Wednesday, June 30, 2010


A conversation with an older, male-er colleague yesterday:

Him: I'm hoping to test this piece of equipment in the next couple of weeks.

Me: Well, keep me posted, because if you test it when I'm back from vacation I'd like to come by and check it out.

Him: Oh, right. You're on vacation...(looks at pregnant belly)...and then you'll be going on vacation again in a few months.

Me: ummmmm...?

Him: I don't know what to do with you girls*...getting pregnant and taking time off. It's sure hard to keep you girls around.

Sigh. Yeah, us pregnant chicks really screw up the system...taking our "vacation" time whenever we pop out some kid. Sorry about that.

* There is another woman in the department who took a whopping 4 months** off after giving birth to her first child.
** In Canada, you can take up to a year parental leave with benefits.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Social Awkwardness?

I attended my first pre-natal aquafit class recently. I thought it would be a great way to get some (much needed) exercise and to meet other mothers-to-be. I was right. The class is 1.5 hours, and the first 30 minutes is dedicated to pregnancy-related discussions. At my first class, we went around the room and said how we were feeling about the birth/labor process (second time moms were asked to tell the group about techniques they used to get through it the last time around). After the discussion, we all headed down to the pool for an hour. It is a very relaxed atmosphere where everyone chats while following the instructor.

Now, the problem may have arisen because I was joining the class half-way through (all the other ladies had taken 3 classes together already) - but I felt like a total dork! I couldn't get up the nerve to talk to anyone, and I felt very awkward at the beginning of class when we were waiting for it to start and everyone was talking amongst themselves. I truly felt like the shy geek in the corner!

Thankfully, in the pool, one of the other ladies struck up a conversation with me and we chatted during the workout. I found it easy to talk with her, but she had to initiate.

Well....when the heck did this happen? I always thought of myself as an outgoing, easy-to-talk-to person. I'm not sure when it changed, but sometime over the last few years my socializing skills have gone down hill. I think I'll blame it on being in an extremely anti-social environment over the last five years, for being around physicists longer than that, and for not having many friendships outside the realm of academia.

I really hope these classes help me get these skills back! I don't want to be the shy woman in the corner who never speaks to anyone. That's not who I am!

Saturday, June 26, 2010


We had the majority of the interior of the house painted this week. After the annoyance of painting our room and the guest room, we just had painters come in and do it. The only room we have left now is the nursery, which we will do once we know Baby G's gender.

Here are some before and after shots. We are in the process of adding all the finishing touches, but these give a good idea of the paint colors.

Fig. 1: The living room before was a light tan color. The ceiling was, of course, painted the same color.

Fig. 2: The living room after. The yellow certainly warms the room, and the white on the ceiling makes the room feel larger.

Fig. 3: The dining room before. That red stripe is lovely, isn't it? Apparently the woman who lived here before didn't like straight lines, and it shows. They attempted to put it on straight, but instead of using tape, they drew a line in pencil to guide them. It didn't work.

Fig. 4: We stayed with stripes, but in a more traditional way. The light yellow is the same as in the living room, while the other is a 1/2 tone darker.

Fig. 5: The foyer and main stairwell before. Again, the blue was on the ceiling as well.

Fig. 6: Foyer and stairwell after. The yellow is the same as in the living room, and the ceiling is white now.

Fig. 7: Office before. They tried to do some sort of faux finish, and the same on the ceiling of course!

Fig. 8: The office after. All I can say is "ahhhhh".

Friday, June 25, 2010

July Scientiae: Dreamin' Away

This month's Scientiae is hosted by JaneB over at 'Now, what was I doing?', and is a fun topic! She wants us to describe our "fantasy institute": where would it be? what are the codes of conduct? what would be its structure? who would you hire?

This is fantastic, because there has been something I've been dreaming about for the last few years: an institute for science education & outreach research in Canada. Here is my wish list:

  • The institute must be housed in a giant old mansion (in London, of course)!

