Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Gotta Know When to Fold 'Em

My problem is that I don't.

Over the past few years, I have definitely gotten better at saying "no" to things that I just cannot handle or don't want to do. But, I still really have a problem with stopping my involvement with something. I think it's because I feel like I will let a lot of people down if I don't continue.

For example, this whole outreach program I've been trying to set up for the telescope that is slated to shut down later this year...I just don't know about it anymore. In fact, I've felt this way since day one. Yes, it would be really great for that facility to be used for outreach and education. And, yes, it would be cool to develop the program.


- I honestly do not like working with some of the people that I would have to be in contact with on a regular basis (and, as I learned during my PhD, is a very bad thing for happiness)
- I feel that I'm only doing this because I'm the "last line of defense"
- There is SO much work to even make the facility accessible to the public, most of which I don't really care about.
- The project is just getting out of hand. In the beginning, I just wanted it to be a simple outreach program...now it's turning into a circus, with symphony orchestras, charity balls, and VIP dinners.
- I feel that my time is being consumed by this project, even though it is not my job.
- I feel like I took it on so I could make a job for myself, instead of putting myself out there and searching for something that I really want to do (or...gah...even going back to school) --- like it was the "easy" way out for me, so that I wouldn't have to think about my career.

Even with all of these negative points (and other factors that I won't get into now), I just can't bring myself to say to everyone that I don't want to do it anymore (even though I said in the very beginning that I will make no promises). I feel like people will be let down, because I'm the last person who is trying to do something with this observatory. I also feel like they'll think I'm a failure or a "quitter" because I'm just not willing to put in the time and effort.

In fact, I even feel my lovely blog readers will feel this way about me because I was so (apparently) gung-ho about this project just a short time ago.

Initially, I had put myself on a time-line: if nothing came of the program by a certain date, I would end it. But, honestly, now I am so worried that something will come of the program and I'll be stuck with it and the people associated with it.

I should also say that I still really like the idea of the program, and being able to get it off the ground would be an amazing accomplishment. I just don't know if I'm up to the task.

(Please read comments #2 & #3 below for more, as it might answer some questions).

Monday, March 29, 2010

SUV Recommendations?

Since DH and I bought a house, we're starting to realize that my tiny 2-door Sunfire and his fancy G35 with surprisingly crappy cargo space aren't going to cut it.

We bought a filing cabinet at Staples and it had to hang half-way out of DH's trunk. We went shopping for a BBQ yesterday, but couldn't buy one because the enormous boxes they came in couldn't fit in either of our cars. We don't really want to limit the things we can buy by the size of our cargo space; so, because of this, and hopefully future children, we are looking at selling my Sunfire and buying a small SUV.

We have narrowed our list down to:

- Honda CR-V
- Hyundai Tucson
- Subaru Forester
- Toyota RAV4

If any of my lovely readers have use(d) or own(ed) one or more of these, I would love to hear what you think about them!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Rude Police

Right now, I'm reading this book:

and it's frickin' hilarious!! The whole book is about how she deals with the rudeness of strangers, and I am constantly laughing.

To give you an idea of what she talks about, the first page opens with a phone conversation she has with a fellow who was a loud-cell-phone talker. During his cell-phone conversation, he gave out his name, phone number, and other personal information. She called him later on, basically repeated all of his "private" information to him, and then suggested that maybe he be more careful in the future. Pure awesomeness.

I'm only about 50 pages in, but so far I am inspired to start standing up to these people who can turn a good day into a bad one. Perhaps not to the extent that she does, but there's got to be something I can do to help clamp down on the rampant rudeness that has infected our society.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Feministic Step

The other day I attended a meeting to plan an upcoming panel discussion about space exploration. As someone was reading the list of professors that agreed to sit on the panel, I realized that not one of them was a woman.

I brought this point up, and there was just silence for a couple seconds. Then, the organizer (who is a woman as well), said "I didn't even notice that! That's not good!".

