Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Not sure how to do this

Last week I started "studying" for my defense. Really, all I did was read through my thesis and made notes on things I need to brush up on.

Today I started going through the list and was getting so frustrated. It's really hard for me to figure out how much I need to know about a certain concept. I start reading about it, wondering how much I really need to know, and of course start to freak out. Am I concentrating too much on something I only mention practically in passing, or is this something that the committee will pick out and if I don't know it I'll look like an idiot?

I'm also finding it really hard to motivate myself at this point. I know it's only three weeks away, and I really need to just sit down and work/study, but I. JUST. DON'T. CARE. ANYMORE. I'm so completely bored when I go to read anything.

Did this happen to you when you were preparing for your defense? How did you overcome it (or did you)? How much time do you think you spent preparing for it? How close were the questions you were asked to those you thought you would get?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Thinking of "Coming Out"

For the past while I have been thinking of coming out of pseudonymity and blogging under my own name. Although I'm not sure if it matters all that much. I don't think I have blogged about anything that could get me in trouble (have I?), so "coming out" wouldn't be an issue.

I honestly can't think of any great advantages or disadvantages either way. I have friends and family who read the blog, so obviously they already know who I am. The other people that read the blog probably wouldn't know me personally if I came out - or if they did, I doubt it'd matter much.

I would still keep the names of DH, family, friends, and colleagues (i.e., anyone I mention on the blog) private. However, I guess if I come out, then they might be "outed" as well. Something to consider, I guess.

Does anyone have any experience with this, or have any advice or suggestions?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

An Open Letter

Dear People-Who-Have-Opinions-On-Everything,

Why do you feel that you must share your opinions on my life decisions, when it has nothing to do with you and affects you in no way what-so-ever?

I don't need to be told that I'm "giving up my career for some guy" or that doing my PhD is useless if I'm "just going to stay home" or doing something other than academia. Questions and comments like these are not only extremely nosey, but also insulting - to both me and DH! You don't know why I am making the decisions I am, or what the whole story is, so why do you feel the need to be a total asshole? Do I tell you that you're a frickin' idiot for some of the shit you do? No, I don't.

Do you know what else bothers me, PWHOOE? When you try to infer that it's not me making my decisions, but that DH is doing it for me. It can't possibly be that I want to move where he finds a job and actually want to live with my husband, or that we can make such decisions together. No...that's just impossible! It must be that I'm "following" him, like a lost, stupid puppy, with no aspirations of her own.

Of course, if he were to move where I found a job, that would be okay...but since it's the other way around, I must not be a feminist and am letting DH walk all over me because he's a man, and that's just what they do. They're all jackasses and treat us like shit, don't they, PWHOOE?

Oh, and if you can't tell (since you're not so good at the picking-up-on-social-cues thing), that was sarcasm.

So, let's make a deal: you shut your trap when it comes to giving me your asinine (and uneducated) opinions about my life, and I won't punch you in the face/knee you in the balls. Mkay?

Sincerely yours,
Mrs. (yes, it's okay to be a Mrs.) Comet Hunter

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Update on Resolutions

I am inspired by Cath to give an update on my 2009 resolutions. Plus, since I'm working from home, nothing much is going on worth reporting anyway!

1. Find a hobby
This is going very well. As seen in #3 below, I've been reading a lot (although it's been slowing down lately due to thesisizing). I've also been getting more into knitting. I'm almost done my first project (a scarf), and will move on to a blanket next.

2. Be more active
This wasn't going well until about a week ago when DH and I realized how bad we were doing. Since then I have been to the gym, or done something active, at least once a day. I already can feel a difference in my cardio (running during soccer yesterday was much easier). Now that I'm working from home, it's a lot easier to get to the gym too!

3. Keep reading (1 book/month)
I have read 10 books so far, so I will easily hit my 12 book goal for the year. Once this whole PhD thing is done, I have a feeling my reading will increase!

4. Better at confrontations
I actually am getting better at this - at the very least I don't feel (as) guilty when I need to tell someone to back off, and I'm very good at saying "no". I still have problems telling people what I really need/want, but it's coming along.

