Friday, November 30, 2007


I finally got around to doing this. Here it is.

The Happy Scientist tagged me for my very first meme, that requires 8 responses to several topics.

8 passions
1. Rugby
2. Women equality issues
3. My Husband
4. Science
5. Environmental issues
6. Grocery shopping/organic food
7. My family
8. My good friends

8 things to do before I die
1. Finish my dissertation
2. Live on the west coast again
3. Play rugby with a Division 1 team (A-side game)
4. Have a child
5. Curb my addiction to all things sugar and food in general
6. Own a home (on west coast)
7. Own a car that is less than 10 yrs old
8. Save the environment

8 things I often say
1. I hate writing
2. I brought my own bag
3. Can we please leave the house today?
4. I went for a run today
5. I hate running
6. That’s what I said
7. No, no
8. What should we have for dinner?
I work at home and don’t talk to people much. This one was hard

8 books I recently read
1. I just finished the Price of Motherhood (recommend it)
2. An older yoga book
3. Taking on the big Boys by Ellen Bravo (just started it Love It, Recommend it)
4. Bitch Magazine
5. Running Magazine
6. Discovery Magazine
7. Veg Times Magazine
8. Signs Magazine (my grandpa gets in for me, it’s good bathroom reading)

As you can see I read a lot of magazines. My sister just had a magazine drive and I just canceled the newspaper so I figured I sign up for a few. I’m not renewing Running Mag. Magazine are good because they don’t require a big time commitment. I don’t usually read more than one book at a time.

8 songs that mean something to me
I’m sorry, I’m cheating, I can’t come up with eight songs so I’m going to write down my favorite bands
1. Ani Difranco. She is currently my running inspiration and I listen to her stuff when ever I’m working on spreadsheets. I could come up with my eight songs just from her work. It’s amazing how I can listen to her work years after I initially heard it and get new meaning from it.
2. Beastie Boys
That’s it. Those are my two passions. I love these artist. They get me motivated.
I enjoy most music but mostly listen to public radio.
I have a lot of Jonny Cash and Bob Marley mp3’s

8 qualities I look for in a friend
1. Honesty
2. Fun loving
3. Into being outdoors/athletic
4. Low maintenance
5. Cares for the environment
6. Intelligent
7. Likes to drink (kind of a funny one but I’m running out of things here. I wouldn’t not be someone’s friend if they didn’t drink)
8. Doesn’t like to text message

8 people who's blogs I enjoy and who may consider themselves tagged if they wish

The Happy Scientist already tagged some of these people. So it you were tagged already, of course don’t do it twice, just know, I like your blog. Also if you are reading this and wish you were tagged, feel free to tag yourself.
1. Young Female Scientist
2. Dr. Mom
3. His Gal Friday
4. I love science, really
5.Janus Professor
6. Pretty hard, dammit
7. Saturday's a Rugby Day
8. What the hell . . .

Great. Hope you learned something about me.
I'm going to yummy Italian food soon with husband and another couple. I hope I can convince them to walk the 1 mile down there but I'm pretty sure it's below freezing outside so it will be a tough argument.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


I'm tired of counting words. It's getting complicated. I'm at 49% and you think I could not give up and count enough to make it to 50% but I'm done. With that said, I am really happy with my progress this past month. I didn't make the exact goals I had hoped for but I've gotten a lot of writing done, most of it revisions which makes counting difficult.
I've actually done a lot of work putting together my dissertation which I didn't think I'd start until January, but since I'm waiting for other people on my publications I thought I might as well do some of it (since I needed to increase my word count). I'd like to show my outline here and mention how much I've done (to pat myself on my back). The outline was only written in October.

Ch. 1 INTRODUCTION (isn't it always).
This is finished! Granted some was cut and pasted from manuscripts I'm working on and/or edited from my masters thesis but still. It is five pages and has three sections. It could likely be longer but each individual chapter will have have an intro. so this is just basic info and you know the summary about what the dissertation is about. The first section is background info about the hydrogeology of the study area. The second two sections are info about the two major groundwater contaminants I work with, so heath impacts, sources of contamination, ect. You can always put in more info about other peoples work but I feel like I've summarized pretty good and included the major review papers.
Ch 2. Contaminant #1
This has four subsections, three of which are going to be publications. So once those are done I'll cut and paste and format into dissertation. The last subsection I've written this past week. I didn't think it was going to be enough data for a manuscript but now that I've written it up I'm thinking it could be. It's only the second data set of it's kind on this contaminant so I think it deserves to get out there. But I'll wait until the other papers have been submitted and then think about it again.
Ch 3. Major chemistry of contaminant #1 and #2 sources.
This is more of an appendix style chapter. I've written the text, it's about a page, and will make the tables once the last of the data comes in. Part of this is the manuscript I'm resubmitting. So I refer to it but again this is more of a look at all this data, maybe somebody later can use it in a different way than I have, and most of the data has been interpreted in other sections.
Ch 4. About contaminant #2
I wrote the text for this today up until the results section. That's when things get hard :) This is a continuation of my master's thesis. Where the masters had a years worth of data this is four years of data, plus some changes to the study sites, so new data. It's really interested but maybe not publishable since I've been told it's only important locally and doesn't have a broad impact. Most of this data analysis has been done for abstracts but I need to think about it again and organize my thoughts better before I write the results and discussion. I will likely try to submit it once life has settled. There is a local journal I submitted the master's thesis data to.

