Saturday, December 26, 2009

Cake Wrecks Charities

Here is a list of charities that Cake Wrecks raised money for during the two weeks before Christmas:

Charity: Water
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
Heifer International
Child's Play
Share Our Strength
Puffy Paws Kitty Haven
Doctors Without Borders
Habitat for Humanity
Operation Smile
The Buckland Family Trust (no website, but you can donate via Paypal - just scroll down to the bottom of the link)
Free the Slaves
To Write Love on Her Arms
Give Kids the World

If you want to donate to any of these charities, please go through the Cake Wrecks website so that Jen can get closer to her fundraising goals. She has listed all the charities here, along with how to donate.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Vacation

DH and I are heading out on our Dual-City Christmas Tour today. This year, we're heading to Vancouver first to spend a few days with DH's family. His sister will be hosting Christmas dinner, with her husband's family in attendance as well! I've never met them, so it will be fun to have both families at dinner. We have no other specific plans while in Vancouver, but the weather is supposed to be sunny (!?), so hopefully we'll get in some nice outdoor time.

Then, on the 28th, we're heading off to Calgary to be with my family for a few days. We have plans with my mom's side of the family, as well as a few close friends of mine. For New Year's, we're just going to make a bunch of appetizers, and eat and drink all night at my parent's house. Sounds absolutely perfect.

We get back home the night of the 1st, and will have the weekend to relax before heading back to reality.

DH and I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, and hope 2010 brings dreams to life for everyone! A year-in-review post and an update on my 2009 resolutions will be coming in the new year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Quick Job Update

I turned down the post-doc I was considering. Am I crazy to turn down this opportunity right now?

What's even worse is that I turned down a job interview about a month ago because I was so sure I was going to take this post-doc. Now I have neither opportunity.

I still haven't heard about the funding for the outreach position. Hopefully that news will come shortly. Until then...


Monday, December 21, 2009

Sexism in Hindsight

A couple weeks ago FSP shared some horrific stories from her post-doc days. If you haven't read it yet, I highly suggest reading the post and the comments. It's amazing to hear what things are still going on these days to women in science all over the world.

In her post, FSP discusses how men (and sometimes women) use the phrase "He must be joking" (or some variation) to basically make an excuse for what should be inexcusable behavior. I'll fully admit that, up until a couple years ago, I was in this camp. Perhaps it was a defense mechanism, so that I wouldn't be wounded in these situations. In any case, I never really thought I was treated badly because I was a woman, certainly not by anyone I had worked for/with.

But, as we all know, hindsight is 20/20. The more I encounter such situations, the more I see in my past. There are a few that have stayed in my mind:

Back in the summer before the last year of my undergrad I worked as a waitress at a nightclub. The owner initially hired me as a bartender, but when I started working, he said I had to "prove" myself before he put be behind the bar. He would make comments about how I should dress sexier, or wear more makeup, but I kind of brushed it of as "part of the industry". That is, until one night he said he'd drive me home (as a safety precaution, of course) and ended up driving to his place. He basically said that if I were to do certain things that night that I would be a bartender and make big money. Don't worry, Mom & Dad, I had the sense to get the hell out of there pretty damn quick and took a taxi. When I look back on that incident, I thank the heavens that nothing else happened, because it could have gone much worse (as I'm sure we can all imagine).

The other two incidents are minor, but because they happened during my grad school years, they really turned me off academia:

Very shortly after DH and I were engaged, I was talking with someone who I considered a friend. They were a graduate student, but a more "mature" one, with a wife and children of his own. When I told him that I got engaged and that we were planning to find a city that would have jobs for both of us, he told me that I "shouldn't make decisions just for some guy". I was shocked. I mean, here's this guy with a family, and he's basically telling me that I shouldn't want what he has (or couldn't have it?). I wasn't sure what to take more offense too: that he thought that I was such a doormat that I wasn't involved in this decision, or that he assumed DH was such an asshole that he would force me to move somewhere without even thinking of me.

The last one is actually the most surprising, because the interaction was with a woman, about the same age as me, and we were both just finishing up our PhDs. She asked me what my plans were after I finished, and I said I wasn't sure about the job situation, but that we were going to try and start a family. Her reaction? "I don't understand why women get PhDs and then just go off and have babies. What a waste of time." Yup - because women who have babies cannot do anything else besides that. Ever. Thanks so very much for your support, my fellow female PhD in the sciences. Yay.

In each of these situations, I suppose the person could have been joking. And, in fact, when I've relayed these conversations to some people, it has elicited that exact response. Because, seriously, who would say that kind of thing? But, I assure you, these people sure weren't laughing.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Weekend

On Friday I was feeling better physically, and we were both doing alright emotionally that we felt like going shopping. I ended up buying a Nikon D90 - an awesome deal with two lenses. So, I've been playing around with it on our very lazy weekend, and here is what we've been doing.

These are the ornaments we bought in memory of Baby G. The blue mittens are for the baby, and the angel wings are for the angels looking after our baby until they come back to us.

Isaac, hanging out in the top bunk of the cat scratcher.

Isabella, hanging out on the couch in her usual manner.

Mmmm...ginger cookies.

We made a gingerbread house village (from a kit of course; not a great photo, but the only one with all 5 buildings).

Saturday, December 19, 2009


My biggest fear after this whole ordeal is getting back on that TTC (trying to conceive) horse.

How can we start trying again without freaking out? When we were TTC before, it took 3 cycles to get pregnant. Not very long for most, but I think it will feel like an eternity next time. The wait before I can test will be excruciating.

And then, when (if?) we get pregnant again, how are we going to live our daily lives trying not to imagine this happening all over again? The first 12 weeks are going to be so scary, and even after that there is just no guarantee. I just have no idea how I will get through it, and I can see myself just driving myself crazy about every little thing.

I guess these are signs that we are not ready to start trying again. Perhaps we will get to a point where the benefits outweigh the risks, and we'll just decide to go for it.

As for now, we have decided that Baby G will in fact come back to us; that their body may be gone, but their spirit is not. And if we create a new body for them, they will come back. I don't consider myself religious per se, but this thought comforts us greatly.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Giving to Others This Season

This year, DH and I were really struggling trying to come up with gift ideas for ourselves. Between us and our two families, we really had to stretch to put together lists of things we actually want. So, this year we've decided to change things up a bit.

First, my family agreed to drastically reduce the amount of money we spend on gifts. Usually we kind of get out of control, so we all agreed to spend $50 or less on each other. I think this will help us concentrate on the fact that Christmas should be all about the time spent together, and not so much how long it takes us to open a mountain of gifts.

Second, DH and I decided to split our spending limit. We agreed to limit ourselves to $100, but half of that is to go to a charity of our choice. I chose the Humane Society of Canada, since I have a soft spot for those furry creatures big and small (I also give to the World Wildlife Fund each month). DH chose to give his $50 to the Canadian Cancer Society.

In the same vein as Andrea mentioned in the comments of the this post, we will also be budgeting a small amount each month of 2010, and we will chose a different charity/cause to donate too.

