Friday, May 19, 2006

Friday frivolous feet

Just because I got a new camera few weeks ago.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

one of those days

Can I just say that some days I love my job? I love doing analyses and graphing the results and seeing something really unexpected and cool. I love that I can have a stimulating meeting (not an oxymoron) about a science ed project with which I'm involved and then go on work on a paper for submission to a top 5 -ology journal. I love that I can book a trip to see volcanogirl, singlegirl, and writer chica and charge it to a grant (yes, there'll be a hell of a lot of work done too.) I love that I can listen to Gershwin's 3 preludes performed by Gil Shaham on iTunes while I run analyses.

And what makes it even better is that BusinessMan just called me to say that he is having a really good day at his job too.

Hope yours are similarly scintillating.

Science agency head nominee from oil and gas industry

Some highlights from Nature (Nature 441, 266 (18 May 2006) | doi:10.1038/441266a; Published online 17 May 2006, subscription required):

Who is Mark Myers?
That's what many US geologists are asking in the wake of an announcement that President George W. Bush will nominate Myers to head the US Geological Survey (USGS). ...Myers has a PhD in geology and has spent much of his career in Alaska, working for oil companies and for the state — sometimes alone in remote locations, armed with a shotgun in case of grizzly bears...If confirmed by the Senate, Myers would be the first USGS director in decades to come neither from academia nor from within the agency....Myers worked most recently as head of Alaska's Division of Oil and Gas. In the past he has supported drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — a protected region of Alaska. And this has spooked some environmentalists. But if he gets the USGS job, Myers says, he would stay out of any decision making: "My job is strictly to provide the data, to help people understand the data and its limitations."

These seems to be another one of those pro-con things. Pro: Energy is a major issue facing our country over the next several decades, so having a USGS chief who knows something about the subject seems like a good idea. Con: He's from way outside the science research establishment. How capable and effective is he going to be? Con: Has Bush picked an outsider so that he can have more influence than he would if the next USGS chief were more recognized.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

well, at least I'm pre-pregnant.

And so are most of you.

Further ETA: Further commentary and clarification over at Bitch PhD. Seems like one of her readers actually looked at the report not just hte WaPo article.

See the Washington Post article, and commentary by Bitch Ph.D. and GrrlScientist.
ETA: I forgot to mention Green Gabbro's commentary and case study.

S and I can think of some good things that might come out of defining all women between puberty and menopause as pre-pregnant
  1. Greater awareness of the negative health effects of smoking and drinking for all people.
  2. Recognition that maternity leave is necessary and providing tougher penalties for employers who discriminate against the pregnant, pre-pregnant, or mothers
  3. Possibly acknowledging that men are fertile all the time and that they may do things that damage their sperm
But I don't think any of those things are as likely as these:
  1. Getting one step closer to treating pregnancy as a given not as a choice.
  2. Providing a basis for discrimination against women in certain activities: "She can't do xxxx, she's pre-pregnant."
  3. Continuing to slide backwards toward women as unequal and merely vessels for the unborn
In the end, I'm not really sure what to make of this report. I think if it had come out in a different administration, it might be raising praise rather than fear. But these are scary times.

What do my pre-pregnant readers think? How about the men?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Piled Higher and Deeper

Although I mostly try to avoid whining here about my day-to-day stress and to-do lists, every few months I feel like I could use a cathartic public display of the things that wake me up in a panic.

Today is May 16th, by this time next month 3 huge mountains have to be summitted. And I am going to be on the road for 2 of the intervening weeks. I leave May 26th, so there are certain number of things which must be accomplished before I leave because of access to computer programs and facilities. The rest, theoretically, could be done while traveling, but days and evenings are pretty full up already. My chest gets tight just thinking about it.

