Thursday, February 25, 2010

March Scientiae: Continuity

Scientiae is back! This month, Amanda over at A Lady Scientist is hosting, and she asks us to write about:
Continuity. The word applies not only to Scientiae (we're on year 3!), but Science, too.
Well, if there is one thing that my professional life has lacked, it is continuity. I don't know if I am scared of it, or just get bored of it, but it seems that I'm changing my career path every few years.

In high school, I was big into music, and I was actually really good. I wanted to major in it in university...but I didn't. I went in to physics instead (eventually - I changed my major about 4 times in my first year).

After my physics degree, I changed courses slightly and did X-ray astronomy for my masters. This wasn't too much of a stretch, and I don't really remember what the learning curve was like. My guess is that there was more of a change simply going from undergraduate to graduate, as opposed to research topic.

For my PhD, I switched fields. Still within astronomy, but closer to home, I studied comets and asteroids in our Solar System. I remember distinctly sitting in group meetings not knowing what the hell people were talking about. Eventually I got caught up, and by the end of my degree I was quite comfortable talking shop with other planetary scientists.

Here I am again, switching fields in my post-doc --- this time in a more major way. Instead of space, I'm back on earth, studying earthquakes. I'm about a month in and I'm still really lost. Like really lost. Although, I do have my moments of clarity, and some things overlap (observation techniques, for example), so I'm not totally out to lunch.

So, the moral of the story is that I have no continuity in my professional life. It's be more like a series of discontinuities. If you plot my learning curve over time, it would look very similar to a saw blade.

Thankfully, I am getting some continuity/stability in my personal life. DH and I have been together for almost 4 years, and we are finally settling down. We're even in the midst of buying a house! So, maybe the continuity from this part of my life will balance out the discontinuity in my career?


Tuesday, February 23, 2010


...I feel pretty inadequate about the project I chose for the knitting Olympics. My goal is to finish the baby blanket I've been working on since August. I'll be able to do it, but it seriously wasn't very much to do. I had probably 7/8's of the damn thing done already.

I feel a bit like a schmo when I compare it to what the host of the Olympics is doing.

Oh my God...just...wow.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Can't Escape It

This winter has been a good one in Southwestern Ontario. It hasn't been too cold (not like last year!) and we haven't had nearly as much snow as we usually get.

Until this week, apparently:

My hope is that this means spring is coming soon (we tend to get dumps of snow right before it warms up).

In other news - the Canada/US game yesterday was pretty disappointing. Brodeur did not play very well, and I think the team in general was a bit sloppy. On to a qualifying game against Germany.

Also, we are officially looking for a house! We have been pre-approved for our mortgage, and have looked at a few houses already. We will be looking at more this week, and hopefully we can find something in the near future.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Two Carnival Reminders

There are two upcoming blog carnivals that you might want to submit a post too!

The first one is Scientia Pro Publica, hosted by Stephen Curry over on the Nature Network. This carnival asks for posts that have already been written (in the last two weeks or so) about science or a science-related topic. The deadline is March 1st, and you can go here for the instructions on how to submit.

The second one is the return of Scientiae! The March carnival will be hosted by Amanda at A Lady Scientist, and the theme for this month is continuity. Of course, you can write on any topic you see fit, but it's always fun (and sometimes challenging) to keep within the theme. The deadline for submissions is February 27th, and you can go here for more instructions.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Nesbitt Wins Gold!

Christine Nesbitt won gold in 1000m long-track speed skating yesterday!

Photo from CBC.

Why am I writing about this particular medal winner? Because her dad works in the Earth Sciences department (the same one I am in)! A bunch of us got together in the faculty lounge yesterday afternoon to watch the event. It was pretty exciting to have an Olympic-connection like that...it made it more real somehow.

How awesome would it be if she brings the medal in to the department?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Great Impostor Syndrome Post

Head over to Steve Schwartz's blog to read a fantastic post about how none of us know what the hell we're doing.

I will be giving a keynote talk on the Impostor Syndrome to about 125 graduate students next Saturday (the 27th). Yes, I am freaking out about how little I know about the topic, and yes, I realize how ironic that is.

PS: For those of you waiting for the next installment of the worry series, it will probably be a while. I will summarize all seven steps into one post and I'm not sure when I'll be able to read it all. I promise it will come though!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Harder Than I Thought

We started trying again this cycle to no avail, and the negative result is a lot more painful than I expected (for both of us). It has brought a lot of the emotion back from the miscarriage, especially when I think how far along I'd be right now, or when I see/hear about pregnant women or a newborn.

