Sunday, April 30, 2006

Holy Crap, I Have No Lips

I decided I deserved a present.

I went to my local Bath & Body Works and bought some of my all-time favorite body lotion.
It's light and smells like honey and I love it.

I know...it's way more than I would normally spend on lotion, but it smells so wonderful and makes your skin so silky smooth.

As I browsed through the store, I stumbled upon the mother load of most-wanted beauty items. Let the quest for non-invasive anti-aging treatments begin!

As I have no money and no job lined up, I couldn't really splurge on the entire line, but I did end up buying this. It was on sale, so I thought, "Why not?".

After my trip to the mall, I went home and resumed working on my thesis, which from now on, will be referred to as my "frucksis". If you think really hard, you'll understand. Where was I? Oh, yeah. I returned home and started typing away. I learned that an entire weekend of working results in one, almost-finished chapter, just in case you are wondering.

So, as I struggled over making negative data look sexy, I decided to try out my lip plumper. I applied it mostly to my lips--these things are difficult when you don't have a mirror. It didn't smell or taste funny, which was a plus.

Within minutes my lips started to feel plumper and then...then they didn't feel anything at all.

Numb. It made my lips feel like two little drunk blobs, passed out from a night of drinking on my face.

I ran upstairs to get a good look in the mirror. Placebo effect or real result, I couldn't really tell, but my lips looked...fuller. Amazing. It also made the skin around my lips where I had slopped on the plumper look a little different, but no matter.

Could the chemicals in this product be dangerous? Ummm, maybe. Is it insane to torture myself this way. Ummm, maybe. Was it worth it?

Absolutely.

Everyone needs numb lips when they are trying to finish their frucksis.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

How Long Should A Thesis Be and Jellyfish Gangs

How long should a thesis be?

It's like asking , "How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie-roll pop?"

In my program, theses range from 100 pages (including references, copyright page, etc.) to 400 pages.

So I guess one could answer the two questions in the same manner: It depends on who is doing the licking.

Alright, now on to more important things.

Thanks to William the Coroner, we now know what to call a group of jellyfish. It's a "smack".
Makes perfect sense, if you don't think about it.

He was also kind enough to give us a handy reference sheet so we no longer make fools of ourselves when discussing wildlife in plural terms. All this time I've been referring to a "sloth" of bears and a clusterf***. Actually, I think that I usually refer to most things as a clusterf***. That is because I'm trying to finish this stupid thesis and I'm very hostile. Now, however, I won't have to refer to such vulgarities.

Thank you, our body dissecting friend.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

David and Goliath: Jellyfish Style

Last night, while in the throes of insomnia, I watched a rather odd show on jellyfish. The entire show kept leading up to the deadliest jellyfish of all--I was hooked. When the camera crew dove in, I held my breath. When the narrator indicated that they had found not one, but 20 of the deadly monsters, I was ecstatic. Slowly, the camera zoomed in.

And in.

And in.

And in.

Apparently, the deadly Irukandji jellyfish is only about 2.5cm in diameter.

Here's another story about the little devils.

So, it was a huge buzzkill. I did, however, get to see one eat (for the first time captured on camera, mind you). I also go to see a box jellyfish sleep (also for the first time captured on camera).

To top it all of, I also got to see a very attractive model in a bikini swim with the jellyfish. The narrator also used the word "sex" a lot. These elements were noticeably out of place, but I guess it's hard to make jellyfish sexy enough for viewers to tune in. I wonder how much they payed that model. Do you think it came out of their research budget?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

I'm a Ruff Mighty Mouse

How do you think DMX would react to the fact that I made my amygdala graphs to "Ruff Ryders"? I'm pretty sure that Gorillaz would be cool with the fact that I analyzed the CA1 to "Feel Good Inc." because they have a slight, geeky edge buried deep inside them, but do you think 50 cent would understand how he helped me through the dentate gyrus analyses? Don't freak out, I mixed in some of The Postal Service and Mighty Mouse, and of course I worked Staind into the mix, but at the end of the day, when I close up to 2-Pac's "Ghetto Gospel", do you think any of these artists could even dare to dream of who did what to their music?

I bet they have NO idea.

Copy Cat Blues

NEW YORK (AP) -- A Harvard University sophomore promised to change her debut novel in future editions after acknowledging that she had unintentionally borrowed material from an author she deeply admired.

We have all pulled our hair out over the issues of intellectual property, plagiarism, etc. so I'm not going to start yet another discussion over this growing epidemic of intellectually-cloaked academic regurgitation.

In my opinion, the biggest issue with this book is the fact that it lacks the creativity and inspiration that I would want to see from a Harvard student or any college student for that matter. The book's concept is the same-old repetitive story, so why should we expect the actual passages to be any different? She should be more embarrassed that the only story line she could come up with is "hard working high school girl didn't get into Harvard".

