Monday, October 31, 2005

Wisdom from Beyond the Grave

"It's so cold," I whined, my teeth chattering behind blue lips. I was never good at maintaining a normal body temperature, so I knew that tonight, given the fruit soaked in vodka that I scarfed down in place of dinner, would be no different.

"You are not hopping the fence," said my husband firmly.

"Whatever, " I retorted dismissing his wisdom carelessly, "that's how we got here so I don't see why we should leave any differently." I hate when people imply that I can't do something. I am Superwoman, hear me roar!

I swung my leg over the fence, getting stuck mid-air momentarily by the tightness of my skirt and the pillow babies shoved in my spandex shirt, preventing full mobility of my body. I wavered trying to balance the slow cooker full of little cocktail weenies. In slow motion, I watched them swish back and forth, the few remaining dogs, choking in the barbecue bath that was supposed to serve as blood.

I thought that clearing the fence would be a cake walk even though it stood higher than my waist, and I vaguely remember having some difficulty on the way in. Unfortunately, I had foolishly forgotten a key factor (other than my tipsiness) dictating how the whole series of events were to unfold...the fishnet stockings.

They got caught on the spokes of the wrought-iron fence and pulled me into its jaws. Bam! My calf, followed by the full weight of my body (and the additional weight of the little weenies), came down on the fence spikes.

"Ouch!" I cried, stunned by the force of the blow.

"I told you," said my husband, shaking his head.

I fell to my knees, careful not to tip the dogs out onto the sidewalk--I would want those later, I was sure. I kneeled there on the cold sidewalk, weenies in hand and one leg stuck straight up in the air, secured to the fence by dollar store fishnets.

My husband unhooked me and helped me up. Not wanting him to be completely right, I fought through the pain, ignoring the trickle of blood on my leg, and tried my best to walk as though nothing had happened.

"We'll go around," I said.

"Yeah," my husband said grinning, "I think that would be good."

I can not begin to tell you how bad my leg hurts right now: 3-puncture wounds connected to 3 gashes colored by 3-large bruises.

That, my friends, is why Halloween is dangerous. It's not the ghosts or demons--it's the combination of dangerous costumes and the alcohol not normally consumed by boring people such as myself. Be careful tonight...

Friday, October 28, 2005

George Bush Ate My Cheerios

The title of this post means nothing, it was just stuck in my head for some reason. Maybe because it was planted there, but I have no way of verifying this hypothesis.

I'd like to point out that my last word verification was "wiiahsyz", which would be pronounced as "W (dubbya) says". Apparently George Bush is leading the blogger subliminal message campaign.

Some may accuse me of being a conspiracy theorist. Well, check out what wikipedia has to say about that.

My favorite excerpt:

"During the 2000 U.S. presidential campaign, a television ad campaigning for Republican candidate George W. Bush showed words (and parts thereof) scaling from the foreground to the background on a television screen. When the word BUREAUCRATS flashed on the screen, one frame showed only the last part, RATS. Democrats promptly asked the FCC to look into the matter, but no penalties were ever assessed in the case. The effect this had on the overall presidential race was unclear; the Democrats and Al Gore received ridicule for finding malicious intent in something that could have been a simple mistake; the Republicans received ridicule for the lack of attention to detail and Bush's mispronunciation of "subliminal" (it came out as "subliminable")."

Ah, I too fear the subliminable snow monster...

Thursday, October 27, 2005


Nature Neuroscience has a series of articles focused on the neurobiology of addiction that are going to be free to the public until January. I want you to go and read them so we can talk amongst ourselves about all of this.

Go on, you've been given an assignment--the exam is not going to be easy;)

It looks like Mind Hacks is also talking about this series, so you can read up on this there, also.

The Resume

People keep coming to me for advice on how to put together their resumes. I've talked about CVs and resumes before, but I feel like I need to say a little more given the fact that I'm swimming in the putrid muck called "job hunting" right now.

In science, your resume is actually called a CV, and it is a bit longer than a standard resume. It's almost like a mini-autobiography detailing all of your accomplishments (publications, awards, teaching experience, etc.) or plumped up with padding if you are a student who hasn't had the time to rack up "accomplishments".