I think this is a great use of our money, especially since our families are blessed, and, really, we don't need to be spending it on ourselves. There are so many great causes out there that really need our help, and it feels good to help with what we can.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Thank You

I just wanted to thank everyone for their comments and support over the last few days. It really means a lot to both me and DH. We are doing our best and taking things one day at a time. We plan to buy a Christmas ornament to remember Baby G by, and are looking forward to spending the holidays with our families.

I may post short updates intermittently, but hope to be back into the swing of things soon. To bring a bit of normalcy back to the blog, I have scheduled a couple posts over the next few days that I had ready to go before this whole thing happened.

Thanks again for all the love and warmth you all have shared with us. We truly do appreciate it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Time Marches On...

...whether I want it to or not.

It's strange - all these little bouts of normalcy in the middle of a grief-stricken time. The cats still need to be fed, the dishes washed, my teeth brushed...time just refuses to stand still, even for a little while. Sometimes I wish it would - Why wouldn't the world want to stop to mourn our baby? But most times I am grateful that it pushes forward. Afterall, time does heal.

Right now we are in a bubble, living in our own world on our own schedule. I find it so strange and heartbreaking that the world around us just keeps going as if nothing has happened. People say their kind words, and then get back to their life, sorry that it happened but thankful that it's not happening to them. We appreciate all the support we're given, but nothing really comforts us like the stories we hear of others that have been through the same thing.

I absolutely dread going back into the real world. I feel like I will break down at any moment - anytime I see a small child, or a pregnant woman; anytime someone asks us if we're going to have kids soon (that was just annoying before this whole thing, now it will just be excruciatingly painful); anytime someone asks why I haven't been at work for a while; anytime I go into a clothing store and see those little tiny socks for newborns...

I dread having to pretend that nothing happened, especially at work since no one really knows what has happened. Even if people do know, I feel like we have to say "we're okay" so that we save them from the sadness, from the effort it takes of having to be around pain. It's not fair to them, after all, for us to bring them down.

I've decided to not go in to work for the rest of the week. I am not going to the department Christmas party on Friday, and I'm contemplating skipping our group party on Sunday as well. I am emotionally and physically drained. DH has stayed with me so far, but eventually we won't be able to be with each other 24 hours a day. What then? What will I do without him beside me?

The tone of this blog may change for a while...it may change for good...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tragic Loss

I usually don't blog about things like this, but I feel like I need too (not so happy things mentioned, so read with caution).

Yesterday, after being pregnant for 8 weeks and 3 days, I suffered a miscarriage. Things started to go wrong on Sunday afternoon, and we ended up going to a walk-in clinic. They couldn't do anything much for us, but said that what was occurring (small amount of bleeding) was normal and I shouldn't worry unless it got worse (heavier or with cramps).

At about 8pm the blood went from pink to red, so we went to urgent care. They took a blood sample and found that my Beta (hCG) levels were low, but still in the normal range. They made an appointment for me on Monday afternoon to get more tests and an ultrasound done. The bleeding seemed to slow, then speed up again, but nothing really bad and I wasn't having any cramping. We were scared, but hopeful that things would be okay.

As we were driving to the appointment on Monday I started to get cramping in my lower belly. By the time we got to the check in desk, I felt a huge gush of blood and ran to the washroom. I basically sat there for a few minutes, not really able to do anything but freak out and cry. By the time I went back to the desk, they had a room open for us. They asked me some questions about the pregnancy, and then took us to the ultrasound room.

They took a look around for a few minutes (which was super uncomfortable). The doctor showed us my uterus and that there was nothing inside. It was just thick with blood. DH and I were (and still are) both devastated. Even though it was early in the pregnancy, we both felt very connected to our baby, and miss them a great deal.

Eventually, we will start trying again, but for now we just want to grieve and lean on each other. I'm so grateful that DH has been with me throughout this whole process. I could not have done anything if he wasn't there guiding me every step of the way.

We are so appreciative of our family and friends that have supported us through this ordeal. We'd be happy for any positive thoughts you can send our way in this very trying time.

Your parents miss you, Baby G.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Offer and Pseudo Offer

I figure it's been a while since I've posted an update my job search, so here's the deal so far:

I have been meeting with various people all over the university, from professors in geology, social science, education, and earth science, to people in the Teaching Support Center, other education specialists, and someone from human resources. Each person I met with gave me a list of at least 2-3 more people to meet with, and it has been incredibly interesting and tiring at the same time.

Finally I met with a professor in earth science, and she offered me a post-doc position. The research is in earthquake science, and it sounds like it could be really interesting. I was just about at the point where I was going to email her to accept the position when I decided to contact one last person (another professor).

I had been in contact with this professor throughout the last few months. He has applied for funding for an outreach program, which would include a salary for a program coordinator. I have basically been offered this position, but of course it all depends on the funding coming through (hence "pseudo offer" in the title).

Now, there's a pretty good chance that the program (and position) will be funded. Even though I think the post-doc position would be interesting, this one is right up my alley since I want to take my career in the outreach/education direction.

So, you're probably thinking "What's the problem, then?" Well, the professor with the post-doc wants me to let her know my decision my mid-December. The other professor won't know about the funding for the outreach program until mid-to-end-December (we're hoping before Christmas).

I've already let the first professor know that I'm waiting to hear about another opportunity before I make my final decision, but the clock is ticking. So, what's a girl to do? Should I just try to hold off until I hear about the funding for the outreach thing? What should I tell the first professor if she asks me for a decision? I don't want to accept that job, only to have the funding come through for the second. But, should I turn down the post-doc in the hopes that the second one will pan out?

In my heart I know what I want to do, but my head is telling me something else. Thoughts?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Brilliant Idea at Cake Wrecks

I've read the Cake Wrecks blog almost from the beginning. It has absolutely exploded and Jen, the blog's owner, now has merchandise, a book, and even did a book tour around the United States! I hope she'll come to Canada one day :)

She is using her great popularity to bring attention to some great causes, and is hoping to raise money for some worthwhile charities this holiday season. She is going to choose 1 charity over the next two weeks to personally donate $200 too. She is also asking her readers (all 75,000 of them!) to donate $1 to each charity, in the hopes to raise some serious cash. I think it's a wonderful idea, and I will be donating every day.

Please head on over to Cake Wrecks to see the charity of the day, and of course some hilariously wrong cakes and Jen's great commentary!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Where to Publish?

My first paper from my PhD work was published about a year ago now. In it, I discuss the investigation of 11,000+ asteroids to determine if any of them showed cometary activity. This was only half of the archived data I was working with.

During the past few months, I have been working on the other half, and would like to publish the results. Since it would just be updating the first paper, we want it to be a short (1-2 pages) paper.

The question is where to publish it and what to publish it as. The first paper was in Icarus, which also allows "notes". These are short papers, but it says on the website they should be on "...especially topical subjects..." that need to be published rather quickly. I don't think this paper falls into that category.

I know Astronomy & Astrophysics has a section for short papers (research notes) that "...are short papers that contain either new results as an extension of work reported in a previous paper, or limited observations not urgent enough to be published as a Letter...". That definitely describes the content of the paper better, but would it be strange to publish the update in a different journal?

If it's okay to publish an update in a different journal, what other options are there?

December Scientiae: Time for Thanks and Wishes

This month's Scientiae is hosted jointly by Jokerine and Cherish. Since the holiday season is upon us, they ask the blogging community to write about:

...things about which you are thankful for in your work, what gets you through.


