Friday, February 29, 2008

Can’t have a rainbow without rain

What I mean by this is that I’ve found out that the pain of waking up early has rewards, and in particular one reward: increased productivity.

Every day this week I’ve woken up before 7am, usually between 630-7. This means that I haven’t had internet time every morning but all mornings I at least had time to check my e-mail.

My routine has been wake up, throw on robe and surf the web until 7am. Then I make coffee/breakfast and put on some actual1 clothes. After eating I try to organize what I plan to do for the day. All of this means that I’m at top productivity by 8am and I have been working nonstop2 until around noon.

This week I’ve been working on a chapter of my dissertation that I don’t plan to publish. Its likely only of local interest and specifically the interest of my funding agency. It may, however, find it’s way to a low-tier journal if I’m happy with the quality of the chapter or find something of greater interest than what I see now. The work I did of this nature for my master’s thesis made it’s way to a local journal which I’m certain is not peer-reviewed but I’ve been meaning to double check this. The journal does not come up in web of science searches and the manuscript was accepted without comments or changes. I was rejected from two other journals before we went to the local journal. The main thrust of the rejections said that my study was nothing new or exciting, just new data in a different area. I now think that I could have made a better argument in the manuscript that it is of broader interest, so maybe the Ph.D. me can actually publish this chapter but it’s not a goal I have to graduate. I was upset at the time of rejection because I’d read articles that are interesting but are really only presenting site specific data. Guess I should submit to the journals I read those articles in.

My productivity greatly decreases after lunch. I’ve been having lunch then exercising or vice versa. I ran outside yesterday!! My internet time has been increased and is now 1230-230. Ironically, I think I goof off less now that my internet time is longer. I guess I’ve just had a lot of work and personal chores to get done during this time this week. For example; I applied for financial aid, submitted a manuscript, e-mailed another manuscript to coauthors, did reference searches, dealt with tax issues and deal with the warrantee of our mattress3. Today, however, I plan to watch last nights episode of Lost and probably do another reference search. Tomorrow I’ll print the references I need.

But you know what? My productivity after lunch has been equal to my general productivity over the past few months, so I’m o.k. that its not as good as the morning time because the morning time is kicking ass. I also don’t feel very guilty for getting only a little done in the afternoons because, again, the morning kicked ass. I think this is all a mental game. I think that I am productive in the morning because, a) I get to check my e-mail and goof off (wake up) a little and so am not thinking about goofing off in the morning when I should be working, b) I have this inherent feeling that I’m just being lazy when I sleep in, so when I wake up late morning I have this bad feeling about myself before the day even begins and c) my husband wakes up early so it’s nice to see him in the morning and feel like we are on the same schedule.

1. Actual doesn’t always mean clothing I would leave the house in. What I wear depends on my mood and my exercise plan for the day. If I’m going to exercise before lunch why bother putting on real clothes to just change into exercise clothes later. I’ve read that your clothing can affect your attitude so I try not to be in “lazy” clothes if I’m feeling lazy.

2. Nonstop includes refreshing my coffee cup, getting water, relieving myself and sometimes making a mid morning snack.

3. This is an insane issue that I should blog on once it has been resolved.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Patriarchal Arrangement

Husband and I went to H&R Block last night to get our taxes done. We lived in two states last year plus I'm still a resident of dissertation state, and husband was a student part of the year. Long story short our taxes were going to be more complicated than usual so instead of doing them myself (not ourselves but myself) I decided to get a professional to do them.

The nice man helping us was going to put my husband as taxpayer and me as spouse. I decided to ask him why he was doing it this way. He said, "I always put the man first." I asked why and he didn't have an answer. All he said was, "I always do it this way."I told him to change it and put me first, since really I'm the head of the household-what ever the hell that means.
What really pissed me off is that initially he put in the first two numbers of my social since my W-2 was the top form of our pile and made a conscious decision to change. If my husbands W-2 was on top and he just started that way I may not have asked the question. If he would have answered my question with, "it's best if the taxpayer is the higher income earner," I would have agreed. My husband is no longer a student and so, for the first time in our living together he is making more than me.

So I was pissy last night about how the tax forms are biased. Why aren't there spots for taxpayer X and taxpayer Y? We are both a spouse and are both a taxpayer.

In retrospect I wish I would have asked him what he does when he gets two men.