I have somehow become the "office of career services" for the graduate school-- people come to absorb my CV wisdom and ask me for suggestions. My only qualification for this role is that I finished mine first. Yep, in life that's all it takes sometimes. The person who gets their project done first must know what they are doing so let's go ask them.

So, here's my advice to all of you out there as I'm highly qualified to give such advice.

The people who will read your CV don't know any more about them than you do. There is no magic formula; there is no "sure thing".

They look for CVs that match the CV they made for themselves. They based their CV on the same internet sites and career guide resources that you have perused yourself. They are not (if you are applying for post docs) trained solely in resume design like some HR reps are--they will not throw your resume out if it is not on high bond paper of X weight.

The same rules that apply for any other piece of writing submitted to the public arena apply for a CV.

--Make sure it is clear and concise. Try to write phrases not sentences and paragraphs.
--Make sure there are no spelling errors and check your grammar.
--Make sure people can easily find what they are looking for--use headers for each section and bullets to express what you are trying to say in a "skimmable" format.
--include the accomplishments that qualify you for the job you are applying for. If you want a research post doc, make sure you discuss your technical abilities and former research positions. Include your ability to get funding and highlight your publications. If you are trying to get a teaching position, you may want to highlight your teaching experience over your technical experience. Highlighting your talents can always be done by putting certain things before others (people are lazy and tend to get bored towards the end of a CV).
--Go to a few websites designed for the type of resume/CV you are trying to create and follow their advice. If you find conflicting advice, use your brain and figure out which format best fits you and what you are trying to do
--Let someone else look at it, preferably not your mother because she thinks you are just peachy no matter what you do. Pick someone who has a job in the field you are going into to. A lawyer is going to give you different advice than a CEO, and both will tell you something different than a college dean.
--If you know you are not artistic--if you use the standard blue and yellow power point design for all of your presentations--please find someone who has a good "eye" to help you.
--Use standard fonts and make sure your CV is friendly for both scanning and electronic transmission. Check it on a couple of different computers just to make sure.
--Do not make your font smaller so you can fit more stuff in.

Stop stressing.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Random scattering of the brain

I'm listening to Rusted Root today. I haven't plugged into Rusted Root in almost 10 years, but for some odd reason I needed them today. It's not even that I wanted to hear them--I had to hear them. Weird.

I keep writing posts and then deleting them today. Nothing fits correctly, nothing is working for me. I feel like there is something big under the surface, something that keeps snuffing out all the trivial meanderings while at the same time refusing to come out.

"Cruel Sun" is on.

Maybe it's because it is cold and rainy and dark. Maybe it's because I came unplugged, and now I am sort of floating around in this world. Maybe it's because I feel like there are people out there, some of whom are close to me and some who I barely know at all, who are sad, right now at this very moment. I want to make them not sad or at least let them know that we're all connected even when we aren't running.

I'm not sad today...not even close to being sad. I'm just somewhere else. Do you see me? Can you ask me what I'm doing? Please tell me that I'm fully clothed.

I keep getting angry and hurt over having to type in random letters in order to posts comments, especially when I have to do it on my own blog. I feel like I always get extra-long letter strings comprised of the hard letters (you know, the q,z,x,c type letters). I feel like there are hidden vulgar messages in those letter strings--we should make a dictionary of them. Knowledge yields power or something like that.

"See the bloody faces lifted to the sky
Do you want to run to a future left behind?
I remember asking why, there lies aggression.
Separation where there should be love
Power plays while the people die

Let it rain and protect us from this cruel sun
Let it rain and protect us from this cruel sun"

Is Neurology Like Urology?

Conversation between two medical students (one semester away from taking their boards, by the way) that I overhead while waiting for my latte:

Student 1: "I mean, I just don't know what Neurology is...I, like, get the overall concept, but I don't really get what they do."

Student 2: "I know, I don't either. Do you think we'll have to be able to remember all that anatomy stuff...or all of that pharm info?"

Student 1: "God, I hope not."

And people wonder why I'm such an angry person.

