Friday, March 31, 2006

100 Facts #6

I first got contact lenses after I lost a pair of glasses on an amusement park ride. It wasn't a coaster, it was one that spun you round-and-round. My glasses had been a bit loose, and off they flew into the air, and probably under one of the carts. "Lost" is exaggerating. We found them later, quite mangled. I had wanted contacts for a while, and this was my opportunity! My parents made me pay half the cost of them though, since I hadn't had my glasses fixed when I noticed they were loose. I happily paid up and haven't gone back to frames since.

Evil Thursdays

Something weird and unsettling is going on with Thursdays. Thursdays are apparently very bad for my emotional state. Who knew? Two weeks ago ThursdayI had myself convinced that I wanted to escape my grad program with a MS and never look back. Several discussions and some soul searching have convinced me to go all the way to the PhD. I doubt it will be the last time I look for an out though.

Then yesterday my other half (who I need a pseudonym for) wound up starting a fight with me very early in the morning, though that wasn't his intention. Here is a bit of advice for the guys: do not pick fights with me when I have PMS. You will be very unhappy. (He had been forewarned a few days ago, btw.) I spent the entire day fuming and then blew up when he got home. Thankfully, we have moved past it and all was well. I'm sure it will prove excellent discussion for therapy this morning.

Anyway, Thursdays=evil. I think it has something to do with the fact that by Thursday you've already put up with three days of crap at work, and yet it isn't Friday with the promise of the weekend. I think Thursdays are worse than Mondays, perhaps. Paradigm shift!

(Funny side story: My better half was studying for a business class and called out to me up the stairs. "Honey? What's a 'per diem' shift?"
I pondered the question for a moment. He knew what per diem was: one of his jobs was paying him per diem! Then it clicked.
"Do you mean 'paradigm'?"
That one was tricky to define on the fly. I think I said something about a change in the status quo, a change from the conventional wisdom. Anyone else want to define it on the fly? No dictionaries!)

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

100 Facts #5

I have two holes pierced in each ear (the lobe, not cartilage) but I rarely wear earrings. Mostly because earrings now make my ears itch when I wear them.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Today I revealed my grace by dropping an entire tray of plants I'm screening. In front of Bossman, who was there to help me score some ambiguous potential mutants. Very embarrassing! I managed to catch the tray in mid-air, but the catch itself dislodged some onto the floor. What a mess!

Thankfully the Bossman didn't say anything critical; he just mentioned it was lucky that the few unlucky ones that hit the floor were from the less-interesting genotype.

Also, the tray bit me! I have a scratch at the base of my thumb, which was of course covered in dirt. Time to get out the Neosporin.

Ah, the life of a clumsy scientist is never boring. At least I've never been involved in a centrifuge accident.

100 Facts #4

I started drinking coffee my sophomore year in college in an attempt to stay awake during classes. I couldn't stand drinking regular coffee: too bitter! I had to work my way up from instant cappuchino served from a silly machine on campus. I think it took 3 or 4 months for me to start drinking actual coffee. Now I have to have my cup with breakfast.

Monday, March 27, 2006

long day

Due to transportation issues, I got to the lab at 6:30 am. I was quite sleepy, however managed to be very productive today. The early hour allowed me to catch up on the things I never accomplished on the weekend. I meant to go in, but life interceded. It happens.

I ran a gel with two complimentary reactions, one for WT and one for the genetic insert I'm interested in. At worst I'd expect this batch to have a normal 1/4 mutant, 1/2 het, 1/4 WT segregation. Except the PCR for the insert didn't work on any of them, and the WT reaction didn't work for some. They all *have* to have one or the other. Annoying. The re-run of the insert reaction had the same result: nada. May need a new batch of reagents, may need to test the DNA preps with primers I know will work.

Also spent some time with the Bossman learning a new stats program. More actual hard-core programming than I've ever done. I saved the scripts in a text file. Hopefully I can figure out how to do things on my own next time. My data does look promising.

The university's connection to the outside internet world was down for a few hours, and now Blogger is having issues. Maybe I'm not supposed to write this entry!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

100 Facts #3

Though I was reluctant to try it at first, Vanilla Coke is my favorite soda, followed closely by Wild Cherry Pepsi. I despise all diet sodas. Bleh. (On a side note: in French, NutraSweet is NutraSuc. Pretty much sums up my feelings about it.)

Friday, March 24, 2006

100 Facts: #2

I got my first alarm clock when I was eight and my sister was six so that we could get ourselves up for school. Even at that age we were fiercely independent I guess! I've used an alarm clock every school/work morning from that day on.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


I was sitting at my desk when I heard one of our tech's mutter behind me:
"There's no way I'm an extra small!"

I turned around and found that she was trying to order a new type of nitrile glove. The manufacturer had sent a handy-dandy insert that you can use to measure your hand, lining it up with the correct glove size. I glanced at the insert briefly, and then did a double-take.

"Does that say thumb crotch??"

It did, indeed, say thumb crotch. Did you know that your thumb had a crotch? I did not. Apparently the thumb crotch is the area of your hand, that little flap of skin, between your thumb and forefinger where the fingers connect to the main hand. Who knew? You need to know this because you must line up your thumb crotch correctly on the insert to get your measurement.

