were male which was part of why I have been mulling over my feelings for a bit of time.

More to stress me, was that there seemed to be fairly few female lab members as graduate students and postdocs*. But I could've missed them or been over pessimistically - as in "maybe I just thought they should be even nowadays". I didn't keep a tally on paper, mainly making a mental note at the acknowledgement slides, so it could've been exacerbated.  After all, there were a lot of diversity on the male side, and it left me wondering as I've mulled about before - can there only be "so many non-majority males" and then the left over diversity is either female, POC, 'immigrants' or some other non-conformity minority? (I'm not a diversity researcher, just a white, non-native English female PhD making observations that are quite possibly fairly subjective.)

It turns difficult a times though, considering I spent the day and evening talking to quite a few of the speakers and the organizers. They all seemed intellectual, very nice and very science driven. No "good old boys comments" and no leering towards the younger females standing around talking about science. I didn't get"let's shut out women from the lab" but at the same time, it was fairly clear that it was one of these subsections where you switch graduate students/postdocs and have a clear pedigree "he was a post doc of mine, now he's heading up the great lab over there". It's business as usual and I shouldn't be too surprised. The few female post docs who were mentioned were given similar excellent comments as the mentioned male ones so there is a good possibility that I'm too sensitive to the female ratio of the speakers/presence. You tell me.

As for this morning, and the drop that spilled the cup. The pussy comment and the debate. Maybe not so much the actual leaked video but the aftermath on TV/newspapers/twitter where commentators discuss how they feel about the presidential candidate using such a profane choice of words. I haven't gotten the feeling that people are as outraged of "the general view of women" that he has portrayed for quite some time, as shocked that he is using the p-word** being vulgar using profanity. Not to mention the sidebar conversation that he is expressing "a want to fuck married women", which is unmoral and bad (especially for a Christian conservative GOP point of view). The last part is surprising to me, seeing that it should be pretty obvious that he has done this before - cheating, divorce and remarrying - and been in interviews about it so really not that new, right? The focus, from what I gather, is not on "kiss them whenever I feel like it, since I'm a celebrity" but on the p-word and that it's so much more in your face when you use profanity.

The thing that really gets to me though, are the comments "as a father to girls this is offensive to me" and the narrative; "what if it was your daughter, wife, mother". The constant idea that gets repeated that we (in this case: men) need a relationship to a woman to understand that maybe it is simply not acceptable to say and act a special way. That it's the knowledge that women who belong to someone they respect (themselves, their best friend) could be treated this way and therefore it would be bad to behave like this towards them. The need to have an insight from relating to a "female who is related to you".

Not because it's an outrageous behaviour to start with. To set yourself above others and mistreat people (women), but because someone could do that to YOUR woman/women. The overall idea in the background that you have a right to mistreat/take advantage of people, which makes them weaker than you and therefore you are in your right to act however you want, is somehow alright and acceptable.

That is what I take issue with.

Since I won't solve this today, I might as well go for a long, nice jog in the lovely autumn weather outside. Maybe the sun and endorphins will wash away the brooding dark thoughts that cloud my mind?

*there seemed to be quite a few of female techs

**part of me wonders what had happened if he had used the c-word. From what I've seen, Americans are more sensitive to cunt. but maybe not in this context? Overall though, the idea is that these words are mainly negative in their connotation since they refer to "not being a strong man" <- all="" be.....="" div="" nbsp="" strive="" to="" we="" which="">

Saturday, September 24, 2016

"It's just a routine test"

It's one of those things I've covered once or twice before in this blog, I'm a lousy patient. I've had conversations with my physician (my old one before I got swapped to my new one) why I hadn't done a pap smear last five years even thought I am a microbiologist and should know about HPV. (My less than popular answer was that I didn't have the energy to deal with if I had cancer anyway so why look for it? Yeah, I know, I've grown up a little since.) We talked about that I have a head turned on for "worst case scenario" so therefore my stress level between taking the sample and waiting for the result is so large that I avoid them altogether. 

This is also why I book my next check up time with the dentist before I leave my appointment (yes, even if it is 6 months out) because I will probably avoid making that call otherwise. I find opportunities to not get the choice of avoiding things like yearly checkups since I find it embarrassing to cancel pre-booked appointments. What can I say? I'm a simple woman.

Of course, when you end up with a routine test and you are the fool asking the nurse in the middle of the test "it looks ok, right?", and they look at you and say "we can't really say anything in the middle of the test, the doctor will follow up with you in a call later today" that's when you know that things are not "normal". And that starts all the alternatives running around in your head. So when the call came and it was to schedule a meeting to discuss surgery, well - at least I was prepared.