What is it you would like for yourself or others in STEM fields? Stories of cheer are also encouraged (and encouraging!)

Many of you know that I'm not exactly keen on my work these days (or months, or years), but there is still much I am thankful for - especially things that get me through the hard/boring days.

In terms of my work, I am thankful that I have a job that seems interesting to a lot of people. Chatting with others about my work, especially those outside my field, makes me remember why I love astronomy in general. I am lucky that people find my line of work interesting, and want to know more, instead of shying away (or running away) once I tell them what I do.

There are lots of things that get me through the days where I am totally hating my job - reading blogs, PhD comics, coffee with DH or with friends, going for walks, and playing Habour Master on my iPhone. Seriously, without these things, I would be in a terrible, terrible place some days.

What I am truly grateful for though has been my experience in science education and outreach. Without it, I don't think I could have pushed through and finished my PhD. I'm crossing my fingers that I can continue in this area as I move forward in my career.

As for a wish list for myself and others in STEM, one major thing comes to mind: a media that was scientifically literate so that a) the public would be getting the correct information and b) scientists aren't made out to be the "bad guy".

Here is an example of what I mean. The Hubble Heritage Team uses scientific data to create beautiful astronomical images. Because of the way Hubble works (taking multiple pictures of the sky in patches), many of they images look like this (note the black "blocks"):

Fig. 1 - Bad blocks! M16 Eagle Nebula NGC 6611, "Pillars of Creation." Photo Credit: NASA, ESA, STScI, J. Hester and P. Scowen (Arizona State University)

The team would receive many phone calls asking why they are cutting and pasting pictures together, and/or why are they trying to "hide" the real data (for example, maybe there was a UFO there!!). So, to appease these people, the Hubble Heritage Team started cropping images so they didn't have these black blocks in them:

Fig. 2 - Bad blocks gone (credit: same as Fig. 1)

The phone calls stopped. In essence, the team either had to extrapolate data, or crop some data out, in order for people not to think they were hiding something. Ah, the irony. Of course, this hit the media and perpetuated the misunderstanding. Wouldn't it be nice if these people had known that, to cover such a large area in the sky, the Hubble telescope had to take many pictures?

Even with this confusion, I think Hubble has done an amazing job bringing astronomy to the eyes of the public. Many people know of Astronomy Picture of the Day, and are excited by astronomy in general. So, I think the whole professional astronomy community owes much thanks and gratitude to the Hubble Heritage Team.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Where are all the lollipops?

Do you know how hard it is to find really good lollipops outside of Halloween season? You know the ones I'm talking about: the big ball-shaped ones that come in fantastic flavors (some of them even have gum in the middle - like the Double Bubble ones). I've been to a number of stores - the Superstore, Metro, Shopper's Drug Mart, even the Bulk Barrel, and no one carries them! They all carry the flat ones, and even then, they're the crappy version of the flat ones.

Who knew you could only get good lollipops during Halloween? This is so frustrating!!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Another P&C Update

Just an update on the pop & money stealing from DH's lab: more money was stolen, so the pop has now been moved from the common kitchen area to an office area. The number of people taking pops has drastically reduced - most likely because they have to go into an office to get (and actually pay for) one.

Apart from this excitement, I'm sorry that this blog has been so lame lately. There is honestly nothing to write about (freely). I hope to have news to report in the coming weeks.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Looking for Great Speakers

This is for all the astronomers out there (or to those of you who go to astronomy talks). Is there anyone that you know or seen in planetary astronomy that gives (or could give) a really good public talk?

Please leave the name in the comments, or shoot me of an email!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Reviewer #3

Not sure how many have seen this, but it might be the best, and most relevant, video of the year.

Monday, November 30, 2009

*Twiddling Thumbs*

There are actually a couple really exciting things (potentially) going on, but nothing to blog about at this point. Hopefully something will be blog-able in a couple of weeks or so.

In the mean time, work is work. One of my projects stalled for the time being. We received the hardware I was to work on, but one of the components isn't working, so we have to exchange it. At least I have two other projects to keep me busy.

Home life is good too, although I really need to force myself to be active more often. Now that it's chilly and dark in the evenings, it's hard to motivate myself to do anything once I eat dinner and am in my PJs. At least I have a big stack of books to get through, and knitting to keep my hands busy so I don't eat out of boredom.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Finally - the trophy is mine!! I won this week in the blogger NFL pool!

Monday, November 23, 2009

NHL Hockey Pool - Week 8 Results

I don't think Cath is back yet, so I'll post the results for this week as well.

It wasn't exactly a stellar week for most of us - except for ScientistMother, who kicked all our butts by at least 11 points, and took over 3rd place overall! Congrats on a great week, SM!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Academic Snobbery

Perhaps I'm getting more sensitive to this kind of stuff because I'm not a huge fan of academia, but I seem to have witnessed more and more situations which can only be described as academic snobbery.

Just the other day, a bunch of astronomers in the department were chatting. At first people were bitching about how little undergrads know (a typical conversation between profs, TAs, etc.). Even though it's a bit disrespectful, it really is unbelievable what some first year students don't know (ratios for example, or simple algebra), so I can understand the frustration.

However, the conversation then turned to include examples of things "everyone should know". One professor was absolutely disgusted that less than half their class thought it was possible for the Moon to be up during the day. Well, I'm going to admit this right now: I didn't know this until I was in my undergrad. I know plenty of PhDs that wouldn't know this now! You know why? Because the general public doesn't stare up at the sky every day, monitoring the positions of celestial objects! It's not that they're stupid, it's just that they're not totally engrossed in astronomy day-in, day-out. Once you tell them that's the case, most will understand and realize that yes, in fact, they have seen it in the day-time sky.

Another person said "If you asked a person on the street what one of Newton's laws are, they wouldn't be able to tell you!! I think that's so sad." Again, why would someone not in physics/astronomy know this off the top of their head? What's interesting is they probably know the laws, they just don't know them as Newton's laws. This does not make them stupid or ignorant!

What these people don't get is it's a two-way street. Someone from business could ask these people what process management is and be appalled when they couldn't answer. Or someone from geology could ask them to categorize a bunch of rocks, and the same thing would happen. It's all about what you do on a day to day basis, and to be self-centered enough to think your work should be known and understand by everyone on the planet is just plain naive.

The most annoying case of academic snobbery is when people complain about the accuracy of science in movies. This has come up recently with the movie, 2012. I don't know about you, but I don't go to movies to learn about science!! I go there for the entertainment, to get away from science and real life, and to have a good time. If all movies were scientifically, historically, politically, etc., etc. accurate, we'd just be watching documentaries all the time. Don't get me wrong, I love me some documentaries, but I like to go into a fantasy world too.

So, to all you academic snobs out there - get your heads out of your asses, lighten up a bit, and have some fun already!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

P&C Update

Last post I told you about DH's co-worker getting screwed over while trying to raise money for students in his department.

Well...ladies and gents...it gets better...

About a week ago he decided to take some change out of the jar, and exchanged it for a $5 bill. The next day it was gone. Thinking that maybe he actually didn't put the $5 bill in the jar, he tested it out and put another one in. Guess what? It was gone the next day!!

