Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Ta da

I am now officially an unemployed doctor.
I blame everything on the Bush administration, if anyone asks.

Thank you for all of your kind words and support.

My defense went well, I think. It is all a blur. My family and my husband's family came (our defenses are open to the public). They took up 3 rows in the auditorium--it was cute to see them all sitting down there nodding. I put a few jokes into my slides just for them, but they were so afraid to do or say anything that they were the only ones not laughing.

My committee members were not so bad. They ended up fighting a lot amongst themselves. One member was particularly difficult, but he was smiling so I knew he was doing it on purpose, and it thus didn't bother me. They picked me apart as though my thesis was horrible, and then passed me with distinction when they were done. It's all a game, and I appreciate a good roast, so no harm no foul.

I have a few corrections to make, but nothing major. They want me to prepare an additional manuscript now after seeing all of the data, but that's fine with me. I have time to do these sorts of things as I have no real job to go to.

My husband was wonderful in getting my family where they needed to be. He threw me a really nice backyard party, and it was good to celebrate something for a change. He also revealed that he's taking me to Belize for a vacation. We haven't been on a vacation since our honeymoon 6 years ago, other than quick weekend trips to the beach here, which really isn't a "beach" in my opinion. I can not wait. I'm going to see Mayan ruins and fish off the coast and snorkel. I can not wait. I have said it a million times, but I'll say it again: my husband is the most amazing person on earth. I must keep drugging his drinks so that he does not catch on and run away.

Everyone keeps asking me how I feel now that it's over. I guess I'm feeling a little lost right now. I am no longer a student, but I'm not faculty. I'm not even a post doc. I'm just me, sitting here drinking vitamin water and blogging, staring at my retired neighbors out the window. I haven't been me for so long that it's just a bit overwhelming. I keep feeling like I'm going to cry, and then I start giggling madly. I stare at my bookcases filled with papers and text books and wonder what I should do with them. Do any of you need some fluff to read? Perhaps a little "DNA Repair and Mutagenesis" or "Neuropsychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience"?

Now I'm giggling again.

Friday, May 26, 2006

D-Day

Wish me luck.

I hope I don't say "crap". I said crap once when my slides started auto-changing. Oh, I hope I don't say "crap".

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Where the Yellow Brick Road Stops

In a few days, it will all be over.

I cried the whole way through American Idol last night. Partly, because Catherine has no self-esteem, and I find that really sad. The other reason for the tears was because Taylor reminds me of me. When you watch him, you see his roots (I don't mean his hair), and you really see what this means to him. It's more than just winning. I also cried because I would rather be in an American Idol finale than defending my dissertation. That is sad.

Whenever I get nervous about my defense, I think, "at least you don't have to sing". I don't know if you have ever sung in front of an audience (other than when you are drunk on karaoke night), but I think it is much more difficult than giving a talk. If you mess up during a talk, you can go back and fix it--you can cover your ass on just about everything you say, other than if you accidentally yell out an obscenity. Once I said "crap" when my slides went crazy during a talk, and that was hard to cover. At least my brain was functioning enough to let crap slip instead of what I would say behind closed doors.

When you sing, however, everything is final. I'm glad I'm not singing.

I'm exhausted, and I'm confused, and I wish I had a job so I didn't have to worry about it. I thought that maybe I could work at a department store for a few months until I got the job thing settled, but when I went shopping this week, the department store girls were annoying and mean to me, and I don't want to work with them. Granted, I was "shopping" at Saks, but just because you sell clothes that I can't afford doesn't mean you can afford them either. This city is very pretentious at times.

Can you tell I'm all over the place today?

Friday, May 12, 2006

Tick Tock

I must hand over this bad boy on Monday. Before then, I have to write and introduction and an overall discussion. Totally feasible...right?

The good news is that I wrote each chapter up as though it were an individual manuscript. Each chapter, thus, has an abstract, intro, and discussion. I'm hoping that the overall intro and discussion will just be cut and paste from the other chapters. So much of intellectual challenges. Time kills all that it is good in this world.

I tried to put all of the chapters into one big file yesterday. Big mistake. Big. My computer cried out in pain. Maybe I should have closed down some of the running applications. Yeah, I'm one of those people.

