Archive for: February, 2012

You are destroying your child by allowing hir to think

Feb 29 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Research shows that children whose parents who allow them to think end up socially maladjusted in middle school.  Sometimes they don't get a date to prom.  They're also not considered physically attractive by their peers.

Kids who spend time reading don't spend enough time watching TV.  Even if they get in some screen time every day, they do not have enough to truly keep up with their peers.

Kids need lots of sleep.  If your child isn't getting the average amount of sleep needed, then you are harming your child's mental abilities.  Having your child lie awake with no distractions in a crib is better for hir than allowing hir to play on the computer.  We all know that unsupervised screen time is harmful to children.

Allowing one's child to think is also harmful to parents.  They are branded, "pushy," and socially condemned if they are egotistical enough to talk about their children instead of quietly listening when others talk about theirs.

This public service announcement brought to you by disgruntled grumpies.

7 responses so far

When you whine about your current lack of productivity...

Feb 28 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Are you doing it because you subconsciously want a kick in the pants?


Are you doing it because you want permission to be a slacker?

or is there some third option we're missing?  (Maybe whining for the sake of whining?  I dunno...)

#1 generally wants a kick in the pants, but sometimes #2 is an enabler, which forces #1 to stop being a slacker even though she's got permission, which is probably better for her anyway...  #1, otoh, wants everybody to be miserably productive because misery loves company.  (When she says it's ok to take a break because you need it... it means you really do need it.)

#2 Sometimes all three, but usually mainly the first.
(van down by the river!)

2 responses so far

Thoughts on Spouses and Careers

Feb 27 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Get Rich Slowly did an article about a woman who is a self-proclaimed "sugar-momma."

The person in the post is to be commended... she's doing what she wants to be doing in the career of her choice and building experience and credentials, and she's also supporting her DH allowing him to fill his career goals through more education. This situation sounds like it is going to work out.

One thing I would caution for women in general is not to sacrifice their own career goals for their husband’s education. As an academic, I know plenty of couples where the woman worked at what she considered to be a temporary job to put her husband through school, but rather than return the favor later (as implicitly promised), they got divorced. Sacrificing one’s own ambitions puts a lot of stress on the marriage, no matter which spouse is doing the sacrificing.

Apparently that situation is not limited to academics. Plenty of folks in the comments chimed in about other situations of both sexes when one sacrificed and then they divorced. I doubt that most couples going into that kind of a situation are planning to use their spouses for easy living followed by trading in for a younger model. However, resentment (or guilt) can build when one member of the couple feels like he or she is sacrificing for the other. On top of that, school changes people. While one is working at a dead-end job, the other is becoming a different person.

Even though it may take more loans and definitely less spending, why can't both people pursue their goals at the same time?

Sometimes that kind of joint pursuit is not possible (for example, if one member of the couple cannot get a visa in a foreign country). But oftentimes the joint pursuit really is possible, except that both people have to sacrifice some not just one sacrificing a lot. Is it better for both to sacrifice, even if the total sacrifice is bigger (imagine a world with no fancy cheese)? Or is it better for only one person to take all the sacrifice?

What do you all think? Did you make sacrifices for your partner? Did your partner sacrifice for you? Or were you on your own in the pursuit of education and career?

6 responses so far

Ask the Grumpies: How do you defeat the patriarchy?

Feb 24 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Rumpus asks:

So you blame the patriarchy. I think I get that, even in my mostly befuddled state. I dislike unjust treatment, especially when people are making it unjust. I still don’t get what to do about it. What do you do to make things better? And where do you draw the line between helping things be more just versus becoming labeled and then disregarded?

If we knew the answer, we'd do it!

One thing we can do is examine our own words and actions and question implicit assumptions that other people show through their words and actions.  We can gently or not so gently educate.  We can refuse to feel guilty for being awesome, and let people know that we refuse.  We can encourage other people to find their own awesome.  Sometimes we can do this without being labeled, and sometimes people will label us and ignore us.  But we can still keep pushing, because it is the right thing to do and sometimes it is all we can do.

Scientopia readers:  How do you battle the patriarchy?

8 responses so far


Feb 23 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

is currently the bane of my existence.