This is in a secured building! People need IDs and swipe cards to get in, and if you don't you have to sign in and must be with someone at all times. That means someone who works there is doing this.

Who are these people??

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pop and Circumstance

A post-doc DH works with is the nicest guy in the world. He decided to buy flats of pop, store it in the fridge, and charge only $0.50 per can (which is at least $1 less than from the machines or stores) on an honor system. The profit was to go toward events for students.

Unfortunately, he didn't foresee problems with the honor system. Out of 200 cans taken so far, only 50 have been paid for. That's a measly 25%!! Isn't that awful? I mean, people are willing to take advantage of this guy trying to do something good for the students in his department, all in order to save $0.50?!

DH and I were talking about this and just got angry. We were not brought up like this, and both of us would feel incredibly guilty and embarrassed if we did something like that. But, there are obviously a lot of people that are totally fine with taking advantage of someone. These are also the people that probably go through the door when you're holding it open and don't even say thank-you, or walk in a row of three on the sidewalk and don't move over so you have to walk in the gutter. Give these people an inch, and they take a mile.

Do they act like this on purpose, or does it honestly not occur to them that this is bad behaviour? When they take that pop and don't pay for it, are they thinking "Haha, sucker - there's no way I'm paying for this if no one is holding me accountable!!" or do they just take it without thinking anything?

This is one reason why there is such a lack of trust in our society. Anytime you do something nice, 75% of people take advantage. Why bother? Screw me once, shame on you; screw me twice, shame on me - after being screwed over a number of times, even the nicest people will become jaded and stop acting that way. It's sad.

Monday, November 16, 2009

NHL Pool: Week 7 Results

This was a better week than last for most of us!

Not sure when Cath gets back, so I may or may not be posting the results next Monday as well.

Good luck everyone!

Friday, November 13, 2009

(Almost) Perfect

Yay for perfect jobs!!!

....that aren't here :P If you're in the DC area, and dream of doing outreach for a living (as I do), check it out. If you get it though, you have to tell me every detail so I can live through you.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Family Gift Ideas

I was chatting with my brother the other day about Christmas. Historically, our family...well...kind of goes overboard a bit and we tend to spend a lot of money on gifts. This was fun, of course, during our teenage years, and into our twenties. But, now that we're older, have decent jobs, have our own tastes and such, this kind of extreme gift-giving just isn't necessary anymore.

Add that to the fact that DH and I have to fork out a large amount of cash each year to fly back home for the holidays, we have decided to get the whole family to scale back this year. I talked to the parental-unit about this and they seemed happy to oblige; after all, why do they want to spend that kind of money on Christmas gifts for their 30+ year old children?

My mom and I were trying to figure out what we could do instead: decide on a spending limit? Do something as a family instead of gifts (dinner?, some sort of activity?). Donate money to charity as a family? My brother also suggested we could all travel together (love this idea), but that's out for this year since we have our flights home booked already.

DH and I like this whole "scaling back" idea as well, so we've decided on a spending limit, half of which will go to a charity of our choice (or two). Even though it's nice to get (and give) gifts, I think it will be even nicer to do that.

What does your family do for Christmas? Do you pool your money together for something (activity, travel, charity)? Any ideas for what we can do as a family this year?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lest We Forget

A beautiful tribute to our soldiers, past and present (Government of Canada).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Update: Boredom No More

After bitching last week about things not progressing much, I decided to be proactive and take matters into my own hands.

I talked to my post-doc supervisor about the extra time on my hands, and he has given me a new project to start on. I'm very excited about this one, because it involves computer modeling of solar system dynamics - which is what I really wanted to do for my PhD thesis. We also talked about ways to make the other data crunching go faster. In fact, we had a collaborator drop by yesterday, and he gave us some great ideas, and also told us of some upcoming data that we can use!

As for the job hunting, I've set up meetings upon meetings with various people around the university who do research or activities that I'm interested in. So far I've met six people in person, and they have given me some great ideas, and other contacts as well. I have four other meetings set up, and hope to get a few more. Even though nothing concrete has developed, it's nice to know that people have me in mind if something comes up. Networking is tough, but I can see how it might pay off.

I'm also getting myself involved with other groups around campus, and offering my volunteer time. Apparently the cure for boredom is being proactive - who knew?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Hockey Pool: Week 6 Results

Since Cath is basking away somewhere sunny and hot, I volunteered to update the NHL hockey pool stats until she gets back (hope you're having a great trip, Cath!!). I'll show the data in two different ways for your viewing pleasure (note that, in both ways, I have taken over the lead!).

Bring it on, Week 7!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Big Purple Elephant

I just finished reading Motherhood: The Elephant in the Laboratory, edited by Emily Monosson. For those of you unfamiliar with this book, it is a collection of short essays written by 34 women in science. They write about what it was/is/will be like to balance a scientific career with family. The book begins with those women who received their PhDs in the 1970s, and continues to include current PhD candidates.

Interestingly enough, there was a panel discussion centered on the topic of this book at the recent WiA conference. The panel included the editor (Emily Monosson) as well as two of the contributors (Anne Douglass and Heidi Newberg). So, it was timely that I was reading this book during the conference.

I'll fully admit, I found this book fairly depressing. Not one of the contributors had a life that I wanted to emulate. Perhaps, though, this is the point: these women have worked so hard to try to "have it all" - both a successful career and a fulfilling family life - and have found it incredibly difficult. Many had to sacrifice one thing or another to make it work, and many admitted they either spent too much time focused on work, or sacrificed their career too much for their spouse and/or children.

One of the things that hit me the hardest was that the stories weren't becoming better or more positive for the younger scientists. In fact one new mother, Gina Wesley-Hunt, was fired for being pregnant during her post-doc - in 2006! We claim we have come a long way in the past 30-40 years, but we clearly still have a long way to go.

I have learned a lot from the experiences of these women. There is no right way to achieve work/life balance. The solution is different for everyone, and we all have different priorities in life. So, when searching for a mentor (which seems to be incredibly important!), one does not need to find someone that has the exact life we seek. Instead, find someone who has made their choices work for them, who has stuck to their decisions in spite of judgments from superiors, colleagues, or family.

I highly recommend this book to any women in a professional career (not just science) - and men too (you can learn a lot about what your wife, sister, daughter, aunt, mother...might be going through). 4 out of 5 stars.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Unconscious Biases

I realize that I never did give specific information about any of the sessions at the recent Women in Astronomy & Space Sciences conference. That's mostly because Hannah on the WiA blog did a great job of it.

But, today on the WiA blog, Joan Schmelz posted a summary of my favorite session about unconscious biases. I recommend checking it out, along with the references she mentions.

For some more interesting information about this topic, take a look at this site too. They have studies and quizzes you can participate in to find out what (if any) biases you have.

PS: the WiA website will have the posters and videos of all the talks up shortly. They are also putting together a conference proceedings with papers from hopefully all the presenters. I will keep you posted.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


It seems I've hit another brick wall. Everything seems to have just stalled on me and, I've got to say, I'm pretty bored right now! Hence the lack of posts lately.