Monday, October 24, 2005

She's Come Unplugged

Sometimes, when I'm really in a mental funk, I'll get a title stuck in my head--it will swirl around and around in my mind, popping up in response to any number of random stimuli encountered during my daily routines.

Once, for an entire week, I kept saying to myself "A Day No Pigs Would Die". As I spilled my coffee all over my new cream jacket, I said to myself, "A Day No Pigs Would Die". As I almost got killed by a frazzled mother using her mini van as a missile, I thought, "A Day No Pigs Would Die." No change for the bus...of course "A Day No Pigs Would Die".

As rapidly as the title gets stuck in my head, it disappears into silence. Minutes, days, or weeks will go by until another one takes up residence, but I always know that one will eventually find its way up there.

This morning, one of these squatter titles has built a little nest in my brain...only this time it is a little smeared.

Drip, drip--water dribbles down from the ice pack onto the floor below. The thermostat in my office is, unfortunately, located directly above the electrical outlet, the only electrical outlet.
I stare at the miniature pool of water building up on my laptop plug.

Blink. Blink. I just stare at it. Drip...Drip.

Blink. Blink. It's as if my blinks have joined the drips' band, playing together in rhythm.

They (the Man) can not regulate the temperature in this building so our offices are frigid, usually unbearable. I find myself layered in clothing, often with a coat on in the middle of the day. This morning, I just couldn't face the cold, so I taped ice packs onto the thermostat in an attempt to kick the AC off and the heat on. As I stare at the water, at the electrocution waiting to happen, I think, "She's Come Unplugged".

I wish I could take action and do the sane thing, I really do. I'm just so exhausted. I just don't want to be cold one more minute longer--the cold is killing me. At what point does the need to feel warm overcome the fear of being electrocuted, setting your office on fire, and losing your laptop and data forever?

When she's come unplugged, that's when.

Sometimes, I walk around the house unplugging things. For some reason, I feel like my appliances and electronic devices need to rest, they need to be free of my dictatorship. By unplugging them, I feel like they can truly sigh and fall asleep. As silly as it sounds, it makes me feel better to see them quiet, to know that they aren't generating their "running" heat. Maybe it's because I wish someone would unplug me from time to time. Maybe it's some sort of transferred exhaustion, a longed for rescue on my part.

She's come unplugged.

Damn, it's really stuck up there.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Something worse than physical abuse

I saw this on TV last night, and I can't stop thinking about it. These two, barely-teenage girls are being used to infect people with hatred and racism at the cost of their own minds.

This is child abuse--it is disgusting and an egregious violation of social responsibility and morality.

Prussian Blue

This says it all:

"What do you think is the most important social issue facing the white race right now? Do you have any songs that address this issue?
Not having enough white babies born to replace ourselves and generally not having good-quality white people being born. It seems like smart white girls who have good eugenics are more interested in making money in a career or partying than getting married and having a family. And yes, we are working on some new songs about this issue.

Please tell me the significance of the name Prussian Blue.
Part of our heritage is Prussian German. Also our eyes are blue, and Prussian Blue is just a really pretty color. There is also the discussion of the lack of "Prussian Blue" coloring (Zyklon B residue) in the so-called gas chambers in the concentration camps. We think it might make people question some of the inaccuracies of the "Holocaust" myth."

If you aren't sick to your stomach yet, please take a look at this picture of the girls--a picture is worth a million words, or something.

I want to kidnap the girls away from their ignorant mother, who sees nothing wrong with molding her offspring into ignorance-peddling prostitutes. I want to take them to the Holocaust museum and force them to watch the video footage so disturbing that it is hidden behind partitions so that children don't stumble upon it. I want to expose them to a world of culture and diversity, a world that is filled with amazing people, rampant creativity, and new philosophies. I want to deprogram them so that they can make decisions and form opinions that are their own instead of the regurgitated white-power puss that spews from their mother's mouth.

