Hello

This blog has been in my thoughts quite a bit lately.  Usually, I think something along the lines of, “Hey, I should post something to the blog,” and then I start composing a post in my head and that’s all the further it gets.  The truth is, I’m not sure what to say.  I don’t know how this blog fits into my life now, if it fits at all.  My blog fell pretty solidly into the “disgruntled grad student” category of blogs and, well, I’m no longer a disgruntled grad student.  I’m also not doing any science whatsoever, so the blog doesn’t really fit into the science blog category, either.  Perhaps that’s part of the problem, I’m not sure what I am anymore.  I’m not a grad student and I’m not doing science.  Those two things were such key elements of my life for so long, I’m not sure who I am without them.

Right now, the only category you can really put me in is “housewife.”  This is an unusual designation for a modern woman.  Especially since I’m not currently aspiring to any other occupation.  Well, I suppose you could say I’m aspiring to be a stay at home mom.  But, that’s not the kind of thing you can tell people at a cocktail party (recently, I was obliged to hobnob with Husband’s colleague, an activity I dreaded because inevitably people ask me, “So, what are you doing now that you’ve graduated?”).

I do feel much better than I did in my last post and I think this is partially because I have found something concrete to focus my energy on.  I am volunteering to teach Sunday school at my church.  I’m teaching 1st-3rd grade children and it has been pretty crazy thus far.  The program we are using is Montessori-based and we are just starting up at this church.  Montessori education involves a lot of materials and mostly they need to be handmade.  So, for about a month I worked on making materials every weekday. We have had three classes so far and each time I feel I’m in a little over my head.  But, it gives me a purpose and a sense of belonging to something bigger than myself.  And that’s a good thing.

The end of an era?

This place has been dark for so long, I’m not sure anyone is still reading.  You’re probably wondering what I’ve been up to.  I promise to post on that soon.  For now, I’d like to mourn a little about what looks to be the beginning of the end for ScienceBlogs.

You most likely have been following the ScienceBlogs kerfluffle, but in case you haven’t, here is a brief rundown.  A while back, ScienceBlogs made the mistake of hosting a blog that was bought and paid for by PepsiCo. without making a distinction between it and the other independent blogs on the site.  They also didn’t tell their blogger employees about it ahead of time.  Outrage ensued and Sb first added the label “advertorial” to the PepsiCo. blog, then pulled the blog altogether.  This original breach in ethics was the final straw for many of the bloggers at Sb who started packing up and leaving.  I think some 18 blogs have left so far (a list of bloggers who left and where they are currently is being kept here) with others (most noticeably PZ Myers) now on strike.  Apparently, the PepsiCo fiasco highlighted the problems in communication between the bloggers and Sb.  Also cited as major issues:  no technological support and not getting paid (although the money issue seems to be relatively low on the list of issues people have cited for leaving).

It has been sad watching people leave Sb but the saddest of all for me were the departures of Bora and Zuska.  Many people have noted that Bora, more than any other blogger at Sb, was responsible for maintaining the Sb community.  I’m not sure it is possible for anyone to really capture what Bora has meant to Sb, science blogging in general and individual science bloggers in particular (although this is being attempted on twitter with the hashtag #iowebora).  I owe Bora as well, he linked to my blog early on (just after I posted about Imposter Syndrome) which helped boost my readership and he made it possible for me to attend SciOnline2010.  I first met Bora at the Science Blogging Conference of 2008 and he immediately knew who I was and made me feel welcome and wanted even though I was just a grad student with a tiny little blog.  I will never forget that.

I also met Zuska at the two conferences and both times she gave me excellent advice.  I love reading her blog and I always feel vindicated by her anger at both subtle and overt sexism.

Both Bora and Zuska are going to continue blogging elsewhere, but if not for Scienceblogs, I might never have found their blogs, never have gone to the science blogging conferences, never met such wonderful people there and in general, my life would not have been the same.  So, it is with great sadness that I see Sb dying a slow death.  I will follow the bloggers whereever they go, but it will definitely not be the same.  I enjoyed the one-stop shopping that Sb offered.  Sure, I have my feedreader, but there were many times in grad school when I had trouble sleeping and I had read through all of my favorite blogs, that I turned to the Sb combined feed and started reading those posts.

Reading blogs substituted for a IRL human connection when I was depressed and alone in my apt. in the middle of the night when it was too late to call a friend.  Reading the blogs, seeing the bantering between the SciBlings was comforting.  (This says quite a lot about how terribly lonely and depressed I was at that time.)

If this whole sorry debacle is sad for me, I can only imagine how the actual Sb bloggers feel (those that left and those that remain).  It must be heartbreaking.