My research is going very slowly. Right now I'm just running computer codes on sets of images, and it takes about 8 hours to do one set. I do analyze the results after it's done, but that takes only about 5-10 minutes. So, each morning I come in, start the code on a new image set, do the analysis on the set from the day before, and that's that. I do have another project where I'll be working on hardware for a weather station - but none of the parts have arrived yet. It's been hard to fill up an eight-hour day, and they sure have been dragging this week.

My job hunt has also stalled. I've applied to seven positions so far. Not exactly a lot, but it's tough when I'm geographically limited. I knew I was stretching with some of them, but a few others I thought for sure I'd at least get an interview. Nothing yet. I applied to two jobs recently, and their deadlines are coming up, so fingers crossed that I'll hear from them soon.

Another idea is to start a new outreach program using a larger telescope outside the city (I talked about this on my NN blog). I have the support of a few key faculty members, who all love the idea. The problem is funding. There isn't any. Well, that's not true - there's some, but not enough. We have applied for a couple grants already, but we won't know about those until April. Others have said they would look into funding options, but I think they are so busy that they forget about it unless I remind them. I have written up a business proposal and hope to talk to a few more people about it in the coming weeks.

All of this has just made me feel down about my career prospects. I have less than two months before my post-doc contract is up. I'd really like to find something for January 1st, but it seems less and less likely. I can see how people who are searching for a job for a long time get depressed. It's definitely not good for the ego.

There are a couple things that are going well, albeit at a snail's pace. My current knitting project (a blanket) is coming along nicely. I'm about half done, and I hope that I can finish it before the new year. Also, I started a book club with a few girlfriends, and we have decided on our first book: The Thirteenth Tale. I intend to start it this weekend, once I finish my current book.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Blogger's Block

I am at such a loss as to what to blog about these days that I actually Google'd "blog ideas" - how sad is that?

The only thing that comes to mind is how crappy I'm doing in the NFL pool, but that I finally caught up to Cath in the NHL pool.

Seriously...that's it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ah, "Science"

I was watching Dr. Oz a couple weeks ago and was completely appalled. Now, before I continue, I want to say that I appreciate what he's trying to do with his show. I completely agree that the public needs more health-based education, and he's able to explain things to the laymen pretty well. My problem comes when he promotes something as "science", and it clearly isn't.

On this particular show, he was discussing sleep deprivation and how it influences our motor skills (specifically driving abilities). He goes on to say something along the lines of "You know me - I don't just like to say things; I like to put science behind it." Then he describes the experiments.

He has one woman stay up for 24 hours. After that amount of time, he gives her three tests. The first one is reaction time. She had to watch a computer screen, and when a green box pops up she had to hit a certain key. This is all fine and dandy, except they never did it before she was sleep deprived.

The second test was on her memory. A person read her a list of ten grocery items. She then had to write the list out after a certain time period. No, we were not given that time period. Also, my memory sucks at the best of times - hence why I make lists - and there was no control experiment here either.

The third test involved a driving simulator. It was actually done in a car, but the car was rigged up so that she had to wear a virtual reality head set, but she got to use the regular controls of the car. Now, I know that when I first play a video game I have a hard time getting used to the controls. So, they showed her weaving all over the road, clearly not because she wasn't aware (because she was constantly saying things like "I don't want to go there", or "The car is going the wrong way!"), but because she didn't know the feel of the controls. Plus, they had all sorts of things going on in the simulator that wouldn't generally happen in real life, like having cars coming directly at you in both lanes, or having people pop up in your path out of thin air. In the end, she ended up "killing" six people.

I understand what Dr. Oz is trying to show here - look how much sleep deprivation can influence your motor skills! But, to tote it as "science" just so people will listen? Not cool, Dr. Oz. Now perhaps they did do control experiments before hand, and really did use the scientific method, but they didn't show it on TV.

This kind of stuff gives science a bad name - like we just do random stuff once, and call it a day. The public needs to understand that science is a way to systematically study things, and the results should be repeatable. It wouldn't be difficult for Dr. Oz to show the control experiment, or do the experiment more than once - and it would be a heck of a lot more credible.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pet Peeves via WiA

I posted on Monday that I would be spending this week at the Women in Astronomy and Space Sciences conference. Hannah over at WiA wrote a great day-by-day summary of the event and, over on my NN blog, I wrote my own summary of the more salient points.

I want to start by saying that I found the conference invaluable, and am happy I could take part; however, one point I did bring up on my other blog was regarding the judgments and biases women have of each other, and how this does not help our cause. There are two things that kept popping up in conversations that I would like to address.

#1: “Following” or “Trailing” spouse

We need to stop using this phrase! It’s offensive to both parties – for the “follower” it makes it seem like they are weak, powerless, and have no value in their career; for the “leader” it makes it seem like they are overbearing, only care about their career, and are just plain jerks.

People need to realize that the majority of couples these days make decisions together. Marriage is a partnership, after all. If a couple decides that living together in the same city is important to them, and to their marriage, then they should not be penalized or judged for that. It does not make either party less serious about their career.

Please, please, please stop using this phrase! The “two-body problem” is much nicer, and a better description of the issue.

#2: Astronomers don’t “want” non-academic jobs

Throughout the conference, many talked about the benefit of non-academic careers, and how those jobs (and the people who have them) should be valued. I am in complete agreement, and think astronomy and physics students need to have more information on these types of careers right from the beginning.

The thing that bothered me was the implication that people who took these careers only did so because they couldn’t get a tenure-track position for whatever reason (children, geographical location, health, having to work part-time, etc.). Why is it so hard to understand that some of us actually want these jobs? That we strive for them from very early on? It’s not a consolation prize for us. Please stop treating us like second-class citizens just because we don’t want an academic job.

This also doesn't mean that we think people who want or have academic jobs are idiots, or that those positions are no good. It just means something else is better for us.

We are all here to work together - be it on astronomy or women's issues – but if we keep judging the choices of others, we will get no where fast. How can we expect others to support our decisions, if we can't do it amongst ourselves? Let’s agree that my way might not be your way, and that’s okay, as long as we are all living life the way we want.

Monday, October 19, 2009


DH and I went shopping this weekend for new cell phones. Well, I was getting a new one, he was getting his first ever (I know!). We went to Best Buy so we could see all the phones for all the carriers, and we were hemming and hawing for probably an hour or so. Then the sales manager told us about this awesome deal on iPhones, so we just had to do it.

I absolutely love it already - it's just so fun to use. There are so many apps though, that I get completely overwhelmed. So, for the iPhone users out there, what are your favorite apps? Any good games that you really enjoy?

One thing I'm looking for in particular is a calorie chart. I've found some, but they are more calorie/activity trackers, and that's not really what I'm looking for. So, if anyone knows of a good one, let me know!

Tomorrow I'm heading off to the DC area for the Women in Astronomy and Space Sciences meeting (but I won't have time to do any touristy stuff - another time!). For more info, see my Nature Network post. I will post an update once I get back (or maybe even during)!

Friday, October 16, 2009


A while back I blogged about wanting to get a tattoo of a particular image (for some reason I can't find the post - did I delete it for some reason?). Since it's been a while since my last tattoo (about 6 years), I wanted to find something to commemorate finishing my PhD. A few months ago, as I was flipping through a book by Carl Sagan, I saw this image:

I immediately knew that comet was going to be my next tattoo. After my defense and our trip to South America, I made an appointment with a tattoo artist at True Love (so named, I believe, because the building used to be a drive-through chapel). She was happy that I knew exactly what I wanted, and after thinking of a few places where we could put it, she suggested the top of the foot, right under the toes. I immediately loved the idea, since the curvature of the comet matched the line of my toes.