Ok, then there is a nice conclusion/summary chapter and of course the abstract of the dissertation. These are things that will be completed last so they aren't on the radar yet.

I feel great. Thanks InaDWriMo.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Ok, so I’m really upset but can’t help but partially blame myself. Here is the deal (I may give some things away about what I study but oh well). I needed samples analyzed for organic nitrogen but we can only do inorganic nitrogen in my department. We found a contract lab near by that another student had used in the past. We called and told them what we had and what we needed done and they even said that 50mL would be enough sample even though the usually require more. Ok the lab chief knows about us let’s get things ready and send out the samples. Below is a portion of their fancy Chain of Custody report. As you can see there is only 10 lines. Look at this image before you read on and tell me how many samples you think I’ve sent them for analysis and remember that we spoke with the lab chief.

Ok. Did you really think about it and not just skip down to cheat?

What number did you come up with? Was it four or was it twenty seven. I’m pretty sure those are the only two possible answers but again I thought there was only one answer to this question. I guess it would also help to open the box and see twenty seven 50mL vials clearly labeled. What are on these labels? Well each individual vial has a different identifier, so for example, you wouldn’t see 13 vials that say “W40-W52”. Nope you’d see W40,W41,W42,W43,W44,W45,W46,W47,W48,W49,W50,W51 and W52.

I always thought “-“ was universal for through. If I had written W40 through W52 maybe there still would have been the same confusion.

Before I rant on too far I should say that when the data finally came back to me and I was expecting 27 values I received four. Hm, I thought that’s strange let me e-mail the lab chief and wait during the long holiday week-end for an answer. Her answer was that the samples W40 THROUGH W52 were compiled into one sample and that samples W70 THROUGH W81 were also compiled into one sample. She said something like, “the technicians were confused and thought I wanted compiled samples so just send us some more sample and they will run them.” THAT WAS THE LAST OF MY SAMPLES WHICH IS WHY WE ONLY SENT YOU 50 mL.

Now I keep kicking myself because I wasn’t clear enough and I didn’t attach a separate sheet listing every sample. I send my samples out to a few different labs and they all ask to have things written like this, for example, 1-100, instead of writing out 100 numbers. And their stupid little sheet only had room for 10 sample but I had 27. And I thought well it says number of bottles here so that can’t be confusing. And we talked to the lab chief. And we never said compile the samples. E-mail me if you are confused.

You think, “I’ve sent out hundreds of samples before. This is so easy.”

It always seems to happen when it’s the last of something. So instead of 27 values I have two usable ones. I haven’t gotten an invoice yet but we sure as hell aren’t paying them anything. Oh, and my response to the lab chief. “This is horrible news. We don’t have any more sample.” That was all I could muster. I was in such shock.

**update. I spoke with my adviser today and he is also amazed that the lab made this mistake. tisk, tisk

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Giving credit

I noticed that I was linked to on The Happy Scientist so I immediately felt bad and decided I needed to be more honest in my side bar. I've listed the blogs that I book mark. Some of them are pretty new to my favorites and I guess it took me a while to put them all up there because I'm fickle. I will book mark blogs until it gets to the point where firefox tells me that it will take a long time to load all the pages in my blog folder, (There is a cool option if you don't know about firefox to "open all in tabs" in a particular folder). When it gets to this point I delete the ones I don't feel I read often enough. This magic number seems to be 13. Of course I have to book mark myself in favorites. I moved a lot of the food blogs I read into a different folder to create more room for women scientist ones. The reality is I read a lot more than 12 blogs but I usually get to those from other peoples pages, and example is Profgrrrrl, and it use to be that FSP didn't get her own special book mark but I've decided I go to her page everyday so she deserves one.
While I'm giving credit where credit is due I should thank my newsletter of AWIS which had an article a few years ago discussing the importance of female science blogs. I don't remember which newsletter but it was at least a year ago, and they profiled a few blogs. The one that caught my eye was YFS, and I would read her page maybe once a week. It wasn't until I moved to the Midwest that I really got into reading blogs and now it's part of my morning routine. I gather this is because I now work from home, leaving my scientific community back on the East Coast. So maybe I think of the blogs now as my community?
So thanks AWIS and thanks YFS. I really get a lot about reading what other women scientist experience.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I'm the crazy bag lady