I'm sorry. I really shouldn't badger this girl when there are a million authors out there doing the same thing. I'm just so sick of "chick lit".

On a brighter note, what I do want to point out and relish is this phrase from the article: "unintentionally borrowed".

I love it. I unintentionally borrowed 1,000 MP3s...or...I unintentionally borrowed all of your data and put it in my paper.

It's like saying "he accidentally fell on my knife" instead of I stabbed him.

Love it.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Bomb-sniffing rats

Bomb-sniffing rats. Brilliant.

Why have we not tried this before?

Maybe I could start my own DOD-supported company.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Mentorship in odd places

Every morning, my husband makes coffee for me. The reason why this is so special is because he has to run around like a crazy person to get to work while I sleep in for another hour and then work the rest of the day from home. He could just go to work and drink the coffee at his office and leave me to my own demise with our complicated little coffee pot, but he doesn't. People used to say that we did these little things for each other because we were "newlyweds" and that it wouldn't last. We've been together now for 8 years; we've spent 6 of those years as husband and wife, and yet, I still get coffee.

That's why I am able to finish this bizarre process of getting my PhD.

We look in weird places (i.e., advisors and our program) for support, but sometimes the support we need is off in a corner, small but mighty.

My advice to new grad students is to not expect your mentorship to come from your mentor. There are definitely good mentors out there, but just as all teachers are not good teachers and not all doctors are good doctors, your particular mentor may not be very healthy for your progress.

If your advisor is lacking in social skills or mentoring abilities, look for the support you need elsewhere. You might find help from another faculty member or a family member or a friend or a peer.

My mentorship and support has come from many odd sources. The day I realized that it was not going to come from my mentor, I went hunting.

I found technical help from research assistants in random labs and from fellow students.

I found the phrase, "when are you doing X again, and do you mind if I watch you?".

I discovered that my husband is great at helping me put together my presentations and posters. I learned to send rough drafts out to my mother or friends who were always good at writing. Who cares if they don't know what the X gene is--they know the difference between affect and effect.

I sought out junior faculty who were eager to help, as they still remember what it is like to be a student. They would spend countless hours looking at my data and helping me figure out how to fix problems. To date, my advisor has never looked at any of my raw data or numbers. He has never looked at my protocols and never offered advice on a technical problem other than, "well it didn't work so you obviously must have done something wrong". I used to think that I was hurt by this, somehow--that it impeded my progress. Now I realize that it didn't really hurt me. I found the expert advice I needed to move forward; it was everywhere around me except for my lab, but it turns out that location isn't really important at the end of the day.

I spent a lot of time upset that I didn't have any guidance--I didn't even have the pat on the back that all of us crave. I felt like I was killing myself to get approval, to be the student that all mentors want to have. This type of thinking leads to frustration, bitterness, and depression. These are bad things.

What I didn't realize until much later was that I did have guidance and approval. I look around now at all of the people who helped me, at the countless names listed in my acknowledgements. How could I have been so blind? How could I have let one person's lack of mentorship skills drive me so far down?

I took it personally, but why? It's not that my advisor did not want to mentor me because I was a bad student or not worthy of his time--he just didn't know how to mentor me. It's not that my geometry teacher didn't want to teach me about proofs, he just didn't know how to teach me about proofs. I didn't take it personally when I was 12, so why should I now? Silly rabbit.

It doesn't really matter where your support comes from; you may think it does, but it doesn't in the long run. Your job is to get in, get out, and stay healthy during the process.

So, my little grasshoppers, learn from my struggles. Your advisor is not your mother or father. You do not need approval or food or shelter from them. It's nice if you can get those things (well, maybe not the shelter...creepy), but if you can't, start your hunting expedition.

Be proactive and seek out wisdom from those who want to give it and who know how to give it.

They are out there.

ps This goes both ways. Not all students are good students. Advice number two is to always be introspective and evaluate how to reasonably improve yourself--not for the approval of your mentor--but for the sake of becoming better at what you do. We'll talk about this more when I'm a mentor venting about students;)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Implicit Associations

After reading Blink, I decided to take some of Harvard's Implicit Association Tasks (IAT) to find out what my sublevel biases are. I just took the Male/Science/Female/Liberal Arts IAT and discovered I have no association bias. It made me happy to know that I'm not against myself:)

I'm going to take a few more and see what comes up. I know, I know--I should be dissertating...

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

To do, To do

Sometimes I feel like Alice in Wonderland--in pursuit of a white rabbit through a world that makes little, if any, sense. When I'm feeling large, the world around me becomes so small, yet, when the world around me expands, I shrink to a size so tiny that I can't see above the chaos.