Perhaps it is too soon to call it the end of Sb.  Perhaps some sort of miracle will occur and Sb will revive and find a way to thrive again (anyone know who the patron saint of science blogging might be?).  But, it is clear that, with the departure of some of my favorite bloggers, Sb will be a different place.  And maybe not one so important to me.

Blog Block

I’ve been suffering a little writer’s block lately when it comes to the blog.  As you might imagine, not being in lab eliminates most of the previous blog fodder.  So, I need to find other things to talk about, I suppose.  The thing is, this blog mostly has an identity as a “disgruntled grad student” blog.  Now that I’m not so much disgruntled (does that make me gruntled?) I’m not sure where this blog fits in my life and the blogging community at large.

This is almost certainly related to the fact that I don’t know where I fit in society anymore.  I don’t have a job.  I’m still technically a grad student but I’m not in classes or in lab or even on campus.  I’m writing my thesis, but slowly so as not to overwhelm myself and what does that really mean anyway?  I mean, I have a really bad feeling that if I got all gung ho and tried to work on my thesis more for than an hour on any one day, I might collapse into a depression.  Am I just paranoid or is this really a valid concern?  I don’t know.

So, posting may be light while I try to get a handle on things.  Maybe I should try something simple like twitter.  Surely, I could manage 140 characters or less on a semi-regular basis?

Sweeping out the cobwebs

Hi, remember me?  I used to blog around here pretty regularly once upon a time!

The unintended blog hiatus was caused by me getting used to living in California with my husband (incidentally, if there’s anyone out there who lives in the LA area and would like to get together for tea/coffee sometime, shoot me an email).  It’s been, well, interesting.

First, California:

  1. Seafood is cheaper than meat here, which is the opposite of the midwest.
  2. The Farmer’s Market has fresh seafood and locally grown citrus and avacados which is WAY different from the midwest.
  3. The sun is really intense here.  My husband tells me this is not my imagination.
  4. It’s really hot these days but at night it cools off to 70 degrees or so which is awesome.
  5. The yarn stores have very small sections for sock yarn.  Funny how nobody wants to make wool socks around here.

Now, living with Husband.  It’s been, well, weird.  In the beginning, it really felt like we were starting our relationship all over again which was not a very good feeling at all.  I had a really hard time getting used to having someone in my space.  I’m the kind of person who likes to have her own space and we live in a rather small one-bedroom apt.  At first, I couldn’t decide if the problem was that I specifically didn’t want Husband around (an upsetting idea) or if I didn’t want anyone around in general (a much more manageable idea, but still a problem in this apt.).  I had a few torturous days dealing with that!

Then, there was the fact that I really felt like I was moving into Husband’s place, not our place.  For awhile, I really felt homeless, even after all of my stuff arrived, particularly because there was no place to put my stuff.  Our bed is now four feet high because I had to buy risers to put under the legs so we could store stuff there and there are two huge rubbermaid containers full of winter clothes and coats and blankets and stuffed animals because there’s no place to put them.  At first, there was no place to put my clothes at all, we had to buy a dresser from IKEA (putting that together was a joy, let me tell you).  The funny thing is, just about everything in the apt. is stuff we bought together or that I collected at one point or another.  But, having been away from it for 2.5 years, it didn’t feel like it was mine anymore.  Husband found this particularly upsetting because he says he always thought of this as our apt., but even so, both of us were saying things like, “Do you have a [ ]?” (instead of, “Do we have a [ ]?”).

Things are getting better, though.  I’ve been decorating and rearranging things and putting up pictures, all of which make this place feel more like home.  Husband and I are getting used to each other and I no longer freak out about someone being around all of the time (that one required a medication change; thankfully my psychiatrist does phone appointments).  I found two knitting groups and a church I like and yarn stores and have been to tea twice.  So, I’m definitely on an upswing.  We’ll see how it goes.

Can’t talk, busy packing

I have one more day to get all of my crap packed up and shipped.  Most of it is already in the mail, but there’s still a few odds and ends left in the apt.  I have lots to blog about but no time to do so.  Therefore, you will be getting random bulletpoints until I have time to write more.

  • There are good times to get reacquainted with spending 24/7 with your spouse after living apart for 2.5 years.  Packing for a major move is not one of them.
  • I had a dream that had Comrade Physioprof in it.  What does that say about the amount of time I spend in the blogging world?
  • I tried to say goodbye to my advisor.  However, my eyes started tearing up so I ended with, “Well, I guess this is it!”  I’ll be sending him an email later.
  • I really must learn how to dust.  Really.
  • Husband and I may have internet addictions.  We both get online within 5 minutes of waking up in the morning.

