Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Going green

This morning as we're getting ready to leave the house.
F1-3: "You're a tree mama!
Mama: "Huh?"
F1-3: "You're a tree! Brown on the bottom, green on the top."
Lo and behold, I was wearing brown pants and a green sweater, indeed in rather earthy hues.
So there you go, going green.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Hopeless romantic?

This morning I was inspired by Cuttlefish. I suppose that makes me a hopeless romantic too. Oh well, so be it.

I met this guy when I joined a friend at a meeting of her favorite student organization. My divorce had just been finalized, as in: that morning. I wouldn't have noticed him if he had done a hundred cartwheels wearing a worn pink polka dot shirt.

Six months later we were at a party organized by the same student organization. He was standing next to someone else, halfway across the room. Our eyes locked, and we haven't been apart ever since. Going on 10 years now.

He insists that he did notice me the first time we met, and I wasn't wearing a pink polka dot shirt either. I just wasn't ready then. But I was half a year later. The rest is history.

To date, when I sit across from him, I still look for the twinkle in his eyes that did it for me. It's there. I just noticed it again yesterday.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Rooting for the bad guy

Graduating definitely has perks.
1. I have more free time, I can watch tv, or movies, or read, or hang out with kids, or... whatever.
2. I make (a little) more money), I can actually afford Netflix.

I've lately started watching some of their instantly available stuff, and it's good fun. I'm not much of a tv watcher. While I don't shy away from the tv, my repertoire is pretty limited to watching Jeopardy!, House and Numb3rs.

About a week ago I started at season 1, episode 1 of Dexter. A pretty daring concept if you ask me. The series definitely causes some (ok, I admit, even me) to root for the serial killer.

I heard (probably on NPR) recently someone quoted as saying something to the effect of "bad guys do what good guys only dream of doing." I suspect there is some truth to that. I don't buy into the idea that someone is inherently evil. I think people make choices. We may all have murderous intent sometimes, but what separates most from those who act on these feelings is the choice. We as a society (and as a species) have decided (quite intelligently, I might add) that killing another human being is not in the best interest for our collective survival. We raise our cubs, our horcruxes, our kids with those values and hope they stick. Most of the time they do, but sometimes things go wrong. As a society we've set up a system to deal with those who stray from the right path with the purpose of 1) removing a dangerous, destructive individual from our midst to prevent further calamities, 2) punishing said individual, and 3) creating a deterrent for others who might have the same murderous streak.

In setting up this system we have decided that it is more important that we never make a type I error (convicting someone who is innocent), and we therefore choose to increase the risk of a type II error (letting loose someone who is guilty). And so, at some frequency, simply as a result of our choice to err on the side of caution with respect to type I errors, the guilty walk.

In Dexter, the writers examine these cases. And Dexter has turned (helped by the man who adopted him) into a one-man jury, judge, and executioner. So, the show sets up this hierarchy of good, not-so-good, bad, really-bad, and really-really-bad people, and argues to the case of the bad and the really bad people taking out the really-really-bad people, because the good or not-so-good would never do such a thing (even though they might fantasize about it), and our error II prone system has a tendency of failing.

So, you find yourself silently rooting for the bad people, lament the naivete of the good people, and consider it a good thing that the really-really-bad-people. And of course, because it goes against the grain of the morals we've been raised with, we feel guilty for rooting for a serial killer. I find this contradiction fascinating, and keep on going back for another episode trying to analyze my reaction to the story, conscious of the instances where I'm rooting for the bad guy.

The scientist in me can't help but pick out the mistakes Dexter makes. Like wearing gloves inside the house where he captures his next victim, after having opened the door with his bare hands. I'm finding the show oddly addictive. I've watched 5 episodes so far, and as much as I try to stay away from it, when I find myself with an hour of spare time, I click around and move on to the next episode.

Even though killing is the theme throughout the series, I can honestly say that if you can stand a little blood it's not that bad. I really dislike violence, and I don't mind watching this. There is a very limited amount of fighting, shooting, and the like, it's all rather civilized and carefully executed. I wouldn't be surprised if there are those that say they can't stand to watch. However, I would wonder if it is because they can't stand to see themselves rooting for the bad guy.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Job offer

Did I mention that I love, love, love my job? If I didn't, I should have. I can hardly wait to get to work in the morning, and if it wasn't for the family, I'd have to be chased out at the end of the day.

