Monday, September 12, 2011

The places my brain meanders

I have been writing all day and am now a little mental. In case you were wondering about the weirdness of this post. I am writing the discussion section of my paper. It is the final section to finish while I wait for my last bit of data that depends on some critters (who don't seem to want to grow). I think my critters know when I am getting close to publishing and suicide as a way to thwart my efforts. "Damn you scientist lady for your experiments, we are going to all die to teach you a lesson" is what they are thinking. Seriously, all I need is ONE more replicate. But no, I can't have it, instead I have to keep waiting and waiting and waiting for these sensitive fuckers to grow. Don't sneeze, or they will all die. Don't breathe on them, or they will all die. I shake my fist at you and your god damn insanely sensitive, die for no good reason, critter ways!

BTW where are the pictures of angry brown women shaking their fist? When I try to google it all I get is pages and pages of angry white woman. It makes me want to post my own pissed off picture of myself but I don't really want my face out there. If I had more time perhaps I make a picture and pixelate my face and maybe my chest area to make it look like I was doing something naughty when I clearly am not.

I worked all day today and wrote a whole page (with references) of my discussion section. I don't know how fast other people write but this is really really good for me. I think I am slowly getting better at the writing thing because what I wrote doesn't totally suck ass. Yeah me!

In other news, something is wrong with my left foot. It has been aching for a while and the last few weeks the pain has been getting way worse. I went to the foot doctor some time ago and got the special, super expensive, shoe inserts and that helped with my arch pain but not this other pain. So today I went back and they gave me a cortisone shot and this special foot stretcher thingy to wear at night.

The shot really freaking hurt and went deep into my heel and kind of scared the crap out of me. But... BUT this will hopefully work and I won't be in too much pain to take the baby for a walks at the end of the day anymore. Hopefully, this will also help me get more active and continue my weight loss regime.

Oh and I have a co-mentor now, the mammals person said yes to me and my fellowship ideas. So now I have those to write too, and another paper, and a review all before December. I made my to-do list and it made me freak out and ask our lab manager for a hug. Instead he asked me how I was going to possibly do everything on my list in three months, called me crazy (in a good way), and made me some coffee. Which is kind of helpful I guess.

And finally my ~11 month old daughter is full on walking now, without the assistance of walker, and keeps taking huge face plants into various objects at daycare. They have called me twice today to let me know she has bruised her cheek and her forehead. Apparently, she is completely unfazed by it and continues to meander through out the room, while holding her bottle, and babbling like a mini-version of a drunk sorority girl on spring break.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


So I am going to apply for a K award based on an idea that I had quite some time ago that my professor wasn't fully ready to get behind. However, now boss-man is coming around in part because he is realizing there is serious mula to be had when doing mammalian studies, not that we don't love our critters, but mammals pay the big bucks.

Anyway, due to the fact that I am going to be looking at the intersection of two, that is right TWO, diseases now I went looking for a co-mentor for the K award. I have plenty of experience with our critters, with mammals, but not with this second disease. I spent a bunch of time searching the interwebs for info on people at our university who have recently worked with both this disease and mammals. I found such a person and went to my professor to ask if I could contact him.

He wasn't sure this person was the right person so he wanted to do his own looking. After a month of emails, discussions, and getting shuttle from this person to that person. Do you know who he ended up with in the end... the original person that I found. Oh sweet irony. I feel a bit vindicated but can't be mad at him since he spent all this time advocating on my behalf.

Anyway, we are having a phone convo about it tomorrow. He seems interested and we have heard good things about him as a PI so hopefully this will come together nicely.

Cross your pipet tips for me!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

We are not the Kardashians

So one of my vices is reality TV and I have sucked my husband into this as well. A particular show we like to watch and then discuss is Keeping up with the Kardashians. Their semi-scripted shenanigans are fun to watch and make fun of and in there most recent episode the family goes for a super cushy vacation in Bora Bora.

Looks lovely right?

This is the conversation we had before going to bed that night:

Hubbie: "I am sorry I can't take you on a vacation to Bora Bora."
PQA: "But I don't want to go to Bora Bora"
Hubbie: "I wish I could take you to somewhere like Bora Bora, when I am done with law school and making the big bucks"
PQA: "But I don't like beach vacations, I don't want to go to Bora Bora either"
Hubbie: "Fine a vacation like that somewhere that you want to go, I promise we will do it in the future"
PQA: "Why are you so fixated on this vacation thing?"
Hubbie: "I just wish that I could relax like that without worrying about how when I get back from vacation I will have twice as much work to do"
PQA: "We are not the Kardashians. We are normal people, and normal people always have twice as much work to do after a vacation."
Hubbie: grumble. grumble. SNORE

Since he fell asleep mid conversation (again) I am going to finish my thoughts here. The trick to having a relaxing vacation, dear husband, is not to travel halfway across the world to a super humid hot place that is extremely expensive. It is to let go of the work world mind when you go on vacation and not obsess about what you are going to have to do when you get back. You can do that by the pool, or in the mountains, or on your drive home from work. You don't need to go to fucking Bora Bora to get relaxed.

Also I would prefer if you not make the big bucks post law school because that means you will be working 80 hr work weeks for somebody else and we will never see you and you will miss all the cool stuff with our daughter. No vacation in god damn Bora Bora is going to make up for that shit. I would rather you be home at 530 pm every night and not have to commute 2 hrs a day and have our vacations be little weekend trips to the mountains. 

So fuck Bora Bora, is basically what I am saying. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

double face palm

Dear Grad Student,

I have question.

Why did you go online look up the very common, everyone in the lab uses it, antibody to protein X, and order it? Why didn't you use the catalog number on the tube, or the list stuck to the freezer where the antibodies are stored, or the protocol I emailed to you, or the list that was emailed to everyone?