  • It will be a relatively small institute, with 1-2 researchers from each major area of science (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Astronomy, Earth Science, Health Science, Math, and Computer Science)
  • These researchers won't necessarily have specific training in education research, but a definite passion and enthusiasm is a must!
  • Each researcher will work on projects that they feel are important to their corner of the science world, but all researchers will collaborate on large projects as well
  • We will collaborate with anyone interested in science education research at the university level
  • We will partner with other science outreach programs
  • We will have post-doc and graduate student fellowships, and partner with traditional science departments so students can do both
  • We will host teaching conferences and workshops for our more science-based colleagues that are interested in honing their education skill set
  • We will host day- and summer- camps for school aged children, so they can learn about science in a fun, interactive way
  • We will host tutoring and counseling (career or otherwise) sessions for high school and university students
  • No assholes, know-it-alls, or egotistical maniacs allowed
  • There will be free on-site day-care, where everyone is free to visit their child(ren) at any time, and the staff are trained to deal with any request
  • There will a "pumping" suite - complete with relaxing music, comfy chairs, and interesting books/magazines to read
  • There will be a full kitchen, with plenty of seating!
  • There would be a gym and a pool!
  • There will be two coffee breaks and lunch every day
  • There will be no set hours, and all staff are able to work from home
  • All meetings will be scheduled at reasonable times (i.e., after 9am and before 4pm), and staff can telecon in to meetings anytime
  • There will be amazing health care benefits, and one-year paid parental leave
  • There will be many social events, to which all staff will attend not because they have too but because they are truly friends with their co-workers, and significant others and children are always more than welcome to come!
  • Events and milestones will be celebrated! No glossing over a paper being accepted or a new bundle of joy joining a family.
Sigh - now something like that would bring me back into academia.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

18 Weeks

Yesterday I hit 18 weeks - just two more until we find out the gender (or less if we're lucky and the ultrasound tech tells us)!

Here's a picture:

Does the shape and location of my belly make you want to change your vote on the gender poll?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

On a Roll?

I am so very close to submitting both a paper from my Master's and a follow-up paper on one of my PhD projects. Is it possible that I will actually get these two things off my plate? Fingers crossed!!!

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Our kitchen is now "officially" done, although it was really finished about a week ago (a couple of very small things had to be completed this week). So, without further adieu - here are the before and after shots! (Note: we did not do this renovation ourselves)


Fig.1: Isn't that orange wonderful? It's on the ceiling too!! The green of the counter top really goes well with it too, don't you think?

Fig. 2: (sorry for the darkness) A look at the extensive cabinet system. I believe they are original (okay, I don't actually know that, but they look like they could be).

Fig. 3: The dark door on the far left is a large pantry that we decided to keep. Gotta love that totally useless space by the door too.


Fig. 4: Bye-bye orange and green! Hello to huge upper cabinets, a gorgeous granite counter, and a level floor!

Fig. 5: Bye-bye, useless space! Hello to an over-the-range microwave, a dishwasher, and a sink actually centered under the window!

Fig. 6: This may seem random, but I had to take a photo of my most favorite decorative items we've bought so far: the giant fork and spoon!! How fun are they?

All in all, it took about 6.5 weeks to get it all done. It seemed longer during the process though, and poor DH had to put up with multiple break-downs of me saying things like "This is never...sniff...gulp...going to get done!!!!" and "All. I. Want... is running water in the frickin' kitchen!!". But, we made it through, and we absolutely love the end result!

Next up: painters will be coming to do our living room, dining room, front foyer, staircase, and office!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Mama PhD

I just finished reading Mama PhD: Women Write about Motherhood and Academic Life, edited by Elrena Evans & Caroline Grant.

This book is similar to Motherhood: The Elephant in the Laboratory, which I read and reviewed a few months back. The difference is that Mama PhD includes essays from women in many different fields in academia (mostly in the humanities) and some who are no longer in academia.

The book consists of 35 essays, ranging from women who found having a child to be an incredible burden, to those who found academia to be an incredible burden, to those who managed to find some semblance of balance between the two.