Those men in the crowds aren't going to hear some prolific message being delivered by 13-year olds with barely-average vocal abilities (yes, I played an audio clip to find out). They are there to see two blonde girls, slathered in Mary Kay and sporting mini skirts, following orders and playing the part of puppets. They are there to get a glimpse of some perverted fantasy, to drink beer, and to possibly cop a feel when the time is right.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

I dropped like I was hot

I fell out of my chair and hit my head (don't ask). I'm glad that no one is ever around when these things happen. There's no visible wound, but I decided to make sure I didn't do any damage by playing bumper cows. I have once again been reminded how I was much brighter as a 4-year old (when I would play Simon for hours) than I am as an over-educated adult. I'm just not sure if there is anything left up there to damage.

Herceptin--the silver bullet for some types of breast cancer?

Extra! Extra! Hear all about it! Amazing new miracle drug for breast cancer patients!

From the associated press: "Several experts used words like “revolutionary,” “stunning” and “jaw-dropping” to describe the findings on the impact of Genentech Inc.’s drug Herceptin. Some even talked of a “cure” for a considerable number of women".

Oh, by the way, if you are poor, you had better start digging your grave now. Looks like Tiny Tim won't be blessing the pharm companies this year:

A year of Herceptin could cost $48,000 even at wholesale prices.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Night Terror

Robert Ingpen
Illustration for Encyclopaedia Of The Things That Never Were (1985)

I had a night terror last night. It's been so long since I've had one that I forgot how awful they are. I woke up feeling like someone (or something) was in the room. Actually, I had the feeling that multiple somethings were in the room. One of the things had a tight grip on my arm and was pulling at me. I tried to struggle in a Beowulf-vs-Grendel kind of way, but, alas, the muscle paralysis caused by my slumber had not worn off yet. I finally managed to open my eyes and swore I heard one of the things say, "she struggles...we must leave".

The last time this happened, I thought there was a man lifting up my sheet. I thought I heard him say, "Is she awake, do you think?" That last time, I jumped out of bed as soon as I thought the coast was clear, barricaded myself in my room, and started to call 911. I hung up before it rang, with the subconscious inkling that there weren't really people in my house. Needless to say, however, I stayed up all night clinging the phone.

Last night, when I finally came to my senses, I ran through my house with a baseball bat. I know it sounds stupid, but it was the only thing I could think of doing. My dog, the useless little runt, stayed in bed. Apparently, the intruders had cast some sort of lazy-ass sleeping spell on him. I clocked about 3 hours of sleep last night because of this little escapade.

I would love to study the neurobiology of sleep terrors. One wonders if the concept of demon/ evil spirit/alien intruders could be explained solely by this phenomenon.

I hope I wasn't probed.

Here's a webpage dedicated to this type of sleep paralysis/terror/hallucinations. I couldn't find any good articles on hypnagogic hallucinations and sleep paralysis that everyone would have access to, but if I do, I'll post them. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Poison Dart Frogs. This little guy has a toxin called pumiliotoxin. Other frogs may have batrachotoxin or histrionicotoxin. These aren't the type of frogs that you want to lick just for a good time.

Being a neuroscientist, my favorite frog-derived compound is epibatidine for its pain killing properties. It activates the cholinergic system via nicotinic receptors, and it is very expensive so you shoudn't ever knock over the vial or accidently place the plastic container on a hot hot-plate.

I just wanted to give you some science--you never know when you will need the power of the frog. I also wanted to continue the frog theme from yesterday, bringing it into a more positive light than the whole frog murder thing.Posted by Picasa

Insurance Woes

The insurance company, it thinks it can outwit the blogger girl.

The blogger girl, she knows she is smarter than "the man".

She knows the insurance company, it is trying to steal her money.

The hospital, it is in on the whole scheme too.

The bastards, they don't know that the blogger girl has lots of time to argue with them.

She has no fear of the bill collectors. They call her house and they act rude and talk loudly as if the blogger girl is deaf. I am not deaf, the blogger girl says. I am not stupid. I can recite the periodic table, the blogger girl, she says. Does the bill collector want to hear?

You can call the blogger girl and act angry and menacing--the blogger girl, she has broken beer bottles over the heads of the bikers...the hell's angel wannabe bikers who grab her ass. She has no fear of the pseudo intimidation you throw at her. The blogger girl has an attention deficit anyways, so she only hears some of your babble. She mocks your messages on her answering machine.