I was very, very angry today. Angry at myself for not being able to get pregnant right away. Angry at Baby G for leaving us in the first place. Angry at the universe for picking us to have to go through this. Angry that we didn't start trying earlier. Angry at anyone who ever has gotten pregnant without even trying.

I know that I shouldn't complain - that, in fact, I'm one of the lucky ones because I can get pregnant. But, I sure don't feel lucky right now. All I feel is anger, sadness, and hopelessness...and that knitting this damn baby blanket is going to be very emotional.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Yay!! Canada finally broke the curse, and has a gold medal on home soil! Congratulations to Alexandre Bilodeau (Men's Moguls) - you are a hero!!

(Photo from cyberpresse.ca)

My Valentine

On Valentine's Day last year, I listed some of the reasons why I love my DH. Here are a few of the things he has done in the past year that made me fall even more deeply in love with him.

He put up with all my freaking out about finishing my PhD. He even would have been supportive of me if I had dropped out, even with just a few months to go. I dedicated my thesis to him because, in all honesty, I would not have finished if it wasn't for him.

He did everything but carry me up the Inca Trail. I had such a hard time with that 4-day hike: from the tents to the toilets, and the annoying people to not being able to eat, he stuck by me and helped me every step of the way. There's no way in hell I'd ever do something like that again but, if I had too, there's no one else I'd rather do it with (he might think otherwise).

He is a proud husband and will be an amazing dad. He has proven over and over again that he will (and has) put family first, all while doing his very best to provide for us. He has helped me pay off my debt - something I would have never been able to do (in this short of time) without him.

He was my legs to stand on when I felt I didn't have any. I have never felt so loved or so supported than when we were going through the miscarriage in December. He knew the exact right things to say or do to make it okay for me to feel my grief, pain, frustration, and anger - but also allowed us to smile and laugh. Even though that was a tragic experience, I believe our marriage is infinitely stronger because of it.

Happy Valentine's Day, DH!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Worrying - Part III

The third post in my worrying series continues the list of the dirty dozen from last time (part I here, part II here). So far, we have:

1. Seeking Reassurance
2. Trying to Stop Thoughts
3. Collecting Information
4. Checking Things Over & Over
5. Avoiding Discomfort
6. Numb Yourself with Alcohol/Drugs/Food

Here are the rest:

7. Over-Prepare
Alright, hands up if you have defended a thesis or given a talk? I can guarantee you that every single one of us over-prepared for those bad boys! Doing this infers that you have to be totally in control of your worries, and that not being perfect = looking like an idiot. Another problem, and I've found this in my impostor syndrome research as well, is that if we over-prepare and succeed, we believe the only reason is because of how much we prepared. So, next time we over-prepare again. Ah, vicious cycles.

8. Using Safety Behaviors
This is anything that makes us feel safe. For example, not making eye contact at a party or in the hall (that way people can't reject us!). Yes, we feel safe, but it also reinforces we have no control and it maintains our fears and worries.

9. Always Try to Make a Great Impression
This behavior is common of people who were brought up with an insecure attachment to their parents, or grew up in an atmosphere with an emphasis on what others think or feel, or feel that they have a responsibility for others. Always wanting to appear perfect, or fun, or lovable all the time makes you anticipate being judged by others.

10. Thinking it Over & Over
This is all about thinking about what has happened, or what is happening (instead of worrying about the future). People who do this are more likely to be anxious and depressed. And, perhaps not surprising to many of us, women are more likely to over think/analyze past events. We do this because we think (hope?) we'll eventually come to a solution and stop feeling bad. However, the problem is the solution must be perfect (so we never find one), and it increases our awareness of how bad we feel. This, in turn, reduces our ability to see the positive side and to come up with alternative, non-perfect, solutions.

11. Demand Certainty
"Oh, if only I knew when X was going to happen, I would be fine!" We all know there is no certainty in this world, so wanting to know what's going to happen and when just makes us more worried (because we know that's never going to happen). Plus, if we knew that one thing, then we'd just find something else to worry about.

