Sunday, May 30, 2010

June Scientiae: Celebration!

Rocket Scientista wants us to have a party this month!

Something we probably don’t do enough is celebrate our successes. I know I am definitely guilty of this – dwelling on the negatives in life instead of the positives.

So, what is something that deserves to be celebrated in my lives these days?

Well, I’m going to fully admit that I have a lot to celebrate right now: from the new house, to Baby G returning to us, to the gorgeous weather we’ve been having. Even though I’m not particularly happy with the career aspect of my life right now, everything else is pretty good…well, really good…actually extremely good – good enough for me to start worrying about when the other shoe will drop!

So, my celebration will not be work/career/research related whatsoever, since that is, in fact, the only part of my life not going the way I’d like right now.

I want to celebrate, instead, my personal successes – things that I have been hoping and dreaming about for the past few years.

For the last three years, DH and I have been looking forward to finally settling down. We both had grown tired of the nomadic lifestyle of the academic. DH wanted to find a permanent position in industry so we could buy a house and start a family.

Well, after looking at locations around the world (Germany, England, California, NE US), he found such a position in October right here in London. It was surprising – we never really saw ourselves settling here. But, after considering our options and factors like cost of living, quality of life, etc., London was looking better and better. So, he took a full time research scientist position with the same group he did his post-doc with. It’s perfect for him – all research and no teaching!

At about the same time, we started trying for our first child. We got pregnant rather quickly, but it ended tragically with a miscarriage in mid-December. But, just two months later, I was pregnant again, and it looks like Baby G is here to stay. I am almost 15 weeks along and, come November, I will be adding a new title to my name: Mommy!

At about the same time I found out I was pregnant for the second time, we bought a house! We moved in at the end of April and have been undergoing renovations big & small (complete kitchen renovation, painting, etc.). We’ve been spending time in our yard, and going for walks in our gorgeous neighborhood.

Needless to say, the last few months have been extremely exciting! All of a sudden we went from living the grad student life to having permanent jobs (okay, one of us does), owning a house, and expecting a child. We have finally rounded the first bend on The Game of Life, and we’re going at a pretty good clip too.

The next year will bring some big changes in our lives, but right now, let’s take the time and celebrate where we are. After-all, we waited three years to get here, let’s take advantage!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Conference #1

It's the last day of the CASCA conference I posted about last time, and I'm more than ready to go home. Yes, it was nice to see some good friends, but this conference (as with others in the past) has just reinforced that I do not want to continue along the academic path in astronomy (or at all).

I sit in the sessions and am bored out of my mind. I don't find any research interesting. At. All. I also don't feel like I fit in with these people. They love what they do (which is great!) and want to talk about it all the time. I just have no interest in it, and I almost feel bad being here because of that.

I did enjoy the education session - or at least the part I was able to attend, as I had to leave half way through to give my science talk in a parallel session. I received some great feedback and suggestions for the outreach project (and a nasty-ish email that basically said I shouldn't bother - yet another reason why I hate academia, Thanks for your support!).

In addition, I found out during my education talk that the physics/astronomy department won an award for outreach this year. Funny enough, no one told me about it - so when someone asked me about it during the question period, I stood there looking like an idiot. Thanks guys!

Sigh. I'm grumpy.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Conference Season

I'm leaving tomorrow for the annual CASCA (Canadian Astronomical Society) conference. This year it is being held in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which I'm pretty stoked about. It's a gorgeous area. DH and I were planning on doing a 2-week tour of the maritime provinces this year, but that's out with the house and such. So, it will be nice to get to see at least part of the area.

I'm also excited about it because it's a great opportunity to catch up with other Canadian astronomers, especially those that went through grad school at the same time. I guess we could be called a "cohort". It's cool seeing where everyone is now, and what they're up too.

I'll be giving two talks - and thankfully the organizers were wise enough to schedule them during parallel sessions! So, I'll have to give one talk (about the outreach program I'm trying to put together) then head to the other room and give the other (on the final results of one of my projects from my PhD and subsequent short post-doc). Should be okay though, as long as the timing works out!

The next week I'll be heading to Ottawa for my first Earth Science conference. This will be another Canadian group (a joint conference between the CGU - Canadian Geophysical Union - and CMOS - Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society), but this conference is much larger. There are less than 200 participants signed up for the CASCA conference - there will probably be over 3000 at CGU. There are 12 parallel sessions, compared to 2 at CASCA. This will be the biggest conference I have ever attended.