Paper 1 (revise and resubmit) The journal gave me three months to deal with the edits, but suddenly that doesn't seem enough. I only have until June 7.
  1. Figure 1 needs some final tinkering.
  2. Figure 8 needs to be completely redrafted (before 5/26).
  3. Last major group of reviewer comments/complaints must be addressed. This involves redoing a major piece of data analysis (once I figure out what they want) and then rewriting the methods, results, and discussion sections that describe it.
  4. Table 3 needs to be redone to reflect the changes resulting from number 2.
  5. Text edits needs to be completed throughout the paper.
  6. My response to the reviewer comments needs to be written.
  7. The paper needs to be resubmitted.
Project 3 formerly: grant-on-the-side; now: part of my diss.; consequence: long-term stress decrease, short term panic
  1. Trip plans must be completed (before 5/26)
  2. Regression modeling needs to be redone (before 5/26)
  3. Figures for poster/paper need to be drafted (before 5/26)
  4. Poster layout should be tentatively in place so I know what figures I'll need (before 5/26)
  5. Rough draft of the paper needs to be written so I know what figures I'll need and so the co-authors have at least a nominal chance to offer comments (before 5/26)
  6. Poster must be printed, conference begins (6/7)
  7. Paper must be submitted for inclusion in special volume resulting from conf. (6/16)
Codename: HeadacheThe pre-doc post-doc
  1. Plane tix must be bought (Chica - Can I stay with you the 29th-2nd?) (5/18)
  2. Experimental design must be finalized and apparatus built (5/26)
Balls that will be dropped
  1. The mostly completed draft of Paper 2 that's been sitting on my computer for the past month.
  2. The field sites I haven't been to since February.
  3. The presentation to the funding agency (damn it, that's what advisors are supposed to do.)
  4. The biking, dog walking, eating well, and sleeping
  5. Taking Sunday off.
  6. Blogging?

Monday, May 15, 2006

Life outside school

Alas, Monday is here again. One day weekends are both a blessing and a curse. A blessing in that BusinessMan and I are finally making the effort to do something fun together on Sundays, and a curse in that Monday morning I find I want more fun time.

So what did we do?

Had dinner with Brightstar
BrightStar posted a chicken and ziti bake last week, then Sheepish and Prof. Me memed it. And it just looked so tasty that we had to try it. The results are below. Note that we substituted tri-color rotini for the ziti. But it was still very yummy, and I've got some leftovers for lunch.
Spent Sunday at the beach
Yesterday, we took advantage of the perfect weather for a trip to the coast. Despite being less than an hour away, I hadn't been out to the ocean for over a year. And, let me tell you, I am not going to make that mistake again.

We had a wonderful time playing on two different beaches - watching the tide go out, and then come back in. And in between, we had a delicious clam chowder lunch. (I never eat clam chowder anywhere but at the coast, but there I always do.)

Got there another way
It feels a bit like a massive conspiracy to get me to reduce my driving. I'm concerned about green house gases, gasoline is over $3 a gallon, I need exercise, the weather is perfect. But for some reason, I haven't been able to break my driving habit. I can come up with a million excuses.

But not today. I actually managed to get on my bike and leave the car in the garage. I'd like to tell you I biked the 5 miles to school. But I didn't. I did, however, bike ~1 mile to a bus stop and then hop on the bus. There I discovered that is is "Get there another way" week, where the local uni and businesses encourage people to leave their cars at home by making the bus free. Just another cosmic sign pointing me in that direction. Will I bike home or do the bike-bus combo? I'll probably bike, just because I can't be bothered to remember to leave the office at the exact right time to catch the hourly bus service that last leaves campus at 6 pm. Can I go the whole week without the car commute? Nope, it's logistically impossible. But every day counts, and I'm glad I did it today.

And now back to the regularly scheduled programming. (work, eat, work, sleep, work, work, work...)

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Science Fair winners

If you want to be inspired by the amazing science that high school students are capable of doing, take a look at a list of this year's top award winners at the International Science and Engineering Fair. If you want to know more about the world's largest pre-college science competition (that gives away over $3 million in prizes), take a look at the homepage of Science Service, a science education non-profit that organizes the event. And if you live in Albuquerque, Atlanta, Reno, or San Jose, consider helping out or visiting when the fair comes through your area in the next couple of years.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Research productivity = high; Blog productivity = low

Correlation or causation?