I might go dark (isn't that what they say in the CIA?) for a while. I don't know, we'll see.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Bubble Wrap Bonus

Several people (my mom and the guy next door) are curious to know how I deal with all of this stress. Aside from the wine and head banging and bizarre motor ticks, I feel that this has been tremendously helpful.

Thank me later.

Official Word: UFOs are not hostile

I feel so much better. Thank you, UK.

But now, I'm curious.

For in depth, quality UFO research.

Here are the reports from the Ministry of Defense.

I really do feel so much better.

Monday, May 08, 2006

How I Feel Right Now

As my sister-in-law, who teaches photography and short-film making, points out: "Technology may be causing a decline in verbal literacy, but visual literacy is reaching new highs."

So, here we go:

This is how I feel right now. It sounds really crappy to be me, right? Well, I would rather be me than be this little guy. That makes me feel better.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Astrocytes are Insensitive

I'm losing it. I just wrote "astrocytes are insensitive" in my fruksis and now I can't stop laughing. It's funny...really.

Can't See

I feel blind.

Maybe it's because I finally managed to get someone to send me new contacts even though I haven't been to the eye doctor in 5 years. Eyes go a little nuts when they've been using 6-month old contacts that are only supposed to be used for two weeks. When you finally get new contacts, your eyes rebel against the change even though it is a good change.

Eyes are sort of like people.

Maybe I feel blind because I've been working well over 14 hours a day on my fruksis, yet there appears to be no end in sight. Another girl in my lab took over a year to write her thesis, which was only 150 pages long. I don't know why I thought 2 months for twice as many pages was feasible.

Maybe I feel blind because I have no idea where I will be in two months. I have no job lined up, we will be moving to a different place, and my husband may be switching careers very soon.

One thing I do know is that I don't want anyone else to tell me that my thesis is not going to be crappy. I appreciate if you think that my most craptacular work equals someone else's best work. I understand that you think I can't see the end because I'm a perfectionist.

But, how does that help? You know--you understand.

If you can't meet your own standards of excellence, especially when you are pathological about such standards, then it doesn't help to meet someone else's. Furthermore, when you are handing something in to people who have been exposed to your standards for half of a decade, does anyone really think that those people aren't also holding you up to your standards instead of theirs.

These people have watched me move figures one pixel on posters measuring 4.5 feet by 3.5 feet. It obviously didn't matter to me that you wouldn't be able to tell on the final product that the figures were off by one pixel. That pixel means everything.

It doesn't matter that it doesn't matter. I know that it doesn't matter. It does though--it does to me.

I remember a picture I drew when I was 13. It was a charcoal drawing of a woman dressed in ballroom attire,clutching a child to her chest. I loved the picture. It was the first piece of art that I created and loved. Usually there was lots of creation but little love.

The woman was obviously wealthy as evidenced by her attire, but the wealth didn't matter. Looking at her clutch that child made you see that she was unhappy. She was unhappy and so vulnerable. I was so proud of that picture.

My art teacher, unfortunately, wanted me to make the lines darker so that you could see everything in the picture from afar. It had to be darker so that we could display it, and people could walk around like pigeons looking at it.

I still regret making the lines darker. They were supposed to be soft; that was the point. The softness of the picture made you come in closer. It made you vulnerable.

Does that picture really matter in the grand scheme of my life...should it matter? Probably not.

But it does matter to me.

Am I crazy? Yes. Maybe that is why I feel blind.

Some of you are crazy too, though.

Those of you who don't get it, won't get it. It's not about age or wisdom or life's lessons. It's about drive and who we are and what makes us feel "proud of ourselves".

I'm so very tired...and blind.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Go Shop For Me

I need someone to go shopping for me. I am really cutting it close with my fruksis deadline, and I don't have the time to look for myself. I need something sharp to wear to my defense that screams, "I'm smart but not a frump".

I'm thinking black because I usually only wear black/gray, blue, brown, white/cream or some combination of those colors. I look horrible in purple and bright greens. My presentation is going to be shades of blue and orange so I can't wear anything that clashes as the screen is huge and will be behind me as a backdrop. I could do a light color for a dress if it had a dark cardigan.