What I wasn't prepared on was my head not stopping running after it was all said, done and path reports said "all clear". I mean one could think that I wouldn't make it a bigger deal than it was? Routine test, leading to finding, leader to removal of bad thing, all clear nothing to think about. After all, I'm a grown woman and I work close enough to real catastrophes (pediatrics) so I really shouldn't be this sensitive*.

It is though, something that has made me very tired the last couple of weeks. I have found myself gazing retrospectively and staying awake for too long at night. I need to get over it and move on. Now, how about that application for taking that specific certification......

(I'm all fine. It was a smaller thing that needed to be removed and it is now fine. I was happy it was taken care of very fast so I didn't have to be worried for longer. It's just been hard since I didn't want to talk about it with my family or my friends before the procedure and there's nothing to say now since everything was fine.)

*it's the feeling that I am not in control of my body. that it betrayed me since I rely on it being ok. Not to mention the fact that I couldn't fix this on my own. It wasn't like an ingrown toenail or an infected bite. I'll deal with that like a champ.

Friday, September 23, 2016

team work and trust

If you work in a team, you probably know how wonderful it can be when everyone is in sync and the team moves along in cohesiveness. It might be more likely that you have experienced a team where people are working together, however not in total sync but at least going towards the same goal. And then of course, there is the likelihood that you have been in a team where it is more like "I thought we were a team, what's all this strife about".

The first thing to get a team functional is to build trust between the members. Only then can you get a team feeling and move forward. As an example, if you look on this picture and remember that a lot of teams stay in the forming and storming parts, sometimes moving into norming for a bit since it's scary. The performing stage is, once you get there, excellent fun. However, I will say that it is pretty difficult to get there. Impossible if you don't work on the relationships within the team to make everyone an equally important part where they feel appreciated and seen.

I'll expand on this in another blog post since I feel strongly about this area and have some insights on how to deal with dysfunctional teams... It's been a long, hot summer and I am ready for a nice, cooler fall to come along.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

what happens after conference

Going away on conferences has always been something I like. Even as an introvert. Maybe just because I'm an introvert? Maybe because I've not gone to too many a year, never having to share rooms, not usually going with coworkers, always having some opportunities to go aside alone.

I love learning new things. Seeing things in a different light. And it is an opportunity for me to play pretend. Or to see how people - who don't work with me everyday - see me and the work I do. To gage how much I'm worth on the job market. Sometimes even, in a galaxy far far away, to see my value on another market as well.

Oh yes, the introvert idea. The contradicting idea that I as an introvert like being in a crowd, networking with people, going to poster sessions and then later relax in my hotel room - alone. Waking up in the morning, going for a run (alone) and then eating breakfast (alone) and collecting my thoughts and feelings. During the day, I can network, go to talks, think a lot and see loops where I normally don't have the time to do it, and ignore regular day-to-day guilt feelings. Like a small vacation away from home and work, even when working in a conference.

Of course, coming back after a conference can be quite the trip. Noticing the work group being different (did they work better without me?), catching up on all the "regular life stuff" (catching up with family), and most importantly of all - sleep and recovering. Having at least one day or weekend where there is recharging time. And working through the feelings and thoughts that have awoken in the "in between time" at the trip.

Then going back to work and se if there is a chance to implement all the new knowledge and feelings.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

back to school - summer pleasures

I've been spending my summer working on not working so much. I thought it a good time to get back into the "let's have the weekends for other things than work". Subsequently I've been occupied reading books and having my computer turned off during the weekends (since I've identified the annoying habit of checking work related emails if I'm on said computer). This means that I've been spending a good amount of money on my kindle account. I have also realized exactly how vain I am since I would've never bought all of these books in a real store since a lot of the covers are.... well, let's say they have penchant for less clothed male chests. Apparently this is a thing in the "romance" genre. I wouldn't have known since I didn't see that in my kindle, just when I opened the kindle app on my ipad (for those evening reads when I didn't want the light on - I have a paper-white kindle).

I digress, as usual. If this was a "back to school, what did you do this summer edition" I would write it out as follows:

I went on a short but sweet vacation to the beach. Found out that I could ignore my environmental concern and rent a jet ski and LOVE the speed, the wind, the water, the sun and the notion that I could only worry about being in the now and there. The water was rough and the thrill spiked my adrenaline. It was a great reminder that I need to get back to down hill skiing in the winter. (Maybe Sundance by winter next year?)