Too much to say

Lately, I’ve been thinking about posting to the blog a lot and I’ve even started a few posts but I don’t even get them finished before a new blog post topic comes along and then I don’t feel like writing about the previous post anymore.  So, I’m just going to do the random bullet points thing:

  • My brother’s baby was born May 9.  I would have blogged about it then but Nephew the 3rd had some problems at first and was in the neonatal ICU and it was just too hard to write about it.  He’s fine now and at home and everything is okay.
  • Just found out my Husband’s brother’s baby is going to be a boy.  That’s four nephews for those of you keeping track.
  • My 9th wedding anniversary was in early May.  It was sad that Husband wasn’t here so we could celebrate together.
  • My birthday was in late May.  I am now 35.  I have been thinking a lot about my life, the past and the present and what I want for the future.
  • My last day in lab is supposed to be this Friday.  I’ve been pretty apathetic about getting stuff done so now I’m going to cram it all in this week.
  • My last appt. with my psychiatrist is tomorrow morning.  This makes me sad.  I wish I could take her with me to CA.
  • There was no nonfiction book for May.  Thank goodness I read three in April so I’m not behind in my goal of reading 12 this year.
  • I’ve been reading a lot of mysteries lately.  Not sure why.  Though I do like how everything gets tidied up at the end.
  • I went to the bookstore yesterday and I saw books advertising recipes and knitting patterns and cleaning tips.  The surprising thing about this was that I saw them in the mystery section.  I do not need recipes or knitting patterns or cleaning tips in my mystery books.  If I want any of that, I’ll go to the non-fiction section.

I suppose that’s it for now.  I’ve got to get to lab and get cracking on finishing freezing everything down!

Not going to change a thing

Not long ago, there was a big hullabaloo in blogland because a damn good blogger, Damn Good Technician, got outed at her workplace and subsequently removed her blog (she has since re-established her blog).

This caused several people to question whether they should continue blogging or at the very least if they should change what they blog about (Drugmonkey links to some of these posts and Mrs. Comet Hunter weighs in on the topic as well).  This is a difficult decision to make and depends on why you blog in the first place.  Some people blog mostly to give advice and encouragement to other scientists which means there is probably little on their blogs for the Powers That Be to be angry with.  Others blog frankly about their circumstances in order to help others in similar circumstances and to reach out to a sympathetic community for support.  This may mean that what they write about their superiors is not complimentary.

I have written about the challenges of anonymity in the past.  And, I admit, when I heard about this latest kerfluffle I felt a little twinge of fear that one day I, too, could be outed.  When I blog I try to be very careful not to mention the subfield I work in or the proteins I study or the general questions the lab investigates.  I also don’t talk about local issues or say much about the weather in order to keep my location something of a mystery (although it is obviously within driving distance of Iowa).  I never, ever, ever, never, ever use my real name and my pseudonym in the same context.  My pseudonym even has a separate email account.  So, I can be reasonably sure nobody is going to find me with a google search.

Another precaution I take is that very few non-bloggers know who I am IRL.  In fact, I can think of only one.  Wait, she’s blogging now, too.  Okay, so we’re back to none.  My husband and a few friends know about the blog but they don’t know the name of the blog, my pseudonym or the URL of the blog.  Some have asked and I’ve refused to tell them.  Not so much because I don’t want them to read what I’m writing, I just don’t trust non-bloggers to fully understand why I’m blogging under a pseudonym and I don’t trust them to protect my anonymity.  Not that I think they would out me on purpose.  They just might be careless in what they say in the comments or IRL and that might cause a problem.  This has also led me to not link to perfectly lovely blogs because they know who I am and they are too open about who they are and where they live.  Paranoia is your friend when it comes to protecting your identity.

However, I do post from lab so someone from my lab could sneak peeks over my shoulder and maybe find my blog and I do comment on other blogs under my pseudonym from lab so a stats program will pick up that IP address and if any of those bloggers are at the same institution, they’re going to know where I am.  Although, if I’m commenting on a blog the author is probably not going to out me because she may be worried about being outed herself.

I also give quite a few personal details of my life (mental breakdown, anyone?).  Enough that, if you stumble across my blog and you know me IRL you will almost certainly know that it’s my blog.  You may also recognize yourself in the posts (there really can’t be more than one person who fits some of these descriptions–like Husband, for instance).  I’ve also mentioned where I’m going to be moving to and when and what books I’m reading and where I’m from originally.  There’s definitely enough there to identify me.  I suppose this means that I have a n0n-zero chance of being outed.