I threw up a lot first trimester.  After all sorts of stuff.  Coming into second trimester (and weaning off metformin-- I have PCOS and insulin resistance, which means I have an increased chance of miscarriage first trimester and gestational diabetes third trimester, especially if I eat refined grains or sugars), one thing still makes me throw up.


I'll eat something with wheat in it, purposefully or not.  (Oh, Tempura... Oh, Worcestershire sauce...How you wound me.)  Then an hour or two later, I will empty the contents of my stomach.  I will repeat the process after the next meal no matter what I ate for that second meal.  I will spend the next day or two feeling queasy depending on how much wheat I ingested.

I hate this.

The internet tells me it could be two things.  I could have a wheat allergy or I could have celiac (wheat intolerance is less likely).  Both can be triggered by pregnancy.  If it is an allergy, it might go away.  If it is celiac, I am stuck with it for life.  If it is an allergy, according to the 'net, it could become life-threatening by suddenly causing me to be unable to breathe (so I should carry around allergy meds just in case).  If celiac, it could hurt the baby's growth if I'm not careful.

I brought my inability to eat wheat up at the doctor's appointment and she was all, "Just don't eat wheat"... and I'm like, Lady, it could be an allergy and could go away or it could be celiac, and celiac is pretty serious.  So basically she was no help.  (This was one of many reasons I switched back to my original doctor the next day, despite doctor #1's overbooked schedule.)

The internet suggested a test to me to see if it is more likely to be celiac or an allergy (since throwing up is a symptom of either, and it doesn't stay down long enough to present other symptoms).  Apparently rye has gluten in it, so you can't eat it if you're celiac but you can eat it if you're allergic.  So I ate some rye wasa wafers and was fine, so hopefully the internet is right and it's an allergy that will go away in a few months (because insulin resistance + celiac = misery).  Of course, I'm a bit sick of rye wasa wafers from overdoing it on them even before the anti-wheat stuff popped up.

I LOVE Indian food.  I love lentil flour.  I love papadam and pakora and methu vada and some of the dosa.  One of our admin assistants told me there's an Indian place in the city that does gluten-free lentil noodles-- man I wish I could try those.  I was loving sushi (cooked or veggie only) until the tempura mistake.  Also sweet potato is on my "ugh" list because a lot of things just don't taste good anymore once you've tried them the other direction.  I'm getting a bit tired of brown rice cakes and a bit tired of oatmeal (recall, I can't eat refined grains because of glycemic load... so there are a lot of corn, rice, and potato options that are closed to me).  We keep a pot of cooked quinoa or brown rice in the fridge at all times.  Sometimes I'll use beans in place of noodles.  While the family enjoys spaghetti... I pretend I'm in a different part of Italy.

Last time around I was unable to eat wheat for a while, but it was combined with my inability to keep *anything* except fruit down.  So it wasn't just the wheat.  And it went away by now, I think.  (My memory is kind of fuzzy at this point, but I think it stopped shortly after 2nd trimester started.  Definitely after I'd gotten off Metformin.)

So... not much point to this post (in fact, we debated letting it go up while we're cross-posting at Scientopia as it is not particularly academic!), but I'm feeling sorry for myself!  I could do wheat-free OR insulin resistant, but doing both SUCKS exponentially.  And I am so glad a good Indian place came to town last year so I can eat there at least once a week.

24 responses so far

Controversial: Making kids do things they don't want to do

Feb 22 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Deliberately controversial posts are meant to spark debate.  This one may not be quite as controversial as some of our previous offerings (homeschooling, labels, feminism...), but let's see what you think.  (Issues of parenting often get the most arguing.  We find this fact both sad and amusing at the same time.  Kind of like much of life.)

We grew up Catholic, so obviously we grew up with the underlying philosophy that a lot of things that are good for you are painful. "It builds character," my mother would say anytime I'd complain. "Yes, just think of all the years I'm burning off of Purgatory," I would reply.

There was also that Midwestern Protestant stoicism telling us what doesn't kill us only makes us stronger. We're not sure how much we believe it, but it is in our blood pushing us ever onward.