Are you silly enough to think that the company only has one antibody to protein X? 

I see, you are. 

Well, thanks for ordering the wrong antibody, aliquoting it and mixing the old and new aliquots in a way that no one can tell the difference. I really appreciate the new and novel ways you are constantly coming up with to fuck with my experiments. It makes my job so much more of an adventure. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Baby Talk vs Science Talk

So this weird thing has happened to me every since I had my supremely cute baby... no one asks me about my science anymore at work. Every time I run into the department chair (who is a woman) or other professors everyone asks me out the mini-me is, how motherhood is going, etc.

It is not that I mind talking about the mini-me or making small talk but before this when I ran into other people in the department we would talk science. How is your project going, that sort of thing. Which was actually helpful in that sometimes people would have solutions to issues I was having. But also it kept me on the radar of some pretty important PIs who could be useful in the future.

I am worried that they know think of me as a mom first and a scientist second. Am I just being paranoid? Most everyone that asks me about the baby has children and families themselves and in general the campus and my department are very family-friendly. I have yet to run into the overt sexism that I encountered during my PhD program (which is good).

But still, I can't help but feel like my science is get the shaft a little bit. I mean how else can I let them know about some super cool technique I invented or how wonderfully my undergraduate mentee did during his presentation. I am an extroverted person, I have mad people skills, and lots of people know who I am which is great, but I also want them to know that I am doing good science. This kind of positive word of mouth has served me well in the past and I don't want to lose it now. I present at a seminar series once a year but that really doesn't seem enough. I haven't come  up with a good way of switching topics from parenthood to science in a two minute conversation yet.

Has anyone else run into this? How do you deal with it? Am I making too big a deal about it?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Reaching out

This weekend was one of the lower points of parenthood. My husband has thrown his back out and rather then help with the baby has become another person to tend to. On top of that we both came down with some kind of 24 hour stomach bug that the baby had on Thursday. Baby bounced back in like 6 hours, we were not so lucky. But I am choosing not to dwell on this spectacular poopy weekend.

Instead I want to write about what it feels like when ever the baby needs something... a diaper change, food, a nap, etc and she crawls to me and reaches up for me. I can't really communicate fully the sweetness of this experience. The way it makes me feel when this adorable tiny person trusts me, and only me, to fix what is wrong for them. When I have the power to makes things less scary just with my touch. To be someone's safe harbor, to be someone's home, to be trusted so fully and completely is a feeling that no words can describe.

Maybe because I have never had this feeling about my mother, who has always been unpredictably mean, I didn't really realize that this would be part of my role as mother. I wasn't expecting this, the gentle sweet joy of little chubby arms reaching up to me for comfort.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The 'Help"

I read 'The Help' recently and found it really disappointing. I would not really recommend the book to people and don't plan on seeing the movie, which it seems is even more annoying than the book. Here are my problems with the book...

  1. It was badly written, I didn't like the style of prose
  2. It ended really abruptly
  3. I found the main character immensely annoying
  4. It made me uncomfortable about how it presented the relationships between the main character and the black maids but I couldn't quite put my finger on why

Then Cloud linked to this post by Dr. Bernestine Singley about what it was like to be the help in 'the help' which is awesome, you should totally read it, and all the comments. It is a very mature conversation happening with lots of interesting links. But Dr. Singley very succinctly summarizes and puts into clear prose where my vague feelings of uncomfortableness were coming from. This led me to a tangent of sorts on the issue.

I have encountered quite a few people that think it is inappropriate that I pay someone to clean my house twice a month. I am perplexed by the idea that employing household help is wrong on principal. (Live-in help I do find a bit weird though and need to think about some more). I personally don't think there is anything wrong with paying someone a proper salary to do a defined set of household tasks while treating them with respect. In fact, I don't think I could work outside the home and maintain a family if I didn't do so.

There seems to be this belief that household work (usually defined as women's work) is demeaning by definition and I think we need to make the distinction between the work itself and the way people who are doing the work are treated. I don't think that cleaning toilets or doing laundry or taking care of someone else's children is inherently demeaning work. Anymore so then mowing someone's lawn or taking care of their gardens is. I think the way that domestic workers have been treated, and continue to be treated in the majority of situations, is what is demeaning and explotative and wrong.

Anyway, it made me realize how much of the shame/guilt/wrongness of hiring household help is centered around the de-valueing of women's work. After all, as my husband said, working men don't experience all this drama over hiring a gardner. It is not as if they are somehow a bad person for asking someone to do the tasks that they don't have the time or desire to do.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Food vs Me

I am a fat lady. I have always been fat as an adult but having a baby has made me really really fat. Nice people tell me that I am not fat but what they really mean is that I am not the negative things associated with the word fat, like lazy, or dirty, or stupid. I am well kept, put together, intelligent fat woman. But I am still fat.

I do not wish to be fat, I hate being fat, but for a long time I have been fat. I have had a horrible unhealthy relationship with food. I have a tendency to binge eat when stressed. I will eat whole boxes of crackers or 8 bananas or the stereotypically carton of ice cream. I have, on occasion, tried unsuccessfully to become anorexic but thankfully have a really weak gag reflex and couldn't make myself vomit. If I am not paying attention when I eat, I will, without fail, dramatically overeat until I feel ill. For most of my life when I had something to celebrate I would do it with food, when I had a bad day I would treat myself to happiness with food. I can not resist free food, if someone brings in candy I will not just have a piece, but ten. If someone brings in cookies I will have five, never one. Food has been for a long time both my enemy and my friend. In the past when I have tried to diet or exercise it makes me think about food more and my weight more which depresses me and leads to further binge eating and weight gain. Oh the irony.