Despite the risks (and there aren’t nearly as many for me at this moment as there are for other people since I am almost done with my program and have no plans to stay in academia), I am not going to change what I blog about for several reasons:

  1. Venting on the blog gives me an outlet for my thoughts and feelings that is unique and important to my mental well-being
  2. The support I get from the commentors and from being a part of this community is amazing
  3. I want to help other people who may be going through the same things I have gone through

So, I’m not going to change how I blog and I’m not going to obsess about the possibility of being outed (though I will continue to be cautious).  However, I know that’s not going to be the choice everyone makes and I respect that.  Everyone has to do their own risk/benefit analysis and come up with a plan that’s right for them.  It will be sad, though if everyone becomes to scared of being outed to write frankly about their situations.  We’ll lose some very valuable insight.

Search terms

Sometimes, a search engine term shows up in my stats that I feel I should address.  Today, it’s this:

ypd media does it ever go bad

No.  Well, it does get contaminated (if it’s cloudy, it looks contaminated).  Then, you need to get rid of it.  But, in general, I have used media that is a few years old and the cells grew fine (I was desperate and I found some that belonged to some former student).  Beyond that, I suppose I couldn’t say, but usually people use their media within a year or so of making it.  If you don’t, then you are likely making too much at once which I wouldn’t recommend because of the risk of it becoming contaminated before you get around to using it.

At least, that’s what I assume you mean when you ask if it goes bad.  If you are talking about how it gets darker after autoclaving, then I would say that is normal–it’s just the sugar carmelizing.  If you leave it in the autoclave longer than a typical 20 minute cycle, it can get quite dark–almost black.  It’s still okay to use, though.

There, that’s my public service for today.

Anonymity

When I started this blog, I decided to blog under a pseudonym so I could be free to talk about whatever I wanted.  I soon learned that this was not really true.  If I really want to stay anonymous, if I really don’t want people to figure out who I am, then I can’t talk about anything that will identify me.  That includes specifics about my research (since we’re one of the few labs working on this question in this system).  So, from the start, anonymity wasn’t nearly as freeing as I thought it would be.

This past weekend, I went to a certain event (which I’m actually not going to blog about here because I am trying to stay secret) where I met a lot of people that I had only known online under my pseudonym.  Prior to leaving, I decided that I would go to this event under my real name in case anyone took a picture of me and posted it.  This made things somewhat awkward.  What usually happened was that I would come up to people who had never seen me before while wearing a name tag with a name they didn’t recognize and motion for them to come very close so I could whisper my secret identity.  Fortunately, people were pretty good natured and only looked at me slightly strangely when I crooked my finger at them.  But, mostly, it worked out okay because everyone just called me by my real name (except for one time, but I think maybe nobody understood what she had said).

And then, on top of that, I recently heard from someone who wanted to write an article about imposter syndrome and asked if I would talk to him.  So, then I had to decide:  if I am quoted do I want my real name in print or should it be a pseudonym or should I just ask to not be directly quoted, or what?  And, after much contemplation and discussion with a friend from lab (who knows about the blog) and Zuska, I realized that the only benefit to having my real identity in the article was seeing my name in print, while there was a whole host of disadvantages to having my real name in the article (including having Advisor find the blog).  So, I decided to remain anonymous.

So, this anonymity thing is a lot more complicated than I thought it would be.  Or rather, I’m getting myself into situations that make it more complicated.  At any rate, I’ve been thinking about being anonymous and whether it’s really worth it, considering I don’t say anything particularly controversial.  The fact is, I remain anonymous because:

1.  I need a place to vent about lab and I don’t want the reputation of my lab to suffer for it.  There are many, many good things about my lab and my advisor which don’t get mentioned here much because I don’t feel like I need to tell someone those things to keep me from exploding.  The thing about venting is, you don’t need to “vent” about good things.

2.  Jobs.  I still don’t know what it is I’m going to be doing when I leave school but when I figure it out, I don’t want my future employer to google my name and get this blog and conclude that I’m a whiner or something.

And, until one or both of those things change, I’ll probably stay anonymous, even if it is complicated.  There are days, though (and during this past weekend, I had several of them), that I get pretty sick of it and wish that things didn’t have to be this way.  That science really was a meritocracy and I would still get a job regardless of what I wrote on my blog.  Or that Advisor wouldn’t freak out if he saw what I’ve written.  Or that people would judge the quality of our lab strictly on our merits and publication record, and the science we do and not by the rantings of a senior graduate student.  But that’s like wishing that everyone in the world could have a Wii (or even just that I could have a Wii).