5. Research career options
I am still pretty sure I want to go into education and outreach. I haven't been looking into anything specific, and I probably won't until we know where we are moving too. I will be meeting with someone to chat about options next week though, so I can start thinking about what direction I'd like to go.

6. Journal more
I haven't been writing in my journal much at all, but I think that's because I write most things on here. So, in a way I'm doing well on this resolution, but it would be better if I wrote with a pen!

7. Try not to take things so personally
This really seems to depend on the day, but I have noticed that I take things personally even when I shouldn't...or even when I don't know if it's about me. For example, if DH is in a bad mood I immediately think it's about me, when it generally isn't. Hmm. Maybe this is a good thing to talk to my therapist about.

8. Confidence and self-esteem
This has been going up and down over the past few months. Work-wise, I was at an all-time low before I handed in my thesis. Now I'm doing alright, but I have a feeling it will go down again before the defense. Personally, I'm not feeling too bad about myself since we started eating better and working out more. Overall though, this is still something I need to work on - especially to not depend on others to make me feel better about myself.

9. Finish and defend my PhD.
This is obviously well on the way! I submitted 2.5 weeks ago and will be defending on July 20th. If all goes well, I should be able to hand in my corrections later that week and be able to wash my hands of it.

10. Travel to Chicago.
So, this isn't going to happen this year, because we're going to South America instead. It is on the top of the list of American cities to see though, so perhaps next year!

I think I'm doing pretty well overall with my resolutions. There are a few (#4, 7 and 8) that are more of "work-in-progress" type things, but at least I'm heading in the right direction. Hopefully I can keep it up!

Monday, June 22, 2009


About four years ago, I had a falling out with a really close friend of mine (we'll call her C). We had been friends since grade 10, and had a great relationship even though we lived in different provinces. That is, until her wedding, where things got sour. A few things happened that I won't get into - but basically C didn't treat me very well, and I was being selfish.

I tried to contact C a couple of times since then - such as sending her a Christmas card or "friending" her on Facebook (which she accepted, but then a couple months later she was all of a sudden gone from my friends list). Nothing much has come out of it though.

We have one close mutual friend in common (there was a group of 4 of us that were inseperable for a long time, but she is no longer friends with another of the group) - she updates me on C from time to time. I remember her telling me once that C really valued our friendship before the falling out, but just didn't want to put in the effort to re-friend again.

I think about C from time to time, and I just found out that she had another baby - that's two that I haven't been able to celebrate with her. She wasn't a part of my wedding, and won't be around for my PhD defense or when I have children. It still pains me to think of all the things we have gone through that we haven't been able to share together over the past four years.

It makes me so sad that two people that were so close at one time can't figure out how to forgive and move on. I really miss her, but there is really nothing I can do at this point.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day!

It's Father's Day, and my Dad is pretty much on the other side of the country. So, since I can't be there to tell him how much I love him and how much he means to me, I share this poem:

You may have thought I didn't see,
Or that I hadn't heard,
Life lessons that you taught to me,
But I got every word.

Perhaps you thought I missed it all,
And that we'd grow apart,
But Dad, I picked up everything,
It's written on my heart.

Without you, Dad, I wouldn't be
The woman I am today;
You built a strong foundation
No one can take away.

I've grown up with your values,
And I'm very glad I did;
So here's to you, dear father,
From your forever grateful kid.

By Joanna Fuchs

Happy Father's Day Dad!!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Some updates

Since I took the week off there is not much to report at all! I've made a slight dent in my pre-defense to-do list (I handed in my final project for my education workshop and did some more outreach stuff).

I've also been working on my knitting. I need to keep reminding myself that it's all about the journey and not the destination - that I need to enjoy making the scarf, and not just do it to get it done. I enjoy it though, and I'm about half done. The one thing I'm not sure about is how to join two balls of yarn. I ended up just tying a knot and will tuck in the ends later!