The weird thing is that my self-esteem and my waistline have had an inverse relationship. When I was a child, teenager, young adult I was slightly overweight (at most). But I felt horrible, I hated myself, I believed everyone found me disgusting, that no one would love me ever, that no one would hire me or want to work with me because I was fat, and so forth.

As I have gotten older and fatter, I am more confident and happy and optimistic about my life. Which is kind of bizarre situation isn't it? There is obviously a lot of shit there to unpack. Shit I need to unpack if my current 532 attempt at getting healthy is going to stick. The thing is I really don't want to examine my relationship with food too closely, its painful, its hard to admit that I can't seem to control certain behaviors even when I know they are bad for me. No one likes admitting that they are weak, least of all someone like me who is strong and in control in every other way. I succeed and conquer almost every other thing I have ever tried in my life but food... oh food... it thwarts me every time.

I say food, and not exercise, because I have always been an active person and my relationship with exercise is pretty normal. When I have the money for a gym membership and free time I go. I ride my bike to work most days, I go for walks, I like to hike, etc. Obviously for weight loss I need to up my energy expenditure but this is not the problem area. This I can do and be okay with. I don't love the gym but I can get my ass there when I am not a sleep deprived zombie new parent.

Which brings me to why I am trying once again to get healthy, I am a parent. I may manage to lose weight, I may not, but what I really really don't want to do is pass on my extremely unhealthy relationship with food to my daughter. I don't want to burden her with my shit. So what is my shit exactly? Where does it come from? I can for the most part trace it back to my own mother, which makes me part of scary cycle, one I want to break forever. I don't want to do to her what mother did to me. And least you think I am parent-blaming to excuse my behavior let me tell you a few stories...

My mother always bought clothes for me a size too small so I would be uncomfortable and encouraged to lose weight. I was placed on my first diet by mother when I was six. I can not remember a family meal as a child where I was served the same food as the rest of my family. I often left the dinner table hungry and would sneak food late at night after everyone was asleep. My mother would always point out obese people to me and say if you don't stop eating like a pig you are going to look like that person some day and no one will ever love you. Seriously, she said this EVERY time she saw a fat person. My second grade teacher was a really large woman and every time she picked me up from school she would say this.

My mother would say things like "you would be so pretty if only you lost some weight" to me regularly when I was in elementary school. She told me that my father was ashamed to come to teacher/parent night for me because I was so fat (this was a lie). She used to offer me money to lose weight. She would pinch my stomach and ask me why I wasn't more ashamed to look this way. When I was sixteen she offered to pay for lap band surgery because no one would ever respect a woman professionally who was fat and she wanted to see me succeed in life (for perspective at the time I was 5' 8" and 155 lbs). She would say really super manipulative things like "I only say these things to you because I love you, all your friends think the same thing, but they don't love you enough to say it." And of course my favorite, "someday you will have kids and you will understand". She recently tried to convince me to stop feeding my 10 month old daughter formula and instead switch to skim milk so she doesn't get fat like me.

The sad irony of all this is that I wasn't fat when she was doing all this, I was very healthy normal weight for my height, but that wasn't good enough for her, she wanted me to be THIN damn it! Of course that never happened and once I left home I became clinically overweight, I think in part to spite her. My mother's insidious comments just stayed in my head, my unhealthy bizarre relationship with food had been forged and took on a life of it's own, and I have attempted to break the pattern over and over again with incremental successes at best. Oh the power that we mothers have. Even just typing all this out makes me want to go get a candy bar to soothe myself.


So I am trying once again to change how I think and interact with food, I am trying to unpack and put away the weird emotional baggage that goes along with the simple act of eating. But I have a long way to go. Getting healthy and losing weight, at least for me, is about a whole lot more then just calories in and calories out.

Monday, August 15, 2011

K - awesome!

Alright people I failed at the F32 thing so I am going big or I might be going home (well teaching or industry probably).

But really the news is I have been cleared by my P.I. to give chase to a K award.

This along with a paper, review, and pilot experiments for the K award is what I am working on.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

I will not fix your problems for you for free

I recently signed up for an internet service, I don't want to go into details cause it is kind of personal. Anyway, their interface totally sucks ass! Which considering that I am paying $40/month for it is rather ridiculous. So after attempting to use the interface for about 20 minutes to no avail I sent the following email to their customer service:

I just signed up and your website totally sucks. I am connected over a stable ethernet connection and your interface window crashes every time I search for a *blank* or try to enter one. If this is the level of service I can expect I will be canceling tomorrow.

I received the following email back:

Dear PQA,

We appreciate your patience while we work to find the cause of the problem you are experiencing. Would you mind answering the questions below so that we may help you to resolve this issue?

1. What error messages you receive, if any? Can you paste them into this message?

2. On what page or step in the process do you get them? What did you click on to get the message? If you were using the blank program, what did you enter?

3. If you use Windows with IE8 or higher, have you tried using the Compatibility View button?

4. Do you have a Mac or a PC?

5. What operating system you are using (Windows XP, etc)

6. What browser are you using? (Chrome/IE/Firefox)

7. What version of the browser is it? (Under Help/About)

8. Are you accessing the Internet on your work or home computer?

9. Does your office network or home computer have a firewall?

10. Do you have Zone Alarm, Zone Alarm Pro, Norton Internet Security, or any other similar computer protection software on your computer?

Your response to this e-mail will surely help us get a better understanding of the problem you are experiencing.