I had to wait another month-and-a-half to actually get it (they are apparently really busy!). Here is the final product:

I absolutely love it!! I love the colors, the shape, the shading, and how it fits on my foot. I also love how it represents my PhD very well, without being overly "science-y".

Funny enough, even though I have three other tattoos, I was nervous about how much it would hurt. But, as with the others, it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought. The only very pinch-y part was the head of the comet, which sits right on that bone below my big toe.

Am I done with tattoos now, with four? I'm not sure! I thought I was done at 1 and 3 (after 2 I knew I wanted another), so one can never tell :)

I'm not the only science blogger that got inked recently - who's next?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Out of the Woodwork

We knew that our decision to stay here in London would get some remarks. For the past 2-3 years we've been saying we want to get out of here, that we don't like it here, etc, etc., so it's completely understandable that people would be surprised.

Once we explain why we made the decision though, many of our friends have said that they're happy for us (as long as we're happy) and that they're glad we're staying in town. In fact, I actually expected a lot more negative comments than we have received.

Of course, there have been the negative-ninnies, and I should have bet money on who they were going to be, because I would have made a pretty penny. These are the people that are not only surprised about our decision, and voice their opinions as such, but they then continue to ask rude questions or try to "rub it in" that we have (gasp!) changed our minds (even though we repeatedly admit that we are eating our words). These comments wouldn't normally bother us, but it's when they're made after we explain our decision and admit that one can never say never that it becomes annoying. We know we called it wrong - let's all get over it and move on.

The great thing about this is seeing who is supportive and happy for us, regardless of what we said before or how we came to our decision. We consider these people our true friends, and we greatly appreciate them and love them dearly! We're also (shock!) looking forward to putting down our roots here, and we are already finding ways to improve our lives - like having dinner with friends more often, and starting a book club with a few other girls (yay!).

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving up here in Canada, and there is much to be thankful for this year: finishing my PhD, DH having a permanent job, having the means to travel to exotic locations, our health, the love from our family and friends, the comfort of our cats...

Thanksgiving weekend has always marked the real beginning of fall for me. The crisp, cool mornings, the changing leaves, comfy sweaters, hot tea, football, and all the new TV shows! It truly is my favorite time of year, even though it lasts for just a few weeks - if we're lucky. London is a beautiful place to be this time of year, with all the trees turning all sorts of of beautiful colors. This is in stark contrast to Calgary (where I grew up), where they go from green to yellow to brown in a matter of days (but the snow-covered mountains covered are sure pretty!).

Fig.1: Fall colors - near Niagara Falls, 2006.

We had our Thanksgiving dinner last night with a friend of ours (DH's best man). It was so nice to gather around a table full of wonderful food and catch up, talk about old times, and laugh our asses off.

This is the time of year where "back home" is still greatly missed. Thanksgiving was always a weekend of family get-togethers, and I miss being a part of those. I become a little sad when I think about all of them sitting around the table, wine and food galore, telling stories and jokes, and just enjoying each others company. As much as I love having our own celebrations, I imagine a time where we can all celebrate together again.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

What's Wrong With This Picture?

I keep seeing this advertisement on TV for Airmiles: you can collect extra points if you buy environmentally friendly products.

Is it just me, or is that a bit contradictory? I mean, buying "green" products is great, and incentives should be given for doing so, but getting points to fly in a big-ass airplane? Did they not think this through?

October Scientiae: The Road Not Taken

Mad Chemist Chick is the host of October's Scientiae, where the theme is the road not taken:
Was there a point in your career or research where you were faced with two possible paths? Which one did you chose and why? Do you ever regret that decision? Or perhaps it was the best decision you ever made but you did not realized it until much later. Or have you ever taken a path only to discover it dead-ends or is circular? What did you do next? Have you, like the traveler in the poem, saved a path for another day, in regards to an alternative or second career maybe, and hope to get back to explore it someday?
Because of my wide range of interests, the road not taken could be the theme of my career-life. It seems at each major step along the way, I have had to choose which fork in the road to take.

When I was in high school, I was deciding between a major in music (I played the clarinet) and astrophysics. I auditioned for the music school, but before I received the response I decided to take the scientific route. At the time I had convinced myself it was because I would have more options for jobs if I did astrophysics - clearly that wasn't the real reason. Yes, I had an interest in it, but it was mostly because I felt it sounded more impressive (not the best reason to choose a major). I wanted to prove to people I was smart in different ways, and I remember saying things like, "No, I'm not going into music, I'm going into astrophysics instead", and loving the way it sounded.

During my first year in undergrad, I floundered a lot. I didn't do particularly well in my science classes, and even dropped my second semester chemistry course because I had convinced myself I was going to major in sociology instead. But, throughout undergrad, I kept coming back to astrophysics - mostly because I didn't want people to think I was a failure (again, not a good reason).

At the end of my degree (which ended up being in physics) I decided I was done with physics. I took the first job I could find, and ended up being an inside sales person at an electrical motor company (to be fair, they did ask for someone with an engineering or physics degree). Yup - I hated it. At that point, I was at another crossroads: did I want to pursue my love of interior design, go to grad school for a masters in astronomy, or go to business school? I applied to different universities for all three, and got in to all three programs. I had told myself from the beginning that, if I got into grad school, I'd go for it. So, that's what I did.

By the end of my masters, I wanted to stay in astronomy but wasn't sure if I wanted to stay in the same field. Again, I applied to work with a number of PhD supervisors, and I ended up switching from X-ray astronomy to Solar System astronomy.

Now, after another four years, I am at another crossroads. I know that I do not want to continue with research at this point, that I want to continue in teaching, outreach, and/or science education research. The question is, how do I find such jobs in this city and in these economic times?

When I look back on my decisions, I realize that they probably weren't the best for me. I should have pursued my loves (music, interior design, etc.) and not what sounded impressive. However, I don't regret my decisions, because they have all lead me to where I am and who I am. I believe I have learned from all of this, and will focus on finding a career path that is close to my heart. Who knows what is coming at the next fork in the road, but I plan on taking it in stride with no regrets.


Friday, October 2, 2009

2nd Paper

My second paper was finally accepted today! The process for this one was a little different: we had two rounds of corrections with the reviewer (just one) and then one round with the editor (very minor). Both the reviewer and editor had very useful comments (this time!) and the paper ended up being better and more focused.

In any case, that was my last thing to check-off my PhD research list! Woohoo!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Sunday was my one-year blogoversary. I did have another one over on MSN for two years that was barely read, even by me, so I consider this my first real blog.

When I started this blog I didn't really know what I was going to write about. It was going to be more about my personal life, I suppose, as you can see from my first post. I was lucky, in a way, to attend a conference shortly after the debute, which really brought some issues in academia to a head for me. I also learned about the Women in Planetary Science blog, which linked me to a number of other science blogs. These two things influenced my second post (where I even received comments!) and why I continued to write about topics such as career paths, the impostor syndrome, thesis writing, astronomy in general, etc..