I've read over 50 books since Memorial weekend (~3 months). Of course, I need to explain that there are ~35 "romance" books in there that range between 150 and 400 pages. Not the most complex books, nor taking too much time but a good relaxing idea of time sink (I traded tv series and computer/iPhone time with "sitting outside with a book"). My nickname as a teen was 'bokslukare' (literal translation> book devourer) so like a true bookworm I read while brushing my teeth, eating breakfast and stay up too late to "finish the chapter" - or riding the spinning bike/the elliptical at the gym if the book is really captivating. Yes, so that happened a few times... I had a couple/10 books in native language (it's still faster and a different read to me). And managed to add in a couple of historic American writers like Eudora Welty. If you haven't read her - she's amazing! Overall, I'm not adding all of those to the Goodreads challenge for the year (vain and can't stand admitting all the 35 books to people) but I'm on my way to finish the goal.

I've been jogging long runs every weekend even if it's been 90+ F degrees outside. It hasn't been fast, it's certainly not been pretty but it has happened. Last weekend it paid off since the weather was cooler and I made my fastest 5km in 3 years. Now I just need to keep the speed training and this year's half marathon might break the PR again. (here's to hope)

It's been a couple of friend outings, and even some family time to enjoy. A couple of skype sessions with old friends and rekindling those friendships. Work has still been very extrovert so my time away from work is tempting to go more into "all introvert mode and spending time in nature".

One major thing this summer has been me and my brain. It's way too loud at times. I know why I read a lot, since that shuts down my worry wort tendencies and my anxiety. I flee into the book world and all is fine. It's been especially obvious this summer since it marked my decade anniversary of moving to the States. With that came a lot of "what ifs" and "what will the next decade bring", not to mention "what have I accomplished all this time". I initially thought this post was going to be about "dreams - the lack or rewriting of them", but I think it's too private, not to mention too uninteresting.

However, I will say this one thing. I've been trying to come to terms with, and even embrace, that even if my life didn't turn out the way I had planned, hoped or dreamt of - it can still be pretty darn good and I can be happy. And that maybe my outlook on things can make my future dreams and hopes, if not come true, but turn them into happy and enjoyable things where I avoid bitterness and too many "what ifs" worrying. After all, there's only one life and I should make the best of it.

Fall is starting, and with that the falling of leaves, the shriveling of plants and soon it will be covered by snow in anticipation of the new life that comes along in spring. New shiny times. New experiences. New hope and dreams.

Friday, August 05, 2016

thoughts on "illegal immigrants" and wording

First, this is a post since I couldn't make it 140ch on twitter yesterday when I ended up in a conversation with @dr24hours @doctor_PMS and @SciTriGrrl in regards to the use of words "illegal immigrant" and especially in context of that some democrats now are using it against Mrs Trump.

There's a few disclaimers I want to mention, mainly because it is an inflammatory discussion and a sensitive subject. I'm an immigrant to the US (been on a VISA, on a green card now). I'm a white female, educated and ESL (english as a second language).

Why this means something to me in this discussion? That I've felt fear, being scared standing by the immigration when entering the country. The ice cold feeling when you get a letter explaining something is wrong with your application and you have short few days to correct it or else you get deported. The underlying nervousness filling in "all the countries you've visited last 10 years" and knowing that if something isn't accurate that's cause for ... .you got it, deportation.

In short: TLDR "there are no mistakes in visa applications, only viewed as deceptions an d lies"

Regarding "illegal immigrants", or even "illegal aliens"- my base stance is that no one is illegal just by being human.

However, sometimes you need to point out hypocrisy with using the same words the hypocrites like to use. In this specific example, most of the use of "illegal immigrants" is used for non-whites, less educated people. It's very similar to that many people drop the "immigrant" word while making sweeping generalizations (not good ones) and then I raise my head and state I'm an immigrant and then they backtrack since "You're not really an immigrant, I speak English etc...." but base line is the same. You use sweeping generalizations, you should realize the broad brush touches everyone. And in this case even a presidential candidate's wife. Especially a presidential candidate wife. Maybe then will people see that it's horrid to use these words on people? Or at least that it is debasing and doesn't lead anywhere constructive since it is basically name calling and fear mongering.

And if nothing else, maybe bring about a discussion on visa rules. How many things one has to fulfill while on a visa? How many things that are different being on a visa, a green card and a citizen. And maybe how many people today are employed in the US on a visa - since that is where people seem to go. And what kind of jobs they have. Not to mention, where are the undocumented people working. What kind of jobs are they "stealing" (let's be honest, those jobs aren't what many people want to do. It's like a similar situation in California that is going on in Spain where the government knows that the undocumented people are the backbone of the farming industry and that at least for now gives an export industry.)