Here is the thing, I am PAYING for this service and they want me to spend time helping them de-bug it. To that I say F-U! If I am paying you, I am NOT going to spend time helping you fix the broken service that I am paying for. I reported the bug, for that you should be grateful, beyond that... hells to the NO! So I sent this email in response:

To whom it may concern:

I am happy to answer your questions. I estimate it will take at least 30-45 minutes to do so, as I currently make $20/hr I estimate doing so will cost me $10-20. Once you refund this money to me, I will happy to help you solve the problems with YOUR service. However, seeing as I am the one paying you for the service I feel no obligation to help you fix the bugs in your system.


Too snarky?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Religious nerds are the worst!

Best line in the whole thing.... the end result is little to no premarital sex (hee!). Also I tots love Settlers of Catan and wish I had people/time to play it more.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Baby vectors

I present to you an image of the movement vectors of babies in the infant room of my daycare for a period of ~10 minutes. 

The mini-me is the dotted line in case you couldn't tell, and she actually crawled over a couple of sleeping babies as well. Why yes, she is rather hyper, thanks for noticing. I can't even imagine what is going to happen once she starts walking.

How do lab people perceive each other?

hat tip to pharyngula

Monday, August 8, 2011

Saris, spanx, and lab coats

We went to an Indian wedding this Sunday and I was in shiny heaven. All those beautiful colorful saris with all kinds of rhinestones, gold, and shiny on them. It was so pretty to behold.
What was really impressive to me was how comfortable the outfits looked. I have seen saris before but there was something about seeing 100 different kinds of saris all at once that left an impression on me. Saris do not appear to be clothing that requires one to wear torture devices underneath, like spanx. I think if a dress is so unflattering that even super-fit thin people need to wear "flesh compression devices" underneath, then this is some badly designed shit, isn't it?

Side note: I just went to the spanx website and WTF is up with this shit for pregnant women??? 

Are you fucking kidding me! Ugh.

Anyway, all this shiny has made me look seriously into buying a bedazzler for my lab coat. Not sure what will happen to the dazzles once my lab coat is professionally laundered but if I go through with it you can be sure I will be posting pictures!

Friday, July 29, 2011


I listened to a story from NPR today on what the word compromise actually means and it included this great quote from On Compromise and Rotten Compromises by Israeli philosopher Avishai Margalit: 
But even so, the choices we make say something about our character. In fact, Margalit suggests that we really should be judged by our compromises more than by our ideals. As he puts it: "Ideals may tell us something important about what we would like to be. But compromises tell us who we are."
This really resonated with me. It has been bouncing around in my head since I heard it. So often a person is praised for being uncompromising, and there are times and places where that is called for, but I think compromising is praise-worthy too. 

I tend to see compromise as a weakness, as giving in, but compromise is what gets things done politically, in a marriage, amongst friends, in the workplace. I want to celebrate it more and not see it as such a negative. Life is not black and white, we live in the gray, and we all need to bend a little bit for each other. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

No I will not make my own almond butter

I was at Trader Joe's which recently opened a store about five blocks from where I live. I HEART trader joe's and now there is one super close which is super awesome. Anyway, we desperately needed groceries. We were down to eating pasta with canned tomato sauce and feeding the baby only milk because we had no proper solids about. So after a long day at work and then coming home to play with the family, feeding baby, making dinner, and doing the dishes I headed out to TJ's at around 9 pm. The hubbie was home watching the baby monitor doing laundry and law school stuff.

I am comparing the sodium levels of almond butters versus peanut butters because I want to make some sort of almond butter ball thingies for the mini-me to feed herself. She has no teeth but really really wants to feed herself and I am constantly looking for more mushy but not too mushy things I can give her.

While I am doing this some a random guy in his late 40s comes up to me and says "you know it is really easy to make your own almond butter?". My response is along the lines of I have no time. He then proceeds to tell me again in more detail about how easy it is and doesn't take that long to make. This whole time I am not making eye contact, trying to read labels, and give the signal of GO AWAY. Again I tell him I don't have time to be making my own fucking almond butter (I didn't swear but in hindsight perhaps I should have).
Seriously, it is almost 10 pm on a Monday night and I am grocery shopping. Obviously I don't have time to be making my own god damn almond butter. Yes, I realize it would be cheaper and *maybe* healthier but what the fuck dude? I don't want to discuss recipes right now. Again I tell him that I have a baby, work, and have no time. Which prompts him to share with me how now he makes his own pancakes for his kids who are 11, 8 , and 5 (side note : when did 3 kids become the norm?) with wheat germ, and almond flour, and some other shit. At this point I am actually walking away while he follows me and continues to talk to me.

I realize I live in a small town and usually I enjoy random conversations with people as part of the charm of living in a small friendly town. But there is a time and place people. When I tell you I have no time and the grocery store is almost closing... take the hint, leave me the fuck alone! This was some serious mansplaining shit and I wish I had had the energy to call him on it instead of just politely ignoring him and walking away.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Good Minions

Good undergraduate minions are difficult to find and hard to train. But when you find the right combination of eagerness to learn, native intelligence, and good attitude it is like winning the lottery. They start to run your experiments from start to finish without supervision, they analyze data and plan future experiments before you get to it, they start on their own mini-projects, they present at lab meeting, in short they become grown-up scientists.

It is a joy to watch someone's critical thinking skills coming into being. It feels so beautiful to me, like watching the sunrise over the ocean. I have had the distinct pleasure of having had three excellent minions. I love my minions and when I get a good one I do everything I can to shove every spec of knowledge I have into their brains. I also always make sure to let them know how much I appreciate their hard work.

One of my awesome minions recently graduated and has gone on to a real job making 'real' money (his words not mine). This particular minion worked with/for me while I was on maternity leave. He was a fantastic, amazing, wonderfully efficient and effective lab assistant. He single handedly generated two of the figures for my paper while I was on maternity leave. Do you have any idea how amazing that is? I went and had a baby and came back three months later to lab to find mountains of statistically significant data. STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT DATA! I appreciate him to no end and feel very lucky to have had such a talented person working for me.