Obviously my shoulders should be covered, but I'm willing to layer if the dress is strappy.

I'm trying to not do pants because I have a hard time finding pants that fit on my waist--I almost had a wardrobe malfunction at my last presentation because the microphone battery was clipped to my pants and ended up pulling them down. I caught them before anyone was traumatized, but then I had to hold the stupid pack the entire presentation.

I don't do skirts that are above the knee because I hate my knees. Maybe slightly above the knee if you must, but please respect my body issues.

What else...I have narrow shoulders. I usually stick to A-line type deals. I really like the dresses with the belts or that wrap around--like the kind Kelly Ripa wears all of the time.

It has to be under $200. Way under would be nice, but as this will be my only "professional" outfit that I own, I don't want to go too cheap.

Update: More info

Here are some styles that I like, but that I can't afford.
Exhibit A
Exhibit B
Exhibit C
Exhibit D
Exhibit E

OK, now go shop for me...please. Please.

Where Am I?

"Some time around 2:45 a.m., I drove the few blocks to the Capitol Complex believing I needed to vote," his second statement said. "Apparently, I was disoriented from the medication."
--Rep. Patrick Kennedy after crashing into a barrier (in order to avoid hitting a police cruiser) near the Capitol

At least he didn't kill an intern.

I used to think my Uncle Billy Bob's excuses were so lame because he was an alcoholic and drug addict and not very smart or educated. Apparently, he was just being a politician when he claimed that he hit a fence to avoid running over a chicken, and then went home and drank a case of beer in an hour (explaining why he was drunk when the police arrived at his house). You see, it wasn't really a hit-and-run either because he left a note--the chicken must have eaten it.

Which story is more believable? I'm not sure.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

What Your Mentor Didn't Tell You

Everyone tells you to begin writing your dissertation early, well before you finish your research and plan your defense.

For some, this may be possible. For others, however, I think this bit of advice is not necessarily clear and easy to follow.

If your project is like most, it is a living, breathing creature. You are not merely checking "to do's" off of your proposal; you are collecting data and changing your ideas based on those data and exploring new paths as the literature on your topic grows. For some, projects will change completely. For others, you may be scooped or your hypotheses may have to change with some new discovery occurring halfway across the world.

Thesis research is a dynamic process.

This is why writing your dissertation "early" is not always easy to do.

I don't want to hear the peanut gallery whining about "starting with the introduction". Sure, you can write literature reviews on your topic. In fact, if you have the time and energy, a review is a good way to get out a publication. If you think about the purpose and nature of an introduction, however, you will begin to see how intimately it is linked to the meat of your thesis. Your introduction is, thus, a growing, living creature also.

Now, listen closely, because I'm going to tell you something you can do.

For those of you who present posters often (more than 2 times a year, including the first year of your research), you can tune out. The rest of you should stay on board.

Pick up a pencil and a piece of paper. For you computer junkies, paper is that thing that is usually white and flat, and it comes out of a printer. A pencil is something you put in your hand and make lines with.

Now, grab all of the data you've obtained in the last 6 months (or longer if you have data from over 6-months ago that have nothing written about them). Pull out the data that can fall under a single-hypothesis.

Now, write an abstract. I'm giving you a 300-word limit. You must have a rationale, methods, results, and conclusions/discussion section. Go online to a society (like the society for neuroscience) and look through their abstract databases for help, if you need to. It's sometimes helpful to have a model when you write (a model does not mean copying passages, just so we're clear, here). It doesn't matter if your data aren't finished or if you only have an N of one. Write about what you have. Do it now. Don't sit there and think, "I'll do it when I have time" or "I'll do that on Cinco de Mayo". Do it now. It's 300 words; you can do it. You are not too busy because you are reading my blog right now. You can't fool me.

Now, put the abstract in a file that you will not lose. Remember that you may need to pull it out in 5-years, so label it with care.

You now have a skeleton ready for dressing when you want to submit an abstract or write a paper. When you go to write your dissertation, you have an immediate outline to use for the chapter covering the data in that abstract. You can change the abstract as you go along in seconds. Quick, easy, done.

Thank me later. I accept all major credit cards.