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.