I found the first half to be incredibly depressing. Most of the women did not enjoy motherhood, and wrote about how it negatively affected their career, or how academia was so incredibly un-supportive. It took me a very long time to read through these essays, as I couldn't identify with the writers.

However, the second half was much more in line with my values and beliefs about career & motherhood. One section, in fact, was about women who actually left academia and (gasp!) were happy either with being a stay-at-home mother or in finding other, non-academic, job opportunities. Another section included positive stories of blending academia and motherhood.

Some common themes popped up in every section though: it is difficult to find a space where one can be both a mother and a scholar; academia is all about the mind, not about "the body" (i.e., everything outside the mind); academics have a hard time dealing with babies (or people with babies); babies are way harder than you think!

One of my favorite quotes in the book, which sums up the issue quite nicely (Free to Be...Mom and Me, by Megan Pincus Kajitani):
"...my grandmother had no choice but to stay home, then my mother's generation fought hard to give women a place in the professional world. Now my generation takes on the fight for more balance, and more diversity of career/family options"
What will the next generation have to fight for?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Good Role Model

A couple days ago DH and I were out and saw a woman wearing this t-shirt:

Figure 1: Classy t-shirt by Hustler (link from Amazon.com)

Now, I think I would have been offended if anyone was wearing this shirt, but this particular woman was with her two pre-teen daughters.

I don't know - maybe I'm just super judgmental, but is that really the message you want to be sending to your kids? I mean, there are multiple things wrong with this in my mind: the language is tasteless (don't we try to minimize this language around children?), it's by Hustler (women should only be valued for their looks!), and it's promoting violence as a cute thing (note the princess crown - eta: those are apparently brass knuckles. How sweet!). Not exactly setting up your daughters to be strong (of the mind) women.

What do you think?

Friday, June 11, 2010


DH and I went to a couple stores a few weeks ago and got totally overwhelmed by the sure volume of baby-related paraphernalia one can purchase. Just looking at the stroller aisle overwhelmed me, and we left shortly thereafter!

We have a good idea of what we want for the big/obvious stuff (crib, dresser/changing table, and after much research, the whole stroller thing), but not sure about other things (how many car seat options are there?? which types of carriers work best? do we really need a saucer AND a swing AND a jumper AND a pack and play?).

So, for you parents out there (or those about to be parents, but have dealt with this already), what are your recommendations? Anything you bought that was a life-saver or a must-have? What about things you bought that ended up being useless?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Seriously? Go AWAY!!

Three weeks ago I received an email from a random graduate student from another country asking me pretty in depth questions about the analysis that I had done for my MSc thesis. I was out of town at the time, so didn't have access to that particular paper, my thesis, or any of my notes. So, I wrote them back saying that I would contact them once I was back in town (sometime this week).

I received another email from them this morning. I quickly looked at the paper and the relevant parts of my thesis, and sent them back an answer. I didn't walk them through the whole thing, but I told them what I thought was enough information to move forward.

Well...I've now received two more emails from the student, asking very specific questions about the analysis, including questions about specific numbers.

Umm.....hello? Do they not understand I'm not here to guide them through the analysis process??? First of all, I did that analysis 6-7 years ago, and I've changed fields twice since then, so it's not like I'm immersed in similar data analysis or techniques. Second of all, if someone is kind enough to answer your questions, you don't shoot back even more annoying questions at them! Third - as everyone who regularly reads my blog knows - I DON'T GIVE A SHIT about research. So, I don't keep all these nitty gritty details in my head, to be made available at any second where someone might ask me about it.

I'm sorry that their supervisor obviously is no help whatsoever, but how is that my problem? I just want to either a) ignore them or b) tell them to screw off, but I'm guessing either choice wouldn't be particularly nice of me. The problem is for me to be able to answer the questions they are asking now, I would have to do some serious searching around --- using time I don't really have since I have about a million things on my plate right now (all that must be done in 5 months before Baby G arrives).