According to the diagram, the tech was indeed an extra small. I measured a small. I think the whole thing is highly suspect. I also think I'm going to get odd search engine queries from this entry.

When I was a kid I thought mitosis was a hilarious word. My-toe-sis! It sounds like a foot disease. On the more medical side is the word phlebotomist, for a person who draws blood. Or phleb. Can you imagine saying, "I'm going to get some phleb drawn!"

What other weird terminology does the scientific field possess?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

100 Facts

I am shamelessly stealing an idea from BrightStar in an attempt to let my three readers get to know me better. One hundred facts about me in (approximately) one hundred days. The trick will be figuring out one hundred things that do not completely give away my identity! Or drive my audience away, instead of drawing them in...

Fact #1:
I eat cereal for breakfast every day (except weekends), even though I can't drink all the leftover milk when I'm done because I'm lactose intolerant. I love cereal. Waste of milk though.

Monday, March 20, 2006


As I was leaving my house this morning, I thought to myself "I have a case of the Mondays." (Bonus points for getting the reference).

I was running late, didn't remember to pack a lunch, and as I walked out the front door with my bicycle I realized it was raining quite hard. I had a cold and wet and miserable ride in. I should have gone straight after my shower; my hair was drenched when I got to the lab.

Amazingly my mascara didn't run and my pants didn't get too utterly wet. But still. Hell of a way to start off your Monday. I was certain that I was doomed.

The day went surprisingly well. I got a good chunk of work accomplished. Had a short meeting with my favorite prof on my quals committee which went well. I arrived at home in a good mood instead of being a grumpypants. It helped that the rain had become intermittent by this point and my ride home, while chilly, was dry.

I made a committment to myself to update this blog once a day, to make sure I keep my writing muscles exercised. I'm sure my future audience will approve of more frequent updates.

Friday, March 10, 2006

not funny

I was having a rather horrible day yesterday. By the time the mandatory meeting for new TAs rolled around, I was quite convinced that I wanted to quit science altogether or throw myself into traffic, or both. I was miserable but trying to put up a good front for the nice people I'd (mostly) never met before.

About halfway through the meeting, we reach the topic of Things TAs Don't Have to Worry About. Such as writing the lecture exams, cleaning up the lab (the students can put away their own microscopes), setting up all the lab materials etc. Someone mentions that a TA does not need to be a counselor to the students. Students have problems, they may want to talk about them, try to steer them to the counseling center unless you are (and we're not) trained counselors. The guy leading the meeting gave a few examples. "They may be fighting with roommates or have a traffic ticket or they're being stalked..."

At this point a professor whom I respect very highly laughed and made a very flip comment about students being suicidal.

I was horrified. It just happened to correspond with one of my own very rare days when I feel strongly that I don't want to exist any more. I mentally made a note to never discuss such things with this person, someone I've gone to before when I was in a tough spot, though that was more related to my education.

Am I overreacting? No, I do not think it goes with a professor's job description to counsel students on their personal lives. But students respect professors. They look up to them. I would be flattered if I was a professor and I student trusted me enough to confess suicidal ideation to me. I would direct them to better resources, but I would listen to them. I certainly wouldn't mock them later for it!

Suicide is a scary, scary thing. It is incredibly hard to tell someone else that you want to kill yourself. I forced myself to tell my fiance recently. I wanted him to realize how upset and trapped I felt, and I also wanted to protect myself. It really hurt him to hear that, and I know it would hurt him ten million times more if I actually tried it. This is someone I trust completely, and I could barely get the words out. How hard must it have been for that student? When your professor is the best person you can think of to confide in?

Perhaps the professor in this story was really uncomfortable with the incident, and laughing was her way of dispelling that feeling. But why did she bring it up? I doubt it was a recent occurance. No one said anything to her. We just moved on to the next topic.

Was she out of line? Or am I just being overly sensitive?

(As a disclaimer: I am seeing a therapist, have an appointment to get back on antidepressants, and have several phone numbers for suicide hotlines. I have never actually attempted suicide. If you are feeling suicidal, please please go talk to someone. Things can get better.)

Thursday, March 02, 2006

getting back from AWOL

This is a great article on getting back from what the author, Mary McKinney, describes as being "academic AWOL". We've all done this at some point or another. The graduate students avoid our PIs because the experiment didn't work, or the cultures all died, or the paper isn't written yet. The PIs avoid looking at paper revisions out of fear of what the reviewers said.

I myself am prone to going AWOL when I get overwhelmed. When I have so many different experiments in various stages of progression that I cannot prioritize. I freeze up. So much to do that I cannot do any of it! Oh, the irony.

The link comes via Bitch, Ph.D., where there are some great tips on beating this phenomena in her comments section. One that I've tried in the past with some success is The List. You make a list of everything that needs to be done, and throw in some really easy things as well, like "Eat lunch" and "Send email to Prof. X". That way you can cross of some things immediately. It really does help boost your momentum. Another trick is to split things up if they're daunting. 200 DNA preps to do? Plan to do only 100 and then something else on your list. Do a big chuck of the stats analysis and then move on to those slides you've been meaning to study. I find this helps alleviate the monotony boredom that many of our science research jobs entail.