Random Musings…

May 9, 2008 at 4:08 pm (random thoughts)

…from the Mysterybea at work with not enough to do.

On Work:
I officially started my new job last week and so far, its been, well, uneventful.  I hate not having enough to do at work.  In my opinion its far better to have too much to do at work than not enough.  I drives me absolutely crazy to be sitting at work watching the minutes tick by, sucking down coffee just to keep my eyes open.  Thankfully work should pick up next week.  I never thought I’d look forward so much to starting experiments again!

On Living with One’s Significant Other:
Although I have been with my S.O. for five and a half years, due to my grad school adventures we have just recently begun co-habitating.  It has gone rather smoothly, considering how independent we have both become over the past 5 years.  Until we move into our new house (closing is just 2 weeks away!), we are in his crappy college student-style apartment.  Its spacious enough, but it definitely feels claustrophobic at times.  I truly can’t fathom how people live in studio apartments together in big cities where space is at a premium.  Maybe that’s why there’s more crime in large cities.  I know I’d snap and go homicidal at some point if I had no where in my living area to be by myself.  Hell, I almost took my sweetie’s head off the other day for crunching his chips too loudly.

On being back in the Midwest:
I am absolutely loving Spring time in the Midwest.  Sure I get annoyed that I can’t go running or walking outside whenever I feel like it because it may be cold, windy, rainy or all three…but having the variety once again is so nice.  I am the type of person that gets severely annoyed with places that have too many consecutive days of bright, sunny weather.  I love cloudy and overcast days, they make me feel less guilty for holing up inside all day with the remote control and a good book.  Another thing about the spring that is so lovely is just how GREEN everything is right now.  Its remarkable after living in the desert for the past 5 years just how beautiful the greenery all is.  It’ll all fade to brown in the baking sun of July, but for now it is so refreshing.

So on that note, I’ll finish up and try to find something to keep me busy until the weekend begins in a few hours.  During my month of blissful unemployment I had forgotten just how wonderful the weekend is and how quickly it goes by.

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The Light at the End

March 10, 2008 at 10:18 pm (grad school, random thoughts)

It is almost impossibly to believe, but I am nearly at the end of my career as a graduate student.  That seemingly never-ending sequence of failed experiments, mundane daily tasks, dissertation writing…not to mention missing my fiance like crazy – it will all be over in a matter of weeks.  Like so many other long-term life events, graduate school in some regards has flown by, but in others has seemed to take a life time.  I feel that my experiences here have absolutely allowed me to form my adult self – independent, opinionated, informed, and most of all – knowing that I can make my own way in the world.

Living on one’s own in a new city, away from friends and family for the first time, is a unique and indispensable experience…one that I think too few people go through.  There is a sense of empowerment that comes from creating your own life away from the comforts of home.  That being said, I am returning to my undergrad college town (not far from where I grew up) to start a new job and a new life together with my future hubby.  I don’t know yet if I’ll miss any aspects of being a grad student.  Certainly I’ll miss the people here, to whom I have grown so close, and I will miss the perfect weather runs outside in February and March…but the stress, the ‘dreaded Tucson summer’, and the meager stipend?  I think I’ll get over those things pretty quick!

This is my ode to moving on with my life.  I think when the time comes I will write Tucson a going away letter, but I’ve still got about four and a half weeks to enjoy the cacti, wildflowers and crisp morning air.

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The Blackhole of Laziness

January 8, 2008 at 3:42 pm (grad school, random thoughts)

I have officially fallen into the black hole of laziness.  I have been away from the lab for a while now, a thousand miles away in fact, and I’m supposed to be writing my dissertation.  The trouble is, I’m having some major motivational issues.  First were the holidays.  Who would possibly expect me to work on my dissertation over the holidays?  There was the pre-Christmas weekend out with my family, then the actual Christmas holiday with my sweetie’s family.  Then he had the week off so I again couldn’t force myself to work when we were both at home all day relaxing and being lazy.  Then New Year’s came and went and I have felt myself doing the back-slide into total slackerdome.

What many of you non-slackers out there may not realize is that laziness really does build on itself.  Once you take a week or more off, getting up any time before 10 am really seems like an insurmountable task.  Then once you do get up you’ve gotten used to eating a leisurely breakfast and watching your morning trash on TV, so working before lunch time becomes harder and harder.  So the sweet spot for me has become those couple hours between lunch and when my sweetie gets home from work.  Well, that is unless I feel tired and need to take a nap sometime before 5.  I know what you’re thinking, and yes, I do know how very pathetic that all sounds.