The blogger girl will not tolerate emails from the insurance company that skirt the answers to her questions. She understands what deductible means--she knows of the out-of-pocket cap and the nature of the co-insurance. She will not pay both the hospital and the insurance company because they both charge her and claim that the other side will reimburse her. She knows she will never see her money again if she listens to them.

The blogger girl, she should have started her own insurance company so she could get rich off of the pain and disease of others.

The blogger girl, she has all day to hold on the phone. She does not mind the music.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Fish Heads, Fish Heads...

In case you needed to know, Pharyngula has given a lesson on how to euthanize a fish. It's actually a cute post. Alright, maybe not cute, but that's the only word I can think of right now.

It's funny how scientists become "expert exterminators" in the eyes of the public. I had someone who wanted me to put their cat asleep for them. Apparently if you have access to the drugs and the know how, it makes you worthy of such a painful decision. I've had numerous members of the public ask me how to get rid of rats, mice, and snakes in various regions around their houses--some have even asked me to draw out designs for homemade traps.

When I was an undergrad, I arrived late to lab. My group had designated me the animal slayer because of my tardiness and their weaniness (they were all boys, by the way), and I had to behead and pith the frog. Have I ever told you all that I am a frog lover, through and through? I vowed I would never do it again.

Alright, so I lied to myself. Go figure, it's not the first time. I've had to behead quite a few animals since that dreaded frog massacre. It always used to bother me, the decapitating-live-animals thing, until one day when someone rattled off the story about how executioners would hold up the heads of decapitated people so that the heads could see their bodies (France has got some bad karma). Now it doesn't bother me--it devastates me.

Regardless, I will not give you any advice on how to kill anything. I will tell you how to catch things without killing them, but that's as far as it goes.

Minute Men Quit Border Patrol to Look for Big Foot

Money Well Spent on Scientific Research:
$1 million bounty to be offered for live capture of Bigfoot

I tried to find him once--that furry little guy. I made a little "investigation" kit that included a magnifying glass and a garbage bag, just in case I happened to make a live capture. The closest I ever came was when my dad was laid off in the winters--he would stop shaving and follow a tight schedule of Mr. Donut stops in the morning and nickel wing and draft nights in the evening (can you believe you could get a dozen wings and 8 beers for $1?). Sometimes, when he calls my house 3 times in one weekend because he's bored, I wish I had sent him off to be investigated. I still love him, though.

Regardless, I love this:
"We don't want people running around with guns trying to kill something to get the money," Coleman said. "It's not a contest, either. It's a very specific bounty that depends on the permanent capture of a live specimen, with emphasis on 'live.'"

Friday, October 14, 2005


Shrinky and I need bodyguards. Apparently, we all need bodyguards. What this article neglected to mention is that the father of the boy who found the woman returned with his son to the scene with a gun and waited for police. That's how things are done where I grew up because there are only 1, sometimes 2, police for any given town/township/etc.

Get in Line to Board the Crazy Train

Lucy knew what she was doing.

She knew that if you don't take control over the situation, the situation will take control over you. When she set up that booth and charged people for her services, she put an end to the random crazy outbursts of life, the unsolicited leeching, and the quicksand drama created by people lusting for a speck of power in their lives. She kept the ball perpetually in her court, she made the rules...

1.) I walked towards my bus stop. There was a broken down bus right at the stop and a woman standing between me and the bus. She was standing on the sidewalk in the area one would naturally stand if one was waiting for the next bus--to stand any closer to the actual stop would make it difficult for the next bus to see you (duh, there's a huge bus in the way). I approached her and stopped the mandatory 6-7 feet away from her. I detest space invaders, and I am painfully careful to not be one myself. I put down my bag and looked off into the distance for the next bus. I heard someone scream "why the f*** are you standing so close to me for?" I immediately turned around thinking someone was bothering the woman behind me. Apparently, I was the one bothering her. She began screaming like a broken record player "why the f*** are you standing here? The bus stop is over there you moron. Stand at the bus stop b*****, don't stand next to me. You f***ing faggot. You f***ing lesbian."

I backed away from her. She raised her arms at me. I backed away some more and said "I'm sorry--I'm just waiting for the bus...I thought you were too."

