Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Merry Christmas!

My parents arrive today, signalling the beginning of the holidays for us. This means much needed time off from work, and also time off from the blog. Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and happy 2012 to everyone! See you in the new year!

Fig. 1: Evan's Christmas photo shoot (credit: daycare staff).

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

December Scientiae - Ulimate Goals

The last Scientiae of the year asked bloggers to write about their ultimate career goal, what they want to achieve and/or be known for in years to come. We had as many variations of this answer as we did bloggers!

Brigindo, from Dirt and Rocks, wasn’t sure about goals and dreams when the call for post went out. But, after some thought, she realized it might be a good exercise to go through. She questions whether she wants to stay in academia and/or in SouthLife, and what that would mean for her and b. Even though she has no specific plans, it’s “…an exciting place to be.”

Cindy, at Dipper Ranch, beautifully writes in her email: “My ultimate goal in becoming an ecologist has evolved from dreamy days filled with long walks on beaches, in forests, and across fields of wildflowers to learning and sharing how our local ecological systems work. Discovering the subtle plant/animal interactions of The Coyote Brush Highway may have been just a simple act, but it was exciting to me and satisfying to share its mysteries with others. On a day-to-day basis, this is what being an ecologist means most to me.” Read her post about the Coyote Brush Highway, complete with gorgeous photos.

Patchi, at My Middle Years, cannot ever remember having big ambitions or lofty goals…which turns out to be her goal after all: being a part of a larger puzzle.

Barefoot Doctoral is in this science game for the fun (yes, you read that right!)…when it comes right down to it, what more would you want than doing something you love and being a great role model for students?

Over at The Tightrope, Dr. O struggles with the idea of the ultimate goal --- what goal is big enough to be the ultimate, but is also attainable? After thinking about her own life and a life of a friend who recently passed, she realizes her ultimate goal is to always find joy in all aspects in her life. She says of her goal, “Right now, this is the best I’ve got.” I, for one, think it’s a goal we should all aspire too!

JaneB at Now, what was I doing? went into science because she wanted “…to be Dr. Spock, not Captain Kirk or Dr. McCoy.” And not just because Spock was smart, but because of he was awful with people…and it was OKAY that he was awful with people. I love the idea of teenage JaneB fantasizing about “finding new life forms” instead of some stupid boy (don’t we all wish we spent our teenage years doing something more useful?). There are a lot more wonderful qualities that JaneB has learned from Spock, and I think it would be a wonderful world with more Spock-like people the way she has described it!

Melissa, at Confused at a Higher Level, writes about some very excellent lessons she has learned in the past year. Among them is to be true to yourself and your goals. You will be a much happier, and authentic, person if you choose your career goals based on what you love and not on what you think will make you successful.

And me? Perhaps the loftiest goal of all: I just want the whole world to stop confusing “astrology” with “astronomy”.

Thank you for everyone who contributed to this carnival!

Monday, December 19, 2011

14 Months

Here's what has happened in the last month in Evan-land:

- Not walking unassisted yet, but getting more and more confident while cruising.

- He said "Hi" for the first time at the end of November. He says Mama and Dada/Daddy more and more (and uses the words in context more and more), and says "No" too. He has a lot of sounds for specific things. He tends to say "ma-moo" for more and "moo-moo" for his soother.

- He can copy our sounds. If he points to me and says "dada", I point to myself and say "mama", and then he'll say "mama". If I point to a tree and say "tree", he says "tee" (though he hasn't used that word on his own yet).

- He is a climber! He can climb up on to all our living room furniture, and likes climbing to the top/back of the couch. He can also get back down from our furniture, and can get down the stairs.

- He definitely has better spatial awareness. If something rolls under the couch, he will get down on his belly to look for it.

- He has pretty good memory - yesterday he threw his soother into the corner, and 20 minutes later he went to that corner to get it.

- Speaking of throwing - boy, does this kid LOVE to throw things. And bang things.

- We're teaching him to be gentle with touching - especially when touching people or animals. He's doing pretty well!

- The daycare had a Christmas concert last week, and Evan was one of the angels. It may have been the cutest frickin' thing I've ever seen.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Ultimate Goal

December's Scientiae will be hosted by yours truly. I asked bloggers:

"What is your ultimate career goal? Do you want to win the Nobel Prize? Cure cancer? Build a better mouse trap? What is it that you want to be remembered for career-wise?"
This past summer, I attended (and help organize) a conference on science education at the post-secondary level. The banquet had Adam Bly, founder and CEO of SEED Media Group, as the guest speaker (if you ever get the chance to hear him speak, DO IT!). His entire talk was inspiring - it was almost like a religious experience for me. He makes his living being a big thinker and to get others to think big too. The part that hit me the most was when he challenged delegates to re-imagine their approach to science literacy:

“What if our goal was not the training of thousands of scientists, but rather the education of seven billion scientifically literate citizens?"

This summarizes my ultimate career goal to a "T". When it comes right down to it, many outreach programs are all about recruitment. I get it - we want the "best and brightest" to study in our research area, to continue to grad school, and eventually become scientists or professors.

But, in my mind, this is not what's important. Why should we focus on such a small number of people? For example, there are only about 300 professional astronomers in Canada of a population of 34.7 million. That's 0.00086% of the population. That's not what you'd call a large reach.

To me, science education and outreach is all about creating a scientifically literate society. All 34.7 million in Canada, and all 7 billion (and counting) in the world. I want everyone on this planet to be able to read a news story about "proof" against evolution or global warming and be critical. I want every patient to not take whatever their doctor says as the end-all-and-be-all advice for their health decisions. Hell, I want people to stop using "astrology" when they mean "astronomy".