For me, another factor that feeds the laziness downward spiral is that when you have so many things on your plate (for me its the dissertation, wedding planning and job hunting), it is overwhelming to start on any of the projects so I choose to do none.  That makes sense, right?

Jeez, I really need to break the cycle!  And I’m gonna do it this week.  No yearly resolution for me, just a goal for today.  Get my butt in gear at the gym this morning and then get a few pages done on the Beast (what I will henceforth call my dissertation).  No more whining, complaining or procrastinating…although I won’t rule out that afternoon nap!

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I’m Thankful For…MS Word??

November 23, 2007 at 3:34 pm (grad school, random thoughts)

Yes, something that I have realized that I need to be most thankful for is the lowly word processor.  I was talking with my dad last night about writing my dissertation and I started to think to myself, what would that process have been like 20-30 years ago?  I’ll tell you with certainty that it would have been painful!  I pride myself on being ahead of the MySpace generation, ahead of the text-messaging 24/7 generation, ahead of the I-can’t-spell-or-use-punctuation-for-shit generation.  But I do have to admit, ever since I’ve been writing papers of any substance, they have always been on the computer.  This of course dates back to before the internet, but long before the internet we had the lowly word processor.  Sure there were only 2 fonts to choose from and spell-check was a novelty not to be trusted over the dictionary, but I always had the backspace key and the save button.  My dad was telling me how back in the day when he wrote term papers, they would have to attach footnotes to the bottom of each type-written page, and some teachers wouldn’t accept pages with white-out on them.  Maybe that was really the beginning of deforestation, I mean can you imagine the amount of paper wasted?

In addition to lacking the word processor, people writing scientific papers and dissertations years ago actually had to (gasp) plot their own graphs…by hand! Oh the horror!  It is so automatic for me just to take 2 minutes to use Excel or Prism to graph my data that I cannot even fathom having to do this process by hand.  And last but certainly not least, I have to give props to EndNote.  If you are a fellow scientist, I need not expound on the wonders of EndNote.  For those non-dorks out there, basically, it automatically finds and formats references from the internet, then adds them to you paper according to a specific journal’s required format.  It also constantly adjusts the order of the references to allow for the writer to add and delete sections of their papers.  Its amazing and I am COMPLETELY dependent on EndNote now.

So as I start to think seriously about writing my dissertation, I am pausing to appreciate the fact that I have access to the wonders of MS Word, MS Excel and man’s greatest invention (OK, I may be exaggerating, but only slightly), EndNote.

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A Catch 22 (and other books you were forced to read)

October 29, 2007 at 2:59 am (random thoughts)

George Bernard Shaw said “Youth is wasted on the Young”.  I think this is probably true, and I’m sure I’ll agree with that statement even more when I’m not so young.  What I also think is true is that most of the enjoyment and appreciation of a free education are also wasted on the young.  I was reading something today wherein there was a reference to “Kurtz”.  I was proud of myself for knowing, quite out of context, that the writer was referring to “Heart of Darkness”, and exactly what that reference to Kurtz was supposed to mean.  The ironic thing is that when I read “Heart of Darkness” as a senior in high school, I absolutely hated it.  I could barely get through it and could hardly scratch the surface of the deeper meanings behind this profound story.  I understand why this is part of high school curriculum.  However, what is disturbing is that an above average student in an honors English class could read this and have absolutely no appreciation for it.  Please tell me I wasn’t the only one!

I have always been “a reader”.  I love books and always have at least 2 going at a given time.  Yet, throughout highschool, I slogged my way through classics like “The Great Gatsby”, “Pride and Prejudice, “The Old Man and the Sea” and hoards of others, thoroughly disliking them simply because they were assigned reading and therefore, not to be enjoyed.  I understand that these books need to be covered in school, but it is truly a shame that kids learn to feel that reading these fantastic books is a chore.

At this point in my life, I would love to go back and take courses in English and Literature, because I think I would get so much more out of them.  And not just English, but also History, Foreign Languages, Civics, Geography (notice I’m NOT saying Physics or Calculus).  Now that I’m a bit more mature, I voluntarily check books out from the library to self-educate myself on various topics on everything from Politics to Chinese History, wishing that I could take a (free) course in that subject.  Just imagine how much more you’d get out of high school if you went back now!  Obviously omitting the acne, cliques and general awkwardness that goes along with being a teenager.

But as with youth being wasted on the young, one could only learn to appreciate education when one has already been educated. The classic Catch-22.