It's funny. Us ladies in physics/astronomy are so used to being around men all the time, that it doesn't even dawn on us when something is totally male dominated (even though it doesn't have to be). I'll fully admit, two years ago I would have never noticed such a thing. I think it's all these blogs about women in science I have been reading!

The whole group started brainstorming names of women we could invite. I was proud that a) I had the guts to bring it up (and I didn't even give it a second thought) and b) that the group was keen on finding a solution.

Yet, at the same time, I felt slightly "bitchy" for saying that there should be a woman. Like I was the pushy feminist trying to force a woman to take part. In fact, someone else (another woman) mentioned that we shouldn't just put a woman on the panel simply because they're a woman; they should be qualified as well.

That attitude scares me, especially coming from a woman. It's like we've been convinced that women can't possibly be as qualified as the men...that the only way they can achieve the same positions is just because they're a woman. Again, I would have found myself saying something like this a couple years ago, when I was young(er), naive, and ignorant about the situation.

I know things have gotten better, but this is just another example that it isn't there yet. Women do not pop to our minds as experts or leaders in the field - even (especially?) to other (younger?) women. Is this attitude from younger women a generational thing, an age thing, or something else? In any case, it needs to change.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Help with Knitting Pattern Needed!

Okay, all you knitters out there, I need your help!

I have just started this very cute totebag. My main color is chocolate brown, and the accent color will be a Tiffany blue. I'm so excited for it!

I am currently doing the base, but my question is what do I do when the base is finished and I move on to the sides? The pattern says "With circular needles, pick up and knit 10 stitches along short side of base..." (the link above shows the whole pattern, if you'd like to read the whole thing for context).

My question is: Should I bind off the base before starting the sides? I think that's the only way that will allow me to start along the short side of the base. But, maybe I'm missing something?

Any suggestions would be appreciated!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I need a game plan

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you'll know that research is not my intended career path - outreach and education is. Ever since I started my post-doc, I've been feeling like I'm back on the wrong path again...or at least moving away from my intended path.

I need a plan to get back on track in seeking out a career in education and outreach.

I am:
- heading up a steering committee for the observatory project I hope to get off the ground.
- attending weekly outreach meetings to keep myself in the loop.
- keeping in contact with a PI that might be granted funding for an outreach program (including a full-time position).
- keeping an eye out for any job postings that might be of interest.

and I can:
- volunteer for more outreach events, just to get my "fix".
- put together some applications for funding the observatory program (this is already in the works, but I could do more).

I've also been looking into...perhaps...doing more schooling. By this I mean either doing a year of teacher's college so I could teach K-12, or do a masters in education. However, the deadlines for both of these programs have passed for a September 2010 start, so I wouldn't be able to apply for another year. Something to think about though.

Any other ideas?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I turned 31 this morning at 10:53am MT.

Looking back, 30 was probably the best year of my life so far! I finished my PhD, we went to South America, DH got a permanent job, and we bought a house! A good year, indeed. To those of you out there who are scared of 30 - trust me, we get all better with time :)

If I could be so selfish, I hope that 31 is even better!

Sunday, March 14, 2010


You would think that living on the 12th floor of an apartment building, we would be safe from flooding. But, you'd be wrong.

Last night we had our apartment flooded for the third time in two years - twice in the past month. How is the possible, you might ask? The boiler room is located right above our living/dining room area and storage closet. And, apparently, the boiler sucks and they refuse to fix it..

I woke up at about 2:30am to the sound of dripping water. Reminded of what happened about a month ago, I went to the living room to investigate. Sure enough, the sound of running water was coming from the ceiling.

I woke up DH, and by the time we went back into the living room, water was dripping down the walls. We opened the door to the storage room and the carpet was already soaked. We quickly moved everything in the area to the spare bedroom, and pushed all the furniture to the other side of the room.

From time to time, the water would crack through the ceiling or wall, causing something of a miniature water fall. We tried to catch the water in various buckets and bowls, but it wasn't enough.