That's not the message we hear coming out of the coasts, the NYTimes, the mommy forums... That message is that if kids don't like something, they shouldn't have to do it. Schools shouldn't give homework. Kids shouldn't do extra-curriculars they don't like (or at all!). Tiger Moms are horrible people. Five year olds should be red-shirted so they can play in the dirt another year before starting school. Kids need to play, not learn. Why do kids need to read? (But... but... my kid LOVES reading/learning/math.) I think Cloud said it best when she talked about adults projecting that they wished they had lots of free time on their kids (and, as a corollary, that they don't like math). The Rousseau dream-child concept is still hard at work.

(Somehow when it comes to a gifted kid being bored, then they really need to learn to be bored... it's ok to force a kid to be bored but not ok to force a kid to do activities.)

I did swimming lessons for 7 years, but didn't want to quit. I had to do piano lessons for 9 years. I'm glad I wasn't allowed to quit. I did Ballet lessons for 5 years. I wish I'd been allowed to quit a lot earlier. I did Catholic Sunday School or CCD until I was in 4th grade, despite constant complaining. I'm not sure if I wish I'd been allowed to quit sooner or not, considering I switched religions and went of my own volition once no longer forced to be Catholic.

Growing up there were many things I was forced to do I wish I didn't have to do, and many things I'm glad I was forced to do, knowing what I do now. Younger me isn't a great predictor of older me's preferences, and who knows if parents are better or not. Hopefully they're a little better.

So: Bottom line: We think that sometimes it's ok for kids to do things in their best interest even if they don't wannnna. We still wish we hadn't had to go to public school. Blech.

Grumpeteers? Your thoughts?

6 responses so far

Pondering productivity, and trying to hack it

Feb 21 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

What is your ideal self? (In California, we were allowed to ask this type of question.)

The me that I want to be is more productive than the me that I am. The real me, the true me, the me that I want to be... she's organized, she gets things done, even if she's had bad luck. She's also had good luck. She needs to keep moving forward and take advantage of the opportunities she's had and has, and work to create more opportunities for her in the future. Even if doing so makes a subset of senior people think she's bigger than her britches. (If she were male, they wouldn't dream of thinking that-- she never hears people complain when men make their own opportunities, only when women do. She has not yet had the courage to ask folks to check their bias when she hears these stories.)

We've had several posts about hacking our productivity in the past. Obviously it is a work in progress.

Virginia Valian has an incredible paper called Solving a Work Problem that I keep coming back to. If you have ever had writer's block, do yourself a favor and click the link for a PDF, seriously. One thing she says in it is that "people are not wrong about their true selves" (p. 101). So if you think that you really are a scientist or a writer, in spite of the fact that you're not getting as much done as you want, you still are that thing. We are always attempting to be more productive over here.

Here's some strategies we're trying to use:

I wrote myself a syllabus last semester -- for my writing. Just like my regular syllabi, it had a list of dates throughout the semester and what should be done by then. I put course outcomes on the front page and a list of recommended readings, as well as expectations for myself. I stole this idea from a fellow junior faculty member and I think it is brilliant! Here's a little excerpt:

Office hours: writing will take place Monday evenings for at least 30 minutes,
Tuesdays all day (along with research) for at least a total of two hours,
Thursdays from 1 to 3pm, and Fridays from 1:30 to 4pm at [Coffee Shop].
Exceptions: travel; Thanksgiving break
On Sundays, all work of any kind must be completed by 11pm.

Class Days/Times: Lab meetings are Wednesdays from 2-3pm and I must be prepared for them. Group accountability meetings will take place (TBA)

Course Objectives:
By the end of the semester, have R. project done and S. paper under review. Continue work on 2 – 3 other projects. Have projects in all stages of pipeline, from conceptualization to under-review. Keep track of all tasks completed for annual report and binder. Abide by timeline and complete tasks on schedule, or revise schedule.

We make so many lists. Crossing things off is motivating for both of us. We drink coffee.

We (Nicoleandmaggie) are allies for each other. We know each other from real life and have read each other's writing for years. We share our online to-do lists and question each other: "Have you started that report yet?" We report what we've done that day and what we're doing next. This is a regular part of our daily chats about everything under the sun that we IM each other every day, which is also how our blog began.

One of us installed leech block. Sadly our IT situation is such that some days it works and some days it doesn't. It's a bit like being a pigeon in a Skinner box being randomly given treats when I hit the button. (At home it always works.)