Of, course, when you're not looking for it, you get all these job offers. I already declined a rather attractive job offer. It wasn't an easy decision. The week after I declined that offer, I received another one. The principal investigator (PI) who made the offer is relatively new to the department, and wanted a presence in the lab, to make sure the lab space wasn't lost because of lack of use. The research subject wasn't quite my thing, and I didn't think it fair to accept the job for three reasons:

1. Being a new faculty member, the PI really needed a post-doc who could get results soon. Since it wasn't my exact field of expertise, I would face too steep a learning curve to satisfy those requirements.
2. I can't guarantee being in the lab early in the morning to late afternoon. With 3 kids, at some frequency I'm going to be called out for picking up children that are ill, and I'll have to stay home with them until they get better. I wasn't about to make promises I knew for a fact I couldn't keep.
3. Points 1 and 2 would end up disappointing the PI who I like and respect.

So,I declined. Again, it wasn't easy. After benefits, the job would have paid $11,000 more than what I currently make. That's not insignificant, and I've wondered whether I made the right decision ever since.

Meanwhile the PI hired someone else, and has been wondering the same thing, whether the right decision was made. I suppose I'm a known evil, compared to the unknown evil of the incoming post-doc. Now the PI seems determined to hire me one way or the other. E-mailing other researchers to try to come up with joint research proposals that would fund my position, and even asking me if we should maybe write a proposal together.

I must say, I'm flattered. In my dreams, I had always imagined a position that would allow me to visit home once a year or so. The most recent ideas would involve me being *required* to go home for work at least once a year. I can live with that.

Really, I love, love, love my job. But as I've discovered, there are limits to my loyalty. $11k wasn't enough. But $11k with mandatory trips back home, might be impossible to resist.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Ongoing legal battles

After the judge ruled that F1-1 gets to live with us, his father left. Even though he could have had F1-1 accompany him for the better part of the remaining summer vacation if he had postponed his trip for a couple of weeks. We thought he might even come to negotiate some kind of arrangement, but he hasn't yet. I'm not complaining.

A few weeks after his departure, my attorney received notification that F1-1's father he filed a petition to rehear the case. In essence: "Your Honor. Can you set your previous ruling aside, so that we can start from scratch?" It was a little scary while we were waiting, but the judge responded in short order: "No."

It's unclear where we go from here. The order specifically said that both parents had to attend negotiations in person, but it did not specify in what time frame negotiations had to be completed. At what point do we stop waiting?

Meanwhile, I dread the day that I get the bill for legal service. Mind you, my attorney was amazing, and we got everything we could have possibly asked for on behalf of F1-1, but still. The thousands of dollars this is going to cost will take many years to pay off. I hope that he and his firm partners have patience.

Permission to make a mess

This evening's conversation at the time that F1-3 announces she's done in the bathtub.

Makita: Oh! Look at the mess you made. There is water all over the floor and a huge pile of toys. Why did you do that?

F1-3. I was doing science and that why it's a mess. I was doing science. This is how you do science.

Makita: Oh. Okay.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

1-0 for the good guys

I haven't written anything for so long, because my life was focused on the legal battle. That's all I wanted to write about, and of course I couldn't.

Now that it's over (well, not quite, but largely), I can finally write. And guess what?

The good guys won! That is, F1-1 won. Because really, it wasn't between me and his father. I wasn't trying to accomplish what was best for me, I was trying to accomplish what was best for him. Both parties suggested parenting plans to the court, and the judge turned both down. My attorney and I tried to put together a proposal that would give ample time for F1-1 to spend with his father, and the judge ruled that it was too much, that it would require too much travel for F1-1, and therefor be too stressful. In the end the judge ruled exclusively from F1-1's point of view, and not the parents, which was what I didn't dare hope for.

F1-1's father is leaving. Going to another country. Permanently. He had his tickets purchased, his bags packed, and he was going to leave regardless of the court's order. Then he filed a petition with the court less than 2 months before his planned departure, asking the court to change which parent F1-1 lives with, and to take F1-1 with him. No one had any clue ahead of time that this was coming.

