Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I haven't felt this in a while, pride at the end of the day. I am a simple public servant and what I do matters. *sigh* It's a good thing.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bad Science

I don't mean to continue a rant on a job that I'm leaving, but I must address one last issue; Bad, bad, bad science. I've spent basically my whole adult life in pursuit of scientific truth and I've learned from great scientists how the art of science is practiced. I'm highly ethical, and meticulous in my science. So, when management told us what results we needed to find in the data we were about to collect, I had to swallow a snort of contempt. In other words corporate already said what the data was, now we had to make it so. I've spent years working on maintaining neutrality, knowing any result is interesting, there is no emotional investment in an outcome, and finding the truth of an experiment is the real purpose. I do pure science, not corporate order science.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Two Weeks and Counting

I've done it. I've landed a new job, best of all a job that I can be proud of and feel challenged by. I have learned a bit from these last 3 months. Not about science or research, but a bit about myself. Specifically, how in my adult life I've frequently let my work (or schooling) define who I was. I labeled myself "college student", "conservationist", and "grad-student" in turn. (All the while thinking of myself as an independent person who rejected labels.) It's a bit funny to think that I only realized this short coming when I got stuck in to a job I was ashamed of, and had to search for purpose and meaning in other parts of my life. I certainly haven't gotten it all figured out (what would be the fun of figuring everything out this early on) but I have found that I need to have goals and purpose in my personal life as well as my professional (maybe even first).

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Faking it.

How do you deal with hating what you do everyday?

At first I tried to fake it. But I soon realized every insincere smile and consenting comment killed a little piece of my soul. I was also afraid that one day the hyper-conservative nonsense spewed by my co-workers would begin sounding sensible. So one day I just stopped. I didn't actively look miserable, or begin voicing the angry and satirical comments that sounded in my head. I just let the gray shade of indifference mold my expressions. And indifference is about as good as I ever feel about the work I do. This "research" job sits squarely at the bottom of the list for jobs that I've enjoyed or could feel proud of (and I had to survive 6 years of schooling just to do it.) On the best days I feel that gray cloud of indifference envelop me and I ignore the work at hand to let my mind focus on an audiobook or thoughts of something at home. On the bad days I can't stop feeling the frustration and contempt for the tasks at hand and I rake the same negative thoughts over the coals until I've given myself a stomachache. On the worst days I end up weeping silently alone in a dark bathroom, wondering how I'll ever climb out of this hole I've descended into. Say what you will about the stress graduate school has on your mind, body, and personal finances but I only had one tearful melt down during the whole 2 years and 2 months I was there. I haven't kept count of the number of times I've fought back tears of despair and frustration at work or the times I relented and shed those tears at home, but it's more than once (way more) and I've only been there 2 months. I haven't found a way to deal with hating what I do all day. Maybe it's the way I was raised, but I've always needed to feel proud of my work. Even back in my undergrad days when I worked retail I could find things (quite a few things actually) to be proud of. I can't force myself to be proud of the pointless capitalist shit called research I'm forced to take part in, because I think any spark of a soul left in me would certainly die. But maybe there are other, better ways to deal with throwing away 8 hours of my day.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Dueling Red Pens

Symbolic as a read pen is to editing I actually haven't seen much red ink over the last two years. That's not to say that my drafts don't get marked up like the tattooed man, but typically I see ink in shades of blue and black or occasionally graphite. But referring to contradicting editors notes as "dueling number 2's" or "dueling bic's with chewed ends" doesn't bring to mind the same picture of a well marked manuscript as does the assumption that all edits as made in red.

It's interesting what editing trends can say about your editors. What I find really fascinating is that two committee members with polar opposite personalities also consistently make contradicting editorial notes. While my advisor tends towards removing commas and adding modal verbs such as: may, could, can, and might another committee member takes the opposite approach, peppering pages with replacement commas and striking out verbs to strengthen statements. I could make illuminating statements about how this reflects each persons unique take on presenting research, but instead I find it interesting that I'm somewhere in between. I like my manuscripts to be thoroughly comma-ed and well doused with modal verbs that leave my concluding statements with a clear exit strategy. Does this reflex a certain amount of weakness, or wishy-washiness on my part? I guess in some cases it may be possible that it might, or perhaps it might not.......

Thursday, December 3, 2009

So, now that I've Mastered science, what's next?

Boy that's a question you never stop getting asked, is it? "What do you want to be when you grow up?" With grad school wrapping up I've been applying for, what feels like, every job that comes along that I even barely qualify for. And I'm starting to get called in for interviews. So, just pretending that I'm not going to jump on any decent job that gets offered to me without exception, just pretending that I'll have multiple options for employment.

How do you evaluate a job offer?
I mean there's the obvious issues; salary, benefits, opportunity for advancement, yadda yadda.
But how do you determine if you'll enjoy the work environment?
How do you determine if your future supervisor is the type of person that takes their frustrations out on employees?
How do you evaluate if the ethics of the organization is aligned with your personal values? (if you have some.)
And how do you compare the opportunity to work for a private company to a public organization?

And the most difficult of all; are you supposed to negotiate your starting salary and benefits?
In the past I've read that the main reason for the gap between men's and women's salaries in the professional world is that women start out jobs at lower pay because we don't like to negotiate. But how can I justify negotiating when I feel like I'm not starting from a strong position?

One thing I know for sure, science is much easier that all this life stuff. Being a grownup kinda sucks.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Why a PhD isn't for me

Well, it's the eve of my masters thesis defense and for my last pre-masters blog post I've settled on a somewhat topical topic (can topics be topical? or is that ridiculously redundant). I've been asked a lot over the last few months about continuing school and getting a PhD. I've had a wide variety of inquires about this possible future (some inquires more coercive than others) from professors, classmates, family and friends and there is always a necessity to explain yourself. And the explanations seem to need to be better than "While that PhD assistantship in a remote corner of Idaho studying the viscosity of mud on a rainy day is hard to pass up, I value my sanity and would like to be able to afford to buy a new pair of socks in the next 10 years." So, aside from issues of money, connivence, and sanity I give you my top three reasons (well maybe not the TOP three, but three good ones anyway) why a PhD is not for me:

  1. I want to live where I'll be happy, near home. I want to have mountains and ocean and sun and rain and snow and feel like I have the conveniences of civilization without living anywhere near a mega-city. Professors that are just starting out need to be free to move to the best job, not the best location, and PhD positions with private industry invariably put you in mega-cities.
  2. I have no desire to be a book-keeper or accountant, especially one with no training. It's amazing that without financial training professors are expected to juggle budgets, manage grant money, and find ways to magically make money appear and disappear in different places so that labs can have a functioning staff and equipment.
  3. I want to be happy. It's sad and hard to admit but I don't think many professors I know are very happy. I know a lot of it is connected to current budget crises and the added stress of pay cuts and a uncertain future for the University. I think they are frustrated and unhappy, and kind of stuck because of the massive investment they've made too their programs. It's a lot like the stress of being a small business owner without having much control over improving the situation.
So for now this is it, no Phd for me, just a lowly Masters of Science and a plan to be happy.