That said, I would hope that you/we keep your/our heads above water and not sink to the low level of hate. But it's also important to make the point how much words hurt and that we should be better at not painting broad brush strokes with hateful words and focus on the stakes at hand. Once we dehumanize humans, the road unequivocally descends into the place where unspeakable things happen and we all come out less than human  doing despicable things and losing all semblance of moral beings.

Monday, July 25, 2016

most important for a woman: being likable

After reading this article in Slate about The Hillary Haters and contemplating the last few months at work when people who are scared that the changes will lead to a couple of people getting let go "but you are safe because He likes you", I'm back to the thought that the key aspect of being a woman today is to be likable (and attractive of course).

Remember the comments from leading RNC people describing Melania Trump (yes Newt, Chris and the retired colonel) "who care about the speech, she is attractive and likable".

And then listening & reading all the comments about Hillary... if she was a man, they'd be phrased a little different. They might still state "go to jail for emails" but I really doubt that they would emphasize the "robotic, manhating, non attractive" style as much.

This point was also raised in the UK when choosing their new prime minister Theresa May. She isn't attractive, although she also has another flaw - she is not a mother. Why this is important? Well, as far as I see a woman who is taking power is automatically going to be viewed as a "mother"["for the country" when talking about PM or President]. A mother should be warm, kind, likable, and potentially soft and malleable to her husband. Theresa May had her opponent (also a woman, notch) state that since she was a mother, and May isn't, she was more qualified to be prime minister. Yep. I'm tempted to dive into the sad stats which points to that a lot of women in power are childless (or affluent with specific childcare options) since again, the biggest gap between salary&power in men and women are when you look at "married men with children" compared to "married women with children". Women without children have a slight less gap to the males.... but I won't. Not now.

Anyway, am I overly pessimistic? Too feminist? Is it not against women per se but only against Hillary this hate and attractiveness concept?

Please let me know what you think since I'm getting very sad and tired and there are still three months left before the US election.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

To prevaricate - so much more classy than outright lying

There are a few things that can get me revved up from 1 to 100 in a short hot second. A specific comment from my beloved father is one of them, getting patted on the head by someone in a work setting and being insulted with some fancy Swedish words are some of the others. None of these are more effective in making me annoyingly angry though than "being lied to" (especially being lied to badly). Somehow it touches my ego in a very sensitive way. "You think I am that daft and so easily fooled?" "It's like it triggers every little elitist fibre in me and makes me want to snarl like a crazy despot in a fancy fairy tale "do I look like I was born yesterday?". In short, it brings out the things in me that I am the least proud of and the most ashamed of.

I don't know if it is linked to the fact that I love to verbally spar? That one of my favorite board games is Diplomacy (some other ones that are on the high list are Civilization, Risk and a bunch of role playing games where you "convince others" and have to be good with words). It's probably a safe bet to say that if I would've followed the guidance counsellor in high school who stated "your grades and interest indicate that you would fit very well going into Law school or PoliSci" I would've been more likely to be manipulative and telling lies on a regular basis. (Power corrupts and all that). I got a fair shake in student politics back in my uni days and could've worked that angle instead of the precious microbes, alas the microbes won that battle. Nowadays I'm realizing my job takes me more and more into the political arena, not to mention management and all the double speak that one can find there and working with legal documents. Oh, the legal documents and the "weighing words and implications"...

I'm digressing, as usual with these blog posts.

I've realized after this last week watching and reading way too many speeches by people in politics that I need to come up with a strategy to deal with my hot temper that flare up on a regular basis. Otherwise I won't make it through November. I get offended by the blatant lies and the inconsistencies that are prevalent and so very common at the moment in the media and politics. I end up having long monologues in the car, talking to invisible debate challengers, whom I want to flatten. Not to mention that I have a burning desire to "educate the public" on the lies that are spewed and the fallacy (so called logic...) arguments that some voice. Is no one knowing history or "old things" anymore*? My core feelings of decency and how I was taught politics back in the day as a young little girl marching in protests and handing out voting ballots are vastly different than the tactics being on display in the current day. (Yes, I also feel ancient.)

My issue that I somehow love the real evil characters in stories and their smart and intellectual comments, like Blofeld or double agents in Cambridge back in the 1960ies. The audacity of a nicely crafted omission. The skill to prevaricate so the interviewer doesn't notice that the question wasn't really answered. Somehow it leads me to feel valued since the person takes an effort to craft a lie that they don't want me to notice, to make it sly under the radar and make me work for it. The old school "word duelling" to hone in on the importance of words. That words matter and that we should care WHAT and HOW we say since Words matter. That there is an art of writing beautiful and making a convincing, honest argument and winning the debate. The more noble part of verbal sparring rather than a round of fisticuffs**

I guess to a large part this plays to my conviction that words matter since they come before actions, and that certain actions have enormous consequences and that these might not ever be retracted or undone. Thus the need to weigh ones words and be careful not to overuse and extrapolate.