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DVR Slave

October 26, 2007 at 3:04 am (opinions, random thoughts)

Since I’ve gotten back from my trip, I have been wading my way through days and days worth of recorded television.  Daily and weekly shows which I normally look forward to, now menacingly stacked 10 days deep and feeling like more of a chore to get through than relaxing entertainment.  I think that the general purpose of DVRs is to give one freedom from TV, but now I feel a weird pressure to watch all of this TV that I have recorded.  My fiance is so funny because when several shows record in a night he gets all anxious about watching them, like there’s some sort of time limit.  I kind of get the same thing from my Google Reader page (where I subscribe to all of the blogs I regularly check and all new posts pop up and wait for me to check them).  While on my trip, I would sporadically check Google Reader and get all harried because I had hundreds of unread new posts.  And I couldn’t just delete them, I felt like I had to read through all of them as if they were a school assignment.

So many of our recent technological advances make us feel obligated to either be available to everyone we’ve ever known at a moment’s notice (blackberries, email, social networking sites) or to not miss a single minute’s worth of back-logged entertainment.  Oh I know, its completely my fault because I willingly use (and love) my DVR and Google Reader.  There are certainly worse things in the world than planting myself on the couch and wading through old TV.  I just take my books to the gym with me so they don’t feel neglected and so my butt doesn’t grow roots into the couch.

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The (HSP) Princess and the Pea

October 4, 2007 at 3:19 am (random thoughts)

Yesterday at work, my boss called me a princess. Now anyone that knows me would never describe me as a princess, in the sense that a princess is a high-maintenance-drama-loving-nothing’s-good-enough-for me type of person. Well, at least I hope they wouldn’t.

No no, my sweet and unassuming boss called me a princess in reference to the Princess and the Pea fairy tale. In case you haven’t read this lesser-known fairy tale, its the one about how the “true” princess was told apart from the false ones because only she could feel a pea under 20 mattresses and 20 feather beds. Yep, that sounds about right. It certainly made me laugh. She called me a princess after we had a conversation (a somewhat inappropriate lunch-time discussion in retrospect) about how easily I get blisters. Seriously, a stiff wind on my feet will cause them to blister. I get blisters on top of blisters, little ones, big ones, fingers, toes, heels, you name it. I always have at least one. I know, gross, too much information, etc. I didn’t bring up this story to brag about my plethora of blisters. I brought it up here because it reminded me about the piece I wrote about highly sensitive people (HSPs). If there was ever an HSP fairy-tale character, it was this princess that noticed that pea. And she’s the princess I was compared to, see? funny!

What it got me wondering about was whether being “highly sensitive” carries over from mental sensitivity to physical. I realize that being sensitive to sounds, smells, light and all those other things is technically physical.  Its hard to tease the mental aspect from the physical. However, do my fellow HSP’s all get as many blisters as me? Are we all hyper-sensitive to pain, inflammation, stomachaches, headaches, illness – all those things? I personally have rheumatoid arthritis which causes chronic pain and physical sensitivity, or at least I thought it was the arthritis causing it. Maybe its just that I notice the pain more since my brain is wired to be more aware of it.  Hmmm, I’m the one who usually criticizes false or coincidental correlations.  Something interesting to ponder nonetheless.

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Piled Higher and Deeper

September 7, 2007 at 3:43 am (grad school, random thoughts)

I haven’t been able to think of anything clever or note-worthy to write lately, and I think its because my brain is going through a total melt down.  More specifically, the brain melt-down that is associated with being in your final 6 months of getting your PhD.  Not only am I in the data slump from hell right now, I also have the added pressure of knowing that I need to (gasp) find a job.  I’ve been in school/academia literally since I was 3 (I’ll have to talk to my parents about that one, but isn’t 3 a little early to start pre-school?)  so I think the idea of getting a real job in the real world scares me way more than writing my dissertation.  Writing is easy, hell – I’m doing it right now!  Finding and getting a job?  That, I’m not so sure about.

I’ve been thinking lately about what I’ve learned about life while in grad school.  Sure, I’ve learned a lot of technical crap which, frankly, I pretty much hate talking about at this point, but grad school is about more than just the specific field you study.  So here, in bullet point form (its easier for my left-brain oriented mind to organize things into bullet points) are the things that you will learn from graduate school.