12. Refuse to Accept Your Thoughts
"Nope - I'm not allowed to be worried about this. NAH NAH NAH NAH!!!!". That ain't going to work! This makes you feel that your thoughts are bad or wrong, and that you should be ashamed or feel guilty. So, you must get rid of them immediately, or else you might just lose control completely!! Another big problem with this one? We start to believe our thoughts are predictive (if I think about the plane crashing, it will! If I think I'll get pregnant, I'll jinx it!).

Alright - I'm 12 for 12. Wow. What's interesting is that I've been told to try these techniques - no wonder I never felt better!

In summary, each of these techniques imply you:
- cannot face your fears
- should not think of the worst outcome
- should avoid upsetting feelings
- need reassurance from others
- cannot face uncertainty
- need to get rid of negative emotions.

So, how freeing does is feel that you're ALLOWED to feel upset and negative, to think about the worst possible situation, and you don't need someone else to tell you what to do? Scary, but freeing at the same time, no? It's just all about how you handle that worry.

The next part of the book discusses the seven steps to taking control of your worry. I haven't decided if I'm going to dedicate a post to each one (each is a chapter in the book, The Worry Cure by Robert L. Leahy), or put them together. In any case, stay tuned!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Knitting Olympics

Well, I might be insane, but I have signed up for the Knitting Olympics, hosted by the Yarn Harlot. Each athlete is supposed to choose a challenging, yet doable, project to start and finish during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

I'm bending the rules a little bit, but my excuse is that I'm a beginner. My goal is to finally finish the checkerboard baby blanket I started back...oh my gosh...in August. It was the second project I ever started, and kind of got in way over my head. Not because the pattern is difficult, but because of the fine yarn and size of the project.

If you're a knitter, and like a challenge, I suggest signing up!

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Worrying - Part II

Last time, I listed bad advice that us worriers typically get from well meaning friends, family, and even therapists. They all sound good in theory, and even work on short time scales, but in the long run they make us worry even more and - worst of all - make us believe that worrying is bad.

The book (The Worry Cure by Robert L. Leahy) goes on to list the 12 worst ways to deal with worry, known as the dirty dozen. I'm going to split this list into two posts, because otherwise it will be way too long. Here are the first six:

1. Seeking Reassurance
You know - when you ask your husband/boyfriend/best-friend if your butt looks big in those pants for the 16th time? Sure, this makes you feel better RIGHT NOW, but then you start doubting their reassurance: did they just say that because you want them too? It also can become a compulsive behavior, which becomes a worry itself.

2. Trying to Stop Thoughts
Everyone has probably heard of the example where you tell someone that they are absolutely not allowed to think about fluffy white teddy bears for 10 minutes. Just stop thinking about them, right? Well, it turns out all that concentrating on not thinking about it actually brings it to the forefront of your thoughts, causes rebound thinking, and increases the frequency of the thought. It also implies that the thoughts are harmful, and that you are not able to deal with them.

3. Collecting Information
This is where you worry about something and so you try to look up any information you can get in books, on the internet, from other people, etc.. The problem is most people end up trying to find information to confirm negative thoughts (for example, people worried about flying will look up the number of plane crashes in the last month, not the number of flights that landed safely). Worriers also tend to see non-existent trends, over-estimate risk, and consider information that isn't relevant.

4. Checking Things Over & Over
We do this because we think it will reduce our uncertainty, and will prevent bad things from happening (or happening again). We also believe "one can never be too careful", and that we can't trust our memory. So, we do things like check if the door is locked for the 10th time, or triple check that recipe before we put it in the oven (okay, these are minor, but I'm sure you can think of larger issues). This becomes a compulsive behavior, and it makes us feel like we cannot handle uncertainty.

5. Avoiding Discomfort
This also includes procrastination. For example, you are worried about your taxes so you don't file your return on time. Or maybe you don't think you're attractive, so you avoid going to parties. Or you're giving a talk and you tell the audience that you might screw up because you're nervous. All this does is enforces the believe that you cannot handle your worries or problems.

6. Numb Yourself with Alcohol/Drugs/Food
Who hasn't had a bag of chips, a bowl of ice cream, or a glass (bottle?) of wine after a hard day? The wonderful thing about this is it works immediately and is readily available. Plus, the costs (hangover, feeling sick) can be put off for a little while. The problem here is that you won't really figure out what's really bothering you. So, not only do you have the anxiety, but a self-defeating behavior too!

Alright - so far I'm six for six. What about you?