It was a painful process. We met in front of the judge. It became clear that I was at an extreme disadvantage without an attorney. It took some doing, but just before we were scheduled to appear before the judge again, I found an attorney willing to take the little bit of cash we had as a retainer. The parties were then referred to mediation. This is where both parties meet with their attorney's (if they have any) and a court-approved mediator to try and sort out the issues. They can reach a partial agreement on some issues, and take the remainder to the court to rule on.

At first it looked like an agreement could be reached if we went on a little longer. But after 8 hours of mediation, things fell apart, and we ended in an impasse. Even the few issues we had sort of reached agreement on in the meantime were at risk.

We gave the opposing party another week to come to some kind of agreement, but it didn't work out, and we had to go to court. It's involved, but it took two days of sitting in court, with witnesses, testimony, cross-examination, and re-direct. It was pure torture. Especially considering the fact that opposing party has the dementor-effect on me, I don't know how I lived to tell this tale.

The court gave a ruling with less than 48 hours to spare. Opposing party was leaving the country with or without F1-1, and was simply waiting for the court's answer. When it came, it was better than I could have hoped for. Apparently, my attempts to be conciliatory were not appreciated, and the court found that I was giving away what wasn't mine to give. That I was allowing F1-1's summer activities to be in jeopardy so he could spend more time with his father, that I was scheduling too much travel for him to be with his father.

The court ruled that no matter what else, F1-1 gets to stay here, were he has lived the vast majority of his life, that he get to participate fully in his favorite sports activities, and that he gets to travel with his friends every summer, and that visitation with his father takes a second seat to that.

It is not entirely over yet. Both parties have been ordered to attend another mediation session in person to decide remaining issues of visitation (keeping in mind the items mentioned above). Opposing party may have to travel back here to attend one of those, because he left as planned, and didn't even postpone his trip. That was a bit of a surprise to me, because if he had, we might have been able to come to some arrangement to allow F1-1 to spend the rest of the summer with him, and he would have been able to do as the court ordered. But he didn't. He left. Very interesting decision on his part. But I'm not complaining.

I can't really provide any more detail, especially since there's still things pending, but I can't begin to express how happy I am. We've won all the major issues, and then some. I was bracing for much, much worse, but it's all good.

Now back to your regular blogging schedule.

Monday, June 15, 2009


As some of you may remember, I had to decide whether to change labs and projects at this point. I wrote about that before. I got to read the project proposal and went back and forth a number of times over the weeks. Sometimes closer to staying, other times closer to leaving. If I decided to leave and join the other lab, I had to make myself available for an all-day meeting tomorrow.

For the past 2 weeks I've also been embroiled in legal battles more disgusting than you can imagine. It's not over yet, so I can't go into it, but it's not pretty. So this morning I made my choice: I'm staying.

Ultimately, the working conditions in this lab are so good, that it's hard to leave, even if it means turning down health benefits. Also, my current adviser has many different projects, each with a different funding source. If need be, I can be shifted around from one project to the other. As a post-doc I don't care particularly which actual project I'm on.

Now that I've made my decision, and I've notified both PI's involved, I feel much, much better. I think my potential employer was quite disappointed. I wish I could take both jobs, but I can't. And I haven't been this happy in a long time. I'm sticking around.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Appropriate for Mother's Day

This link seemed appropriate for Mother's Day.

In recent paper in the journal "Science," a study claimed that there was gender-based differences in standard testing, in layman's terms: boys did better then girls. It's probably better not to get me started on the topic. My rant would last forever. I'm going to let the Feminist Chemists do the talking for me, they are much more articulate than me. They wrote a letter to the editor, which Science decided not to publish. I must say, I'm very disappointed in Science, I've always considered they wouldn't shy away from controversy. If they were bold enough to publish such a study, they should be bold enough to publish the response. I'd be interested to see the reviewer's comments too. I wonder if they sent it to a bunch a males for review.

Now the Feminist Chemists have published the letter themselves, and it can be found here (in case you missed out on the first link).