Today he stopped by to say hello and brought me these flowers as a thank you.
He that he doesn't much like his job as a wilderness fire fighter even though it pays really well. He enjoyed being a volunteer firefighter while he was an undergraduate but he thinks working in the lab has ruined him for other kinds of jobs. He said working with me taught him how enjoyable it is to be able to work independently, to use your mind, and now he wants a job where he has to think not just 'follow orders'. He is considering some kind of graduate school, but isn't sure exactly what he wants to pursue quite yet. He told me that he never thought he was that smart before working with me.

So although I didn't receive my NIH fellowship, I still feel like a winner today.

Fellowship Fail

I did not get the fellowship. Sad times at the PQA home. The main criticism was that I have been in my lab too long (2+ years) and the 'training potential' is not high enough. I got bonus points for switching fields for my post-doc but then penalized for taking so long to submit a fellowship application from my new lab. My frustration is that it took me this long to apply specifically because I switched fields and had to learn a whole new system of critters to work with.


So close, yet so far away.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Atheists are funny

I love Ricky Gervais, I think he is hilarious and the Office is brilliant, and I love that he is an outspoken atheist. It looks like he is working on a new show called "Afterlife" about an atheist who dies and goes to heaven. Sounds interesting doesn't it?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Link, video, stuff - fest

I learned about how indirect sexism has been described as creating a "chilly environment" that can be insidiously hurtful to women.

Yes, I play video games, no you can not see my boobs is a great post that explains why I personally avoided playing video games online back when I had time to play them.

Don't douche, also this new ad campaign for summer's eve is really douchy.

Other women sweat shit-tons like me and discuss creative solutions in the comments section.

This article on raising siblings to be friends, reminded me of how lucky I am to have such a good relationship with my brother as child AND as an adult.

Via ">Boing Boing a really cool, energy efficient way to bring light to poor communities:

I don't know why but I find this video of Maru the Japanese cat super star really entertaining:

Motherhood will make you piss yourself

So the baby (9.5 months) has been sick with a high fever. When she is sick all she wants is to be held by Mom, nothing and nobody but Mom. This results in me holding her for hours on end at night while not getting any sleep. She has been sick for four days when the fever finally broke. Which is a good thing because I was beyond exhausted at this point. We wanted to give her a day before sending her back to daycare just to be sure she was better so off to the grandparents she went. They offered, very kindly, to watch her overnight.

Oh sleep, blessed sleep, all I could think about all day was how well I was going to sleep. And sleep I did! I had that, don't remember my head hitting the pillow, kind of deep deep sleep. Which was awesome.

When I woke up this morning there was something cold and wet in my bed. I jumped out and realized that the cold wet thing was my butt. Apparently I was so exhausted that I did not wake up to pee.

I, a grown, fully potty trained, completely sober, adult wet the bed. In all my years of rowdy drinking and passing out I have never not made it to the bathroom. When I was nine months pregnant and peeing every three seconds I still never had accident. I am pretty sure I didn't have any as a child either.

But now, as a mother, I can apparently get so tired and run-down that I will pass out and not wake up to use the bathroom.

Motherhood, it will make you pee your pants.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Undergraduate entertainment

Lab manager: I put the label maker on your desk, please label these files and put them away

Undergraduate: OK

24 hrs later an email is received...

Dear Lab Manager

I couldn't find the labels today, where did you say they were? I
looked around the desk and the drawers but only found a label maker machine.



Friday, July 15, 2011

Reason #1 not to move: Grandparents

Baby had a low fever last night, nothing too serious, but she can't go to daycare today. What is a working mom to do? Do I not come into work? Does husband not go into work?

Never fear - the Grandparents are here!

Baby has been dropped of at the grandparents where they dote on her ever move and my iphone addicted father sends me text message and pictures regularly. Case in point, today's text messages so far....

8:30 am "She has arrived"

9:00 am "She had advil, one bottle of milk, and we are going for a walk"

9:15 am "She is singing a lot while we walk"

9:17 am "She is doing poo-poo right now!!!!!!!!!"

The updates stopped for a while after that, I am assuming in order to deal with the clean-up of the above situation.

Grandparents are the best.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Did you know I am white?

Yesterday I was asked a question that I get quiet often, it was some version of, "Why don't you apply for minority scholarship/fellowship X it would be such a good opportunity for you?"

To which I said "I am not considered a minority, I am white."

"But you are not white!"

"Thank you, yes, I am aware that I am not white. But the US government considers me white"


"Yes, really."

Always, people are surprised. You see despite the fact that I was born in a middle-eastern country and am visibly brown, and speak a different language fluently, my ethnicity is considered Caucasian. So yes, I look 'other' and often deal with idiotic racial statements, usually because I mistaken for being Mexican or Muslin. However, I am not technically considered a minority, I am white. Yeah I know I look brown and foreign but trust me I am white, in the same class of white as Irish people and English people and the founding fathers. Crazy right?

Why am I classified as Caucasian? How was it decided that Middle-eastern people are white(ish)? I don't think the average American thinks of someone from Iraq/Afghanistan/Iran/Syria etc as being Caucasion. Probably most people think of Middle-easterns as being Muslim, which is a religion not a race people! (I will rant about that at some other time). Seriously though, ethnicity has no genetic basis, so why are Middle-easterns white?