My noble intention of being a bigger person (and a non elitist) falls apart when I endure ugly speeches, without any type of allegories or tropes, or filled with lies and repeats. When there are no well crafted figures of speech, no mentioning of historic important people, quotes or actions. When all there is are pathetic lies built on made up realities and "mistakenly put together words that other's read things into"***. An example; comment made by Mr Manafort in regards to the whole Mrs Trump speech "What she did was use common words". As if common words in a specific order cold not be linked to someone specific, be made historic or need acknowledgment of references? They have to be "uncommon words" to make an impression? ('I have a dream' comes to mind, although perhaps Mr Manafort is not familiar with that string of words and the origin that made them famous? Or perhaps "Ask not what your country can do for you"... many common words in one sentence.) A good speech doesn't have to be elaborate. It can be short, sweet and honest. Some of the best are.

To end this rant before I lose the interest of my few kind readers. I'm really hoping, yet I understand it might be in vain, that the convention next week at least consists of less lies, fewer ugly speeches and perhaps - and I know I'm completely showing every card on my hand now - even some concrete ideas, examples and fact based statements with clear references of historic people and actions that have changed the world. I know, I'm clearly naive and in for more rounds of car talks; me against the air.

References: a link to BBC Ethics summary about ethics and lying. A book by Sissela Bok in case you are interested in reading more on the morals of lying, how it influences society and what can happen when you start with small white lies "for the good" etc.

* There is a longer story here about a shorter summary of the history of Turkey, Europe, Ukraine and Iraq that I ended up giving at work since there was a misconception on stabile countries that have been around forever. I did breifly touch on the oil crisis and flight hijackings landing in Cyprus as well. (not bragging, but maybe a story for another blog post since "lack of history and general knowledge" is another one of those small nagging issues I have.)

**Although to be honest, at the moment I would take an honest fist fight over the sad lies that are being spread faster than wildfire. Maybe fight club over presidency? Or Thunderdome?

***is this really proper English or just another badly written sentence from an ESL?

Monday, July 18, 2016

politics - abuse - domestic violence

I've had a rule, especially since I moved to the States, not to talk about certain things at work. Politics is one, religion another, and then trying to not discuss too private or personal things. I've mentioned this in the blog before. Trying to keep a neutral stance on a lot of things and mention sports, travelling, books and cooking; letting other people talk about their children and grandchildren etc.

However, the last couple of months it's becoming more and more difficult to keep "neutral" when people spew off comments. I've worked on focusing on "facts" and "history lessons" and a lot of times I end up making a gallic shrug with "well, I'm Scandinavian so maybe that's a little different". Last week though, that went into a little more delicate matter. The whole #blacklivesmatter got some commentary by some coworkers, and not in a delicate way. There were words mentioned that made me give a short history lesson (even as a non-US citizen), and then there was the Nice attacks and the idea, notion and history of France and liberty. And then we added the Turkey military coup and the history lesson in terms of Ottoman empire ("what is that?" led me to talk a little about the country).

And today the Republican convention started.... And not only did the commentary add into "no other civilization than the Western Civilizations have ever given the world anything" but there were some other grumblings on the side. And this is not even mentioning the underlying discussion and commentary about abuse that's been going on for a bit.

I know that abuse is a hard thing to define. It's been a little bit of this conversation in junction with the Katz affair. It's also been a time when a coworker mentioned some private stuff going on at home and me waiver on how much private information is appropriate to give. But when it comes to certain situations though, I have to say something. If you feel non safe at home, to the point that you take your kids and go visit a coworker, there are things that you need to do. And the other thing, not to paint the worst scenario on the wall but still, it's the time when you decide to leave the abuser that is the most dangerous time.

Again, not trying to scare anyone here. Not liking my experience with this. And I definitely don't feel comfortable with the whole thing. However, there are certain things that don't matter (and me being comfortable in this situation is one of them). I'm feeling a little better that I could make some practical suggestions to the specific situation. It's not a done thing, but a step in a right direction.

However, it can't take away the searing anger I saw the other day when one of the more short-sighted naive people expressed "I think they brought I upon themselves, they really should've walked away the first time". I wanted to tell them in not so many words: If it was that simple. If the line was THAT clear.  Don't you think they would've walked away? Maybe, just maybe, it is a little more complex than that?!