Sorry to disappoint any readers who have been checking back to see if I have anything more to say following those comment-inducing posts of earlier this week. I think your comments are great and I'm glad to hear of so many examples of guys who will indeed follow their scientific women.

Ceresina, I'm still thinking about your comment and trying to figure out exactly what you meant: "I don't quite understand your comment about "many women expect or hope to stay home or work part-time with young children." ... if you need a post topic, would you expand on that a little? I'm wondering why my experience is so different from yours." Are you questioning the validity of my statement or are you wondering why women might choose to work less than full-time? Or did you mean something else that I've missed? I think I could write a post about why women might want to work less than full-time but I'm not sure I have anything particularly novel to say on the subject.

If you are looking for some intellectual sustenance (and avoiding work), then check out inky circus's post about Susan Bustos who sounds to be a brilliant scientist, a knitter, and a zine editor. Miss Prism (love her blog title and pseudonym!) just published a great piece with suggestions for communicating science to the media. And, if you are in the mood for a little uplifting listening, one of my favorite bloggers, Janet Stemwedel, and the folks at ScienceBlogs have put together a podcast with her take on the "worst things a scientist can do."

As for me, I'm going back to work on this thing we call a PhD. Tomorrow I may be good for a meme or a photo, but I want to push hard into the weekend to get these damn reviewer comments done with for once and for all (until next time).

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

No answers: gender, relocation, and relationships

(Note to self: Before promising to post a follow-up the next day, I should either write the follow-up immediately or make sure that I have budgeted time the next day to write said follow-up.)

What wonderful comments all my readers have. It seems to be an extraordinarily common scenario.

First of all, let me say that you all seem to have "guessed right." In the caseI was thinking of when I wrote my post, StuDent is a woman and PartNer is a man. I think it's interesting that the stereotype of men being more stubborn about their professional goals is more pervasive, at least among my readers, than is the stereotype that the academic science world is male. I also think its interesting that many of you seemed to assume that PartNer had some sort of advanced degree. In this case, he has a BS - so the parameters of the job search are a bit different.

Second, StuDent has decided to accept the t-t job offer. I don't know all the personal details, but I know the post-doc turned out to be not quite as great as she initially thought and that she was able to negotiate for some better terms with the t-t university. She will move away in August (I'll miss her!), so that gives PartNer at least until then to figure out what a great woman he is letting slip away.

Third, in an amazingly parallel coincidence, this weekend my little brother and I talked for quite a while about his relationship. He and his girlfriend, both recent college graduates, have been together since high school. He has moved back to Hometown and started his own tech business; she is taking a 1 year at an outdoor school about an hour away. After next year, her plan is to go to U of Midwest for a MS and PhD in an -ology. But brother is very resistant leaving Hometown because he is making full use of his local network to get his business going strong. He denies that because he is self-employed that he is "portable." I think Brother and Girlfriend are at the critical break-up or get engaged stage of the relationship. But I know that Brother needs to realize that if he wants to stay with Girlfriend, he needs to be willing to move. There simply aren't any career opportunities for someone with a BS in -ology in Hometown. Brother says he wants someone with ambition, but with ambition comes negotiation of the two-body problem. It just comes with the turf. And somehow I think he's got to realize that if Girlfriend is the ambitious woman he wants, he has to be willing to compromise.

I wish more men were willing to move to support their partner's careers; I've certainly been lucky with BusinessMan. My guess is that feel emasculated when they are asked to down-scale or reframe their career plans for a woman. I think it's a hold-over from the days when men brought home the bacon and the woman fried it. On the other hand, women may be more willing to change plans because they are conditioned to acquiese to men, are grateful for a caring, enlightened partner, or simply don't see the benefit to being stubborn. But that analysis also ignores the issue of child-rearing. In an ideal world, of course, men and women would share child raising responsibilities without regard to gender. But many women expect or hope to stay home or work part-time with young children. Thus, they may feel that is important to maximize their partner's career potential even at the expense of their own. Not all women are going to think that way or even think about that issue at all. My guess, though, is that more women are going to consider the child-rearing issue when compromising on location and career than are men.