In the end he couldn't even get our dissertation state tax form figured out, since my husband was a partial resident of that state and I am a full time resident. We have to go back next week...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


One frustration I have with the writing process is the revisions I get back from my adviser. It is difficult for me to discern if he has made a change based on preference or based on clarity. At times I have trouble believing what he has written is better, especially when he decides to change something he wrote in the first place. I understand that writing is a dynamic process and a manuscript, or any written work, can never truly be finished-a sentiment shared by Ecogeofemme. There is always a different way to present your ideas, plot your data, ect. However, as a graduate student and someone who has always struggled with writing I have trouble learning from this process. How can I become a better writer if I don’t know what my adviser really thinks is good? I tend to feel that everything I do is wrong because I have struggled with writing for so long and have deemed myself no good at it. I’ve gotten to the point where I wish he wouldn’t change sentences that are clear and only change sentences which make no sense. This I feel would help my confidence, i.e. knowing that what I wrote wasn’t “wrong” and help me become a better writer by helping me identify what I’m doing correct and what really needs changing.

I think that lab work is manageable because you know what needs to be done to feel finished, even though things can go wrong and you may have to redo experiments, lab work is always a fixed goal. Unlike writing, which can go on forever and seems to be doing so. I long ago decided I am more of a doer than a thinker. I love to do tasks like lab and field work. I do love making plots, analyzing data and making presentations. I feel those are tasks, even writing an abstract feels like a task, i.e. it has a limit and a deadline. But sitting down to write a paper feels like more than my personality can take.

On a positive another note I submitted a short letter to big name journal this week-end. It is the data that I was known for at the December conference. I’m guessing it will get rejected but at least it should be quick and painless and It got rejected and I know who I’ll turn around and resubmit to. I was amazed that my coauthors had very little comments, except adviser-of course- and I think thought my cover letter was convincing that this data is of interest to a larger reader base.

I also finished manuscript 2 today and sent it to my coauthors. I debated if I should send it to adviser first or to both coauthors at the same time. I’ve completely changed it due to coauthors suggestions but I have this feeling that I don’t mind looking “dumb” in front of my adviser but would hate to send a sub par manuscript to coauthor from another university. It can also be confusing to get contradictory comments from your coauthors. However I decided to take my husbands advise, which is, THIS IS MY MANUSCRIPT. So I’ll see what the coauthors think of it and if the comments aren’t major I’ll fix it up and submit it without them looking at it again.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

What I want to be when I grow up

This post is inspired by something my husband said last week. He met a new post-doc at the non-academic lab he works at and this post-doc asked my husband, who is also a post-doc, “what number post-doc is this for you?” When he got home he told me that he wasn’t interested in having multiple post-doc positions and moving around the country (world) any more than we already have. He is now sitting in his home office learning a computer programming program so he can apply for a job in our dream location on the west coast. What he studies now is very theoretical, this job he is applying for is about studying earthquakes working for the government. The ad states that many days maybe spent doing field work in remote wilderness areas. This sounded so much more interesting to my husband than his many days/nights he spends on the beamline doing lab work. He also commented about how he is having trouble doing a new experiment at his current job because while he has a fellowship he has little money for research and no one (not the guy in the lab next door or a fellow researcher in another state) will collaborate him and let him use the apparatus he needs for his experiment.

I found this conversation with my husband interesting. I get the feeling that we are both ready to “nest.” You know, settle down, start our “real” lives. Buy a house, have a child, all of those “normal” things people do. I’ve been trying to tell myself for this past year that all will come in due time and just because we are 30-ish and haven’t achieved the “American dream” yet doesn’t mean we aren’t normal people. (I apologize for my over use of parenthesis quotations).

So this brings me to the title of this post, What I want to be when I grow up. My mom told me that the first job I wanted was to be a bath-tub-filler-upper. Cute? I guess my 5 year old brain noticed that I, myself, could not fill up my own bath. My mom had to do it. Hell, maybe she couldn’t even fill up her own bath. Imagine the market, all these people across the world needing their baths filled up. . . . .

My brain was easily influenced in elementary school. I remember an assembly where they showed a shriveled up lung, caused by smoking cigarettes and to this day I have never smoked one. We had a safety assembly and I came home and put buckle up stickers in my parents cars and was the buckle-up police well into high school. In addition, “I gave a hoot and didn’t pollute.” I conserved water and sometime around 3rd grade I decided I wanted to save the earth. I remember we watched something on a TV in class about the environment. All I can remember now was at the end there were a bunch of actors stating ways to save the earth. I remember Chevy Chase stating that one should shower with a friend. And so began my quest as an environmentalist.