And then, there is the tea party...

I've tried to figure out if the Mad Hatter is the Man or if the Mad Hatter is my alter ego standing in between me and the white rabbit. Oh, and let's not forget those annoying talking flowers.

Regardless, my checklist is overwhelming me. Sometime, between now and the end of May I have to:

--Turn in all of my paperwork to the graduate school
--Prepare my oral defense presentation
--Finish crunching numbers
--Finish writing my thesis (100 pages down, 200 more to go)
--Finish writing my next manuscript
--Get signatures from my committee members and turn in my thesis proposal that I should have turned in years ago
--Study for my oral defense
--Find a job

If that Mad Hatter doesn't stop singing "A very merry un-birthday", he's going to find himself sleeping with the fish.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

My Interview Question

I've decided that when I'm someone important, these will be two of the questions that I ask all applicants:

a.) If you could describe yourself as any drug, which drug would it be?

b.) If you could be any drug, which drug would you be?

I think my answers would be a.) meth-amphetamine (because you love me but I drive you crazy and move entirely too fast) and b.) heroine (because I would slow the world down and make it feel good)

This is what happens when you try to start working before you've had your coffee. On that note, I would never want to be coffee.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Science Podcasts

OK, OK...I know it's really dorky, but I thought I should let you know that you can now watch podcasts made available from Science/AAAS.

I really wish that they would find people who don't sound like NPR broadcasters, though. I found the lack of prosody to be more boring than a medical school lecture--I would rather listen to the "door closing" subway message over and over again. Morgan Freeman must be a little out of their price range--or maybe he only does penguin-related work.

On a different note--I discovered today that I am in a bit of a pickle. I love that saying--the pickel one.

One of the top scientists in my field retracted several papers recently. This individual did not retract all of the papers related to my area of interest, but quite a few of the key articles are now taboo to use. This is, of course, after I've written a large section of my thesis discussing the findings in these now retracted papers, and how their data may relate to mine.

So, like a good little scientist, I've taken out those references. I'm a bit puzzled, however, over what to do next. Do I take out the findings from papers that haven't been retracted, even though the authors of the non-retracted papers--and, thus, the potential "data manipulators"--are on the retracted papers? There are very few people doing research in this area, so I don't have many other sources to turn to.

Why do people have to lie? They did it on purpose to make my life harder. It's all about me.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Proofs: The Big Punisher

Correcting your proofs is the biggest, meanest punishment ever.

They'll publish your paper alright, but first you must go through it yet another time to look for mistakes. Now you not only have to worry about your own stupid errors, but you also have to look for errors introduced during the typesetting. Is that one space or two? Is there a word missing here?

Not only do you have to find the mistakes, but you also must use some sort of bizarre code to mark up your paper. You have to squeeze things into tiny margins while remembering to leave enough space at the edges for faxing errors. I just can't go on...

Blah.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

What to Do

How do I procrastinate/work offline?

First, I read this.

Then, I decided to learn Hebrew.

Then, I began studying Hebrew using a crappy online tutorial.

Then, I got tired and forgot that I was learning Hebrew.

I decided to go for a jog.

After my run, I was cold, so I took a nice hot bath and read a chapter of this.

Then, I decided I wanted to know more about Easter Island. I began an intensive online research project.

Then, I remembered it was my dad's birthday. I always get his birthday and Easter switched in my fragile brain.

Then, as I tried to figure out if I should dig up the 8-foot tall, pink yard bunny that is hiding in my basement with the other holiday crap, I miraculously thought of a way to transform my data so that I can do a parametric analysis and hopefully pick up the small trends I believe I'm consistently seeing.

Then, I couldn't breathe because that sentence went on forever.

Then, I started working on my dissertation again.

Then, I typed this.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Black Holes

"I am not that crazy lady who calls 911, just so she can take a ride in an ambulance. I do not call toll-free numbers in lonely despair so that I may talk to someone with a friendly voice. I have no love of your service repair men, as cunning as they may be...."

They (Comcast or a.k.a. the Man's evil helpers) refused to believe me that there was a MAJOR problem with our cable because every time they left here, my internet was magically fixed. When I say "fixed" I mean it would work for 1 or 2 hours and then disappear into la-la land where politicians, elves, and the occasional sea serpent walk around wondering what happened to their cash transfer from Mr. Obo's African estate.

Finally, after convincing them that I really do have a life and don't live and die to see their van outside of my house, they agreed to rewire EVERYTHING. So, I am back now. Actually, I was back last week, but it took me awhile to catch up with the world and all of my deadlines. I couldn't allow myself to even peep at the blogosphere until I was done with my "must do's".

Let's hope for some smooth sailing for the next few weeks.