Well according to my old friend wikipedia the 19th/20th century definition of the Caucasian race is based on 

"The study into race and ethnicity in the 18th and 19th centuries developed into what would later be termed scientific racism. During the period of the mid-19th to mid-20th century, race scientists, including most physical antropologists classified the world's populations into three, four, or five races, which, depending on the authority consulted, were further divided into various sub-races. During this period the Caucasian race, named after people of the Caucasus Mountains but extending to all Europeans, figured as one of these races, and was incorporated as a formal category of both scientific research and, in countries including the United States, social classification."
Sweet! So I am white based on the racist definitions of people from the 1800s. 

The current U.S. Census definition includes white "people having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East or North Africa. The cultural boundaries separating white Americans from other racial or ethnic categories are contested and always changing. According to John Tehranian, among those not considered white at some points in American history have been: the IrishGermansJews,ItaliansSpaniardsHispanicsSlavs, and Greeks. Studies have found that while current parameters officially encompassed Arabs as part of the White American racial category, many Arab Americans from other places feel ... that they are not white and are not perceived as white by American society.

So basically I am such a minority that I am not considered a minority? Or I am white until white people don't want to be classified in the same group as me. In a post 9/11 world where being Middle-eastern is much more noticed and known as 'other' might I some day be classified as non-white? Will I then be able to apply for new and different funding sources? It is all so confusing and weird and arbitrary.

At least I can be sure that I will always be female. Maybe I should double check that, hold on....

yup still have a vagina, still female. Good to know.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Being loud

I am a loud person, I ask lots of questions during lab meetings, I ask lots of questions during group meeting. I always make a point of giving feedback on the overall presentation to the presenter that is specific, not just saying "good job". I do these things because I think the best part of science is the dynamic interchange between smart people about cool ideas and problems. I think lab meeting is for brainstorming solutions to problems. Sadly, in most of our lab meetings my PI and I are the only ones that ever say anything.

Also it really really sucks when you spend hours preparing a presentation and then are greeted with total silence and blank stares when you finally give it.

Anyway, I got a really nice email from a graduate student in our lab thanking me for my feedback and ideas and letting me know how helpful he thought my comments were during yesterday's lab meeting.

It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Monday, July 11, 2011

One of these things is not like the other one

one of these things is NOT the same...

This is how I felt in grad school. Surrounded by weirdly serious ducks that kept telling me that I should be just like them and that if I wasn't just like them... serious, unhappy, non-smiling, floating on top of the water... I wasn't working hard enough. I found this to be the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard of.

If I was happy and smiling and laughing I wasn't working hard enough? WTF? What kind of sad horrible place did these people live in? You have to work so hard that you are miserable?

Grad school was a strange place, another world almost, for me. I thought that because we all loved water we would get along but it turns out some of us like to be happy swimming turtles and others like to float on top of the water being unnecessarily serious and never looking underneath the surface.

The people at my grad school, the very successful professors and such, they were WRONG! So very very wrong.... amazingly WRONG! You can be totally happy, you can swim on the surface and underneath the water, you can smile and laugh and have fun WHILE working hard. You can be happy and successful --- these things are not mutually exclusive.

So now with the distance space (about 3,000 miles) and time (two years), when I think about my graduate experience I no longer get angry sad. I just feel really really sorry for the people who have come to believe that the only way to do good science is to sacrifice your happiness.

Life is good, don't let the serious ducks convince you otherwise.*

*this moment of cheese brought to you by new awesome data, a smiling baby, and officemates who make you coffee.

Friday, July 8, 2011

I'm stalking you for your F32

Last year I decided that I wanted to apply for the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) post-doctoral fellowship or F32. This was a daunting task for me. I had never written a grant or practice grant in graduate school. I had an graduate advisor that was the super secretive type that would only give you the page of the grant that pertained to you. I had never interacted with the whole NIH complex before either. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Love this! (edited)

Fantastic blog post giving some sound advice for men when approaching women....
Do you think I’m overreacting? One in every six American women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. I bet you don’t think you know any rapists, but consider the sheer number of rapes that must occur. These rapes are not all committed by Phillip Garrido, Brian David Mitchell, or other members of the Brotherhood of Scary Hair and Homemade Religion. While you may assume that none of the men you know are rapists, I can assure you that at least one is. Consider: if every rapist commits an average of ten rapes (a horrifying number, isn’t it?) then the concentration of rapists in the population is still a little over one in sixty. That means four in my graduating class in high school. One among my coworkers. One in the subway car at rush hour. Eleven who work out at my gym. How do I know that you, the nice guy who wants nothing more than companionship and True Love, are not this rapist?
I don’t.
When you approach me in public, you are Schrödinger’s Rapist. You may or may not be a man who would commit rape. I won’t know for sure unless you start sexually assaulting me. I can’t see inside your head, and I don’t know your intentions. If you expect me to trust you—to accept you at face value as a nice sort of guy—you are not only failing to respect my reasonable caution, you are being cavalier about my personal safety.

Thank you for saying it all better then I ever could.

Coffee Break

I have a shared office with a mini-fridge, microwave, and coffee maker. The making of coffee in our little office happens with great frequency and is very much enjoyed. I appreciate having all these things along with a desk that I can have coffee at.

What I hate, absolutely hate, is the fact that I have to wash my cup and coffee pot out in the bathroom. There is something about washing dishes in a room that smells like poop that just makes it seem less clean. I know there is no logical scientific evidence that dishes washed in a poop smelling room are less clean, but it still grosses me out. Not to mention that I totally lose my desire for coffee by having to hang out in a poop smelling room.

Now a bathroom has a primary function, we are a floor mainly composed of women and the bathroom is in constant use. So I do don't think the ladies need to be doing stuff in a less smelly manner. I just deeply wish that I could wash my cup and coffee pot out in the lab sink.

But alas, we have an excellent lab manager, who enforces safety codes very stringently.