Added later:
I honor of Mother's Day, this story might seem relevant. I seem to remember when I was young that my mother didn't consider herself to be exactly a math genius. Although she always encouraged me, she probably was a result of an era in which girls just didn't do math. When she returned to college later in life, I had the opportunity to tutor her in math. Let it be known that my mother aced it! Easily. Way to go ma! Girls can do math just fine.

Monday, May 4, 2009

It's not too late yet!

To bid on your own personal genome. There is one bid right now for the low, low price of $68k, and you still have a few hours to place your bid. You can have your own genome sequenced and the proceeds got towards the X-prize foundation.
Click here if you want to place a bid.
Now if I could only find my checkbook to write out $70k, I would place a bid in a heartbeat.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


the color of man's skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes

More at Playing for Change.

Monday, April 27, 2009


Ok, the dilemma has arrived. Now that it has, I realize that I was hoping the decision would be made for me by default. But it wasn't meant to be. Help!!

A position that I had applied for in another lab has become available. My current position is listed is technically as an hourly-wage position, even though I get paid for 40 hours a week no matter how much time I put in. It doesn't have health benefits though and that is a wee bit of a problem. The pay isn't fabulous, but it's average.

The position that has become available would be a regular post-doc position with health benefits. So even if the base pay is the same I get now, it would in real terms be better-paying. It involves research on a topic I worked on a few years ago, so presumably the learning curve is minimal. My current job is (at least on paper) not quite in line with the work I did for my PhD, but that hasn't stopped me from producing good-quality work. For immigration purposes it might be a good idea to take on the new position, because that one is more in line of what I studied for. It'll be easier to make the argument that I'm this indispensable scientist int he field.

The big thing is I absolutely *love* my current job. The lab I work in is large compared to the lab where I'm offered a job now. I don't think I can stress enough how incredibly happy I am here. It is so much fun to be in a large lab, with lots of great people, a fantastic PI. I get up in the morning eager to rush into the lab to get to hang out with cool people, and do cool research. I've had to learn some new things in the past 3 months, and I think I've gotten quite good at it. My boss told me the other day he has another small project using the same principles in another crop that he got funding for. I could polish that off in no time.

This is really hard. I'll be putting up a pros and cons list in the next day or so, and everyone can help me decide. I had sort of hoped that the other position would wither away, maybe not be available anymore, or whatever. At the same time it would be a good opportunity to get back into the work that I did in the past. I would actually be very good at it. Would that be satisfying in and of itself? You help me decide!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Candy corn in space

Here is a really cool video of how an astronaut used candycorn coated with oil on one end and stuck the other end in a floating ball of water. He found the candycorn ball mushy and squishy, until the waterball surface was full at which point it turned solid.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Tonight I'm in such a good mood! For all intents and purposes I've finished my first project in my new lab as a post-doc. I've never actually had a project that was just finished. There was always something else that had to be done, a slew of experiments that could/should be done. None of that. A few minor holes to be plugged, and I've already done those experiments and sent them off, just waiting for results. There is nothing left to do but write the paper.

Did I mention how much I like my boss? He's *the* best. Really. He gave me an easy project and nothing but great feedback. He is always encouraging to everyone in the lab. He's wonderful!

I'm so happy and relaxed right now. A couple of glasses of red wine certainly didn't hurt, but I was already feeling like this on my way home from work. Did I mention that I absolutely loooove being a post-doc? If I had known how much fun it would be, I would have graduated ages ago.

I wish I had a babysitter, so I could grab P-1 and go have fun somewhere downtown. And get him drunk, take him home and ..... you don't want to know the rest. I haven't felt this good in a long time. Just wanted to share.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Science project

I only had a little input in F1-1's choice for a science project this year. He is going to do a project on photomorphogenesis. Because I have very little to do with the actual performing of the experiments, you probably shouldn't expect too much advanced biology here, but it's the principle of the matter that counts. He will take some boxes and grown plants with different colors of lights and assess their effect on plant development. It should at the very least result in some pretty cool pictures. Although I doubt he will end up in plant sciences, a solid founding in experimental design and the scientific approach will do him some good. As it would any other kid.