Some years later I heard about a big oil spill. At this point I decided that I wanted to be the person who went to the spill and cleaned up the soil.

Every summer I went with my mom and her family to this beautiful beach town for a week or two. This town happen to have a good university. My great grandma would drive me up there and give me tours of the campus. So, I put my desire to be an environmentalist together with these summer vacations and decided to go to that university to study environmental studies. It was here that I was told that I could not double major in ES and chemistry. So I switched to a geology major (I saw a flyer that stated geology is environmental studies and one of the careers it listed was soil scientist), where the requirements included chemistry and math, unlike the ES major (where they encouraged doubling in biology or politics). I had a one point decided I wanted to be an environmental lawyer but it only took one policy and politics class for me to decide that I’d rather be the person who did the science that policy was based on (hopefully in the next administration this will be true).

So for the next four years I studied to be a geologist. In my fourth year I landed a student position working with the USGS for a soil scientist. This position was great, I worked closely with three positive female role models, one was the chief scientist. We studied carbon budgets in the boreal forest and I got to do field work in Alaska and Canada and work with soil! I wasn’t cleaning it like I thought in elementary school but this was pretty much my dream job. They hired me as a technician after I graduate college. But I did more than just lab and field work. I also wrote reports, analyze data, they took me to meetings and I could propose my own research.

So how did it come to be that I left this job? A man. . . . my now husband took me away. We actually spent 15 months apart because there was no way in hell I was leaving the west coast and leaving my awesome job for some man. But then, I missed him, and I thought about it. Was a job really more important than this man I love? I decided not. So I applied to get my master’s degree where he was in dissertation town on the east coast. I got accepted and really love my research. In reality I may have never gone to graduate school if it wasn’t for my husband. I expected to quit at my master’s degree but I really loved the project and it was starting to get interesting so I stayed . .. . and now I’m struggling to finish.

Sorry this story is getting so long.
Now that I’m getting ready to graduate and find a job I have to ask myself, what do I want to do. If you go back a few paragraphs the answer would be save the earth, clean up soil, so why is it that I’m looking at job descriptions for faculty positions. My only answer to this is that it seems this is what someone does with a Ph.D. I had a conversation, about two years ago, at a laundry mat with someone from the humanities department and when I told him I didn’t want to be professor he gave me this look of discuss. When I look at positions with consulting companies I think to myself that I’ve just wasted the last four years of my life getting a Ph.D. I guess I could save the earth as a faculty member, you know in between teaching classes and administrative duties. I just know that there are so many of you out there who have dreamed of being a professor, that wasn’t my dream, so how can I compete with you all.

I think this idea of being a faculty member was also instilled in me at a meeting last spring. My adviser had a special session for him, for his 70th bday, and the convener mentioned that something like 70% of his former students were now faculty. I thought, hey I could do that do. Two summers ago I mentored a young women in high school. I thought, hey this was cool, I like to mentor students in research. Can I mentor students if I work at a consulting firm? A few months ago I mentioned an old TA of mine came to stay with us. He is now at a university with no graduate students and his responsibilities are 75% teaching, 25% research. That sounded like a nice job. But how do I save the earth if I’m teaching 75% of the time.

*Sigh* I should stop now before this post gets abusively long. I had hoped by writing this all out I would get an epiphany and decide what to do with my life after graduation, but I feel just as confused now as I did when I started. I guess like I stated in my theme I just need to live in the moment and focus on my manuscripts and dissertation.

Monday, February 11, 2008


Arduous tagged me.
Here are the rules for the meme:

Archive Meme Instructions: Go back through your archives and post the links to your five favorite blog posts that you've written. ... but there is a catch:

Link 1 must be about family.
Link 2 must be about friends.
Link 3 must be about yourself, who you are... what you're all about.
Link 4 must be about something you love.
Link 5 can be anything you choose.

I think this is a great way to circulate some of the great older posts everyone had written, return to a few great places in our memories and also learn a little something about ourselves and each other that we may not know.

Post your five links and then tag five other people. At least TWO of the people you tag must be *newer acquaintances so that you get to know each other better....and don't forget to read the archive posts and leave comments!