She screamed, "You f***ing liar, you lesbian. Why are you trying to get under my breast?!!".
She then walked towards the broken down bus and proceeded to bang on its windows (the driver was still on the bus waiting for someone to rescue him).

She screamed, "This lesbian is trying to molest me, she is trying to get my breasts. F***ing homo".

I just kept staring down the road, ready to run if I needed to.

My bus came, and I got on as she continued to scream. She then got on behind me, sat down across from me quietly, and remained at peace until her stop. As she got off the bus, she told the driver "thank you, have a nice day".

Obviously she has some problems. For some reason, my presence elicited an extreme fear/defense response in her and she got stuck in a state of perseveration that she could not get out of until the environment changed (when she got on the bus). I was glad that it was me that she accosted, because someone else may have hurt her or flapped their trap causing her to become more incensed.

2.) My phone rang--it was my father. Brother2 lost the rock, papers, scissors war and picked up the phone reluctantly. At least my dad actually had some news this time. My parent's neighbor tried to steal another neighbor's unborn baby. You may have seen it on the news. The guy who butchers our meat found the women near his property and saved the pregnant victim. My dad called last night because the police helicopters were circling their house, and exciting things like that don't happen where my parent's live very often. Please God, don't let anyone interview my family. Please don't. My dad will go into a 2 hr tirade on the shoddy workmanship of the neighbor's trailer--he will conclude that such a mess could drive anyone to commit such a crime. My mom will put on her Oprah face and try to pick apart all of the emotional stresses and turmoil caused by today's society. She will go on relentlessly about parenting and how children behave these days and how sad the world is. My brother will smoke a lot and hide from the reporters.

3.) Brother1 has a girlfriend. He met her at his outpatient psychiatric service. They've gone on a few dates. I'm not sure I can go through all of this again. At least my mom doesn't have to fight with him every morning about taking a shower, brushing his teeth, etc. I've been saying all along that motivation is not completely lost in the brain of a schizophrenic, it's just harder to elicit that drive. I now have evidence. Brother1 totally screwed himself because now he can't tell us that he can't do it.

Please God let this one work out better. Please don't let her kill herself or threaten to kill herself. Please don't let her steal from our house when she decides to go off of her meds. Please let her family be kind and understanding and supportive.

I'm setting up a booth.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 13, 2005

the other side of the happy life

Sue has started another blog that I encourage you all to check out. It's's speaks for itself.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Be in a Study, Not on a Milk Carton

I found this at Mind Hacks:

If you have ever experienced anxiety or depression (are there people out there who can answer no to this question?) you can participate in an online study/survey. Just to warn you, the results can be a bit harsh and, if you are like me, make you feel like you need some help. Don't stress over the results too much, though, as the questions are a bit leading and the tests they use a As I was taking the survey, I kept thinking "Calgon, take me away".

The Study is currently titled:

"An Exploratory Study of the Influence of Depression and Anxiety
on Behaviour Patterns in People who go Missing."

Would you rather

Yesterday, on The Office, they played a game of "would you rather".

Here's one for you:

I went to a great seminar yesterday. The speaker discussed a lot of cutting edge, hot data, and he was extremely captivating. I'm pretty sure only nerds describe data as "hot".

One of the more interesting tidbits in his talk was about a relatively common gene mutation.

It's a single amino acid change that occurs in about 10% of Caucasians and in a slightly higher percentage of Asians.

This mutation causes a change in hippocampal functioning, resulting in a decrease in episodic memory functioning (basically, in remembering stories).

"Wow," one may think, "We need to fix that gene".

Here's the kicker, people with this mutation have lower rates of depression.

Sometimes "fixing" one thing "breaks" another thing.

Would you rather retain your ability to remember stories and events of your life or be depressed more often that "normals".

For more info about this:

Monday, October 10, 2005

No Vacancies on My Island

There's a big difference between being lonely and being alone.

I think we are sometimes socialized to believe that the two are a package deal--you can't have one without the other.

The problem is that there are many people throughout history who were alone. I'm not talking about people who lived a solitary life without children or spouses or some circle of friends; I'm speaking about a higher level of social belonging (or lack thereof).