Somewhat more exciting news is about DH's job search. Obviously I can't be very specific about it, but he found out that one job he applied has been filled already. There are three other opportunities still on the table (four including here). He has made headway with two of those, and is still waiting to hear back on the last. It will be interesting to see how fast/slow this whole process will go. At the very least, it has been fun to daydream about moving, and we've even looked at houses in these locations just for fun :)

I haven't completely decided yet, but next week I may start studying for my defense. Or I may not. For some reason I just don't care about it right now!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Science Badges

I've noticed a couple of bloggers (Prof-like Substance and PiT) have some very cool science badges. On the Science Scout site, you can find these badges (like those you receive in Scouts/Guides). Here are some that apply to me:

The "Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah, I've got a radio gig" badge. I've been on a few local radio shows, but my crowning glory is a stint on CBC's Quirks and Quarks.

The "Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah, I've got a TV gig" badge. I've been interviewed by a few local stations, even on the breakfast show!

The "science deprives me of my bed" badges - Level I (overnight) and Level II (for at least a week). Ah, astronomy.

The "I've named a child or pet for science" badge. Yup, one of my cats is named Isaac (Newton).

The "I AM actually a freakin' rocket scientist" badge. Well, maybe not a rocket scientist - but a lot of people think astrophysicist is the same thing!

The "has done science whilst under the influence" badge - who hasn't?

The "I've set fire to stuff" badge, Level I. Considering I'm in astronomy, I think that's pretty good that I even have Level I!

The "statistical linear regression" badge - one just has to know what these three words together mean...and I do.

The "I'm into telescopes astro" badges, Levels I (used a telescope), II (received time on professional telescope), and III (received time on space telescope).

The "I've done science with no conceivable practical application" badge. Ah, astronomy.

The "has frozen stuff just to see what happens" badges, Levels I (freezer), II (dry ice) and III (liquid nitrogen).

The "I blog about science" badge - obviously.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I give up!

I had all these plans to keep going into work from 9am-5pm everyday until my defense, and just work on multiple things. Well, I basically finished all those extra things (mostly the outreach stuff) by the middle of last week and I've been doing a lot of thumb-twiddling lately.

I went into work yesterday morning and was so bored by noon, I just ate lunch with DH and went home. I've decided I'm going to take the rest of the week off, enjoy the great weather we are having, and then start a study schedule next week. I may also do some work on my presentation and final project for the education workshop here and there.

In other news, DH and I are feeling really terrible about ourselves. We wasted away the whole weekend (of beautiful weather, I might add) and eating like crap. For some reason we are finding it hard to get out of that lowest energy state - it takes a lot of energy/motivation to do anything these days.

Unfortunately, it's starting to show. I put on some shorts I bought last summer, and they are t-i-g-h-t. DH is having some similar issues. So, we really need to get our butts in gear and be more active, but we've tried this kind of thing in the past and we suck at it. We tend to get in a negative feedback loop: if one person doesn't want to go to the gym, then the other won't, etc..

What do you do to motivate yourself to get active? What kind of active things do you do? Any suggestions or ideas are welcome!!

Friday, June 12, 2009



What a game!!!

What a year!!!

Impostor Syndrome Research

Now that I have (apparently) a ton of time on my hands, I printed off a bunch of papers on the Impostor Syndrome to read for my education workshop final project. I read one of the original papers on the subject yesterday. I thought, since so many people seem to be interested in this topic, that I would share some key points from it.

The paper is The Impostor Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention, by P. Clance and S. Imes (1978).

They interviewed about 150 women, from undergrads to professionals, in many different fields. The main findings are the women fall into two main groups when discussing origins of the phenomenon, and there are four general behaviors that perpetuate the feelings of inadequacy.

For origins, it's all about family dynamics. In one group, the women had a sibling that was labeled as the "intelligent" one, or the "academic". No matter how the woman performed in school or work, they could never live up to the other sibling (even if they receieved better grades or more awards). These women tend to work extremely long hours, and are over-prepared (and make sure everyone knows how hard they are working), in hopes to "prove them wrong". When they do not get the reaction they want from their family (or collegues), they think they must not be smart enough, and the cycle repeats.