Friday, July 1, 2011

American Pride

This is a re-posting of something I wrote a few years ago...
There is a quote for whom I do not know the source, but it goes
"We have all picked fruit from trees we did not plant, and we have all drank from wells we did not dig."
And in a lot of ways this is how I feel about my life. You see I am an naturalized citizen of the United States and my transition from six year old immigrant to an adult PhD holding citizen of the U.S. has been smooth and unmarred by hardship or discrimination. In this, I realize I am truly lucky.
In 1882 Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, this was the first significant restriction on immigration in U.S. history and not only affected those wishing to immigrate to the U.S., but also those who had already settled here. Chinese immigrants were now permanent aliens and excluded from U.S. citizenship.
The Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed by the 1943 Magnuson Act, which allowed immigration from China and permitted Chinese residing in the country to become naturalized citizens. This was due in large part to China being an ally of the U.S. during World War II. Despite the fact that the exclusion act was repealed in 1943, the law in California against Chinese-Americans marrying whites wasn't repealed until 1948.
Until the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, all immigrants to the United States were restricted to 2% of the number of people from a given country who were already living in the United States in 1890, according to the Census of 1890. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 abolished all national-origin quotas and allowed unlimited visas for family reunification.
Which is how, in 1983 my family immigrated to America. So I owe my opportunity to grow-up and live outside of the stifling fundamentalist laws of my country of birth to the many immigrants who came before me. I am here because a vast array of non-immigrants fought, agitated, and eventually won a chance for a greater number of immigrants to come to the U.S. I have reaped the benefits of an immigration battle I did not fight. I became a citizen of the United States in 1994.
In 1996 I voted in my first presidential election. A right that was only granted to women in 1920 after a long and hard fought battle. The Silent Sentinels, for example, protested in front of the White House for 18 months starting in 1917 to raise awareness of the issue. Again, I reap the rewards of a battle I did not fight.
In 2008 I received my PhD from the University of Pennsylvania. Founded in 1740, the university did not allow women to attend as full-time students until 1880, and then only in subjects deemed appropriate to women. It wasn't until 1956 that the first female faculty at Penn was awarded tenure. I owe my  PhD to the countless female scientist who came before me, who worked in closets and cellars without pay or titles, who fought for recognition and equality. Once again, I reap the rewards of a battle I did not fight.
All my life I have reaped a harvest of plenty from trees that I did not plant and wells I did not dig. All that I define myself by, all the privileges I enjoy, come from battles that were fought and won long before me. The rest of that quote goes something along the lines of..
"so let us plant trees and dig wells so those that come after can eat and drink as we do"
So on this Fourth of July I would like to acknowledge all those who have gone before me, who have made the life I live possible and I would also like to promise all those that will come after me that I will continue the good fight for equality, for justice, for freedom. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Today I feel like this

only I am not anywhere near as cute (via cuteoverload)

The birth story of my mini-me (aka adventures in high blood pressure)

This is a long detailed story but the important points are:

1) Being at a birthing center, with midwife-centered care, was the most awesome fantastic wonderful decision I ever made. I fully believe that if I was at any other facility I would have ended up with a C-section.

2) I love doulas, I loved my doula, everyone should have a doula

3) Having a well prepared, well educated, partner to advocate for you during the many decision making points during the birth process is critical

4) I wanted a natural birth but was prepared to roll with the punches, which was good, because NOTHING went as expected

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I am being tortured

We went on our first family vacation this past weekend to a little city on the coast. It was supposed to be beautiful and fun and relaxing. We were interested to see how the mini-me was going to do in the car for 3+ hours. She was a champ! The rented house was beautiful, everything was perfect, until that night when the mini-me spiked a fever. When the mini-me is sick she wants nothing and no one else besides her mom and her boob. So since Friday night I have been rocking and nursing one sick baby who refuses to sleep any other way. The result is that the mini-me is getting better and I am in some state of sleep deprived insanity that five cups of coffee can't even make a dent in. This has got to end soon, hopefully without me getting sick or accidentally tripping and killing one of our cats.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Love your vagina song

Ladies it is important to love your vagina, also, it is important to laugh 
(from Jezebel)

How can I justify buying this?

Buying a cute plus-sized swim suit is always a challenge. I really liked my maternity swim suit but now that I am not pregnant anymore, it still makes my chubby butt look pregnant. Which is generally not the look I am going for. I had a bathing suit that I loved but it is literally coming apart at the edges so I technically *do* need a new bathing suit. However, I am not sure if I need a $100+ bathing suit. That being said, how awesome is this suit from La Grande Dame? What say you friends, is it worth the cash?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sharing is caring

We do western blots in our lab. The process, from the time of sample collection to the time of developing the blot, takes a week. Recently, people have been unable to get some of their western blots to work. Now you would think I might know this because they brought it up at lab meeting or perhaps because graduate students and other post-docs in my lab talked to each other, but you would be wrong. No one said anything to anyone else. Apparently, in our lab we do not believe that sharing is caring.

Things that could have been said but were not include:

"Dear PQA, do you know why the westerns are not working?"

"Excuse me, PQA, resident expert that has done 3,000 westerns, do you know why my blots are not working?"

"Dear lab, I have noticed that this very common procedure we all use is not working, anyone know why?"

Instead everyone started repeating their westerns, over and over and over again, and shockingly they continued to not work. I learned on Friday that this has been going on for three weeks. THREE WEEKS!

I learned this because I am collaborating with another post-doc in the lab and when I asked him to run the westerns he told me they were not working and he didn't know why. So after talking to various lab members and learning exactly what part of the process was not working for everyone, and then double checking our stock reagents, I realized that someone had ordered the wrong antibody. Everyone has been using the wrong antibody, without checking the tube, because it was in the right box and hence everything had stopped working. This took me about 30 minutes to do.