You can not, however, find any evidence that they ever felt "lonely".

That's all I wanted to say about that.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

An the Emmy, I mean Nobel Goes To...

I have just made a brilliant discovery.

It's so simple yet so significant in the world of cognitive science...and I didn't even need an MRI machine.

There is a functional area of the brain dedicated to the "winning the oscar/grammy/beauty pageant" phenomenon.

Apparently, it also responds to Nobel Prizes. Theodor Haensch really only got 1/4 of the prize, so maybe this is his "I was honored to be nominated and am pretending I'm not pissed that I didn't get the whole prize to myself" face.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


So, I have finished my "what I want series". I posted "Full Circle" and "Back to Motivation" this morning--enjoy or neglect to read them...whatever motivates you. Yes, you can breathe a sigh of relief and we can go back to our normal blogger lives. I moved it over to the sidebar for your reading pleasure;)

You may wonder, "so what happens next?"

I don't know.

I'm going to finish my PhD in a few months and figure out what that next step will be. You'll find out when I do.

Thanks for being patient.

Back to the motivation

So the original question was "what motivates you to do what you do?".

When I asked that question, I was really struggling with a lot of health, my family, finishing my thesis, and finding a job.

I had to step back and evaluate where I was, how I got there, why I went there, and where the hell I was going.

I learned that I have strong goals molded from different types of motivations.

1.) I like dopamine.

That will probably never change--if it does it probably means I'm dead. I have a whole host of skills and abilities of which when I apply them in a work environment, I am positively reinforced. Although I always want to be in science because my love for science has never wavered through all of these years, and although these abilities are crucial to being a good scientist, that doesn't mean that they aren't also really useful to becoming successful in a scientific setting that is not "research".

I actually think a main source of my discontent is that I have a lot of talents not being employed in research. I think as an undergraduate I noticed those talents, as did others, and I saw that I might fit into a different niche than the research setting. I was just too busy existing to really see things for what they were.

2.) I want to save the world, starting one psychiatric disorder at the time. I want to be an avenger, in a sense.

I don't believe research is going to give me that immediate sense of "change" that I'm looking for. I believed it would when I was younger and when I didn't really know what research was all about (that elusive white whale), but I see now that I need something else to get that sense of "battle".

I want to help people now--I'm rewarded by immediate results. There are jobs that will allow me to do this ranging from policy to advocacy to technology transfer. And don't forget teaching. I really do want to teach, and I don't want to feel like teaching is "in the way" or "hindering me" from attaining job security. So many faculty here feel that way. How can they do research and publish and write grants if they have to teach? That's why so many of them are crappy teachers.

3.) I want to make money.
Now, I only took one economics class, but I think I understand the whole supply and demand thing. When you have lots of something, but the demand for that something is less than your supply, that thing is really cheap. We have way more people trying to be tenure track research faculty than there are positions for. That's why post docs float around in scientific limbo and junior faculty have to take valium to go to sleep and mini-thins to wake up and start their day.

So many tremendous intellectuals are just existing, tolerating chump-change pay and being slave labor, until things "get better". It will all be better at the next step. Many of them don't even know why they really want the next step, and if they decide at some point they don't want it, they are already in too deep to start over in a different career with no experience or training. They delay having children until they are too old to have children and, in 50 years, they are going to realize that they don't have the retirement funds necessary for the roach-free nursing home.

It's not right to treat yourself like that. It's not right to believe that you are doing something because "it's always what you wanted to do". Saying that is like saying, "If I do something else, it means that I have failed." Re-evaluate what you want and why you want it. Accomplishing your goals does not mean sticking with one career, especially if that career allows you to accomplish those goals in theory only.

I'm not saying you shouldn't try to be a research scientist if that's really your goal. The cream will rise to the top. But, if it's not really what you want, are you willing to make all the necessary sacrifices and forgo all of your desired positive reinforcers just for the sake of rising?

Not me.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Full Circle

Once Upon a Time,

I went to graduate school. I went to my first choice school and got into my first choice lab working under a famous and powerful scientist. I got the fellowships I applied for and passed everything with honors and had everything I wanted.