DH noticed at one point that water was coming down the light socket/bulb in the storage closet. Thinking it's not a good idea to be standing in a pool of water while that was going on, he turned off the light (he didn't want the headline "Physicist Electrocuted" in the papers the next morning).

I called the emergency number at about 3am, and they did come and turn the water off. So, at least the leaking pretty much stopped before we went back to bed. Of course, there is no hot water this morning, and our place smells like...well...water soaked carpet and drywall. They have steam-cleaned our carpets (and took out another 60L of water --- same amount as last time).

I'm so glad I woke up when I did, or a lot of our things (including a valuable painting we bought on our honeymoon) would have been destroyed. We are getting pretty tired of this, and are so happy to be moving to our house in just over 5 weeks. This is absolutely ridiculous.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

4-Day Work Week

When I was negotiating my contract with my PI, I asked to work four days a week. That way, I could use my day off to work on other things --- such as the education & outreach program I'm trying to develop for a nearby observatory, catching up on my reading and/or knitting, working out, or doing chores.

It was all nice at first, but now I'm finding it strangely stressful. I almost feel like four days a week isn't enough time to be as productive as I'd like to be. I end up feeling guilty for not working on my day off, because I should be getting more things done.

I'm sure it doesn't help that my progress is pretty slow because of the high learning curve. All I did the first 3-4 weeks was read, and there is still so much that I want to learn, but I wanted to move on to...you know...actually doing stuff.

I also feel like I should be performing at a higher level because I'm a post-doc now, and I should just know how to do shit. I know that I've changed research areas, and my PI is very understanding of that, but I don't want to disappoint her either.

Another issue is that I seem to have about a million and one other things I'm working on. I'm heading up the steering committee for the education & outreach program, and I'm on another steering committee for a new education conference. I also want to finish up the work I was doing in my other post-doc, and write up a paper on that. Then, I'm a member of the post-doctoral association executive council. Oh, and then there's the whole we-just-bought-a-house and trying-for-a-baby things, plus trying to keep up my hobbies of reading and knitting...and trying to get to the gym too...oh, and keeping up with my two blogs...

It's nice to be busy in a way, but I'm finding I can't concentrate on what I'm doing because I'm thinking about everything else I need to be doing. I know I've juggled stuff like this in the past, so I've started to make more specific goals each day so that I can focus more. It's been helpful, but I still feel like I'm all over the place sometimes.

Sigh - does life ever calm down?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Worry Saturation

I had a session with my therapist on Monday, and we tried out a technique outlined in The Worry Cure book (the basis of my series on worry). In this technique, you repeat a statement over and over again...200 hundred times or more (I believe the book suggests 1000 times). The idea is that the statement will become so boring that it eases the anxiety when the thought pops up again.

So, I sat there and repeated "I might not be able to get pregnant and have babies" 200 times. The first ten were really painful. I had to stop between each statement just to catch my breath a bit. It was hard to hear myself say it, because it was like admitting that it could happen.

After about 30 times, I stopped myself because it felt like I was making light of the situation. I thought that making it boring meant that it was no longer important to me or that I didn't care about it. Not sure if that makes sense?

Anyway, I continued on, and really started to get bored of it. It also almost became an out of body experience - like I was listening to someone else repeat the statement over and over. I also started stumbling on my words. It was like when you write the same word over and over again, and it starts looking wrong! I started to get my words mixed up.

By the end, I was really happy to be done. My anxiety about the statement went from about 7/10 to 1/10. After the first 10-20 times, I didn't find it too hard. However, I could see it being way more difficult if, for example, I just found out that I wasn't pregnant.

It's an interesting technique - I kind of felt like an idiot while doing it, but it did help reduce my anxiety. I suggest trying it out the next time you're sick with worry about something.

More worry tips to come!

Monday, March 8, 2010

15 Female Scientists & Changing Shit

Two great posts to read:

There is a wonderful post over on the new Medical Small Businesses blog about 15 female scientists who changed the world. Would you add anyone to the list?