  •  PhDs are a dime a dozen.  Seriously, you look around and everyone has one.  That’s when those insecurities about securing any sort of meaningful job seep in.  You think, what in the world do I have that is in any way special?  Why would anyone hire me?
  • There really are very few standards for who gets a PhD.  This one has really been a sore point with me lately.  I have seen, within my own program and others, a very wide difference in how much work students have put in towards their PhD.  There are no set exams or other standards that need to be met.  It is all up to your adviser and committee.  And if your adviser is powerful enough they can pretty much dictate when their students graduate.  Its all kind of a sham.
  • Earning a PhD is not so much about intelligence as it is about perseverance.   Grad school will beat you down.  You go through amazing highs and depressing lows and you just have to ride it out knowing that someday, it will all be over.
  • Stress can send you to the emergency room.  I had this wonderful experience after working too many weekends, having too much crappy data and going through the inevitable money woes.  I had a sudden onset of intense muscle spasms in my neck, a real pain in the neck (oh come on, I had to).  Stress is insidious and will sneak up on you if you let it.  I think the best way to beat the stress is to hop on the elliptical trainer and sweat it out for an hour.  Either that or sneak off to a movie during the middle of the work day!

G and I were discussing recently why they call this degree from all fields of study a PhD.  I personally think its called a doctor of philosophy because above all else, you learn to think in graduate school.  You learn how to analyze and solve problems, you learn how to be critical, you don’t learn facts, you learn reasoning.  This is where a PhDs differs from JDs or MDs.  No disrespect intended, but for those degrees, original thinking isn’t really encouraged and you are forced to memorize insane amounts of black and white information.  That is of course necessary for doctors and lawyers, but it is a distinction nonetheless.

Back to the whole “finding a job” thing.  My most despised question that I am asked by everyone I know is “what do you want to do after you graduate?”.  I know its horrible to say this, but I’m still not sure.  What I really want to do is take a year off to let my mind atrophy a bit.  Everyone assumes that since you’re getting a PhD you have this grand plan for your life, but I’ll tell you another secret, grad students are the most confused people around, this may have something to do with the aforementioned brain melt-downs.  Don’t even try to ask me about the future.  I can barely plan dinner.

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Default Settings

August 20, 2007 at 1:17 am (feminism, random thoughts)

Something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit lately are my personal default settings.  By this I mean, what does my mind automatically think of when I read something, hear something, etc.  I think that everyone has defaults, and a lot of them are common among individuals in a society.  For example, when I pick up a book to read, unless explicitly told or indicated otherwise by the author, the characters default to Caucasian.  Its something that I have pondered before, but I was reminded of it when I read this post on a blog that analyzes female characters in fiction/film/TV.  It was pretty eye opening that some animated films failed the simple test of whether 2 female characters conversed about something other than a male character.  Man that’s sad.  That’s what I mean by default:  main characters in these films are always male, while the female characters are relegated to side-kick, mother or love-interest.  It would certainly be a novelty, something the film would be marketed for, if the main character were female.

These defaults apply to race, gender, sexual-orientation, and religious beliefs among other things.  I don’t believe that they are quite the same at stereotypes, because they don’t necessarily deal with characteristics of a certain group of people or idea, but its similar I guess.  What I have personally noticed most are the patriarchal-based defaults.  Men are the head of the family, the churches, the government.  Americans (myself included) can barely wrap their heads around the idea of a women being president.  When you picture a CEO, a surgeon, a scientist, isn’t it usually a man?  And those aren’t even the stereotypical “male” jobs like police and firefighters (or policemen and firemen).  When couples go to buy houses and cars, who does the salesman (oops, I mean sales person) address regarding the financial nitty-gritties of it?  People definitely default to men as the person in charge.

One of the funnier defaults is one my fiance has:  all cats are girls and dogs are boys.  Is this because cats are seen as feminine (think the crazy cat lady) and dogs are more masculine?

I think its very interesting to go through your day being aware of what defaults your mind is going to, and maybe trying to switch them up.  I’d also be interested in what defaults other people can think of.

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The Tin Man

July 28, 2007 at 11:12 pm (politics, random thoughts)

I’m not a religious woman. You might say, I’m an anti-religious woman. But if I were the sort to believe in a higher power, I may see this as a message from above.

Cheney, 66, has had four heart attacks, quadruple bypass surgery, two artery-clearing angioplasties and an operation to implant the defibrillator.

Is he even technically human anymore? We Harry Potter fans have a pet theory that he runs on unicorn blood. Sadly, that may not be far from the truth. I just think that its a good thing they did the bulk of the medical research that has extended Cheney’s imperiled life before Bush and the evil overlords took over. Because clearly, that money is being spent doing much better things now…fighting evil-doers. Maybe if we just let them die in the beginning, we wouldn’t need to spend money actively fighting them! Oh wait, wrong evil-doer.

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