I will know absolutely no one at the CGU conference (except my co-workers, of course) and there will be very few sessions that I will a) be interested in, and/or b) understand. But, it is my first visit to our nation's capital, so I plan to take advantage of that (I have even booked a bus tour already).

I'm thinking I will have very different experiences over the next couple of weeks!

Friday, May 21, 2010

2T and a First Rub

I officially hit the second trimester (13w 3d) today! I cannot believe that I'm 1/3 of the way through this pregnancy already. For one, I really never thought I'd get this far. Second, the time went by so quickly (even though it seemed to slow to a crawl when I was nauseous all the time).

I really want to stop and smell the roses now - really start to enjoy the pregnancy before I get too big and too sore! I hope that we will start looking at nursery stuff soon, and even buy some cute clothes here and there (I can't resist those little socks). We are both really looking forward to finding out the gender of Baby G so that we can plan out the nursery more.

We had our first appointment with our midwife and it was fantastic! I'm really glad that we were able to go that route, and DH is very excited about it as well. We heard the heart beat for the first time and it was the most lovely sound in the world (yes, I'm becoming one of those women).

I also had my first tummy rub experience - at 13 weeks. I was with a group of girls and one of them said they saw my Facebook status that I am becoming a mommy. All the girls squealed with excitement and one rubbed my belly! For some reason it didn't bother me as much as I thought it would. My guess is because this girl is so cute and giggly, that it's kind of the way she is, so it didn't take me by surprise. I did tell her, though, that she was just rubbing fat and not baby!

I'll let you know if my reaction is different if a stranger ever does it to me. The plan is to either rub their tummy in return and say "Oh, I thought we were just exchanging tummy rubs." or to grab their boobs and say "I figured you needed a lesson about inappropriate touching." - which one sounds more fun?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Millennials

I attended a teaching workshop the other day that was all about the Millennial Generation (aka. Generation Me, Generation Y, or the Entitlement Generation). This includes people born between 1982-2002, although most typically thought of as the current college/university student population.

The first talk gave a general description of what this generation is like: they tend to be tech-savvy (having grown up with it), are team-oriented, have high self-esteem (thanks to the self-esteem movement of the 80s and 90s where you're told you can do anything), are good multi-taskers, have shorter attention spans, etc.. These are things I've heard before so, although interesting, nothing really surprised me.

The second session though, was a bit different. Instead of some "expert" talking about these students and how they want to be taught, there was a panel of 5 undergraduate students from different disciplines (English, Media Studies, Computer Science and Health Science). They shared their thoughts about the first talk and discussed what their expectations are when it comes to teaching.

This was an eye-opening experience, and I wish more people could have been there to listen to what these students had to say.

A familiar theme that cropped up while they were speaking was that they all craved relevance. Why are they learning what they're learning? What is the motivation behind it? Will it be useful to them in a future class or in a job situation? Basically, they said that if a prof can do this, then the majority of the class will be engaged and interested in the material.

What surprised me the most was the audience interpreted this as the students wanting to be "entertained", and that we shouldn't "cater" to this need of them wanting to know why they are learning something (that they should make these connections themselves).

It was interesting to hear the students respond to such statements. First, they flat out said (a number of times) that they do not expect to be entertained. They do not come to class for the prof to put on a show, nor do they want the prof to juggle while riding a unicycle. Second, they also do not want profs using technology just for the sake of it. Finally, because they grew up with the internet and other technology, information is right at their finger tips. So, what's the point of going to class if they can just look it up in 5 minutes? They can do that on their own - what they need to learn is how to make connections between the information.

What do they want? They want the prof to love what they are teaching and to convey what they love about that subject. They want the prof to use whatever style they feel the most comfortable with - nothing is worse that watching a prof flounder around with some technology that they aren't familiar with! If a blackboard and chalk is your thing, then go for it!

All the students told a story about their favorite prof - not one of them said "I loved the prof because they used Facebook/podcasts/blogs" or "I loved this prof because they were really easy markers". All of their favorite teachers used different methods (mostly "old school" methods!), but one thread joined them all: they loved what they were teaching, and were enthusiastic about sharing that passion.