Link 1 must be about family.
From reading my blog you would think that I didn't have a family. I gather because I created this blog as a way to motivate my writing. So the few entries that I mention my family are almost like side notes. My mom and sister are coming to visit in March so I'll be sure to talk about them then. In the mean time you can read some about what I did with my mom and sister during the winter trip to west coast, here and here.

Link 2 must be about friends.
Again, not much social talk on my blog. My last entry talked about some fun time in dissertation town. But I'm lonely here in the midwest.

Link 3 must be about yourself, who you are... what you're all about.
Check out these two post, I'm the crazy bag lady and Confession.
And you might as well read my first post.

Link 4 must be about something you love.
I love making progress. What I really love is rugby, but I'm currently not playing, so I don't talk about it much.

Link 5 can be anything you choose.
I think relationships between graduate students and advisers are tricky.

I think this exercise in posting old post was a good lesson in how boring my post are. Thanks for reading despite this :)
I resolve to write more about my personal life and less about the boring progress of my research.

Oh and I tag
Janus Professor
Science Girl
Mad Hatter
Just Me


I have to admit that I've only partially been reading all your blogs. For some reason I have had no focus this week. I've been trying to read scientific papers and get through the abstracts and get bored. Then, yesterday, it happened. I started flowing, you know, my period started, I'm on the rag, ect. I feel that it is so unfair that my energy and attitude change this time of the month, and that I have cramps that make me want to stay in bed. Unfortunately I work from home so I can stay in bed. NO! I need to be productive.

Anyway, since I'm not able to focus I'm going to post a few bulletins of items I've been meaning to write about.

  • "Soon I will post .... specifically about the undertone sexism such as posted here by Dr. Medusa." While I was in dissertation town I went to a comedy club with my friend and her husband (also a friend). This is the friend who recently had a baby, my godson. Someone they knew was one of the opening acts. (I should mention that the two opening acts and the headliner were women, a male comedian introduced all three of them and did short interludes of his own jokes.) While the entire night was a lot of fun I started to get a little agitated during the show once I realized that 80% of the jokes were about sex/gender, race or weight. I have to admit that some of these jokes are in deed funny, but I think it is important to think about why they are funny, and should they be funny. I decided not to say anything to my friends so not to depress their fun, but the opportunity came up a few days later and I had to bring it up. This friend is very open minded, a strong female and my good friend, so I was surprised when she said, "stereotypes are there for a reason." This is such an easy statement to make unfortunately it is not always true. Sometime stereotypes are not created by the "type" that is being stereo'd (?). There are times when these stereotypes are perpetrated by those who would like to repress a certain group. In addition stereotypes can be further instilled in the minds of the people as truth, or as blanket statements about a certain group of people, by constantly seeing the stereotype in the media. So, in summary, I would just like to remind everyone, if you don't already, to really think about what you laugh at and how funny it really is, not just to you but to the group that is being made fun of.

  • "I have officially applied for graduation and have a defense committee" Yes this is pretty exciting, but when I do the back calculations it doesn't seem plausible to turn in my dissertation by May 20th.
    • Defend by April 20th
    • Give dissertation to committee (5 people) by the first week in April.
    • Go through a few drafts with adviser within the next 7 weeks.
      • I'm not sure if my adviser is going to be as tough on my dissertation as he was with my master's thesis with somewhere around 10 drafts between us. I say this because he has told me that all I need to do is dump in my publications into a graduate school friendly documentation. But still 7 weeks is not a long time to go through 4-5 publications. One which I'm still waiting for data.
      • My progress has increased since November. As one would hope, but I have yet to submit a publication. It is difficult to discuss publications here since I refer to them as numbers but one of the publications we re-decided to submit as a short letter, so I need to make the rest of the data not submitted in the letter exciting enough to submit as an additional manuscript.
    • Not to mention how difficult it will be to organize 5 committee members, one from another state, at the end of a semester for my defense.
    • Oh well, I've decided that summer won't be bad since I don't have a job lined up yet anyway. (which is also something I should blog about)