We strongly disagree that people who are productive and organized are unhappy. Nobody should have to apologize for being awesome, even awesome people. And I agree with Virginia Valian-- if the you that you want to be is more productive than the you that you currently are... then don't listen to people who tell you that productive people are all miserable. You know you.

We continue to work through these issues each semester. Do you have tips for us? Pretty please? What do you do to help yourself be productive?

9 responses so far

Goodnight Seattle, I love you ... *

Feb 20 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

I made it!! I made it to the end! Even with a cold and a lot of work, I somehow managed to write something new almost every day of the week, answer comments, and even tweet.

This was an amazing ride. I'm very thankful to Genomic Repairman for suggesting my name for the Guest Blogge. I'm thankful for having two weeks to post my musings. I'm thankful for the tweets and RTs, and comments and emails. This was awesome (we should do it again, hehe).

Over the last two weeks I've met a lot of wonderful people, here and on Twitter. I wrote about my experiences in school, and as a postdoc, and about my journey on the academic fringe.

I hope y'all enjoyed my time around here. Feel free to drop by the blog anytime, or follow on Twitter. I tend to be fairly good about answering email, tweets and comments, so don't be shy.

Besides blogging, I got some good news this week. I got the results of my year end review ... turns out I got a modest raise! It won't be enough to get me to the Bahamas anytime soon ... but a bit of money in my pocket, while doing kick ass science and helping other structural biologists with their projects is beyond amazing.

All the best and thanks for joining in this 2-week adventure!


*Brownie points if you can tell me which show I modified that line from 🙂

4 responses so far

Welcome to Grumpy Rumblings of the Untenured

Feb 20 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Welcome to Grumpy Rumblings of the Untenured.  Someday (but not yet) to be Grumpy Rumblings of the Tenured or else Grumpy Rumblings of the non-academically employed living in paradise trying to make ends meet.  (Did you know that rent for a tiny 3br in the SF bay area is around 3K/month?  We're not currently living that dream.)

Who are we?

Well, according to our about statement:

Nicole and Maggie live in two different parts of the country.  We are good friends.  We are untenured, in two different fields.  We are cranky, and we are anonymous.  If you think you know who we are, you’re probably wrong.  Don’t even try to tell us apart; we are of one mind (except when we’re not– only one of us likes mushrooms, and the other one of us likes eggnog).

We’ll be famous on the internet.

Another thing you may need to know is that #1 always starts the post.  #2 is the other person.  Sometimes #1 is #1 and sometimes #2 is #1.  We thought it was less pretentious than saying "This one" and "That one" like unicorns and horses.  Yes, we understand that is confusing and irritating for some of you.  Please refer to our about statement on that front.

Our academic posts can be found under this tag.

On Mondays we talk about money.  If you hop over today we're asking if you would marry for money.  Would you?

Sometimes we are a mommy blog, even though only one of us is a mommy.

Twice a month we answer random questions from Google searches.

You can directly ask us questions too-- most Fridays we do an Ask the Grumpies feature.  Ask away!

Once a month or so (depending on how much we want to play) we have deliberately controversial posts.  More often we stick to merely debatable.

We're not always grumpy.  For example, we love books.  And acknowledge the joy in our lives, which is not always book-related.

15 responses so far

Thinking about events during the last two weeks

Feb 19 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Wow, the 2 weeks at the Guest Bloggue are almost up! Incredible how fast time flies. I'm still amazed that I was able to make it, and with new posts on most days! Indeed, it is possible for me to stick to a resolution and come through (if only I could apply this to work).

This entry will probably be all over the place, kinda like my brain most days, hehe.

I'm enjoying the long weekend. Yesterday I was able to sleep until almost 11am. I hadn't been able to enjoy that for the longest time. My apartment is quiet, but faces the street and it's a somewhat busy street. I get startled and awake pretty easily. I'm mostly recovered, and indeed, good rest does seem to shorten a cold (and its severity).

My boss did a bit of k3rning this week, not directed towards me (though I did give him the look of disapproval and called his name ... right after the comment in an annoyed voice). I won't go into the details, but I do have to say that I'm amazed (not in a good way) and shocked how some people get to find mates and have offspring even when their priorities are obviously to work, work, work and only have fun when things are work related. Sheesh.