It doesn't matter if it's an abusive PI or a partner. The background, the luring, the normalization, is always there. It's not coming out of the blue - at least not when the perpetrator is good at it. Oh no. It's devious. It's a slow build up. It's a mix of "you're so good to me", "I'm not worthy of you", "you really understand me" and a number of similar comments. And the feeling that bloom in you, that they like you - and that it is special thing you have going. It's the waves, the ups and the downs. When it's good, it's very good, but when it's bad, it's very lonely. Not to mention the shame. The thoughts "I should've realized" or something equivalent as an emotion.

I spent today telling someone "if it was bad all the time you wouldn't have stayed, not found yourself in this situation. It's the good that starts is and then you get stuck. The really important thing though. It's to move away from the situation and next time you see the signs, act on them." It's the learning and improving. Not beating yourself up over something that has already happened.

It's easier said than done. Obviously. But we can all try and keep the judgmental comments out of the workplace. And maybe even just keep them out all together? After all, most of us have moments of weaknesses where we thrive on someone giving us attention and perceived likings. It's not always you see the deception until afterward.

Maybe tomorrow will be another day?

(and this is not even mentioning that I watch Mrs Trump's speech..... )

Thursday, July 14, 2016

vacation thoughts

I have so many posts I want to write. So many things I want to bubble out and say. It's been quite the summer so far, both across the pond and on this side. Both work wise, politics and personal. And again, so many thoughts that want to get out. I'm struggling with a few decisions, private and personal? How personal is personal and how much is too private?

I know what polite talk is. I know where borders on "polite conversation" are. (thank you grandmom!) However, real personal talk with friends is very important and I like it. Personal talk with coworkers..... a little more difficult since I don't want to know exactly who is voting for Trump or who is against abortions - or more exactly, who will hate/dislike me because I really don't agree there....

Anyway, while I sort out a few of those blog posts to see which fit under the "not too private but still personal" I leave you with a photo from my holiday. It might have been shorter than my Scandinavian roots would have wanted, but it sure was sweet.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

temper - demeanor - self control - board games - introvert

One of the things that appealed to me the most while learning the game system of VtM was the idea of "demeanor" and "nature". The very much in the game setting controlled idea that you have a choice of showing your feelings and actions in a demeanor, compared to when you can't control it and have your nature. (It's not really like this, and I had a longer post written all about the intricacies of the gaming system but I figured it wouldn't be interesting for the non-gamers whom I presuming are reading this blog.)

As for what I'm writing right now, I'm mainly focusing on the week full of emotions - by others and by myself - and the feelings and thoughts I have from them.

First of all, let's get one thing straight. I'm not a touchy feely person at work and don't feel comfortable talking about feelings too much when trying to solve a problem. (I am a solutions focused person and like logic, deduction and problem solving. Feelings and the cushion talk doesn't really factor in a lot for me when I look for the issue and try and fix it.) Then again, I realize that this  (feelings) is how a lot of people deal with things so I've learned how to work it. It doesn't mean I LIKE it, just that I know how others responds and how it's best efficiently solved.

However, if you want me drained, let's talk about feelings and talk all the time. And yes, that's where I am a lot of times these days due to a certain situation at work. People are feeling vulnerable and scared of losing their jobs. Hence they go talk to someone who can comfort them. And somehow that person turns out to be me. (yes, I'm flattered but yet it's getting to be a little annoying/stressing.) I know they mean well but hearing a lot of times "well your boss likes you so you're safe" makes me want to tell them - you have MISUNDERSTOOD the importance of work. It's not that my boss LIKES me that's important. It's that my boss finds my work as ADD VALUE (important and helpful) to them. I'm happy if they like me. It's important that they DON'T DISLIKE me. It doesn't mean that the important thing is that the like me, they just have to NOT dislike me. And "THEY LIKE YOU" isn't a compliment to keep me safe. It makes me feel slightly clammy. Almost like you imply an inappropriate relationship or something like that. (yes, like that's never happened where you work.) What I want to tell them are "Inefficient, invaluable people can still get sacked, even if the boss "like" them". Even people who are liked and shacking up with the boss gets canned so no, "Liking" isn't what you strive for - "add value/getting stuff done" is.  I'm not loving the idea that people go about thinking that my job is safe due to the "boss liking me".

Ah well, it's a small moon in the sky with plenty shining stars to annoy me this week.

I've been a control person for a very long time. I pride myself with being really good at poker at a poker table (being able to make myself hard to read, controlling my emotions), I had a stint playing a bunch of devious boardgames and being good at them, not to mention the whole RPG stuff and playing a character wile gaming. And that's not even talking about grad studies or post-docing. Alas, all of this experience is sometimes a moot point when you encounter something that makes your blood boil and your eyes only seeing red.