Next time I'll list the rest of the dirty dozen and what using all of these techniques imply.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Something to break up the seriousness of the worry posts:

Monday, February 8, 2010

Worrying - Part I

I'm a huge worrier. Especially when it comes to things that are totally uncontrollable: like when we were waiting to see where we would end up, or trying for a baby, or what other people think about me. Sometimes I find it almost debilitating, and I can become obsessive about it. For example, if I have a confrontation with someone, I will replay it in my mind over and over again - what went wrong, what I did, what they did, what could have happened, what didn't happen, etc. etc.. I wish I could just turn those kinds of thoughts off, but no matter how hard I try, I just can't.

My first session with my therapist after my miscarriage was a really difficult one. I had to relive the experience all over again, and then talk about what I'm scared about for the next time. When I start thinking about being pregnant again, I become excited...and then the worrying sets in, and gets out of control.

So, my therapist suggested a book to start reading: The Worry Cure by Robert L. Leahy. I completed the worry profile: I'm considered a chronic worrier, I worry the most about my lack of confidence and relationships with others, and I have a huge intolerance for uncertainty.

I then read a chapter about the worst ways to deal with worry. Apparently, the following advice (which I'm sure we've all heard at some point), is some of the worst to give to a worrier:

- try to be more positive (many worriers are afraid of being more positive)
- you have nothing to worry about/everything will be okay (this minimizes the feelings of the worrier)
- I have confidence in you/you should be more confident (the worrier believes this person does not know them at all, causing more worry)
- try to get your mind off it (this only works while you're doing something else - once you stop, you start thinking about things again)
- just stop worrying (again, only works in the short term and, in fact, can increase frequency of the thought in the long term).

These suggestions allow worries to persist because they only work in the short-term. They lead to the idea that worry must be maintained to reduce threat: you cannot handle uncertainty or face your fears.

In the next post, I'll talk about the 12 worst ways to handle worry (some of which are noted above): The Dirty Dozen.

Friday, February 5, 2010

SuperBowl Menu

I love SuperBowl Sunday. It's honestly my favorite day of the year. Some look forward to Christmas, some to their birthday, but SuperBowl Sunday is what I live for.

I love the 6-8 hours of pre-game, where they get people like Morgan Freeman to narrate amazing mash-ups and previews. I love the analysis, I love the interviews, I (of course) love the game, and best of all, I love this:

Fig. 1: First course of the 2009 SuperBowl spread.

Yup. This is the one day a year where it's perfectly acceptable, and even expected, to eat as much junk food as humanly possible. All...day...long. I start thinking about what I want on the menu weeks in advance, making sure there is the perfect balance of salty, sweet, and sour. It's imperative to have a veggie and/or fruit platter in there to cleanse the palate between gorging on Peanut M&Ms, rippled chips with a sour-cream based dip, nachos, chicken wings, and bite-size lemon tarts.

This year, I was thinking about doing a gourmet SuperBowl spread - creating wonderful things like beef sliders, tandoori chicken kabobs, home-made onion rings, stuffed mushroom caps, and mini cheesecakes. But, since we're buying a house this summer, I felt that I should wait until next year, where we can have a proper SuperBowl party, with a big screen TV and, you know...other people.

Yup - that's right. DH and I celebrate SuperBowl and eat the celebratory snacks all on our own. My guess is that we do it because it's, in fact, pretty embarrassing how much food we have on the table. But, it's also one of our favorite traditions, and have done it each year since we started dating. So, in order for us to feel closer as a couple, we need to do this. You see?

Happy SuperBowl weekend, everyone!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Why we blog

There's been a lot of crap going down in the blogosphere lately about why bloggers blog, what we get out of it, who should be allowed to comment and how, and everything else you can possibly think of (go here for a summary)

Apparently this all stemmed from a post over at the Nature Network. Since I have a blog over there, you'd think I would know about it, but I sure don't! I had to rely on links on other posts to figure out what has happened.

In any case, to have everyone kiss and make up, Steffi Suhr (from the NN) asks the following:

What made you start blogging?
Initially, I started a blog when I moved to London (Ontario) to start my PhD. It was more for family and friends to keep up with the goings-on in my life. It lasted a few months, but quietly died. A year or so later, I had started a new one (this one), but wasn't really sure what my direction was going to be. I attended a conference where the women all got together for lunch. At that meeting, they discussed their blog, and it hit me that I should talk about my life as a female PhD student in astronomy. Of course, it has evolved over time, but that is still the driving force behind this blog.