I hate going to the really close big box grocery store near my house. I go to that big box store vs. the little box store because they have a bigger organic section, and by bigger I mean they have an aisle and a frozen section. The nice big box organic store is a 20 min drive and my list today were items I couldn't find there on Friday plus some new things to the list. A small co-opt with only bulk items is my dream store augmented by a local, organic farmers market but another town another life. . .
I do appreciate the big box organic selection, although really no produce is organic, but they even have organic wine and beer (and vodka), really cool. And so many things were on sale.
Anyway, it's just a little depressing when you think about how far all these items have traveled so I can eat them and I get depressed when I see the fat people buying mayonnaise. And I get depressed when I think about how most of the people in this store choose items based on cost and not quality. Think of all the people on Thursday who will be eating twice as many calories as there bodies need and way too many preservatives. But I digress, my main reason for not liking to go to this big box store is the funny attitude I always get about bringing my own bags, and even though my bags are there they love to start putting things in plastic and then act all forgetful when I remind them. I really just want to preach about how bad plastic is, but I just smile and say "I don't like plastic." My bags are big sturdy canvas bags, fill them up!! I usually just go to the self check out but was feeling particularly lazy. I even drove to the store instead of walking or biking because I wanted to buy lots of said organic beer and wine.


So it's obvious I won't make my InaDrWriMo goal and I'm ok with that. I'm at 8% now, I'm aiming for 50% by Nov. 30th. Although resubmit should be um, resubmitted by then-see below.

I just got off my internet meeting with adviser and he said if I give him a draft of our resubmit tomorrow night he will read it over the week-end. I had to ask this but I'm glad he said yes. We told the journal it should be completed by the end of the month. I am also happy with the analysis of our newest data. Initially I was upset and hated our model and thought new data didn't fit, and it doesn't give us the same exact result but a similar one and still has an interesting conclusion. I also feel so much better now that I've propagated error for these crazy model equations with eight variables each. Some of the errors are pretty big but some are not. So I've revised the intro and lengthly methods and deleted the results section to just start fresh. I guess I could count these words as part of my progress, and I might, but it's hard to asses written words on a revise. This resubmit wasn't even included in my goals, so I've spent a lot of time this month not working on InaDrWriMo.

I'm still waiting for data on manuscript "1"
Still haven't gotten back manuscript "2"
And as previously mentioned I didn't analyze all samples needed for manuscript "3" and I just heard that lab tech won't likely analyze forgotten samples by conference time. They may just have to wait until I go back to dissertation town in January. Poor forgotten samples :(
Although I'd like to have my completed data set for manuscript "3" there is def. more I can still write while I'm waiting for these samples. It's a very big manuscript with two to three sub stories.

Oh and I wanted to comment about how amazing my home made salad just was. Spring mix, raisins, walnuts, hummus, cooked red potato and balsamic vinegar/olive oil/garlic homemade dressing. Yummy, I may go make some more.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Advisers and advising

There has been some interesting posts recently. First I read on YFS qualities that make a good graduate student (entry Failure). She was inspired by a post on FSP on the same subject. These posts were generally about how to know if an individual will make it as a graduate student. The conclusion is that I don't think you can, one just makes a best guess. So, I thought it very timely that I read this post on "I Love Science, Really," which is about a 5th year student in her lab (but maybe a different department) who is being kicked out by her adviser. WOW.

So my question becomes when should one do this. I mean, don't you think this women's adviser should have known before her 5th year that she wasn't going to make it. And did the adviser not know because zie* wasn't advising very well, or did zie feel like I think FSP sometimes does, and just didn't know what to do about a non productive graduate student. Maybe the student had been busy with teaching and course work, and then when research finally came around she had a really difficult project or one that required a lot of method development.

I'd like to hear a discussion about what is expected from an adviser-advisee relationship. I know sometimes it's unclear to me. My adviser has always been good about meeting. We've had weekly meetings since I started graduate school in 2002 and we had group meetings when we had a big enough group. These would just be students (and sometimes adviser) taking turns giving either practice talks for some conference or just general talks about their research or research questions. I liked group meetings. But as time progressed I've felt that weekly meetings aren't very important, if I have a question I would just go to adviser's office or send an e-mail and I really wished the hour or so we meet a week zie would spend reading my papers instead. Never the less, although I complain about my adviser's turn around time in reading my manuscripts I think zie is a good adviser and I think I've been a good advisee, and that I speak my mind to zie about "when the hell are you going to read my paper" and I finally have the courage to say "we shouldn't include that in the paper" although I usually don't win that second argument. I sometimes feel like I can never be correct over my adviser since zie has been working in science for the last 50 or so years.