Now that I have finished my thesis, and I have a science-y blog over at the Nature Network, what I write about has evolved. It is back to things of a more personal nature, but still focuses on my work-life.

I have enjoyed being a part of the blog community, especially when welcomed by a few of my favorite bloggers. It's also nice to know that some of my friends and family from real life keep up with my posts, and even comment from time to time.

Many things in the past year have changed - I've gotten married, defended my PhD, DH has a permanent position, and we're starting a new chapter of our life. Here's hoping the next year is just as eventful and exciting, especially for my readers ('cause I don't want you to get bored!).

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Some News!

As many of you know, DH has been looking for a job for a number of months now. He had one offer (which he turned down), and interviewed with another company (and hasn't heard a decision from them).

Throughout all of this, there was a standing offer for him to stay here. Earlier this week, we decided that we would like to pursue that option.

You might be asking yourself, "But, I thought you hated where you live? Haven't you been planning on leaving for years now?"

You'd be correct. Our plan all along was to move as soon as we could after I finished my PhD. However - as with many things in life - things change. One big reason is that DH really likes his job and the people he works with. The new position gives him the opportunity to keep working with the same people, but he will also become a more well-rounded scientist.

Another reason is that we really like living in Canada, and were always a bit wary of having to move abroad. I have a better chance of finding a job here (i.e., without having to deal with getting a visa, etc.), we are generally happy with how the governments act, and we didn't want to contribute to the brain-drain issue.

So, he has taken the position here and will start as of October 1st. To celebrate, we bought him his very first car this week!

We are actually very excited about all of this! We now get to start doing many of the things we've been waiting to do for 2-3 years: DH gets a car, we'll start looking for a house, we can buy real (non-student) furniture, I'll start looking for a permanent job, etc. etc.. We plan on putting in more effort to increase our social life here so we don't feel so isolated, and hope that we can really make a great life here!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

An Open Letter

Dear Isaac (aka Isaacness, or ness for short),

I realize, being a cat and all, you can't really read...but why must you puke on our carpet at the most inconvenient times? I mean, you can't do it while we're just sitting around doing nothing. Nope - it's got to be while we're sleeping (so we forget about it and end up stepping in it) or just as we're running out the door.

No wonder you're so hungry all the time! I mean, damn - you're bordering on bulimia here. How about you eat a bit slower so I don't have to clean up after you every second day? It's to the point where I just want to put it back in your dish so you can eat it again.

It's a good thing you're cute, and that you have your daddy to protect you.

your humble owner

PS: Izzie, don't think you're getting off scot-free - you're next!

Sunday, September 20, 2009


As I alluded to in my previous post, visiting my MSc university made me remember what I missed about my life there, what I didn't, and why I decided to leave both the city and research area.

There are a lot of great things about Winnipeg: the people, of course! There is an amazing sense of indie-culture there...movies, music, art, even food. There are so many choices that it's almost overwhelming. I greatly miss Movie Village (a movie rental place with an unimaginable selection) and Baked Expectations (the best dessert place ever). I also miss the festivals in the summer, and the dance studio where I first learned ballroom dancing.

There are, however, numerous things that I don't miss: the winters top the list (it still makes me cold just thinking about it), how run-down some areas are, the crime rate (my car was broken into three times, I had my side mirror smashed, my window smashed, and my tire slashed, and my apartment broken into - all in 2.5 years), and how graduate students are treated at the university (and a lack of money/funding).

As for the research, I studied an X-ray binary system, SS 433. It was very interesting, but I found it to be a) too high-level physics (quantum mechanics, electromagnetism, magnetohydrodynamics, all wrapped into one object), and b) completely inaccessible to the public. No one knew what I was talking about when I would explain what I was working on. For my PhD, I really wanted to do something that was closer to home that people could identify with.

You could say this trip really put things into perspective for me. I now remember why I left, why I changed research areas, and how things aren't as bad here as they could be. I really do love studying stuff in our solar system (maybe not at the hard-core research level, but still). It also makes me appreciate this city - even though it's not perfect, no city will ever be, so maybe if we put in the effort to enjoy our time here it wouldn't be so bad (especially if we end up staying here, which is becoming a good possibility).

So, the plan is to (try) stop complaining about things here, and start enjoying life. Afterall, if we're always living for the future, it's not really living, is it?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Quick Note

Being at my MSc university has definitely made me reflect on my time as a graduate student, and how my MSc and PhD experiences were different. I also am starting to remember what I miss, and what I don't miss, about life here. It's amazing how your brain just puts thing away until you need them again.

I've been getting some decent work done on my MSc paper #2 - getting back into it wasn't as hard as I thought. I stumbled around for the first day, but now I think I have the hang of things.

Tomorrow I give my colloquium, and then back home to DH on Saturday! Will write more once I return home.

PS: After spending $1600 to fix my car, it didn't start the next morning! Woohoo!!

Monday, September 14, 2009


Today has not been a good day. It began with some not-so-happy personal news. Then I took my car in to get a clunking sound checked into, and now it's going to cost me $1600 (after having to replace the front struts, tires, and breaks). Still no news on other things we are waiting on - which is getting oh-so-frustrating. I'm feeling very down and just blah right now.

Tomorrow I head to Winnipeg, where I did my MSc. I'm going to be working with my MSc supervisor on my 2nd paper from that degree, which has been 4 years in the making already. Hopefully we can get it in decent enough shape to submit soon.

I'm looking forward to going away - getting away from everything that's (not) going on right now. It will also be nice to see some good friends, and get a change of scenery. Maybe by the time I get back, some things will have progressed.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Paper Anniversary

Today DH and I celebrate our first wedding anniversary! Here are a few memories from the day (that don't have too many faces in them)...

The wedding was outdoors, on a golf course near Calgary. It was an absolutely perfect day - not a cloud in the sky!

We had a very small guest list - only about 45 people. We really wanted to make it an intimate celebration, where everyone knows each other by the end of the night.

I really wanted to have color on my dress, but didn't want to go nuts. So, I thought this was a nice compromise.

Isn't that cupcake tower amazing? My mom and aunt made all the cupcakes, and my brother designed and built the tower (which he ended up selling to the golf course!).

The staff at the golf course were absolutely amazing, and had a ton of fun (especially giving out drinks - it was an open bar). At the end of the night, they told us it was the best wedding they've ever had there!

It was an amazing day - beyond all of our expectations and there were so many things that were fun surprises! My two favorite parts were DH saying my name wrong once during the vows (we have a great picture of me laughing and him red in the face), and when DH surprised me with a beautiful sapphire necklace that matches my engagement ring (pictured below), even though we said no gifts!

For our honeymoon, we went on a 7-day Alaskan cruise and then spent 3 days in San Francisco. It was a great way to spend some much needed, relaxing, time together.

Happy anniversary to my wonderful DH!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Yay! Something Happened!

I got word today that I will be getting some funding for the Women in Astronomy and Space Sciences conference! Hooray! Even better, I get to room with a fellow blogger - how fun!

Now I must decide whether to stay for the last day of the conference, or come home early so I can attend my convocation. Hmm...

In any case, maybe this will get the ball rolling, and other things will start happening soon.