30 fucking minutes to fix a problem that four people in the lab were struggling with for three weeks!

WTF fellow lab members? How hard is it to talk to each other?!?!? Are you all really this scared of admitting that a mistake might have been made? Is it really preferable to having non-working experiments for weeks on end? If your shit isn't working, why aren't you trouble-shooting? Why are you all repeating the same experiment over and over again without changing/testing any of the parameters? Am I really this smart or are you all really this stupid?


So yeah, ordered the correct antibody, it will be here tomorrow.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

If I was a baker...

I would buy these from thinkgeek 

and then I would make these cookies and fully enjoy my nerdy deliciousness.

Morning mush

My husband started a job this summer that requires him to wear a suit everyday to work. I love him in a suit, I think he looks very dapper and sexy, plus he usually puts cologne on and I love me a good smelling man.

Sometimes, to let me sleep in an extra few minutes he will entertain the mini-me in the living room. Then he will come into the bedroom while wearing his suit and carrying the mini-me to wake me up. This is my new favorite thing ever, getting extra sleep and then being woken up by a handsome good-smelling man in suit holding a cute baby.

My life is just awesome sometimes.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I don't want to punch you in the face...

*begin rant*

I am not prepared to move out of my geographical location to pursue my academic career. I do not stand in judgment of people who do this, I think everyone has good reasons for choosing the paths that they do and I also firmly believe that there are many right paths to success and happiness. But for me, moving away is not an option, and these are the reasons why:

1. I want to live near my family and friends. I love them all, I love spending time with them, I love watching them spend time with the mini-me and I want the mini-me to grow up having a large extensive family and friends as part of her daily life. I have lived thousands of miles away from my family and friends and I hated every minute of it. My family hated every minute of it. We missed each other terribly and were miserable. My family is the most important thing to me.

2. I need and love the support. While I know I could raise a family and have a career with just my husband and I, I wouldn’t be very happy doing so. I love having the support of my family and friends when I need it. Baby is sick, but I have an important experiment, call Grandma! Need an extra car and person to move furniture call Uncle! Don’t have time to plan a birthday party ask Auntie! Having a rough week, go out to drinks with the girls I have known since college! I am an extremely extroverted affectionate person and living amongst a community of people who care for me and who I care for is essential for my happiness. I do not want to give this up. It is not an easy thing to build/find/create and I do want to have to spend the time&energy to create a new one.

3. I do not want to force my husband to relocate. Just to be clear, I am pretty sure that if I really really wanted to move somewhere for my dream job my husband would make the sacrifice because he loves me that much. The thing is, I don’t think he should have to make the sacrifice. I don’t think uprooting him from his career and his friends and his family is worth my career. I don’t think a job, no matter how amazing, is worth it. I know he would suffer at some level and I am not okay with that at ALL.

4. I love the weather and geography here. I do not like real winters. My bad knees get achy in the super cold weather. I love green things. I love riding my bicycle year round, I love trees and oceans and mountains and greenery everywhere that I go. Winter makes me sad, I do not like being sad.

5. I love the diversity and politics here. It is not fun to be the only ‘other’ in a situation let alone in a city or university. I like living somewhere that has so many ‘others’ that no one is sure what normal is. I like have tasty cuisine from around the world at my fingertips. I like celebrating everyone else’s holidays. I like that I don’t have to constantly explain my ‘otherness’. I like living somewhere liberal and progressive, even if it means having to put up the occasional sanctimonious hypocritical hippy.

I realize that this decision limits my possibilities for a job, any job, at any level, in academia immensely. I know things will be more difficult for me but I think the sacrifice is worth it. I am hopeful that although more difficult, I can still have the career I have dreamed of. I have a plan, sort of, well… maybe more of a general idea. But that is a post for another day.

For now I just wish my professor would stop assuming that I am willing to move to Timbuktoo and beyond for a job, especially since I have repeatedly told him that I WILL NOT RELOCATE (to another state) for a job. Professor you are awesome in so many ways, and I am grateful for that, but you hate your family, have no friends, and no life outside of science. Your idea of a good time is to get drunk while reading grants, your emergency contact is our lab manager, your best friend is a blind deaf cat that shits on your bed. Relocating repeatedly to advance your career was no big deal to you. It is a big deal to me. I don’t expect you to understand it, but can you at least try to respect my decision?

Okay, okay that is asking too much... how about you just stop getting that expression of total and complete horror every time I have to remind you that I WILL NOT RELOCATE (to another state) for a job.

Because, seriously, it makes me want to punch you in the face.

*end rant*

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Driving vs Flying

This is kind of fun, now you can calculate travel costs of driving versus flying while taking into consideration time, money, and C02 footprint. I was wondering whether driving or flying between two west coast cities would be cheaper/efficient and now I have my answer. Of course when traveling with a mini-me you also have to take into consideration your child's patience for being strapped into a car seat.

Baby Towing

This morning the mini-me and I rode our bikes into work. Well, I biked and the mini-me sat happily in her trailer and was towed. She didn't seem to mind the helmet or the bike trailer much. I could hear her babbling to herself as I biked. It was really nice to get a smidge of exercise in my day and I am super happy that she seems to be taking to it so well. Now we can bike all over town and not be so tied to the car or stroller. Walking for some reason has always been kind of annoying to me. Such an inefficient method of getting from point A to point B, plus in 90+ degree weather biking is so much more tolerable then walking.

The mini-me's helmet is pink because her grandmother bought it for her and it is against the rules of grandmotherdom to purchase anything for your granddaughter that is not pink. Since my baby has a gigantic head like her father when I put the helmet on she kind of looks like this...