I am so glad that I attended that session. It gave me a new appreciation for the students of today, and what kind of pressures they have to deal with (they have to basically decide what career they want in 7th grade!). Maybe next time I am teaching a class, or even see a bunch of them on laptops in the cafeteria, I'll be able to better understand their wants, needs, and actions.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Small Changes

Well, we've been in our house for just about a month and things are slowly coming along.

The kitchen was initially going very quickly - the electrical, plumbing, mud & tape, and flooring all got done within a couple of weeks. Then we had the cabinets installed and things are kind of at a stand still now that we are waiting for our granite counter top to come in. The projected install date isn't until June 2nd! So, we will have a temporary counter so the appliances can be installed and we can actually use the kitchen. I will post before & after photos once it's done.

We've also managed to paint a couple rooms. We started with the guest room. Mostly because we wanted to "test" our skills on a not-so-important room, but also because it was the ugliest room in the house. Case in point:

Fig. 1: Bubblegum ice cream, anyone (which actually is one
of my favorite flavors - just not on a wall)?

But, I think we've rectified the situation rather nicely:

Fig. 2: A nice way to do orange (not like what our
kitchen looked like - oh, stay tuned for that!).

Next up was the master bedroom. Again, the previous owners didn't have such great taste in colors. This one was a dark brown with greenish undertones. To top it all off, they painted the ceiling the same color, so the room felt very enclosed.

Fig. 3: Like living in a cardboard box (ignore that green
square -
that was me testing out some wild colors).

Again, we went for a more pleasing color. This one is called "grasslands", and it's very calming and serene.

Fig. 3: ahhhhhhh....don't you just feel more calm?

Next up will probably be the living room and dining room. But, I think we're going to hire someone to do that (as well as the foyer/stairwell). It's just way too much of a pain in the ass for us to deal with, especially if someone can come in and do it faster and better.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Perimeter Institute

Yesterday, I went to visit a fellow blogger at the Perimeter Institute. For those of you unfamiliar with PI, it's a theoretical physics research institute that was created by the founder and co-CEO of Research in Motion (RIM), Mike Lazaridis. RIM is famous for inventing the BlackBerry.

Anyway, after getting lost along the way, having to call DH to guide me to PI (there was construction all over the place!), parking in a random lot, not being able to find an entrance to the building, and being an hour late, I found Bee!

She took me on a tour of PI, which was very cool indeed. Definitely the nicest physics building I've ever seen! They had a gorgeous library, little nooks with seating and blackboards everywhere (I wish I took photos of the boards, as they were all filled with equations and diagrams - much like you would expect at a theoretical physics institute), and people talking physics in the hallways.

We also talked much about the paintings put up around the modern, airy, building - some were gorgeous, some were...well...I didn't know what they were until Bee told me! Again, I should have taken photos. She also showed me the gym (empty), the children's play area (empty) and the racket-ball court (also empty). I'm sure they get used more in the winter!

The PI is undergoing some massive renovations - well, renovations is an understatement. They're basically doubling the size of the building to accommodate all the new students and researchers. Right now, there are random desks in the hallways for some of these unfortunate souls.

Fig. 1: A model of the current building (white)
and the addition (brown).

After the tour, we walked to a nearby Starbucks and had coffee (she has a "usual" - how cool is that?) and chatted about our careers, work places, and husbands. Unfortunately, because I was an hour late, I could only spend a couple hours there, but it was a great visit.

Thanks for having me, Bee!

Thursday, May 13, 2010


I haven't posted anything about the NHL playoffs this year. Mostly because my team, the Calgary Flames, didn't even make it into the first round, so my interest is lower than normal.

Now, with the Penguins and Canucks out in the second round, I might just have to stop watching! None of the teams that are left are particularly interesting to me.

I know, I know - I'm Canadian so I should cheer for the last remaining Canadian team. Know what I say to that? HELLS NO. Yes, it's nice that they knocked out the President's trophy winners and the Stanley Cup champions, but I can't bring myself to cheer for a team whose fans riot when they WIN for God's sake.

Anyway, I'm just going to leave it at that and start looking forward to next season. Hopefully the Flames can turn it around, and hopefully some interesting teams will be in the finals.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

12 Weeks

I have been absolutely dying to share the news since March 13th --- I am pregnant!!! I am 12 weeks along today!!!