I also learned a lot about the life of a research scientist. I learned about the practical things: getting tenure, writing papers and grants and responding to reviewers when they send your papers and grants back to you, funding, and giving seminars. I learned about this "flexible" schedule that everyone talks about, but that only exists for people well into their career. I learned that word flexible is relative. I learned about the politics ruling over all of the aforementioned practicalities and about the big-business world of who you know, who you publish with, and who you drink wine with at meetings. I learned that meeting truly amazing scientists can be inspiring, but that being a truly amazing scientist is not necessarily the same as being a tremendously successful scientist.

You know what? Nothing was really that different than what I had encountered as an undergrad--it was just on a bigger scale, with greater gains and losses, in a more "famous" setting.

Although there were parts of it I loved, just like in my undergraduate days, I still felt restless. I still felt that I was not using all of my skills and that I was not being positively reinforced enough to be "happy". The parts of science that I loved were not necessarily the parts that would make up my life when I became a research scientist.

I also felt that I did not really like the environment, just like those days when I avoided the biology building. I liked parts of the experience, especially sitting around in seminars or coffee houses and discussing theories and new findings and ideas. I just didn't feel like I was in my niche--and we all know what happens to animals who fall out of their niche (they usually get eaten or die of malnutrition).

And that's where I found myself on the day that I asked you all, "what motivates you to do what you do?".

Monday, October 03, 2005

What I Want: Part Whatever

Once Upon a Time,

I failed to take full advantage of a tremendous opportunity. Or, at least, I took advantage of the opportunity without realizing it at the time, causing myself a lot of unnecessary angst.

You see, college wasn't entirely a wash for me. I learned that I loved writing, policy, and politics. I loved Marxism and theology. I loved hanging out with the international studies majors and having lunch at the "language" tables (my minor was Spanish). I liked rapidly learning novel information and being exposed to diverse ideas. Moroever, I loved combining everything into interdisciplinary concepts--kind of like making old things new again.

The people who could place my name with my face would tell you that I was an X major, but the X was never Biology. I think some people kind of knew that I was a science major because I found a way to include science into every discussion and almost every debate. One professor actually pulled me aside after realizing what my major was and told me that I was wasting my time with "this whole science thing". He believed it was shameful to waste my talent by going into research. I told him "uh, thanks?--I gotta run." At the time, I didn't understand what the hell he was talking about...

So, you may be wondering, "Why didn't people know you were a science major?" It's probably because I avoided the biology building like the plague. It was filled with obsessive premed majors who wanted to sit around in groups memorizing facts--I hate groups almost more than I hate memorizing facts. I didn't join a sorority but I might as well have given that being a science major had the same kind of lack of independent thought--everything involved working in pairs or teams or with an advisor. I'm not knocking that kind of environment; I just don't believe that is necessarily the best way for certain people to take root and grow. Some of us were made to be a little more...solitary...independent...I don't know.

The biology building was filled with people who argued over every point on every exam--people who were so worried about seeming smart that they didn't have the cajones to actually be smart (if the cream rises to the top, then it shouldn't need to argue over points). It was filled with classes that jammed information down your throat, that threw the information at you in chapter-like packages. There was little thinking done in that building; it was instead like some sort of factory production line, pumping out little Poindexters who could do PCRs and synthesis reactions all in preparation for the MCATs or some big internship with Researcher X. Although the exams were meant to exemplify "applied learning", they weren't much better than multiple choice. Just because you are requiring essays as answers doesn't mean that you are requiring intellectual excellence.

I just didn't get it.

I don't believe in learning anything unless you are going to use it to take some sort of action or to form some new idea. I guess that's why the only science courses I looked forward to were lab and psychology/behavior classes.

I decided that it was a reflection of the university, of my forced choice. I did what I was supposed to do to complete the job and waited for the next step to come free me--science would be different at someplace "better".

I spent so much time "existing" that I neglected to see the first signs indicating that it may be time to reshape the clay ever so slightly.

Thank god for introspection.

As I now look around at my peers in graduate school or postdoctoral postitions, starting out in hunt of the white tenure-track whale, I see my former self in their eyes.