Said situation and a conversation with a talented, yet overworked postdoc from another institution, has me thinking that I did the right thing by staying out of the TT. My postdoc friend has been in her new lab for less than 6 months. She works at least 10 hours every day of the week, doesn't take overly generous breaks, yet her PI (also a woman, and married) is making her life miserable by saying that she can't possibly survive and thrive in academia unless she works at least 12 hours every day. My friend recently got engaged, and she's barely done any planning (obviously not during lab time) because her boss says that she shouldn't be planning a wedding and having a life (her actual words) when there is science to be done and illnesses to cure (sounds familiar?? Maybe her PI was trained by K3rn). I sent along a copy of the K3rn piece to her and encouraged her to start looking into other options if she's really interested in staying in academia, because it would be a disservice to her to continue under her boss's thumb, unless she's willing to confront the boss and take on whatever comes her way.

I shared with her the story of how I became a staff scientist, and my reasons for it, related to how cut-throat I perceive the academic life to be. My friend wants to start a family in a couple of years, yet her PI doesn't seem to be very accepting or approving of this. She mentioned that people that work near her lab have seen how the PI treats postdocs and they don't approve ... yet no one has (and I'm sure no one will) report the PI, even when she's clearly violated a few of the bylaws that protect workers, especially about time off and/or family leave. That got me thinking that as far as I can tell, people know when a PI (or boss in any other discipline) is an ogre, yet no one says anything to prospective students, techs, postdocs or other lab personnel. Why is that? I remember that a couple of weeks after finishing my postdoc, a few of my former (female) labmates and I got together for drinks. Two of the most recent grads from postdoc lab gave me big hugs and congratulated me on getting out. They said that they thought the lab would break my spirit because I was so happy and outgoing, yet the boss was on the quiet side, and pretty much would stay put and let me fall flat on my face, only to say later that I never sought his insight. I was shocked at their admission ... and now that my friend says that she's having a hell of an experience, it got me thinking that there is something wrong with all of us when we keep quiet while witnessing how a potentially horrible PI continues to get (and fire) people in their lab, only to have the same complains about everyone.  To me the the problem is certainly not the people, but the PI. What can we do to prevent talented people from getting into said labs and work under people that are above and beyond k3rn? Am I alone in thinking that this type of behaviour from a supposed mentor is plain and simple abuse/bullying? What can universities do to protect their students and postdocs? I'm guessing that the system might take care of said PIs when they fail to maintain people for extended periods of time, which in turn reflects bad on them, and limits the recommendations they may get from previous (and happy) trainees. But do students and postdoc have to suffer for years until the behaviour corrects itself (more or less) by the rules of the tenure system? I'm at a loss for words here.

All that brings me to answer a question someone posted on the my blog. A commenter asked why I'd started blogging. The 'about' section of my blog used to say that I wanted the blog to be a place where I could write down my thoughts on everything grad school related, but that I also wanted it to be a window into the life of a grad student (later postdoc) and that I'd share my struggles because as much as I thought they were unique, I was sure I wasn't alone (something I've come to see a lot in the comments, tweets and emails I get on my entry on failing the qualifying exam).

Then last week I was reading one of the my fave blogs, and Joanna's mom said this about her sharing some rather personal/painful stuff with her readers, even when she wasn't sure:

"It seems to me that being authentic is being brave enough or just candid enough to be honest about what you are experiencing or who you are, whether it is popular are not. A person gives a gift to other people when they say, 'This is what happened to me or this is how I truly feel, no matter what the popular belief is about what I should feel.' Whenever you are honest, you are speaking for a thousand silent people who don't have the voice to say what they really feel or are really experiencing. So, if you ever talk about [the thing you went through], you will touch a million hearts. Because you are speaking for more than just yourself. You are never alone in what you are feeling." (emphasis added).

That insight from Joanna's mom captures exactly why I started blogging. Because the journey in higher ed is beautiful, but also painful, and frustrating. Because there are people out there with horrible bosses, or painful projects, or family problems, or no money, or <insert your situation here> that feel all alone, and all it takes is one person, one experience, one share to help them a bit, to make them feel understood, and that someone out there 'gets' them. That's my reason to blog. I may be bitter, I may be sad, I may be happy .... but it is my experience, and hopefully seeing that someone out there has gone (and survived, or overcome) through something similar can give you a bit of hope in moving forward, or perhaps changing course.


6 responses so far

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