Friday, March 20, 2009

More talking

In an update on "talking", if we say to F1-3 "ma-ma-ma," which he is supposed to repeat back to us, he now consistently responds "eh-me-me." This is fantastic progress in two ways. He is actually trying to say "ma-ma," which is not trivial for him to do on command, but he the mimicry is something he has not been capable of before. We're so pleased. Just in time for his 7th birthday too! Woohoo!

Science Friday

Ok, I know I'm a week behind on this one. Nothing unusual, if you've read my posts from earlier today. Life is crazy. But apparently, science is crazier. From last week's ScienceFriday on NPR. How cool is this?

Planting Science

The first was sent to us by our lab manager. It's a video. The first part demonstrates how we do science in our lab. Not!

The second is called, and it allows graduate students, post-doc, professor, and other plant scientists to help kids from Kindergarten to high school with science projects involving plants. If you are involved in plant science consider signing up as a mentor and/or joining the Master Plant Science Team. It is a great way to help kids get excited about science, and improve science education in general.


In the good news department, I'm love being a post-doc. It's really nice to do research and not have to worry about classes and such. More good news: A paper I submitted in December was accepted with some minor modifications. Not half bad. But wait! There's more! I'm submitting another paper today, and hopefully wrapping up the modifications to the first this weekend. And it doesn't stop there either. I'm also finishing up my first post-doc project and I'll be writing that paper in the next little while. I simply cannot be stopped.

On the not so good news department, The dementor (father of F1-1) served me with legal documents, asserting that whatever problems F1-1 is facing are entirely my fault, and therefore it would be in F1-1's best interest to go live with his father. In addition, his father ought to be the only person to make decisions about F1-1's medical care, education, and religion.

Yep, you read that right, he should decide the kid's religion. It's pretty clear he does not think F1-1 (who is 13 by the way), ought to have any say in the matter. It's not going to be pretty, and it will drag out for many moons. But such is life. I refuse to have my life turned upside down by the dementor. He can't possibly have any evidence to substantiate his allegations, because they're simply not true, but that does not make it a happy situation.

However, knowing me, I'll focus on the good stuff. Remember all those publications? And that I like my job.. a lot? That is determining my current state of mind, and I am positively jubilant!

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Question: Ah-ah-ah?
Answer: Oh

It may seem silly to most people. Even parents. For the past few weeks, if I say to my 6-year old "ah-ah-ah" he consistently looks me in the eye and responds with "oh." That may not seem like much, but for my baby who is a week and a half short of 7 years old, it's huge. It's humongous. It's the closest thing to a miracle I've ever seen.

So when his speech therapist told me to switch to "ooh-ooh-ooh" and wait for a response of "eeee" (of course, after demonstrating this to him), I was sceptical but hopeful, considering that after months of practice he did latch on to the ah-ah-ah and oh sequence. But lo and behold, 2 days later, and every day since, he is consistently responding with "eeeee" if I "ask" him "oh-oh-oh." I'm left speechless. And I can assure you this doesn't happen very often. Being speechless that is. Not one of my problems.

A week after we started that sequence, the therapist is so pleased with his progress, that we're going for big now. I will say "ma-ma-ma" and I should teach him to say "da-da-da." The reverse will also be acceptable, which I prefer. We can't have F1-2 say "da-da" before he learns to say "ma-ma," right? He's got to be kidding me.

Think of the possibilities. If he can learn to say mama or dada, there are not enough words to describe how I would feel about that. I'm trying really, really hard not to get my hopes up too high, but I can hardly imagine a world in which F1-2 could really talk.

Ok, I've got to stop writing now. I'm at work, and it would be unacceptable for me to start bawling in the lab, and I feel the burning of tears behind my eyelids. There is real hope.

Friday, January 30, 2009


At the end of my first week in my new lab, I must say... I'm ecstatic. I love it! After having done much more applied than molecular work over the past few years for my PhD, I'm back to more molecular work. And I can't believe how much I've missed it. I've been home from work for about 3 hours now, and I can hardly wait to get back!

I still have to finish a couple of papers from my PhD work. I'd better get on those out quickly, before I get completely buried in this work.

The lab is fair-sized, roughly 15 people. That includes the principal investigator, undergraduate and graduate students, post-docs, and technicians. All sorts of backgrounds, nationalities, and personalities, but all very, very nice. I think I fit right in, although a week of work may not be enough to come to that conclusion.