Note: this is my 300th post! I wanted it to be "special", but instead it's this. I hope to post before and after shots of our kitchen soon though!!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Misuse of "Theory"

At the CASCA conference a couple weeks ago, there was an interesting conversation during the education session about the use of the word theory.

The United States National Academy of Sciences defines a theory as:
Some scientific explanations are so well established that no new evidence is likely to alter them. The explanation becomes a scientific theory...the word theory refers to a comprehensive explanation of an important feature of nature supported by facts gathered over time. Theories also allow scientists to make predictions about as yet unobserved phenomena.
(Wikipedia source). So, in a scientific sense, theory means the same thing as model - an idea, or system of ideas, that is based on tested experiments, data, facts, etc.. We think of a theory as the top of the food chain when it comes to an explanation for something. For example, the "theory of gravity", "theory of evolution", or "the Big Bang theory".

On the other hand, the media has turned the word theory into meaning something like "hypothesis". For example, how many times have we heard the phrase "it's a good idea, in theory" to mean an idea won't work in reality? This portrays a theory basically as a guess. So, the public sees theory at the bottom of the food chain, whereas fact is at the top.

This poses a problem when talking to the public about scientific theories. When someone hears a scientist say "the theory of evolution", they immediately equate that to meaning a guess about what happened - not something based on numerous experiments, data, etc..

How do we address this? One idea during the conversation was to instead use the word "model" when talking about such things. What other things can we do as scientists and/or educators to minimize the misunderstanding of the word "theory"?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Conference #2

I’m on my way back from the second conference in two weeks, and so glad to be home soon. This was probably the worst conference experience I have ever had. Not because the science was bad or boring, but because I felt pretty much awful the whole time.

We drove from London to Ottawa – it took about 8 hours. That wasn’t too much fun, and of course I didn’t eat as well as I should have. By the time we got to the conference hotel, figured out how to navigate all the one-way streets, and how to drop off the rental van, it was time to go to the “ice breaker” session. We figured there would be food there for me to eat (since it was advertised and all)…and there was: some fruit, cheese, and crackers. Not exactly my idea of a full fledged dinner. I was feeling a bit nauseous, so I went back to the room and ended up having some cereal (which I was smart enough to bring with me).

The next day was actually a good one. I went to the morning sessions and even paid attention to a couple talks (well, mostly). Then I took a bus tour of the city in the afternoon and had dinner with a couple friends that now live in Ottawa.

That may have been too much excitement for Baby G though, because the next day was pretty much a write-off. I woke up feeling “off” and it just got worse from there. I ended up staying in bed, alternating between sleeping and watching TV, until 5pm. At that point I forced myself to get up and got something small to eat, but stayed in bed until I went to sleep again for the night.

Thursday was not as bad, but I almost fainted in the lobby while working on my laptop. Our midwife told me that dizziness/feeling faint is common in the 2T, but I didn’t realize that it would come on so fast. My guess is that my lower blood pressure (which is normally low) coupled with crappy “travel eating” didn’t help the situation either. I went to the room and rested for a bit and felt fine the rest of the day. I ended up going to the teacher sessions (meant for K-12 teachers) and it was very interesting. We also had the banquet that night, and the food was awful (as expected).

This morning I didn’t attend any of the conference and instead took my time getting ready and rested up for the long (9 hour) train ride home. I was okay until I got off the train in Toronto and had to get some “food” (yay for the choices of Harvey's, McD's, and other various crap). I now feel ill, and everyone around me on the train has the most disgusting smelling food ever.

Conferences make me cranky generally, but this one took the cake. I think I would have been much better off staying at home. I am so incredibly happy that I have no major travel plans for the foreseeable future!!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Big Ultrasound

We are very excited to find out if Baby G will be a boy or a girl, and the ultrasound is scheduled for July 3rd. There is a chance that the baby won't be in the proper position to see, but we're keeping our fingers crossed!

We have decided to find out the gender of Baby G for a few reasons: we are really impatient, nursery decoration plans are different depending on the gender, and we want to start calling Baby G by their name before they're born (as a bonding thing).

Any guesses? Vote in the poll on the right hand side!