I know that people have various tolerance and reasons for violence. I've been very good at keeping my temper at check for being violent so that's seldom been an issue (unless you bet someone up in front of me - that's usually not working and I end up in trouble). However, I've realized that I might be a little less tolerant to this whole notion of being called "girl" in a work place environment (among other things, I'm trying to keep this part related to work and not other time).

This past week- let's just say I was VERY happy that I not only focused on "let's solve the issue" but also that I realized that a lot of people were watching my every move and it was very important to keep cool and professional demeanor. I did (although I needed to walk away for a small second in the middle - thank goodness I needed to find the printer with the important paper - and that I could face the floor and carry the heavy bag without looking at the person who was pushing every single button for me to want to obliterate them with my voice) and then later I wrote a very fact based account of what happened to the people in charge and explained my grievances and why I wasn't feeling comfortable with the whole situation and wanted an assurance it was going to be settled.

So yes, mostly it helped to get a remedy phone call from the main company we worked with, apologizing for the horrible situation and letting me know that the company who was the cause of it all will not be hired by them anymore. Regardless that I might feel sorry for the individuals in questions, I've been in the USA for too long and therefore feel that "If you were behaving badly and not doing your job, it's on you" so therefore I refuse feeling sorry for you. (NOTE, it's not the person losing their job, it's the company losing their spot with the other company. Also, apparently they were on notice so it wasn't solely me. Look at me being all sappy about this anyhow and feeling contemplative about the whole thing "maybeI was overreacting.)

Regardless of that, I became more content with my reaction since a couple of the people in the lab who saw the sad situation commented to me afterwards. "I'm so in awe, you looked nonplussed" or "You were amazing, so calm and collected and you couldn't tell if you were flustered". I got reminded yet again, my coworkers don't know where my fury could go. They don't know that if (when?) I fly off the handle I really do (which is why I don't even go near at work). There is a lot of F word related things and feelngs, "in your face B".... There is a certain joy in my to do a "no hands down, bar none, brawl fighting"  concept. I know though, both from experience and brain power, it's a shitty, very non productive way to explode. It's one of the reasons I dislike those bad, non good relationship fights since it's muddy and when mud starts slinging no one is clean afterwards and not good solutions in sight. Always better to stay out of those things. However, there are times when I am quite content having these icy comments roll out and stab the person who is just picking away at the worst possible way... especially if there is someone else that they hurt in the first place. I have no tolerance for bullies.

I guess it makes me a bad person. I enjoy a certain kind of hurt. Or it makes me a non-pushover, since it most often happens when other people are involved. However, today it was partly the idea of being called "this girl" in a derogatory way and the slight contenedness I got by picking up the phone expressing "yes, this is Dr Chall" and later receiving a letter where someone is expressing "their apologies for this horrible thing to happen" (not calling me a girl, that wasn't something I complained about. There was a whole other issue going on but the "girl" thing was what was like a red blanket in front of the bull in a bull fighting ring. hello temper.)

All in all - this is my convoluted way of saying "there is more to me that meets the eye". And that I am not entirely comfortable for you to see my feelings when someone hurts me or my friends since I am honest and react to it clearly.

Friday, May 20, 2016

OT and post docing - a small comment

It's been a few comments and discussions about this post-docing and OT. Good posts and interesting comments. I thought I'd write my two cents about it since I've been a post-doc and I've been working as a salaried person getting moved to hourly and getting OT and back again (see below).

My time with OT and time cards. Working as a salaried person, exempt and doing my thing as a half-supervisor after my post doc, HR took an interest since our job descriptions were abysmal. There were no distinction between people who were on time cards (and expected to get their work planned out for them) and the ones who weren't (we who were planning and performing experiments, and troubleshooting). And no, we didn't make that much more money either. In short, what the experiment showed was that if I was moved to a time card, they would've have to pay me waaaay more than I got at the time. Why? Because of all the "outside work" that I did so that had to be done at work, while being clocked in. I got told after first three weeks that I had to go home at the end of 40 hours, although when that happen things started not getting done so..... back to getting paid OT it was. (A few more weeks and we were back at exempt and not. No more OT for me.)

Second example is between an efficient tech and a "not so efficient tech". I'd say that the key difference are two examples: do you have to plan out the day for the tech and "you start a gel. what do you do in the mean time?". Option A is "take a coffee break, tweet, go do something else and then come back to gel". Option B is "take up experiment number two, go to the mouse house, weight some mice, check for gel to be done and then move on".