PS: What's up with the lack of comments lately, my lovely readers? I hope that my new layout and real name aren't deterring you from chiming in.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Something PLEASE Happen

Oh my GOD - have you ever had those moments in life where everything just seems to be in limbo, and all you want is just something...ANYTHING...to happen?

That's my...actually, our, life right now. Both DH and I are waiting to hear about a bunch of things, both personal and work-related. We both have papers that are out for review. Mine isn't too bad [it's only been (back) in review for a couple weeks], but DH has a couple that are just going no where (one still says "assigning reviewers" after three months).

There are other things we are waiting to hear on that I'm not at liberty to discuss at this time. I'll just say they are pretty big, and we are getting really, REALLY sick of waiting for news.

Plus, work right now is so...incredibly...boring. I am running code to generate some data to analyze, and it takes a very long time. I'm finding it hard to fill the time (especially since I'm not running two outreach programs anymore). Luckily I'm giving a journal club talk in a couple of weeks, so I can start working on that.

Anyway, sorry for being so crabby. I just want to get out of this limbo we're in and finally get things moving again.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Like Day and Night

I apologize if the following isn't as succinct as it could be. I am learning how to write in case people I know read my blog, instead of writing so that people don't figure out it's my blog. A whole different ballgame!

I had meetings with two people over the last two days. Both were to discuss a similar topic, but boy, were these meetings like day and night!

During one meeting, I felt that my ideas were no good, not relevant, and that I could not come up with a project without help from someone more senior than me (even if I know more about the subject at hand). The most frustrating part was being told that my idea was "okay", but if I did what they wanted me to, it would be much better and more well-received. Plus, if I did the latter, I would have a better chance of getting funding* (because it would greatly benefit certain units at the university - not because it would be a "better" idea).

During the second meeting, I felt nothing but support, that I can be an independent researcher, and that my ideas are worthwhile. The most wonderful part was being told that it's far more important to do something I love and that I'm passionate about, than to do something someone (higher up) wants me too, and that my ideas are relevant to many other people.

After I finished my PhD, I told myself that now is the time to find what I really want to do with my life. What am I passionate about? What excites me? What would get me out of bed in the morning with a smile on my face? There are a few things (which I'll discuss in another post), and one of them is a new (non-astronomy research) project I've started to work on.

I finally started doing something I love, and I'm happier than I have been in months...maybe even years. I really don't think I'm going to let someone dissuade me from continuing forward with it because they have ulterior motives, even if it means I can't get funding from them!

Some big changes are coming, and hopefully soon. I'll be able to pursue my interests with no time constraints and, best of all, no guilt and no one telling me what I should be doing.

*I don't mean that I won't be able to get any funding if I work on the project that I want - just that it would be harder to get funding from a particular unit at the university.

Monday, September 7, 2009


...my new, all-science (and science-related), blog:

on the Nature Network! I plan to write specifically about astronomy, as well as outreach, education, and perhaps personal stuff from time to time as well.

No fear though - I will continue to post very regularly on this blog, about everything that you probably ever wanted to know and more!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Impostor Syndrome Talk

I gave my talk about the Impostor Syndrome this week to the physics department! It was really exciting and fun to present something other than my astronomy research, and I think it went pretty well.

I ran it as a pseudo-workshop: about 2/3's of it was a lecture format, but I also put in time for discussions and brainstorming. People were also encouraged to ask questions or make comments throughout. At first, the group was a bit hesitant about participating - after all, they are used to talks where they come in and listen for 45 minutes, then leave. But, after the first couple of surveys I did (put-up-your-hand-if kind of things), everyone seemed to get more into it.

There were some really good ideas floating around, but we were really strapped for time, so we didn't get to develop them too much. I did mention ahead of time that it will probably go for more than the allotted time; talks usually run for 45 minutes...this one went for an hour and 15 minutes (and only 4 people left before it was done!), and could have kept going.

I definitely need to change and clarify some things before I gave the talk again. I would also run it as a 1.5-2 hour seminar next time, so that we have more time to focus on certain ideas instead of feeling rushed.

I got a lot of compliments about the talk, and a couple graduate students even thanked me for bringing the topic to light (only a handful of people had heard of it before!). I hope that everyone went away with some ideas, or at least an awareness of the Impostor Syndrome and what situations perpetuate it.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Help with Survey

After talking to a faculty member in the department who also plans on attending the WiA conference, I got a great idea for what to present!

About a year ago, I came up with a survey for women in astronomy to learn about their graduate experiences, and how they related to career choices. I gave it to a few of my friends, but never did much with it. Until now!

I have added some questions, edited others, and added a demographic section - and it's now posted online! I look forward to compiling the responses and presenting them at the conference. Plus, it's a way to get my foot in the science education research door (yay!!).

If you would like to help out, and you are female and either a current graduate student, or have completed a graduate degree (either MSc or PhD) in astronomy or space science (or know someone who is), please email me (mrscomethunter [at] rogers [dot] com)!

Unfortunately, at this time, it's only for women in astronomy and related fields; however, if all goes well, I plan on expanding it to all areas of science, and maybe even making it into a paper!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Least Wonderful Time of the Year

The September Scientiae is hosted by Academic over at Journeys of an Academic. The theme of the month is Inspiration or Desperation? Invariably, the semester start brings a time to reflect positively or sarcastically.

The start of the September semester has been the worst time of the year since I started graduate school. There goes the quiet hallways, the short lines at the coffee shops, and the good parking spots.

Funny enough, when I was in grade school I always looked forward to the first day of school. I especially enjoyed back-to-school shopping. Our family of four would pile in the car and drive down to the USA (back when the $CAD was good) and buy our back-to-school clothes, bags, and supplies. I loved picking out my new pencil box (remember the cardboard ones with funky designs?) and getting a new set of those smelly Mr. Sketch markers (the light blue was my favorite!).

The past few years back-to-school hasn't been so enjoyable - although I usually manage to get in some back-to-school clothes shopping. Perhaps this September will be different, considering this is the first September since 1985 that I haven't actually been going back to school. I just happen to work at one. It will be strange in a way - not prepping for classes or outreach. All I have to do is research.

That's the only thing on my plate? Hmm. Weird. I don't even know what to say about that besides....HALLELUJAH!!!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

WiASS Conference

I have been eying the website of the Women in Astronomy and Space Science 2009 conference, and it looks like it will be a good one. I'm particularly interested in the sessions about how professional societies can influence percentages and retention, paths to non-academic careers, re-entering academia after a break, and parenthood.

The conference is from October 21-23rd, and I fully intend to go. I don't have funding for it, but they are offering travel grants for early-career astronomers. Hopefully I can get at least partial funding from that, and then also apply for grants/bursaries through my university. And hey, if I end up having to pay for it myself, that would be okay (but not ideal).

I'm really excited for this conference because I would get to meet (hopefully) like-minded women in the field. It sounds like there is a a lot of time scheduled for networking, especially during meals (which will be done together for the most part - and are even included in the registration!).

I would also like to contribute a poster, but am a bit stuck on ideas. I haven't done any formal research on topics related to women in astronomy - but I'm meeting with a professor today, who is also going, to discuss ideas.

Is anyone else planning on going to this conference?