The second group is the opposite: the woman was labeled as the superior child in everything - intellect, personality, talents, looks, etc.. Not only that, but everyone tells her how easy everything comes to her, and how she just has "natural" abilities. The issue arises when the woman is in school and realizes she must study to do well. Since she's been told her whole life that she is so smart and doesn't need to study, they begin to feel stupid. These women tend to hide the fact that they work hard, and often minimize their work and accomplishments.

Once the feeling of being an impostor, or fraud, begin, it tends to perpetuate itself. Four main behaviours they discuss are:

1. Overworking - a fear of being "discovered" as being stupid drives this. What happens is the woman will work extremely hard on a project. Of course, they will do an amazing job, they will get a good reaction, and the woman believes the only reason they succeeded was because of the amount of work they did. Therefore, they must continue this behaviour or else they will fail.

2. Intellectual inauthenticity - where the woman chooses to not reveal their true opinions or ideas. In addition, they tend to cater to the beliefs/ideas of those around them. For example, a student will cite multiple papers of their professor in their work (even if they don't agree with it); or a grad student will use their supervisors ideas in a proposal and downplay their own. In the end, when they succeed, they believe it was only because they kept their mouth shut and didn't share their true ideas or opinions. Again, because of the success, it perpetuates the behaviour.

3. Using charm - these women are looking for a mentor to "discover" how smart they are. They seek approval from an admired authority figure by using their charm, looks, friendliness, humor, sexuality and perceptiveness. They study the mentor to see what they can "give" to them (be that a friend, a pet-student, a sexual partner, etc.). In these situations, when the mentor indicates the woman is intelligent and special, the woman does not believe them because they must only think that because of their relationship. She then moves on to another mentor and the behaviour repeats again.

4. Issues with society - Women who display confidence in her abilities tend to be seen as "less feminine". So, in order avoid social rejection and to keep her femininity, she downplays her successes and intelligence. Of course, this behaviour does "work", and so the woman feels she must continue or she will encounter problems.

The authors discuss methods of therapy, which I won't get into here, but one thing they mention is that women need to become aware of the superstitious and magical aspects of their impostor beliefs. For example, it probably isn't necessary for someone to work 16 hours a day - but some women believe that's the only way they can be successful because that's what they've been doing all along. Or, they need to get away from automatically thinking "I will fail" (because then they won't be dissappointed if they do).

A quick note they had at the beginning of the paper is that they do not see this phenomenon nearly as much with men - and if they do, it's with men that are more in touch with their "feminine" qualities (i.e., emotions, sensitivity). I have a feeling, since this paper was written 30 years ago, that it is actually more common among men these days, since they are more in touch with those qualities than generations past.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


I have taken up knitting this year, and have really been enjoying it. I haven't made anything specific yet. Instead, I've just been making test pieces and trying out different stitches and such. I actually got half done a scarf and ripped it all out because it was curling in like crazy.

Well, I think I'm ready to move on to something real! So, I'm going to finish up my current pot holder (haha!), and then start a...ready for it?....scarf! LOL I know it doesn't sound exciting, but I have this wonderfully soft, dark blue wool, and I always had a scarf in mind for that.

After that, I plan on tackling a baby blanket. I know, I know...I don't have a baby, and I'm not even pregnant. BUT, I figure it'll happen some day (soon perhaps), so why not? I'm going to choose a super soft yellow yarn (so it'll be gender neutral) and will try a checkerboard pattern. I'm super excited!

I will post pictures when I finish!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Lovin' Work

This week I have decided to basically ignore that my thesis exists. Six weeks is a long time, and I don't want to make myself go crazy (hence the long list last time).

After the conference on the weekend, I have become very motivated about the general science outreach program I run. So, I have been doing some good work with it! So far I've
  • designed a big banner for community events and have sent it for printing
  • organized a volunteer/supporter appreciation event for next week and have sent out all the invitations
  • designed and printed certificates for the awards we will give out at the event
  • completely re-organized our office so there is actually room to walk around
  • written up a year-long timeline for the new coordinators
This afternoon, I also put together a poster for my astronomy outreach program to present in Brazil!!

