Saturday, November 24, 2007

Fall photoshoot

I'm posting a link to the picture of my daughter, F1-3, taken in October at daycare. However reluctant I may be to post pictures of my children, it felt unfair to withhold this from everyone. Click on the link below. It will not work at first. Remove *every* occurrence of the word "lock" in the web address to get to the actual picture. The word occurs twice in the address. I will keep the photo up for a week or two, then remove it.

Introducing..... F1-3

Monday, November 19, 2007

Unexpected benefits

Those of you lamenting the scarcity of science-related posts, rejoice! I just received my second qualifying exam today, and although that may sound like terrible news, one of the questions is actually a post that I have been wanting to write for a long time. So, I think I will simply post my response to the exam as a science-related post. How cool is that? The bad news is that I first have to finish off some of the other questions, because I'm worried that I'll run out of time if I start on the fun ones first. So, hang in there, science coming up!!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Truth

So, the writers at The Science Creative Quarterly offer us the the truth. I can't say I agree 100% though. In my experience, gin is better than whiskey. Other than that, I'm all with them.

One down

Well, for better of worse, I just submitted my first written qualifying exam. It's not my most brilliant piece of science writing ever, but it's not the worst either, so I think I'll pass. Some of the questions I answered in a lot more detail, because I already knew quite a bit about it, so it was much easier to come up with relevant publications, others were totally out of my league, and I just fumbled through. Now I'm going to take my first shower for the day (it's almost 6 pm!) and then I'm going to spend what's left of the weekend with my kids. I've shoo-ed them away too many times today. On Monday, I get the next exam.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The real price of quals

After my first pregnancy, I was back to my original ~115 lbs weight within about 3 months. After my second child, it took me 6 months to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight of ~118 lbs. Now, finally, almost 2 1/2 years after the birth of #3, have I made it back to my pre-pregnancy weight of 124 lbs (down from 166 lbs on the day of her birth). Ignore the gradual increase in weight as time progresses, I can live with that. Just focus on the 124 lbs.

Since I started writing my qualifying exams, I have done nothing but eat, snack, eat, snack and drink while I write. It doesn't help that we have loads of Halloween candy left, and I can't stop. I'm facing a month of qualifying exams. Would anyone hazard to guess what I will weigh on December 13th when this is all over? Or how much I will weigh after the winter break? Feel free to leave estimates behind. I promise I will weigh myself on December 13th, and put up an honest answer (shudder...)

Dang, didn't work again

You see, prayer really isn't all that effective. Of course, this can be explained by the fact that the 250 people praying weren't *true* christians. They just didn't believe strongly enough. Or one of them was gay, which--needless to say-- is such a terrible sin that Georgia needs to go without rain for a while longer. Or.... you could go on and on, but when rain does come (let's say in a month or so), you can bet your ass that they will claim that their prayers are to be credited for this miracle. Sigh... back to writing qualifying exams about real science. Maybe it'll offset some of the ignorance and stupidity out there.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The joys of trying to obtain a PhD..... written qualifying exams start tomorrow. And will continue to at least December 13th. Will somebody please remind me why I decided to put myself through this again? Sadly, this likely means that blogging will slow down (more), except for frustrated rants about quals. And the fun does not stop there. Oral qualifying exams are scheduled for February 14th. Can someone remind me...?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Is this ethical?

Ok, this is the post where I hope all lurkers will come out and give their opinion.

Someone I worked with in the past has asked me to help write a couple of scientific papers, and has offered to pay me for it. This person is not a very good writer and apparently thinks I am (I'll take that compliment anytime). The individual in question would send me the results of the research (draft figures and tables), and I would do the writing (i.e. literature review, results, discussion, and conclusion). It is a field that I worked in for a number of years, so I'm fairly familiar with the background.

I cannot accept pay for two reasons:
1. I cannot legally work in any other capacity than as a graduate student.
2. This individual is a good friend, who has helped me out tremendously in the past, and it just wouldn't be right to accept money.

A colleague has suggested that in lieu of pay, I ask to be a co-author on the papers. To the best of my knowledge, it is not normally done to include people as authors, unless they have actually done some of the experiments (the main exception to this often being the principal investigator, who presumably is the main brain behind it all).

What do you think I should do? Should I ask to be a co-author, or just do this (it is a lot of work!) out of the goodness of my heart? Or should I not get involved at all. Comment away. Let it be known that my husband thinks the last option is the best. In his opinion I'm way too busy working on my own degree, and trying to take care of my family to be spending time writing someone else's papers.

Why I don't donate blood

Back home (more years ago than I care to remember) I used to donate blood regularly. As soon as I could, I was back on the bed with a needle in my arm donating every last drop of blood I had. When I moved here, it took a little bit of time to settle in, and eventually I donated fairly regularly again.