  • Dissertation town fun. Besides not getting to bed until 2am after the comedy show I had another week-end of late night fun. One Friday night I met some friends in a "city" for restaurant week. We went to a French restaurant since these are the gals that went with me to Europe/France this past September. Good times. Then we went to a bar that my friends rugby team was going to be at. This was also fun, even though I have bad feeling towards said rugby team. We got back to my friends house around 2am. Woke up, late, at 930am. We had planned to go to a bar in the morning to watch two of the six nations rugby tournament games. My friend made the executive decision to sleep in. Thank god. So we went to a diner for breakfast and then lounged on the couch and watched TV until 2ish. It was, then, off to the city for more fun. We just walked around and saw some sights and then met up with my old rugby team and other teams for karaoke night. More fun! I really miss these gals. But yet again I didn't get to sleep (in my office) until 2am-ish. So with all this lack of sleep I still managed to wake up at 9am (to a phone call) and get some work done before lunch with old lab mates. They both graduated with their master's degree and now work for consulting companies. One works for a large international company and another for a small two office company. It was interesting listening to their stories. After lunch I stayed up until midnight getting samples analyzed. It was not until Monday after swimming that my headache started, reminding me that I need my sleep.
Let's hope my concentration comes back soon.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Different Opinions

I know I had made a list in the last entry about what I was going to write but on my ride back from the airport I retold a story to my husband and he felt very differently than I about the fairness of this story. I've also noticed on other issues he's always had the opinion that the professor knows best, or it's the professors grant they can do what they want with it. Is he emulating the "big boys?" I once told him that he was going to end up being one of those old white men we all complain about.

So here is the story and I am curious to hear your take on it.

My department applied for federal funding called the GAANN and we received it. I'm not sure if it was the graduate director or all the faculty who solicited for this grant. It's a large grant and we have it for many years. The department had the grant when I was a first year (2002) and then subsequently lost it or it didn't get renewed. When we had this grant before it was delegated out by the faculty to pay for students stipends. I'm not sure how they decided this but the students were no part of the decision. The grant at that point also paid for computers for these students.
However for this next time, which started in Fall 2006, each student who wanted to be considered for GAANN support had to write a one page application stating why they needed the money, how their research was of national interest and make an argument for how cool they are. 7 students were chosen and in addition to a stipend and tuition we (myself being one of the 7) received $5000 for research/travel and our health insurance is paid for. Oh and our stipend was $1000 more per year than the other students. It was a pretty sweet deal if you ask me.
This year there were two students who were suppose to graduate in the fall so in essences they were sharing an award. However both of them stuck around since they didn't have job offers yet and thus we over spent that year, causing our research funds to be less for the next year.

So for this year starting in Fall 07 some people were renewed and some new applicants were accepted. One of the renewals graduated in the Fall. I asked two other graduate students over lunch what then happened to the other half of her stipend, expenses, ect..

I feel one of two things should have happened.
1) that money goes back into the pot for next year (in case they mess up and over spend again)
2) they must have had one or two runner ups from the initial applications and they choose one of them

My friend suggested they open up the application again.

This is what happen. The graduate director e-mail one student, who hadn't applied initially, and ask her to apply. She now has funding for this next semester from the GAANN.

This seems unfair to me.

My husband said
1) the graduate director received the GAANN and can do what he wants with it
2) there maybe issues we don't know about
3) what if this student didn't have any funding and was going to not get paid next semester

These are all valid points, yet again, what about fairness.
Hm, what do you think should have happened?

Another issue with this funding was that the graduate director told all first years not to apply because the funds would only be given to those who passed their prelims. However, one first year did apply and did get funded. She did have a Master's degree from another university.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Busy bloggers

I have no time to write in my blog since there are way too many post to catch up on reading. I didn't think I was that far behind but I didn't read any this week-end and not much during the week since I'm in dissertation town.

I just got to reading this months' Scientiae. I'm really enjoying these stories.

Soon I will post my thoughts about some of these stories, specifically about the undertone sexism such as posted here by Dr. Medusa.
I would also like to write about my trip here in dissertation town. I have officially applied for graduation and have a defense committee. Yeah! but it still looks somewhat bleak for a May graduation.
I have a decent headache today. It started around 11am. I had swam this morning and was feeling healthy and feeling like all my drinking and lack of sleeping this week-end hadn't caught up on me, so in essence I was not feeling old. And then . . . . the headache came. I guess I should have went for water instead of coffee after my morning swim. I finally gave in a took asprine, about 2 hours ago, it hasn't kicked in yet. I'll write about my lack of sleep later as well.

As for now I'm going to get back to reading. I'm analyzing samples which takes about 10 mins of attention and 20 mins of waiting.