After the miscarriage in December, DH and I were hesitant about sharing the news that we were pregnant again when we found out just a few days before my birthday. So, we've been keeping it under wraps as best we can. Of course, our parents and some close family and friends know, as well as some others that were on a need-to-know basis (like my supervisor, for instance, since I was having to work from home quite a bit in the first weeks).

We had an ultrasound done rather early - at about eight weeks - to make sure everything was going well. We saw the little blob that will be our child, and saw the heart beat too! We will have another done at about 18 weeks, where we'll find out the gender if Baby G cooperates.

My symptoms have been much stronger than last time as well. I was extremely nauseous up until about 9 weeks, and more tired than I have ever been in my life! Sometimes I could barely get to 8pm without zonking right out, and even feel asleep at my desk a couple times. Food aversions have been the strangest to deal with, as they seem to change on a daily basis. Even though these symptoms aren't particularly pleasant, they are comforting because I know the baby is doing just fine.

I am feeling much better these days, and my belly is starting to get round(er). I'm quite happy about it though, and feel like I want to show it off to the world!!

The due date is November 23rd!! Perhaps I'll do polls - one for the baby's gender and the other for the baby's actual arrival date - so stay tuned!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Blog Notes

The May Scientiae is up! Hosted by Patchi over at My Middle Years, bloggers write about bumps and humps in their lives. There are some really great entries, so go on over and check it out!

Also, female academics aren't the only ones who face issues regarding gender. Stephanie over at the oh-so-wonderful knitting blog, Yarn Harlot, talks about getting flak for using the words "nipple" and "breast" in a previous post! Gasp!!

Speaking of nipples and breasts (you gotta love that segue) - Happy Mother's Day to all you wonderful mothers out there! Check out the gorgeous Mother's Day cakes over at Cake Wrecks (Sunday Sweet edition).

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Our book club chose to read this book by Stieg Larsson a few months ago. We all were in agreement that it was an interesting story, but the book was a tedious read in some places. Although, what do you expect when a paper-back novel is over 800 pages? If we were to rate it out of five, I think we would have all given it 3-3.5.

When we saw the movie was coming out in a local theatre, we decided that it would make for a great book club outing. So, we all gathered with our popcorn and other treats, and watched the 800 page novel be condensed into a 2.5 hour movie in Swedish.

It was...fantastic. I think we all agreed that they glossed over the right (tedious) things while still staying relatively true to the story. They did change some minor things in the plot, but it worked. For some of us, it was more disturbing to watch than to read, as there are a few sexually violent scenes that were hard to stomach in either case. The original title of the book, Men Who Hate Women, gives a much better foreshadowing of the actions of some of the characters.

The director did an amazing job portraying the strong female lead character, who also stars in the other two books in the series (The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest). I also think he managed to tell the story without it being confusing to people who haven't read the book. One of the book club members brought her husband along, and he had not read the book - I know she reads the blog, so hopefully she can tell us what he thought :)

I wasn't sure if I was interested enough in reading the other two books, but I think this movie has convinced me to at least read the next one. It would also be interesting if an American director creates a version of the movie.

In any case, I highly recommend both the book and the movie. But, if you just have time for one, the movie is an excellent, and much less time-consuming, choice. Be fair warned about the graphic content though.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Heebee-Jeebees

Last night, as I was getting ready for bed, I noticed this ENORMOUS centipede-type bug just hanging out beside the scale in the bathroom. It didn't move for a while, so I was hoping it was dead. But, then I made some sort of noise and it frickin' skittered across the floor to the other side of the bathroom.

I freaked out and ran into our hallway/landing thing, and told my cat to go get it. A few hours before, I saw him deeply concentrated on something on the bathroom floor, and figured this must be what he was concentrating on.

Funny enough, he wasn't much help. I don't think he quite understood what I wanted him to do. In any case, I had to go back in the bathroom to finish brushing my teeth, and the damn thing skittered across the floor again. This time I let out a little squeal, and the cats proceeded to get puffy. Thanks for the help, kitties!

I did not sleep well last night. I kept having these dreams of enormous, gross looking bugs that can run faster than I can. Every time I woke up, I had to do a check of the bed to make sure the damn thing wasn't cuddling up with me. And, I couldn't avoid going to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

I'm still having a case of the heebee-jeebees every time I even think about it...and it's not like I can avoid going into the bathroom!

Ugh - this is one thing I miss about living on the 12th floor of an apartment building.