When my brother was ill, I desperately wanted to donate my bone marrow so that he could have a transplant and live. Sadly, no one in the family was a match, and eventually the only option he had was to receive his own marrow back. This, however, was likely no good, and he only lived a few more months after that.

When I learned that the US had an extensive bone marrow donation program, I called the local blood center to state that I would voluntarily have a hole drilled in my pelvic bone, so that someone could finally benefit from my bone marrow. To my surprise I was immediately rebuffed. Did I have the money to do this? they asked.

Huh? Money? What are you talking about? Well, to find out if I'm a match for anybody on the registry now or in the future, a number of blood tests needed to be done. Since there is no funding for these tests, I needed to pay for these tests, so the information could go into the database. How much are we talking about? $600. You've got to be kidding me $600, and I need to pay that in addition to lying in a hospital so someone can drill holes in me and harvest my marrow?

This is how it works, unless you have a particular individual in mind that you want to donate for. If preliminary tests show you might be a donor, then their medical insurance would pay for the additional tests. Since I just wanted to volunteer out of the blue without having anyone in mind, there was no funding for the tests. Except if you belong to a certain ethnic background, in which case there was a special program to find donors of the same ethnic background. I said that I am of just about any ethnic background you could think off, but that wasn't enough. End of story. I'm a poor graduate student (currently $3.22 in my checking account, and payday is two days away), and there is simply no way that I could conceivably come up with that kind of money if I wanted to. More than anything, it's the principle of the matter, and I think there is something horribly wrong with the system.

Fast forward a couple of years. I'm about to give birth to one of my children. I discover there are a couple of options for my infant's cord blood. 1. I could store it for some unknown medical purpose in the future that hasn't been discovered et, for which I needed to pay money to have it stored. Or 2. I could donate it, so that the stem cells in it could be harvested, and be put to good use. I choose option 2. But when the time came, it turned out that there was no way the hospital could store the cord blood, therefore it was unlikely to be of any use to anyone. Guess what? My child's valuable cord blood went straight into the garbage.

I protest. I no longer donate blood. I still am however an organ donor, in case someone decides to kill me in a car accident or something like that. Hopefully my organs will not end up in the trash can somewhere, but will be put to good use. And if and when I return home, I will gladly go donate blood again as often as possible.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Everything and more

Today I'm Superwoman. I do everything and more. This morning I got up early, and painted the south wall of my living room, I got three kids ready, and we left the house on time. F1-1 was dropped off at school on time, with his homework finished and checked, F1-3 was dropped off at daycare, received all the hugs she wanted, and I took F1-2 to therapy, we were actually 3 minutes early. Not a bad start of the day eh?

I already had a nice talk with my adviser this morning, which reminded me of how lucky I am to work for him. What a nice, decent human being. And not a bad researcher at that either.

I already did the PCR reactions I was supposed to do to sequence a tiny part of my favorite fungus' genome. I just got back from a lunch with someone who used to work in our building and has left for greener pastures. He helped me troubleshoot an electrical problem I'm having at home, and a problem I had connecting to my server share at the department. Now I'm off to the greenhouse to harvest the rest of my experiment.

All things considered not a bad day at all in terms of productivity. Not bad. I deserve a pat on the back [[reaches back and pats herself on the back]]. I wish everyone a great day!

Monday, November 5, 2007

F1-2 likes older women

Now that F1-2 is growing older, and his disabilities make him stand out more from his peers than before, it sometimes is just a little weird.

Yesterday we went to a restaurant with him for the first time in about 3 years (I think, it's hard to keep track, it may even be 4 years). And he kept on wanting to cuddle up with one of the older women at another table. I think older women remind him of his loving grandmothers, which is kind of cute.

However, it's not socially acceptable to go up to a total stranger to start playing with her earlobes. A sure sign of affection coming from F1-2, but try explaining that to the woman who just had her space invaded by a squealing kid, trying to pull out her earring! My husband had to go over several times to retrieve F1-2, but as soon as he let go of his hand, F1-2 would let out a loud, happy yelp, and limp back as fast as he could. He must have thought it was some kind of game. The woman smiled politely at him, and eventually he decided he had had enough. She wasn't as much fun as he thought she would be.

But wait, what about her?? And off he went to accost some other woman sitting nearby. Again, P1 had to go after him (I had my hands full with F1-3, so my husband was in charge of running after F1-2). This woman actually high-fived him. Oh well, so much for a nice family outing. To avoid further embarrassment, we packed up and left as quickly as we could. It will probably be another 3-4 years before we try that again.