I don't feel like there are any easy solutions for women like StuDent and Girlfriend or for men like PartNer and Brother, but I suspect that it will become more of an issue as increasing numbers of women penetrate the ranks of graduate students and faculty. Gender issues haven't become any simpler to navigate with women in the workforce, but they have become a lot more interesting. I just wish I had some real answers as to give my friend and my brother.

Monday, May 08, 2006

gender, relocation, and relationships

The scenario: There is a heterosexual couple composed of StuDent and PartNer. StuDent is finishing his/her PhD and has a choice between a post-doc 2.5 hours from Utopia and a tenure-track position 10 hours from Utopia. StuDent has been dating PartNer seriously for just over a year, having met on a blind date. PartNer moved to Utopia just prior to the commencement of dating, having made it a personal goal to find a job in her/his somewhat specialized field in the Utopia area. StuDent is professionally inclined toward the tenure-track job (job security, interest match), but PartNer does not want to move. It's not that the location of StuDent's tenure-track offer is awful, PartNer just worked really hard to get to Utopia and does not want move anywhere, no matter how cool. If StuDent takes the post-doc, he/she could visit PartNer on weekends, but would have to go through another job hunt. StuDent has family ties to the Utopia area, and her/his field is in demand, but there are no guarantees with a job search.

The Question: Is StuDent or PartNer the man? Why do you think so? How might the situation be different if the genders were reversed? Is there a compromise solution where both people can be professionally and personally satisfied?

The Answer: I'll tell you tomorrow.

I don't know any TAs making $81,500

Go read GirlScientist's take on Money magazine's pick of "College Professor" as the number 2 job in America. I think I've seen this around before, but she nicely deconstructs the faulty analysis. I'm not sure if it makes me feel better or worse about my chosen profession.

Friday, May 05, 2006

A few bright spots



The last of the tulips are overlapping with the first of the irises. The spring bulbs are my absolute favorite. Plus, the empty for-sale house down the street has huge beautiful lilac bushes in the backyard. I'll admit that I helped myself to a bouquet last weekend.

I love the beginning of the sunny season.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

My first review

Earlier this week I got an email asking me to review a paper. I was a bit surprised because I have not actually had anything published yet myself. (My first paper is in review.) So maybe an author was doing something relevant to my research and suggested me as a reviewer.
I was even more surprised when I saw the name of the journal. Let's call it "Journal of Handicap-Accessible Web Design." But let's say that my work is in the field of the "Journal of Blogging." So there's some distant relationship between the fields of the JoHAWD and JoB, but not a whole lot. Maybe some JoHAWD readers belong to the same professional society that I do. Maybe not.
I looked at the title of the paper. I had to read it three times before I understood it. Then I read the abstract twice just to make sure. The manuscript's subject was very technical and nothing even remotely relevant to my field, much less my research. There's no way that I could provide a good review of this paper.
Then it occurred to me. The first time I went to a professional meeting, I on the third day of the weeklong conference. When I went to pick up my name badge, I was handed one that read "Science Woman" but listed my affiliation as "Government Agency." It turns out that there is another "Science Woman" that belongs to the same society, and that she had arrived earlier and taken my badge. I looked up her talk, decided it wasn't really relevant, and nearly forgot about the incident.
Until 3 years later as I was puzzling over weird review request. The other Science Woman works in Handicap-Accessible Web Design.
My guess is that the authors of the manuscript requested her as a reviewer, and the journal editor didn't know who she was. So they googled our name, got me, and sent off the manuscript. Only, they got the wrong person.
Has this ever happened to anyone else?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

For those who know...