Another great post by Steve Schwartz: this time, he talks about what shit we can change and what shit we can't (and when we can complain about that shit).

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Sorry for my (relative) quietness this week. We've been busy pretty much every night since we put an offer on a house last Wednesday.

We saw this house for the first time two Sundays ago. We liked it, but because it was old we thought there were a lot of things that needed to be done. But, after seeing other houses, we just kept thinking about this one.

So, we went back the following Wednesday to see it again. After taking a closer look, we realized the only (major) thing that really had to be done was the kitchen. Since the house has been on the market for a while (because of the kitchen, presumably), the price was reduced, and right smack in the middle of our range. Walking through it again, we just fell in love, and decided right then to make an offer.

We were lucky. There was an offer a few days before, but it fell through. There was also another potential offer after ours, but they weren't allowed to entertain it until ours was finalized either way. So, the house was in demand (which is good) and we got it!

We had the inspection done yesterday, and also had a kitchen contractor come in to do measurements for an estimate. The inspection went amazingly well - the only thing that should be done in the next year are the eaves-troughs.

We finalized everything yesterday, signed the mortgage papers today, and will take possession on April 20th! We are really really excited about it, and cannot wait to move in!

I did take a bunch of photos, but don't want to post the link here for privacy reasons. If you'd like to see the photos, just email me and I can send you the link!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Olympic Blanket

I completed my project for the knitting Olympics during the closing ceremonies! It was a close one, but I managed to pull it off - all in the midst of searching for and buying a house (more on this later).

I started this blanket in August, when we first started "trying". Since then I have worked on it in spurts, and there was about a month or so around Christmas where I didn't even look at it.

I'm glad Yarn Harlot hosted the knitting Olympics this year, because it really motivated me to finally finish this blanket off. And, here is my reward (besides the sense of accomplishment, of course):

Now I have almost two balls of pastel yellow yarn left - perfect for knitting baby hats for all of my expectant friends!

Monday, March 1, 2010

And the Torch Goes Out

I don't know what it is about the Olympics, but it is always so emotional. I get all wrapped up in the national pride we feel when one of our athletes wins a medal (or doesn't and think they have disappointed the country). I get teary-eyed during the mini-documentaries they show throughout the games, during some commercials, and definitely when they extinguish the torch.

It's amazing what the Olympics does to us as individuals, nations, and the world as a whole. It is just such a positive and moving experience to be a part of (even if that means watching from your couch). Not only do I feel pride when Canadian athletes do well, but it's also fun to watch all the medal winners...no...all athletes. To see all of their hard work over the past four years pay off, and to see what pure happiness looks like. It's amazing to see how sports can bring the whole world together.

Canada went into the games expecting to "Own the Podium". And while we didn't top the medal standings (kudos to the USA!!), we did some unimaginable things. We finally got the first gold medal on Canadian soil - and then 13 more. In fact, we have broken the record for number of gold medals by any country in any winter Olympics. That's pretty good, I think!

Some of my favorite moments (just to name a few - there were so many):
- Alexandre Bilodeau winning the first gold for Canada
- Watching Christine Nesbitt win gold with the members of the Earth Sciences department (where her dad works)
- Petra Majdic winning a bronze medal in cross-country skiing with broken ribs and a punctured lung
- Watching Apolo Ohno pass from behind so many times to win three more medals
- Jon Montgomery drinking a pitcher of beer in Whistler
- Kevin Martin and his team going 11-0 in men's curling
- Sid the Kid scoring the game-winning goal in the hockey gold medal game

But, my favorite thing of the whole games was watching Canadians show their pride. Hearing the fans sing "Oh Canada" at the curling matches or seeing everyone wave their flags in the streets just made me feel so happy to be a Canadian. Not often do we show our national pride like that, but it doesn't mean it's not there. We just needed a really good excuse to bring it out.

Congratulations Canada for such a wonderful, successful, Olympic games!

PS: I did finish my blanket for the knitting Olympics! I will be posting about it soon.