On the other hand my adviser actually kicked out one of my good friends from his group. I wish I knew at that point that she could have said NO, like the lab mate of I love Science. Instead she frantically ran around our dept. and another dept. looking for a semester project just so she could get research credit and think about what to do for her master's and/or PhD. No one would take her. Our adviser was one of the first when the dept. was created in the late 60's or early 70's. Did he sway peoples opinion? In retrospect I don't think she would have wanted to stay in his lab. I don't agree with the way my adviser "dumped" her, but I can't completely blame him for doing it. It was obvious for a while that they didn't see science or grad school in the same way, and that he didn't specialize in the direction she wanted the project to head. Should my friend have noticed this soon enough and got out herself? Maybe, but I don't think students feel they can do this anymore than professors feel they can dump students. So she ended up spending two semesters finishing course work and writing a report to get a non thesis masters, during which she had no funding and had to pay for her credits.

One more point on adviser relationships. I also have a friend, who in her 4th or 5th year is having to be a TA again, due to lack of funding. This isn't so bad as some funding is better than none, but what is bad is that another student in her lab who is a 2nd/3rd year, Asian and male does not have to TA but is being funded by a group the adviser works with. Their projects are not that different yet when my friend asked to be funded by said group her adviser said her research wasn't in the scope of the groups funding. Hm, suspicious. So, is she a TA now because she speaks better English, is female, is somehow less worthy?
So what should she do. It's too late now as she signed the TA contract. But we decided the fair thing for her adviser to do would have been for his two students to share the TA ship and only TA one semester each, giving both more time for research. Although I really think her senority should have been the trump card. Don't make her TA so she can finish and you won't have to fund her anymore.

So I'm curious, how much can a student be honest with an adviser when they don't want to ruin their relationships since they 1) need the advisers help graduating and 2) will want good letters of recommendation.

*zie is my attempt at a gender neutral pronoun

Saturday, November 10, 2007

More words

Yesterday felt very productive. I wrote 289 words in my dissertation and am up to 711 words in manuscript #3. I think internet free fridays are going to be a great idea.
I also have lots of blog reading to keep myself busy this saturday afternoon. After I catch up it's back to writing!

Thursday, November 8, 2007


I finally opened my document (manuscript 3) to start writing! I wrote 173 words in the introduction, which is a little more than one paragraph. I decided I needed to remind myself of the pertinent literature and along the way came across a really cool taping of legislation discussing EPA's lack of setting a drinking water standard on the contaminant I'm working on. EPA was accused of slacking off and increasing the reference dose due to lobbying from DOD. It was very interesting to listen to. That took about 2 hours of my day.
But really why has EPA taken more than 10 years to take a stand on this contaminant? I understand if you set a standard too low, too soon it can cost a lot of money to clean up the contaminant which may not be necessary, but shouldn't we err on the side of being too cautious for the safety of public health, especially when standards are set to protect infants and pregnant women or sensitive populations?

Yesterday I finished making my presentation for the Dec. conference, which I'm sure will change more as I continue to practice the talk and as I write the corresponding manuscript. I'm also hoping for a few more analysis to include. But these analysis are being performed by others so I just need to cross my fingers.

I have been pretty productive this week but decided to ask the hubby to turn off the internet tomorrow so I will have no distractions. If this goes well maybe I should make all Friday's internet free. Really, if you send any important e-mails on a Friday they really can wait until Monday, right?

And maybe, just maybe, I'm going to sneak ahead on the word count . . . .

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


I figured I should give excuses for why my word meter hasn't moved since InaDWriMo began for me on Nov 5th, as other's have done.

As I mentioned in my revised goals I have to resubmit a manuscript that I thought would have been finished in "dissertation town."
So I spent this week making more plots, with new data. I am not very happy with these new plots as I feel the contradict our previous results. Argh. So in my meeting with my adviser yesterday we came to the conclusion that the scope of the paper should be changed. This is likely the third time the scope has changed and in reality I've written more than three papers in this one manuscript. So science goes . . . I guess

I spent the other portion of the week trying to find a copy of MatLab that would work with the code written by a co-author. Said co-author was a previous graduate student of my adviser and is now way out of contact. My adviser never ran the model so was no help there.

Today I was able to get the model to run, which is great, but I don't understand the output files. The first couple lines of the file doesn't make sense with the rest of the file and it doesn't seem to be the outcome of the previous iterations. I've sent an e-mail to another previous graduate student who wrote a help file to the model. She works now, at a consulting company, but is easy to get in touch with.

My plan is to put this manuscript on hold until I get in contact with help file previous graduate student. This likely won't be until the week-end.

The rest of the week will be spent making my presentation for the December conference and hopefully writing some of the manuscript which corresponds to the data in the presentation.

wish me luck.