If you are enforcing the OT I'd recommend you to sort out the expectations right off in the start. That would probably be that Option A isn't a choice anymore. Why? Since you can't stay later in the evening to get all the other stuff done. Nope. It's not a "free time" concept anymore. It isn't a free time for most technicians I know of today either (a lot of timed tasks). When reading a lot of comments I get a feeling that a lot of people in this debate has forgotten that. You don't decide when you need OT, your boss tells you when OT is allowed. (it costs money)

Also, the "idea of measurable" makes it hard to claim non-exempt status for a post-doc (PD) if you ask me. There's a lot of "thinking, creative, fluffy, training" things PDs are supposed to do. It's not "someone plans their day and tells them tasks" (or at least I don't see PD position like that). That would be more of an hourly technician job. Where you can easily (OK, a little bit easier) see what can be accomplished in a day's/week's work and judge time based on that.

Or maybe it's because what I value the most with my work at the moment is my autonomy (perceived or not). I technically have a 40 hour work week. I technically work more than that, not because I am lazy or slow, but because I have a little too much on my plate at the moment. (However, I could rant about that it is my responsibility to tell my boss that - "this is not feasible in a 40h work week, which is priority and then do the priority and go home". They want that from me. Again, my boss is a good boss.)

However, when you are on a time clock TIME IS NOT YOUR OWN. It's not OK to "go to the gym and work out and then make up the time afterward". It's not OK to ponder off about that interesting hypothesis and follow a lead down the rabbit hole (note: I know it COULD be OK, however at the end of the day as a biomed focused scientist I'm going to say that if you have spent a whole week solely pondering a hypothesis while not running experiments  I don't think your PI will be overly impressed).

You have to clock in and out for that. Have to check mice on the weekend? Have to plan for that and make time available. I don't know about you, but I can say that for me the 'best' thing about being a post doc was that I could do a lot of things on my own time and in the way I preferred it. Of course, I know that most PD today aren't single and childless, these people probably plan way more than I did as a PD. But I bet you that there are still a lot of people out there who don't understand how much more controlled the lab environment just became.

Why? Because if OT happens you have to justify it. Because someone will PAY you more for it. And it's not going to be "well I need to check my mice on the weekend so I'll add 4 hours OT". It is "what did you do during the week that made you not save 4 hours for the weekend work?". Trust me. THat's what I ended up having to do just "doing my job" as a non-exempt person.

Also, as a fun fact I've noticed coming back from industry where I had to log hours in each project, every day and tally them up in a weekly/biweekly report. A lot of my academic coworkers now incredulously look at me and ask "you tell your boss what you do every day? You keep up with what you've done every day?". Yep. That's the name of the game if you get paid by hour, or get paid by someone else for a specific project. Have to account for your time. THAT's  a game changer if you ask me. A lot of accountability from people who are now going to have to be diligent on writing down what they do, plan their days much better and most of all, get approval for OT where they before were "free" to do what they wanted. OT isn't something you decide you want, it's something the boss decided if you get.

I know that there are PDs getting shafted in the current system and I know that the OT requirement might help with this. However, I'm not sure that this new thing will solve much. Why? Because you can still have abusive PIs/bosses who systematically exclude work hours or fail other people and the PDs will still get shafted. It will just require more control or failing to plan on their part. And most of all, I don't agree with PD being a non-exempt employee with fixed hours in a week if doing science.

Not being negative about it, it's just not a simple fix for what's wrong in the PD world - if it was, this would've happened a long time ago. However, I guess it's worth a try to see what the fall out will be since if nothing else, I'm sure it's shifting the problems to something else that we then can try and solve.

Here's to trying!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

pull and relase

It's been a busy time lately. I haven't had the time to write nor read as much as I usually do. It's probably part of the reason why I'm feeling anxious and nervous - it's a stress response and when I feel boxed in and trapped, I feel stressed, loop continues. Hopefully this upcoming trip will take some of the edge off.

However, by personal and private reasons, the trip isn't all fun. It will be a walk on the thin line between sweet and bitter..... it coincides with an anniversary that part of me would like to forget, part of me cherishes as a great memory. It's just a little bittersweet. There were indeed so many hopes and dreams at that time, and so many things that didn't happen.

As "they" say though, all those inspirational quotes

"If you haven't any regrets you haven't lived"

I don't know about that but for a little while I will look at this inspirational poster and work my way out. Trying to be proud of accomplishments, keeping trust for people and keeping the dreams & hope alive.

I can't change the past, but I can make my future. (Another inspirational quote out there "the scars only tell where you have been, not where you are going". I've clearly read too many of those books lately). Although, I wouldn't be me if I didn't add something about glue and pieces and Humpty Dumpty...... ^^

Here's to me and my vacation leading to me coming out with a less stressy brain connections, guilt and more love in general. Here is to hope. And at least more sleep.