I've made a fair bit of progress, and hope to get a paper out of this work in the next month or so. It's supposed to be pretty straightforward. I guess I'll find out for sure when I get a better handle on the data analysis. Right now, I'm filling in the gaps, figuring out what those who came before me have done, and analyzing some data. I'm almost sad it's Friday, I'll be up at the crack of dawn on Monday to get back into it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Has it really been 3 weeks since I last posted? I thought it was a couple of days ago. I guess I'd better get everyone caught up.

I've taken a nice break. From (almost) everything. The holidays were relaxed, although it was a bit challenging to entertain 3 kids with ages varying from 3 t0 13. I've had to take care of my plants for the experiment I'm trying to wrap up for publication purposes, and I did finish writing a paper by mid-December. I did a lot of little projects around the house that had been accumulating for more than a year. It's been nice to go from room to room through the house and do some of that.

I searched for a job by (literally) going from door to door (but being selective when it came to choosing specific doors) offering my services. On the first day I scored two maybe's not bad.

Job 1 is related to the research I did for my MS. I suppose the learning curve is somewhat smaller. But the funding isn't certain for several more weeks, and I couldn't afford to wait, largely because of immigration issues.

Job 2 is with a really high-energy professor in a neighboring department. It's less than ideal in that it's not a full post-doc with (health) benefits. However, the PI has agreed that if I make some decent progress on the two projects I'm assigned I can leave to pursue other options (presumably Job 1). Fair enough.

The really good news was that I could start today at Job 2, which I did. So technically I was unemployed for 20 days. Not bad, eh?

I got so caught up in science that I totally forgot to feed the parking meter all day. Luckily the parking police didn't stop by, and I got away with it. I'd better not try that again.

I really, really like the lab. There are 14 or 15 very friendly people in the lab, the PI works at the bench regularly, they have regular lab meetings (lacking in the previous lab I was in, which I didn't like at all), and one of the projects is in such an advanced state, I ought to be able to get a paper out of it in a couple of months. It might be hard to leave the lab for another job (with a higher salary and/or benefits). I was never in this for the money anyway. But the benefits account for a lot. I need health benefits badly, and cannot justify turning down a job with health benefits simply because I'm having so much fun.

Anyway, now everyone is back up-to-date. Dr Makita is employed!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Post-doc for hire

The break is over. For the first time since, well...., since eh, forever, did I have a real break. No deadlines, nothing to do that would make or break my life. Just getting reacquainted with the husband and the kids. It was good.

It was also challenging to keep the kids happy and occupied throughout their vacation. Every day we had to figure out something to do to get the kids out of the house and active. We made lots of trip to the many parks this town has. We even took them to the mall one afternoon, the museum, walks around the neighborhoods, you name it.

So, now they're all back in school and daycare, and the race is back on. I must say I was happy to get back to the lab, take care of some cultures. And now....

The Job Hunt

Yuck! Not going so well. A job that I had high hopes for received funding, but the budget was cut so much, that the principal investigator cannot hire a post-doc and has to get a graduate student instead. I do have another job offer, but it's 4 hours away, and because it's not really practical for me to move far away from here, I had to decline. Sadly.

No jobs are posted within driving distance from here. Now, I'm literally going door-to-door talking to people trying to find something to do. I would hate to become a stay-at-home mom. Don't get me wrong, I love my kids. I just think it's better for them and me if I work. Really.

The situation is rather desperate. If I don't find a job at the university in a couple of weeks, I'll have to pull F1-3 out of daycare. If I don't find a job within a couple of months, I'll lose immigration status. Consequently, I'll take anything. I'd rather be very excited, but I'm also very flexible. I can get excited about things I've never heard of before. In fact, following up on a distant possibility, I've downloaded some papers to read over tonight.

On the bright side, I should have more time for blogging for a while.

It's both scary and exciting to start up this new phase of my life.


This is finally demoted from the top of the page. It may very well be the last one with the "dissertation" tag. I can always hope, right?

Thursday, January 1, 2009


(hickup)... New... (hickup) ...Year.. (hickup)!!! All the best for everyone (hickup).