I am absolutely loving this stuff! It is so much fun to work on! The great thing is that there are a lot of things to do, so it keeps me occupied (and doesn't bore me), but it's not freakin' impossible (like research is). It has really made me realize how much I want to do this kind of thing as a career instead of research. I have just been in such a better mood since I submitted my thesis and haven't had to work on it.

Hopefully though, I'll still be motivated to study for that damn defense :P

Monday, June 8, 2009

Six Weeks

The last day of the conference wasn't so bad. Mostly because a) I cried my eyes out to my co-coordinator and she totally understood (even though she's an extrovert), and b) the sessions for that day were in smaller groups. I feel quite motivated now to do a few more things before I'm officially done with the program at the end of July.

My defense is six weeks from today. I've decided that I'm going to keep going in from 9-5pm, as usual, and just break up my day because there are a ton of things I need to do by the end of July:
  • study for my defense
  • prepare my public lecture (40-45 minutes)
  • prepare my talk for conference in Rio (10-15 minutes)
  • prepare a poster for conference in Rio
  • potentially work on revisions of paper #2 (although we might leave this until August)
  • complete capstone project for education workshop
  • wrap up some loose ends with astronomy outreach program
  • do a few things for my science outreach program (organize volunteer appreciation dinner; print banner; organize office; train new coordinators; write annual report; start looking for funding; get better web address)
  • prepare for our trip to South America
  • oh...do normal things too!
It looks like a lot, but a lot of them will take part of a day or so (like all the outreach stuff). I'm glad I have a lot to do before I defend - I'd go totally nuts if all I had to do was study!

Speaking of which - for those of you who have defended your PhD - how did you study for your defense? Any thing work really well? Anything that was useless or didn't help much?

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Outreach Conference

Today is the last day of the outreach conference (well, it's on tomorrow too, but I'm not going). It's been interesting, but again (like always happens with these conferences) I just feel so overwhelmed, and my stomach is in knots about going back today. In fact, I'm up before 6am because I just can't sleep.

Yesterday I figured out why I get so anxious at these conferences - although I had an inkling all along: I am way more introverted than the majority of people there.

We all took this work profile test, and it gives you a "mark" on a scale of 30 for four work/personality traits. These are introvert/extrovert, structured/flexible, creative/practical, and analytical/beliefs.

In general, there is about a 2:1 ratio of extroverts to introverts, which was the case at the conference. What was interesting though, is a lot of people were on the extreme end of the extrovert scale (i.e., scores of 15 and above). My score was 18...on the introvert side. Only one person (out of about 50) was more introverted than me at 22. The next most introverted had scores of 11/12.

Interestingly, people were really surprised that I was that much of an introvert. Mostly because I can speak to people well, I share my opinions, etc.. It really bothers me that there is a stigma that introverts are social idiots who are shy and scared of people. That's just not the case! It's just that it takes energy for us to interact with people...while that gives energy to extroverts. They feed off of it, while introverts feed off of alone time.

So, I really started to understand why this conference in particular grates on me like nails on a chalkboard. Seriously. These people just keep talking and talking and talking and talking. They also love being in big groups, and end up going everywhere together...and talking. It wears me down so quickly that I end up opting out of dinner plans because I just cannot handle it anymore.

I am dreading going back today.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

5 Days Early

I submitted my thesis today! It's a crazy feeling...it feels amazing to have it done, but it was very anticlimactic when I took it over to grad studies. I got the response of "Okay, thanks" - and I'm standing there thinking 'is that it??' haha!!

Anyway, I'm happy I was able to submit it early, especially since I have a conference to attend starting tomorrow (it's here in town for one of my outreach programs, so won't be too intensive). It'd be nice to take a couple days off, but that's not an option right now :P I will at least be able to sleep in tomorrow, and I'm getting a much needed hair cut & style before heading to the conference.

So, six and a half weeks to study up for the defense...then it'll be done!