Is a sense of community an important part of blogging for you, or do you prefer blogging 'solo'?
This is an odd question - I like to blog (write) on my own. Even on my Nature Network blog, I don't feel like I'm partnering with the other bloggers. It's more like each blog stands on its own. However, I do like the sense of community I get from regularly reading other blogs, and having people regularly comment on my blog.

Are there blogs you never look at? If yes, why (be nice and don't name names)?
Of course! There is not enough time in the day to read every single blog out there that is applicable to me (not just science, but TTC, decorating, knitting, swimming, fashion, etc. etc.). When I first started reading blogs I made a huge list, and now have pruned it down to the blogs I really love to read regularly (i.e., every new post). I do add blogs from time to time, but not too many.

Who are you blogging for/who are you talking to?
I blog for my offline family and friends, and for my science & TTC network of online friends. I do take into consideration the likes and dislikes of these groups when I think about topics to write about.

Do you think you may be getting people exposed to some science through your blog who otherwise wouldn't be?
I think on this blog, yes. Mostly because not all of my readers are scientists. So, I think those people wouldn't necessarily read about that kind of stuff if it wasn't on this blog. However, I don't write about science a ton on this blog - more about my experiences with my jobs and such.

Do you think any non-blogger cares about any of the above things?
I doubt it! I'm sure my non-blogger friends are thinking why the hell are there "feuds" going on between bloggers! LOL

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Exercise Update

Since the new year, I've managed to keep up a workout routine that includes "being active" four times per week. I'm actually quite impressed with myself for keeping it up this long.

There are 4-5 activities that I cycle through: Wii Fit, swimming, spinning class, and solo cardio exercise (either on the elliptical or stair-master). I really enjoy swimming and spinning the most, while Wii Fit is fun (but not as hard of a workout). I don't mind using the cardio equipment, as long as I am listening to some really great music.

Even though it's been a month, I haven't really seen any results yet. I am definitely feeling better though, so that matters a lot to me. However, it would sure be nice if I could see a difference. DH claims that I look thinner, but I think he's just saying that to make me feel better. In any case, the fact that I'm not really losing any weight means my diet needs some work. Don't worry - I'm not going on a diet (yuck!!)! I just need to watch what I'm eating a bit more closely.

I hope that I can continue to keep up this regime (if you can even call it that). I figure, since I'm only working four days a week, I really don't have any excuses. Especially since I feel so much better about myself since starting.

Any tips for healthier eating? I think we eat pretty healthy, but I know I tend to snack a lot on the weekends (and maybe I was doing that while at home, so now that I'm at work that will be reduced?).

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Toque and Scarf

I haven't posted any of my knitting projects for a while. That's mostly because it takes me forever to finish things! Not because of lack of motivation, but I think I'm just a slow knitter.

Anyway, here are pictures of my latest project: a matching toque and scarf set for myself:

I'm still trying to finish the baby blanket I've been working on since August. I haven't worked on it for the last month or so (for obvious reasons), but I think I'm ready to get back to it and finish it off. Then I might try to tackle a purse like this one, and maybe do some baby hats for some of my friends that are expecting in the next few months.

For you knitters, crocheters, etc., out there - any tips for what to do with leftover yarn?

PS: For an update on how my new job is going, go here.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Vacation Planning

It seems that January/February is the time where DH and I like to plan vacations for the year. My guess it's because of the crappy weather - we just want to plan stuff to look forward too after we get through another winter.

We've decided we're going to do a 2-week road trip to the Maritime provinces this summer! I've been there before (but I was 10) and DH hasn't been further east than Toronto, so it will be something new for both of us! We plan to stop in Montreal on the way, and then spend about 10 days driving around Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, PEI and (hopefully) Newfoundland. Then, on our way back, we hope to stop in Quebec City.

Next year we'd like to do another road trip, but this time go down the east coast of the USA - Boston, Philly, Washington, etc.. We've both been to a few of these places, but not for any length of time. So, it would be nice to take two weeks to tour around the area.

The year after, DH will have a conference in Australia, so we hope to take advantage of that!

Of course, this will all be dependent on many things (mostly if/when we have kids), but that's our plan for now! I'm so looking forward to it all!