Is this goal too lofty for one person? Most definitely. Is it something I'm passionate enough to dedicate my (work) life too, to try and change the world one person at a time? Absolutely.

I'm not the type to have "causes". I don't get riled up about politics or religion. In fact, I'm one of those people who can see many sides to many issues, and generally accept the viewpoint of others. But, when it comes to the understanding of science - especially when public opinion matters more and more and when governments are making decisions on what science to fund and what to cut - the level of scientific literacy has to be raised in our world.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

O Christmas Tree!

No matter what kind of mood I'm in, decorating the Christmas tree gets me into the Christmas spirit. It was always a big deal in my house growing up - I fondly remember my Dad swearing as he put the lights up, having to follow the decorating rules (no hanging ornaments on the lights, never put two ornaments on the same branch, try to put the glass ones in front of lights), hanging the stockings, drinking hot chocolate, and snacking on treats and nuts.

In our apartment years, only fake trees were allowed. We did have one, and we did decorated it, but it just didn't have the same feeling. It probably didn't help that we weren't at home for Christmas, so we didn't get to enjoy it for very long. For the past two years, we have been able to get a real tree, and it's so much better. As much of a mess they make, the experience of going out and picking one makes it worth while (and the smell too!).

Last year, Evan (being two months old) slept right through the decorating. This year, we were hoping we could do it with him. But, by the time we got the tree set up and had dinner, he was overly tired. So, he went to bed with the naked tree up in the living room (to which he said "Ooooo!!!" loudly when DH brought it into the house) and woke up to it decorated. I think this actually worked in our favor, because he hasn't yet figured out that the ornaments can come off. He's very interested in the tree, and gets really excited when we turn the lights on, but all he does is stares and points at different ornaments. That's fine by me! Perhaps next year he can help.

Fig. 1: Naked tree.

Fig. 2: DH's favorite ornament - a glass blow fish.

Fig. 3: My favorite, an old school plane.

Fig. 4: For Cath - the shooting star (came included with a Smirnoff bottle).

Fig. 5: The finished product.

Monday, December 12, 2011


One annoying thing about blogging under my real name and sharing my posts to Facebook is that there are things I cannot write about without catching shit from someone.

There are some things going on right now that are making me very frustrated and disappointed. They are hard for me to deal with, because there is a possibility of confrontation, which (if you're a long-time reader of my blog) is very scary for me. But, if I don't do something about these things soon, I will continue to be taken advantage of.

Being an adult sucks sometimes.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Done Lists?

Most of us keep to-do lists - some are more extensive than others. My work to-do list permanently sits on my desktop and is usually about 5-6 pages long. I have it split up into multiple categories, including materials to buy, general tasks, meetings, reports, website updates, grant applications, current large-scale events, current activities in development, activity/program ideas, conferences, recruitment events, and questions and updates for bosses and other meetings.

When I'm done with something, I delete it. I'm starting to think that isn't such a great idea. At least for the big things.

Lately I've been thinking about creating a "done" list. This wouldn't include every little mundane thing I've done, but it would basically be a list of accomplishments...the things I've brought to this position that weren't there before. These would be the things that I could bring up if I needed to write a report about what we've done differently this year, or if I had to justify my existence - or at least the existence of my position.

So, I started a Word file with a bullet list. It's alright, but doesn't seem good enough for some reason. I'm looking for a better way to log this information.

Does anyone else keep a list like this? If so, how do you do it?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


When I was in graduate school, I wanted to go to TONS of conferences, and went to 2, maybe 3 (if I was lucky), per year. And, honestly, it was a lot more about where the conference was and who (of my friends) were going to be there than the content.

Now? I'd be happy to keep it to 1-2 per year. I just don't want to be away from home for any extended period of time. Plus, I'm not going there to party (on the contrary - I get excited about being able to sleep without interruption!), so to make it worth it, a conference needs to have a lot of applicable sessions and/or opportunities to network with other education & outreach people.

The problem is, now that I'm working in an interdisciplinary research area, there are many more conferences to choose from, and many more where having a presence is important (though perhaps not the most useful for me personally). Luckily, we have graduate students and a couple faculty members that are happy to present posters at conferences they are attended for scientific purposes, but I need to put in my time too.

I'm trying to decide whether I should pick 2-3 conferences and go the same ones each year to build up a network (seeing the same people, etc.), or to choose 1-2 constants but change up the other(s) to meet new people. I know I have some time, but I do think I need to set the precedent this year so there are no surprises or unrealistic expectations in the future.

How many conferences do you attend per year? Do you go to the same conferences every year, or try to change it up? How do you decide which conferences to attend?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Is it the 21st yet?

Because I'm really looking forward to some time off, and that's the day my parents arrive for the holidays. It will be so nice to see them, and I think Evan will really love having them around.

Random tangentially-related news: I hear we might have a green Christmas this year. As much as that would be weird, I don't think I would be saddened by it. Though, I wouldn't mind some snow, as long as it came on Christmas Eve and melted by Boxing Day.

I'm in a grumpy mood today, can you tell? It might be due to the fact that Evan was pretty sick yesterday, and either crying in his crib or asleep but thrashing around in our bed last night. I'm one tired mom-apotamus.

Friday, December 2, 2011


I'm addicted to TED talks recently. Every day they post a new video, and every day my mind is blown. How many amazing people are there out there, anyway?

Recent favorites include:

A talk using dancers instead of PowerPoint

A woman who lost both her legs becomes a professional snowboarder

How to defend ourselves against asteroids

If you don't watch TED talks, I highly suggest you follow them on Facebook or Twitter, and try to watch daily. All the talks are short (usually under 20 minutes) - perfect for while you're eating lunch at your desk - but amazingly inspiring.

It might be one of my new life goals to give a TED talk...or maybe just to even see one.