In case any of the alumnae/i of my program are keeping current with the blog, there's an assortment of news from the department and our circle of friends. As for those of you who aren't from PNW, what do you think about point 1?
  1. A bunch of the 2nd and 3rd year PhD students in our program are facing a funding a funding crisis, because they've used up all TA time the department will give them but have not succeeded in getting grants funded. I am understanding of the department's position, but my heart really goes out to the students. How awful to be well into your PhD work, but not nearly at the completion stage, and to run out of funding! Do you pay for the last few years of school? But how do you live on no income and pay tuition? Do you quit and try again somewhere else? Do you leave with a M.S.? But what about the 2 that already have M.S. degrees (I think.)?
  2. ChemGuy, my frequent coffee partner, defended his PhD last week. He and the family will be moving to a 1-year post-doc at Big School in late July after he finishes teaching 101. (It's sort of odd that he should go there after my interview there - but it would have been even odder if we both had ended up there.) He also got an NSF grant to do a 2year post-doc at a Midwestern Uni. So he will move his family there at the end of next summer. I'll miss him.
  3. IceMan, who defended in January, not only landed a post-doc at an extremely prestigious research institution in New England, but also a tenure-track position at the R1U where he did his M.S. In fact, he'll be replacing his MS advisor, who retired last year. I also applied for this position and got asked for letters, but I never expected to get it, so I am genuinely happy for him.
  4. These departures leave me as the senior graduate student in the program. It seems a bit unfair, when I have only been here <4 years.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

diagnosis and prognosis

I just got to my monthly look back and look ahead lists. I had 7 goals for April, and I accomplished 1 of them. That's not to say I didn't get other stuff done (or at least work at it).

Here's what April did to me:
  1. Decided to stay here for a post-doc with my advisor (1 goal accomplished)
  2. Interviewed at JARU, visited Writer Chica and family
  3. Started working on post-doc stuff, traveled to Midwest for research planning meeting, read some relevant literature, selected and ordered equipment
  4. Nominated a committee member for a graduate mentoring award (more work than I expected)
  5. worked on revisions to paper #1 (late in the month)
  6. worked on draft of paper #2 (early in the month)
Diagnosis: I had no idea what the month had in store for me in terms of travel and new committments.

Which makes me wonder about the utility of making these lists...but here I go again anyway.

May's goals:
  1. submit revised paper #1
  2. start experiments for newthing in Midwest
  3. attend short course in the Mid-Atlantic - see volcanogirl and singlegirl afterward
  4. submit Grant-on-the-Side grant report
  5. draft poster for Mid-Atlantic Conference (early June)
  6. get data from all snow-free field sites
Why I am magnetically drawn to the mid-Atlantic? I am even contemplating an ADVANCE workshop for future faculty at UMBC. It looks useful and interesting (anyone want to join me?), but do I really want to fly across the country again? Shouldn't I just committ to staying in PNW until I am done. Eh, it's too late for that now.

(Scattershot writing reflects scattershot brain.)

a lot of hard work with nothing to show for it

This is what my desk looks like when I am working hard. I wish working hard correlated better with getting lots of stuff done, but too often it doesn't. I've spent the past 4 days struggling with one reviewer comment, and today I thought I'd finally made it past that 1 comment and could proceed onto the next one. But it turns out I hadn't really, because a very closely related issue has come back to bite me on the next substantive comment. This whole process is incredibly intellectually painful. I've been meaning to write something about the revision process, but I think I won't be able to until this is gone from my desk again.

In other news, my normal laptop was wiped clean last week, with windows reinstalled. I got it back this evening and discovered that despite their assurances, the two most important folders on the hard drive had not been backed up. Fortunately, I do a daily back up to a network drive, but that has a lot of accumulated electronic detritus that it looks like I will have to sift through before I put things back on my hard drive. Just what I need another day+ spent reinstalling programs and files.

Something's gonna have to give in my workload soon, and no matter what it is, it ain't gonna be pretty.

Note: I posted this last night but the date/time were totally screwed up (my fault). So apologies if it shows up in bloglines twice.